I know, I know. In this post I went on and on about how much I love TV on DVD. And it's true--I do. And it's still my favorite way to watch shows that I know I love. But I have to admit, extreme boredom + Netflix instant steaming has facilitated some amazing and unexpected TV interests. You see, when you have Netflix instant streaming, you constantly feel like you should be making the most of your money, eking every last moment of joy out of your $7.99/month. So, once you've exhausted every episode (multiple times) of known faves like 30 Rock, Parks and Rec, Mad Men, and Friday Night Lights, you're open to trying out random shows that you've never heard of, that you would never pay money for, and that you would never pause on while flipping through the channels.
Trying out a new TV show is like a rush of boredom and anticipation because you never know if you'll be suffering through the next Psych (sorry Psych lovers--it's a major bore for me) or discovering the next Lost (I have to admit, it sucked me in, and I watched five seasons in four weeks). This post is dedicated to four shows that hooked me that I never would have tried/loved if it weren't for Netflix. These aren't award-winning shows, and they wouldn't make it onto a list of my top TV, but they're the kind of shows that are satisfying to stumble on because they make you want to watch more.
1. Veronica Mars. VM combines three of my very favorite things: teenage angst, twenty-something actors as 16-year-old high school students, and witty, feel-good crime solving. While a little cheesy at times, this show won me over and forever endeared me to Kristen Bell. Unfortunately, Netflix no longer streams it.
2. White Collar. Flipping through Netflix I thought White Collar was an Office-like sitcom in the vein of Better off Ted. Not interested. But then my sister mentioned loving it, so I tested the pilot. It is, in fact, about a con man/thief/bond forger who escapes from prison with only four months left on his four-year sentence, gets caught, and strikes a deal with the FBI to be a confidential informant rather than serve four more years in prison. What makes this show work is the chemistry between the con man, Neal Caffrey, and the FBI agent who tracked him down, Peter Burke. They become besties, but there is always the tension/threat that Neal will revert to his conning ways. As a viewer, you come to trust in Neal's good heart despite his knowledge of thieving and unnerving ability to manipulate people, so you're never truly worried he'll end up the culprit, but every so often you mildly suspect he's just pulling one long con on the FBI. I have to admit, I'm a sucker for Neal's Rat Pack wardrobe, his ability to pick a lock, and his dazzling con man smile.
3. Damages. Ellen Parsons is a seemingly naive fresh-out-law-school lawyer who scores a job working with Patty Hewes at the top law firm in NYC, Hewes & Associates. The pilot flashes months into the future, showing Ellen stumble off an elevator in a bloody trench coat looking shocked and guilty, and her fiancee is dead in a bathtub. The first season unravels the events leading up to and surrounding this incident. The lines of ethical action are blurred, and no one can be trusted. Dun, dun, dun. Admittedly, the first season is the strongest and seasons two and three are a little disappointing by comparison, but Rose Byrnes as Ellen Parsons is the perfect combination of innocent/earnest and calculating, and Glenn Close as Patty Hewes is chilling/fascinating. With only 13 episodes per season, I flew through this series.
4. Lie to Me. I had absolutely no context for this show when I first clicked on the pilot. I was pleasantly surprised. Cal Lightman can tell if someone is lying based on fleeting micro expressions that he is trained to detect. He's cocky, brash, and private, but his infalible skills make him an intriguing hero. Yes, the show gets a little repetitive (Crime is committed. Lightman knows whether the suspect is lying or not. Suspect goes free or goes to jail.), but the concept that honesty (or the ability to know when someone is not being honest) is the key to crime fighting is so simple it's genius.