Summer is, traditionally speaking, a slow period for TV. All the big popcorn blockbusters are out in theatres, and networks are airing their second- and third-tier titles as they prep for fall premiere season. Thankfully, that gives us all time to catch up on the slew of quality TV we might have missed in the first half of the year. Whether you’re looking for a quick binge-watch or a full collection of multiple seasons, we’ve got you covered.
GOOD OMENS (Amazon Video/BBC Two)
As is writer Neil Gaiman’s style, Good Omens boasts a unique approach to absurdist dramedy, but its most compelling force is undoubtedly the relationship between the angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and the demon Crowley (David Tennant). The thoroughly entertaining—yet surprisingly tender—push-and-pull between the frenemies is performed splendidly by the two-screen veterans, but the bulk of the credit must be reserved for Gaiman, who penned the entire season as well as the original book, together with the late fantasy author Terry Pratchett. (Their friendship had a big impact on Good Omens even after Pratchett’s death.)
The first (and very likely only) season is now available, and with just six episodes, it’s a much more manageable binge watch than most other shows. It’s also nice to see the criminally underappreciated Adria Arjona (Emerald City, Pacific Rim: Uprising) back on TV as a witch—I mean, occultist. Seriously, Hollywood, hire this woman!
POSE is truly unlike anything on TV right now. It’s a broadcast show led almost entirely by people of colour who are openly gay and/or trans, focused on the underground ballroom culture that has been marginalised and underrepresented in mainstream media for decades. In its most literal sense, no other show on air right now has the range.
If you think POSE is nothing but a diversity checklist, think again. The show is bold in taking on important, sobering issues we don’t often see on TV, like racism, homophobia, transphobia and the LGBT+ community’s struggle with HIV/AIDS. It’s not here to talk down at you from its social justice pedestal, though. All it does is tell you stories, stories populated with compelling characters and nuanced relationships that make you think, feel, weep and rejoice. For all its big swings and ambitious leaps, POSE‘s biggest strength is that it all comes from a place of love.
POSE is midway through its second season, and was recently renewed for a third.
MIRACLE WORKERS (TBS)
Somebody please explain to me why I haven’t seen a single person talking about this show. The apocalyptic comedy features Daniel Radcliffe in peak comedy form, Geraldine Viswanathan, Karan Soni and Lolly Adefope in main starring roles AND *cups hands over mouth* Steve Buscemi as GOD, and y’all have the AUDACITY to not watch it. For SHAME, people.
The premise of Miracle Workers: a washed-up God deciding to destroy the Earth, before he’s stopped by two entreating employees from the Department of Answered Prayers (Radcliffe and Viswanathan). In order to save Earth, the unlikely heroes are given two weeks to make two painfully introverted humans fall in love, and thus begins the muddled but endearing antics. There’s no clever, pretentious philosophising here; in fact, for a show based in the divine perspective, it’s delightfully, pleasingly human. It’s also ridiculously bingeable, but not to worry, once you’ve devoured all seven episodes, you have the joy of looking forward to a second season.
NOW APOCALYPSE (Starz)
Now Apocalypse is like a fever dream in all the best ways possible. It’s half-stoner comedy, half-sci-fi mystery, colourful and vibrant in both presentation and substance, and populated with plenty of unique characters that honestly don’t have to do a lot to hold one’s attention. The Avan Jogia-led cast is fantastic, throwing themselves into the extremities of their roles and situations with admirable commitment as the show explores sex, romance, and the restless ennui of twenty-somethings waiting for their break. (Fair warning: there is a lot of sex going on, and yes, it’s graphic.)
All 10 episodes are available now. Unfortunately, Starz has cancelled the show after only one season, but you should still check it out to see Avan Jogia.
CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND (The CW)
From the beginning, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was critically beloved but severely underwatched, its fanbase passionate but very, very small. Many dismissed it before it even premiered—a musical romantic comedy on TV? Hadn’t we all had enough of Glee?
But for four spirited seasons, CXG proved itself to be a real force to reckon with. In Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna created one of the most memorable TV protagonists of the last decade, even if it’s for just how good of an antagonist she can be as well. Through deftly written dialogue and an impressive host of original songs that were both laugh-out-loud funny and painfully honest, the show burrowed its way through concepts of romance, friendship, feminism, mental health, sexuality, family, self-image, identity, and more. CXG also made breakout stars of several of its recurring-turned-main cast, most notably Gabrielle Ruiz (Valencia) and Vella Lovell (Heather), both of whom took seemingly one-note characters and turned them into fan favourites.
