You know how you have that friend who’s kind of a snob about TV? Maybe she only watches nature documentaries and the news. Maybe she doesn’t even bother to hide her disdain for your love of Jersey Shore and The Vampire Diaries. Maybe she doesn’t even own a TV (although if that’s the case, she really shouldn’t be your friend). Well, I’m not only sick of that friend, I’m here to tell her that she’s wrong. I will no longer hide my love of so-called “cheesy” television. Here they are, in all their occasionally-soapy glory: the shows that every person who calls herself my friend should watch.
What can I say about Gilmore Girls that hasn’t already been said? Well, plenty, because ever since ABC Family started airing the reruns I have watched one Gilmore Girl a day for… many, many years. Suffice to say I have seen the entire seven-season series. Fourteen times. Yup. This is a show that anyone with a brain, a heart, or part of a brain or heart, should watch. A few of the things I love about Gilmore: the best-friend-but-still-mother-daughter relationship between Lorelai and Rory (they get it JUST RIGHT, never allowing us to view Lorelai as a bad mother or even an annoying cool-mom, but just as that perfect hybrid), the charm of Stars Hollow and all of its eccentric-but-not-annoying-at-least-once-you-get-to-know-them inhabitants (I used to think I hated Kirk and that Babette’s voice drove me up the wall. Now of course, I grin throughout their scenes), the fact that every single character is not only nuanced and believable but has a realistic and emotionally relevant development over the course of the series (think about how much Lane and Paris grow, the changes Sookie’s life takes, not to mention Rory’s highly realistic transition from bookish socially-awkward wallflower to sophisticated, worldly journalist for the Obama campaign), the fact that the show itself is so nuanced I am constantly changing my opinion of who’s right in a given fight scene or who’s making the better point (no one is a true villain on this show – they are so careful to show, say, Emily’s heartfelt intentions even when she’s acting seemingly evil), and so many other things. For the sake of brevity, I’ll cut this short, but let me just say that having watched this series an admittedly psychotic number of times, I’ve learned that it is a piece of art akin to a brilliant novel. I gain something new (a different perspective, a deeper appreciation of how much of the whole series was anticipated from the VERY FIRST EPISODE, a better understanding of the characters’ motivations) with each viewing. I will never be sick of this show.
Switched at Birth
This is my favorite new show of recent years. I know that’s a bold statement and I’ll probably retract it in about a minute when I start talking about Pretty Little Liars, but seriously. This show is amazing. I was slightly trepidatious at first – the melodramatic premise, the very-special-episode deaf element – but maybe two minutes into the pilot episode, I was hooked. Here’s what you need to know: Daphne and Bay were switched at birth. Daphne was taken home by a poor, hispanic single-mother while Bay went home with a wealthy, white family. At age two, Daphne went deaf in a way that theoretically could have been prevented with the right medications (i.e. if she had been with her “real” family, maybe she wouldn’t have). At age sixteen, the girls figure out what happened via a school project, and the families enter each other’s lives. Wow. Commence a brilliant exploration of family, morality, wealth disparity, class differences, race issues, hearing impairment, and so much more. Oh, and it’s unbelievably fun to watch, and very twisty at times. Also, I cannot stress this enough and I know I’m going to sound really saccharine right now, but I have learned SO MUCH about deaf people, and it’s been amazing. The deaf actors are out-of-this-world talented – not talented “given that they’re deaf,” just plain old super-talented – and I feel so lucky to be exposed to this world I knew nothing about, while also enjoying the drama of the whole switched-at-birth thing. Also, I went into this show hating Vanessa Marano (April Nardini, to you Gilmore fans) with a burning, neon-red passion, and now she is by far one of my favorite people on television. IT’S THAT GOOD!
Pretty Little Liars
I am particularly vocal about this program because I constantly hear people dismiss it for the wrong reasons. This show is unbelievably good. Not good-because-it’s-bad. Just good. Here’s why: first of all, it’s just a really solid mystery show. They keep you guessing, it’s suspenseful, it’s well-plotted, and you rarely get that nagging The Killing suspicion that they actually don’t know what’s going on. I’m pretty sure the writers know exactly who “A” is and could answer all my questions if I kidnapped and tickle-tortured them into doing it. You’re in good hands when you’re watching this show. Second of all, it’s well written. Seriously. The plots are interesting, the dialogue is sharp, and there’s none of the usual teen-drama vapidity. Third of all, it’s very pretty to look at. This is not usually something I care about, but for some reason these girls have won me over. They are each beautiful in a very different way, and their clothing and nail colors are to die for. Seriously, I copy Aria’s manicure every single week. Finally, and this is the most important reason why everyone should be watching this show: it is the most realistic depiction of teenage friendship I have seen on television in many, many, many years. These girls actually like each other. Hooray! They don’t backstab. They care about each other’s feelings. They listen. They give good advice! Do you realize how rare this is on a show about teenage girls?! Not once, in the entire series so far, have I had that irritated pissed-off feeling, like, “Great, now she’s not going to tell her that thing she needs to tell her, and we’re going to spend the rest of the episode in a big misunderstanding.” There are no misunderstandings. It’s just straightforward, realistic girl time. Of course they have squabbles and problems and all that – because, brilliantly, the dynamics are highly realistic despite the heightened dark-noir-mystery tone of the show – but you’ll never be frustrated by any of it. This show is so good, I want to pour it over my ice cream and eat a whole sundae of it.
What are the shows you wish your too-cool-for-amazing-TV friends would watch?