Amy Klinger

My Top 5…Er 13-ish Favorite TV Series*

Vintage television set

This blog originally started as my top 5 favorite movies. While I love movies and do have some true favorites (big hugs to you, Raiders of the Lost Ark), I find that it’s the quality TV series that really stay with me. What can I say? I prefer stories that allow me to spend more time getting to know what makes characters tick—shows that allow the plot to take the time it needs rather than what can be squeezed it into ~120 minutes.

This list is by no means comprehensive, but I forced myself to stick with the shows that first came to mind rather than perseverating over what makes the cut. So here goes in the order in which I experienced them throughout my life.

Little House on the Prairie
I was not a sitcom kid. Though I watched them faithfully, shows like “Three’s Company” or “Diff’rent Strokes” did nothing for me. But give me a setting wholly unlike the one in which I lived with period costumes and a classic villain like Nelly Oleson, and I could lift the premise from the TV, go off and build my own little house in the little woods just beyond our neighborhood. Along with playing Barbies, this was my earliest foray into making up plots, ongoing story threads and new characters that my friends and I could become beyond Laura, Mary, and Carrie. Mostly because no one ever wanted to be Carrie.

Northern Exposure
“Northern Exposure” took everything I liked about “Twin Peaks” (small town, quirky characters, fish-out-of-water lead) and stripped away everything I found creepy (murder, lots of plaid, BOB). What remained was good, funny, and sometimes poignant storytelling about people who were completely likable even when they behaved unlikably. And it occurs to me, as I write this, that the show might just be an unconscious influence on the book I’m writing now about a small Vermont town and its people. More on that another day…

Arrested Development
Hands-down, this is the laugh-out-loudest show in my history of show-watching. More than that, and harder to pull off, “Arrested Development” was consistently funny not just from episode to episode but from scene to scene. The acting and comedic timing were pitch perfect. But what I found most appealing was the writers’ willingness to cut any sentimentality off at the knees in order to earn the laugh. While Audrey and Pooter in my novel, In Light of Recent Events (shorthand ILORE) aren’t as shallow or biting as the Bluths, I definitely lean toward writing characters that have some sharp edges.

Better Call Saul
This space could have been filled by several intense, violent dramas including “The Sopranos”, “Deadwood”, “The Wire” and more recently, the emotionally violent, “Succession”. But “Better Call Saul” squeaked to top spot for its willingness to go super-deep with its characters in a way that I found just a little more compelling than its predecessor, “Breaking Bad” (which was also a big winner in my book). The dynamic between Jimmy and Chuck, two brothers who love and loathe one another in equal parts, and act accordingly, knocked me flat both as a viewer and a writer.

When a friend who read ILORE said the dialogue reminded him of a PG-13 version of “Fleabag”, I nearly crawled under my bed for feeling unworthy of the compliment. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s comedy-drama based on her one-woman show (which was great in a wholly different way) walked such a brilliant tightrope between outright hilarity and deep, cutting pain, I was completely enamored from the first episode. And as good as that first season was, the second one kicked it up to 11, and wrecked me in the best possible way.

And of course, as soon as I’d finished writing this, I remembered “Treme”, the beautiful and deeply moving tribute to post-Katrina New Orleans and its people. “Madmen”, duh. And then there’s the Australian comedy-drama, “Offspring” that feels like a smarter, big sister to ILORE. And right now, I’m in the final season of “Sex Education” a big-hearted series for people who like their soft-core porn with giant doses of humor and humanity.

I could go on, but I promised my kiddo I would block out the evening to veg in front of the tube together—yes, I’m dating myself but “vegging in front of the plasma screen” doesn’t have the same ring. TBD if it’s a “Bob’s Burgers” night, or if we’ll tee up “His Dark Materials.” Either way, there’s a cup of hot cocoa and a fuzzy, couch blanket waiting for me.

*Fun fact: Because the word ‘series’ is used to describe both one item contained in a series and a multiple of series, it is what is called a “zero plural.”

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