I have an addictive personality. I’ve always said it’s a lucky thing I don’t like getting high, because I am a person with some serious compulsion control issues. Take my tv watching habits as a prime example. I am certainly not someone who can dip in and out of a show I like without an almost umbilical attachment to the plots, the characters and the themes. I binge watched all 3 seasons of Veronica Mars after watching ONE FUCKING EPISODE. Of season 3. Dont judge me. I was still hanging on to Chuck through the Season 5 debacle because even though deep down I *knew* that things aren’t like they used to be, every so often I’d feel a wee pang at a moment and I could remember why I fell in love with the damned show in the first place.
Yeah, my taste is sometimes shit. I’m not here to debate that I make impeccable viewing choices because no one does. I have probably some of the guiltiest of guilty pleasures, but who cares? They’re pleasures. They give me happiness. I’ve met some awesome people through these fandoms, I’ve rewatched old episodes and it was like catching up with an old friend. I may have grown up (slightly) and changed, but going back and rewatching my old favourites is like hanging out with a friend from high school to reminisce about being fourteen again.
These are my “unconventional” TV recs. I could have written a whole blog post about feminist themes in Buffy, or how much I loved Breaking Bad, but they’ve been done before. I could wax lyrical about sexual undertones in Supernatural, but I have friends who would do a much better job at it than I ever could. These are the shows that shaped my childhood, my awkward teenage years, and everything after,
1. You Can’t do that on Television
Remember when a pre-teen Alanis Morissette got slimed on public television? No? Must be a Canadian thing then. Silly, goofy, and one of my favourites as a kid.
2. Are You Afraid of the Dark/Goosebumps
I really think of these interchangeably, but I loved these two YTV gems. I can still remember the scariest bits. Where my parents live in Luxembourg is eerily similar to that one episode where an evil taxi driver took the kids down a forest road. I think this is where I first discovered my love of scary movies.
3. Ready or Not
Was this show not on forever? Canadian TV for kids was so much more topical and hard-hitting than American at the time, going for taboo subjects like eating disorders, bullying and sexuality in a very “real” and relatable way.
This was one of the first shows that showed an unflinchingly real friendship between two female characters. It was unconventional for the time because of their depiction of more than one “type” of girl, without trying to push down our throats a standard of femininity that was considered “acceptable”. Busy was the tomboy, raised by Italian-Canadian parents amidst a gaggle of brothers, She preferred making music and sports to makeup and shopping, and that was OK. Amanda was the girly girl, who loved sparkly things and talking about boys. She wanted to fit in with her peers, and that was OK as well.
One particular theme struck me when I rewatched the show again recently thanks to YouTube, and whoever the angel was who’d uploaded every episode of all 5 seasons. The writers gave some love to period positivity and it is just perfect; when Amanda discovers she’s gotten her first period, she’s so excited, because she’s been practicing how to use tampons for ages and she feels like having this natural bodily function has given her some woman power. How awesome is that?
Another episode opens with the girls listening to a phone-in sex show on the radio (remember those? Remember the radio??). Amanda is interested in taking things a bit further with her boyfriend; I loved the fact that the writers didn’t pander to stereotypical gender roles and showed a girl who was sex-positive! Girls can want sex too! It was such a novel idea at the time, but it was done so well.
The dynamic between these two was so on point, the dialogue was realistic, the conversational style felt so natural, and controversial subject matter was tackled in a straightforward, no-nonsense, very Canadian way. I have so much love for this show.
4. Degrassi High
I was probably too young to really “get” the topics covered in the original Degrassi series, so I wasn’t their target audience. I wasn’t allowed to watch a lot of television until I was in junior high; my parents thought too much staring at a screen would damage my eyesight, but as I had to wear glasses anyways I think they gave up on that by the time I was 13. This was a grown up version of Ready or Not, whose two leads were closer to my age than the more “adult” Degrassi. I’m STILL traumatised by the suicide episode. So well done. Teen pregnancy, contraception, peer pressure, drugs. It was like 90210 with real teenagers, in a world where everyone looked like real kids and not perfect adults. Another great example of how Canadians did TV right in the 90s.
