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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, Sept. 1, 2014

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In Movies & TV

It's easy to feel left out when your friends are hooked on a show like "Lost."

In Movies & TV

Fans of "The Wire" consider it one of the best series in TV history.

In Movies & TV

"Dexter" drew the biggest ratings for an original show in Showtime history.

In Movies & TV

HBO's "Deadwood" raised the modern western (and swearing) to new heights.

In Movies & TV

"Mad Men" on AMC is must-see TV for people in advertising.

"Lost" cause: Catching up on hit TV shows is tough


A couple of my friends have asked to be placed on the "Do Not Call" list tonight, but the request has nothing to do with telemarketers, non-profit agencies, political organizations or other nuisance calls. They don't want to be bothered by anyone -- me included -- but the ban on incoming phone calls will last just one hour.

Maybe your friends have hit you with the same request. It appears that ABC is airing a new episode of "Lost."

I'm going to honor my friends' request, even though it seems a tad silly, in this era of the digital video recorder (DVR) to receive a pre-emptive "Don't you dare call me between 8 and 9, or else ..." missives from my friends.

I get it, though.

This series about a plane crash in the Pacific, which became a cult classic shortly after it debuted in 2004, is coming to a close at the end of the month. My friends, all of whom are smart, successful people with normal and productive lives, are totally hooked.

Maybe hooked isn't a strong enough word.

Obsessed is more like it.

My friends watch the episodes. They re-watch the episodes. They tweet about them and scour message boards for details. Apparently, this show requires a lot of concentration. People try to tell me about Jack and Claire and Locke (or is it UnLocke?) and Lapidus and how mind-blowing this series has become. The more they try, the more I'm convinced that either the people who conceived this show -- and possibly the people who watch it -- are on drugs.

Confession time: I tried to watch a few minutes of "Lost" earlier this year. The scenery was beautiful and I could tell that something intense was happening. It kept me hanging on through a commercial break, but then I flipped the channel because I had no idea what the hell I was watching.

My friends have been badgering me for years to "catch up" to this series, to soak up its awesomeness so that they can talk to me about it. This might sound kind of invasive in a "You should try these Amway products" kind of way, but I find their unwavering enthusiasm amusing. I'm pretty sure that I display some of the same dogged determination when I'm trying to drag people along to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in concert. "You've got to see the show," I'd tell them. "You won't believe it."

Before this sixth and final season of "Lost" kicked off, I had friends offer to burn DVDs of the first five seasons so that I could be up to speed for the finale. I was flattered by the offers, but had to decline.

It's not that I doubt their judgment or have anything against "Lost." It's just that there are a whole bunch of other heavily-hyped series that I have to watch first. Each one was recommended by one (and sometimes a dozen) friends saying "You've got to see the show. You won't believe it ..."

As I thought about what I was going to do during "Do Not Call" time, I jotted down a list of nine popular TV series that I need to discover via DVD. I can't jump into "Lost" until I knock some of these off the list.

Which series are on your "catch up" list? Use the Talkback feature to let us know. Here is mine:

"The Wire"
Network: HBO
Originally aired: June 2, 2002-March 9, 2008
The skinny: Written by former police reporter David Simon, this series focused on life and crime in the city of Baltimore.
My friends say: It's the best series ever made, eclipsing even "The Sopranos."
My take: I've seen two or three episodes of this show and liked them, but I never made it a habit. It's first on my list because of the newspaper connection.

"Deadwood"
Network
: HBO
Originally aired: March 21, 2004-Aug. 27, 2006
The skinny: A western set in the 1870s, featuring historical characters like Wild Bill Hickok, Al Swearengen, Wyatt Earp and George Hearst.
My friends say: Watching this awesome series will give you a new appreciation for the art of the curse word.
My take: I've never been big on westerns, but will give it a try because of enthusiastic recommendations.

"24"
Network
: Fox
Originally aired: Nov. 6, 2001-present
The skinny: A political drama featuring Kiefer Sutherland as counter-terrorism officer Jack Bauer. The show is presented in "real time," with each season encompassing a 24-hour window in Bauer's life.
My friends say: The show is incredible and the movie, expected in 2012, will be a must-see, too.
My take: Brewers pitcher Chris Capuano is a huge fan and told me a few years ago that it's easy to watch multiple episodes in a row, so I'll get a season in my Netflix queue soon.

