Right now you’d be in your arm chair, a mug of beer in tow, watching the newest installment of HBO’s GAME OF THRONES. Unfortunately, you won’t be doing that this Sunday night.
GAME OF THRONES’ fourth season was probably its best yet, which is an impressive statement, since the first three seasons were essentially a bad break (or a BREAKING BAD) away from being the best show on TV (though arguments can be made for FRINGE, COMMUNITY, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, JUSTIFIED, THE WALKING DEAD, PARKS AND RECREATION and LOUIE within that time).
But after last season’s incredible finale, “The Children,” which may have been its best yet (and it still elicits massive doses of controversy, because internet), we’re left without the sprawling clans of Westeros and beyond fighting for power and meaningless titles on our TV sets until next March. That’s a long damn time. What the hell are we supposed to do until then? I’m not going to suggest going outside or watching the World Cup or even reading George R. R. Martin’s A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE novels, because no shit. Of course, none of my other recommendations are going to be insightful or clever either.
More than ever, people want to be apart of the discussion, they don’t want to be the only one not watching a show. This year that show has been alternately TRUE DETECTIVE, GAME OF THRONES and ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK. What’s the next obsession? Each of my following suggestions are ranked by their potential to be the next big thing.
Before I begin, I’ll offer the following advice: watch anything but CROSSBONES and DEFIANCE. I feel like this goes without saying. Watch BLACK SAILS instead if you crave pirates, because it’s STARZ’s replacement for SPARTACUS (though it’s not that good). Watch DOMINION instead of DEFIANCE if you want SyFy in your life, because that has Anthony Stewart Head in it.
10. Go see OBVIOUS CHILD
I haven’t seen the movie, but everyone I’ve talked to has said how amazing Jenny Slate is in it, and how powerful/funny/difficult a movie it is. You know Jenny Slate as Mona-Lisa in PARKS & RECREATION, also known as the worst (and simultaneously the best), and I’m tickled that this movie puts her on the dramatic map. There isn’t a movie out right now that I’m more intrigued to see. I’m guessing it’s worth the extra effort to find it.
Water Cooler Factor: 1/10. You’ll be the cool kid talking about a movie nobody’s seen, which is worth something. Unless you’re an LA hipster, I doubt OBVIOUS CHILD will make a dent in the theaters, unfortunately.
9. Catch up on ORPHAN BLACK
If you’re not watching BBC’s ORPHAN BLACK, you’re not doing it correctly. While the second season wasn’t as mindblowing or fresh as the first season, it was still the best show on TV that isn’t GAME OF THRONES (or HANNIBAL). Then last night’s season finale happened, and “Holy shit” was all I could utter after nearly every scene. It truly was a game changer; the finale changes EVERYTHING, and I’m not sure into what. Season 3 will be a complete mystery, but it promises to be no less compelling. It’s time to get onboard and learn why Tatiana Maslany really is everything.
Water Cooler Factor: 4/10. The season is over, so a lot of the impetus is gone for people to talk about it. By next year it’ll be on SHERLOCK levels, however.
8. Finally check out Showtime’s PENNY DREADFUL
I wouldn’t say I was overwhelmed by the pilot, but since then John Logan and Sam Mendes’ highly stylized, quite screwed up and grotesque take on classic gothic horror has grown into something bewitching.
I wouldn’t say it’s great, though it’s filled with great performances. Namely, the show has given an excuse for Eva Green to go absolutely bonkers, and that’s something the world has wanted/needed/craved since CASINO ROYALE. She’s deserving of at least a nomination at all of the award shows for her alluring, batshit crazy portrayal of Vanessa Ives, one of the few characters on the show that isn’t lifted directly from literature (or if it is, it’s over my head). We’ve seen way too many seances in film and TV, but Eva Green’s possessed Vanessa is the moment that secured my viewership until the show ends.
Plus, Timothy Dalton further cements his scene crunching ability in a late career renaissance I adore, and you can see Josh Hartnett’s ass and Billie Piper’s boobs. I’m an episode behind going into tonight’s episode (“Possession”), so this is one on the list that I’ll definitely be doing.
Water Cooler Factor: 5/10. I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot more people would’ve been watching PENNY DREADFUL if not for GAME OF THRONES. Now that the latter is done, there’s still some time for PENNY DREADFUL to get into the national discussion. Unfortunately, after tonight’s episode, there’s only one week till the finale. Considering Showtime has already optioned a second season, it’s another good one to get ahead of the game for next year.