Now that CXG is finally over, it’s time to watch (or re-watch) all four seasons in memory of this ambitious, heartwarming and, above all, truly unique show. (For more of our thoughts on the show, feel free to check out our tribute published post-series finale, Love Letter to Crazy-Ex Girlfriend.)
BLACK MONDAY (Showtime)
Based on the epic stock market crash of 1987, Black Monday is a show that juggles many plates—comedy, drama, racial and gender politics, workplace satire, cutthroat backstabbing, drugs and substance abuse, romance, socioeconomic commentary, Don Cheadle’s moustache. It moves at a breakneck, take-no-prisoners pace, and on many levels, it definitely doesn’t care if you like it or not. The entire cast (led by Cheadle and the always reliable Regina Hall) are fantastic, each of them perfectly cast in their ridiculous roles. Everyone in this show takes everything too seriously, and yet they’re never serious about anything at all. It’s hard to say where this show belongs categorically, but you get the strange sense that as much as the show is inviting you to laugh at its characters, it’s also laughing at you as well—a muffled snort of “ha, can’t believe you actually cared for a second there.” It’s absolutely fantastic.
Black Monday will return for a second season in 2020, so catch up on all 10 episodes of season one now!
Yet another sorely underwatched critical darling, GLOW started out telling the story of a melodramatic rivalry between two former friends who become professional wrestlers, but quickly turned into something else. The relationship between its two leads, Ruth (Alison Brie) and Debbie (Betty Gilpin), is essentially used as a sort of narrative Trojan horse to tell the stories of their teammates, most of whom come from marginalised communities: women of colour, women with mental health struggles, women who’ve been abandoned or displaced, women who aren’t conventionally attractive enough to earn the respect of mainstream society. It’s a great underdog story that portrays the growth of a team of women—a growth that is heartwarming, encouraging, and at times, ugly or bitter, which only makes it a lot more real and valuable than if it were played out as a cookie-cutter, sunshine-and-rainbows girls’ club.
Season 3 of GLOW just hit Netflix August 9th.
DEAR WHITE PEOPLE (Netflix)
Dear White People is one of the sharpest shows on air right now. Yes, it does get a little heavy-handed and overdone sometimes, but only because it consistently makes an effort to aim that high and dig that deep. It tackles big, complicated issues head on while being careful to present multiple points of view in a nuanced manner, a technique that unfortunately remains vastly underused and underappreciated in other shows of this type. It also gives its fantastic roster of characters plenty of room to breathe and grow, and watching supporting cast members Marque Richardson (Reggie Green), Ashley Blaine Featherson (Joelle Brooks) and DeRon Horton (Lionel Higgins) come into their own over the episodes is truly a special, soul-lifting sort of joy. Overall, Dear White People succeeds a hell of a lot more than it fails, and that’s what makes it not just an addictive binge-watch, but a quality one as well.
Season 3 of Dear White People premiered on Netflix August 2nd.
THE GOOD PLACE (NBC)
The Good Place eases you into its brilliance so smoothly that you’re almost annoyed with yourself for not realising just how sharp it can be right from the get-go. In an oversaturated sea of comedies that constantly either pander popular references for an easy laugh or overshoot for highbrow observations in an attempt to be ~sophisticated~, The Good Place stands out for its consistent willingness to look silly. Like Miracle Workers, the show’s biggest charm is how unabashedly human it remains at the core despite its divine premise. It’s anchored by a highly competent cast, featuring the ever-reliable Kristen Bell, a remarkably nuanced William Jackson Harper, the fittingly theatrical Jameela Jamil, the outstandingly talented D’Arcy Carden, and the hottest man on TV right now, Manny Jacinto. Yes, I said hottest. No, I will not hear any argument on the subject. (It must also be mentioned that despite being completely unknown before The Good Place, three seasons on, Jacinto has developed what might just be the best knack for comedic timing out of the entire cast.)
Why catch up on The Good Place now? Well, aside from the fact that it’s a damn good show that should be watched, it’s also worth noting that its fourth and final season airs on September 27th. If there was ever a time to get caught up on seasons 1-3, it’s now.