Every show can’t be Heroes. Sometimes the awesome shows don’t get widespread recognition; hell, sometimes people don’t even know they exist. As a Veronica Mars fan, I have a lot of experience with this, so I’m shining a spotlight on five shows that deserve to be given a chance.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender. Do you like action-packed shows with authentic martial-arts moves performed by characters with supernatural powers? Do you appreciate television that is influenced by Eastern philosophy and culture visually, musically, and thematically; characterized by incredible worldbuilding that extends all the way to the map shown in the credits sequence; and plotted out meticulously so that every episode moves the narrative forward? Do you enjoy snarky heroes and sociopathic villains? Do you love watching the antihero stumble down the rocky road to redemption? Yes. Yes you do. Would you still love it all if it were animated and on Nickelodeon? Ay, there’s the rub. But trust me here: Mike DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko are creating television that is as good as or better than most dramas. Tune in to the season three premiere Friday, September 21, at 8:30 PM on Nickelodeon. You’ll spoil yourself for the many surprises in the season two finale, so I recommend watching the first two seasons before jumping in. Come on, you have time. It’ll only take you fifteen hours.
- Dexter. In the first season, we were introduced to Dexter Morgan, blood spatter technician by day and serial killer by night. We watched him undergo a journey of self-discovery initiated by the mysterious Ice Truck Killer. By making the audience POV character a seemingly emotionless monster, the writers are able to examine the nature of humanity and normality themselves, comparing and contrasting the ways Dexter attempts to hide his murderous urges in order to fit in to the ways “normal” people do the exact same things. To hide things other than murderous urges, most of the time. It’s a mystery, it’s a thriller, it’s psychological horror, it’s a philosophical text, it’s a black comedy, it’s just plain great television. I finished rewatching the first season last night, and it holds up beautifully. Each perfectly constructed episode is another puzzle piece in the perfectly constructed arc. From early reports, the second season shows no sign of a sophomore slump. Tune in Sunday, September 30, at 9 PM, on Showtime.
- Pushing Daisies. Look, I know you’re not watching this show, because it hasn’t even premiered yet. But it’s one of those shows that could get the axe Wonderfalls-style if it doesn’t find an audience quickly. It’s got a lush visual style, a healthy amount of quirkiness, and a terribly amusing premise. Solving murders would be easier if you could just wake the victim and ask who killed them, right? Plus, the pilot includes a hilarious joke featuring the word “proximity.” That’s good writing. Tune in Wednesday, October 3, at 8 PM, on ABC.
- 30 Rock. It won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series, yet it was languishing in the ratings all year. Sound like anyone you know? Like Arrested Development, 30 Rock exists in a sort of off-kilter surreality populated with characters like Dr. Leo Spaceman (pronounced “spa-CHEM-un”), who sincerely apologizes, “Medicine’s not a science.” Remember how Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip promised to show us the wacky goings-on behind the scenes of a sketch comedy show but instead deliv—oh, you all know what it delivered, if you bothered to watch. 30 Rock does show us the wacky goings-on behind the scenes of a sketch comedy show, anchored by the dorkiness of Liz Lemon (Tina Fey), the gruff deadpan of Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin), and the sheer insanity of Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan). Tune in Thursday, October 4, at 8:30 PM, on NBC.
- Friday Night Lights. I resisted for months too, okay? I didn’t want to watch “that show about football.” But I’m really glad I did because it’s a show about football like Buffy was a show about vampires. It’s just the vehicle for storytelling. It’s something for the multifaceted characters to do. Friday Night Lights is not afraid to show you all sides of a person, and it never takes the easy way out. The first season contains some of the most arresting moments in recent television. In contrast to 30 Rock‘s surreality, Friday Night Lights is hard, dirty reality, even when it threatens to veer into melodrama. Yet, I want to draw little hearts around it. Don’t you have to love a show that offers you a money-back guarantee? Tune in Friday, October 5, at 9 PM, on NBC.