7. Get onboard BBC’s next buzzy show, INTRUDERS
All I know about BBC’s INTRUDERS, except that it’s premiering this summer and stars The Master himself, John Simm, is what I gleaned from this promo:
And that’s all I need/care to know to watch it.
Water Cooler Factor: 6/10. Looks great, but in a LUTHER/IN THE FLESH kind of way, where only the in BBC crowd watches and loves it.
5. Figure out what the hell RECTIFY is about
I’ll be honest, I don’t know. But this Sundance Channel show is apparently brilliant.
It certainly doesn’t sound for everyone, considering it’s referred to as subtle and quiet drama, its whodunnit beside the point. Vulture calls it “christian art.” I don’t know what that means, but I’m tantalized, especially when it’s hailed as the successor to MAD MEN.
Water Cooler Factor: 7/10. Critics and outlets are going mad for RECTIFY. Will the people follow? I kind of doubt it, based on the themes at work in RECTIFY, but I’ve bumped several shows on my list in order to start season 1 and catch up on season 2 before it ends.
4. Check out STARZ’s OUTLANDER
OUTLANDER wants to be the next GAME OF THRONES, minus the dragons (as far as I know). It’s from a best selling book series, and is a time traveling romance to Scotland, being brought to the screen by Ronald D. Moore, who rules (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA). I think this one could be huge, judging by the eighth book’s firm place on top of the NYT Best Seller’s List, and its legion of fans.
OUTLANDER premieres August 9th.
Water Cooler Factor: 8/10. It might be too dreamy and historical to catch on like wildfire, but then again, we live in an age when DOWNTON ABBEY is one of the most talked about shows.
3. FX’s THE STRAIN is the next THE WALKING DEAD/AMERICAN HORROR STORY
Based on a popular book series, check. Awesome pedigree (Guillermo del Toro), check. A new, dark take on vampires, check.
From what little we’ve seen of THE STRAIN, it looks fucked up and cool. We might all be tired of vampires, but I’m pretty sure del Toro has something different up his sleeves with this.
It’s a coming July 13th.
Water Cooler Factor: 8.5/10. When horror shows find an audience, they explode, and with AHS and TWD off the air, The Strain should fill that void. It also helps that I expect it to be fairly excellent. Bonus half point because…IT HAS SEAN ASTIN IN IT!
2. Watch HBO’s Newest Show: THE LEFTOVERS
There’s little doubt in my mind that HBO will keep the hits coming, and dominate the national pop culture discussion again, after dominating this calendar year with TRUE DETECTIVE and GOT. I don’t think it’ll be the last season of TRUE BLOOD we’ll be talking about, however. That, like DEXTER before it, is ending too late, and is really just something we’re all watching out of due diligence more than anything else.
Next Sunday, June 29th we get to see THE LEFTOVERS, the show I believe will be the next buzzy show that will get spoiled for us minutes after its episodes air. What if 2% of the world’s population mysteriously disappeared? It certainly has LOST-like potential, which sounds like a dirty word these days, but I still cling to that as a compliment. It also could very well be like UNDER THE DOME, an inconsistent show I hate-watch. Either way, I’m quite curious to check it out.
Water Cooler Factor: 9/10. Pretty positive this is the one to take the mantle.
1. Watch these summer movies: DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and SNOWPIERCER.
Movies have a very low shelf life in terms of taking over the discussion, since every week there’s a new blockbuster to watch. So far 2014’s had a pretty good track record, though we’re about to hit a bit of a lull until DOTPOTA comes out, which is an acronym I’ll avoid using in the future.
DAWN and GUARDIANS are my two most anticipated films left this summer, and probably this year, though I’m not bothering to check that. They’re also the only two I’d predict that could even touch CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER in terms of quality.
SNOWPIERCER should be incredible as long as the Weinstein’s don’t ruin it. It’s based on an acclaimed French graphic novel, it stars Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris, Octavia Spencer, Alison Pill and comes from visionary director Joon-ho Bong. Peep it:
It’s a smaller film, but it shouldn’t be, based on that trailer and who’s involved. We will get to see a director’s cut, but the film will no longer get a wide release. The world sucks sometimes.
Water Cooler Factor: 10/10. Maybe not for SNOWPIERCER, but DAWN and GUARDIANS are the two biggest movies yet to come out so far, mark my words. Fuck Transformers.
OTHERS: Halt and Catch Fire, AMC. The Knick, STARZ. The Last Ship & Legends, TNT. The Quest, CBS.