Don’t go outside! You know you’ll just burn. Stay inside where the air conditioning lives, and catch up on life’s greatest gift: streaming television.
We’ve picked out a few of the shows that we like the most, that also happen to be readily available for binge-watching. A few have just finished seasons, while others are launching into new ones, but in most cases you can easily watch these suckers over a weekend, if you want. We’ve also done our best to curate a few different flavors of geek TV, so there’s some comedy, some sci-fi, some Marvel, some whatever-the-hell-genre-the-Wachowskis-are… In short, there’s probably at least one show on this list that you’ll fall in love with.
Other Space (Yahoo!)
The first episode… well, there’s no other way to say this. The first episode is pretty bad. Clunky, overacted, and really weirdly paced. BUT. Episode 2 is hilarious, and the rest of the series only gets stronger with each half hour. The characters all become increasingly nuanced, there are weird twists and surprisingly touching moments, and best of all, the actors come together to work as a team as actors, if not always as the crew of a spaceship. There are so many loving homages to sci-fi clichés, so many weird reversals, and so many potentially evil aliens. And, best of all, Joel Hodgson finally gets to play a character that isn’t Joel Robinson, and does a delightful job of skewering what seems at first to be an older mentor role. His relationship with A.R.T., played by Trace Beaulieu, is just as rewarding as the Other Joel’s relationship with Crow T. Robot.
Perhaps you gave up after the show went to Yahoo!? Or perhaps you heard people referring to it as a zombified version of itself? But at some point during the first two online-only episodes, Community turned back into an amazing show. (I honestly don’t know how they’ve done this.) I skipped the “gas leak year” after trying a few episodes, and then watched all of season 5 but spent most of it feeling like they’d lost the magic, despite some great individual moments. (Oh god the floor is LAVA.) But now, having watched all of the 6th season, I want the movie we’ve been promised!
The additions to the cast have turned out to be great. After a slightly shaky start, Paget Brewster’s Frankie Dart became a fully-realized person, while Elroy Patashnik very quickly established himself one of my favorite characters in the show’s history. The more I think about his character’s relationship with the group, the more I wish they’d just had him from the start, and we’d never had to deal with Pierce and his bullshit. The Dean works as a more central character, especially now that there’s no Troy to provide whimsy, and the show has figured out how to use Chang (again) without letting him go full Poochie. Having watched all the Yahoo! episodes, I can say that this season has more in common with Abed’s Golden Age than the later years. I can also say that the season (possibly series?) finale is one of the most honest, and genuinely moving, sitcom endings I’ve ever seen.
Orphan Black (BBC America–Streaming on Amazon Prime)
Orphan Black‘s decision to introduce the all-male Castor clones could have been seen as a jumping-the-shark move for season 3. But instead, Castor has provided an excellent foil for Leda: Raised together and conditioned through military training while hiding a deadly secret, these brothers nonetheless prove more fragmented than the original Clone Club. Along with the overarching plot, which spans from Mexico to London, you’ve also got Alison coming into her own in a very Breaking Bad way, heartbreaking Cosima/Delphine moments, and clone swaps out the wazoo.
We’ve already written (AT LENGTH) about Daredevil, but I (Leah) cannot stress enough how much everyone should watch it. Not only will it prep you for all the other Marvel Netflix shows coming out, but it is itself a funny, gritty, deeply emotional look at two men who try to become heroes. While Matt Murdock rises above his vigilantism into something more overtly heroic, Wilson Fisk finds himself going to darker and darker lengths to assert his power, until his role as the Kingpin is all but inevitable. The fight scenes in this sucker actually hurt to watch, the adults act like adults—in that they drink and curse but also have real emotional weight behind their decisions—and there are consequences that can’t simply be waved away by Stark’s tech or Steve Rogers’ innate goodness.
Halt and Catch Fire (Netflix)
“Computers aren’t the thing—they’re the thing that gets us to the thing.”
This sounds silly, yes? But when you hear Lee Pace say it, you kind of want to quit your corporate job and join his early ’80s start-up. It’s difficult to get over-the-top-and inspiring with computer history, because, well, unless you’re the right type of person, talking about coding and building computers is the televisual equivalent of watching solder dry, and attempts to use quick-cut edits and montages to make it look exciting come off as silly.
