Most TV shows won't be airing any new episodes until the week of January 5th, leaving two weeks without TV. So whether you've got a month-long winter break from school, a week or two break from work, or you're just missing Top Chef, now's a good time to catch up on those shows you've been meaning to get to. I'll tell you the top 5 shows worth checking out on DVD this month. My criteria are quality, addictiveness, and how recent the show is, so you can catch up quickly. Hence the absence of older shows like Lost.
5. Mad Men
Mad Men has replaced The Wire as the show you are sick of critics telling you to watch. But with only two seasons having aired, it's easy enough to catch up. The show's about Don Draper (Jon Hamm), a tight-lipped ad agency exec in the 1960s. Between the history of 1960s New York, the focus on advertising, the amazing characters, and the excellent acting and writing, there's something for anyone to enjoy. Mad Men moves with the same slow pace as The Sopranos, so it's not the best choice for a winter break marathon. But it is the show of the moment, so best get on the bandwagon now.
Super-addictive and unlike anything else on TV, Dexter makes perfect TV on DVD. Season 1, in which friendly serial killer Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall, as amazing yet completely different than he was in Six Feet Under) faces off against the Ice Truck Killer, just gets better and better with each episode. Season 2, in which Dexter finds himself the target, is even more exciting. Season 3 won't be on DVD until late summer, and with season 4 a year away there's no rush. But if you want a show that will send you flying through the discs as fast as Lost, this is the one.
3. Pushing Daisies
Yes, it's been canceled, which may seem like a reason not to bother starting now. But since there's only been 19 episodes between the two seasons, it's hardly a big commitment. It's the story of piemaker Ned (Lee Pace), who has the power to bring the dead back to life for 60 seconds, which he uses to solve crimes. There's a lot of fantasy, and the show can get cutesy at times, so it's certainly not for everyone. But the show's wacky mysteries are unlike anything on any procedural, and the top-notch cast makes their quirky characters funny and adorable. Check it out now and you can still catch the last three episodes in 2009.
2. How I Met Your Mother
Regular readers of Zandervision know I'm a big fan by my frequent posts. In its fourth season, HIMYM is the oldest show on this list. But with half hour episodes, the seasons will fly past. If the title doesn't do it for you, don't worry. It's basically just a younger, hipper version of Friends. Except it's also got an obsession with continuity to rival Lost, a knack for coining phrases to rival Seinfeld, and one of the best characters on TV in Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris). It's hardly great TV on the level of Mad Men or Dexter, but the cast is so much fun you'll wish they were your friends. Watch enough of the show, and you might think they are.
Having only had one hyper-suspenseful season, Damages is very easy to catch up on. And with season 2 starting January 7th, now is the time to do it. Don't make the mistake of hearing "lawyer show" and tuning out, because this is unlike any lawyer show you've ever seen. The series begins with an attempted murder on protagonist Ellen (Rose Byrne) and a real murder of her fiance, David. From there, it flashes back six months to when Ellen started working for high-profile New York lawyer Patty Hewes (Glenn Close), in the middle of a lawsuit against corrupt CEO Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson). Close, Danson, and Frobisher's lawyer Ray Fiske (Emmy winner Zeljko Ivanek) are all fantastic, and the constant double crosses and manipulations keep you guessing until the last second. With more time spent on hit men than courtrooms, this is the 24 of lawyer shows. Start watching now before it becomes the cool thing to do.