Television programming is in the process of redefining itself. The old ratings based models no longer work when deciding ad rates because the viewing habits of the public are changing. With DVRs and internet streaming, you can watch movies online at your convenience. And the change in viewing habits is happening at an increasing rate as more and more people discover the convenience of watching streaming video.
It was not always like that of course. For decades, the major networks controlled everything we watched and when we watched it. Before DVRs, before VCRs, if you wanted to see a program, you had to be there when they showed it on tv. You were a captive audience and they knew it. Advertisers knew it too so the entire television industry model was based on Nielsen tv ratings.
With few options, people watched what they were fed. That is how a show like the last episode of M.A.S.H. remains the most watched tv series finale in American history.
By the way, M.A.S.H. was a horrible show. If you try to watch reruns of it now, it is dated and there is nothing about it that is funny. And what a concept. Hey, let's make a situation comedy about an army field hospital in the middle of a horrible war.
To be fair, I feel the same way whenever I try to watch reruns of Friends. Not funny.
In fact, it wasn't the only comedy around that time centered on war. There was also Hogan's Heroes. I'm not sure who in Hollywood got the idea that war was a funny subject, but a lot of strange things happened in that decade.
However, things have changed with technology and we are watching programming differently now and the big players are taking notice. No longer do they gauge ratings based on when shows first air. They take into account lag time for DVR recordings as well as views from online sources such as Hulu Plus and Netflix.
Speaking of Netflix, it is one of my favorite sources to catch up on programs I missed. When I say missed, I do not simply mean a season or an episode or two that I forgot to record on my TiVo DVR, I mean entire series that I never took the time to get into in the first place.
I actually missed out on Mad Men and Breaking Bad when they first started airing in 2007, but I went back and binge watched the first three or four seasons two years ago. Had it not been for online streaming, I probably never would have discovered those great shows so it really is changing the way I watch television.
Originally, I subscribed to Netflix about twice a year for a month, sometimes more. However, lately I have been a constant subscriber. I think I have had it for six months straight as I write this.
They have some of the best streaming software around and the instant download feature works almost flawlessly and is really amazing when you think about it. All of that data being transmitted over the internet with virtually no hiccups.
Recently I have come across several series that aired on various networks such as A&E or FX over the last three or four years. The common denominator for each is that I missed them completely. Some of them are still on the air on network or cable television, while others only made it a season or two.
I actually remember seeing promos for some of these series over the last several years, but whatever reason, I just never gave the shows a chance.
Here are some of my favorites that you probably missed out on the first time around.
The 100 is based on a book of the same name. It first aired on the CW Network in early 2014.
It follows survivors of a post- apocalyptic nuclear war marooned in orbit around the earth on a collection of space stations from many nations joined together to act as an ark for humanity. The initial plan is to wait over a hundred years, through several generations, while the radiation on the planet below subsides.
However, within a couple of decades on the ark, the oxygen scrubbers start to fail and they are unable to make repairs in time. They decide to send 100 juveniles and petty criminals down to the planet as test subjects to see if it is safe to live on the planet.
What follows is a sort of a "Lord of the Flies" story and they soon discover they are not alone on the planet.
Season one is currently on Netflix and season two should be appearing any day now since it aired earlier this year.
Once Upon a Time
This television series has been airing for several years on ABC. At first I dismissed it as a kid show, but it is nothing of the sort. I am glad I gave it a chance.
As the title might suggest, it is based on the fairytales we all grew up with, only they are real according to the story. However, a spell was cast of the fairytale world, and none of the characters remember who they were in fairytale land.
The first two seasons of the show revolves around reversing the spell and returning the town of Storybrook back to the imaginary world of Once Upon a Time. In season three they are transported to Neverland and then return back to Storybrook to deal with the wicked queen from the Wizard of Oz. They do a really good job of weaving the storylines together.
For all of you Frozen fans, the word is already out that Elsa will be appearing in the fourth season.
Currently, the first three seasons are on Netflix.
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Hart of Dixie
Hart of Dixie is one of those shows on the CW Network that has been on for years, but I never really paid any attention to it until I gave it a chance on Netflix streaming. The first thing that caught my attention about the show was Rachel Bilson because I will watch anything she is in. However, because it was on one of the lessor known networks, it simply has not registered in my world since its debut in 2010.
Once I got into the show, it is rather entertaining though with lots of the usual southern charm and stereotypes. It revolves around Bilson's character, Zoe Hart, a New York doctor that inherits your father's practice in Bluebell Alabama. In the pilot episode, she travels to Bluebell to sell her share of the practice, but as you can imagine, she finds reasons to stick around.
Netflix has the first three seasons and the fourth season is currently airing on the CW Network in early 2015 and according to reports, will be its last.
By the way, the first three seasons are the traditional length of 22 episodes, so you can really get into this show for a while.
American Horror Story
This series gets better with every season. Having just finished the first three seasons of this show that currently airs on the FX network, the first thing I should say is that you do not want to watch it with your kids. It is edgy and has language and the occasional bare buttocks, however, I found it to be quite entertaining. It is very creepy throughout.
The series is unique in that each season restarts with a completely different storyline in a different era. Actors in the previous seasons return as different characters.
Somewhere between King Kong and American Horror Story, Jessica Lange became a fantastic actress. I watched the remake of King Kong once again last summer while I was in Brazil and she was not a very good actress. She's gorgeous, smiles and giggles a lot, but isn't what I would call polished. However, she is amazing in this series and I am not the only one that thinks that because she won two Emmy awards for best lead actress in 2012 and 2014.
