What's the level past "the golden age" of television? Is it platinum? Uranium? Bullion? Whatever name you ascribe to television's current, consistent state of excellence, know that it isn't disappearing anytime soon. Especially this summer.
Already this season, new episodes of buzzed-about shows like Netflix's Black Mirror, Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale, and HBO's Big Little Lies have aired; and, director Nicolas Winding Refn's "non-TV show" miniseries, Too Old to Die Young, also premiered, on Amazon Prime. Just in time for Independence Day, Netflix's hit Stranger Things will return, and you can bet fans will be holed up for a couple of days binge-watching the latest adventures of El and the boys.
With all these shows, watching TV is approaching a bubble point, where there is so much greatness that the thought of starting something new overwhelms. However, across the summer, there are some shows you should plan to watch. What follows is a list of shows that are acclaimed, no doubt, but still have the feeling of being slept on, an "underrated" dozen to add to the queue.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge should surely win awards, if not your heart, in this hilarious, yet tragic Amazon Prime series. Waller-Bridge created, writes and stars in this comedy-drama about a woman navigating single life in London. Along the way, Waller-Bridge breaks the fourth wall, telling us how she really feels. For every one-liner or casual aside, there is dramatic heart that grounds the series. Fleabag is a realistic look at a restless woman, constantly walking a tightrope of cringe-worthy failure and small victories.
Seasons 1 and 2 are now streaming on Amazon Prime.
There's always something going down around at Nail Artisans in Manatee County, Florida. A gleefully trashy, addictive soap, Claws revolves around five manicurists led by Desna Simms (a perfectly cast Niecy Nash). As the women try to make ends meet at the salon, they also launder money for a local gang, led by Uncle Daddy (Dean Norris hamming it up like never before). Unafraid to get nasty or violent, Claws is a binge-worthy crime dramedy with an excellent cast that twists, turns and gets better with each season.
Season 3 is now airing 9 p.m. EST, Sundays, on TBS and TNT. Seasons 1 and 2 are now streaming on Hulu.
When Ryan Murphy creates a show, it's usually worth watching. Pose is no different. Premiering last year, Murphy and co-creators Brad Falchuk and Steven Canals' latest show celebrates the LGBTQ+ community with confidence, glamour and spirit, spotlighting icons and house mothers of New York's underground ball culture in the 1980s. What made Pose the talk of last summer was its juxtaposition of the glitz and style with a harsh surrounding environment, reminding audiences of how these characters continue to be pushed to the margins of society. Those stories, especially today, are essential. Yes, Pose is at times overdramatic and lavish, but by focusing on these characters' humanity, Pose is a special show that tackles topics (AIDS, trans visibility) that still (and depressingly so) doesn't get enough attention. With season 2 jumping to the 1990s, it'll be interesting to see how the show develops characters like Bianca Rodriguez-Evangelista (Mj Rodriguez), the HIV-positive mother of the House of Evangelista; Pray Tell (Billy Porter), the emcee of the balls; and Angel Evangelista (Indya Moore), one of the first members of the House of Evangelista.
Season 2 airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. EST on FX. Season 1 is available to stream on Netflix.
Created by Ava DuVernay and executive produced by Oprah Winfrey, Queen Sugar is a Louisiana-set family drama about the Bordelons, a Black family fighting to preserve their father's sugar plantation. Queen Sugar could be another overdramatic soap, but its slower pace allows characters to dig into storylines that gracefully tackle racism, family legacies and social class. The cast—including leads Rutina Wesley, Dawn-Lyen Gardner and Kofi Siriboe—are on the same page, too, never deviating from the show's nuanced, unshowy take on family and legacy. Even better is DuVernay setting a new industry standard, hiring all female directors to helm episodes.
Season 4 airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. EST on OWN. Seasons 1-3 are available to stream on Hulu.
A rom-com that continues to draw high ratings, Younger returned in mid-June to TV Land for its sixth season. That's right, TV is so good right now that even TV Land has a successful single-camera comedy, produced by Darren Star (Sex and the City), no less. For those unfamiliar with the show, Younger follows Liza Miller (played by Sutton Foster), a 40-year-old single mom who reinvents herself as a younger millennial to get a job at the publishing company, Empirical Press. Miller juggles the lie while falling in love with her boss (Peter Hermann) and making friends with an editor (Hilary Duff). An addictive, fairy tale, Younger hasn't lost any steam since its 2015 debut.
Season 6 airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. EST, on TV Land. Seasons 1-5 are available to stream on Hulu.
Zach Galifianakis' show about a professionally-trained clown named Chip continues to quietly be one of the funniest shows on cable television. In the past three seasons, Chip has been reunited with his mom, Christine (an excellent Louie Anderson), and his brother, Dale (also played by Galifianakis), and has made a friend in soft-spoken, yet reliable Martha, (Martha Kelly). What started as a character study of a man-child has blossomed into a family portrait of characters who constantly get in their own way. Galifianakis' deadpan delivery and slapstick comedy is a brilliant, goofy break from "important television." The show, and its network, get bonus points for cutting ties with a certain producer, too.
Season 4 airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. EST, on FX. Seasons 1-3 are available to stream on Hulu.
If you want to know how it feels to have your brain twisted into a pretzel, Noah Hawley has the show for you. On Legion, the Fargo writer has expanded his idiosyncratic, mind-boggling style to the superhero world, specifically the troubled son of Professor X, David Haller (played by Dan Stevens). Of course, this being a Hawley production, Legion is more abstract than your run-of-the-mill comic-book show. Buoyed by distinct, dazzling visuals and a game cast (including Aubrey Plaza, Jemaine Clement, and Bill Irwin), Legion takes its time, showing a mutant losing his mind and potentially ending the world. While season two left some viewers feeling icky at Haller's descent into darkness, the third and final season will hopefully bring some sense of an ending to the story. Of course, this being a Hawley production, I wouldn't bet on that, but you can bet that Legion will be full of WTF spectacle.