5. Veronica Mars
I watched one episode of Veronica Mars and I was addicted. I actually managed to get in there before the show “technically” ended and watched the last episode on E4 when it aired. I binge watched VM after watching a single episode; it wasn’t even a Season 1 Episode, which is without a doubt one of the best seasons of a prime time show ever. Luckily I had 2 weeks off work at the time, but maybe unluckily for my Vitamin D levels I managed to watch all 3 seasons in that time.
I can safely say this was probably the first show I was a proper fan of. I didn’t get fandoms until I started watching VM, but damn did I hit it hard. I went from 0-60 and “oh this show might be alright, I’ll just watch it for a couple episodes” to oh-my-god-I’m-writing-fanfic and religiously reading the TWoP archived recaps. This show was so good. the writing was so tight, the cultural references were so spot on, and did I mention this when I first learned what “snark” was? I made my very first online friends on FanForum and LiveJournal, I found a beta for my very first fic, and I’ve remained in love with the show ever since.
6. Gilmore Girls
I wrote about my love for Gilmore Girls here.
I was never a part of the fandom when the show first aired but boy oh boy did I fall hard into it. Sometime in 2008 I started Season 1, which was a whole year after the series ended. I binge watched all 153 episodes in under a month and I’ve since watched the whole series so many times. Thing is, it never gets old. This wasn’t a show of cliffhangers and dramatic story arcs, though there were a few touch-and-go moments. This was character-led show and it was just perfect.
They’d better not mess up the reboot is all I have to say. Don’t wreck this show for me. Don’t mess with my memories.
7. Pushing Daisies
Oh Writer’s strike, oh writer’s strike! I know a few shows with oodles of potential were axed the season following the writer’s strike, but this was the one I was just the *teensiest* heartbroken over.
In my dream life, I would live in Ned’s world. Lee Pace was just awesome as the Piemaker. Anna Friel is perfection as Chuck. Don’t even get me started on Swoosie Kurtz (who I fell in love with as a small child in “Sisters”) and KRISTEN CHENOWETH *fans self*. They really had me at “forensic fairytale”, and the Tim Burton in Technicolour on some particularly happy acid aesthetic is my happy place.
8. Murdoch Mysteries
One thing that has to be said about my newest TV obsessions, William Murdoch certainly is not your everyday hyper-masculine male lead. I’d never even heard of this show until last year, though it’s apparently been on the air since 2007. It’s a victorian era procedural set in Toronto with recurring feminist themes, and an engaging commentary on race and class that goes a long way to show that yes, you can have a historical drama that includes people of colour. Whitewashing is so common in film and television, but rather than sweeping these issues under the rug this show addresses them with compassion AND historical accuracy. It can be done, folks. Turns out that despite what the entertainment industry would have us believe, not everyone was white at the turn of the 20th century.
The character of Dr Julia Ogden is everything I love in a strong female character so it’s unsurprising she’s one of my all-time faves. This is a woman whose intellect is beyond question, and yet she is also shown to have compassion.There is a recurring trope in television and film that a strong woman must also be emotionless and cold, but she is far from it; women don’t need to act like men to be respected, and they can even teach their male peers a thing or two.
In an episode where a young girl is found dead after having ingested a poison to induce a miscarriage, the show highlighted the dangers of making abortions illegal and the importance of a woman’s right to autonomy over her own body. The show addresses topics like racism and women’s rights in a way that is uncommon in period dramas, and it does it so well. Oh, and the cheeky cameos from historical figures like Agnes McPhail, Mark Twain, LM Montgomery, Nikola Tesla and Mary Pickford were fabulous. This show is so damned good.
Well, that’s it for my TV post, and it’s also the last day of the #BEDM Challenge. I’ve really enjoyed doing the 31 posts in 31 days this month, and it’s given me the blogging kick in the butt I needed to start posting regularly again. I hope you’ve enjoyed my serial posting in May as much as I’ve loved writing!