Tuesday, May 6, 2014

8 Great TV Shows You Probably Aren't Watching

I did a list like this last year where I highlighted some of the either lesser known, underrated and/or misjudged TV shows which I thought were pretty darn good compared to all of the usual waste on television nowadays. So I'm here again to point you in the direction of some TV shows which have premiered within the last year that you most likely are not watching. These shows -- whether from a different country or premiering on streaming channels like Netflix -- are some of the best around! First, let me warn you, there are NO reality TV shows on this list! That's because reality TV is uncreative and uninspiring. Please note that these shows (some of which are still on the air) are currently available either to watch on Hulu, Netflix, OnDemand/cable, or on DVD, and they are listed in alphabetical order. If you have watched -- or are watching -- any of these shows, good for you. Here are some more recommendations you may like. I should say that whereas my previous July 2013 list mostly had dramas on it (and I stand by those dramas: Arrow; The Booth at the End; Endgame; House of Cards; Misfits; Once Upon a Time; Orange is the New Black; Sherlock; and Supernatural -- see the list here), this list just so happens to have a majority of comedy on it; it was a good season for new comedies. So, let's get to it:

About a Boy
THE PLOT: Based on Nick Hornby's (High Fidelity, Fever Pitch, A Long Way Down) novel of the same name, the show centers on one-hit wonder songwriter Will Freeman (David Walton) who never has to work thanks to the royalty checks he receives after writing one famous Christmas song. He lives the life of a somewhat selfish man-child, doing what he wants whenever he wants and dating many women. This all changes when his new next-door neighbors Fiona (Minnie Driver) and Marcus (Benjamin Stockham) move in. What starts off as Will using Marcus to attain women transforms into Will actually liking the 11-year-old and teaching him the "guy stuff" his overprotective mom can't teach.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: Unlike most predictable comedy where one sees Will and Fiona getting romantically involved, Hornby's story does not go that route. The two know they are wrong for each other and have no romantic feelings for one another, but their common link is Marcus, played with a funny-but-endearing awkwardness by Stockham. However, this show is not for kids as sexual content is mentioned throughout the show. I have to admit that I read the book a long time ago and saw the 2002 movie adaptation with Hugh Grant, but didn't care much for either. However, this is a comedy that is endearing and full of heart without overloading on happy or coming off as corny.

THE PLOT: This urban fantasy drama has too many twists and turns to give a drawn-out plot summary so I'll simply say the show is about a young girl named Bo Adams (Johnny Sequoyah) who has telekinetic powers (think a very young Jean Grey from Marvel Comics' X-Men) -- and maybe more -- who is being hunted by a wealthy businessman (Kyle MacLachlan). Her only hope are a small group of the businessman's former employees (Delroy Lindo, Jamie Chung, Katie McClellan) and former death row inmate William Tate (Jake McLaughlin), who help her evade an institution which is hellbent on using her powers for evil and greedy purposes.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: First off, the young actress who portrays Bo, Johnny Sequoyah, has a presence that leaves you constantly cheering for and liking this character! The show is produced by J.J. Abrams (Alias) and was created (and produced) by Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity), giving it some heavy creative cred! The show has a basic helping-someone story-of-the-week, but there is also the overall arc of what Bo can do and why she is so important to the evil corporation headed by MacLachlan. The best thing about this show isn't so much the "window dressing" of the powers, or the action, or the drama; it's the overall display of helping people and the kindness which is born from it. I started watching this show at the same time that ABC's Resurrection premiered, and whereas I lost interest with Resurrection, this has kept me coming back for more!

THE PLOT: Kevin Pacalioglu (Tyler Labine) is a honest-to-a-fault slob who is going nowhere -- a deadbeat, if you will. But he has one thing going for him that not many do. He can see and talk to ghosts. With hardly no ambition, Kevin takes on cases to help fulfill a dead person's unfinished business so said dead person can pass on "into the light," and soon figures out -- with the help of his drug dealer (Brandon T. Jackson) -- that he can make some money while doing so. The only thing standing in his way is the greedy Camomile White (Cat Deeley), a famous psychic who is simply a fraud. 

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: This may sound serious but it is one of the best new comedies to premiere this season. Labine is used to playing lovable ne'er-do-wells and he has mastered it for this show. Plus, the added romantic interest of Labine's Kevin with Camomile's assistant Sue (Lucy DeVito) is a welcome addition. Fans of the Showtime 2003 cult favorite series Dead Like Me will love this show!

THE PLOT: Ricky Gervais (BBC's The Office) plays Derek, a somewhat “slow” 50-year-old volunteer at a small old-folks’ nursing home. Derek is a kind, forgiving, gentle, easygoing man who sees the good in everyone and lives his life being as positive as possible. Now, this may sound like a goody-goody show, but, with Gervais’ trademark writing on it, the show is realistic, charming and poignant – all without the viewer rolling their eyes in annoyance or disbelief. Derek sees the good in everyone, from his one-time crush, Hannah (Kerry Godliman) – the head caretaker of the home – to the nursing home curmudgeon maintenance man Dougie (Karl Pilkington). 

