Binge Essentials

Unbelievable – Netflix

Looking for some good, binge-worthy series to fill the time while you are quarantined? Here are some of my heartfelt recommendations to get you through.

COMEDIES THAT WILL MAKE YOU HAPPY TO BE STUCK AT HOME:

Fleabag (Amazon Prime)
One of the best comedy series I’ve ever seen. Phoebe Waller Bridge is sensational as a sex-crazed, emotionally-stunted woman who is trying to figure out her life. Watch it slowly, because the 12 precious episodes go way too fast. (2 seasons)

Barry (HBO)
Bill Hader has surprised everyone with his dramatic chops in this dramedy about a hitman who decides to take up acting. Henry Winkler is the MVP in this sharply written show that is a roller-coaster ride that you’ll never want to get off of. (2 seasons; Season 3 TBA)

Silicon Valley (HBO)
From the mind of Mike Judge, who brought us Beavis and Butt-head and Office Space comes a satirical look at the creators and techies in the dot.com industry. I dare you to not laugh out loud. (6 seasons)

After Life (Netflix)
Ricky Gervais is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I adore this bittersweet look at a man who is drowning in grief after losing his wife to cancer. Give it a chance, though, and the offbeat characters and Gervais’s snarky and humanist sensibilities will suck you in and win your heart. (1 season; Season 2 dropping on April 24)

Dead To Me (Netflix)
Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini star in this dark comedy about a woman who searches for the hit-and-run driver who killed her husband. Nothing will be as you expect and it’s totally awesome (1 season; Season 2 dropping on May 8)

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime)
I have to admit, I only now have discovered this gem, which everyone I know has loved since its first season. I’m only halfway through season 1, but I am won over by the brilliant writing, even more brilliant acting and the whole mood, atmosphere and escapist wonder of this story about a ‘50s New York housewife who decides to take up stand-up comedy, much to the dismay of her traditional Jewish parents. This show wins all the awards for a reason. If you’re looking for a show to watch with your parents, this is it. (3 seasons, Season 4 TBA)

Veep (HBO)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays Selina Meyer, the Vice President of the United States, in this scathing satire of American politics. It’s hard sometimes to believe it’s fiction. Louis-Dreyfus is beyond brilliant and the supporting cast is insanely hilarious. Uncensored and biting, this series is not to be missed by anyone who has ever wondered how on earth we got here. (7 seasons)

Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
Larry David, the co-creator of Seinfeld, takes us into his life in this semi-fictional, mostly improvised comedy about how inappropriate and awkward Larry can be. Any fan of Seinfeld will eat it up, and even if you aren’t, it’s hard to resist laughing at the cringe-worthy situations that Larry keeps getting himself into. (10 seasons, who knows if there will be more)

DRAMAS WORTH GETTING SERIOUS ABOUT:

Succession (HBO)
An absolutely hypnotic family saga loosely based on the Murdoch family, about an aging media tycoon and his four scheming adult children, all vying for control of the empire. Savage and darkly hilarious, anyone who loves great acting and vicious family drama will eat this one up. (2 seasons; Season 3 TBA)

Ozark (Netflix)
Season 3 just dropped about Marty and Wendy Byrde (Jason Bateman and Laura Linney), a couple forced to launder money for the Mexican cartel and move to the Ozarks to do so. A cast of characters, all with their own dark agendas and twisted motives, makes this series a must-watch for anyone who loved Breaking Bad but thought it lacked intensity. I’m hooked. (3 seasons, Season 4 TBA)

The Deuce (HBO)
Not for the delicate, this is an honest and unflinching look at the seedy underbelly of New York City in the ‘70s and ‘80s, focusing specifically on the birth of the porn industry in the area of the city known as The Deuce. Featuring James Franco as twins and Maggie Gyllenhaal as the hooker-turned-porn-director, The Deuce is gritty and intense and I couldn’t get enough. (3 seasons)

