It’s Valentine’s Day and, for many, that means date night. In this economy, however, a night on the town can be prohibitive. What’s a TV lover to do? Perhaps this is an acceptable alternative? A quiet night in, with a nice, homemade dinner, a few drinks, and a few hours with the perfect show. Here are 10 picks for great date night viewing.
Valentine’s Day Special: Cupid (1998-99)
Chicago bartender Trevor (Jeremy Piven), is convinced he’s Cupid, banished from Mount Olympus and stripped of his powers after pissing off Zeus one too many times. The only way he can get back, as he’s desperate to do, is if he brings together 100 True Love couples. His psychiatrist Claire (Paula Marshall) disagrees, seeing only a broken, if fun, man lost in his delusion. Piven and Marshall have great chemistry, there are interesting guest characters each week, and Trevor’s journey is incredibly well realized. Created by Veronica Mars and Party Down’s Rob Thomas, this was remade in 2009; skip Cupid 2.0 and go for the original. It’s not out on DVD yet, but enterprising individuals can find the entire series with a quick YouTube search.
Sweet and Romantic: Ed (2000-04)
Ed (Tom Cavanagh) is a successful New York lawyer until a misplaced comma costs his firm $1.6 million and him his job, sending him home earlier than expected- in time to find his wife sleeping with a mailman. Needing a fresh start, Ed moves home to Stuckeyville, OH, buys a bowling alley, which he practices law out of, and runs into his high school crush Carol (Julie Bowen). Ed’s feelings for Carol are quickly reignited, and he decides to sweep her off her feet, to varying success over the course of the series. Ed is light hearted, charming, and a happy champion of romance. Cavanagh and Bowen work well together and there’s enough quirk to make things entertaining without ever going over the top with it.
Action-Packed: The Avengers (1961-69)
The quintessential ‘60s spy series, The Avengers features John Steed (Patrick Macnee) and a succession of female counterparts, most memorably Emma Peel (Diana Rigg), as a crime-fighting duo sent in to take down the most dangerous and bizarre of England’s foes. Originating as a standard crime series, the show grew more outlandish over its run, with Steed and his assistant du jour taking down killer robots and aliens, along with more common threats. Full of gadgets and complemented by a jazzy score, The Avengers is a stylish and fun series that action fans will enjoy.
Laugh Riot: Cheers (1982-93)
Sam (Ted Danson) is a former pitcher for the Red Sox and owner of Cheers, a Boston bar full of colorful regulars. Diane (Shelly Long) is a prissy academic abandoned at the bar when her fiancé reunites with his ex on the eve of their wedding. Sam gives Diane a job, and the rest is sitcom history. One of the most famous TV couples, Sam and Diane may have great chemistry, but the series is built on the camaraderie of the regulars and employees at the bar, proven by its continued success after Long left the series, replaced by Kirstie Alley. Despite its traditional style and laugh track, Cheers remains just as successful today as during its initial run and is one of the most reliably entertaining sitcoms ever made.
Sexy and Fun: True Blood (2008-Present)
Sookie (Anna Paquin) is a Louisiana waitress who gets swept into a world of trouble when vampire Bill (Stephen Moyer) walks into her restaurant. Campy, sexy, and delightfully self-aware, True Blood has become a sensation, riding the wave of popular interest in vampires and supernatural fiction to become HBO’s highest rated series. The show earns its pay cable status with its decidedly adult sex, violence, and gore, but by never taking itself seriously and keeping its tongue planted firmly in cheek, it manages to pull off characters, scenes, and storylines that would sink any other series.
Geek-Friendly: Farscape (1999-2003)
John Crichton (Ben Browder) is an astronaut test driving a new space shuttle when he’s sucked through a wormhole to the other side of the universe. Cut off from Earth, he falls in with the residents of a living escaped prison spaceship, including the beautiful Peacekeeper Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black), and finds himself on the run. Full of adventure and with film and television references galore, Farscape revels in its geekdom, experimenting with form and genre conventions to make one of the most interesting sci-fi series to somehow last four seasons.
Intense and Dramatic: The Sopranos (1999-2007)
Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) is a businessman with a lot of stress both at home and at work. It just happens that his job is being the head of the New Jersey mob. Generally considered one of the best series ever made, The Sopranos investigates, among other topics, the meaning of family, while providing a character study of a fascinating brute in Tony. Perhaps not the obvious choice for date night, the series’ engrossing look at both marriage and self-analysis make it a show best enjoyed when viewed and discussed with others.
Spine Tingling: American Gothic (1995-96)
When Caleb (Lucas Black)’s aunt is murdered and his widower father commits suicide, local Sheriff Lucas Buck (Gary Cole) steps in to raise him. However, all is not as it seems in Trinity, South Carolina. Buck is actually the biological father of Caleb, who is a product of his rape of Caleb’s mother. Buck also murdered his aunt, Merlyn, and manipulated his father into suicide. If that weren’t enough, he may just be the Devil. All isn’t lost for young Caleb, however- Dr. Crowder (Jake Weber), new to town, suspects foul play and works to get Caleb away from Buck, aided by the ghost of Merlyn, who does her best to guide and protect her nephew. This short-lived series from the creator of Roar and Invasion, and executive produced by Sam Raimi, certainly isn’t the most romantic series, but if you’re looking for scares, you’re in safe hands.
Cheesetacular: The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (1993-94)
Son of a slain US Marshal, bounty hunter Brisco County, Jr. (Bruce Campbell) is hired to track down notorious outlaw Bly and his gang. With help from lawyer Socrates Poole (Christian Clemenson) and occasional rival Lord Bowler (Julius Carry), he tracks them down, only to discover the Orb, a powerful seemingly supernatural object that bestows superhuman abilities upon those who come into contact with it. Part Western, part steampunk, and all cheese, this series is straight up, winking to the camera fun. Fans of camp, classic serials, and Campbell will love it and if the synopsis piques your interest even slightly, it’s worth checking out.
All-Around Player: Chuck (2007-12)
Chuck (Zachary Levi) is a sweet, geeky guy working at the Buy More when he opens the wrong email and wakes up with a brain rewired full of government secrets. Enter Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski), beautiful agent extraordinaire and Casey (Adam Baldwin), general badass, as his handlers, and Chuck is drawn into a secret life of spydom all while maintaining a façade of normalcy for his friends and family. Chuck may not be the most romantic, most action-packed, or most of anything else on this list, but it’s one of the few series to successfully balance them all well and have fun in the process.
What’s your favorite Date Night pick? Post your thoughts in the comments section below!