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Summer is winding down, and there isn’t a whole lot to watch on TV. Sure, there’s Game of Thrones. And there’s Twin Peaks. But other than that, it’s slim pickings. So, it’s the perfect time to sit down and binge a show you might have missed out on this year (and, considering how insane the last several months have been on the TV front, you are absolutely forgiven for missing any of these gems). And, just for consistency’s sake, I feel I must recommend you give HBO’s dearly departed The Leftovers a go (here’s my plea for people to watch it, if you haven’t yet). Please watch this show. It’s streaming on HBOGo.
Other than The Leftovers, here’s a handful of shows you might have missed this year (and two that are coming back in the coming months that you really should check out).
I wrote a more in-depth (spoiler-free) review of this delightful Netflix comedy at the start of the year, but I think it’s worth repeating just how good this show is. The series is a re-imagining of the 70s/80s sitcom of the same name (and yes, Norman Lear is involved in the new show as well), focusing on a Cuban-American family. The show deals with important issues, including immigration, PTSD, and teenage sexuality with humor and a deft touch, never feeling preachy and grounding everything in the appealing characters that populate the show. I didn’t expect to enjoy the show as much as I did, and it’s an excellent show to watch with kids. Oh, and Rita Moreno is absolutely spectacular as the show’s matriarch. The series has been renewed for a much-deserved second season, which is currently being filmed.
I came late to the party on this interesting drama, admittedly turned off a bit by the title. Starring Caroline Dhavernas (who was one of the unsung MVPs of the later seasons of Hannibal) as Dr. Mary Harris, an ER doctor who operates a side business as an end of life counselor (illegally providing assisted suicide services). As you can probably guess, things on the show can get a little dark (Mary is also the divorced mother of two, complete with the requisite teenage daughter who is far more sympathetic than usual in this type of series), and it doesn’t even take one episode before the police are sniffing around the entire illegal operation. The series also manages to balance the darker subject matter with some excellent black humor. The show hinges on Dhavernas’s performance and she manages to make Mary morally suspect while still likeable enough to root for. The first season is only six episodes long and a quick watch.
Starring Hank Azaria and Amanda Peet, Brockmire is an absolute gem. Following Jim Brockmire, a disgraced MLB play-by-play announcer, as he attempts to get his career back on track, the series is hilariously funny (and, frankly, ridiculous at times). Based on a character Azaria created for a Funny or Die sketch, there’s a surprisingly large amount of story to be told. Peet is great as the owner of ragtag minor league outfit Brockmire is forced to offer his talents to. Unlike One Day at a Time, Brockmire is absolutely not a show for kids, but it’s a genuinely fun show for adults.
If you are looking for a fun genre series, look no further than Wynonna Earp. The best comparison I can give for this smart, funny, and occasionally poignant drama series is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as it follows Wynonna Earp (Melanie Scrofano, giving an absolutely spectacular performance), the Earp heir (yes, that Earp family, the one with Wyatt) as she returns home to Purgatory to kill off the demon remnants that are causing mayhem in the town. She’s joined in her quest by a black opps agent name Dolls (Shamier Anderson, in a gruff, yet charming performance), her younger sister Waverly (Dominique Provost-Chalkley, in a performance that builds beautifully over the course of the first season), and Doc Holiday (yes, that Doc Holiday, played with wonderful wit by Tim Rozon). The first season is fun, building to a dramatic and emotional climax, but the series has really found its niche in season two, deftly balancing the comedy and drama each week. Wynonna Earp is an absolute joy to watch, and I cannot recommend it enough.
A show about a cult-favorite women’s wrestling league for the 80s? Doesn’t really sound all that great on paper, but the first season of Glow is a genuinely lovely experience. Anchored by strong performances from Allison Brie, Marc Maron, and Betty Gilpin, Glow is equal parts charming and fun. Sure, it hits on all the necessary 80s nostalgia beats, but there’s a real humanity under the neon and big hair. Brie is a true star, playing her least sympathetic TV character to date, but still managing to make the audience root for her (I’m sure a large part of that comes from her killer Russian accent in her wrestling persona). And where a typical series about women in conflict would have made the fight over a man a central point, here it becomes an afterthought, as the relationships between the diverse group of ladies are the central focus. While the series hasn’t been renewed for a second season, the first works perfectly well as a standalone arc. And, at 10 half hour episodes, it’s a really quick binge.
I’ve written a lot about both of these shows over the years, but with Halt and Catch Fire back for its fourth and final season on August 19, and BoJack Horseman back for its fourth, and hopefully not final, season on September 18, I figured now was an excellent time to remind you of these two wonderful shows. With Halt, you can skip the majority of season one, jumping in in the last two episodes of the season, before binging the rest, as the series took a hard turn from the middling to the great between seasons one and two (and three, much like The Leftovers, was ridiculously good and blew the first two years out of the water). As for BoJack, you really need to watch it all, but the initial seven episodes are a bit of a slog. However, it’s worth putting in the time for both of these shows, as they are consistently in my Top 10 every year, and mark two of the best shows currently on television.