In part one of this two-part feature your humble narrator detailed five shows that were sure to make any frequenter of comic book shops giddy with fanboy glee. “Lost,” “Batman the Animated Series,” “Dexter,” “Buffy,” and “Venture Bros.” are all fantastic examples of the versatility that can be found in television that caters to the spandex-lovin’ set, and these next five shows are no exception.
After playing a rather significant role on “Buffy” for three seasons as the plucky heroine’s on-and-off again boyfriend/arch-nemesis, Angel struck out on his own to ‘help the helpless’ as a supernatural detective roaming the streets of Los Angeles. With a premise and style that owes very much to the crime noir roots of classic superheroics, “Angel” was the perfect companion series to “Buffy.” Although it took a few seasons for the show to establish its own identity, “Angel” eventually managed to surpass the greatness of its feminism-focused forbearer with episodes like “Smile Time,” “A Hole in the World,” and the stunning series finale “Not Fade Away.”
When nerdy ‘Buy More’ employee Chuck Bartowski opened up an e-mail sent to him by his spied-out ex-college roommate, he accidentally downloaded all of the government’s secrets and uploaded them to his brain. What followed was the first two seasons of one of the most entertaining action comedies still on the air (thanks to some support from ardent fans and Subway). Spy elements have been an important comic book staple ever since S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury first stepped on to the scene in 1963, but rarely is the ‘super-spy’ role associated with someone geeky enough to know who Nick Fury is. With such an amusing blend of spy-fi fisticuffs, romance, and everyman charm, “Chuck” became a show for geeks and geek-lovers alike. With “Chuck’s” third season having recently premiered on NBC, now is the perfect time to see what all the fuss is about.
Before he re-imagined the original crew of the Enterprise for an entirely new generation and helped launch the densely plotted, time-twisting phenomenon of “Lost,” writer/director J.J. Abrams took his own stab at the spy-fi superhero. Although Abrams’ engaging drama about the complex life of SD-6 double agent Sydney Bristow would eventually suffer creatively by the beginning of the show’s third season, the first two seasons are a great showcase of the then up-and-coming writer/director’s considerable abilities as a storyteller. And with guest turns by celebrities like director Quentin Tarantino and actor Ethan Hawke, few TV shows can match the guest star pedigree of “Alias.”
“The Spectacular Spiderman”
“Batman the Animated Series” is the definitive small screen interpretation of the dark knight, and this fun-filled re-imagining of the Stan Lee and Steve Dikto-era Spider-Man mythos from “Gargoyles” (remember that show?) creator Greg Weisman brings the same level of fineness and authenticity to classic stories featuring the ‘ol webhead. Although it’s aimed at younger viewers, “Spectacular Spiderman” never talks down to its audience. And the level of care and attention Weisman and crew have taken to developing Spidey and his expansive cast, craft complex and long-running story-arcs that last entire seasons, and include Spider-Man characters from all eras of the franchise’s history, makes this series a must-watch for seasoned marvelites and newcomers alike. Not since writer Brian Michael Bendis launched “Ultimate Spider-Man” in 2000 has following the webslinger’s adventures felt this, well, spectacular.
There are three television productions from writer/director J.J. Abrams on this list for one very good reason: Abrams can take inherently nerdy concepts, the kind often found in comic books, and make them completely accessible to mainstream audiences. He can basically ‘trick’ viewers that would never be caught dead watching a sci-fi production into doing just that. Spy drama “Alias” included everything from clones and doppelgangers to zombies and centuries-old prophecies, while “Lost” jumped down the proverbial rabbit hole of geekery by centering its entire fifth season on the concept of time travel. With “Fringe,” Abrams and the writing team of Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci have disguised a war between alternate universes as an “X-Files” and “Twilight Zone” inspired procedural. While the show’s ‘monster-of-the-week’ episodes are a tad tedious, “Fringe” is worth watching simply for John Noble’s revelatory performance as mad scientist Walter Bishop.