Swapping Out the Textbooks for Netflix
Published: Friday, November 2, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 1, 2012 17:11
Now that midterm season is behind us, it’s time to return to what’s really important: watching television shows on Netflix. Lucky for you, the temperature is dropping, giving you even less of an incentive to close your laptop and go outside. Now, you can maximize the amount of time you spend staring at the lives of imaginary people who are much better looking than you. I’ve compiled a list of the shows you should either start watching or rewatch, all accessible on your (or your roommate’s or your roommate’s girlfriend’s or whoever’s) Netflix account.
If you’re feeling nostalgic for the late ’90s, both “Ally McBeal” and “Dawson’s Creek” are currently streaming and are worthy of a look. Callista Flockhart who plays the title character in the former is a young lawyer in Boston looking for love. The latter is about a bunch of attractive but angsty teenagers. Half the fun of watching these shows is seeing now-famous people way back in the day: Portia de Rossi, Jane Krakowski, Lucy Liu, James Marsden and Hayden Panettiere all appear on “Ally McBeal.” One of Ally’s main love interests is Robert Downey Jr., who was in the midst of fighting his drug addiction during filming. (Full disclosure: Robert Downey Jr. is the reason I decided to watch the show. No regrets.) For its part, “Dawson’s Creek” has Katie Holmes, Michelle Williams and Joshua Jackson. I can’t help but laugh when I watch these famous people run around these overwrought but enjoyable dramas.
If, like me, you’re an Aaron Sorkin junkie, check out another ’90s show, the sitcom “Sports Night.” This short-lived series follows a sports news show purposefully similar to ESPN’s SportsCenter as characters deal with the ethical issues of their jobs as well as the entanglements of their love lives — think of it as “The Newsroom”-lite. Stick it out through the first few episodes, which use a jarring laugh track, and you’ll be chuckling along with the witty dialogue, even if Sorkin does let his characters become a little preachy for sports journalists.
I have spent hours and hours of my life watching “Law & Order” on television, and now I do it on Netflix, too: The original series, “Special Victims Unit” and “Criminal Intent” (the weakest of the franchise) are all online. I’m personally hoping that “Law & Order: UK” ends up on the streaming service, too, partially because everything sounds better with a British accent — even mass murder.
Speaking of British things, if you’re an Anglophile, Netflix will take care of all of your needs. There’s the prodigious “Doctor Who,” a show about a handsome, proselytizing, time-traveling alien, and one you should check out if you like sci-fi, wit and absurd situations.
Check out “Skins,” which is also about a bunch of attractive angsty teens and is great if you want to see 14-year-olds who party harder than you ever have. If you’ve somehow missed the cultural phenomenon, immediately start watching “Downton Abbey,” the greatest thing to happen to heartbroken landed aristocrats since “Pride and Prejudice.”
I’ll take a moment to acknowledge how Netflix has allowed me to relive my childhood: “Hey Arnold,” “Spongebob Squarepants,” “Rugrats,” “The Fairly OddParents,” “Danny Phantom,” “X-Men” and a host of other shows are all available to watch instantly. When I’m having a bad day, I tend to go on a Bikini Bottom binge, finding solace in Sandy’s weird dome thing that lets a squirrel be BFFs with a sponge. Oh, the wonders of children’s television.
Netflix is also a wonderful place to catch up on the shows all of your friends are talking about but that you never got into. Critical darlings like “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men” are on there, but I’d also like to suggest you watch “Once Upon a Time.” It’s about a town in Maine populated by fairytale characters who’ve forgotten their real identities. They’re trapped there for eternity by the evil queen, who has an unexplained grudge against Snow White. The whole show is kind of dark but also pretty campy, which is a weird balance that, to be honest, the show doesn’t pull off particularly well. But, in spite of that, it’s a lot of fun and pretty addictive — I mean, who doesn’t want to see Snow White as an action hero?
Of course, this list is only a start to the suggestions I could give. Almost every TLC show, from my beloved “Say Yes to the Dress” to “DC Cupcake” is available, as are shows I used to love, like “Charmed” and “Brothers and Sisters.” At this point, you’ve probably become a hermit in your dorm room who only leaves to buy more ramen noodles; sorry about that, but at least you can live vicariously through imaginary characters, right?