Wednesday, April 08, 2020

List Day: 10 Lesser Known Shows to Binge During Quarantine

There are no major spoilers in this post.

Are you tired of looking for new TV shows only to get recommendations for The Office and Stranger Things? Here are 10 of the best "off the beaten path" shows I've watched (in alphabetical order), all available in streaming format.

  1. American Vandal (2 seasons, 16 half-hour episodes, Netflix): A pitch-perfect satire of the true crime documentary genre, where filmmakers reconstruct the day that a mystery student drew dicks on all of the cars in the teacher's parking lot.

  2. Bodyguard (1 season, 6 hour-long episodes, Netflix): A British version of Homeland before that show ran out of ideas. It maintains a strong intensity and uneasiness that resolves in a satisfying, logical conclusion. Its success rests on the ability to depict realistic characters that don't just exposition-monologue their feelings for the audience -- everyone seems like a threat at various points, but the resolution is weighted towards character motivations not plot twists.

  3. Dark (2 seasons, 18 hour-long episodes, Netflix): A heavy, byzantine puzzle-box of a thriller to get lost in (try my spoiler-free reference sheets) that starts out as a thriller about missing children in a German town and quickly turns into something much more ambitious. It gives off a Twin Peaks meets Fortitude kind of vibe with a little Stranger Things mixed in. Best watched in the original German with English subtitles. The 3rd and final season should be out this summer.

  4. Detectorists (3 seasons, 19 half-hour episodes, Amazon Prime Video): A sentimental, maudlin show about two small-town metal detectorists hoping to find an archaeological motherlode. Good-natured and a great way to close out a long day. Last season requires a stupid Acorn TV trial to access.

  5. Humans (3 seasons, 18 hour-long episodes, Amazon Prime Video): This show was doing human-like robots with artificial intelligence long before Westworld sucked the air out of the room. It maintains intensity and likeable protagonists all the way through. Although it ends on a weak plot twist / cliffhanger in the last episode before cancellation, the rest of the show is fun to watch and raises interesting questions about sentience and robot ethics.

  6. Lovesick (3 seasons, 22 half-hour episodes, Netflix): Originally called Scrotal Recall, this show feels like a British How I Met Your Mother with actual heart and character progression. The 3rd season is pleasant but pointless.

  7. Russian Doll (1 season, 8 half-hour episodes, Netflix): A fairly high-concept series with some similarities to the movie, Groundhog Day. Equal parts funny, crass, deep, and unsettling, it occasionally overreaches but ends in a nice self-contained way. Natasha Lyonne is perfect in the main role.

  8. Orphan Black (5 seasons, 50 hour-long episodes, Amazon Prime Video): This thriller showcases the amazing acting talents of Tatiana Maslany as she simultaneously plays multiple main characters (and sometimes those main characters pretending to be each other). The series gets a little bogged down in sci-fi lore in the middle, but the entire arc is well-done. The first season alone is a taut miniseries if you don't want to commit to the whole thing.

  9. Safe (1 season, 8 hour-long episodes, Netflix): A daughter goes missing in a gated community full of weird neighbours. Once you get past Michael C. Hall's British accent, this miniseries thriller works more than it doesn't. There are some trite twists and inconsistencies, but I liked that you can actually solve the central mystery on your own.

  10. 3% (3 seasons, 26 hour-long episodes, Netflix): A dystopian show where 3% of the population compete to earn a spot in paradise. Visual effects and background actors feel a little low-budget, but its main characters have believable motivations and difficult choices to make. Best watched in the original Portuguese with English subtitles.

Let me know if you discover something you like!

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