Exercise Fodder

  • Previous Fodder
  • Horatio Hornblower ... Quite good. Not Master & Commander good, but very (even surprisingly) enjoyable.
  • The Sopranos, Season Two ... Great, of course.
  • 24, Season Two ... Shockingly good. Even better than season one, I think. Still had some "relying on stupidity" moments, and one of the president's sermons rankled even this avowed Democrat, but nonetheless a fantastic season for a fantastic show. Xander Berkely (George Mason) was terrific.
  • Mr. Show, Season One ... I fell off the exercise wagon a little while ago and this wasn't helping me climb back on, I'm afraid. Sent it back to Netflix after one-and-a-half episodes.
  • The Office, Season One ... Cringe humor at its finest. Episodes one and four are particularly funny, but the whole series gets laughs. David Brent is truly the boss from hell, but in such an oblivious manner. The supporting cast is wonderful, and the straight men/women do a great job looking horrified.
  • Prime Suspect, Season One ... Great show, but not such good exercise fodder. I need more comedy or more immediate tension to get me through the workouts. My workout flew by in the fourth and final episode, but not so much in the first three episodes. But since I'm hooked now, I bet season 2 will be better fodder, although sadly it's not out yet. I'll be also pretty irked the twist in our suspect's plea is due to the technicality I suspect.
  • Sports Night, Season Two ... What a great show. So depressed that there are no more to watch. I love watching full series on DVD, as you get great continuity with the characters. I loved seeing William H. Macy guest star in this season, and Robert Guillome turns in a remarkably subtle performance as a recovering stroke victim. Rest of the cast is good too, but particularly the guy that played Dan.
  • Sports Night, Season One ... I can't believe this wasn't picked up. How depressing that a show so well-written, and that so nicely blends moments of drama into the comedy, would disappear after three short seasons. Ah well, thank goodness for DVD.
  • 24, Season One ... Marvelous. Not only made my workouts fly by, made me look forward to the next day's workout. Best first season ever? Maybe not, but certainly worthy of consideration. Great ending, too.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season One ... Okay, I'm not a complete convert yet, but I can definitely see its appeal. The weak episodes would have turned me off of the show if I'd seen them in isolation, but the good episodes were quite a bit of fun, and on the whole I'm into the characters enough now that I'll seek out season two after I try a few other shows.
  • Futurama ... Not as good as The Simpsons yet, but I'm hoping this show follows the same pattern (see below). Enjoyable, but not so much that I'll buy season two sight unseen.
  • The Simpsons, Season Two ... See below
  • The Simpsons, Season One ... A great show gets off to a good start. It's nice to own this season for comparison to seasons two and three, when the show really started to click.
  • Pending Fodder
  • Mythbusters ... (not on DVD yet, to my knowledge)
  • Six Feet Under, Season One ... Gotta see what all the fuss is about.
  • The Wire, Season One ... An HBO series recommended by jgandcag.
  • The X-Files, Season One ... I've only seen a couple of the later episodes.
  • Twin Peaks, Season One ... Was lost in the only epiodes I saw (came to the game late).
  • Curb your Enthusiasm, Season One ... If it comes out on DVD
  • Sex in the City, Season One ... Maybe.
  • Alias, Season One ... Recommended by dgeiser13.
  • Absolutely Fabulous, Season One ... Recommended by lbangs.
  • Prime Suspect, Season Two
  • The Office, Season Two
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season Two
  • Deadwood, Season One
  • Carnivale, Season One ... Maybe
  • Lost ... Maybe
Author Comments: 

I've lately taken to exercising in front of something episodic. I'd much rather watch this stuff sitting on a comfy couch eating chips, but my metabolism no longer supports it if I want to keep fightin' trim.

Here are the criteria for this list: The show has to be delivered in episodes, and I have to be in good enough shape to watch at least a whole episode in one exercise session. I recently made the leap from half-hour network programming (21 minutes) to hour-long network programming (42 minutes). Next step will be hour-long premium programming (not sure how long a Sopranos episode is - 60 minutes?). Oh, and the show has to be available through Netflix (or be likely to become available).


