Television is in the midst of a golden age, thanks to a combination of shows like The Sopranos and Breaking Bad. Shows such as that convinced previously shy networks to take more risks, and to the proliferation of quality cable networks and online options like Netflix, there is an abundance of quality shows out there, which can get a little overwhelming, especially for the busy dude. That’s why we thought it would be a good time to sit down and bang out this handy list of eight TV shows every guy should be watching.
What It’s About: It’s a TV adaption of the movie of the same name. A mysterious and sociopathic drifter shows up in a small Midwestern town and pretty soon the locals are getting out of hand.
Why You Should Be Watching It: It’s only a few episodes into its first season, so this might be something of a risk, but I feel confident in labeling this a must-see. It’s got a ridiculously good cast – Billy Bob Thornton plays the dead-souled drifter with echoes of Anton Chigurh, and Martin Freeman plays, well, the role he was pretty much born to play, as the over his head insurance agent constantly on the verge of cracking at the seams. It’s one of those shows that just sucks you into its weird world and won’t let you leave. This is TV fulfilling its potential as a medium, and it’s going to be great to see how it all unfolds.
7. ‘House of Cards’
What It’s About: Kevin Spacey plays a sociopathic Congressman who is part Bill Clinton and part Satan, a Machiavellian beast who tears through Washington, boning, killing and destroying anyone who gets in his way, all because the President hurt his feelings.
Why You Should Be Watching It: Spacey’s Frank Underwood is the best antihero on TV today. He’s just so ruthlessly evil that you can’t help but cheer him on as he destroys one poor sap after another. But more than that, it’s impossible not to see echoes of the real life Washington in its characters and storylines – or at least the Washington we love to hate, and really that’s a big part of its appeal. It’s cathartic in a way. We can watch it and hope that these slimy characters can get what’s coming to them eventually, because we know that they probably are all getting away with it in real life. Plus, Spacey is a quote machine, Jenny Gump is the best Hillary Clinton since, well, Hillary Clinton, and even Barack Obama loves this shit, which, honestly, is actually kind of worrisome, but that’s how good this show is.
What It’s About: The life and times of Louie CK, who remains one of the most viciously funny dudes on the planet while balancing being a single father with the fact that he, well, is kind of a fuckup.
Why You Should Be Watching It: Louis CK is funnier than just about anyone else alive. That’s a pretty good reason. But it’s not just that it’s funny, it’s that it takes everything that makes Louie’s comedy work and shapes it to devastating effect, making it more than just cheap punchlines and easy jokes. It has an emotional resonance that is just as painfully awkward sometimes as it is funny. It doesn’t pander and beg for your laughter, and it never shies away from the brutal truth in any situation. It’s a smart, funny show for smart, funny people, and hey, you’re smart and funny, right?
What It’s About: Super-spy Sterling Archer tries to save the world in between hangovers, anonymous sex, and the constant belittling of his mother, who just so happens to also be his boss.
Why You Should Be Watching It: It’s the funniest show on TV. It’s that simple. It’s like somebody let loose some weird hybrid of James Bond, Burt Reynolds and a frat bro in an Arrested Development script and then filtered that all through Adult Swim. The voice acting is perfect, the jokes are witty as hell, and it just might be the raunchiest show on TV. But what really makes it work is the characters, each and every one pitch perfect, and, as each season goes by, their interactions with each other, and their collective history, just makes the show funnier and funnier. You can tell the show’s creators and actors love the show and all the characters, and that kind of love is infectious. Plus, they even got Burt Reynolds to show up in an episode, and how can you not love that?
4. ‘Mad Men’
What It’s About: On the surface, it’s about alpha male ad-man Don Draper and his womanizing ways and the happenings at a 1960’s New York ad agency, but really it’s a story about America itself, much like The Great Gatsby.
Why You Should Be Watching It: People either love Mad Men or they just don’t see what the big deal is. That’s because it has a slow, languid pace that forces you to really engage with it as something more than disposable pap. It’s the closest thing TV has ever come to literary fiction, and you could make the case that this is the TV version of the great American novel. Once it hooks you, it’s utterly spellbinding, with a main character in Don Draper who is an absolutely perfect cypher for the story. This is TV as high art, and if that’s not your thing, cool, but if you really want to understand the power of TV as a storytelling medium, you can’t do any better than Mad Men.
3. ‘Game of Thrones’
What It’s About: Mayhem. Okay, fine. It’s about the fictional land of Westeros, where powerful families vie for the throne, killing and dying, and boning everything that moves, all while a terrifying army of what are essentially zombies threatens from the frozen hell of the north.
Why You Should Be Watching It: Like over the top violence? This is the show for you. Like gratuitous sex and nudity? This is the show for you. Like tense political intrigue? This is the show for you. Like sweeping battle scenes? This is the show for you. Like Lord of the Rings style grandeur and epic fantasy? This is the show for you. Like dragons? This is the show for you. Like… I think you get the point.
What It’s About: A modern retelling of the various Sherlock Holmes stories, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock and Martin Freeman as his companion, Dr. John Watson.
Why You Should Be Watching It: It might just be the best show on TV. It’s suspenseful, stylish and very, very funny. And even though each season – or series as our British friends like to say – is only three episodes long, each episode is roughly an hour and a half, commercial free, which make it feel more like watching several movies in one long, epic series. It’s brilliant, absolutely brilliant, and both Cumberbatch and Freeman are perfect in their roles. I could say more, but frankly the only way you’re going to truly understand is if you watch it yourself. You’ll be glad you did.
1. ‘True Detective’
What It’s About: Uh, true detecting. No, but really, it’s hard to really say because the show is more of an anthology, with a different storyline each season. But going by the first season, I’d say it’s about being totally freaking awesome.
Why You Should Be Watching It: Like I said, this one is a little different because season two will be a completely different story than the first season. But the ridiculous quality – and the acting – of the first season should give everyone more than enough faith that this one will remain an absolute must-see. And if you haven’t watched that first season, stop everything and rectify that immediately. It’s even better than it sounds, like a cross of a twisted version of Lethal Weapon and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with just a touch of the cosmic thrown in for good measure. TV has never been as tense as this, nor as spellbinding.