Television is at a very interesting juncture. The movie industry has been struggling for years. Despite a few blockbusters finding massive success, the vast majority of films lose money. The movie theaters are raising ticket prices seemingly daily and if you have ever tried to take your family and bought food at the concession stand, you know it can cost you $80 to take a family of 5 to the movies and share some popcorn. The prices are outrageous, and now, more than ever, the quality of television is improving each and every day.
Television budgets have started to grow and the quality of good TV is easily starting to rival that of feature film budgets. Some shows can cost tens of millions of dollars to film a season. And the more successful a show is, the more the budgets skyrocket as cast demands rise. The blessing for audiences is that with high caliber cable stations pumping out impressive slates of television shows, there is a lot of awesome entertainment out there to feast on. And with some very strong adult content out there, you can watch some excellent entertainment from your own couch or bedroom. FX, Amazon, Netflix, HBO, Showtime, Starz and Cinemax are all working their hardest to produce new edgy series. Let’s take a look at some of the best they have to offer. These are 10 R-Rated Shows You Can’t Miss In 2016!
10. Transparent – Amazon Prime
Transparent is a very strange incarnation. The show itself chronicles a pretty messed up family with a whole slate of issues going on. The lead, played by the brilliant Jeffrey Tambor, showcases a sort of Bruce Jenner moment for the main character (odd timing for certain). Tambor reveals he is transgender (get it, “Trans-parent”). Tambor’s children struggle with their own lives. All of them have dreams that seem fleeting and mangled. They all relentlessly charge forward with tremendous dysfunction. The show is a kick to watch with Tambor doing a phenomenal job carrying the cast. Gaby Hoffman, Amy Landecker, Jay Duplass and Judith Light do a great job in leading roles and making this a very interesting series to watch. For good comedy and drama mixed together, catch up on this one for sure.
9. House of Cards – Netflix
This is a Netflix gem. They paid handsomely for Kevin Spacey to play the lead and built a lineup of original entertainment around this show. The political drama is an adaptation of a BBC miniseries of the same name. With three successful seasons already in the books, a fourth is on the way March 4th of this coming year. The show is centered around the political mess in Washington D.C. and follows Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) as a South Carolina Democrat. Underwood is constantly passed over and wants to be in a position of greater power. Aided by his wife, who is brilliantly played by Robin Wright, the two are constantly positioning themselves through manipulation and ruthless pragmatism to gain an upper hand in the political world by any means necessary. This one is carnal political folly at its best.
8. Orange Is The New Black – Netflix
Orange Is The New Black is a comedy-drama based on Piper Kerman’s memoir about her experiences at FCI Danbury, a minimum security prison. Her book, Orange Is The New Black: My Year in a Woman’s Prison (2010), is the premise for the successful show. The fourth season is coming out on Netflix during the summer of 2016. The series is literally the most watched television series on Netflix. The show grabbed an incredible 12 Emmy Award nominations in season one. Piper’s character is played by Taylor Schilling. She is sentenced to 15 months in prison. Using a similar film style to the show Lost in which the stories are told in past/present models to enhance backstory, the show is evolving beyond the main character and now settling into an ensemble piece. The drama inside the prison system helps drive the many interesting events that go on inside the prison’s walls. With inmates coming and going, it keeps us interested and the cast does a great job on this surprise hit.
7. Girls – HBO
Lena Dunham stars and writes this hit show on HBO that features an aspiring writer and her three friends. All in their early 20s, they are trying to make sense of life in the Big Apple. The New Yorkers are sassy, smart and uncertain of where they are heading. But they know one thing, they don’t want to give maximum effort to get there. They are all expecting success to come despite not wanting to work hard for it. Premiering back in 2012, the show is rolling strong and is not only returning for season 5, but it has been signed for a 6th season as well. With actors Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke, Zosia Mamet, Adam Driver and Alex Karpovsky aiding Dunham, the group does a tremendous job showing a different kind of life that aspiring New Yorkers live as opposed to the garbage we saw in Sex In The City.
