Director Steven Soderbergh says we're in the midst of a second Golden Age of Television. Hollywood's obsessed with robots, superheroes and explosions, so directors and writers who are interested in stories and characters are increasingly turning to the small screen.
Some cable TV channels thrive on creating quirky shows that appeal to niche audiences. The result is that are a lot of amazing shows that have small but loyal audiences, and are all but unknown to people who aren't devoted followers.
A lot of them have continuing story lines, but thanks to "on demand" services, and things like Youtube, Hulu and Netflix, you can easily watch back episodes and catch up.
Here's a short and subjective look at some fantastic shows you're probably not watching.
"Rectify": This riveting existential Sundance Channel show recently wrapped up its too-short first season. An amazing cast with no big names is headed by Aden Young as a man who has spent more than half his life in solitary confinement on death row. He's been released by DNA evidence and living in his small Georgia town where most people still think he's guilty. It's introspective, imaginative and intelligent. Every moment is tense. One of the best shows in TV history.
"Children's Hospital": Rob Corddry from "The Daily Show" developed this satirical take on hospital shows as a five-minute webcast. After one season it became a 15-minute show on the Cartoon Network, part of the wonderful "Adult Swim" block. The fifth season started last week. It's indescribable, irreverent and hilarious, and isn't afraid to be offensive in a good-natured way. (There's a character named Rabbi Jewy McJewjew.) Like nothing else you've ever seen.
"Wilfred": The third season of this strange and delightful sitcom premiered in June on FX. Jason Ginn, who created the series for Australian TV, reprises his role as the titular dog in the American version, which also stars Elijah Wood. This one's definitely not for all tastes, but if you're in tune, it's often very funny.
"House of Cards": This one got a lot of
press when it premiered, but mainly because it was a Netflix-only series. Turns out it's terrific, regardless of its source, and it just received Emmy nominations for best actor, actress and outstanding drama series.
Kevin Spacey has been inconsistent in recent years but he's astounding as a vengeful U.S. Congressman. A harsh look at Washington that rings as true as "The West Wing."
"Through the Wormhole": I actually thought everyone knew of this show, narrated by Morgan Freeman on the Science Channel, but apparently a lot of people are just now finding it. It takes complex science topics, from dark energy to alternate universes, and with the help of some science superstars, makes than understandable and even entertaining for curious lay people.
"The Killing": The first two seasons of this dark AMC crime series -- adapted from a Danish series -- were captivating, and so far the third season is even better.
The cops here follow one case for weeks at a time, so the drama unfolds slowly and the tension builds sustains over time. Phenomenal acting.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.