Escape at Dannemora (Netflix)
A 7-episode series based on the true-life escape of two inmates from the Dannemora prison in upstate New York. Paul Dano and Benicio Del Toro star, but it is Patricia Arquette, in an Emmy-winning role, who is astounding as the prison employee who helps the two escape. Directed by Ben Stiller, this series is captivating, taut and thrilling. (7 episodes)

Unbelievable (Netflix)
This 8-episode limited series starring Toni Collette and Merritt Wever as police detectives investigating the rape of a young woman (Kaitlyn Dever) is absolutely riveting. Seriously, give me Toni Collette and Merritt Wever in anything. (8 episodes)

Narcos (Netflix) (3 seasons)
Narcos: Mexico (Netflix) (2 seasons)
Cops vs. the drug cartels, but like you’ve never seen it. So, so good.

Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
Edie Falco shines in this dramedy about an excellent nurse who happens to be addicted to pain killers. As her life slowly starts to unravel, Falco gets better and better as Jackie desperately tries to keep her life from falling apart. The MVP of the series is the BRILLIANT Merritt Wever, a delight. (7 seasons)

The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
Elisabeth Moss stars in this award-winning and critically-acclaimed adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel that may hit a little too close to home for some. But Moss’s performance is one for the ages, and the bleak future Atwood envisioned is one we all should imagine so we can ensure it never happens. It’s hard to watch, but essential for anyone who can handle it. Yvonne Strahovski and Ann Dowd are the MVPs. (3 seasons; season 4 TBA)

Big Little Lies (HBO)
This is the best soap opera you will see on TV. Oscar winners abound in this series set on the Northern California coast about rich, ambitious and self-assured women and their family dramas. But the real reason to watch it are three words: real estate porn. (2 seasons)

Homeland (Showtime)
In Showtime’s flagship long-running drama, Claire Danes stars as Carrie Mathison, the most f*ed up CIA agent ever. Some seasons are better than others, but Carrie’s insane dramas are worth it, as is the performance of Mandy Patinkin as Carrie’s patient and compassionate boss, Saul. Definitely the most timely and relevant show on this list, so if you crave realistic drama that is “ripped from the headlines,” this is your catnip. (Currently in the middle of Season 8)

The Crown (Netflix)
The brilliantly-done look at the life of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, from the start of her monarchy to the present. The first two seasons starred Claire Foy as the Queen, and now it’s Olivia Colman in the lead role, and both are absolutely terrific. Everyone and everything about this series is high quality. Even if you don’t think you’re interested in the Royals, The Crown’s coverage of historical events from the past 80 years is stunning, even if its through the prism of the most entitled family on the planet. (3 seasons; season 4 TBA)

Better Call Saul (currently on AMC; back seasons on Netflix)
The prequel series to the critically and commercially acclaimed series Breaking Bad is just as good as its predecessor and what makes it so is how different it is. Better Call Saul stars Bob Odenkirk as slippery lawyer Jimmy McGill, who is just trying to get out of the shadow of his larger-than-life lawyer brother, played by Michael McKean, and does so by turning the law into his own personal playground. There is no way to describe or capture this show, as it is a character study of the most brilliant degree, but it is also a true prequel, and the story arc is so much fun, especially when you know where it’s going. MVP most definitely is Rhea Seahorn as Kim Wexler. (Currently in the middle of Season 5)

OFFBEAT BUT ESSENTIAL:

The Leftovers (HBO)
This is the darkest show you will ever love. Set in a world after the mysterious disappearance of 2% of the entire world’s population, this show is deeply emotional, disturbing and absolutely brilliant. Commitment is so worth it. (3 seasons)

Twin Peaks: The Return (Showtime)
This is the most twisted show you will ever love. I’ve never loved anything on television more than I loved this series, which is a sequel of sorts of the original Twin Peaks series, which ran in the early ‘90s. An extension of the original series’ mind-twisting story, we are thrust headlong into the maniacal and genius mind of David Lynch in this series that is nothing short of a surrealist masterpiece. (18 episodes)

