Words by Rachel Surgeoner
Next time you find yourself on a long-haul flight, stuck on a lay-over or have a serendipitous rainy long weekend, it pays to have a cult TV series up your sleeve to get caught up in. With our busy modern lives it’s almost therapeutic to tune out every now and then and lose yourself in a little screen time.
Some say 'couch potato' like it’s a bad thing. Sure, everything in moderation, but today’s TV dramas also have some very important pop culture takeouts, not to mention some very poignant potential life lessons.
These five series certainly earn their kudos for binge-worthy, gripping TV viewing. Get comfortable; you’re in for a wild ride.
Currently in its seventh and final season, Mad Man is an American period drama loved for its dissection of gender roles and relationships in the glamourous (and not so glamourous) world of advertising on Madison Avenue in New York. Set in the 1960s and 70s, the costuming, soundtrack and set design is carefully curated and the script, at times, is almost poetic. A slow burner in the first few seasons, stick it out as you navigate your way through a barrel of confronting chauvinistic and sexist scenes to the downright backwards mentality of the 1960s (cue smoking-drinking pregnant housewives behind white picket fences). Don Draper (Jon Hamm) makes drinking whiskey while soulfully looking over the Manhattan skyline look cooler than ever before (his drinking problem aside).
House Of Cards
The latest buzz series from Netflix, one of the beauties of this series is not having to wait for weekly instalments – each season is released in one fell swoop, designed with the binger in mind. It’s currently up to its third season, with a fourth and final due in 2016. Get ready for some shocking twists and jaw dropping moments as you peek behind the closed doors of American politics. A drama in every sense, Kevin Spacey is a 'Southern-simpleton' turned power-wielding politian who married the blue blooded 'Southern Belle' (Robin Wright) and climbed the ladder all the way to the White House. Ruthless and conniving, the pair plays dirty to get to the top while trying to keep a clean, white pressed-linen image. But as you’ll soon learn, everything comes at a cost and things aren’t always as they seem.
A total of 62 episodes over five seasons, Breaking Bad will take you on one heck of a journey. At first you’ll sympathise with the show’s protagonist, Walter White, who is a hard working and underrated high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with cancer. By the end of the series, though, you might feel differently. A crime-drama series about the ins and outs of manufacturing methamphetamine in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Breaking Bad will have you on the edge of your seat. You’ll develop favourite characters and most likely form some pretty solid opinions on the drug trade and where ‘right’ ends and ‘wrong’ begins.
Game of Thrones
The first thing you need to know about the TV adaption of George R. R. Martin’s fantasy novels is that no one is safe. Death is real and it happens frequently and in all sorts of gory ways on Game of Thrones (GoT). After all, when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. A fantasy drama genre that has a cult following that extends far beyond your average fantasy lover; GoT is a complex beast so you’ll need to concentrate. Just don’t miss your flight connection if you’re watching from an iPad at the airport. We’re not going to give anything away, we’ll just say GoT addiction is real and you will be shocked, delighted and intrigued every step of the way. It might help to read up on some of the episode debriefs online after each episode to clear up any complicated 'who’s related to who', 'who despises who and why' issues.
Courtesy of the Brits, if you love period dramas, this one is you for. Set in the fictional Yorkshire country estate of Downton Abbey in the post-Edwardian era during the reign of King George V, the show pivots around the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants. Gossip, secrets and affairs are guaranteed. The award winning series currently has five seasons to date with the sixth season due in November 2015.
Need more? For comedy lovers check out 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation and Curb Your Enthusiasm. For chick-heavy comedy-drama you can’t go past Girls and Orange Is the New Black. For gripping drama Fargo, Damages and Homeland are worth bookmarking in your Netflix.
And don’t get us started on podcasts. One word: Serial. Go listen.