You'll have to update this list as you see more shows and episodes. I never really got into Futurama, and while it was certainly thrilling at times, Buffy could also get on my nerves. I don't think I have seen the seasons that are considered the show's best, though, so don't put too much stock in that statement!

Sports Night was quite good. I liked the film of South Park, but I thought it was much better than the show, which never worked for me. I can't stand Six Feet Under, but most seem to love it. And, yes, 24 is about as close to 'must see' as non-pay television gets nowadays. I've heard great things about Mr. Show, but have only seen bits and pieces. :(

There - my dime's worth, even though you didn't ask! ;)


Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Oh, but I did ask! There's a little "Recommendations?" line at the end of my comments. And I've restructured this list a bit to support future updates. I'll probably be able to get in 3 or 4 episodes a week, unless I start slacking on the regimen.

I think I'm with you on Buffy. Perhaps if Johnny Waco is reading this he could chime in and tell me what season to rent?

South Park is pretty low on my list, so that may never get out of the "Pending Fodder" section.

Another dime's worth you did not ask for but here goes.

Never saw Futurama.

Sopranos is great TV. A little overrated now but still one of the best things ever to be shown on TV

Saw one episode of Buffy and I didnt understand the fuss. never went back.

Mr. Show annoyed the hell out of me but it is not really my kind of show.

I like Six feet under but the last season was a little too soap operatic. Still worth a viewing for Rachel Griffiths if for no other reason Oh yeah Clare Ambrose is also very good in it.

24 is quite good and might be even more enjoyable if you watched them all close to each other via DVD

Sports Night is easily one of my favorite 10 shows of all time.

South park is funny if you are drunk or stoned but since those days are behind me, I cant say i would watch it again..

Even if I didn't ask for your opinion I'd still want it! But I did ask, so there ya go. :-)

I did like Rachel Griffiths in Me Myself I, and she's a big part of the reason I'd like to check out Six Feet Under. I'll give it a try, at least.

I didn't realize Sports Night ranked so highly in your estimation. Perhaps I'll hit that after I finish season one of Buffy.

And South Park is in danger of sliding off the list...

Have you ever watched "Friends", Jim? I think nowadays the show is pure crap, but it was much better in the earlier seasons, which are the ones currently out on DVD.

Also, every watch "Monty Python's Flying Circus"? Every episode is out on DVD.

Thanks for the suggestions, AJ. I've only been TV-less for about six years, so I did see the early episodes of Friends. I loved it for awhile (especially the Jill Goodacre (sp?) episode), but even six years ago I was starting to get tired of it. As for Flying Circus, I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that it was very hit-or-miss for me, with many more notches on the "misses" side of the board. When one struck me, it was magic. It just didn't happen often enough.

Oh yeah, the Jill Goodacre episode is brilliant. That's in the first season, in case you were wondering.

I agree that "Flying Circus", and even Monty Python in general, is very hit-or-miss. I guess it scored more hits with me than with you.

On "The Simpsons", I think my favorite season is either the 4th or the 5th. The 1st season's humor is a little too subtle for me, while recent episodes have been too idiotic for my tastes. I can't wait until the 4th and 5th seasons come out.

Yeah, I'll probably buy the first five seasons or so (funds allowing) and then call it quits, although I haven't seen any of the new stuff (see "six years" above), so I'm not sure how it's declined (although I've heard from you and others that it has).

Eh, the sixth and seventh seasons are pretty good. The eighth was horrible. They actually somewhat picked things back up for the ninth, which was much better than the eighth, but the show had taken a deadly blow from which it never really recovered. This last season was really rather bad. I'll still keep watching it, of course. But although the "Jump the Shark" book lists "The Simpsons" as being the only thing that never jumped, I think that's a load of crap.

