Moving Beyond CCTV9

I wish I could say this post is about how I’ve finally decided to change the channel from CCTV9 and delve deep into the Chinese psyche by watching period-piece soapumentaries about the Tang, Song and Qing dynasties… but it’s not.

All this snow and craptastic weather has left Suzhou a pretty uninviting place for anyone not willing to wait 45 minutes for a taxi, risk the slushy slippery roads on bike or invade the personal space of the unbathed masses on the bus.

As such, I’ve been watching a higher-than-usual amount of TVonDVD – the only “real” TV for us expats without a south-western sky view from their apartment. This rapid consumption of season upon season of boobtube brain number has made me reflect on just how many shows I’ve watched since coming to China.

So, here we go:


South Park (10 seasons)
Family Guy (3 seasons)
Friends (10 seasons x 2)
The Shield (5 seasons)
The Sopranos (4 seasons)
24 (4 seasons)
House (3 seasons)
Lost (3 seasons)
Arrested Development (3 seasons)
Oz (6 seasons)
The Office [uk] (2 seasons)
The Office [us] (2 seasons)
Prison Break (2 seasons)
My Name Is Earl (2 seasons)
Scrubs (5 seasons)
Tru Calling (2 seasons)
Medium (2 seasons)
Rome (2 seasons)
Firefly (1 season)
Desperate Housewives (3 seasons)
Carnivàle (1 season)
Journeyman (1 season)
Band of Brothers (series)
Taken (series)

Currently Watching

Battlestar Galactica (on season 3)
Grey’s Anatomy (on season 2 or 3 – discs are fucked)
Two and a Half Men (on season 1)
Dexter (on season 2)

I think that’s all of them – at least all I can think of. But anyway you cut it, that’s a lot of TV. It’s weird that I’m likely more “up” on my popular TV (alright, I realize “popular” is a stretch for some of those) than many of the folks back home.

The best/worst part about TVonDVD is there’s no wait time. When Mags and I hit the end of a show and it’s a huge cliff-hanger, we just look at each other with that “another?” look in our eyes, only to come out of a trance a few hours later feeling a bit dirty and like we’ve abused some cosmic law.

There’s just nothing holding you back. TV binging can be a bit painful too, as it causes you to get overly wrapped up in the plot – as when there’s no week-long lag-time, you are essentially watching one LONG movie. This is particularly a pain when we hit the end of a season just as the new season’s starting in the US, forcing us to wait a whole year before it’s on DVD in its entirety (Prison Break) – or when you find a show you just love only to discover they only made (and will ever make) one season (Firefly).

So, with a few more months before regular programming wraps up and a fresh batch of seasons from our favourite shows hit the shelves – anyone got any suggestions for series I should watch?

30 Responses

  1. What a couch potato you are! I am never patient enough to finish watching those tedious series. Once I realise it is gonna be a long show that will guarantee to 吊your胃口 at the end of each episode, I give up and say ‘Sod off!’. That’s why I enjoy movies a lot more. But I like the long shows that each of their episodes is an indipendent story, so you don’t have the miss-one- episode-and-you-are-screwed problem, e.g. The Simpsons, South Park, NCIS, Spongebob, Teletubbies and the news… jokes. Wonder if you’ve heard of a british comedy series call ‘Little Britain’ – classic!!!

  2. Some more series you might want to check out, in no particular order:
    Sleeper Cell (“24”-ish action about a terrorist cell)
    Numb3rs (mathematician helps the FBI)
    Criminal Minds (behavior analysts at the FBI)
    Dexter (serial killer works for the Miami Police)
    Six Feet Under (family drama about a mortuary business)
    How I Met Your Mother (romantic comedy)
    It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (very wacky comedy)

  3. Second on SLEEPER CELL – which is 100000% superior to 24 in every way, shape and form. There are two seasons to track down and it’s definitely worthwhile.

    CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM seasons 1-6. I’m not a Seinfeld fan, but its co-creator, Larry David took the roots of Seinfeld and made an infinitely superior, actually humorous show.

    WEEDS. Season 3 jumped the shark, but its first two seasons were charmers.

    SPACED. Excellent Brit-com with heart.

    LOOK AROUND YOU – biting British riff on science-for-the-classroom films.

    TOM GOES TO THE MAYOR and TIM & ERIC: AWESOME SHOW GREAT JOB! – comic brilliance in 12 minute doses. for a taste.

    THE VENTURE BROS. – Johnny Quest amped with biting humor. What’s to hate about a show where David Bowie, Klaus Nomi and Iggy Pop are lovingly played as uber villains (season 2 for that one)?

    MR. SHOW WITH BOB AND DAVID – so good, so brief (4 seasons).

  4. Weeds.

    I just started Season 3 after doing the first two in a series of TV binge weekends. Very good writing and casting.

    And as a bonus, it’s filmed in my hometown, which is kinda weird.

  5. Weeds is brilliant. I would also recommend Californication which I brought the first (and only?) season the other day. Its about a selfdestructive, sexoholic novelist who resorts to blogging to make a buck.. oh and so much more.

    My girlfriend has the hots for uber-ginge Horatio Cane on CSI Miami, so have seen a lot of that recently. Alot of cheesy oneliners but that’s about it.

  6. It might be time to let out the inner geek and start watching the Stargate shows. There are 10 seasons of SG-1 and 2 or 3 seasons of Atlantis. Or try Desperate Housewives (a love it or hate it show), which has a bit of comedy and drama.

