In the old days of TV, people would gather with friends and family on specific nights of the week and tune in for another installment of their favorite serial. We could call those the bad old days, when instead of the immediate gratification of Netflix Instant starting a new episode for you 12 seconds after the last one ended, you had to wait for a week between cliff hanger and resolution. Sure we were less busy back then, without the internet, but were our brains really so much better that we could remember plot points and characters for a week? Nowadays we know the joy of marathoning a really great show. Nothing compares to immersing yourself in a fictional world and then coming up days later, not really sure where or who you are anymore.
With the foggy gloomy of San Francisco summer not looking like it will let up anytime soon, we asked KQED Pop’s TV obsessed writers to share their favorite shows for marathoning. So get in your sweats, cuddle up with your laptop and get ready to fall in love with these shows. Just be careful: quality marathoning can lead to loss of employment, electricity and shelter. It’s so worth it though.
David Aloi: Six Feet Under
The summer after I graduated college I was taking hydrocodone four times per day. I slipped a disc in the L5S1 part of my vertebrae and there was major pressure on my sciatic nerve. Standing for extended periods of time was virtually impossible. This led to couch time and more importantly TV show marathons! After blowing through The OC, Laguna Beach and The Ashlee Simpson Show, I was tired of the sun-kissed cheeks and thoughtless drama. And where else to turn for cerebral joy than HBO? Six Feet Under was in its last season and was at the height of popularity. So began my indulging of a different side of Los Angeles, the inland side. As we know, each episode began with a death and more often than not that body ended up in the basement of the Fisher Funeral Home. Some of the tightest writing in television history, Six Feet Under defined that summer for me. I watched the show alone as though it demanded it. I never learned so much about life through death. Claire gave me serious Angela Chase vibes, David was super gay, Nate was hot, Brenda was crazy, Ruth was superb and my favorite character on the show. But what stood out most to me was the tone, supported immensely by the incredible music selections. Each episode quiet and hazy, not too dissimilar from the summer I was having, cooped up indoors while that hot star shown down on the rest of the world outside. And I was perfectly fine with it. Like any great television show, I was living through these characters, they were teaching me and I was affected. Since then I equate Six Feet Under with summertime, because even in the brightest of seasons you must find room for a little darkness.
Serena Cole: Lost
I believe in doing things all the way if you’re going to do them at all. If you’re going to drink, fall over with your pants down, and if you’re going to marathon a show this summer, it should be at least a significant portion of your waking life. After all, what good is a show that was cancelled after two seasons, or one you have to wait an entire YEAR for your next fix? The good news for you is that the complete Lost series is 49 hours, so you could put in a full work week watching it and still have episodes left. And it needs to be all at once; sleep, hygiene, and food neglected until you really are stranded on a desert island with Sawyer, Hurley, Desmond and Charlie. (Let’s just pretend Kate’s dead because she is so annoying).
If you haven’t watched Lost, it’s probably because of how dumb and obsessive your friends sounded after watching the first season. Or maybe you tried to watch it three seasons in and were, ba dum bum, lost. But now that it’s all over, you’re in the perfect place to really GIVE yourself to Lost. That shrill, frantic violin ending each time puts you so far off the edge of the couch that you don’t even mind that you just got hooked on polar bears and time travel and you absolutely must know what happened in the next episode with the smoke monster. It’s embarrassing but true, and then I won’t be able to stop you from talking to me about it. All six seasons are currently streaming on Netflix, so go grab your pajamas and get your dork on.
Natalie Grace Sweet: Kids In The Hall
30 Helens agree, Kids In The Hall is the bee’s knees. If you missed the five seasons of this masterful Canadian sketch comedy show when it originally aired in the late ’80/early ’90s, Netflix will set you straight. This is stripped down, super funny, sketch comedy at its pinnacle, performed by the equally hysterical Dave Foley, Mark McKinney, Kevin MacDonald, Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch. It’s ridiculous, hilarious and it’s socially conscious with many sketches featuring openly gay characters (kind of a huge deal back then). Don’t even bother watching other TV shows, just allow the Kids In The Hall to introduce you to Cabbage Head, Mr. Tyzik and the Chicken Lady and fall in comedy love.
