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TV Vs. Film: Ten Shows Worth Skipping The Multiplex For

by The Playlist Staff
May 26, 2011 9:58 AM
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3. "Louie"
There are some people who love Louis C.K. so much that they'll cachinnate if they overhear him ordering room service; but even they had no idea how absolutely brilliant his show would be. After a failed attempt at heading a crass sitcom, C.K. returned to the tube with an unprecedented deal -- the comedian would have complete control and no network influence, plus he would be allowed to write, direct, edit, and act in a half-hour program for FX. Something like this should lead to a vain disaster, but it doesn't. Personal but relatable, self-deprecating yet always humorous, "Louie" follows the titular character after a nasty divorce and his subsequent rediscovery of life at age 40. Very generally, it follows the "Seinfeld" template -- he's a comedian, and padding the show's vignettes is intimate stand-up footage. But the comedian is going at this more like a filmmaker, with each half feeling like a complete short. Scenes are often blocked in one take, various scenarios tend to go a completely different route than expected, and the tone is always being experimented with, usually arriving at a variation of "uncomfortable." Subjects range from Louie being bullied by a high school jock (who he then follows home in a long, no-dialogue sequence set to manic jazz) to his fifth-grade self dealing with Catholicism and the confusion of faith. Season 1 whizzes by like nothing but will also leave a solid impression with its form and poignancy -- thankfully the director understands that you can be funny and have substance at the same time. Season 2 starts in a few weeks, and we can’t wait.
Must-See Episode: Hard to pick, but “God” is perhaps the best example of the way C.K. expertly blends big, important themes (in this case, as you might imagine, god and religion) with dick jokes. Plus it has a great performance from the always-wonderful Tom Noonan.

2. "Terriers"
Judging by the ratings, which never topped a million viewers after the pilot, you didn't watch "Terriers," a private-eye show on FX from "The Shield" creator Shawn Ryan and "Ocean's Eleven" scribe Ted Griffin. And in a way, we don't blame you. The title and marketing were baffling, the biggest star was schlubby sitcom veteran Donal Logue, and the premise -- an ex-cop and recovering alcoholic with ex-wife problems works as an unlicensed private detective in Ocean Beach, California, with a former burglar -- couldn't have been more generic if it tried. Unfortunately for you, "Terriers" was simply fantastic, and it's now been canceled. The show, which co-starred "True Blood"'s Michael Raymond-James, Laura Allen, Kimberly Quinn and Rockmond Dunbar, started modestly, but soon rolled out a corruption-tinged plot of massive depth and complexity, one that the best neo-noirs would be proud of. It had consistently unpredictable one-off storylines (the one that guest-starred Olivia Williams is a particular favorite), possibly the best theme tune ever, and a hugely impressive line-up of directors, including Craig Brewer ("Hustle & Flow"), John Dahl ("The Last Seduction"), Clark Johnson ("The Wire") and even Rian Johnson ("Brick"). But more importantly, it expertly juggled a mix of tones, and it did what the best TV does: took its flawed, rough-around-the-edges heroes, made you fall in love with them, and then put them through the ringer with a series of truly wrenching plot twists. Its 13 episodes were positively stuffed with heartbreak. It may have been sadly canceled (and, right now, it’s not even scheduled for a DVD release), but it also means that it joins the likes of "Freaks and Geeks" and "Firefly" as untouched one season-wonders.
Must-See Episode: "Asunder," an atypical episode which sees the heroes holed up in a hotel at which the ex-wife of Hank (Logue) is about to get married, a wedding that eventually has rip-your-heart-out-of-your-chest consequences for his partner Britt (Raymond-James).

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  • Christopher Bell | August 21, 2011 8:27 AMReply

    The Time Capsule episode is season 3, I believe. Honestly though, you have to give it a few episodes before things really kick in. It's a show very dependent on your affection for the characters.

  • The Playlist | July 11, 2011 8:18 AMReply

    This piece partly inspired me watching "Louie.” Or rather, my gf wanted to watch, i remember it was on this list and therefore I acquiesced. Great show.

    However, I started watching some "Parks & Recreations" -- a time capsule episode -- and it was pretty unfunny. Was that from season 1? I hope so.

  • George Otwori | June 5, 2011 6:51 AMReply

    TERRIERS is one the most ground breaking shows ever made. I know other shows are given credit to having novelistic quailties. Once you watch Terriers it gives whole new meaning to blending the TV and Novel mediums. I remember watching this show and missing the numerous of payoffs. I just couldn't place the familiarity with Novel medium until the last two episodes. This show literally shattered my perception on what is quality.

    So I only hope that in the near future someone revisits compelling organic world just as intriguing as TERRIERS was.

  • PT | May 28, 2011 11:11 AMReply

    Can anyone tell me what the soundtrack is playing in the background of Doctor Who episode 6 in the first few minutes while still in the Tardis ?
    Driving me crazy !!!!

  • The Playlist | May 28, 2011 9:35 AMReply

    Having just watched the first episode of Showtime's "Shameless" for some reason and mostly hating it, i'm really glad to see it's nowhere on this list.

  • Oliver Lyttelton | May 27, 2011 9:52 AMReply

    "Is this a joke? I haven’t seen anything except Game of Thrones..."