Season 3 airs Mondays on 10 p.m. EST, on FX. Seasons 1 and 2 are available to stream on Hulu.
The trials and tribulations of the Wells family continue in season 3 of Hulu's Harlots. Mind you, this isn't your normal family. Instead, the Wells family—Margaret (Samantha Morton), and her daughters Charlotte (Jessica Brown Findlay) and Lucy (Eloise Smyth)—are 18th century prostitutes who are determined to improve their lives and fortunes amongst competing brothels. Inspired by real stories, Harlots explores family dynamics from the female perspective with subject matter that seems old-fashioned but still resonates loudly today.
Season 3 premieres July 10 on Hulu. Seasons 1 and 2 are available to stream on Hulu.
A cult classic that ran for three seasons from 2004-2007, Veronica Mars is coming back for a revival on Hulu in late July. Creator Rob Thomas has said that the upcoming fourth season will feature the private investigator (played by Kristen Bell) solving a single case: the killing of a spring breaker in the fictional town of Neptune, California. Continuing where the 2014 movie left off, the eight-episode season brings the spotlight back to Veronica's relationships with her father, Keith (Enrico Colantoni), and bad boy Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring), as well as the clash between the town's wealthy elite and working class. Bell has said the show's fans, aka Marshmallows, will have strong feelings about the revival, and Thomas isn't ruling out returning to the story again in the future.
Season 4 premieres July 26 on Hulu. Seasons 1-3 are available to stream on Hulu.
It's news that will make you ask someone, "Can I get a 'Hell yeah'?" The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling are coming back for a third season in August. Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch's GLOW tells the fictional story of Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie), a struggling actress who joins a pro-wrestling group called GLOW. Along the way, Wilder has to grapple with the drama of relationships with the show's director (an excellent, grumpy Marc Maron) and former best friend, Debbie Eagan (Betty Gilpin). GLOW succeeds by focusing on characters and the realistic difficulties these women face inside and outside the ring. Its lack of sentimentality and willingness to go to dark places while forwarding the wrestling storylines make GLOW one of the few Netflix shows that consistently compels.
Season 3 premiers Aug. 9 on Netflix. Seasons 1 and 2 are available to stream on Netflix.
A charming, shaggy dog-like TV show, Lodge 49 found its way halfway through its debut season, telling the story of the ex-surfer Dud (played by Wyatt Russell). After losing his father and the family pool business, Dud joins a fraternal order known as the Lynx as a way to put his life back on track. Whimsical, surreal and odd, Lodge 49 is the small show that ponders big ideas like what the hell we're doing here on this planet. Russell and the show's general sense of wonder always impresses, especially when pitted against dark, prestige dramas that bludgeon viewers with cynicism.
Season 2 premieres 9 p.m. EST, Aug. 12 on AMC. Season 1 is now available to stream on Hulu.
The Terror: Infamy
The rare horror TV show that actually scares, The Terror debuted last year, telling the story of a fictional 19th century expedition where shipmen battled frigid temperatures and a mythic beast. Tense and chilling (literally and figuratively), The Terror featured excellent performances from Jared Harris (of HBO's most recent hit Chernobyl) and Ciaran Hinds. For its second season, however, The Terror revolves around an altogether different story. Subtitled "Infamy," the second season follows a specter that menaces a Japanese-American community from its home in Southern California, to World War II Japanese internment camps, to the war in the Pacific. If the second season is anything like the first, "Infamy" will leave viewers haunted and breathless.
Season 2 premieres 10 p.m. EST, Aug. 12 on AMC. Season 1 is now available to stream on Hulu.
Returning honorable mentions
Nailed It!, season 3 now available on Netflix
My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman, season 2 now available on Netflix
Black Mirror, season 5 now available on Netflix
She's Gotta Have It, season 2 now available on Netflix
Archer: 1999, airing 10 p.m. EST, Wednesdays on FXX
Luther, season 5, airing 8 p.m. EST, Sundays on BBC America
Fear the Walking Dead, season 5, airing 9 p.m. EST, Sundays on AMC
The Handmaid's Tale, season 3 on Hulu, new episodes premiere Wednesdays
Animal Kingdom, season 4 airing 9 p.m. EST, Tuesdays on TNT
Big Little Lies, season 2, airing 9 p.m. EST, Sundays on HBO
Stranger Things, season 3 premiering July 4 on Netflix
Snowfall, season 3 premiering 10 p.m. EST, July 10 on FX
Preacher, season 4 premiering Aug. 4 on AMC
New and worth checking out
Good Omens, now available on Amazon Prime
Catch-22, now available on Hulu
When They See Us, now available on Netflix
NOS4A2, airing 10 p.m. EST, Sundays on AMC
The Weekly, airing 10 p.m. EST, Sundays on FX, with episodes available on Hulu the following Monday
Perpetual Grace LTD, airing 10 p.m. EST, Sundays on EPIX
Too Old to Die Young, on Amazon Prime
City on a Hill, airing Sundays at 9 p.m. EST, on Showtime
Euphoria, airing Sundays at 10 p.m. EST, on HBO
South Side, premiering 10:30 p.m. EST, July 24 on Comedy Central
The Boys, premiering July 26 on Amazon Prime
BH90210, premiering Aug. 7 on Fox