The NBA Finals are over, this season of summer blockbusters has been disappointing, but our collective hunger for content remains strong. So, if you’re looking for some easy viewing to get you through the hottest months of the year from the comfort of your home, our staffers have some suggestions:
Our Planet (Netflix)
Miles Surrey: After bingeing some challenging slice of Peak TV—thanks again for taking years off my life, Too Old to Die Young!—a nature docuseries is a welcome, low-stakes reprieve. What’s better to clear the head than a meditative dive into the captivating animals and gorgeous ecosystems that comprise our lands and oceans? BBC’s Planet Earth II and Blue Planet II are a stoner’s paradise, yes, but they also helped reset my brain after a long and content-filled 2018. (Rebooting the mind with even more content seems counterproductive, but with nature stuff, I swear it’s enlightening.)
That’s what drew me to check out Our Planet, the Netflix docuseries that shares a lot of DNA with the BBC’s nature shows, including the same narrator (the lovely David Attenborough) and producer (Alastair Fothergill). Our Planet is also exceptional television, but a breezy summer escape through nature, it is not. There is a heavy emphasis placed on mankind’s complicity in our eroding environments, the acceleration of climate change, and the myriad animals on the brink of extinction. Our Planet is going to make you feel like shit; learn about the viral and depressing walrus stuff at your own peril, as I began unexpectedly crying on the subway like a weirdo. But while it’s not exactly what I signed up for, the series makes for essential viewing. Each episode underscores just how much we’ve fucked up the Earth, and from that guilt comes a call to action with a website to learn more about conservation efforts. Our planet is irrefutably better off without us, but we can still fight for the environments and animals we haven’t yet destroyed. Happy summer?
Das Boot (Hulu)
Ben Lindbergh: Even the longest of Wolfgang Petersen’s many variants of Das Boot ran 300 minutes, making it compact compared to the 462-minute, eight-episode first season of the German TV adaptation, which premiered late last year in Europe and made its U.S. debut on Hulu this week. The latest in a series of TV takes on novels that have already been rendered on film expands beyond the boundaries of Petersen’s cuts: It takes place later in World War II, features a different U-boat, and frequently strays from the sub crew to encompass a large cast of characters in the French resistance and the German military machine.
Just like before, the budget is big, the scenery is immersive, and the acting is competent, bolstered by familiar faces from Game of Thrones (Tom Wlaschiha), Mad Men (Vincent Kartheiser), and Better Call Saul (Rainer Bock), along with Vicky Krieps and Lizzy Caplan. While eight more hours in cramped quarters with a cast that mirrored the movie’s grimy all-male lineup would have been oppressive, the show’s divided focus saps the story of some of its momentum, and the highlights—the suspenseful undersea scenes—feel like cover versions of the 1980s originals. Even so, I’m still a sucker for silent running, sonar pings, and flooded torpedo tubes, so I’ll be back for my sub-fiction fix in the second season, which is already all ahead full.
Alison Herman: When TNT’s Southern-fried crime dramedy first premiered in 2017, I declared it the platonic ideal of summer TV: sweaty, gaudy, and perfectly snackable. In its third season, currently airing, the story of an all-female salon crew caught up with the Dixie mafia has landed on the perfect metaphor for embracing its own excesses. Niecy Nash’s put-upon matriarch, Desna Simms, has set aside the tiresome one-last-job narrative that previously drove the plot. She’s gone all in on the dark side, and she’s there to make her team some cold, hard cash. But don’t think Desna breaking bad has made the proceedings any darker—Claws’ bright-neon color palette remains undimmed, and the season’s new villains are a casino-owning couple, half of which is played by Deputy Hawk from Twin Peaks. Also, Karrueche Tran wears a bedazzled eye patch. Have you programmed your DVR yet?
Nailed It! (Netflix)
Kate Knibbs: I don’t really believe in the concept of guilty pleasures because you should just like what you like—but when the sun is shining and the breeze breezes and I could be at the beach, I do feel a twinge of shame for wasting a summer morning watching TV. And usually, if I am spending a summer morning watching TV, it is because I spent a summer night making myself too tired to get off the couch via dancing or wine or both, and I don’t want to watch anything that requires emotional investment or following story lines. Instead, I want to watch Nailed It! The Netflix baking competition show based on Pinterest fails is, somehow, very charming and funny and weird, and every time the hapless contestants show off their horrible creations, I laugh so hard it’s basically the same amount of exercise as riding my bike to the park … right?
Julie Kliegman: Summer is for saying you’ll catch up on prestige TV. Most times I open Hulu I do intend to put on Killing Eve, finally. But my eye immediately turns to something familiar, something devoid of sexy murder. Chopped has no shock value. No one ever makes decent fresh pasta in 20 minutes, or 30. The fish still has bones in it. The risotto is undercooked. The salad might’ve been nice without blood from a sliced finger. The predictable beats are perfect for idling away a summer afternoon. You’ll never run out of episodes, which means you’ll never run out of Ted Allen’s inspired generic food names. Pairs well with ice cream—just not from the studio’s machine.
30 Rock (Hulu)
Shaker Samman: Each week on The Ringer, we publish a myriad of stories about the best and most interesting things one could watch on streaming services. As one of the site’s fact-checkers, I have the duty of reading all of them, from the sublime to the absurd. At the completion of almost every piece, I pause, and tell myself, “Hey, I should watch this.” At home, I recall the shows and movies our staff engaged with, pull up my Hulu account, and instead go straight for 30 Rock.
It is 2019. 30 Rock’s first season aired in 2006. In those 13 years, I have seen each episode of the NBC classic at least 22 times, and select chapters from stronger seasons, like 2, 3, and 4, at least 40 times. I can be given individual screencaps without context and provide that context for you, including but not limited to each character’s arc, the name of the episode, and what’s being said in the scene, almost verbatim. It’s my deep, dark obsession. You folks can have your Office marathons or your guilty-pleasure Food Network dives. Leave me in peace with my night cheese and my Google Alert for “Tracy Jordan ridiculous disaster.”