Summer is the time when temperatures rise and people either hit the beach or escape to a climate-controlled indoor paradise. If you're the latter, you're looking for time to fill while you're waiting for next semester to start or you're winding down from a day of work. Sweat is gross and air conditioning is proof that we're meant to be happy. If you're either not playing Diablo 3 or a pro with two monitors, you're likely surfing for some awesome streams to take up your time. And, if you're a proper geek, you have some mix of Netflix, Hulu, and cable TV. If you're searching for new shows, I offer you my list of what I'm watching this summer.
The Twilight Zone – Available on Netflix
You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension.
It's always good to catch up with a classic, right?
If you're regularly spending Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year's Day with relatives equipped with cable television, you're probably familiar with The Twilight Zone and SyFy's marathons. From the golden age of television comes the premier sci-fi fantasy program.
Some of the Twilight Zone episodes have a message, like a parable, and often end with some sort of twist. The enjoyable kind, like early M Night, not bad The Happening M Night S… S…. Shamehegotsobadsofast. Some of these are so ubiquitous that they're probably no longer a twist for you—like if someone spoiled Hitchcock's Vertigo or Psycho before you got a chance to see them—but they're still enjoyable rides even if you know the destination. If you want to be entertained and have 20 minutes, you can't do better than Rod Sterling's voice welcoming you to The Twilight Zone.
William Shatner sells discount hotel rooms now and may be the premier spoken-word artist, but before he was captain of the Starship Enterprise, he was trying to save a plane from a sabotaging gremlin.
From Bob Wilson, to Captain Kirk, to the Priceline guy.
Watch Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. And an honorable mention goes out to my personal favorite story, Time Enough at Last. If the stories seem familiar, both are classics that have been parodied by The Simpsons and Futurama, respectively. If you love those two episodes, you'll love The Twilight Zone.
The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes – Available on Netflix and Marvel.com
The early 1990s X-Men cartoon had way more influence over me than it ever should have. It was too much good stuff packed into 30 minutes. Even when Fox kept repeating the Dark Phoenix saga—that I didn't even know was already 10 years old at the time—I waited for new episodes. Back in 1994, it wasn't easy for a 12-year-old to access a website that would explain studio battles and production delays. I just watched every week until it came back. Like, imagine you watched Family Guy, then watched Family Guy reruns, and finally one day there were new episodes and you had no idea they were coming. It was the happiest day of my life.
Due to X-Men oversaturation in my life, I didn't really know about the Avengers. I just knew them as that group that wasn't the X-Men. Most of my interaction came about because Captain America and the Avengers arcade game was only 25 cents per play whereas the X-Men game was 50 cents!
50 cents? Bah. I get twice the gaming action with Avengers, thank you very much!
It would be nearly twenty years before Robert Downey Jr. made Iron Man cooler than Wolverine (yeah, you would've been burned at the stake in 1991 for saying this). Now, thanks to the 2 gazillion dollar movie (an approximation) from Marvel and Joss Whedon, the Avengers are the biggest Marvel property. There's a new cartoon Avengers Assemble that is coming next year, but the Avengers have had a running cartoon for nearly two years.
The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes is rooted in the comics with a bit of movie canon to draw in the new fans. You get Iron Man, Captain America, Hawkeye, Thor, the Hulk, Black Panther, Ant Man, and the Wasp fighting Hyrda and a swath of super villains from across the Marvel universe.
The Avengers have become big this year, thanks to its blockbuster movie, but the cartoon does the team justice as well: it's very well done.
There's a lot of action. As you'd expect from an Avengers cartoon, most of the time is spent fighting—either villains or amongst themselves. Much of season 1 is set up, introducing characters and ironing out the group. Still fun. Once they assemble, it's head-first into adaptations of assorted comic book story arcs. If you're a fan of Marvel and wanted more after leaving the movie theater last month, watch this show.
Recommended episode: The Man Who Stole Tomorrow, Come the Conqueror, and The Kang Dynasty
These three episodes are part of the Kang story arc. The Avengers recovering Captain America from the arctic leaves a disturbance in time. Kang's universe begins to unravel and his love, Princess Ravonna, is nearly erased from existence. It's not told exactly what puts Kang's world at risk, but it has to do with Cap and the upcoming Kree-Skrull war. Kang escapes his timeline to come to our world today and kill Cap to save Ravonna and save his timeline.
This is the first time we're introduced to the idea of anybody “dying” and the first time we see a villain with a sympathetic storyline. I'm a big fan of the moral grey and there's plenty of action. If you're already familiar with the Avengers and the comics, you could check out these three to see if this series is your speed.