I don't think any Serial Television list could be complete without The X-Files. But it's possible that you saw it already, when you were still watching TV, and decided it wasn't worth your time.

Also, Twin Peaks rocks!

Ah, good suggestions both! I only saw a handful of later X-Files episodes after it had peaked, and I came to Twin Peaks late so I was totally lost. Those are both shows that might benefit from chronological viewing. I'll add 'em, thanks!

Want to hear something funny? Arriving home last night, I found the new Entertainment Weekly (with my first real crush on the cover.... Ah...), and in the video section, they had a little bit about how they really thought that The Wire Season One should be on DVD already. Plate of shrimp, anyone?

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Well, I've done my part: I signed up for e-mail notification of The Wire's release at Amazon. Supposedly they share those lists with the studios to indicate demand.

May I ask who your first real crush was? I'm not sure if ew.com is showing the current cover or not.

Last thing . . . I'm afraid the "plate of shrimp" line flew over my head. What's it mean?

I developed a huge crush on Katharine Hepburn after watching Bringing Up Baby and The Philadelphia Story for the first time within a week of each other long ago. There is no one like her in film today, and while I am very happy she lived long, I miss her; we lost a priceless link to the past and, from all accounts, one hell of a woman.

It was, obviously, a hopeless crush, and maybe I was an odd boy, but there you go...

I was going to type up a tribute, but frankly, I can't do her justice. She is probably the reason I always fell for intelligent women. She is the proof that a choice between sexy, smart, and beautiful is not necessary.

Sorry about the plate of shrimp reference. It is from a speech in Repo Man:

"Suppose you're thinking about a plate of shrimp. Suddenly somebody will say like 'plate' or 'shrimp' or 'plate of shrimp', out of the blue, no explanation. No point in looking for one either; it's all part of the cosmic unconsciousness"


Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Ah, I thought so. It seems like there have been a slew of celebrity deaths lately, and it's quite sad. While it's true that they did so much with their lives, it's still depressing to lose Katherine Hepburn, Gregory Peck, and Hume Cronin all in a matter of weeks. Not to mention Buddy Hackett and a couple others that escape me at the moment.

As for "plate of shrimp", thanks for clueing me in! :-) I saw Repo Man somewhere around 15 years ago and I just didn't get it. I certainly had no shot at pulling that line out of my craw!

I'm not sure how you'll feel about this, and I'm sure you must have seen this, but apparently Katharine Hepburn has been working with a writer on a book for the past twenty years, to be published after her death. It comes out tomorrow.

Thanks! I'm going to have to check that out!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Kepp going with the Buffy. Season One is not one of the best. My personal favorite is season Three.

The story arcs improve immeasurably in later seasons, S1 didn't have much of one. Plus, later seasons seem much lighter on the cringe-worthy scenes (I just saw Teacher's Pet this morning during my exercise, and, ugh). Not that there are no bad episodes later, but not as bad.

And in Buffy, even the worst episodes are somewhat redeemed by at least one excellent line or scene, much the way even the worst seasons (Six) are improved by excellent episodes (the musical). Case in point: Teacher's Pet had a great scene where an amused Willow and Buffy refuse to help a temporarily brain-dead Xander give directions to the gorgeous new teacher.

I have to ask a question about Buffy, though.

I started watching regularly about halfway through the next to last season. I've always heard that Buffy had great, topical, witty dialogue that never seemed forced. Truth be told, I thought many of the attempts at humor seem forced and desperate to be topical, especially compared to the effortless verbal twists in The Gilmore Girls. Was the writing weaker in this period, or does this element of Buffy just not work for me?

I thought that, during that time span, the show worked much better when it was more serious. Oh, and when the magical parts of the storyline were less arbituary. I'm hoping the problems I developed with the program is unique to those seasons.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

That was season 6, which you see me using as an example of a bad season. The general "theme" of the season was how she didn't feel like she belonged anywhere (just resurrected, torn out of heaven), didn't feel anything (numb, from the shock of returning to a world that's "hard, and bright, and violent") and all of her support was taken away (friends have jobs, lovers, other interests; Giles left). It was a fairly dark season, and I think the witty banter suffered from the general tone. Well, a lot of Buffy was dark, but not quite that depressing.

