With this weekend’s weather forecast somewhere in the Seventh Circle of Hell region, it’s a good time to crank up the A/C, retreat to the sofa with a cool beverage and catch up on all the binge-worthy TV you’ve missed lately.
We’re so many years into the Golden Age of Television that “too much good TV” has become the norm. There are so many amazing shows that you’ll never watch them all and you’ll never catch up.
But you can make a dent in the Good TV pile, and a weekend when it makes no sense being outside (unless it’s absolutely necessary), is a great time to do that.
This isn’t a “Greatest TV of All Time” list, so don’t come at me with how I left off “The Wire” or “The Sopranos” or “The Crown.” Our list is limited to shows that have either premiered or issued new seasons in the past year.
We’re focusing on the streaming or On Demand options (for cable shows), but remember that in most cases, you can also purchase episodes on iTunes or through Amazon.
“Fleabag” - In a word, excellence. This Phoebe Waller-Bridge series, which recently released its second and final season on Amazon, follows a troubled young woman in London as she deals with the loss of her best friend and navigates the sometimes contentious relationships within her own family. It’s mesmerizing and funny and heartbreaking. Season 2 snagged 11 Emmy nominations this week. And yes, you need to watch Season 1 first. It will all fly by and then you’ll be sad it’s over and never coming back.
“Catastrophe” - Another excellent British show whose most recent season (Season 4) was its last — and boy did this one stick the landing. The meaning of the final scene is highly debatable, but no spoilers here. The series is an unflinching look at a very imperfect but ultimately sweet relationship between a London woman and an American man who got her pregnant during a one-week fling in the UK and ultimately married her.
“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” - This show’s first season made our Snowed In streaming list last year, and we’re including Season 2 now for those who have so far resisted the urge. It’s wacky and charming. Sure, Rachel Brosnahan is great as Midge, but don’t take your eye off Tony Shalhoub, as her father, for a second (as if you could). Season 2, released this past winter, got 20 Emmy nominations this year.
“When They See Us” - A stunning new dramatic series from Ava Duvernay about the Central Park Five rape case from 1989. It tells the story of the five black and Latino men who were wrongly convicted in the rape and beating of a jogger in Central Park, and who were later exonerated when the real rapist confessed and his DNA matched that left on the victim. This debuted May 31 and this week it got 16 Emmy nominations — the most for any Netflix show this year.
“Russian Doll” - This Natasha Lyonne series quietly debuted in February and then quickly caught fire. The premise: Nadia (Lyonne) is trapped in a surreal time loop, first dying and then coming back to life over and over on her 36th birthday. Watch it closely. Then watch it again. Then watch it a third time. You’ll notice something new with each viewing. It’ll be back for a second season, but no indication as to when. This got 13 Emmy nominations this week.
“Stranger Things 3” - We talk about this series a lot because its creators, The Duffer Brothers, are natives. And because they sprinkle local references throughout the Indiana-set show. And because it’s really good. The third season, released July 4, came out too late for this year’s Emmy nods, but it’ll catch up. And yes, you need to watch all three seasons in order (especially Season 1).
“Chernobyl” - Put aside any fears that this will be a dry history lesson about the worst nuclear power plant accident in history. The five-part miniseries from Craig Mazin is not only superbly written and acted, it’s endlessly fascinating. Some scenes are hard to watch, but not because they’re boring; it’s graphic when necessary and gives an unflinching look at the realities of the consequences of Russia’s catastrophic nuclear meltdown. When you finish, check out the equally fascinating companion podcast with Mazin and NPR host Peter Sagal (It’s also called “Chernobyl”).
“Deadwood” - Normally, “Deadwood” belongs in the Classics category with “The Sopranos” and “The Wire” (it’s that good), but with the release of a two-hour “Deadwood” movie in May, it’s back in play. Now is the time to binge-watch this gem and cap it off with the new movie. Trust me, you need Al Swearengen in your life.
