It's Black Friday today, but really should be called Black Weekend from Hell. While everybody is ripping their eyeballs out shopping, why not treat yourself to a marathon TV session at home? Here are 10 great weekend TV splurge ideas.
Each of these series and miniseries can be watched in a single weekend. Though some will require serious dedication, I know you can do it. And they are all available in DVD sets or on demand.
Time: Almost 10 hours (14 episodes, 42 minutes each)
Plot: This legendary space western set in another solar system tells the story of a lone gang of smugglers trying to survive outside the system after fighting on the losing side of a civil war. Half the time they are doing Robin Hood work, stealing expensive medicines for people on the undeveloped outer planets. And the other half they are just being pirate badasses, stealing stuff for the highest bidder and getting into shootouts, political intrigue, and crazy spaceship chases. Often considered Joss Whedon's best work, Firefly is a classic worth watching and rewatching.
Available FREE on Hulu or on demand from Amazon.
Torchwood: Children of Earth
Time: 5 hours
Plot: This standalone miniseries follows the second season of Torchwood, the Doctor Who spinoff about a group of investigators who handle extraterrestrial incursions. In this riveting, scary, and intense story by Russell T. Davies, a group of aliens known only as the 456 have plans for all the human children on Earth. If you're sick of humanoid aliens, you'll want to watch this miniseries for a look at how a master storyteller creates a truly alien group of aliens, whose needs are as sinister as they are mysterious. The Torchwood crew tries to prevent the aliens from controlling all the children of Earth, while sleazy politicians try to bargain with them. This is television science fiction at its very best.
Available on demand via Amazon (it's called "season three" of Torchwood)
Battlestar Galactica Miniseries
Time: 3 hours
Plot: This is the Syfy miniseries that started it all, bringing us the first incredible dose of the smart, frenetic reboot of Battlestar Galactica that won our hearts and minds for several seasons. The miniseries is a standalone set piece that takes us into the white-knuckle days after the Cylons bomb the crap out of the colonies and the Fleet comes together. The action is intense, especially when the Cylons attack; and the political scenarios as the new president takes power are believable and fascinating. Plus we begin to learn about the Cylons, and the extent of their infiltration of the human survivors in the Fleet. Watching this miniseries will remind you what made this series so great, and so groundbreaking.
Available on DVD.
Vampire Diaries (first season)
Time: About 15 and a half hours (22 episodes of roughly 42 minutes each)
Plot: If you need some pure horror/fantasy crack in the form of vampires, high school angst, and melodramatic craziness, then you will easily slurp up the whole first season of Vampire Diaries in one weekend. Meet Elena, who is torn between two broody vampire brothers, and must deal with high school girl politics at the same time. Written and created by Dawson's Creek showrunner Kevin Williamson, this show may be cheesy but it's often funny and well-written - plus the plot (which actually makes sense) moves at a pleasingly breakneck speed. This is like Twilight for Sassy readers.
Available on Amazon on demand.
Time: 3 hours
Plot: The miniseries written by Neil Gaiman is about a guy whose life has become sad and boring, and what happens to him when he discovers a secret world beneath London that can only be accessed via the Underground. He has to rescue a princess, get aid from faerie tricksters, and reconcile life in London with his new life in "London Below." Once you start watching, you won't be able to stop until the end.
Available on Netflix streaming
The 10th Kingdom
Time: 10 hours
Plot: A father and daughter are transported from contemporary Manhattan into a magical, parallel world of fairies and evil queens. Incredibly fun and action-packed, this is light urban fantasy the way it should be done.
Available on DVD
Time: 6 hours
Plot: This is writer Steven Moffat's masterpiece of horror and psychological thriller all wrapped into one creepy, tasty, sexy package. Here Jekyll is a Dr. Jackman, whose transformation into the stronger, sexier Hyde transforms him psychologically but not physically - and yet his character is so different as Hyde that nobody realizes they are the same man. This is just one of the many subtle, weird touches that makes this miniseries one of the best interpretations of the Jekyll/Hyde myth ever committed to screen. Why does Jackman transform? And what is his connection to the original Jekyll who lived a century before? Delicious and scary by turns, this miniseries will keep you nailed to your seat and safely away from all shopping areas.
Available on Netflix Instant
Time: A bit over 9 hours (13 episodes of 42 minutes)
Plot: This odd series about a newspaper reporter who is uncontrollably yanked out of present-day San Francisco and into a bewildering array of pasts and futures - perhaps to help people, or perhaps for purposes more sinister - never really got a chance to shine before premature cancellation. But in these 13 episodes, you'll find yourself sucked into the increasingly exciting story of why our hero is unstuck in time - and why his long-lost girlfriend seems to be right there with him. A great blend of time travel and conspiracy plotting, starring sexypants Kevin McKidd.
Available FREE on Hulu
Life on Mars (BBC version)
Time: 16 hours
Plot: Gritty and haunting, this series about a cop who finds himself mysteriously transported back to the 1970s manages to be both great science fiction and an incredible cop show. Played by John Simm, our protagonist must adjust to 1970s-style police work, complete with blatant racism and complete disregard for things like evidence-gathering. And he must figure out why he's been sucked back in time and appears to have an entire life back in the 1970s. And why does he keep hearing what sounds like a hospital ICU, and having creepy visions of the little girl from 1970s BBC "off air" notices? The mysteries lead you to a dark conclusion that's both surprising and satisfying.
Available on DVD
Time: 13 hours (26 episodes)
Plot: Many consider this one-season anime series to be among the greatest anime of all time. It's a space opera centered on the lives (and pasts) of four bounty hunters in 2071, when Mars has become the hub of human civilization and criminals in the outer system are tracked down by bounty hunters like the crew of Bebop. Its extreme violence got the series booted off Japanese television after 13 episodes, but its intricate plotting, memorable characters, and terrific use of music has made it a must-watch classic.
Available on DVD