And if you only started halfway through, you probably missed the completely redeeming musical episode, which almost made the rest of the season worth it.

In addition, the way the show is written changed at some point - at the beginning, a lot of the episode plots were metaphorical - and at a certain point they ran out and just did straight plots. Examples: high-school girl finally sleeps with her boyfriend, and the next day, he's really mean to her (because he lost his soul, on the show); or, drinking too much beer turns Buffy into a Neanderthal (literally - it's magically spelled).

I'm telling you, season three, maybe two. It's even on DVD already. It has an entertaining villian, and a wonderful cast member who then departed (Oz). Joss Whedon claims to have more empathy for high school problems than college and real life, so the later seasons were more of an effort for him I guess.

Excellent! I'm going to finish season one, which will probably take me another week or two, since a tournament is throwing me off my regular exercise regime. Then I'll take a break, probably by watching season one of 24 (which will take awhile to complete, at a 3 or 4/week pace), then maybe I'll come back and pick up season two of Buffy. Thanks for the insights!

Oh, by the way, I watched "Teacher's Pet" while biking very recently, and I'm totally with you (both on the quality of the episode, and the enjoyable moment).

I predict large amounts of hookitude for 24.

Oh yeah, I think that's a safe prediction. I almost started a workout at 11:00 PM the other night just so I could get in my 24 fix, which I'd missed earlier when the day got away from me. I didn't, but it was really close.

Oh man, I'm TOTALLY hooked! The first assassination attempt just failed, and the lead bad guy decided at the very last second not to kill Jack's wife and daughter.

Jim, how's it going with 24?

It's going great! I love it. I just passed the halfway point. In the last episode I watched Jack's wife and daughter were rescued. It's a fantastic show to exercise in front of. Not only it is fast-paced and intriguing and almost makes me forget I'm exercising, it always ends in a cliff-hanger that makes me actually look forward to exercising the next day. The whole experience has really made me appreciate some of the advantages TV has over movies, in some respects. I love movies, but I really can't exercise in front of them. They take way too much time setting the hook. Not that that's bad from a artistic perspective, but it's lousy for exercise. TV, on the other hand, really needs to hook you right away and keep you, not only from commercial to commercial, but from episode to episode and season to season. When done right, it's amazing. Such is the case with 24. Of course, a season of 24 is very much like a long engaging thriller that can afford time for some character development. Heck, it could be a movie, albeit the most butt-numbing one ever!

Actually, I'm worried I may have picked the best too soon. 24 seems like perfect exercise fodder. I'm worried I'm in for a letdown no matter what I pick next.

Well, 24, Season 2 comes out on September 2nd. So that'll get you through another 24 exercise sessions as well!

I'm glad to hear you are liking it. My girlfriend and I were seriously hooked on that series when we watched it on DVD. I would have to say the first season of that show was a singular TV experience.

Did you wrap up your 24 watching?

3 episodes to go! Will definitely finish this week.

Jim, my dad has the DVD set for the first season of 24. I started using it as exercise fodder myself. Damn, that's good TV. It's only 6:00 am, and I am so far hooked it's not even funny. In fact, I feel guilty because I'm so eager to find out what happens next that I start watching the episodes without exercising... alas, it's hard to get motivated. But I'm gonna lose some weight before I go off to college, dammit, and 24 is surely going to help.

So glad you're enjoying it! I bet you'll like season 2 also. I can't wait for season 3 to hit DVD. I've lately been running into that "rather pay attention to the show than exercise problem" myself. I'm watching season 2 of The Sopranos right now, and it's a bit talkier than 24, and my rowing machine (my current machine of choice) is pretty loud if I expend any effort. It's a conundrum.