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: I had my doubts upon watching this show, but was taken completely by surprise at how great it is! The characters are all loveable -- even Kev (David Earl) -- and the acting is amazing. I am actually in awe about how convincing Gervais is as Derek. What I enjoy most about this dramedy (drama-comedy) series is that it has more emotionally honest heart than any show I've seen in the past decade! The first season finale is one of the finest episodes of television! The series is shot in the same style as Gervais' Office -- told through interspersed interviews with the camera. The entire first season is already available on Netflix and the entire second season is set to premiere on May 30. 

The Goldbergs
THE PLOT: Adam Goldberg (Sean Giambrone) is a geeky 11-year-old youngest child living in "1980-something" with his family: his father Murray (Jeff Garlin); his overprotective, overbearing (s)mother, Beverly (Wendi McLendon-Covey); his older sister Erica (Hayley Orrantia); his big brother, the desperate know-it-all Barry (Troy Gentile); and his grandfather, Pops (George Segal). The show follows Adam as he tries to brave the pitfalls of living with his loud family and making it through junior high -- overcoming obstacles such as girls, gym class, and getting through each day with as little humiliation as possible.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: Before the series premiered, I had heard comparisons to the classic late 1980s/early 1990s coming-of-age classic The Wonder Years (which took place from 1968 to 1973). I knew Goldbergs could not come close to that show and thought it awfully pretentious of anyone to compare it to such an all-around great TV show. Nevertheless, I tried it and it didn't grab me. But, at the behest of my wife, I tried it again, and, myself being a child of the 1980s, I found myself loving the 1980s references and all-around feel; I also feel a sympatico with Adam (I was the dorky little movie fanatic too!). The fads. The styles. The music. The pop culture. The movies (watch the episode about the video store and you can definitely relate!). It's all in there. While the show is no Wonder Years, it does have an older Adam narrator, played by pop culture geek icon and comedian Patton Oswalt, and the stories are appropriate for a younger audience -- something all too rare nowadays, even on primetime channels and broadcasts. Also, I love that at the end of the show the creator -- the real Adam Goldberg -- shows actual video footage he took in the 1980s, often showing the real characters shown in the night's episode.

Silicon Valley
THE PLOT: Created by Office Space writer, Beavis and Butt-Head creator Mike Judge, this show focuses on Richard Hendriks (Thomas Middleditch), a computer program developer who, while working on his music-matching website called Pied Piper, creates a lossless compression algorithm that could revolutionize the Internet. Joining him in starting his new company are Erlich Bachman (T.J. Miller), owner of a business "incubator"; Canadian LeVeyan Satanist Bertram Gilfoyle (Martin Starr), Pakistani programmer Dinesh Chugtai (Kumail Nanjiani), and business strategist Donald "Jared" Dunn (Zach Woods).

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: Taking the internet start-up craze which has sprout up in the real-life Silicon Valley, California, this show takes the idea of the nerds from CBS's The Big Bang Theory -- only placing them without the censoring limitations of being on a primetime channel. Judge's workplace humor and the offbeat storylines, including a spaced-out billionaire venture capitalist (Christopher Evan Welch), make this show fun and leave you with a feel that this show could go anywhere.

Surviving Jack
THE PLOT: Dr. Jack Dunlevy (Christopher Meloni) is a no-nonsense ex-military man who becomes a full-time parent when his wife (Rachael Harris) decides to go to law school, and he uses his unorthodox methods to raise his teenage kids, Frankie (Connor Buckley) and Rachel (Claudia Lee).

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: Whereas The Goldbergs covers the 1980s nostalgia angle, FOX's Surviving Jack covers the 1990s, of which I can also relate since I was in high school in the early 90s -- just like the teenage protagonist in this show. The 90s music really takes me back! And I have to admit that the wonderful Christopher Meloni's character seems like a caricature of my own father. This show is based on the book I Suck at Girls by Justin Halpern, who also wrote and created Sh*t My Dad Says, which gives you an idea of the kind of humor you're in store for.

Trophy Wife
THE PLOT: Kate (Malin Akerman) is a young, attractive party girl who marries professional middle-aged lawyer Pete (Bradley Whitford). Little does she know that when she married him, she would be marrying into his family too -- including his two children, Hillary (Bailee Madison; different from the actress in the pilot trailer below) and Warren (Ryan Lee), their mother (and Pete's first ex-wife), the stuffy Dr. Diane Buckley (Marcia Gay Harden); and Bert (Albert Tsai), and his adopted mother (and Pete's second ex-wife), the artsy, free-spirited Jackie (Michaela Watkins). Together, they all form one of the most unlikely-yet-loving family to be seen.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: ABC had already hit a comedy homerun regarding unlikely families with its mega-successful Modern Family. They decided to make another quirky comedy and -- I have to admit -- it works! Akerman's Kate is not some dumb blonde and genuinely cares for her husband's kids -- and even his exes! Watkins' Jackie is hysterical! And Harden's cold Diane is brilliantly portrayed. The kids are all funny too, but what makes this series so watchable is that it has a lovable zaniness to it that makes you care about these characters, taking everyday family issues and problems and putting its own spin on it. In fact, the show is a lot different now compared to the first couple of episodes shown in the trailer below. If there is any episode you should watch, it is the Christmas episode! I promise you've never seen one done like this -- in Hangover-type fashion (every grown-up is hilarious in it)!

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