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TV to Binge This Summer

We’ve officially hit the dog days of summer, and while there are still a number of shows launching their latest seasons this month and in August (among them, USA’s Mr. Robot, Netflix’s BoJack Horseman, and Sundance’s Rectify), the summer presents a chance for TV fans to catch up on shows they might have missed out on over the last few months (or, in the case of some shows, years). So, to help tide you over until the fall, here are a few shows you should take the time to check out.

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Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (CW), available on Netflix

I came late to the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend party, missing out on its freshman season this past year. But after hearing from a number of people that the CW had an absolute gem on its hands with this show, I dove in once it was released to stream on Netflix a few weeks ago. A musical comedy that manages to successfully balance crazy hijinks with a deep heart, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is an utter joy to watch. Rachel Bloom, who created, executive produces, and stars in the series, is a talent like no other. With only 18 episodes, the show is less of a commitment than other network shows, but you’ll get hooked right off the bat and fall in love with the show’s diverse and quirky cast.

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Wentworth (Netflix)

My absolute favorite show on television right now is Wentworth, the Australian women’s prison drama that often makes Orange is the New Black look like a Disney cartoon. If you liked this most recent season of Orange (that is, after you managed to pull yourself out of your grief spiral), Wentworth will easily fill the need for more dark and complicated women in your TV viewing repertoire. The show has three seasons available for viewing on Netflix, and its fourth (which is currently airing in Australia and is far and away the best the series has ever done) will be on the streaming service later this year.

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The Americans (FX), available on Amazon Prime

I missed out on the early seasons of The Americans, but boy am I glad that I took the time to catch up via Amazon this year. The series, which follows Soviet sleeper agents living in the US in the 1980s, is one of the finest dramas currently on television. Its first three seasons are currently streaming on Amazon Prime, while the most recent (and the show’s absolute best) season is currently available on demand. The show is a bit of a slow burn during its first two seasons, but really hits its stride in its third. If you are wondering why the entire television community practically threw a party when the series was finally recognized by Emmy voters this past week, take some time this summer to meet the Jennings family. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

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BoJack Horseman (Netflix)

The third season of Netflix’s best series drops next Friday, so you have a week to catch up on the lives of BoJack, Mr. Peanutbutter, Princess Carolyn, Diane, and Todd. I firmly believe this is the best original series created by Netflix, and it is certainly the most consistent across the board. BoJack Horseman tells the tale of a former 1980s sitcom star who has seen his life and career fall apart in the ensuing years. Unafraid to look at the darkness brought about by depression and substance abuse, this isn’t a cheery cartoon. But the writing is so sharp and the characters incredibly complex that it doesn’t become weighed down in its exploration of the darker elements of life.

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Halt and Catch Fire (AMC), available on Netflix

Halt and Catch Fire is an interesting test case in today’s television landscape. Its first season was almost universally panned by critics and viewers failed to tune in. However, AMC was still in the midst of its final season of Mad Men, and it was killing it in the ratings with The Walking Dead, so the network had enough horses in the stable to give the series a second shot. And the show’s production team made the most of it, rebooting the series to create one of the more intricate and compelling character pieces on television. Dealing with the tech boom of the 1980s, the show is now centered around its two female leads as they launch an online gaming community- a much stronger premise in every way compared to the first season focus on a computer company. The series will be airing its third, and final, season later this summer, but if you are wanting to catch up on what you may have missed out on, there’s plenty of time. Since the first season was such a mess, I recommend only watch the final four episodes of season one before diving into all of season two. That way you will understand who’s who and get a sense of how the writers took a show that wasn’t working and turned it into something special.

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The Leftovers (HBO), available on HBOGo

I will be the first to admit that I wasn’t particularly enthralled with the first season of The Leftovers. The first season’s front half is far more focused on introducing characters than advancing plot (and, while the show is incredibly successful at building its core cast of characters, the show fails when focusing on its more ancillary characters- all of whom do not continue with the show past season one), but the later episodes in season one hints at how good the show can be. It is in season two where the show hits its stride, crafting a complex and compelling narrative that builds beautifully on season one. The characters we have come to care deeply about all have wonderful moments, and the story moves briskly to its unsettling conclusion. Unlike Halt and Catch Fire, I recommend watching all of season one of The Leftovers. While it may drag at times, the additional time spent with these characters makes the brilliance of season two all the more richer. The third and final season of the series will be on HBO in early 2017.

Donna (Retta), Andy (Chris Pratt), April (Aubrey Plaza), Ben (Adam Scott), Leslie (Amy Poehler), Ron (Nick Offerman), Tom (Aziz Ansari), and Garry (Jim O’Heir) take one final group shot together as Parks employees. Photo by NBC.

Parks and Recreation, available on Netflix

Now, Parks and Recreation is no longer on the air, so you can take your time binging the series, but it’s a show every comedy fan should check out. After a first season trying to find its footing, the series re-focused and became one of the best comedies of the last 20 years. Led by the spectacular Amy Poehler, the cast is at the top of its game, and the show is quotable and zany without sacrificing its heart. Pawnee, Indiana may not be the greatest town in America, but it certainly has the greatest park employees. There are seven seasons to get through (all of differing lengths), but you can watch the pilot and then skip straight to season two without missing much.

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Catastrophe, available on Amazon Prime

Catastrophe is a charming, hilarious, and brutally honest look at dating, marriage, and parenthood. From the sharp minds of Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan (who also star in the show), the series follows the ups and down of two characters whose one-week stand creates a relationship and family they never imagined. So far, there have been two seasons of the show (both available to stream) with a total of 12 episodes (the joy of British television- incredibly short seasons), with the series renewed for a third and fourth season to be completed at an as-yet-unknown date in the future (the downfall of British television- you can go years between seasons of a show you love). If you are looking for a smart and funny show to relax to this summer, Catastrophe fits the bill.

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Meet the Author

About / Bio
TV critic based in Chicago. When not watching and writing about awesome television shows, I can be found lamenting over the latest disappointing performance by any of the various Chicago sports teams or my beloved Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Follow me @JeaniusIsMe on Twitter.

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