One Piece – Available on Hulu
One Piece is an action/comedy based on the One Piece manga. The series follows captain Monkey D. Luffy and his Straw Hat pirates as they gain friends, seek adventure, and ultimately try to achieve their individual dreams in the great age of pirates. Luffy wants the legendary treasure One Piece to become the Pirate King as that will grant him not riches, but complete freedom. Nami, the ship's navigator, has a dream map the world. Usopp, the ship's marksman and “donkey,” wants to follow in his father's footsteps and become a great hero of the sea. In the world, characters can eat a “Devil's Fruit” to gain a specific power. Only one of each specific fruit exists, and a character would die from eating two. There's a downside, as no devil fruit user can swim. That's a problem when characters are either a pirate or a marine. Man overboard and he or she is dead.
WANTED: for crimes against the non-stretchy.
So, we have adventure, pirates, and super powers! Many shows offer that, but not packaged the way One Piece does it. The two things that draw me to it are its wonder and whimsy. The world is massive and much of it is uncharted. While there is action, there's always a comedy angle to it and many of the villains in the story have gimmicks that make these super-powered characters a little more human. And if that's not enough, there's an entire arc dedicated to zombies and other ghoulish creatures on a place called “Thriller Bark”. And look at Tony Tony Chopper. He's a reindeer doctor! You know you can't resist!
A reindeer who's a...doctor? That's...AWESOME!
Because it's based on a manga, it has the Dragonball Z problem (it's a Toei anime as well) that there's a lot of filler as it's waiting on the manga to progress. So, if you ever do feel the need to fast forward, don't feel guilty. The first 5 minutes of each episode is spent on the title theme and recap anyway. If you love the idea of a world where there's still an unknown out there to conquer, gather a crew and start watching One Piece.
You'll have to start at the beginning of the series, but my favorite story arc is Enies Lobby. That doesn't start until episode 264. Until then, you'll be entertained as Luffy explores the world and gets his sea legs. You'll see Luffy use his Gum Gum power to stretch his body like rubber and bounce around. His enthusiasm and wonder are infectious, so you'll love being along for the ride.
Sherlock – Available on Netflix
Thanks, Dr. Who dollars! The BBC has been expanding over the last few years and Sherlock takes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's works and adapts them for a contemporary look in our day, in our time. Benedict Cumberbatch plays an aloof, hyper-observant Sherlock who solves puzzling crimes with Dr. Watson, played by Martin Freeman.
BBC brings the original Sherlock Holmes novels to life in a modern age.
The Sherlock Holmes series are the barometer by which mysteries are judged. These works are masterfully adapted by the BBC. It's hard for the casual observer to identify with the world of Sherlock Holmes in the 1880s, but introducing iPhones and biological weapons gives the storytellers much more palatable vehicles through which to tell these classics. If you love mysteries, you're likely well familiar with Sherlock Holmes. This isn't Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes, but if you're more into the cerebral and less into the action visuals, this show is perfect for you.
No, really. If you haven't seen this show, you should. It is one of the best things out there to watch.
Recommended episode: It's not completely episodic, but each episode is based on one of Doyle's works. So, it's possible to just watch one episode. A Scandal in Belgravia is my favorite, but I believe you'll be hooked by the first three episodes in season one. Remember that most British television doesn't release series in 25-episode blocks like US television, but think of this as going to Las Vegas and choosing the fine three-course meal over the casino's buffet.
The Guild – Available on Netflix, Hulu, and WatchTheGuild.com
If you've played online games like World of Warcraft, you've run into some oddball characters in your travels. I'm not talking about the blueberry-looking Draenei two-handed weapon enhancement Shaman, but the people who play those online avatars. And surely our friends think the same about us! We're all quirky in our own way, and that's what makes games fun. The Guild has channeled all that, stretched it out for comedy's sake, and put out five seasons of gamer comedy!
Your guild's quirky characters are a lot funnier when they're a web-series than when they're wiping your group for the fifteenth time.
These actors and actresses know their stuff, too. This is gamer comedy for gamers! The stories and dialog are far too real to be fiction, you know what I'm saying? If you've ever put on a headset and double-clicked the Ventrillo icon, you “know” these people and you can laugh along through five seasons of gamer drama and hijinx.
Recommended episode: You'll need to start out the series from episode 1 to know all the show regulars, but I like season 3 as the Axis of Evil, and its leader Wil Wheaton, is introduced. Good vs. Evil. Who will win?
That should keep your broadband connection tied up through this summer. Turn up the AC, Yelp your local restaurants that deliver, and get ready to make this the best summer ever by never leaving your house!