Thanks to Netflix et al., there’s never really a dead zone anymore when it comes to TV. But now that buzzy shows like Westworld, Atlanta, Billions, and Killing Eve are off the air (we’ll miss you, every show but Westworld, which we deserve a break from!), it does feel as though we’re hitting a bit of a lean season heading into the dog days of summer. And so, because you may find yourself with a bit more free time than usual, here are some shows that are absolutely worthy of filling that space.
Miles Surrey: Preacher isn’t a show I recommend to a lot of people—really, how do you pitch a series in which God has abandoned his flock, several main characters have died in a town-wide explosion of cow shit, and Hitler tricks a well-meaning kid into escaping from hell? Unsurprisingly, there is nothing quite like Preacher on television, and what it lacks in any modicum of subtlety it makes up for in spontaneity.
The show embraces an array of genres and visual palettes—from straight-up horror to slapstick comedy to black-and-white flashbacks to a chaotic fight scene stylized to look like a single take—and at the start of Season 3, which premiered Sunday night, it picks up some gothic charm by placing itself in a worn-down plantation in the middle of Louisiana. Preacher sometimes loses its focus and seems on the brink of implosion, but it always finds a way to reset itself before it’s too late. As long as you don’t mind sacrilegious inclinations and Hitler humor, Preacher is the perfect summer show.
Lindsay Zoladz: This show is my weighted security blanket, so bless our Netflix overlords for delivering a second season promptly. Queer Eye is the perfect kind of escapism for these times: It gives the viewer the comforting feeling that toxic masculinity can be corrected one sweet schlub at at time, that frank conversations with people who are different from you can bridge all our social divides, and that Jonathan Van Ness should be president—or at least poet laureate. For 45 minutes at a time, at least, we can dream.
The reboot of Queer Eye has also become a fascinating study in “prestige reality TV”: I used to binge What Not to Wear marathons, but I dole out Queer Eye episodes to myself like little treats, probably because we get only eight per season. This new, triumphant batch includes a gamer who subsists solely on sunflower seeds and cigarettes (Antoni! Come teach this guy how to make a hot dog!) and an adult human who likes Burning Man so much that he wants to move to Nevada to be closer to it. This show is everything, and my life will be in black and white until it returns for another season.
Justin Charity: Succession is the only good show. Its characters are repulsive to the extreme, and yet their misery and madcap dysfunction is captivating. Truly, wealth is disgusting. The Roy family is obscene, a bizarro Bluth family covered in coke and vomit stains. This is who Occupy Wall Street warned everyone about. Shout-out to Sweet Cousin Greg though.
Andrew Gruttadaro: Every episode of Forensic Files—which, these days, airs in approximately 324-episode marathons every day on HLN—is the same. First, there’s a death. Initially, the death doesn’t appear to have been caused by any nefarious means—it was just an accident! Thirty seconds later, a policeman finds a drop of blood or something on a 1994 Philadelphia Flyers Starter jacket and thinks, Hm, perhaps it wasn’t an accident. Then the show goes to commercial—and you know Forensic Files is going to commercial because this awesomely cheesy graphic and guitar riff plays:
For the rest of the episode, the police focus their investigation on a family member—because it’s always a family member—while also sending evidence off to scientists with extremely obscure focuses. Then, despite having an overwhelming amount of circumstantial evidence—like, definitely enough to convince a jury—the cops get the forensic confirmation they need from the scientists, and the aforementioned family member is convicted of murder. Then comes the best part when, in the closing seconds of the episode, all of the interviewees profess that “without forensic science, this case would have never been closed” ... as if there’s some gigantic anti-forensics movement that Forensic Files is devoted to fighting? Like, what person has ever been like, “Ya know, it’s frickin’ bullcrap that we’re technologically capable of solving homicides”? And that’s every episode of Forensic Files, the perfect show to fill the mindless summer nights when all of the good TV has disappeared.
Juliet Litman: If you fell behind, gave up, or never watched The Affair, it’s a great time to jump in. The action has shifted from New York to Los Angeles—a move that’s all too common—and the show is back to what it does best. The ill-advised sex drew viewers in, but the premise of telling the story from multiple perspectives and with few absolutes is what made it interesting. Last season pushed this idea, lacking nuance and delicate execution, but The Affair is back! The narrative discrepancies are small but significant, Helen maintains her grandeur, and Noah continues to be a mess. Alison is still on the show, unfortunately, but at least so is Cole. The Affair is somewhere between smart and guilty pleasure, and well worth the time.
