Watching TV is probably America’s true pastime, but how we gather around that warm, glowing box of entertainment has vastly changed from the days of “Leave It to Beaver” and “Father Knows Best.” In fact, it’s not just the devices we use to watch TV anywhere any time that’s changed, it’s the nature of our expectations that have evolved.
For someone who remembers having to wait an entire summer to find out who shot J.R., this instant gratification TV binging we enjoy now is mind-blowing. Some shows cater to the on-demand, watch-it-20-times phenomenon better than others. Here are four shows that do it right, but be warned – rabid, addictive viewing may ensue if you decide to check out these entertainment gems.
1. “Arrested Development”
The genius behind the Internet resurrection of this comedic powerhouse was legendary even before it even began. And the inventive, some say controversial, way the fourth season was presented with each episode revealing the same events but from a different family member’s perspective was custom-made for on-demand viewing.
By revealing new tidbits about things we thought we already knew, the storytelling was enriched and our experience as an audience was enhanced. Multiple viewings only made it better, revealing new jokes you might have missed the first or second time.
Some devoted fans even took the time to re-order the season chronologically to offer another take on an already great tale. And with rumors of season five swirling, it looks like now would be a great time to tune in to this modern phenom for the first – or fiftieth – time.
2. “Orange Is the New Black”
It’s probably no coincidence that our top two shows are helmed by Netflix, the unofficial ruler of the new TV era, but they sure know how to get it right. “Orange Is the New Black” makes for compulsive viewing, and because details of each inmate’s origins are sprinkled throughout each season, it’s fantastic to be able to go back and re-watch favorite scenes with the new understanding you have of each character’s motivation.
Being able, as a viewer, to experience the story with multiple layers of understanding and empathy is something that wasn’t previously available until the series came out on video or DVD and even then shows weren’t really designed to be better upon multiple viewings. “Orange Is the New Black” is a perfect example of how to keep viewers coming back for more.
Because this show is what made me realize my television viewing compulsions, it has to be included. The thing that amazes me about this beautifully crafted and visually stunning psychological thriller is that this is regular, broadcast television – not fodder for the Internet nation. However, “Hannibal” is crafted in intricate layers that reveal the psyche of each player in such a way that it’s nearly impossible to not take another look.
“Hannibal” isn’t popcorn entertainment. It is deeply sophisticated storytelling that delves into the inner-workings of its characters and viewers, making all of us deliciously entwined with master manipulator Hannibal Lecter. The hunter and prey premise is mesmerizing and trying to catch the difference between fact and fantasy is a delight time and time again.
4. “American Horror Story”
From the first season that brought us a perfect American ghost story set in a twisted haunted house to last season’s coven of diva witches, “American Horror Story” is genius. I watched this show both as it is broadcast and compulsively online and I have to say the greatest danger of streaming this gothic masterpiece is the inability to stop.
The way suspense builds from episode to episode is irresistible and Jessica Lange can give me the chills no matter how times I watch her cold, calculating ways. “American Horror Story” seems made for modern viewing habits in that it always leaves you wanting more but still fully delivers no matter how many times you’ve seen an episode.
What TV series keeps you obsessively coming back for more?
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Photo Credits: Netflix | Michael Muller/NBC | FX Networks