6. Masters of Sex – Showtime
Clearly, any show with the word “sex” in it is probably going to hit the R-Rated button. And this one is about real life sexual pioneers whose researched paved the way for the sexual revolution. The tireless work of Bill Masters and Virginia Johnson were essential in exploring human sexuality and sexual dysfunction. Michael Sheen brilliantly portrays Bill Masters while Lizzy Caplan is enthralling as his assistant, and then partner, Virginia Johnson. Caitlin Fitzgerald (Libby Masters) does a nice job as the tormented wife of Bill Masters. Beau Bridges pops in and out and does a wonderful job as Bill’s mentor on the show. The show dives head first into sex, marital affairs, love and intense family drama. It truly is a fun and exciting show to watch with your significant other.
5. Shameless – Showtime
On its way to season 7, this gem on Showtime has proven to be extraordinary. The dark comedy stars William H. Macy and is produced by television super producer John Wells. It’s a remake of the British series. The American version takes place in Chicago and depicts the Gallaghers, a highly dysfunctional family. Macy plays Frank Gallagher, a single father who often is drunk while his six kids essentially take care of themselves. Originally, television executives wanted to force the show to be filmed in the Deep South or in a trailer park, depicting rednecks. Instead, the show’s creators stuck to their guns and wanted the family to be poor and dysfunctional in a way that the viewing public had never seen. They succeeded with an amazing supportive cast and unpredictable storylines.
4. Ray Donovan – Showtime
Talk about drama, power and force. Ray Donovan is the second coming of sorts of the famed Sopranos series. Just as Tony Soprano was a physical menace to be reckoned with, who at the same time displayed a soft human underbelly, Ray Donovan sports the same sort of callous violence while at the same time showcasing moments of compassion. Ray Donovan isn’t as good as The Sopranos, but it is a damn fine show. You are likely to have a lot of dirty characters and everyone fighting demons along the way. Led by the perfectly acted Liev Schreiber, the cast features Eddie Marsan, Jon Voight, Steven Bauer and Katherine Moennig. Some of the other characters are a little too over-the-top for my liking, but the show is powerful and fun. It’s also an unpredictable mess at times with a lot of awesome part-time players who fly in and out of the show. Definitely worth watching!
3. True Detective – HBO
True Detective is a very interesting show. The show is gritty and star driven. I’m not 100 per cent certain the show would survive without its star power, but the draw is in its stars and the creative interwoven dark stories that reside within. The first season of the dramatic crime series starred Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. If that wasn’t impressive enough, season 2 starred Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams and Vince Vaughn. The cast and their characters are so dark, so troubled, and so disturbed, it is very difficult to take your eyes off of them as they all circle the drain of life while trying to remain on the right side of the law. It is a compelling show with intrigue to last a lifetime.
2. Fargo – FX
You wouldn’t think a television series on FX qualifies as R-Rated. Listed as MA, Fargo is easily the best television thing on cable TV. Season 1 was good, but was largely an extension of the film version. But much like True Detective, Fargo aims to take on a different story and an entirely different cast each season. And this show was an absolute home run in season 2. Easily one of the single best seasons of any show I’ve personally ever seen, Fargo features an amazing cast each season (season one featured Billy Bob Thornton amongst others, while season 2 featured Ted Danson, Kirsten Dunst, Jean Smart, Bokeem Woodbine, Brad Garrett and Jeffrey Donovan). From music, to dialogue, to acting, to cinematography, to the writing, this show is brilliant. Special mention goes to Bokeem Woodbine who is absolutely awesome!
1. Game Of Thrones – HBO
Created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, this monster of a show on HBO is a dramatic fantasy series that is on its way to season 6. The large ensemble cast has helped drive a show that is not only exciting for audiences, but an acclaimed success that has seen the show win 26 Emmy Awards. The astounding show follows the storylines set out in A Song of Ice and Fire, the series of novels the show is based on. The show (and novel) were inspired by real life events reminiscent of Medieval Western Europe (like the War of the Roses). Benioff originally joked about the pitch for the show as “The Sopranos in Middle-Earth.” This is clearly a show of intense drama, sex and action that cannot be missed. If you have time and haven’t seen it, catch up and enjoy!