I’ve made it pretty clear I wasn’t thrilled with the final season of Game of Thrones. My brother, Sam, and I posted reaction articles which voiced our general disdain, as the show failed miserably to stick its landing. The dialogue and plot were so woefully underdeveloped and mishandled that any additional analysis of the fantasy show might make me follow Tommen Baratheon’s lead.
Thankfully, we are in the a Golden Era of TV. Not only has the talent and quality of today’s shows reached new heights, but it’s also never been more accessible than ever before. Shows starring Hollywood A-listers are available in their entirety on streaming sites like Netflix for a relatively low price. That was virtually unfathomable even just a decade ago.
Summer is the perfect time to take advantage of this bingeable cornucopia. You’ve got the time, the lack of stress, and hopefully the motivation to catch up on some really, really great stories and characters. I’ve compiled a list of my five favorites that are worth trying out this summer. And the best part is: all are available to stream in some way or another.
Where to Watch: Netflix
Seasons: 4 (6 episodes per, ~1 hr each)
Birmingham, England, 1919. World War One has just ended, and despite the Allied victory, the country is reeling. Political corruption is rampant, communism is stirring, and the Irish independence movement is radicalizing. Caught in the middle are the Peaky Blinders, a Birmingham gang and underground sportsbook. The Blinders consist of the Shelby family (Arthur, Tommy, John, Ada, and Polly) and those loyal to them. Make no mistake, Birmingham is their city. The brains of the operation, Tommy, is keen on expanding the family business after what he believes to be a lucky break. Others think the new turn of events is a death sentence. When bigwig Inspector Campbell comes to town to crack down, things quickly escalate.
Peaky Blinders’ style and aura are hard to understate. The show blends heavy rock music, brilliant performances, brutal gore, tight dialogue, and the time period deftly. The seasons are short, so no time is wasted. By order of the Peaky Blinders, watch this show.
Best Features: Cillian Murphy as Tommy Shelby, Season 4
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime
Seasons: 1 (6 episodes, 30-40 mins each)
Capitalism versus Communism, freedom versus oppression, blue versus red. You already know the Cold War. There are more films and shows than I can possibly name about the geopolitical conflict that terrified the world throughout the second half of the 20th century.
Yet, I can guarantee that none of them are quite like the hilarious Comrade Detective. Set in Communist Romania, detectives, Gregor and Joseph, are tasked with investigating the murder of a fellow cop. The only thing they know about the murderer? He was wearing a Ronald Reagan mask. Things like this don’t happen often in the red utopia that is 1983 Bucharest, but rest assured; Gregor and Joseph are up to the challenge. They must do whatever it takes to be a good communist.
What makes the show even better is that it’s terribly dubbed by some of the biggest names in Hollywood like Channing Tatum and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It’s beyond funny. Their performances are perfectly absurd and make the show’s strange concept work really well. Comrade Detective takes what made the typical 80s buddy-cop show so endearing and flips that on its head. The ideological perspective does a 180, paint make the Commies as the good guys and the Americans as scourges of the devil. The mystery that soon envelops the show is also worth your time, and will keep you guessing until the end.
I can’t emphasize enough how ridiculous and amusing this show is. It’s hard to properly describe, so if you still need convincing, I’ll leave the trailer here.
Best Features: Unique comedy, Romanian synth music
Where to watch: Amazon Prime
Seasons: 2 (18 episodes total, ~1 hr each)
John Tavner is many things. He’s a talented musician, loving husband, the brother of a congressman, and an avid dog enthusiast. He’s also a seriously traumatized American intelligence operative who just spent months locked in a cage where the only thing he heard was Don McLean’s “American Pie” on loop. Now, he’s tasked with delivering a fat sum of money to some darkly powerful people to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons by any means necessary.
The first step? Join a piping company in Milwaukee, also by any means necessary. John is forced to do so many terrible, awful, and darkly comedic things throughout the show, that the viewer can’t help but become captivated. Supporting and opposing him along the way are a hilarious group of characters including a broken songwriter, his dad (the intelligence chief), his brother, a Luxembourg policewoman, a man named Leslie, John’s coworker Dennis, and Officer Birdbath among others.
It’s a funny, brutal, and often heartbreaking story that is pretty impossible to predict. Everything about it works smoothly from the music to the casting. Patriot is staunchly unique and relatively under-appreciated, so please show it more love than John ever receives onscreen.
Best Features: Black comedy, Dennis McLaren
Where to watch: HBO
Seasons: 1 (8 episodes, ~1 hr each)
Now full disclosure here: there are three seasons of True Detective. That said, the cast changes every season with a new story to boot. As such, I still haven’t seen seasons two or three. Even so, I have no problem describing that first season as one of the best in TV history.
It follows Detectives Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) as they recount their investigation of a gruesome, seemingly religiously motivated rape and murder. As they describe their story to two present-day officers, we get to explore their divergent personal lives that seem to hang in a similar tedious balance.
Be warned, this show is dark as hell. From Cohle’s deeply pessimistic and existential worldview to the carnal, bone chilling details of each victim’s suffering, there’s not a whole lot of levity. But it does create fantastic tension. It’s basically an eight hour version of The Silence of the Lambs if the extremely intelligent social outcast was an ace detective rather than a cannibalistic serial killer. So much of the dialogue will leave you in awe. It also features one of the best action sequences I’ve ever seen on TV. I binged the entire season in two days — it’s that good.
Before you cancel your HBO subscription post-GOT, do yourself a favor and watch this classic.
Hint: HBO offers a subscription through Amazon that comes with a 7 day free trial. =
Best Features: Matthew McConaughey as Rust Cohle, the opening title sequence
Where to watch: Hulu
How many seasons: 6 (110 episodes total, ~22 mins each)
There was a point in time where NBC dominated the sitcom world. You’ve almost definitely seen The Office, Parks & Rec., and 30 Rock, but Community was also on at that time. I’d even wager it’s the strongest of the four.
The show follows a very different, yet similarly-minded study group as they struggle through the country’s weirdest community college. Everything at Greendale Community College is off the walls, making for some ridiculously funny and often insane plotlines. It seems like every episode has free reign to explore different themes and jokes. For instance, one episode features a riot at the World Food Festival in the school parking lot and the next devolves into an all out Spaghetti Western-inspired paintball war.
While the plots are definitely worth your time, the real reason you’ll keep coming back is how loveable the characters are. The study group and their supporting characters are fully developed and grow throughout the show in addition to being genuinely hilarious. You’ll learn to love the group — even Britta (eventually). There’s a ton of talent involved with the show that really comes through when watching. Established stars like Joel McHale, Donald Glover, Chevy Chase, Alison Brie, Ken Jeong, and John Oliver all feature prominently in Rick and Morty writer, Dan Harmon’s, best work.
It’s an easily bingeable show that is absurdly good for its concept and will leave you extremely emotionally invested. That’s pretty much what you want in a long sitcom.
Best Features: Dean Pelton, Troy and Abed, Señor Chang, Chevy Chase as Pierce