Summer TV binge-guide
Looking for something to do while you wait for the semester to start besides work? Want to know the best TV shows broadcast, cable, and streaming sites have to offer?
The Corsair is here to help guide you through your best TV binging options. Binge watching has been getting its reputation tarnished as of late with varying studies being conducted on the relatively new video consumption model, but as the growing success of streaming sites shows, it may just be here to stay. Our guide will focus on binge-worthy shows consumable within a weekend with a total run-time of 40 hours or less, apologies to Breaking Bad.
HBO's "True Detective" is already quickly building a cult following. This dark, edgy police procedural is keeping alive HBO's recent winning streak of truly cinematic programming. Starring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey as two Florida detectives investigating a bizarre ritual murder, the scripts feel like James Ellroy meets Nietzsche. The dialogue is sharp and eloquent but the plot is soaked deep in lust, blood and messianic madness. The soundtrack is also notable for its mixing of oldies, modern rock and classic blues. -AR
Undeniably one of the hottest shows on television right now. In its first four seasons "Game Of Thrones" has become a bonafide cultural phenomenon. Based on George R.R. Martin's fantasy bestsellers, this is one of those rare moments in TV history where the product is pure cinema in its look, writing, and acting. It is not just a fantasy romp, it is, in its tales of war, family histories, and personal journeys, a poignant epic about life and its dramas, struggles, tragedies, and victories. Evocative, thrilling and featuring some great music scores. "Game Of Thrones" is timeless. -AR
With its first episodes helmed by maestro David Fincher (The Social Network, Seven, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), the Netflix series "House Of Cards" is a glossy yet gothic fable of modern American politics. Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright play the ultimate Washington power couple scheming their way to the very top of power. Once you watch the first three episodes you're hooked for what so far amounts to two, intense seasons of diabolical twists and turns. The series is also a blunt meditation on power and how influence and favors opens doors in Washington, D.C. more than good intentions or honest souls. -AR
A newborn scripted series, from History Channel, "Vikings" is the latest offering from Michael Hirst, the thespian who specializes in crafting TV dramas based on real history. His past successes include Showtime's "The Tudors" and "The Borgias." With "Vikings" he veers into Mel Gibson territory, telling the saga of a Nordic family on Scandinavia at a time when simply sailing West was considered a little crazy. But "Vikings" is grand television with gorgeous landscapes, epic music by Trevor Morris (Emmy winner for "The Tudors") and enough eloquent dialogue mixed with bloody combat to keep you binging for days. -AR
This one has just premiered on HBO and is playing every Sunday night. "The Leftovers" is a classic American nightmare rooted in our deepest, most current apocalyptic fever dreams. It is a tale of suburban America caught in the middle of a tragedy where millions around the world simply vanish. Was it the Rapture? A simple, tragic accident? A freak attack by an unknown force? The beauty of the series is the way it treats the plot like good literature. The story is gripping yet down to earth, the characters feel real and their lives are instantly relatable. Cults appear, other survivors simply give in to hedonism, others look for answers in loneliness while others turn to violence. It is a parable of who we are today. -AR
There is a reason that “Orphan Black”’s lead actress Tatiana Maslany is getting heaps of critical praise and waves of “snub” thrown at the Emmys for her. This underdog sci-fi hit is proving to be the showcasing of a great acting talent. It is extremely difficult to say how great the character acting is on part of Maslany without divulging a secret kept in the series until its third hour, Maslany plays a multitude of clones. Though it sounds like a gimmick, each clone has a completely separate identity, personality, dialect, fashion sense, and purpose; from bohemian scientist Cosima to uptight soccer mom Alison and even one of the scariest human monsters in TV history, Helena. Besides that, the showrunners Graeme Manson and John Fawcett bring various social issues to the fore including human sexuality, government control over women’s bodies, and corporate rights. Any of this sounding familiar? -JL
The story of a middle-class white woman sent to jail for her rebellious youth doesn’t sound like a laugh riot, but this dramedy is filled with as much laughs as it is pathos. The show became an overnight success, literally, thanks to binge watching, because it was more than just a comedy or drama, it’s a show about women maintaining strength through struggle. Anyone who’s seen the show can see how easy it could be to be considered a comedy rather than a drama; the characters developed in the show bring vibrant life to the dour surroundings of a bleak medium security prison. Though starring Taylor Schilling as Piper, fans can just as easily say that the entire multi-racial and extremely talented cast is the star as an ensemble. Hope you’re ready to digest the slew of potential quotables this series's characters will undoubtedly leave behind. I think I’ll Pinterest, I hear that’s a thing now. -JL
Brent Morin stars as, Justin, an unwitting second-banana, loser whose killer karaokeing (he can really sing!), awkward dance moves, and jittery conversations cause him to have little luck with the ladies, particularly his employee that he everly pines for. Morin brings such believability to his character’s awkwardness through his motions and intonations, you could swear that you know at least three people like him if you live in any metropolitan area. He and his friends who hang out at his bar are taken under wing by Danny (Chris D’elia), a self-professed ladies man who has never had a relationship. Next to Morin, the best comic delivery on the show is by the crew’s “black guy” Shelly (Ron Funches), whose deadpan non-sequiturs are a nearly guaranteed laugh. Despite the goal set from the title, the main relationship that develops in the show is that of a group of friends who care about each other, d’aww. -JL
Sometimes great TV shows just don’t get a fair chance. Enlisted cleverly balances as both a ribbing and commentary on the United States Armed Forces and as a respectful salute to those in service past and present. The ensemble works together well, using each cast member’s comic talents to mesh a motley crew of misfits into a believable familial unit. Beneath the laughs and the jabs at bureaucracy, the show is about Sgt. Pete Hill returning to the states after being discharged from Afghanistan due to his explosive temper. When he returns to serve with his brothers back home, he depends on them to deal with his PTSD and learn to assimilate.
Talks are currently underway with Yahoo! to keep this show alive the same way they are reviving "Community." -JL
When “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” beat out a slew of favorites for the Golden Globe for Best Comedy, many were shocked, even the pundits who decry the Globes as a sham of an awards show. One reason for the show’s success is its ensemble. In fact, strong ensemble casts seem to form the bulk of this list because of the chemistry between the characters jumps off of the screen and this show is no different. Much like Orange is the New Black, Brooklyn brings a group of new faces propped up by one or two, or in this case a few, familiar faces, where the new ones get to prove their chops as much as the older guard. The cast takes the contrived idea of a hotshot young detective (Andy Samberg) rebelling against his old-school captain (Andre Braugher), who also happens to be gay, and plays up laughs between the character differences, the sergeant’s main characteristic being his baritone, deadpan, humorlessness which is makes Braugher’s captain the funniest gay straight-man on TV. -JL
The French drama/thriller that was so good, America had to try imitate it three times in one year, The Returned focuses on a group of small town people that return to their town years after their deaths in the same form they were before they died and with no recollection of dying. Children can be creepy in a thriller, the same goes double for dead children, of which two star in this show. The mystery of their reappearance slowly unravels throughout the season, bringing together initially loose elements such as a hyper-sexual medium, a serial killer, a mute orphan, and a vanishing water supply. Prepare yourself to be thrilled by the expected and unexpected alike as the townspeople begin to realize who these visitors really are. -JL