Black Mirror (Netflix)
A Twilight Zone for the digital age, this series of standalone episodes that chronicle how technology can totally mess with our brains and lives serves as a warning to all of us who may be a little too attached to our phones. Some episodes are dark and violent, some light and silly and some are just downright bizarre, but every one will make you question everything. (5 seasons)

Watchmen (HBO)
Almost as confusing and weird as Twin Peaks: The Return, and just as addictive. Set in an alternate universe and based on the graphic novel of the same name, you may not understand everything that’s going on, but the show is brilliantly done and is a surprisingly compelling meditation on race relations in this country. MVP: Regina King, who can do no wrong. (1 season)

Russian Doll (Netflix)
I could NOT get enough of this series when it premiered last year. Starring Natasha Lyonne as a woman who keeps dying, returning back to the same spot, forced to re-live the same day over and over, which happens to be her birthday. As she desperately tries to get out of this loop, she is forced to face her own past and fears. This show is bizarre, intoxicating, hypnotic and lyrical. And Lyonne is outrageous and hilarious as a woman barely holding onto her sanity. (1 season, Season 2 TBA)

Enlightened (HBO)
I will never stop taking every chance I have to get people to watch this criminally underappreciated series from creator Mike White. Laura Dern stars as a workaholic who has a sudden awakening and decides to dedicate her life to making the world a better place, despite the fact that she is the most unaware and self-absorbed person on the planet. It is truly Laura Dern’s best work ever and I’m heartbroken more haven’t seen it. (2 seasons)

ALL-TIME CLASSICS THAT NOW IS THE PERFECT TIME TO CATCH UP ON:

Breaking Bad (Netflix)
My favorite television series of all time. Why? It’s the rare example of a television series that tells a full story from start to finish without feeling rushed (Game of Thrones) or overly lengthened (Lost). The story is compelling, the characters fascinating, the acting first-rate and the production elements are the best in the business. The rare example of a series that gets better and better as it goes along, ending with a near-perfect final season. (5 seasons)

Mad Men (Netflix)
The series that made Jon Hamm a star, and for a reason. As main character Don Draper, Hamm is mysterious, sexy, manipulative, dastardly and intrinsically fascinating. Set in the 1960s New York advertising world, the production design, costumes, direction and writing are all top of the line. Step back in time and get caught up with these complex and thoroughly entertaining characters. MVP: Christina Hendricks as Joan. (7 seasons)

Six Feet Under (HBO)
One of the first HBO series and still one of the best. You’ll fall in love with the Fisher family, who run a funeral home in Los Angeles. It’s dramatic and loaded with dark humor, but, above all, it is pensive and intimate and so well done. Death is inescapable—this show confronts it from all sides, brings it out into the light and helps us all live with it a little easier. (5 seasons)

Sex & the City (HBO)
I just keep coming back because the four characters in this show, Miranda, Carrie, Samantha and Charlotte, are impossible to not love. Watching their love lives in New York City play out over the course of 6 seasons (and 2 movies) was sheer bliss. I still miss it. (6 seasons)

Oz (HBO)
Not for the feint of heart, this graphic series set inside a maximum security prison will keep you on the straight and narrow for the rest of your life. It’s bold, edgy, raw and supremely addictive, if this is your cup of tea. (6 seasons)

The Wire (HBO)
The show that tops many lists as the best television show of all time, The Wire requires an investment of time and attention, in order to keep track of all the characters and details of the story, but if you allow yourself to get immersed in the underworld of Baltimore cops and criminals, you will be rewarded handsomely with a deeply textured and layered show with fully realized characters and some of the best writing on TV. (5 seasons)

Game of Thrones (HBO)
I still hated the last season, but everything before it was nearly perfect in this story of warring families all battling to see who should sit on the Iron Throne. There are also dragons and ice zombies, but they are just the frosting on this sumptuous cake filled with heroes, villains, betrayals, romance, epic battles, epic adventures and epic storytelling, featuring a cast of thousands. Each episode was rumored to cost $2 million to make and it shows. (8 seasons)