  7. I’m with Chris – cancel all your appointments for the next week and just hunker down with all four seasons out so far of The Wire. I actually had to read through your list three times because I couldn’t believe this wouldn’t already be on it. Runs a close second to the Sopranos for best show I’ve ever seen. People who know more than me say maybe best ever.

  8. For the most recent TV shoes, you can start becoming a bit torrent junkie and download to the computer. You can then hook it up to the TV by cables, watch on the computer, or burn to a dvd. For example, the first episode of Lost season 4 that was on Thursday night.

  9. Good stuff, but The Wire is definitely a glaring omission.

    For extra entertainment, watch HBO shows with the Chinese subtitles on and pity the poor bastards trying to translate the likes of The Sopranos or Deadwood and the people who may be relying on their hilariously nonsensical translation.* I doubt there are more than ten non-returnees (if that) in all of China who could fully comprehend the latter.

    *Memorable example- on The Sopranos, Johnny Sac catchers his fat-ass wife hoarding candy, and says “I thought you were on Atkins!” Chinese subtitles- “I thought you were a British soldier!”

  10. agree with the recommendations for Weeds (season 3 is a big let down, though), Curb Your Enthusiasm and Californication. Also, if you like West Wing (which you probably don’t because its not on the list), you should get Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

    I definitely agree with Mike C. though, there is no better show on tv than The Wire and the fact it isn’t on your list is a huge, glaring ommission. 4 seasons of absolute brilliance which you’ll go through very quickly, begging for the 5th to finally come out here…

  11. There are a few shows that I had meant to grab for a long time but continually put off because it didn’t strike me when I was in the shop – then when I finally do watch them I wonder why the hell I’ve not been watching it all along. The Wire’s now on the list of must buys.

    Additions to my original “Watched” list: Curb Your Enthusiasm (2-3 seasons), Heroes (1 season), Jericho (1 season)

    @Pat & jshngh45: I do download some shows and watch them on my computer, particularly stuff I can’t get on DVD here. However, I MUCH prefer just sitting back on my big leather sofa and putting my feet up. I work on my computer all day – I look for opportunities to stare something else, no matter how similar it is.

    Plus running cables from my office to my living room is just a messy annoyance I’d rather avoid.

    At 6 RMB a disc, it’s not like it’s costing me a fortune.

  12. Never liked Battlestar much, but having seen Battlestar Galactica: Razor I really got into it.

    Hustle is a great series about con-artists.

    Having just finished all of Stargate (understand a new series of Atlantis is about to screen though) I’m taking a break.

    Totally unrelated link:

  13. A few series I watched while in China that you haven’t mentioned yet are – Dead Like Me(2 seasons), Doctor Who – the newer one(3 seasons I think)and Smallville(7 seasons now I think). I’ll try to think of some others for you. Smallville is a little retarded, but once you start watching it nonstop, you sorta get addicted.

    I’ve only watched a little of it here, but you may or may not like a British tv show called The IT Crowd. There are 2 seasons I think so far.

  14. Heroes “season 2” (some fuckup about the season naming if I’m correct, so may may be named something else) is definately cool too. Watching it right now with my missus. There should be 11 episodes to get a hold on right now, but not sure they end the “season”.

  15. @Mariz – No, I am not that particular Gabe. I’ve never even been to Seoul, but would like to eventually make my way there sometime in the near future. I was an ESL teacher[at least that is what they called it ;)] in China for a year.

  16. Arrested Development!

    Venture Brothers, this is completely zany but from what I know of your sense of humor, I think you’ll like it.

    6 Feet Under, another good HBO show.

    Oh, Chris commented that Weeds is filmed in his hometown… The Sopranos was filmed in my NJ home, so I understand the surrealism!

  17. Will look for Venture Brothers. Since I started watching Dexter over the holidays I’ve been trying to place where I know Michael C. Hall from – just figured it out today – Six Feet Under, he’s the gay brother. Haha, wildly different roles.

    Sadly they’re not making any more seasons of Arrested Development – unless y’all know somethin’ I don’t.

  18. Hey man:

    I taught English in Pinghu for a year in 2004/05, and this post takes me back to cold days when I spent hours of quality time with beef & noodles and American TV on DVD. Just stumbled on your blog and look forward to reading it! I miss the hell out of China.

  19. Pingback: Bill Moyers on Media Reform | A China Blog on Suzhou Expat Life | The Humanaught

  20. @Nicholas: Way ahead of ya there – cleared through both seasons of Rome ages ago (no pun intended). It’s in the original list in the post).

    Currently Mags and I are watching Ghost Whisperer, and about the only thing watchable about it is Jennifer Love Hewitt’s cleavage. Finding shows that both Maggie and I can stand is tough.

    Next up – Six Feet Under. I’ve seen the first season (back when it was new), and loved it. Not sure what Mags will think, but worth a shot.

  21. Ryan,

    Hi, I am an American that is going to graduate from university in December, and am planning to do the ESL thing in China. Therefore, as you can imagine, I have been doing endless surfing of the web to suck up every detail (and there are many conflicting ones out there) about China.

    I stumbled upon your blog last weekend, and have been devouring it between studying for my final exams that are this week. I have been really enjoying it! You have a great voice, and I particularly enjoy your humor and love of free speech.

    I just want to say that if you haven not got around to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia yet, you must do it ASAP. In my opinion it is the funniest sitcom ever. Know that you’re probably super busy with a newborn (Congratulations!), but when you have a chance be sure to check it out.

    I will probably ask you a few questions between now and the time I leave for the Middle Kingdom, but in the meantime, keep up the great work!

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