Brockmire (and Mad Men Reruns)
Paolo Uggetti: This was completely unintentional, but recently, I found myself watching Mad Men reruns at the same time as I was getting around to watching Brockmire’s second season. It was like reading a book about failing men, with each chapter told from a different perspective. Don Draper brings the brooding, existential darkness; Brockmire (played by Hank Azaria) balances it out with comedic denial that there’s anything wrong at all.
For the unfamiliar, Brockmire streams on IFC and parodies the life of a baseball announcer fueled by drugs and alcohol and an inability to make it back up to the major leagues. (The pilot begins 10 years after he lost his major league job for an outburst in the booth about his wife cheating on him.) It’s hilarious, and I don’t say that lightly, to watch Brockmire’s booth work—a mix of twangy play-by-play analysis, life stories, and swigs from hidden flasks—intertwine with his tumultuous personal life. The show is less about baseball and more about this character, much like Mad Men is less about advertising than Don’s downward tumble through life.
Brockmire’s Season 2 arc is like four seasons of Mad Men, which is as slow-paced as a Red Sox–Yankees game. But Brockmire never feels rushed (each episode is a tight 25ish minutes); it makes you comfortable with the speed because the story is jam-packed, jumping from conflict to failure, from wisecrack one-liner to poetic monologue. I would say it’s perfect snackable content, but like Brockmire’s escapades, it’s more appropriate for a binge.
Amanda Dobbins: My friend and colleague Juliet Litman has been on me about this show for a solid year now, and I am pleased to report that Juliet was right. Younger, a TV Land series about a 40-year-old divorced mom (Sutton Foster) who goes undercover as a 26-year-old to get a new job, and then a new outlook on life, fits neatly into the “shows/movies about publishing” genre that has recently consumed my life. (See also: The Bold Type, Set It Up.) Younger offers a deeply engrossing love triangle (Team Charles, don’t @ me), gentle New York tourism (someone held a birthday party at Stanton Social, lol), and an empathetic commentary on the book industry in 2018. (There’s an episode where The New York Times Book Review’s “By the Book” section fuels a romantic plotline—dare to dream!) Most important: the episodes are only 20 minutes long, which means that the single serving size is like, five a night. I’m on Season 3, so please do not spoil the rest for me—until next week, when I’ll inevitably be all caught up.
Ben Lindbergh: I’m not sure how Comedy Central’s Detroiters got a second season, because the series seemed to lose the peak-TV publicity wars when the first season aired last spring, and a recent survey of select Ringer staffers revealed no knowledge of its past or present existence. But I’m glad that some Comedy Central suit—do people wear suits at Comedy Central?—took a chance on it building some buzz, because it’s both the best and the biggest-hearted comedy currently on TV. Second City vets, real-life besties, and Detroit-area natives Sam Richardson (Veep) and Tim Robinson (SNL), who cocreated, write, and star in the show (while sharing EP credits with Lorne Michaels, Jason Sudeikis, and others) are great together, thanks to the chemistry that comes from their shared history and the comedy that comes from Richardson’s ultra-expressive face and Robinson’s relatively deadpan delivery. The series possesses a strong sense of place—spoilers, it’s Detroit—and a Michael Schur–show warmness, but it also benefits from an element of sketch-show absurdity and zaniness. If there’s any justice for single-camera sitcoms, many more people will check it out in time to convince that same suit to green-light Season 3.
Claire McNear: I’ve written about my love of Grand Designs, the long-running British series on eccentric homebuilders, before; now, with a dearth of summertime options and four whole seasons sitting at the ready on Netflix, the show once again rules my life. Each episode roughly follows the same structure: We begin with a brief introduction by longtime host (and sarcasm deployer extraordinaire) Kevin McCloud, followed by a sit-down with some starry-eyed would-be homeowners as they embark on what is most often a comically ambitious project (a home in a semi-dug-out cave; a mansion on an actively eroding cliff; a cottage made largely of meticulously curved wood). We then see a series of check-ins as foundations go in and calamities (unplanned expenses and delays, the adoption of still more crippling loans, livid spouses, rain, more rain, and still more rain after that) ensue. Then, finally, we go for a stroll through the finished architectural masterpiece—as a rule, the finished home is a stunner—with McCloud, the homeowners, and the vicious acrimony they have developed over the course of years-long construction. I say this as an unrepentant Property Brothers stan: Grand Designs is both vastly more interesting and more entertaining than anything on HGTV. You need not be interested in home improvement at all—the withering British cynicism alone makes for excellent viewing.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.