Halt and Catch Fire is also a bit of a Mad Men pastiche, even down to main character Joe McMillan’s dramatically mysterious past, and the telegraphing of an increasing role for the female characters. But as the season goes on, things pick up speed like, I don’t know, Moore’s Law or something? And as season 2 launches, it sounds like the show is even stronger, and choosing to sideline the two male main characters in favor of Cameron the punk programmer and Donna the Texas Instruments escapee.
Man Seeking Woman (FXX–Streaming on Amazon Prime)
FXX’s surprise hit crosses sitcom romance tropes with the it-could-happen premises of Black Mirror, where the style and structure resembles a sketch show (no surprise, as its showrunner Simon Rich was Saturday Night Live‘s youngest writer hired). Jay Baruchel finds his perfect footing as the hapless Josh Greenberg, who’s trying to “get back out there” after a soul-sucking breakup. Except that this universe takes all the classic dating tropes and gives them a genre spin. Every blind date looks like a troll compared to Josh’s ex? No, that’s actually a troll he’s going out with, and she is just as nervous as he is. His ex is dating a guy so awful he might as well be Hitler? Surprise, it’s actually Hitler.
Later episodes include Cupid’s meddling, time travel pills, a wedding in hell, and a Japanese penis monster played by Fred Armisen. And yet, having all this absurdity take place without any explanation still makes more sense than some romantic subplots on other genre series.
Silicon Valley (HBO Now or Go or Whatever)
Silicon Valley is the sillier cousin of H&CF. Mike Judge—who has defined a couple of generations at this point, and accurately predicted the future in Idiocracy—examines masculinity, nerd stereotypes, and bro culture with a fabulous cast of comic actors. Like many of Judge’s works, it’s a vicious examination of masculinity and male friendship, along with some acidic cultural commentary. Plus, his usual warnings about the ever-growing disparity between rich and poor…wait, you guys knew that Beavis and Butthead wasn’t actually a comedy, right? It’s two undereducated latchkey kids who are living in poverty with no prospect of escape? And they’d both be in prison for meth now if they were real people? …Anyway, before this gets too dark, let me say that this is also one of the funniest comedies I’ve seen in years, the acting is impeccable, and they’ve elevated the state of the dick joke.
If you marathoned Daredevil the weekend it premiered, you might enjoy this binge-worthy superhero series, which looks at a very different world than Hell’s Kitchen—a world in which superpowered humans are our rich, beautiful, impossibly-talented idols. While season 1 has been described as somewhat shaky, it’s worth watching for the postmodern commentary on powers and doing good. Plus, it’s based on Brian Michael Bendis’ comic, making it a good way to whet your palate for Marvel and Netflix’s AKA Jessica Jones.
The Wachowskis are working with J. Michael Strazcinsky on a sci-fi show that is sure to be utterly coherent and feature a simply, easy-to-follow plotline:
“I’m losing my mind!” one character gasps.
“No, it’s just expanding,” a Lost alum assures him.
This show looks like it will be awesome and fun, playing with the creators’ usual meditations on identity and the human condition on a TV landscape will hopefully short-circuit their tendency to portentous dorm-room philosophy… but I’m that freak who appreciated what they were trying to do in Cloud Atlas, and gave Jupiter Ascending a good review… so, take that into account.
Hannibal (NBC–Streaming on Amazon Prime)
Alex Brown already wrote about why you should be watching this show, but I’ll go ahead and add my voice to the chorus: It’s unlike any other show on TV. It takes the “smartest man in the room” cliché and explodes it, giving us multiple smartest guys, plus some smartest women, and one of those women is played by Gillian Anderson.
Hannibal creates what is essentially a brutal synesthetic opera that considers the horror inherent in life; examines the roles of goodness, hope, and empathy in the human experience; and, above all, celebrates the artistry of cooking. Bryan Fuller, who already won my eternal devotion with Wonderfalls, is creating something amazing right now, and everyone should be watching it so that it gets renewed into infinity. Plus hopefully soon we’ll have his take on American Gods, too, and he’ll gradually take over all the channels, and we can all live in the Fullerverse forever.
What binge-worthy shows are you all watching this summer? We’re planning to hide from the outdoors until mid-September, so let us know your picks!
Natalie Zutter has been fastidiously avoiding Daredevil spoilers for months, so now she’s waiting for a painfully bright day to get nice and dark. You can read more of her work on Twitter or elsewhere.