"Friday Night Lights"
Network
: NBC / DirecTV
Originally aired: Oct. 3, 2006-present
The skinny: Based on Buzz Bissinger's award-winning 1990 book about high school football in Texas, the show has earned critical raves and a passionate fan base without ever achieving huge ratings.
My friends say: It ranks among the best sports dramas ever produced.
My take: I've seen a few episodes and was impressed with the grit and realism, but didn't see enough to identify with the characters.

"Mad Men"
Network
: AMC
Originally aired: July 19, 2007-present
The skinny: A look at the advertising world in the 1960s, but not the one that "Bewitched" protagonist Darren Stevens worked in. This world is full of fast-talking, booze-guzzling, chain smoking characters who sleep with each other frequently.
My friends say: Simply the best show on cable.
My take: The fact that a new season is in production enhances my desire to catch up.

"Heroes"
Network
: NBC
Originally aired: Sept. 25, 2006-present
The skinny: Apparently, this is a sci-fi thriller in which ordinary people realize that they have super powers.
My friends say: It's like a comic book come to life and the best thing NBC has done in years.
My take: Part of the reason I missed this was the incessant commercials hyping the debut.

"Dexter"
Network
: Showtime
Originally aired: Oct. 1, 2006-present
The skinny: A blood-splatter technician for the Miami Metro Police Department also happens to be a serial killer.
My friends say: The show is so good that it's worth getting Showtime just to watch it.
My take: My wife is a giant fan and I've seen bits and pieces of a few episodes, but won't go out of my way to see it because there are too many other "CSI"-type shows on TV already.

"Twin Peaks"
Network
: ABC
Originally aired: April 8, 1990-June 10, 1991
The skinny: Created by David Lynch, the show centered on the murder of a homecoming queen by FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) in a weird Washington town.
My friends say: A true classic; the one that started it all.
My take: I've seen an episode on cable marathons, but can't see taking them all in.

"Rome"
Network
: HBO
Originally aired: Aug. 28, 2005-March 25, 2007
The skinny: From Caeser's invasion of Gaul to the rise of Augustus, this series focuses on soldiers Lucious and Titus.
My friends say: The production values are incredible and the acting is remarkable.
My take: I'm shocked that the same people who loved "Deadwood" tell me that "Rome" is must-see TV. I wouldn't have guessed that it was any good.

Talkbacks

Help4NewMoms | May 6, 2010 at 6:57 p.m. (report)

It's so funny how you can sucked into these new series. At first you think you are above it, until it happens to you. I am a huge fan of Mad Men and Dexter. They just seem to be more thought-provoking than most of the TV out there right now. I think it's great that there's such clever writing that keep audiences thirsting for more...even if it means they are late to work!

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BTmama | May 5, 2010 at 2:00 p.m. (report)

I only saw the pliot and second episode of Lost before.. they lost me. I will rent and watch it all one weekend when it all comes out on DVD, I just go to blockbuster and rent an entire season at a time.. and do a marathon session, when its raining or nothing else is planned! Deadwood is utterly fantastic, however its only 3 seasons long, but its a great amazing 3 seasons! Weeds and Big Love are two you should add to your list. Weeds is just so funny how it pokes fun at California's pot culture, and Big Love is great simply because it really makes you think about how difficult it is to keep a plural marriage secret. Also Tom Hanks produces it.. need I say more? Dexter is NOT like CSI at all, since each episode on average two people die. Dexter kills someone and then another killer kills. What makes it great is how people don't suspect Dexter is a killer at all, just an ordinary guy!

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jeffjay60 | May 5, 2010 at 7:42 a.m. (report)

I can't believe anyone watches these series presentations in real time anymore. My wife and I tallied up what we watch on TV. Most of it was TIVO'd The list has convinced us to buy an antenna for local TV and rent the series from netflix. Our top two are 'Weeds" and "Dexter". We've rented "Big Love", The Tudors" (Which is available for direct viewing. You don't have to wait for the red envelope).

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milROCKeeguy | May 4, 2010 at 7:18 p.m. (report)

Mad Men is a great choice...Netflix is a great invention. We just started watching Weeds, and love it. I suggest you put that on your list of shows (something about an Edward Scissorhand-chiched-type neighborhood with Mary Louise Parker being a single dealing mom is very fun). I'll probably get some talkback for this but Prison Break should also be on that list. It's done now, and the middle got very sketchy, but it ended very good.

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DT | May 4, 2010 at 5:21 p.m. (report)

Watch FNL from the beginning. Characters are compelling and honest. Probably the best portrayal of a marriage in modern TV too. Sports, drama, life -- FNL has it all. This is the best show on TV.

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