Check out a season or two and treat yourself to a weekend of TV

A funny thing happened to TV over the last 15 years; it got good. Astoundingly, monumentally good.

Once decried as a vast wasteland, television has arguably eclipsed movies as the primary source for high-quality, scripted entertainment. (In this author’s humble opinion, precious few of the “Best Picture” Oscar winners during the past decade-and-a-half hold a candle to a single season of “Deadwood” or “The Sopranos.”)

With so many of these great shows readily available on DVD (and part of the West Linn Public Library’s DVD collection), why not check out a season or two and treat yourself to a weekend of binge-watching? If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few suggestions:

“Breaking Bad”

Life hasn’t been particularly kind to Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston), who was once an up-and-coming brilliant young chemist. He’s ended up as a middle-aged, high school chemistry teacher who moonlights at a car wash just to make ends meet.

Oh, and he’s just been diagnosed with lung cancer.

Fearing the worst and desperate to provide for his family, Walter turns his chemistry skills in a different direction; he recruits Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), a former student and current low-level drug dealer, and embarks on a secret career of cooking and selling ultra-pure crystal meth.

Success in the drug trade, however, brings out a previously unknown ruthlessness in Walter, and his gradual transformation from milquetoast to monster is utterly mesmerizing. The series’ final eight episodes air on AMC this month; get caught up now.               

“The Wire”

Frequently hailed as one of the best (if not the best) series to ever air on television, “The Wire” is much more than a cop show. It’s a gritty, uncompromising look at all facets of modern, urban life, told through the stories of the cops, criminals, politicians, journalists, public servants and residents of Baltimore.

The writing is top-notch, featuring scripts by luminaries like veteran journalists David Simon and Ed Burns, and authors George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane and Richard Price.

The series follows a core group of cops like Jimmy McNulty (played by Dominic West), Cedric Daniels (Lance Reddick) and Kima Greggs (Sonja Sohn) who struggle against departmental politics and their own character flaws as they seek to take down the drug organizations run by the ruthless Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris), his business-minded right-hand man, Stringer Bell (Idris Elba) and young upstart Marlo Stanfield (Jamie Hector).

Along the way, we meet a host of other memorable characters including sympathetic addict Bubbles (Andre Royo), outlaw Omar Little (Michael K. Williams), ambitious politician Tommy Carcetti (Aidan Gillen) and many, many more, all played by a phenomenally talented cast.  

Further viewing

Looking for more great TV series? You really can’t go wrong with any of the following:

  • Comedy: “Arrested Development,” “Community,” “The Larry Sanders Show,” “Northern Exposure” and “Weeds.”
  • Drama: “Boardwalk Empire,” “Deadwood,” “Dexter,” “House of Cards,” “Justified,” “Mad Men,” “Rescue Me,” “The Shield,” “Six Feet Under,” “Sons of Anarchy and “The Sopranos.”
  • Adventure/Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror: “Alias,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Game of Thrones,” “Lost” and “True Blood.”
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