Let me begin with this disclaimer: I watch a lot of TV. When people ask me, “Have you seen this show?” And I have, I try to brush it off casually, as in “Oh, I have passively watched a few episodes, but I definitely didn’t see the entire three seasons in one binge session on Saturday night, when I should have been socializing, or eating or otherwise experiencing life outside my bed.” But I’m coming clean. So, trust me when I tell you that these are the best darned shows you are going to find on TV right now. To facilitate your viewing experience, I have organized them for you by taste and by location. If you’re lucky, you can be like me, abandoning all semblances of a social life in favor of absorbing yourself completely in these onscreen worlds — and not regretting it one bit.
Closest Relatives: “True Detective,” “Top of the Lake,” “Bloodline”
Where to find it: Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Xbox
You’re in luck, because you can still catch up on this gem before it airs its fourth season this year on Sundance. The story revolves around Daniel Holden (Aden Young), an ex-convict, whose sentence is vacated after spending 19 years on death row for the murder of his high school girlfriend. This show is the crowning jewel of Southern Gothic genre: It’s brimming with unusually complex and mentally unstable characters who exist just outside the limits of society. Morality, loyalty, conscience and even supernatural forces all feature in this subtly absorbing portrayal of family feuds and small town dynamics that could easily be adapted from a Faulkner classic. Stop what you’re doing right now and go watch this show immediately. I mean it.
Closest Relatives: “Girls” (maybe, but it’s pretty stand-alone)
Where to find it: Streaming on Amazon Prime
This show is truly unlike anything you’ve seen before, and yet it captures everything you know all too well. But beware — it’s not for the faint of heart or for watching with your mother (unless you two are really close). The storyline follows the story of the Pffermans, a semitic family from Silverlake, CA, a set-up which might already sound dangerously familiar. What is not familiar is that the father, Maura Pfefferman (Jeff Trombley) comes out as transgender to his children after living his entire 60-something life as a man. This show really has a little bit of everything — quintessential LA Jewishness, millennials struggling with startling amounts of selfishness, weird sex and even a taste of a Holocaust drama. And it makes these transitions seamlessly, with an ease that makes you feel like the Pffermans are both people you would never want to associate with and also, maybe, your closest friends.
Closest Relatives: “Game of Thrones,” “The Tudors,” any historical drama
Where to find it: Starz, or on Amazon through seven-day free trial with Starz
For people who don’t like “Game of Thrones” because it is too sensationalist and tends to kill off all of its likeable characters, which, despite what people who read the books tell you, is annoying, this show is for you. Like “Game of Thrones,” it’s based on a series of novels by the same name, and takes place somewhere in Scotland in 1743. It has perhaps the most badass female protagonist, a World War II nurse Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe), who finds herself transported back to this bloody historical period after accidentally happening upon a time travel machine. It also features the hottest male lead you will ever see on television (Sam Heughan) and yes, you get to see him naked. Watch if you love a good historical drama and some bangin’ Scottish accents.
“Master of None”
Closest Relatives: “Parks and Recreation,” “Louie,” “New Girl”
Where to find it: Streaming on Netflix
ust through with its first season, this show is a budding masterpiece, starring the well-known actor and comedian Aziz Ansari as a 20-something son of immigrant parents who, like the rest of us, is just trying to figure it all out. What makes this comedy shine is its cutting self-awareness, simultaneously subtle and deeply critical of contemporary racial, gender and sexual biases. It somehow navigates the line between being a stand-up, an indictment of modern society and a perfectly honest millennial drama. I have to admit that I was not a huge fan of Ansari before I watched this show, and now I think he might be the prophet of our generation. If you want a relaxed yet thought-provoking experience, settle down with this one.
You may not agree with my tastes, but you can’t deny the quality of these series. With some of Hollywood’s best acting talent, thoughtful writing and complex characterizations, trust me when I say that you are watching some of the best quality entertainment possible. Creations like these demonstrate the new yet increasingly popular notion that TV really is replacing movies with some of the best artistic content of the modern age. So, don’t feel so guilty about those late-night binge sessions or that time you totally forgot to attend your friend’s birthday celebration. If you don’t already have these problems, it’s never too late to start. Indulge yourself — It’s no longer a worthless pastime.