Laura Schadler: Pretty Little Liars/New Girl/The Mindy Project/Twin Peaks/Friday Night Lights
As you might know by now, I can literally never choose just one anything. Life is far too complicated for just one favorite movie/band/food/dress/book/color. And television is no exception. For that reason I struggle with which show is my favorite to stream in the summer months. So many ways to answer the question…My ironic answer is Pretty Little Liars, complete with shiny lip gloss, giant baubles and a text message-centric murder mystery that never ever ends. Bonus points for the fact that it’s laughably predictable suspense is full of repetitive horror movie tropes that could lend themselves to a pretty amusing drinking game. Subtract points for the fact that no one will watch this with me and I don’t think I should be drinking alone while watching Pretty Little Liars. My genuine answer is New Girl, a show that refreshingly portrays 30-somethings instead of teenagers, and not only that but depicts them as the ridiculous, immature, hilarious people they often are (I’d also nominate The Mindy Project in this category if I could find it streaming somewhere other than Hulu Plus). I far prefer Mindy to Zooey, but regardless, both of these funny, girl-fronted shows make me happy. Many an episode has me laughing so hard I’m crying. I deeply relate to the thesis statement of both stories, ones where the humor is derived almost solely from the inability of its characters to be grown-ups. My nostalgic answers are the swoon-worthy, heartwarming, paradigm-shifting, Tim Riggins-having, Friday Night Lights, as well as the classic, Twin Peaks, whose conclusion I will one day soon actually see. There you have it-five answers for the price of one! I think I’m going to cancel the rest of my summer plans so I can finally find out who A is, who killed Laura Palmer, further analyze the Lahiri/Castellano, Jess/Nick sexual tension, and watch Tim Riggins drive a pick-up truck and throw a football.
Lizzy Acker: Queer as Folk (UK version)
I’m pretty much an evangelist for the marathoning of TV shows. I grew up without a TV so watching shows on DVD was my first way of really experiencing and getting sucked into a TV world. For me it reflects the way I started consuming my stories: novels. I would stay up all night reading a novel, walk to school literally with my nose in a book, get sent out of the classroom for reading too much. Maybe I have an addictive personality. Okay, I definitely have an addictive personality. Anyway, for this one I decided to go waaay back to one of my first marathoning experiences: the totally sublime Queer as Folk. Though I still have no idea what the name means, I can tell you I devoured this show back when Netflix didn’t even have Instant, the year after I graduated from college (2005 soooo long ago). How could I, a 23-year-old straight girl from America, identify so closely with a group of fictional gay dudes in England? Who knows. Maybe it was the character development, maybe it was the drama and romance. But I can say that before I watched this show I seriously didn’t even know any gay men and by the time I finished it, all I wanted was to BE a gay man. That and Charlie Hunnam as the world’s best twink are enough for you to stop what you are doing, quit your job and devote your life to the compact two series arch of the ORIGINAL and far superior British version of Queer as Folk.
Nate Waggoner: Star Trek: The Next Generation
With the original Star Trek series, Gene Roddenberry set out to create a super-hopeful vision of the future, where racism and sexism had been defeated. Star Trek: The Next Generation was not only post-racial and post-patriarchal, but also tore down the borders of tolerance the original series had invented for itself: one crew member is a Klingon, the kind of normally savage creatures the old-school crew faced off against nearly ever week. Another, Data, is an android. The residents of the ship spend much of their time painting and reading big tomes of classical literature and generally being comfy, space-bougey, and Frasieresque. In 1989, Ronald D. Moore, who would later reboot Battlestar Galactica, started writing for the show, fully embracing the awkward comedy of it and allowing for the kind of dark storylines Roddenberry might not have approved of. This clip reminds me of a great deal of poetry readings I’ve been to. I like how everyone on the crew is just straight-up mad at Data, who’s just trying to share a sweet poem about his pet cat.
Emmanuel Hapsis: My So-Called Life and Homeland
There are the people who appear in your life to teach you something and then disappear (your first love or that best friend who everyone thought was bad news). And then there are the people who reappear or just stay. Claire Danes is part of the latter category for me. When I was a tween, I watched My So-Called Life over and over, that short-lived, yet enduring time capsule of what it feels like to be a teen, all that thrill and all that terror. Like an older sister, Angela Chase taught me how to dye my hair and battle against who my parents thought I was and how to obsess over Anne Frank and that surly boy incapable of loving me back. Those lessons were enough. If I never heard of Claire again, she would have served her purpose, yet she resurfaced in my life recently, as I was trapped in a Philadelphia airport, in the form of Homeland. This time, she was playing a grown-up CIA operative who was crazed in a more clinical way than Angela Chase. But the core of what made me fall in love with her the first time remained: both characters share an unrelenting desire for someone just outside their grasp, as well as a stubborn refusal to let go of what they feel and believe. And it’s due to these protagonists that both shows are the kind you can’t help but devour, the first for its innocent nostalgic relatability and the latter for its passionate insane drama. Will Jordan Catalano hold Angela’s hand? Will Carrie Mathison die for love? You’ll just have to watch and see.