Sure, getting fit and eating better are great New Year's resolutions. But this year, why not focus on resolutions that will be easy to keep? That's right: this year, let's resolve to get caught up--or catch up our good friends--on the top buzzed-about films and TV series. You don't have premium cable? Overlooked some of the little gems on screens large and small? 2011 will be the year to set all that right:
1. Dexter -- Michael C. Hall is spellbinding as the serial killer with a conscience in Showtime's series, one of the best-written dramas in recent memory. If you don't have premium cable, don't sweat it--Dexter is great to catch up on via disc, when you can watch several episodes in a row. Each season has topped the previous, and it's best to start at the beginning of Season One. Watch for great (and dastardly) guest appearances by the likes of Jimmy Smits and John Lithgow. It's the most fun you'll have being super-creeped out.
2. The Kids Are All Right -- Lisa Cholodenko's little gem got great critical reviews but only so-so box office. But now that awards season is in full swing, more people are taking notice, and rightly so. Annette Bening, who hasn't graced movie screens in a long while, and Julianne Moore are terrific in this portrait of a family that's different, but full of love, and fully functional. (Follow it with The Who's The Kids Are Alright just for the name symmetry--and for another definition of "all right.")
3. Breaking Bad -- Don Draper and Mad Men's retro hipness have been in AMC's spotlight--rightly--this year. But AMC has been cranking out some other seriously great series, including Breaking Bad and the zombie-fest The Walking Dead. In Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston is outstanding as a desperate middle-aged dad whose life is crumbling around him, so he takes up dealing meth to earn money. It's a harsher, more real and human version of Showtime's Weeds, and Cranston is a knockout.
4. The Stieg Larsson Trilogy Films -- Everyone spent most of 2010 reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. And Hollywood has naturally gotten its mitts on rights to remake the original Swedish films. But don't wait to see if the U.S. versions can possibly measure up; take your time with the moody, eloquent originals and immerse yourself in the spooky calm of the Swedish countryside--and deep mysteries solvable only by the fiercest heroine in recent memory.
5. Big Love--The HBO series about modern-day polygamists has been compuslively watchable--but now its producers have announced this coming season will be its last. So get caught up on the goings-on in Sandy, Utah, with Bill Hendrickson (the excellent Bill Paxton) and his many merry mates.
6. Friday Night Lights--A critical favorite, Friday Night Lights still struggles in its viewership, and every season in the last few has threatened to be its last. Don't let this little gem about Texas high school football--and the lives that surround it--get away from you this year.
7. Biggest Loser: Power Walk--OK, so you would like to get in shape in 2011? You can do that, too, with some help from your favorite TV pals. The new Biggest Loser workout, Power Walk, is approachable and doable for every fitness level. No expensive equipment to buy, just that great feeling that if the motivated folks on the TV series can do it, so can you.
Happy New Year!