As someone with chronic fatigue — who also finishes her workday very early — I watch a lot of Netflix and Hulu (and a tiny bit of Prime). I cannot stress enough that I watch a lot of TV programming. A lot. A whole, whole lot. But hey, it has the benefit of being very cheap entertainment.
At any rate, someone asked for some suggestions, so here is a (very long) list of shows I’ve watched — most have been binged — over the past year or so. These are in no particular order, by the way. Sorry, but ranking these would be exhausting!
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime): Hilariously written, slightly foul-mouthed and overall wonderful. It’s the same creator and writer as Gilmore Girls, so all the characters are engaging and humorous.
Good Omens (Amazon Prime): A short series based on a very funny book by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman about the apocalypse. David Tenant is fabulous, and the show remains very faithful to the source material. A must-see for anyone with a good sense of humor.
Brooklyn 99 (Hulu): A hilarious comedy with a great ensemble cast. But Andre Braugher is particularly wonderful as the stoic Captain Holt. This is set in a police precinct (the 99, hence the show’s name). There are great characters and writing.
Drunk history (Hulu): If you haven’t seen this yet… Oh my goodness you’re missing out. People recount historical events — but the storytellers are all drunk.
This leads to educational (but hilarious) accounts, full of slight mistakes that the drunk people have to go back and correct — all of it played out by actors as the tale is being told. (The actors mouth the words, including any stutters, verbal missteps or mistakes made.) Some pretty well-known actors have shown up on the show, including Alfred Molina, Terry Crews, Kristen Wiig and a few others.
The Good Place (Netflix): You’ll want to wait to watch this until the final season is up on Netflix, but trust me it’s just amazing. Kristen Bell is a kinda bad person who in the afterlife somehow finds herself in “the Good Place.” Apparently, they have her confused with another woman of the same name.
She’s afraid of being found out, so she enlists the help of a philosophy professor there to help her try to become a better person. It’s hilarious and poignant at times and just… Did I say “amazing” already? Well it is. Bear with the second season a bit, as the first few episodes of it are a little rocky. It’s worth it, I promise.
Madam Secretary (Netflix): Tea Leoni may be one of the most underused actresses of her generation. This show is about an ex-CIA worker (turned political science professor) whose old boss happens to be elected president and taps her to become Secretary of State. The writing is sharp, and the characters are engaging. Tim Daly is also wonderful as her husband.
Jane the Virgin (Netflix): I avoided this show for a while thinking it was religious but actually it’s just a hilarious takeoff of/homage to telenovelas. The main character is accidentally artificially inseminated, so she becomes a pregnant virgin. This obviously turns her life upside down, she ends up in a love triangle, over-the-top villains skulk around, and it’s just generally a great show with a lot of laughs and even some touching moments.
iZombie (Netflix): The only zombie stuff I can stand. The setup makes it sound stupid, but it’s not, I promise. The premise: The main character is a zombie who hides in plain sight as a coroner so that she can eat brains without hurting anyone. The brains give her visions of the victims’ lives, so she uses those (under the guise of being “psychic”) to help close cases. The characters are wonderful and endearing, there’s great comedy, and other than the penultimate season being a bit uneven, it’s wonderful throughout.
Shameless (Netflix): Be prepared for a lot of swearing, lot of drinking and lots of sex. But if you don’t mind such blue material, it’s a great show. William H. Macy is amazing as an alcoholic (or drug user, he doesn’t discriminate) who leaves a house full of kids — from 2ish to about 20 — to fend for themselves most of the time. Sounds awful, yet it’s somehow still very funny.
A Series of Unfortunate Events (Netflix): Darkly funny if frustrating to watch (for the main characters’ sake). Neil Patrick Harris chews the scenery with abandon.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Netflix): A slightly unbalanced lawyer having a life crisis runs into the past love of her life. She takes it as a sign from the universe to uproot and move to be closer to him. I don’t usually like musicals. But these songs are hilarious and the writing is great.
This is Us: Wonderful writing, engaging characters, great acting and one of the only shows I’ll watch that routinely makes me cry. Which should tell you something.
