2018 Summer Streaming Guide: The best TV shows and documentaries on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon

Amanda Abbington, left, and Michael C. Hall in the Netflix series "Safe."
Amanda Abbington, left, and Michael C. Hall in the Netflix series "Safe." NETFLIX

WEATHER ALERT: As we enter the final stretch of summer, it’s a good time to take a break from the heat and trade a little of that outdoor suffering for some A/C, a comfy sofa and your trusty TV remote.

We’ve put together a list of some of the best titles to stream while you hide from the sun’s death rays. Call it a companion piece to our similar list of titles to stream while snowed in.

(Note: We’ve concentrated on original streaming titles, so no need to point out that we’ve left off “The Wire” or “Game of Thrones” or whatever cable TV show also happens to be streaming right now. Those are great, but that’s not what this is.)

Armed with this list, you only need to get some snacks, some frosty beverages and the Uber Eats app, and you might not have to leave your house for days.


Raleigh native Michael C. Hall heads this twisty British drama created by bestselling mystery author Harlan Coben. Hall, adopting a believable British accent, plays a widower whose teenage daughter goes missing after attending a wild party, during which at least one teenager is killed.

Every episode (there are eight total) ends with a cliffhanger, making this the ultimate binge. And there are enough red herrings to keep you guessing all the way to the end. An unexpected bonus is the “Fargo”-esque shenanigans of one family bungling their way through trying to cover up a crime.

Where to find it: Netflix

Hugh Grant, right, as Jeremy Thorpe, and Ben Whishaw as Norman Scott in "A Very English Scandal" on Amazon Prime. BBC/Blueprint Television

‘A Very English Scandal’

Hugh Grant gives one of the best performances of his career as the real-life British politician Jeremy Thorpe, who became embroiled in scandal in the 1970s when he tried to arrange the murder of a young man with whom he’d had a sexual relationship. Thankfully, the “hit” was bungled and the young man, Norman Scott (Ben Whishaw), went on to testify against Thorpe at trial.

“A Very English Scandal” is dark and sad at times, but also quite funny, due in large part to the goofy incompetence of those involved. It’s better if you don’t Google for the true story before getting to the end (at the end, Google away because it’s great reading). There are only three episodes, so it’s a quick binge — but still long enough that you’ll find yourself saying at least 10 times to your TV, “Just get him his National Insurance Card already!”

Where to find it: Amazon

Sissy Spacek, left, and André Holland in the Hulu original series “Castle Rock.” HULU

‘Castle Rock’

A fascinating horror anthology series that works as a melding of many parts of Stephen King’s universe. Most of it is set around the Shawshank prison, but you’ll see references to plot points from classics like “The Shining,” “Stand By Me” (aka “The Body”) and “Cujo.” It also stars actors who have played some of King’s most well-known characters: Sissy Spacek (“Carrie”), Bill Skarsgard (“It”), Terry O’Quinn (“Silver Bullet”) and Frances Conroy (“The Mist”), for example.

Where to find it: Hulu

Michael Peterson, left, discusses case strategy with attorney David Rudolf in the first of the new episodes of "The Staircase" documentary series (technically Episode 11) released on Netflix June 8. Netflix will have all 13 episodes of the series for the first time. NETFLIX

‘The Staircase’

We can’t write a streaming guide without reminding you again about the summer true crime hit based right here in the Triangle. “The Staircase” is a 13-part documentary about Michael Peterson, who went on trial for the murder of his wife, Kathleen. Kathleen Peterson, a Nortel executive, was found dead at the bottom of a back staircase in the couple’s Durham home in December 2001. Michael said she had fallen down the stairs, but the prosecution said he beat her to death (later theories emerged about a possible owl attack).

The case had so many bizarre twists and turns that “The Staircase” ends up being part documentary and part juicy soap opera. Plus, it’s a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at a defense team’s preparations for a murder trial. You can read all of our coverage of “The Staircase” here.

Where to find it: Netflix

Jeff Daniels in the Hulu original series “Looming Tower.” HULU

‘The Looming Tower’

This deep dive into the days leading up to 9/11 focuses on why the attacks happened and why we couldn’t stop them — primarily, the lack of intel sharing between the FBI and CIA. The 10-part limited series is based on Lawrence Wright’s Pulitzer Prize–winning 2006 book, but takes the usual dramatic liberties. Jeff Daniels leads the cast, playing the FBI counterterrorism chief, and his counterpart at the CIA is played by Peter Sarsgaard.

Where to find it: Hulu

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New seasons of old favorites

‘Handmaid’s Tale’: Hulu dropped Season 2 of this acclaimed drama on July 1. Unlike the first season, this one deviates from the original source material almost entirely. Reviews for the second season (which I have not watched) have been mixed, but Elisabeth Moss is still the standout.

‘Orange Is the New Black’: The ladies in orange returned for Season 6 on Netflix just this week, and it looks to be a pretty different kind of season than what we’ve seen in the past. It starts after last season’s prison riot and raid, with all of the women relocated to different facilities — which it turns out is a great way to pare down the cast. We’re tracking a smaller number of women who have been moved to Litchfield’s maximum security prison, where they face a much tougher existence.

Marc Maron, left, and Alison Brie in the Netflix original series “Glow.” NETFLIX

‘Glow’: The second season of this 1980s-set Netflix original about the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling dropped this summer, and it’s even better than the first. But you need to see both seasons, so if you’re a “Glow” virgin, start at the beginning. It’s funny and heartbreaking and delivered in half-hour servings. And it’s a strong, mostly female cast from top to bottom, with a standout performance from Alison Brie and a strong showing from podcast titan Marc Maron.

‘Goliath’: Season 2 of Amazon Prime’s David vs. Goliath drama may lack the creepy specter of William Hurt, but it trades up for an even creepier Mark Duplass as a Los Angeles developer connected to a double homicide. Billy Bob Thornton returns as lawyer Billy McBride.

‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’: Things are no easier for the Baudelaire orphans in Season 2 of this excellent Netflix family series. Neil Patrick Harris continues to dazzle as the evil Count Olaf, determined to separate the youngsters from their inherited fortune by any means necessary. The show is really remarkable, but I’d only advise it for kids 10 years and up, because it can get pretty scary. It was nearly too much for me at times (but in a good way).

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“Long Shot”: This wonderful 2017 documentary is about how an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” got a man out of prison. You have to see it to believe it. It’s pure joy. Available on Netflix.

The documentary “Long Shot” recounts how a filming of the HBO series “Curb Your Enthusiasm” placed Juan Catalan at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2003 and helped get him out of prison. NETFLIX

“Casting Jon Benet”: The story of the murder of Jon Benet Ramsey is told through a disparate cross-section of local actors from the Boulder area who are auditioning for parts in the film. Weird is not too strong a word for this one, but it’s also mesmerizing. Also on Netflix.

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