When the summer mercury leaps like a solar flare, the TV faithful retreat to the coolness of the pixel cave for some delectable binge watching. In 2013, nothing says storytelling like devouring a half-dozen episodes of Mad Men or Game of Thrones at a single sitting. With Amazon, iTunes downloads, OSN On Demand, online streaming services, mall-bought DVDs and all those shows you've burnt onto your PVR but haven't quite got around to screening, your choices are boundless. Even the experts recommend it.
"I think there is no question that the best way to consume some of these really fine, literate shows - The Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad, Dexter, Mad Men - is in fact to wait until there is a backlog. Build up some equity in the show, and then do them in these binges," says Professor Robert Thompson of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University.
"Turn the lights off. Take the phone off the hook. Pop in an entire season and watch it on a Saturday. It is a much more satisfying, aesthetic experience."
Not sure where to start? Clear your schedule. Gather up your blanket with sleeves, fuzzy slippers, water, snacks and favourite delivery menus, and tuck into these for a bountiful binge.
The dramatically obvious
Let's get these out of the way right off the top; all are the critically acclaimed cream of the new golden age of television - novelistic well-spun dramas we're blessed to enjoy: Breaking Bad (with the final season coming soon of a high-school chemistry teacher's moral decay into a murderous crime kingpin, catch up now!); Game of Thrones; Mad Men; The Walking Dead; Downton Abbey; and Boardwalk Empire (and if Steve Buscemi ever gets his teeth fixed, he'll be out of a job). Another option is to pay homage to the late, great James Gandolfini's mob boss by taking in all nine seasons of The Sopranos, a show widely recognised for paving the way for all the rest.
To boldly go
Some science-fiction options are apple-pie easy, like all the incarnations of Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Lost in Space, Stargate SG-1, Babylon 5 and Torchwood. Warp beyond, friend. Be the savviest of connoisseurs with The Adventures of Brisco County Jr, an early 1990s sci-fi/Western hybrid with the king of hip himself, Bruce Campbell (Army of Darkness), as a Harvard lawyer turned bounty hunter let loose in the Old West with awesome technology. While you're at it, beam up Joss Whedon's one-season wonder of cowboy space pirates, Firefly, in which Nathan Fillion (Castle) perfects his cocky anti-hero.
Tears on the pillow
It hurts so good to be in love, and Beauty and the Beast - the original CBS series with Linda Hamilton (The Terminator) as the district attorney Catherine and Ron Perlman (Hellboy) as the noble big-hearted beast Vincent who dwells in a secret underground utopian world - gave Kleenex great market share back in 1987. Vincent "knew" her emotions and stepped up to be her guardian despite the fact they could never be together. One aching episode, Masques, recreates the one night of the year they can publicly display their affection on the streets of New York: Halloween. Sob… Sniffle…
Yes, Kiefer Sutherland gets his own category. As the world-saving CTU agent Jack Bauer, locked into a real-time format, he rocked the telly. When the complete DVD box set came out in 2010, 100 participants competed to watch all eight seasons, locked in a glass cage; the bug-eyed soul who lasted the longest won US$10,000 (Dh 36,730).
Yuk it up
Arrested Development, The Office (both the British and American versions), Seinfeld and Veep (with the Seinfeld alumnus Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the neurotic vice president of the United States). For a super-strange ride, watch the cynical magic of Larry David, the co-creator of Seinfeld, as the miscreant author-of-his-own-mega-misfortune on Curb Your Enthusiasm. Better yet, spool the antics of the comedy icon Garry Shandling, who laid the foundation for comedy shows to come with The Larry Sanders Show (1992-1998), a vain spoof of the heady talk-show wars of the 1990s. For the razor's edge of right-freaking-now, check out Louis CK on Louie, a wry sitcom about a Big Apple comic who never fails to see the dark lining in life's silver clouds.
Elementary, dear chap
Before he stole Ricardo Montalban's evil thunder on the silver screen as the new super-biologically engineered Khan in Star Trek into Darkness, Benedict Cumberbatch sleuthed modern-day London in Sherlock to Martin Freeman's Watson. With only six twisty-turny 90-minute episodes - piping hot from the Doctor Who producer Steven Moffat to your HDTV - this is the perfect binge to enjoy in a single sitting.
So weird me out
American Horror Story, with Jessica Lange as the creepy Southern belle neighbour in Season 1 and the diabolical nun-in-charge in the madhouse of Season 2, may have you reaching for your magical face-hiding pillow of protection. And there's nothing like a doomed flight on Oceanic 815 to muddle your mind with the baffling plot leaps of Lost; fans are still bitterly divided about the merits of the final episode. Rod Serling's eerie masterpiece, The Twilight Zone, and the 1960s cult sci-fi classic The Outer Limits deliver shock, awe and wonderment - but the purist knows that before these shows came to be, the suspenseful half-hour chestnuts of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-1965) set the stage with a pantheon of golden-age and up-and-coming Hollywood stars who worked very hard to please the legendary director. And don't get us started on Twin Peaks!
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