To start off a month of TV lists, I’m first going to give you a list of the best starter episodes for shows you may have been reluctant to watch. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told someone to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer and they mock me by saying, “You watch Buffy?! I bet you’ve never even french kissed a girl before!” After crying, I realize that there is no way I can logically argue the greatness that is Buffy or (input sci-fi show here).
I have since learned how to get friends addicted to some of my favorite shows. I only ask that they watch one standalone episode. It doesn’t even have to be the pilot. It could be right in the middle of the series’ run. Typically, I make sure the episode isn’t too story arc heavy so a new watcher can jump right in without knowing specifics (I’m looking at you Lost).
5 – Scrubs – My Screw Up
Funny that Brendan Fraser’s best role would be in a 20-minute sitcom. Scrubs is one of those shows on Netflix that you intend to eventually watch. Admittedly, Scrubs is a very quirky show that relies on inside jokes and fantasy sequences for humor. Though a great episode to start is the 14th episode of the 3rd season, It’s called “My Screw Up.”
You don’t need to know any history of the show to catch what is going on in this episode. You can see all the quirks and idiosyncracies of the characters in the first few minutes. It also provides one of the most dramatic moments of the series’ run. Scrubs is actually at its best when it’s dramatic a few times per season.
4 – X-Files – Detour
X-Files is a serious undertaking. It is a series that even I have resisted. Recently, I’ve had several people tell me to watch the show in its entirety. That’s a big request considering there are 9 seasons full of alien conspiracies and monotone acting. But I’ve always meant to watch all of it.
I was told that I should start with the 4th episode of the 5th season, entitled “Detour.” The X-Files episodes I enjoyed watching in my teenage years were always standalone monster-of-the-week shows. Detour follows that same formula. A few men disappear in the forests of Florida. Mulder and Scully show up to investigate and several local officials seem to suddenly disappear into the forest around them. I don’t think this is X-Files best episode, but it shows the caring relationship that the two agents have. Also, it doesn’t wrap up too nicely. I’m a sucker for dark endings. Count me in to watch the series.
3 – Community – Modern Warfare
The first season of Community is admittedly weak. If you haven’t seen the show then I’m sad for you. It took a while for the show to start its themed episodes, they are sparse in the first season. The 23rd episodes of the season, Modern Warfare, comes out of nowhere and introduces us to the madness and movie references that make Community great. After taking a nap in his car, Jeff wakes to the Greendale warzone. A “Last Man Standing” paintball war is taking place and the stakes are high. The winner receives a guarantee for early class registration. Jeff soon joins the fight and his study group battles the Chess and Glee clubs and finally, Senor Chang. You don’t need to watch any other episode. Start here and you’ll get a taste of what this great show is all about.
2 – Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Hush
This show lasted 7 seasons on the dearly departed networks, the WB and UPN. I know I’m going to sound like a total nerd, but it is still my favorite show of all time. Big words I know. I love the characters, the story arcs, the dialogue, everything. If people give you a hard time about Buffy, just bring up the fact that Joss Whedon made The Avengers. That usually shuts up casual movie and TV watchers. The episode, Hush, sneaks up right in the middle of the 4th season. It’s actually the worst season of the show, but this episode is unforgettable. You don’t even need to know anything about the history of these characters to enjoy it either.
This episode was produced because Whedon was criticized for relying on quirky dialogue far too often. So he wrote an (almost) entirely silent episode. This is the only episode that the grinning Gentleman appear and they solidify their place as Buffy’s most terrifying monsters. This stands as one of the most unforgettable Buffy episodes. While it manages to be funny at times, it’s one of the scarier Buffy eps.
1 – Doctor Who – Blink
This may be the hardest sell of them all. Doctor Who is the longest running television show of all time. Sadly, very little of the U.S.’s TV audience has caught on to the magic of the Doctor. It doesn’t help that most people here think of it as a poor special effects educational childrens’ show. in 2005, the show was brought back to the BBC after a 16 year hiatus.
If I feel that people are ready for the experience that is the Doctor, I only require that they watch the series from 2005 on. But don’t start in order. If you do, you’ll lose patience with a cheap looking episode where mannequins come to life. Instead start your watching in a season 3 episode called “Blink.” This standalone episode takes place in the David Tennant era, though it is very Doctor-lite. Instead, this horror tale follows Sally Sparrow (Carey Mulligan) as she discovers clues from the Doctor and the unseen terror of the Weeping Angels. Once you watch this episode, you will realize that a low-budget show can be saved with great writing and characters.