Dexter (seasons 1-7)
The most-watched program in Showtime history was seemingly made for marathon viewing. Over the show’s eight-season run, Michael C. Hall steadfastly commands attention as the titular character who spends his days as a forensics expert for the Miami police department and his nights as an avenging angel exacting horrific justice upon individuals who slipped through the legal system. Along the way, Dexter maintained healthy relationships, evaded the very cops he worked with (including his own sister), got married and fathered a child. Can a serial killer be both psychotic and adorable? Dexter can.
All in the Family: The Complete Series
Creator Norman Lear took inspiration for his seminal seventies sitcom from the British TV comedy Till Death Do Us Part, but blue-collar bigot Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor) was an all-American creation. An equal-opportunity offender, Archie lashed out at minorities, ethnicities, religion and anything else that crossed his small mind over nine seasons. Any remaining vitriol was directed at his long-suffering wife Edith (Jean Stapleton) or his witless liberal son-in-law (Rob Reiner). Remarkably, nearly every episode contains at least one racial epithet or offensive line of dialogue that would never get past network censors today.
My Cat from Hell (seasons 1-4)
This popular reality series from the U.S. cable channel Animal Planet imparts worthy life lessons, because cats really are just like people. In each outing, cat behaviourist Jackson Galaxy rolls into the home of someone who claims their once-lovable kitty is simply out of control. With rare exception, Galaxy discovers that the cat’s bad attitude stems from some conflict initiated by the owner, which is normally resolved with a simple cat-owner therapy session. When faced with truly distressing feline behaviour, Galaxy simply tosses the cat a ball of yarn. That keeps them busy for hours.
Lie to Me (seasons 1-3)
Tim Roth’s portrayal of a human lie detector took this crime drama to a higher TV plane. In subtle successive steps, Roth essayed the requisite complexity for the role of psychologist Dr. Cal Lightman, whose think tank The Lightman Group routinely accepted assignments from law-enforcement agencies requiring his services on delicate matters. As per House, Lightman is a hero with clay feet and maintains awkward relationships with his ex-wife and teen daughter. And for those viewers who find the notion of a human lie detector implausible, keep in mind that Lightman is based on a real-life person.
Longmire (seasons 1 and 2)
Based on the mystery bestsellers by Craig Johnson, this well-received cop drama has resurrected the Gary Cooper archetype of the strong, silent lawman. Full credit to Robert Taylor’s measured portrayal of Walt Longmire, a small-town Wyoming sheriff back on the job after his wife’s death. As part of the grieving process, Walt throws himself into solving crimes and murders that seem to occur with alarming frequency in his deceptively sleepy jurisdiction. The tableau takes a twist near the first season’s end when it’s revealed that Walt’s wife didn’t die of cancer; she was murdered. Longmire easily ranks among the best A&E drama offerings.