“Game of Thrones” - This wildly popular series, which ended this year after 8 seasons, set a record this week for earning 32 Emmy nominations in one year. Let’s be honest: some fans didn’t love this final season, but I’m betting not a single one of them would say they regret watching. If you’re already a fan, you’ve likely already watched. If you’ve always wondered what the fuss is about, it’s a good time to dive in. There are lots of snowy scenes to make you feel cooler while it’s sweltering outside.
“True Detective” - Did you give up on “True Detective” after the awful second season? Me too. So much so that I didn’t even pay attention when Season 3 premiered in January. I should not have slept on this show because this third season, starring Mahershala Ali, was fantastic. In fact, I think I’ll pick it over Season 1. Loved, loved, loved it. If you’ve never watched, go ahead and watch Season 1 first and then skip right to Season 3. Each season tackles a separate crime with a different cast, so you really don’t ever need to watch Season 2.
“Barry” - This really well done comedy-ish series is not my exact cup of tea, but it’s very good and Season 1 earned Henry Winkler (and star Bill Hader) Emmys. It got six more Emmy nominations this week (Winkler and Hader are back in the mix).
“Veronica Mars” - Season 4 of this beloved series was supposed to drop July 26, but Hulu gifted fans with all 8 episodes a week early. Veronica is in Neptune working a deadly bombing case with her dad. And yes, Logan’s back. Patton Oswalt is a fun addition.
“The Act” - The first installment of this new anthology series dramatizes the true crime story of the murder of Dee Dee Blanchard at the hands of her daughter’s boyfriend — and it earned two Emmys nominations this week. Dee Dee is known for the awful Munchausen by Proxy treatment of her daughter, Gypsy Rose. Patricia Arquette plays Dee Dee and Joey King plays Gypsy Rose and both were nominated. (Arquette was also nominated for her role in “Escape at Dannemora” —another true crime dramatization — on Showtime.)
“The Handmaid’s Tale” - Season 3 premiered in June and new episodes are still dropping weekly. Episode 9 aired this week and there are 13 episodes in all this season. Enthusiasm for this series has waned a bit with Season 3, but if you’ve watched the first two seasons, you probably want to keep up.
CBS All Access
“The Good Fight” - If you’ve been looking for a reason to subscribe to CBS’ streaming service, this might be it. Season 3 of this incredible “Good Wife” spinoff started in May and the drama is so addictive. It stars Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart, who had to leave her old firm (way back in Season 1) and now she’s kicking behind all over Chicago with her new group, an African American firm led by Audra McDonald and Delroy Lindo.
“Star Trek: Discovery” - While you’re at CBS All Access, check out its original “Star Trek” series, which is set roughly five years before the Captain Kirk era. Critics are loving the second season, which premiered in January.
Still have cable?
”Killing Eve” - This crazy show, which has an MI5 security officer (Sandra Oh, as Eve) chasing a psychotic assassin (Jodie Comer, as Villanelle), now has two seasons wrapped so it’s prime for a weekend of binging. Season 2, which premiered in April, is just as insane as Season 1, and the season finale is just as thrilling. It got nine Emmy nominations this week, including nods for best drama and for the two female leads. It’s a BBC America series so you can watch on BBCAmerica.com or on the BBC America app (which you can stream to your TV over Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, XBox and Android TV). You can probably get all of Season 2 On Demand, depending on what your cable company offers, but you’ll probably need to go straight to BBC to get everything. You’ll need a cable account log in to access it this way, and your cable subscription must include access to BBC America. If you have Hulu, you can watch Season 1. It’s a good start, but it’ll just leave you wanting more.
If this heat wave continues ….
Some favorites are returning with new seasons very soon!
▪ “Orange is the New Black” - A new — and final — season lands July 26 on Netflix.
▪ “Mindhunter” - The second season of this David Fincher-produced crime thriller — also on Netflix — lands Aug. 16 and will focus on the Atlanta Child Murders, which claimed 28 known victims from 1979 to 1981.