7. Sherlock

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Ok, so this one might not be on the tip of everyone’s tongue, but with season 3 premiering in the fall (or so I thought. Rumours have it premiering in Jan. 2014) I had to include this on my list, because it’s one of my favourite shows.   After Season 2 ended with a “WHAT JUST HAPPENED?” cliffhanger, Sherlock fans have been waiting with baited breath for this thrilling, funny, intelligent, fast-paced, character driven drama to return to the air.  Seriously.  If there are rumours about a release date then I can’t be the only one watching.  If you haven’t watched seasons 1 and 2 now is the time to catch up.  Guaranteed it will grab you.

Rating: Metacritic has season 2 ranked at 92%, the best we’ve seen on this list so far.

IMDb: 9.2       metacritic: Season 1, 85%

8. House of Cards

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I think the only reason people have stopped talking about this show is because it took anyone and everyone just 24 hours to watch the entire first season.  The dialogue, writing, execution and performances are magnificent in this political drama that reads like an Elizabethan tragedy.  Consider it Damages without the murder…well almost.

Rating: Metacritic gives season one a 76%.  I would have ranked it higher.

IMDb:  8.9       metacritic: 76%

9. Mad Men

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If you’re just getting into Mad Men, clear your calendar.   Coined for the advertising men who worked on Madison Avenue in the late 1960s, Mad Men is one of those character dramas that is rich in wit, intelligence and shockingly sexist.  I enjoyed it but never became engrossed.  I stopped after the first season but it’s all anyone’s talking about right now as it enters its 6th.

Rating: Metacritic ratings have increased significantly since the first season (jumping from 77% to 87%) and peaks at 94% in season 4.  Might have to get back on board.

IMDb: 8.6      metacritic: 77%

Small Screen is the New Big Screen

aka the Top Ten Television Shows you should be watching if you want to hang by the water cooler.

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So, what is good TV?  Of course it’s subjective (my guilty pleasures aren’t on this list), but here are by far the most hyped, most talked about, most must-see, if you will, television dramas I have come across over the last few months; if the box office suffers this summer, the studios can blame these shows.  This kicks-off Ten Posts in Ten Days.

10. Downton Abbey

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Now awaiting its 4th season, Downton Abbey is a mix of sophistication, drama, wit, performance and dialogue.  Set in 1912, the show follows the day-to-day life of a titled family and their serving staff all living at Lord Robert Grantham’s estate, Downton Abbey.  Consider it Gosford Park without the murder.

Rating:  The first season is a masterpiece, the second two have yet to measure up.

IMDb: 8.7         metacritic: 92%

Drinking Buddies (2013)

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Directed by:  Joe Swanberg
Written by: Joe Swanberg
Starring: Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Ron Livingston and Jason Sudeikis (uncredited?)

This is one of those movies that we all complain is missing from Hollywood, because it is heartfelt, truthful and real, but when it comes down to it we want the payoff.   Joe Swanberg creates a true-to-life romance about two good friends who sense but try to ignore the tension between them.  It is a quiet film that unfolds as you imagine life to unfold, but is missing any quirkiness that could have elevated it into something greater.

What I liked: Swanberg does a fine job bringing out the most honest performances from each of his actors.  Olivia Wilde is effortless as a working woman trying to understand herself.  Jake Johnson, with the help of a little facial hair and fine acting, sheds all traces of New Girl’s Nick Miller, while maintaining a comedic streak that endears us to both characters.  Together Wilde and Johnson have such chemistry that we can enjoy the journey, if not the ending.

What I didn’t like:  I appreciate Swanberg’s effort to bring real-life to the screen without the cliched meet-cutes or gimmicks that can be spotted a mile away; and yet the movie is so real that when all is said and done we discover there were no stakes and no consequences.  Drinking Buddies is a film that, even though we sense a change in character at the end, feels too linear, like a reality show without forced drama.

My rating:  Take the tension but leave the rest.

IMDb: 6.0        tomato: 69%

Release Date:  July 25, 2013

What to watch

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If you’ve plowed through your watch list or caught up on your pvr’d shows and you’re looking for some entertainment over the weekend here are a few ideas I found browsing the net today.  Might be some gems on Netflix, but admittedly I’ve seen all of the animated movies and romances already.  Enjoy!

Amazing Netflix Movies You’ve Never Seen

Top Ten Animated Features 2000s

High Five: The best film romances since 2000 | canada.com. (Thanks Jay Stone.)

Before Midnight (2013)

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Directed by: Richard Linklater
Written by: Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke
Starring: Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke

This is the third installment of the 20 year relationship between Jesse and Celine.  We were first captivated by this couple when they met on a train in 1995.  In 2004, they reunited in Paris.  Now in 2014, we meet them again in Greece.   The movie, which is essentially a dialogue about relationships, men, women and a study in character development, is interesting in its uniqueness, honesty and its ability to engage our attention for a sweeping 2hours, despite being more suited to the stage.

What I liked:  These characters (and actors) are so comfortable with each other that you inevitably feel as though you’ve stumbled into their bedroom.  They are interesting, quirky, maddening and humourous, and have been since the beginning; only now they have matured and grown together.  Their dialogue is less self-conscious than the first, and less excited than the second. They have come into their own, so much so that it’s hard to remember that Jesse and Celine are characters.  I had forgotten Hawke’s charm as an actor and Delpy’s grace.  Linklater, once again, does a tremendous job easing the story forward by following the movements of a relationship in its natural habitat.  It is mesmerizing, heartbreaking and uplifting.

What I didn’t like:  The high ratings.  This will surely disappoint many who expect something quite different than what is actually presented onscreen.  What has elevated the ratings in this case, are those people who have seen the previous two or simply those who are excited about the possibility of filmmaking.   Linklater’s latest visit with these two characters exceeded my expectations.  The movie is not perfect and at times I was frustrated by the poignantly natural dialogue but Before Midnight is the smoothest and most heartfelt of the three.

My rating:  Couldn’t resist re-watching (and loving) the other two immediately after.

IMDb: 8.5     tomato: 98%