• JP Prag

Best in Shows (Part 2 of 2) [REPOST]

Last month, I started to show you some of the best shows that you most likely have never seen, even if you did happen to hear about them. Being a fan of portable entertainment and a consummate travel, I’ve gotten the opportunity to see quite a few off the beaten track shows. Now, here are five more shows to enjoy, should you be able to find them.


Love Hina

Keitaro Urashima is a loser in every sense of the word. He had failed the entrance exam to Tokyo University three times, can’t walk down the street without getting beat up (most likely by a girl), and is constantly being accused of horrible acts due to his clumsiness. With such a horrible disposition in life, you would think that the other characters he meets would have some sympathy for him. Sadly, this is not so, as Keitaro finds himself the manager of his grandmother’s girls dormitory where all of the girls despise, distrust, and often try to maim him. This offbeat romantic comedy started out as a 14 volume manga and was made into a 26 episode, 2 special, and 3 OVA series that is available readily in the USA. I highly recommend the subtitled version because the English voice overs are just painful.


Kyle XY

The only series on this list that is still on the air, Kyle XY is one of the first original programs for the cable network ABC Family. The first season follows the story of the character to eventually be named Kyle. He shows up in the woods, covered in goo, no memory, no ability to communicate, and—oh yeah—no belly button! As the season moves on, the mystery unravels about who Kyle is, where he came from, and what his connection is to a murder in the woods near where he was found. His adopted family is led by his psychiatrist, who is trying desperately to help him. Everyone starts to notice that Kyle is pretty amazing (super strength, photographic memory, ability to leap off of roofs, etc…), but no one can figure out why. What makes this show worthy of this list, though, is not the mystery, but the incredibly poignant and honest dialogue. The supporting cast of characters is not dolled up, and resolutions do not necessarily happen in one episode, or ever. This true to life characterization is so rare and unexpected from a show on a low level cable network that it make this particular choice pop right into mind.


The Adventures of Pete & Pete

Once upon a time, Nickelodeon was a very new network who took great risks and ran with what worked. In 1989, the network ran one-minute bumpers called Pete & Pete. The bumpers were so popular that eventually five half-hour specials were commissioned. These specials did so well that it spawned a whole three-season show (only the first two seasons are available on DVD). All of these incarnations follow the story of Pete Wrigley, his young brother Pete, Pete’s (the younger) mysterious arm-length tattoo Petunia, their dad, their mom (with a plate in her head that picks up radio signals), perennial girl next door Ellen, and a whole cast of characters including Artie… The Strongest Man… in the world. This surreal world meshed with early 90’s musical icons like Luscious Jackson, Stephin Merritt, and Apples in Stereo to come up with a unique show far ahead of its time.


Exo-Squad

At the beginning of the 22nd century, humans have colonized Venus and Mars and have ships out in the far reaches of solar system. But not all is right in the homeworlds. Fifty years prior, humans had created a new race genetically bred to help develop these harsh worlds in the Neo-sapiens. The Neos were treated as slaves and eventually revolted, but were crushed by the human’s advanced new fleet of war machines, mechanized exo-skeleton robots that plugged directly into the brain known as E-frames. Fifty years later, the Neo-sapiens were still fighting for equality (though no longer slaves) while the Exo-fleet (think a combined Navy, Marines and Army both on the ground and in space) was contending with a space pirate threat (a threat we later learn the Exo-fleet is responsible for creating). How this 52 episode show ever got by the censors as a children’s show is completely beyond me. In the first episode along, thousands of people are killed (some more blatantly than others). By the end of series, 6 billion people are dead, Mars is blown up, the Earth is in ruins, and the more threats still loom. The series has incredible continuity with storyarcs not just lasting in 6-parters (common), but throughout the entire run. Meanwhile, the allegories to World War I, World War II, and the Korean War are quite apparent, especially with concentration camps and murder transports. This isn’t just one of the greatest war shows ever made, it is plane one of the greatest shows made period. Unfortunately, there have only been limited VHS releases making this hard to find, unless you want to watch every episode on MySpace where someone with a deep dedication continued to host them to this day.


The Prisoner

In 1967, British actor Patrick McGoohan began to grow tired of his incredibly popular Danger Man (knows as Secret Agent Man in America). After pitching the idea to the network to do seven episodes, the network wanted 24. The two settle on 17. Perhaps McGoohan did not know what he had created or what he hoped it could it be. The Prisoner is the story of a British spy who tries to resign his commission for reasons his own. Shortly after submitting his resignation, the title character is kidnapped and brought to a Village somewhere on a coast. The location of the Village remains a mystery, as does the name of the main character. He is referred to simply as Number Six (as all people in the Village are called just a number). It is impossible to tell who is a prisoner and who is a warder, but there is usually someone new in the role of Number Two each week trying to break Number Six and find out why he resigned. The story goes beyond the surface, though, and is often described as allegorical, science fiction, symbolic, cult classic. Much of the show was intentionally left vague (there is a whole backstory to the Village and many of its inhabitants that is never revealed, much like the main character), and this has led to its longevity. Either there are no answers or there are too many answers to be found. Either way, this show is only what you want to make of it, which could be anything and everything.

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