I can pretend to be happy that summertime is here, but if you look closely, you’ll see the dark cloud of remorse behind my eyes. All summer really means is that my favorite shows are on hiatus so the writers can get a tan and go home to pet their dogs. That’s all well and good for them, but what’s a gal to do until fall?!
No, summer premiers, I haven’t forgotten about you… but I have some beef. Every year, summer shows drift more and more towards reality-based programming, with gems like Craft Wars, Food Network Star, Design Star, America’s got Talent, Duets, So You Think You Can Dance?, Hell’s Kitchen, Master Chef… oh, what’s that? You’re bored just hearing the examples? Thought so. Personally, I want my summer shows to be witty, to teach me something new, make me feel good about watching TV when it’s 80 degrees and sunny out. But there’s more: I also need to have instant access.
Thanks to the beauty of online streaming, I have gone ahead and created the perfect summer line up for intellectual type television aficionados. (No offense, Vampire Diaries.) These hidden gems are guaranteed to foster something more than mindless laughs.
First up: The IT Crowd.
If you love: The Office (US or UK), Freaks and Geeks, dry humor, nerdy subculture
The IT Crowd first showed up in 2006, centering on the IT department of a corporation in London. Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids, Friends with Kids) plays Roy, a super brainy IT tech. who has a deep disdain for not only everyone in the company, but also for work in general. Richard Ayoade (The Mighty Boosh) plays Moss, who is afflicted with extreme social anxiety disorder, most likely attributed in part to the fact that he lives with his mother. Lastly, we have Jen, Roy and Moss’ boss who knows absolutely nothing about computers.
Remember when being nerdy wasn’t considered cool? (Thanks, Seth Cohen, for putting us on the map!) Reason number one why this show is worth ticking off your list- this subculture isn’t being falsely portrayed as being secretly hip. It’s dangerous business pretending that guys with a deep love for coding and web comics are secretly totally hip and popular. You do that and you’ve alienated your niche audience, because they see right through it and they can smell it a mile away… You’re not one of them. Rest assured: creator Graham Linehan is one of you. Most of the props used on set are actually his own!
TED Talks: Smart Laughs
If you love: This American Life, Stand up comedy, documentaries
You know the deal right? TED Talks: Technology, Entertainment, and Design, all brought together at two annual conferences, then posted online for the world to see. TED’s moniker is “Ideas Worth Spreading”, and they aim to bring revolutionary, inspiring, powerful messages to the public with speakers from all over the world. That’s all well and good, but one particular division of TED is filling me with the warmest, fuzziest, purring-kitten like feelings I’ve ever had: Smart Laughs.
In keeping with the theme of the conference, these talks are going to spark your mind with some new ideas, but the difference here is that they’re also going to make you laugh your ass off. Think of it as stand up comedy for all you brainy kids.
How Beer Saved the World: A Discovery Channel TV Documentary
If you love: beer.
Yes, beer. In this discovery channel documentary, historians and scientists gather round to talk about beer’s place in history. Beer actually had a hand- well, maybe just a pointer finger- in everything from agricultural protocol to math.
I love TV documentaries because they are so deliciously watchable. Sometimes with feature length films that linger somewhere between the 90 minute and two hour range, I get forty minutes in and think “How much more can there be to talk about on this subject?!”.
If you love: Numb3rs, Mental, Leverage, crime shows.
I know what you’re thinking… no, the world really doesn’t need any more crime dramas. Please, give me a chance to separate Lie to Me from the herd. This show is fascinating because Dr. Cal Lightman (Played by Tim Roth) uses legitimate facial cues, “Micro expressions”, and body language movements to determine whether or not a person is lying to him.
Unlike shows, which shall remain nameless, who rely on plot twists and brutal murder stories to push the story forward, Lie to Me is smart, edgy, and, um… smart. It’s actually rather difficult to watch more than one episode at a time, because of how much thinking you’re forced to do throughout.
It’s going to be a lot of work to get through them all, but heat makes me nauseous anyways.
There you have it: my recommendations for an intellectually stimulating summer television lineup- all one hundred percent stream-able. Please, feel free to share your thoughts on any of these shows, or suggest new ones in the comments below.