Here’s some shows you should watch.
Special Mention: Halt and Catch Fire (AMC)
I’m not caught up on Season 4 of Halt and Catch Fire, but once I am, I have no doubt it will find its way onto my list. A true anomaly in TV today, Halt evolved from a tacky and cliché shell of a prestige drama early in its first season to an introspective, dynamic study of four brilliant people living with the consequences of their decisions.
10. American Vandal (Netflix)
The elevator pitch sounds like a thinly-sketched Funny or Die short: a Serial-style mockumentary about who drew 27 dicks on 27 cars in the teacher parking lot. But American Vandal works so well because, once you get past the silly premise, it’s taken 100% seriously and to captivating effect. An impeccable homage to the true-crime format and as honest a portrayal of high school relationships/politics/social class as you’ll see, this is way better than it had any right to be.
9. Catastrophe (Amazon)
Simply put, I have more fun watching Catastrophe than any other show. It’s deeply personal and hilarious, and it understands the intricate highs and lows of long-term relationships better than anything else on TV. Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan write every episode together and their chemistry jumps off the screen in every scene.
8. Legion (FX)
The last thing we need is more superheroes on our screens, but Legion‘s inside-out adaptation style that prioritizes mood and atmosphere over faithfulness to the source material results is a wildly twisted, visually breathtaking study of the inner-workings of a damaged man learning to live with his god-like abilities. Dan Stevens’ fantastic, vulnerable lead performance made for priority viewing week after week.
7. The Good Place (NBC)
Leave it to Mike Schur (Parks & Rec, Brooklyn 99, The Office) to continue to art of great network sitcoms in an era dominated by cable and streaming. The Good Place is innovative, charming, surprising and, above all, funny, proving there’s still an audience for weird high-concept shows on networks like NBC. And, c’mon, Ted Danson, people!
6. GLOW (Netflix)
While I don’t think GLOW is the best show on Netflix (as you’ll find out below), few epitomize the streaming format better. It’s a perfect binge – engaging and fun with each episode effortlessly building upon the last. Alison Brie does not disappoint in her long-overdue shot at a lead role, and Marc Maron proves his acting range goes way beyond simply “Marc Maron.”
5. BoJack Horseman (Netflix)
The days of BoJack Horseman being the best-kept secret on TV are long over. It’s a tragedy in the vein of Mad Men or The Sopranos existing in synchronicity with irreverent jokes and imagery – a deep and thoughtful exploration of mental illness existing seamlessly alongside silly sight gags and animal puns. It’s just as daring as it is hilarious and always unpredictable, with the fantastically complex BoJack breathing life into a tired antihero trope.
4. Twin Peaks: The Return (Showtime)
Listen. I can’t tell you what any of it means – one week I accidentally watched episodes 14 and 15 in reverse order and it had no effect on my viewing experience. Even compared to the original series, Twin Peaks: The Return is bizarre and often infuriating, but the behemoth 16+ hour run (an eternity by today’s standards) rewards patient viewers with some of the most captivating, mind-bending storytelling ever brought to the medium. Even when it was incomprehensible, I couldn’t wait to see more — a testament to great filmmaking.
3. Master of None (Netflix)
Writers much more talented and informed than I have talked about the importance of TV staying true to its episodic roots, rather than gravitating toward the “10-hour movie” model, and few shows display the wonders of the stand-alone episode better than Master of None. Every installment feels like its own world, in particular the unforgettable “Thanksgiving,” a daring exploration of family and coming out that’s equally gut-wrenching and sweet and somehow perfectly encapsulated in just 34 minutes.
2. Better Call Saul (AMC)
The stakes are never as high as they were on Breaking Bad, but in a way that makes the accomplishments of Better Call Saul even more impressive. It’s meticulously measured and patient, a love letter to the details and the process and doing a job the right way. Each frame tells a story of its own. It pulls back the curtain and draws our attention to the minutia of human behavior. Every word deliberate. Every action consequential.
1. The Leftovers (HBO)
A couple hundred words into my list and I’m starting to run out of adjectives to describe outstanding TV shows. I don’t think any of them would be able to accurately convey how the third and final season of The Leftovers made me feel. It’s like Samuel Beckett adapted Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. The Book of Revelations meets Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. It defies genre or even simple explanation. Every episode broke the rules and destroyed my soul. It’s a show about demanding significance and denying death and bargaining love and finding faith in anything that will accept you, and it’s perfect.