    Well, then how do you fucking know enough to weigh in?

  • Melwyn | May 27, 2011 9:11 AMReply

    Is this a joke? I haven't seen anything except Game of Thrones, and even in the pilot, it seemed so hollow. How could you mention an epic show like 'The Wire' in the same paragraph as GoT. Stick with films guys, this list honestly is embarrassing. "You fail me."

  • TheoC | May 27, 2011 6:46 AMReply

    But wasn't Parks and Recs mid season replacement due to Pohler's pregnancy and not how good or bad the show was doing?

    Anyway great list well written, I must check out terriers(I like me some Logue) and of course Game of Thrones.

    Well done a great read and great alternative to reading how well the Hangover part 2 is doing.

  • Christopher Bell | May 27, 2011 5:54 AMReply

    An honestly embarrassing list.


    Anyway, I'm now paying attention to TV more than I have in years... but still playing catch-up. I"m working through season 2 of "Breaking Bad" and its fantastic, but yeah, it's got plenty of acclaim. It's more that than it airing in summer that lead us to relegating it to the honorable mentions.

    I love "Parks and Rec." I watched the pilot and hated it, but I gave the first season a shot and while I didn't like it too much, Season 2 is where it's at. It's also surprising how great Rob Lowe is.

  • Sid | May 27, 2011 4:48 AMReply

    Venture Bros. is better than everything here. And Game of Thrones (the books) are the best pieces of fiction since Shakespeare in his prime.

  • scribe | May 27, 2011 4:10 AMReply

    Nice article guys- Loved the piece on Louie and Parks and Rec.

  • sp | May 27, 2011 3:04 AMReply

    Thanks Playlist for giving props to FX’s “Archer". It is easily the best comedy on tv , hands down !

  • Kathleen Walsh | May 27, 2011 2:52 AMReply

    Weeds fucking sucks. The first season was brilliant, this past season is nigh unwatchable. I love me some Dexter, but that show has definitely not suffered for praise and acclaim, and when was the last season on? I'm only just beginning the third season. I love this list for alerting me to the fact that I should be watching Fringe, of all things. Need to check out Game of Thrones and Archer too. Parks and Rec is my religion, and its upsetting it got slotted to a midseason replacement, but I'm just glad it's back and so consistently amazing.

  • jonathan | May 27, 2011 2:51 AMReply

    30 Rock is the most unfunny piece of crap on television. Maybe people would realize this if Alec Baldwin's voice wasn't calming down their frustration at every other ridiculously annoying character on the show. Can not stand it.

  • Jax | May 27, 2011 2:45 AMReply


  • Misanthrope | May 27, 2011 2:35 AMReply

    Let's not forget that Curb Your Enthusiasm comes back soon!

  • Mike_M | May 27, 2011 2:10 AMReply

    I know you mentioned Breaking Bad, but that should be on the list and not a honorable mention. You cite that it hasnt been on the air since last summer is a bad reason especially since Terriers is canceled so you cant even watch it anymore.

    Also Sons of Anarchy is a great so as well.

  • samir | May 27, 2011 1:51 AMReply

    You guys are too harsh on Boardwalk Empire. It's one of those shows that youll like a lot more if you watch in a short period of time. After I finished the season and got the full picture is when I really started appreciate the characters and politics of the show. It's not the best show, and it can be better, but that's the best thing about it, it can be even better.

  • wray | May 27, 2011 1:40 AMReply


  • Brendan | May 27, 2011 1:31 AMReply

    I second the "Fuck Dexter!" sentiment, and as someone who is almost finished with a Parks & Rec marathon, I'm really glad to see it at #1 here (so much so I forgive you for that fucking spoiler...). Breaking Bad is definitely the best show on television, though. No contest.

  • Sheed | May 26, 2011 12:49 PMReply

    Sons of Anarchy and Archer, FX takes care of its business.

  • HD | May 26, 2011 12:39 PMReply

    Sons of Anarchy!

  • The Gang | May 26, 2011 12:36 PMReply

    Uh, how about some love for "Always Sunny in Philadelphia"? Last season was uneven, not surprising considering the horde of mercenaries hired to write episodes, but it's The Gang!

    Who doesn't love The Gang?

  • poagwn | May 26, 2011 10:49 AMReply

    "american dad," despite it's lackluster first season, has grown into a wonderful, wonderful show. unlike most of macfarlane's trash, a.d. feels like it actually has direction, and it's paced wonderfully - a single episode will sometimes take place over the course of months or years, which gives it an almost filmic quality few other shows have. it also has a heart. the relationships between the central characters are well defined and fully drawn, and roger the alien has grown into a tool of comedic greatness.

    american dad's major flaw is its inconsistencies. not every episode is as good as it could be, but when it hits, it's the best animated show on network television. being a seth macfarlane show, it can also be a little mean spirited. still, there are some essential episodes. "rapture's delight" is one of the most absurdly ambitious animated half hours i can think of. it really is worth checking out.

  • Michael Bay Evil Twin Brother | May 26, 2011 10:15 AMReply

    Fuck "Dexter".

    Bravo! for mentioning "Louie" !

  • Michael Bay | May 26, 2011 10:04 AMReply

    At least you gave "Breaking Bad" a mention, but what about "Dexter"?

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