If there is one thing in common between exam time and summer time, it is that they are the two time periods where Maltese students are most likely to watch TV series. Don’t let the word “TV” fool you – most of us (yours truly included) view these on our laptops online, bulldozing our way relentlessly through show after show, losing all perception of time in the process. We have also probably googled “best shows on TV” more times than we can count, with varying degrees of success. But if you ever wonder what series are currently the most popular among your fellow students, I present to you ten of the most beloved, in alphabetical order:
Marvel may be dominating the big screen when it comes to superheroes, but when it comes to the small screen, DC have a significant edge over their rivals.
After the success of Smallville, which focused on Clark Kent in the years before he became Superman, DC decided to introduce us to another of their major characters, the vigilante known as Green Arrow. Oliver Queen, as his mum knows him, is the central character in the new TV series Arrow, which premiered in 2012. He is a billionaire playboy (sound familiar?) who in the first episode of the series is shown to have been stranded on a remote island for five years. The experience changes him drastically, turning him from an obnoxious narcissist into a determined and selfless individual hellbent on fighting crime and corruption in Starling City, his home.
The series has been received positively, with critics comparing the protagonist to Batman (which is always a good thing) and praising its stylish direction and well-developed characters.
Big Bang Theory
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you are well aware of this American sitcom, which was first introduced to audiences in 2007. The show has just finished its sixth season, and is centred on four geeky and socially awkward scientists: Leonard, Sheldon, Howard and Raj, together with the former two’s neighbour Penny, whose social aptitude and knowledge of pop culture contrasts hugely with the scientists’ personalities. This is highlighted extensively in the show for comic effect.
Although still an immensely popular TV series mostly due to the success of the character Sheldon and the show’s fast-flying scientific and nerdy jokes, several of my fellow students feel it is fast becoming stale, with its frequently generic and stereotypic comedy being repeated and recycled often. Critics say the series tends to unrealistically portray geeks as being a different species to the rest of society, as well as being almost exclusively male. Nevertheless, Big Bang Theory has firmly ingrained itself in today’s pop culture – Bazinga anyone?
This TV drama could hardly be more different than Big Bang Theory. Dark and brooding, Breaking Bad’s scarce humour is almost entirely dry, black or sarcastic. Walter White, the main character, is introduced as a chemistry teacher struggling to make ends meet for his family. After Walter is diagnosed with serious lung cancer, he decides he has nothing to lose and begins to manufacture methamphetamine (meth) in order to earn enough money to provide for his family when he kicks the bucket. The deuteragonist is Jesse Pinkman, Walter’s ex-student and now partner-in-crime.
Breaking Bad has been acclaimed critically for its originality, boldness and for its tendency to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. Its bleakness and sparse humour has, however, been criticised from some ends.
Meet Dexter Morgan, a forensic scientist who works with the Miami Metro Police Department. Oh yes, and serial killer. Dexter was orphaned at age three after his mother was murdered, after which he was adopted by Miami policeman Harry Morgan and wife Doris. Harry finds out Dexter had been killing pets for years and for this reason believes the necessity to kill has been driven into Dexter too early in his life, and is thus impossible to eliminate. For this reason, Harry decides he cannot stop Dexter from killing, and ingrains in him a series of rules known as “The Code” designed to keep him from murdering innocent people.
The TV drama has been widely acclaimed for its original plot, but has also received criticism for its sometimes predictable plot twists and for its controversial premise. In this respect, Dexter is very similar to Breaking Bad, who also has a protagonist with questionable morals.
One of the mainstays of TV this side of the solar system, Doctor Who is a British sci-fi show whose titular character is an alien known only as “The Doctor”. He travels through time and space using his famous TARDIS (which is in essence a cross between a spaceship and a time machine), in order to prevent catastrophes and mishaps from unfolding throughout space and time.
Doctor Who has been airing since 1963, with the actor portraying The Doctor changing throughout the series. This is explained onscreen as “regeneration”, with The Doctor changing appearance merely to prevent death. The show has made a huge impact in pop culture, being referenced and spoofed countless times.
Game of Thrones
Currently one of the most widely watched and popular TV series, Game of Thrones is based on George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy novels. Despite the series being classified as “fantasy”, its fantasy is actually quite limited, with the various storylines dealing with the dynastics and politics between the members of the various noble houses present in the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos. There are no clear protagonists and antagonists (although a case can be made for the Starks and the Lannisters respectively), with all the characters being various shades of grey rather than either black or white as in most other fantasy epics.
The series is notorious for killing off characters mercilessly, brutally and without warning – thus viewers fear for their favourite characters, who will not necessarily make it. Game of Thrones is responsible for the recent rise in popularity of fantasy, and is notorious for its violence and nudity – for which it has been received acclaim but also criticism. There is no doubt Game of Thrones has changed the shape of TV series worldwide, and it has vastly influenced modern pop culture.
How I Met Your Mother
One of the longest running series from this list, How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM for short) is a comedy-drama sitcom which premiered in 2005 and has not looked back since. Now in its final season, the whole premise for this show is that the protagonist, Ted Mosby, is in fact recounting to his kids how he met the titular mother, and thus viewers have been tuning in to HIMYM for almost a decade just to get a glimpse of her (which we finally have, as of the end of Season 8).
Widely acclaimed but equally criticised for its quirky humour and unusual structuring, HIMYM is noted for its breakout character, Barney Stinson – a hilarious and charming womaniser who came up with the catchphrases that are now so familiar to you: “challenge accepted”, “true story”, “legen… wait for it… dary”, “suit up”, “when I get sad, I stop being sad and be awesome instead” to name a few.
A historical drama based on the life of the Thracian gladiator of the same name, this series details the events of Spartacus’ life, from his early days right up to the first historical records present.
Its video stylisation is reminiscent of the film 300 due to its overexposure and OTT style, together with its frequent use of slow-mo. The show has overall been received positively, but it has been criticised in some quarters for its flimsy plots in expense of the series’ characteristic strong violence, language and sexual content. For the first season, the titular character was played by Andy Whitfield. Sadly, the actor died of cancer before the second season began, and he was subsequently replaced by Liam McIntyre.
If Breaking Bad and Big Bang Theory are the science shows, Suits is the law show. Taking place mainly at the fictional law firm Pearson Hardman (which changes its name a few times during the course of the series), Suits is a comedy-drama whose two main characters are the suave Harvey Specter and the brilliant Mike Ross. The former is considered to be New York’s best and most successful lawyer, who hires the latter as his associate despite his being a college dropout. His justifications for this are his formidable mind and eidetic memory.
Suits is renowned for its excellent dialogue and sophisticated script, in addition to powerful performances by its cast. Oh yes, and Donna. Who doesn’t love Donna?
One of the more recent TV series on this list, Walking Dead is a horror drama that has gone down a storm, with rave reviews comparable to those of Breaking Bad and has broken several viewing records. The story deals with a group of survivors post-zombie apocalypse, who try to find a refuge from the zombies, who are referred to as “walkers” or “biters”. As with the stereotypical zombie, the walkers and biters eat their victims and infect humans with their bites.
The show tries to maintain a sense of realism all throughout, in that they deal with every crisis that unfolds during the zombiepocalypse. In doing so, they face dilemmas that don’t always have a straighforward solution.