tvDownload’s America: Television’s Year of Americana

  • Is there anything more American than television?

    From families gathering around a behemoth black-and-white to watch the Ed Sullivan Show, to binge-watching Orange is the New Black on your iPhone while you text and drive at the same time, TV has morphed and changed side by side with the country through the years.

    That being said, it should come as no surprise that a little slice of America can be seen every time you flip through the channels or browse through a Netflix queue. Big city living in Seinfeld or Girls. The deep, mysterious South in True Detective. The modern day Wild West on Breaking Bad.

    This year was an especially proud time for the U.S. in television (outside of the World Cup). Sure, we still have the British imports, Israeli adaptations and so forth, but we’ve taken particular pride in the idiosyncrasies of American culture. (Stubbornness, distrust of authority, a desire to blow things up, obsession with anything south of the Mason-Dixon line.) Here, the staff of tvDownload gives their selections for this year’s most patriotic shows on television.

  • Nicole's Picks

    Here Comes Honey Boo Boo

    If your name sounds more like a stuffed animal from Build-A-Bear than an actual human, you are more than likely a resident of our great southern states. Bizarre as her nickname may be “Honey Boo Boo” reflects the concerns of many American women and can relate to the struggle of “feelin' a little chunky today” but not being able to lay off the chicken nuggets. We hear you Honey Boo Boo, we hear you.

  • Duck Dynasty is a rare gem of a television program exemplifying true Americana. Tempting as it may be to write off a family of cameo-wearing professional duck hunters as just a bunch of hillbillies, this family business brings in millions of dollars with the now infamous duck whistles. Yes, duck whistles. Proving yet again that in America, if you can dream it, you can sell it on the internet. The “complaint box” episode is particularly amusing as it shows that despite being part of a multi-million dollar company Si Robertson is still in touch with the plight of the working man. When the Duck Hunter’s offices do not meet his standards he fills an old shoe box with complaints such as “there’s no sofas for nappin” and “they took away cameo Friday” Struggles every American can identify with.

  • Sister Wives

    Ah America, land of the free. The place where a man has the freedom to make a multitude of bizarre life choices such as having 17 children, 4 wives, and a head full of blonde highlights. The polygamist family (families?) shows us that your one minivan full of tots is a walk in the park compared to their compound of children, minivans and marital problems. More intriguing than the size of their family is the way in which the wives rotate their freshly frosted husband. Mondays here, Tuesdays next door….until all four wives have had their time. This is either as awful as it sounds or the most brilliant idea a housewife has come up with in centuries! Bye honey, see you in a week! Side note: Yes I know it’s not actually legal to have four wives. So do they but they air their illegal laundry on national television.

  • Lindsay

    Only in America do we tune in to watch a celebrity move. Our obsession with train-wreck celebrities culminates in the docu-series Lindsay and proves that even post-rehab Lindsay Lohan moving from Los Angeles to New York and complaining about paparazzi is must see tv.

  • Hoarders

    Should be called American Consumerism Gone Very Wrong. Our obsession with material possession turns to jaw dropping hoarding on the A&E show. Entire homes become barricaded with garbage, clothing, and sometimes, dead cats. One episode is enough to put you off your lunch and send you into The Great Cleaning Frenzy of 2014.

  • Breaking Amish

    The show that focuses on Rumspringa, a time in the Amish culture in which teenagers go from sun bonnets to straight up Girls Gone Wild. In a community where women are forbidden to cut their hair for fear of becoming too self-involved, these teenagers instantly immerse themselves in the evils of American life. Makeup, partying, elevators….it’s all brand new and completely overwhelming. Often believing that the night club lifestyle is actually the way most Americans live, many return back to Amish community and try to forget the perils of a life with electricity.

  • Vinnie's Picks

    Breaking Bad is, underneath the meth, murder, lies, and exploding drug bosses, a surprisingly American story. It's rags to riches. It's The Great Gatsby if Gatsby lived in New Mexico and started off a chemistry teacher. And then, you know, cooked meth.(Bonus: season three, episode four is titled "Green Light.")

  • Sons of Anarchy follows in Breaking Bad's footsteps in creating an American archetype that's been around since James Dean put on a red jacket in 1955: the bad-ass, anti-establishment anti-hero.

  • In a way, Seinfeld was a precursor to both Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy (bear with me). Jerry, Kramer, Elaine and George were unconventional protagonists not because they were bad people, but because they were just people. Narcissistic, trivial, superficial people. America latched on to that idea, and it has only grown into shows like Parks and Recreation, Modern Family, and The Office. Okay, we stole that last one from Britain, but still.

  • Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives

    Like it or not, America is sort of known for eating. And for those who don't like it, please explain how Diners, Dine-Ins, and Dives exists. It is a show about someone else (in this case very American Guy Fieri) going to places and eating. And not really eating food that you're likely to every try just...food you're content with watching someone else eat. It is basically only a mechanism to make you hungry (which it unfailingly does). Only in America can we have such an intimate relationship with food...

  • Man Vs. Food

    ...while also competing against it. Oh, and then there's Adam Richman's tour through the sin of gluttony. Another show where a man eating is the central focus, but with a twist. Now food is the enemy, something to be conquered. And this works, because America loves a good competition. See: the Super Bowl, wars.

  • True Detective is pretty much everyone's Southern fears come true. Louisiana marshes set against smoking factory backdrops? Check. Trailer park prostitutes? Check. Racism? You bet'cha. Preachers speaking to crowds in a giant tent? Loads. It's basically what would happen if someone had a horrible dream with every Louisiana/Southern motif thrown in. (1/2)

  • And as we've been told, most nightmares have a monster at the end of it. (Translation: Louisiana may or may not be filled with terrifying mask-wearing, meth manufacturers that also maybe belong to a cult +/- giant incestuous man-children with backyard stick caves and big axes). (2/2)

  • The Walking Dead was both a resurgence and a genesis for America. On the resurgence front, it was a return to the Westerns of the 1930's and 40's, with Rick Grimes as your modern day cowboy. The man rides a horse into a zombie horde in the very first episode, brandishing a six-shooter. As for the emergence, thank (or blame) The Walking Dead on America's still ongoing zombie obsession. Rick Grimes took his cowboy hat and his revolver, and he shot the country's vampire trend right in the face. (1/2)

  • Also, here is a description of a zombie herd from the comic book: "Zombies in a herd are a force of nature. They don't operate on logic or reason. If one of them even so much as brushes a hand against your door [where you are hiding]--and another one sees that, mistakes that as an attempt to get in--it's over. That one starts trying to get in--the one who did the accidental tap thinks something's inside all of a sudden--he starts beating on the door with him. They would kill you all." Tell me that doesn't describe the mall on Black Friday. (2/2)

  • Drew's Picks

    Boardwalk Empire

    Alcohol, gambling, guns, outlaws, prostitution, the Harlem Renaissance...if it had less cursing and boobs, they would be showing Boardwalk in high school history classes across the country. "Today we learned that America is Awesome, mom!"

  • American Horror Story: Coven

    A show that combines our fascination with the antebellum south, feminism and magic. Sorry True Blood, this would have been your spot five years ago.

  • Keeping Up With the Kardashians Bret Easton Ellis's vision of Los Angeles come to life, the Kardashian brand combined with Kanye's this year to become an international sensation. The closest thing America has to royalty.

  • Catfish

    Did America invent Catfishing? Not the name, but the concept? Sure, there are precedents: history is full of fakes and swindlers, and the Nigerians have princes falling over themselves to transfer 1,000,000 U.S. into your bank account, but what makes Catfish interesting is the lack of any financial element. People are creating these fake identities and having online relationships simply to make a connection with someone else. There's something very Gatsby-esque about that kind of reinvention, don't you think?

  • House of Cards

    Yes, I know it's based on a British series. But they actually bear very little resemblence to each other, tone-wise: While the original series was more obvious satire, Beau Willimon's interpertation of the Underwood character is as patriotic as they come: a ruthless pragmatist who, despite being a soulless, morally depraved monster, still manages to actually get shit done in the legislative and executive branches. The scary thing is that Frank's sociopathic tendencies are exactly what makes him a great leader...and our new president.

  • 24

    Did you know there is an Indian version of 24? I really want to know what that show is about. Like, I kind of hope it's still about Jack Bauer, but from their perspective he's this insane American terrorist who blows shit up wherever he goes and just murders people all the time. You know, like regular 24.

  • Orange is the New Black

    Jenji Kohan has openly admitted that blond-haired white girl Piper Chapman was the "trojan horse" to get network executives interested in a show about women's prison. The show's actual focus on under-represented minority voices--black women, Latinas, older women, lesbians and the incarcerated--along with the flesh-out backstories of the ensemble cast--makes Piper's more familiar narrative the least interesting part of the series.

  • Mad Men

    Don Draper: As American as apple pie and John Cheever.

  • Wahlburgers

    It says something about the country we're living in that Mark Wahlberg has carte-blanche to green light any program on TV. Even if it's just blatant nepotism--in this case, marketing his brother Paul's restaurant--from a former white rapper who once snatched an old man's eye out of his socket, we all just go with it. Because: Entourage.