For television fans, it is the best of times, it is the worst of times. Shows like The Walking Dead, American Horror Story, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey and Sherlock offer remarkable highs. These are excellent shows, with casts, scripts, directors and production values rarely seen outside movie theaters before the new millennium dawned and HBO reset the bar for television with shows like Six Feet Under and The Sopranos. Thanks to the proliferation of cable channels, even those of the non-premium variety, willing to take chances with innovative, sometimes outright bizarre, concepts. Gone are the days when everything on TV was filtered through a virtual least-common-denominator colander until everything exciting was gone.
Gone, too, is the hard and fast rule that a season must be 24-episodes. Sherlock only has 3 per season (although, to be fair, they are really more like movies) and both Mad Men and season 2 of The Walking Dead both only have 13. Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones fall in the middle. There is wisdom in shorter seasons, as Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant pointed out back when their original version of The Office was taking the UK, then the world, by storm with two 6-episode “series” (as they are called across the pond). Do what you can do well and do no more. Quality over quantity, etc. Use your resources to create as many awesome episodes as you can, make them as long as you like, then, if there is still more good stuff left to do, take your time preparing another season. If not, end the show. Period.
The only problem with this? When geeks like us find ourselves at the end of the season finale, with our hearts in our throats and (occasionally) tears on our cheeks, we turn immediately to the internet to tell us when we can expect our heroes to return only to discover… six months!? EIGHT MONTHS!!?? 2013!!!!!!!!!??????????? We scream, “How the holy hell am I supposed to wait until 2013 to find out if Mr. Censored-to-avoid-spoilers gets out of jail, you assholes?! How can you possibly expect me to wait until fall to see if Rick just up and slaps his suddenly sullen crew in the face already? Why are you doing this to me, TV? Why?!”
Or, you know, that’s what I imagine all of us screaming – am I right, people?
Having quit smoking four years ago, and not wanting to turn to hard drugs, I made a game plan to get me through the long months before the first of my favorites comes back (The Walking Dead, in OCTOBER. Blargh!) If you’d like to follow along with me, it goes something like this:
1) The internet is your friend. Participation in the stories we watch every week no longer ends when the hour is up. Whatever your favorite show may be, there is a really good chance the network on which it airs has a solid website for it. The Walking Dead site is constantly updated with news, interviews with the cast, contests for fans, and even games and quizzes based on the show. HBO’s Game of Thrones site is another standout. Recaps, episode commentary and clips, on-location shots and stories – all are there just waiting for you and your high speed internet connection. While I have yet to figure out the password I need to make HBO GO happen, I hear the interactive features are awesome enough that watching the season over again that way would likely fill some of the void left after the new episodes ended. Also, remember there is a very, very good chance you can watch old episodes over again online.
2. Books are your friends. Miss the excitement of plot-twists, regular cliff-hangers and delving ever deeper into characters? I hear tell books are great for that. Why not pick up a series that reads like candy? The Sookie Stackhouse books from Charlene Harris or Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series are perfect for someone who wants to fly through a “season” and know they can have another without having to wait a single day before starting the next (thanks, Kindle).* For a slightly “deeper” pager-turning series, try the Dublin Murder Squad books from Tana French starting with In the Woods – the fourth in the (sort of) series, Broken Harbor, is due out in late July.
If not just any book will do, many of the most popular shows out right now are based on books. Want to know what’s going to happen to Jon Snow? There’s a whole series of books out there from George R.R. Martin that can answer that for you (to a point). They’re an investment at just around 1000 pages each, but they are well worth it. The Walking Dead comics have the added bonus of having inspired the show, but also being different enough in terms of events that they will hold surprises for readers who are show-enthusiasts. The Sherlock Holmes stories will allow for readers to delight in spotting all the changes the show-creators made to update the classics. And, wouldn’t you know, publishers are now targeting books to the Downton Abbey crowd – seriously. Here’s a list of them.
3. Netflix/Amazon Prime/Blockbuster are your friends. You know how your friends keep telling you to watch Fringe because, “No, seriously, it gets so much better after season one?” Well, now’s your chance. Whatever shows you resisted at the time, just missed because there were literally decades of television before the invention of DVRs and you had to work nights in college, or didn’t feel like shelling out the big bucks to watch them on HBO – now is your time. Finally, you’ll get the “damn fine coffee” references your 30-something friends make (Twin Peaks). Let me recommend all things Joss Whedon, if you haven’t watched them already (yes, even Dollhouse), the original, BBC version of The Office, and The Inbetweeners (also BBC) to get you started.
4. Your friends….are your friends. When it comes down to it, your friends are your best bet for recommendations and ideas about exciting things to read and/or watch when it’s too damn hot to go outside and do things in your downtime this summer. I know this is going to sound corny, but maybe some folks you know want to read some Ray Bradbury books to honor his passing (this one is inspired by real-life events in my own circle). Start a book club or find a book club – the internet is full of ‘em! Have a Buffy re-watch with your best friend from grad school. Also remember that new shows come on the air all year round, now. Most of the summer ones are “testers,” but there are some fan favorites like True Blood running this summer, and some of the new shows are bound to be gems. Your friends might have some suggestions – I, for one, am not ashamed to admit The Glee Project is making my Tuesday nights much more exciting.
There you have it – some advice to get you through Hiatus Hell. If you have some suggestions for books or shows, we’d love to hear ‘em.
*Despite all evidence to the contrary, we are not paid advertisers for Amazon.com
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