Stumptown (Hulu): Still in its first season, but great so far. Colbie Smulders from How I Met Your Mother plays Dex, a veteran who hasn’t quite found her place in the world (except for taking care of her brother, who has Down’s Syndrome).
She trips into some private eye work and finds it suits her. The character is tough and at times hard to like (she’s got a drinking problem to avoid dealing with some PTSD). But she’s snarky and hard not to root for. The actor who played Nick on The New Girl is also great as Dex’s sardonic best friend.
Great shows (at first)
These are ones that started off strong — so they’re worth watching the first season — but the others… Well, decide for yourself.
Jessica Jones (Netflix): The first season has great writing and a great plot. It’s hard to love Jessica — she’s surly and has a pretty bad drinking problem (understandably, as you find out during the season) — but you find yourself rooting for her anyway.
The second and third season are pretty meh. The second season has good parts, but her friend going off the rails felt forced and weird. And the villain is kind of iffy. The third season… Honestly, I barely remember it except that it was kind of underwhelming.
Stranger Things (Netflix): The first season is amazing. Interesting, creepy and well-written. I really can’t explain it without giving away plot twists. So just take my word that it’s great.
The second season had good parts but was very uneven thanks to a wholly unnecessary secondary plot that spans multiple episodes but ultimately goes nowhere. The third one is less uneven but frankly I felt like the way the big bad was in their lives was weirdly forced.
Westworld (HBO): Lifelike robots (who don’t know they’re robots) populate an old West town and act out preprogrammed plots for visitors to engage in — including sex incidentally so be prepared for a fair amount of those scenes.
The first season is just… Wow. There are a lot of moving parts, which keep you guessing. The culmination doesn’t disappoint. And all of the actors are wonderful.
The second season is also good but a tad underwhelming compared to the first. I have no idea how they’re extending it to a third season, so I’m steeling myself to be disappointed.
Game of Thrones: Hopefully, you know the plot by now. This show started off incredibly strong, and I watched it til the end because… Well, it’s addictive. But be prepared to be less enthralled after the second or third season and downright frustrated at times by the last two.
Thoroughly enjoyable (but not amazing):
Umbrella Academy: This may belong in the “great” category. I can’t quite decide. Based on a graphic novel, it’s a strange, strange tale, so I’m putting it here instead. A group of children born under mysterious circumstances turn out to have powers, and their eccentric millionaire adopted father makes the kids into a crime-fighting team. We actually meet them as adults (with flashbacks to the old days) when they’ve disbanded and barely associate with one another. The show starts as they get a warning that the world is going to end, so they band together once more (with lots of in-fighting) to try to stop it.
The Crown: This one may also belong in the “great” section, but I put it here because it’s very slow-moving at times. Okay, a lot of the time. The story follows the life of Elizabeth II as a young woman (and on). The acting is great, the characters are well-written, and John Lithgow as Winston Churchill is inspired.
Longmire (Netflix): A sheriff in Wyoming trying to navigate crimes amid conflicts with the nearby reservation’s police (and the complications brought about by an impending casino). A lot more intriguing and interesting than I’m making it sound, perhaps because the characters themselves are so appealing and engaging. Plus Lou Diamond Philips is amazing in his role.
GLOW: Set in the ’80s, this is about the world of wrestling. Alison Brie from Community is great as a struggling actress who falls into the whole thing and ends up loving it. Marc Maron is quite good as a lovable, kinda-screwup curmudgeon.
The Magicians: The plot doesn’t sound like much — a group of students at a magic university trying to stop of a villian — but the characters are well-rounded and humorous. I went through all four available seasons in about a week (maybe less) because it was so engaging.
Sex Education: The second season is on my to-watch list. The first season was great. Gillian Anderson is fabulous (if somewhat unrecognizable as a blonde). But maybe I’m just biased about her character because she, too, is freely sleeping with younger men. At any rate, the main character is awkward but rarely cringe-inducing, which is an impressive feat of writing. The situations are funny and the characters appealing.
Perfect Harmony (Hulu): A well-known conductor returns to his late wife’s hometown to bury her. He gets mixed up with a church choir desperately in need of some help. Of course, all of the choir members are quite the characters. Nothing too deep but pretty fun.
