I have a confession to make: I have never watched the entire series of ‘Breaking Bad.’ Nor have I watched ‘The Wire’ or ‘Deadwood.’ And, no, I have not even seen one single episode of ‘Veronica Mars’ either. ‘Buffy: The Vampire Slayer’? Nope.
Yeah, I know.
Not only am I faced with constant shame whenever one of these trendy TV series pop up in a conversation, because, well, I am a TV writer, but I’m also consumed with major FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) syndrome. Sure, these shows have all ended, but their legends live on because they weren’t just great television in their day, they were television.
Catching up on a show that has already met its demise seems daunting (especially if it’s a network series with 22 episodes as opposed to cable’s usual and easier-to-binge-watch 13), but trust me: the experience is more than worth it if you can finally understand why everyone was so into that ‘Veronica Mars’ Kickstarter campaign, or why everyone says “bitch” at the end of their sentences.
Maybe it’s too late for the shows of yore, but you can definitely catch up on the cult faves of today even if that means spending the entire summer dating -- I mean, watching -- your TV.
But for those who just want a quick cheat sheet on the current trendiest shows on TV so you can sound cool at your local watering hole, well, your wish is my command.
‘Orphan Black’ (BBC America)
Synopsis: The sci-fi thriller focuses on Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany), a streetwise hustler, who assumes the identity of a woman, Beth Childs, her doppleganger, after witnessing her suicide. It turns out Beth and Sarah are two of many biological clones, thanks to a scientific movement called Neolution, which believes that human beings can use scientific knowledge to direct their evolution as a species.
FYI: To shoot the scenes with her "clones," Maslany would act alongside acting doubles, and then repeat the scene with other doubles. These "layers" would then be edited together for the completed scene.
Memorable Quote: “She’s lived really hard. She’s had to survive. She’s had to manipulate people, she’s had to hurt people knowingly.” – Sarah Manning
Blow People Away By Telling People...: The show is called ‘Orphan Black’ because Sarah is an orphan, and the kids that were being undocumented and hidden were referred to as “in the black.”
‘Mad Men’ (AMC)
Synopsis: Set in the ‘60s, the show revolves around the men and women who work in an advertising agency set in New York City. Don Draper (Jon Hamm), a top ad executive, is the center of the show and whose secretive past threatens to topple both his personal and professional life.
FYI: “Mad Men” is a term coined in the ‘50s to describe the advertising executives (yes, usually men) who worked on Madison Avenue.
Memorable Quote: “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.” – Don Draper
What You Need to Say to Fake It: “I don’t know where this season is going thematically, but it sure looks aesthetically pleasing,” or “Believe it or not, I find myself relating to Don’s pathos.”
‘Downton Abbey’ (PBS)
Synopsis: Set in the fictional Yorkshire county estate of Downton Abbey, the British period drama depicts the lives of the aristocratic family, the Crawleys, and their servants in the post-Edwardian era.
FYI: As of 2013, ‘Downton Abbey’ is the highest-rated PBS “Masterpiece” drama of all time, seen by an estimated 120 million viewers in 200 countries.
Memorable Quote: “You’re a woman with a brain and reasonable ability. Stop whining and find something to do.” Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith)
Blow People Away By Telling People…: What the difference is between a butler, valet and footman. A butler was originally in charge of the wine, but in the series, organizes the maids and footmen and serves at dinner. The footman originally rode on the footplate of a carriage, and their main duty is to serve at dinner. A valet looks after clothes, which is the equivalent to a dresser in the theater.
‘House of Cards’ (Netflix)
Synopsis: Set in present-day Washington D.C., the series revolves around Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), a Democrat and House majority, who, after being passed over for Secretary of State, hatches an elaborate plan of revenge, alongside his conniving wife (Robin Wright), to get himself into a position of power.
FYI: The series is an adaptation of the 1990 BBC series of the same name, which itself was based on the novel by Michael Dobbs, a British politician and author.
Memorable Quote: “For those of us climbing to the top of the food chain, there can be no mercy. There is but one rule: hunt or be hunted.” – Frank Underwood
What You Need to Say to Fake It: “I haven’t been near a subway station since that episode,” or “She might be cold, but Robin Wright’s wardrobe is hot.”
Synopsis: Set in present-day Washington D.C., the series is an America political thriller and focuses on former White House Communications Director, Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), who left to start her own crisis management firm, Olivia Pope & Associates. Unfortunately, she discovers that she can’t leave the past – or the President (Tony Goldwyn) – behind.
FYI: The show is based partially on former George H.W. Bush administration press aide Judy Smith, who serves as co-executive producer. Smith represented Monica Lewinsky, the Chandra Levy family, Michael Vick, among others, as a real-life crisis management consultant.
Memorable Quote: “I don’t want normal and easy and simple. I want painful, difficult, devastating, life-changing, extraordinary love.” – Olivia Pope
Blow People Away By Telling People…: That the word “scandal” is mentioned in every episode.