Yeah, my treadmill's pretty loud too. That's why I always use the closed captioning.

The first season of Alias is being released on DVD September 2nd and might be a good candidate for this list.

I don't know a thing about that show. What can you tell me about it?

"Alias" is a show on ABC that stars Jennifer Garner (aka Elektra in Daredevil (2003)). I think this upcoming year will be their 3rd or 4th season.

I've only seen a handful of episodes but it seems like it might have some of the same story and character twists that 24 has and hence keeping your mind off of the exercising. It also has a lot of other good actors that I like including Victor Garber and Lena Olin. There's a good description of the show on Amazon's DVD page.

At the very minimum, I think the first disc of the first season would give you a feel for whether you'd like it or not. I'll be checking it out as well.

I'll give it a shot. I'll add this and Prime Suspect to the list when I finish off 24. Thanks!

The British TV series Prime Suspect with Helen Mirren might be a good addition to this list as well. The first set of episodes is coming out on DVD October 14th. They have it on Netflix. I think this series goes up to Prime Suspect 5 so far. Hopefully those will be coming out on DVD as well.

I don't see Buffy season 2 on your pending list! You are still planning on it though, right? And, Season 2 introduces Spike, in his early, truly evil persona . And the beloved Halloween episode, and Giles' rebellious days coming back to bite him (the Dark Age).


Well, I'll second dgeiser's nod to Prime Suspect, and, if you ever find yourself REALLY burning and need a shorter show to add to a longer one, might I suggest you give Absolutely Fabulous a try? The first episode probably won't grab, but the second one surely will, or else the show just isn't for you.

shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Thanks for the recommendation; it's on the list! Maybe I'll watch episodes 1 and 2 on the couch to give it the best possible "hook me" conditions before subjecting it to the trial by fire that is being exercise fodder.

I've recently discovered that shorter shows are definitely possibilities (despite what my comments above may say). Sports Night is half-hour episodes, so I'd watch two of them per workout.

I'll probably stick to one show at a time though, otherwise it's too many Netflix slots.

I hope you enjoy. It certainly is not for everybody, but for my money, it is one of the funniest television shows ever to air, and certainly my favorite sitcom of the 90s.

Stick with it, though. The first episode is not nearly as funny as the two that follow it.

Prime Suspect is grim, riveting stuff, and I bet you'll enjoy it.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Coincidentally, I just read a big plug for Absolutely Fabulous in one of the weblogs I subscribe to.

When it comes to Buffy, the show didn't really pick up until Season 2. That's the season that made a lot of people reconsider the show.

Also, I just finished Season 4, and I must say that I think that it's rather undervalued as far as Buffy goes. The season finale is fantastic.

I highly recommend S3 of 24 as soon as you can get it, Jim - it's just as good as S1-2 despite what others say, and is guranteed to entertain! I'm sure you were planning on it anyway, but I thought I'd back it up. ;)

I'm definitely looking forward to it! Unfortunately my exercise regime has changed so I'm watching much less (too grueling), but I'm sure I'll get to it.

Hey Jim,

Since I just watched the last episode of The Wire Season 3. And possibly the last episode of the show from what I hear, I was wondering if you ever got to see any of them. Season three is just outstanding. The show no one ever talks about and alog with Deadwood might be the best thing on TV these days. A wonderful show.

Hey there jgandcag! No, I haven't seen either show yet, but I put both of their first seasons on my Christmas wishlist, so hopefully I'll be started one or the other shortly. I'll definitely get to both eventually, and after the holidays I start training more regularly for the 2005 season, so I'll be spending more time on the infernal machines (and thus more time with TV-on-DVD).

Jim, I have to say that I think Lost is an excellent addition to your exercise fodder.

Cool, I keep hearing good things. Unfortunately I'm not sure when I'm going to get to a lot of these, since my exercise regime is now too punishing to allow much in the way of entertainment. But it's still a useful list for keeping track of what I want to see eventually.