The Christmas presents are all opened. The family has left. Maybe you got a new TV or at least an iTunes gift card. So, if you haven’t had to head back to work yet and have found yourself with time on your hands, put on your Santa hat and get comfy with these recommendations:
Times Editors’ Picks
“Have Gun – Will Travel”
An old-school hit from your grandparents’ rabbit-eared Zenith. Most black-and-white Westerns from TV’s early days were horse-driven drivel, but this one had a unique twist and solid writing. Richard Boone was Paladin, a literate, opera-loving, poker-playing, skirt-chasing mercenary, a cowboy James Bond. He lived in a San Francisco hotel and lured clients with his unique business card — the show’s title over a chessboard knight. Dressed spurs to Stetson in black, he settled disputes or hunted bad guys by using his brains more than his hand-crafted revolver in clever tales with a moral message.
Other favorites: “The West Wing,” “Columbo,” “Rumpole of the Bailey”
Many law enforcement dramas have the good guys going after the bad guys. But in this show, the theme is “sometimes bad guys are the only good guys you get.” The bad guys — a grifter, hacker, hitter and thief — are led by a former insurance claim investigator, Nate Ford (played by Timothy Hutton), who chased and caught them, at some point in their criminal lives. Now, they have joined forces to capture the bad guys which the law cannot seem to touch. Amid chasing down criminals ranging from mafia bosses to corporate heads full of greed, the shows slips in bits and pieces to the characters pasts’, especially Ford’s story which is heart-wrenching.
Other favorites: “Call the Midwife,” “Last Man Standing,” “Blue Bloods,” “Burn Notice”
“The Walking Dead”
It won’t make you feel warm and fuzzy, but this show is about a lot more than scary zombies. What makes the show great is the characters’ struggles with what it means to be human in an apocalyptic world. Survival is a daily battle, but the fight to hold onto feelings of empathy, happiness and love in the face of so many evils is the really difficult thing.
Other favorites: “Mad Men,” “Dexter,” “Breaking Bad”
“Dragnet” (1968 – 70)
Often unintentionally (or was it?) funny, this cops-and-robbers show is not to be confused with its 1950s predecessor. Sometimes the series’ warnings against police buffs interfering with investigations seem to be directed at creator/director/lead actor Jack Webb, whose technical innovations included almost always having his Sgt. Joe Friday in dark slacks and a sport coat and Harry Morgan’s Officer Bill Gannon in a gray suit to allow for ease in editing. “Just the facts, ma’am.”
Other favorites: “Leave It to Beaver,” “Daniel Boone,” “Scandal”
“Top Gear” (the original BBC series)
Maybe you didn’t get that Lambo or Vette for Christmas, but at least you can watch the goofy Brits drive them around ridiculous places at incredible speeds and feel thankful that you don’t have to pay the insurance on it.
Other favorites: “The Rockford Files,” “Scrubs,” “Taxi”
Times staff picks
Meet your favorite talking, sarcastic, self-deprecating horse. Bojack Horseman, a former actor turned homebody mooch, will charm and delight his way into your heart, but he’ll never allow such niceties in his own life. Confronted with his own mortality and shrinking fame, Bojack rallies around his friend group of humans and anthropomorphic animals to find sense in his high-paced Hollywood lifestyle.
Other favorites: “House of Cards,” “The Walking Dead”
Walter White is a character who quickly loses any sense of a moral compass, following his lung cancer diagnosis. His proposition for making a nest egg for his family once he’s dead, by cooking crystal meth, leads to a dark and twisted tale of how a good man can spiral out of control. Every character is flawed but also has redeeming qualities.
Other favorites: “The League,” “House of Cards,” “The Walking Dead.”
Everybody loves a good scandal, especially when it involves the wealthy folks of the Hamptons. Emily Thorne, a mysterious woman with a hidden agenda, shows up in town unexpectedly. Let’s just say she knows how to turn heads and get people talking.
Other favorites: “Gossip Girl,” “Dexter,” “House”
“Phineas and Ferb”
Not your average binge show, “Phineas and Ferb” is a great family show and has a laugh for everyone. The brother duo creates something new every day during the summer and gets the whole neighborhood involved, everyone except their sister, Candace. She would rather get the boys in trouble than join their fun. “Mom! You won’t believe what Phineas and Ferb are doing.” And to top off the creativity, the show holds more excitement when Perry, the boys’ platypus, leaves to encounter his own adventure as a secret agent trying to stop the “evil” Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz. Encouraging imagination, the show gets the gears turning and leaves everyone wondering, “Hey Ferb, what are we going to do today?”
Other favorites: “Game of Thrones,” “Frozen,” “The Chronicles of Narnia”
“The Returned” (or “Les Revenants”)
This is a French drama about a group of people from a small village who come back from the dead. The “returned” haven’t aged since their deaths and quickly find everyone they love has moved on with their lives. Meanwhile, it seems a serial killer may be among those who’ve come back. Sure, you’ll probably have to read subtitles (Parlez-vous Francais?) but watching the strained-by-death relationships is worth the extra effort.
Other favorites: “Lost,” “Walking Dead,” “Twin Peaks”
“Parks & Rec”
It’s a good time to catch up on all of the Pawnee characters as the series wraps up in 2015. Amy Poehler plays Leslie Knope, a tenacious government employee who is always looking for ways to improve small town politics ... while dragging her jaded co-workers along with her. Chris Pratt, Nick Offerman, Adam Scott and Aziz Ansari lend themselves to a star-studded cast.
Other favorites: “The Office,” “30 Rock,” “The Mindy Project”
“Friday Night Lights”
Relatable in a number of ways to small towns throughout the South, the fictional town of Dillon, Texas, is one completely obsessed with high school football and those pivotal and legendary Friday night games. Coach Eric Taylor (played by Kyle Chandler) and his relationships with his family and players will have you hooked, as well as the perfect blend of football and drama. “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”
Other favorites: “Gilmore Girls,” “Hart of Dixie,” “Nashville”
“Don’t Trust the B**** in Apartment 23”
Despite only having two seasons before being canceled by ABC, this show was able to craft hilarious characters and successfully touch on what it’s like to be a young adult living in New York City. An added plus is James Van Der Beek playing an exaggerated version of himself, satirizing the excess and materialistic ways of famous people. The comedy is provocative at times, but will leave you laughing by the end of every episode.
Other favorites: “Once Upon A Time,” “American Horror Story,” “Ugly Betty”
“The Blacklist” is a smart drama with a wicked soundtrack. A criminal mastermind (played by James Spader) surrenders to the newest edition to the FBI’s profiling unit. What ensues is a rich and completely engrossing show that won’t even feel like a binge. Only problem: Waiting for more episodes.
Other favorites: “Marco Polo,” “Fringe,” “Orange is the New Black”
Who killed Laura Palmer? That question kicks off this cult classic 1990s mystery/horror series, but it’s hardly the only one you’ll have after just the first episode. The answers uncovered by FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper — who’s about as idiosyncratic as his new small town surroundings — as he delves into the murder of Twin Peaks’ seemingly perfect homecoming queen will shock, terrify and intrigue you. As an added bonus, David Lynch’s masterpiece will return to Showtime with new episodes in 2015, so the bingeing doesn’t have to end with Netflix.
Other favorites: “Battlestar Galactica,” “The X-Files,” “Fringe”