My big discovery this summer was Breaking Bad, which I devoured in a massive marathon. I'm now caught up, and while I'm not completely happy with some of the characterization choices in Season 5, there's no question this is a spankingly well-written show. It's brutally dark, funny, suspenseful, and at the same time an intensely moving human drama.
Unlike, say, Mad Men, which I also like, but which is also a show preoccupied with slick surfaces, BB is preoccupied with people's raw interiors. And, like Downton Abbey (*there's* a comparison I bet the showrunners never saw coming,) it's about people who fundamentally like each other. Or, you know, despise each other. Either way, when the chips are down and characters are doing desperate, stupid, awful things to save the people they care about -- as a viewer, I care too.
I said in an earlier post that BB is brimming over with lessons for good writing, and for me this is a useful takeaway. It's not as simple as "writing characters who care" -- Hollywood movies are full of heroes motivated by their relationships. But usually, in such stories, the heroes wear their hearts on their sleeves. It's much more compelling when characters *don't* telegraph how they feel, or aren't themselves aware how much they care about a certain issue, until they are put into a conflict. BB repeatedly *tests* its characters, and the outcome of those tests isn't predictable. It makes for compelling television.
What else? I'm steaming ahead with Babylon 5 and with the new Dr. Who, which I'm charmed but not compelled by. And Project Runway, where Dmitri is my personal fave, for personality if not design reasons.