Fans of the X-files will be interested in the fact that a lot of the episodes of American Horror Story are written and produced by James Wong, who also did a lot of work on the X-Files. That show had great writers and producers including Vince Gilligan who went on the create Breaking Bad and is currently producing Better Call Saul.
Season one was good, but I liked season two in the asylum and season three in the witch house much better. I 'll have to wait a little while for Season 4 - Freak Show to appear on Netflix.
AHS Season Three Opening for the Finale
featuring Stevie Nicks
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Dexter originally appeared on Showtime and ran for eight seasons. Once I found it on Netflix, it took me a while to get into it because of its dark nature. I actually watched the first few episodes as background noise while I was doing other things on my laptop.
However, around episode four or five of the first season, I started to get into it and I recommend that you give it a chance also.
The premise of the show is that Dexter is a serial killer due to trauma he suffered during childhood. While that might turn a lot of people off, the catch is that he only kills murderers and people that slip through the justice system, sometimes with his help since he is a crime scene investigator for the Miami police department.
Once you get past the murder element of the show, you realize that it is about something much deeper. There are no perfect characters in the show which make it more realistic. At its core, the show is about the masks we all wear in life and the dark side that we never show anyone. Not that we all have a murderer inside of us, but there are parts of our lives that we keep hidden. So the show follows Dexter working out his issues and really questions what exactly is normal in the modern world. Who really is normal?
The show is also very funny at times. Dexter has a dry sense of humor and his sister, who also works as a Detective in the same police precinct, is extremely funny at times due to her potty mouth. Each episode, it seems she finds new ways to string together four letter words in the oddest combinations.
Since I have never subscribed to Showtime, without Netflix, I never would have been able to watch this show.
TiVo Roamio Streamer and DVR
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This one is loosely based on a Stephen King book called the Colorado Kid, and like just about all of his work, it is set in beautiful New England on the coast of Maine.
However, the show is actually filmed in a small coastal town in Nova Scotia.
I think that this show appeals to me in part because I have actually been to Maine. I flew into Portland once for a job and drove through the countryside to a client site and it is beautiful up there.
The picturesque town of Haven has a mysterious background with lots of strange events occurring. In a lot of ways, this show and ones like Fringe are based on the same formula that made the X-Files so successful for years.
Think of Haven as a quirkier version of the X-Files.
This one is actually a Netflix original starring Steven Van Zandt. It is very funny at times. The plot revolves around a former mob guy that has been relocated to Lilyhammer under the witness protection program. Why Lilyhammer? Well, he requested it. Van Zandt is basically playing the same character he played in the Sopranos.
Once there, he begins to do the only thing he knows how to do, run bars and booze. However, this is not a dark drama like the Sopranos. It’s funny.
The most annoying part is reading the English subtitles because a lot of the dialogue is spoken in Norwegian. However, give it a chance.
Lilyhammer on Netflix
I believe this one aired on A&E but I just discovered it a few weeks ago. If you like the western part of the United States, this sheriff drama set in Wyoming will appeal to you.
I have already finished the first three seasons and it is a very well-written, intriguing show. It could have easily been on one of the big four networks.
After three seasons on A&E, Longmire was recently cancelled, but I read where the producers were shopping it around to other networks and Netflix may even be interested in picking up season four.
I believe this show originally aired on A&E, but after three seasons, it was cancelled.
I did not start watching this show until last year and I am glad I did. It is a really good crime drama. The first two seasons were great, centering on the killing of a teenage girl. The third season was good, just not as compelling as the first two.
However, the show has been such a success on instant streaming that Netflix actually produced a fourth mini season that went online Aug 1, 2014.
How did Norman Bates become a Psycho?
Well, this prequel attempts to answer that. It turns out, his mother was just as nutty as he was and all kinds of shenanigans ensue.
This series is actually very well done. Fans of the television show Lost will appreciate that it is done by one of the main guys responsible for that great series, Carlton Cuse.
The writing is suspenseful and engrossing. The fact that it airs on the A&E network is further proof that some of the best television is now occurring on alternate, lessor known sources. The first two seasons are on Netflix right now so you can catch up on something you may have missed.
The Secret Circle
If you like shows about witchcraft, you may want to try this one out. Although it was only on for one season, I took a chance and watched all 22 episodes anyway and I was not disappointed. I am surprised it was cancelled after one season because it starred a very attractive cast including Brit Robertson, Shelley Hennig, Phoebe Tonkin Jessica Parker Kennedy and Thomas Dekker, formerly of the Sarah Connor Chronicles.
The show centers around a group of high school witches which bind their powers to a circle to magnify their abilities. The plot centers around events that occurred in 1995 with their parents and is somewhat resolved by the season finale.
You might ask why should you begin watching a show that only lasted one season? Well, think of it as a long movie. Those end too.
However, I get the feeling that the producers were not sure if the show would return for a second season as they left several things up in the air. It is too bad because the show had a lot of potential with a lot of good young actors.
There is another series called Copper that I just finished. It ran two seasons on the BBC and is set in the 1860s in New York City. There was a rumor that it would begin a third season in 2014, however, it was cancelled before that happened. That is a shame because it was a good period piece.
All of these shows are great for binge watching and I highly recommend that you add them to your Netflix instant queue. Yes, some have bad language and are edgy, but most are network tv type entertainment. However, I wouldn’t exactly recommend you sit down and watch The Killing or American Horror Story with your parents or kids.
The entertainment industry is changing. That includes television and the music industry. Everyone is adjusting to the way the internet has changed all of our lives.
We have more content and tv series online available to entertain us than any of us could have ever imagined just a few decades ago. As the industry evolves, you can be sure there will be more changes to the way we view television.