Superstore (Hulu): Set in a fictional big box store (but yeah it’s obviously Walmart), funny characters navigate weird customers, strange situations and, of course, life on low pay.
Altered Carbon: Still waiting for season 2. It’s an interesting concept: People are now essentially chips implanted into bodies or “sleeves” as they’re called, so actual death is far less common.
Haven: A federal agent ends up in the small town of Haven and quickly finds some clues to the family she never knew. Unfortunately, she also finds some strange events that she alone seems able to help with. The series could probably have been condensed a little to make for better viewing, but overall an interesting watch.
The Witcher: I mean… A very buff Henry Cavill with his shirt off in a fair number of scenes may be enough to convince some folks to watch it. But it’s definitely an interesting plot, just one that you need to pay somewhat strict attention to. Because not only is this fantasy (so you have to learn the rules of that world) but there are different time lines being flashed to. It can be hard to keep track of which point in time you are. But once I stopped trying to play on Twitter while watching it, I enjoyed it very much.
Speechless: A family with a special needs kid (who is unable to speak) moves to a new school district that has the best advantages for him, including someone who will read the words he points to on his communication board. It’s a good ensemble cast — and they use an actual disabled actor for a change — but Minnie Driver is truly the standout in the show.
Lucifer: Graphic novel fans be warned, this is not actually based on Neil Gaiman’s work except that Lucifer hangs out on Earth. That’s it. It’s more of a crime show, but Lucifer’s character is wickedly (pun intended) entertaining.
Good Girls: The tale of three women who (sorta) inadvertently end up as part of a crime ring. I love all 3 actresses (Christina Hendricks from Mad Men, Retta from Parks & Rec and Mae Whitman from Arrested Development), so it’s enjoyable.
Ozark: Speaking of Arrested Development, Jason Bateman is quite good — and surprisingly adept at being dark — in Ozark. For reasons I don’t want to get too into for fear of spoiling a few early twists, Jason Bateman is stuck in the boonies trying to launder money for the mob. Laura Linney plays his wife and does a wonderful job, as always.
Outlander: The first season is better than the others. But the writing is pretty good, there are steamy sex scenes and the male lead is really hot. So… Maybe worth a look?
Wynona Earp: The descendant of the great Wyatt Earp, Wynona (as the oldest of her family) is charged (to her chagrin) with rooting out damned souls that have made their way back to Earth. The only way to kill them is to use Wyatt’s gun. The lead character is strong if not always likable. The concept is interesting. Not award-winning writing, but humorous and a fun watch nonetheless.
Dollface (Hulu): Kat Dennings (Thor, Two Broke Girls) is a woman who, after a breakup, realizes she let all of her friendships slide during her relationship. So she strives to rebuild ties with her old friends, finding out along the way just how weird and how much work female friendships can be.
The Rookie: I love Nathan Fillion, what can I say? He’s engaging as a late-40s rookie policeman. The characters are enjoyable, the situations are interesting. The body cam shots are a tad dizzying, admittedly. But a generally enjoyable show.
Great (with the right sense of humor)
Some shows are amazing… For the right audience. Here are some shows that tickle me but may not land with some crowds.
Schitt’s Creek (Netflix): A rich family loses everything and moves to Schitt’s Creek, a town they bought — yes bought because they thought the name was funny– in better days. They encounter all manner of quirky townsfolk as they try to adjust to/get out of their new lives. The humor here is definitely an acquired taste, but if you like the first episode then you’ll be addicted to this show.
Letterkenney (Hulu): A show about a small Canadian town and its strange inhabitants. This show is hard to explain, but there are plenty of zingers. Except that, like Schitt’s Creek, either you love the humor or it just doesn’t quite land with you. But I find it hilarious.
Archer (Netflix… sorta): This show comes and goes from Netflix. If you see it on there, WATCH IT! It’s dirty, crass and full of hilariously awful characters. You’ll be ashamed of yourself for laughing, but you’ll be laughing nonetheless. Admittedly, the last two seasons haven’t been as good. But even those are better than a lot of programming out there.
Agree or disagree with any of these? Any favorite shows I didn’t mention here?