This year continued the trend of producing great TV, which also continues the trend of you not having enough time to watch everything you might have wanted to. But just like last year and the year before that and the year before that, the holidays hopefully include a lot of downtime. If you wanted to spend that time doing nothing more than catching up on some new shows, we wouldn’t blame you. Here are 11 great shows you probably missed this year.
Halt and Catch Fire
Normally, building a computer has us on the floor trying to stick RAM and a GPU into a Motherboard we just got from Newegg. Apparently, if you were building in the 1980s, there was a chance IBM was going to literally kill you. Or at least, that’s what Halt and Catch Fire would have you believe. Which is interesting too, because we can’t remember the last time we had an IBM brand machine, yet the company is a looming superpower in the show. Halt and Catch Fire just finished up its fourth season, which should be on Netflix by the time you finish the three they actually have. Watch
Until Big Mouth, we would have said no one ever wants to admit the full awkwardness of going through puberty. But this is a show where hormones are literally monsters, penises play basketball, girls introduce themselves to their anthropomorphized genitals, and kids have fully formed relationships with their pillows. It’s the kind of show “fearless” shows advertise themselves as. Big Mouth doesn’t try to be fearless though. It just tries to paint puberty in a realistic light. It’s full of confusion, self-consciousness, mastubatory landmines, awkward talks with parents, terrible advice from other kids, and the ghosts of dead celebrities. It’s truly one of a kind and mandatory viewing for anyone who says they like John Mulaney or Nick Kroll. Watch
We’ve been on with Catastrophe since day one and we’ve definitely tried to bring you along. If you haven’t seen our posts or have been dragging your feet, the end of this year is the perfect time to get caught up. There are three seasons, episodes are less than a half hour long, and everyone in the show is disarmingly honest. You get invested in the characters, mostly because they rarely hold anything back. And when they do, the situation isn’t a contrived sitcom misunderstanding. It’s something we could see happening in the real world. Also, it’s a comedy made by two comedians who work so perfectly together, we have to reminded ourselves they’re not actually married. Watch
Pamela Adlon’s lately been gathering steam as a powerhouse in comedy and for good reason. She’s gotten a lot of work with voice acting, as well as some live action stuff, but we didn’t see her that often until after her appearances on Louie. Better Things is in that vein, taking an unflinching and comedic look at life as an actress and a single mother. It’s been on for two years, so if you’re looking for another weird, avant-garde, realistic comedy, there’s a small back catalog you can sort through. You also don’t have to go through FX’s normal weird streaming service, which should save you a headache. Just watch it all on Hulu. Watch
Legion was the show that proved people were willing to accept X-Men stuff that didn’t include Wolverine. Which is great, because one of the complaints we’ve heard about the X-Men movies is, they don’t take enough risks. They stick to fairly formulaic stories with significant star power behind them. They get people like Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, or Jennifer Lawrence to carry their mediocre movies to the end. But Legion flipped that on its head. There aren’t a ton of recognizable names in the cast and the storytelling and cinematography is off the walls. What they ended up with was a compelling mutant storyline that brought people back week after week to see what was going to freak everyone out this time.
We talked a little about The Mayor already, but that was before it premiered. All we had to go on was a few promo clips ABC posted online. Now that it’s out, we can fully recommend it. The main cast has great chemistry and comedic timing, with so much to spare that on the occasional joke that doesn’t quite land (and we’re talking one every third episode, so infrequently), the cast can pretty much charm you into laughing anyway. It’s best to watch this show as something separate from current events. If you go into every episode trying to tie the plot into modern politics, you’re only going to be miserable. But if you try to enjoy it simply as a well-constructed, charming sitcom, you’re going to be much more likely to keep watching. Basically, even though politics form the base of the premise, you can still enjoy The Mayor as a straight up comedy.
The Young Pope
The Young Pope was an oddly divisive show in the office this year. What everyone seemed to agree on was, watching Jude Law’s American pope bring back the power of the old Christian church was entertaining in both expected and unexpected ways. Regardless of your personal thoughts on religion, you have to admit Catholicism is still alive and well. Enough that, if a pope wanted to, they could bend the church to do some weird stuff, just like they used to. Watch
There aren’t many shows like Insecure on the air right now, mostly because black women rarely get to lead a comedy. And obviously the show’s going to deal heavily with racial issues, but main character Issa is relatable in so many more ways that you can find yourself brought in through other jokes, even if you yourself aren’t an African-American woman. Then you’re exposed to a perspective you wouldn’t have been normally. Watching her try to deal with everything in her life, from relationships to her career to living situation to casual dating. Issa’s endearing enough to carry the show, but her small group of friends have plenty of moments to shine as well. Overall, it’s a great, unique comedy that deserves a much larger audience. Watch
The comedy genius of Norsemen is one of the best kept Netflix secrets we’ve ever stumbled upon. It’s best summed up by a short promo clip, where one of the rowers on a viking boat is complaining about the lack of communication between captain and crew. It’s a brilliantly played scene. The situation is perfectly mundane, enough that we’ve probably seen it play out a thousand times in various workplaces, this one just happens to be on a longboat. That’s the understated brilliance of the show. It doesn’t call attention to the fact that the characters are vikings, at least not in a way that feels artificial. There’s a real sense that these are just people living their lives the same way we do now, only their lives happened twelve hundred years ago. People and problems don’t change all that much, so these conversations are pretty much guaranteed to have happened. And it’s all on Netflix. Watch
Jay Pharoah’s departure from SNL was a mild surprise (it would have been bigger, but he’d been vocal about some issues with the show before), but he’s certainly landed on his feet, if he left them at all. White Famous is a Showtime comedy based on Jamie Foxx’s attempts to break into the larger world of comedy, with Foxx intermittently appearing as modern Foxx and Pharoah playing his version of early Foxx. Mostly, we were excited to see Pharoah doing something that wasn’t impressions of politicians or other comedians, because he’s not doing an impression of Jamie Foxx. He’s blending his own experiences with the story Foxx wants to tell. Watch
The Lore podcast made serious waves when it was first released and while it was amazing, audio isn’t always the best way to convey such frightening stories. And to be honest, having visuals distracts from Mahnke’s odd delivery. Not to put him down, or anything. We just found his narration style kept us from binging the podcast the way other people said they did. But with the show, we were too invested in the documentary style and re-enactments to think too hard about just the narration. There are only six episodes, so it could be they used the first season as the pilot rather than making one episode. But we’ve only heard good things, so watch before they make season 2. Watch