The holidays are here and, if you’re like me, nothing is better than a warm seasonal beverage, convenience food, and a deliciously binge-able show. There’s no shortage of stuff to watch but that’s precisely the problem. Which ones will make the cut?!
Allow me to help.
Every month, I pack a short-list of under-the-radar TV shows waiting to be found and savored from the likes Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and others. Because life’s too short to watch the same stuff over and over.
Here are a few TV shows that’ll spice-up your “To-Watch” list for all the right reasons.
Admit it, just reading the show title has you boppin’ to that theme song.
Nostalgia is a powerful thing and when arriving through the vehicle of a perfectly approachable cartoon it’s especially great. Now, it may not be “peak animation”, but as far as 90s classics go, no other title made adolescence feel as creative, humorous, or surprisingly manageable as Doug. From crushing on Patty Mayonaise (still the only time I’ve appreciated mayo in any form); the skateboarding and concert hi-jinx with Skeeter (up there with Hey Arnold’s Gerald as the best best friend); the legendary adventures of Quail-Man (cue the whistle!); or surviving the antics of Roger Klotz and sister Judy–the reflective tales of Doug Funnie still represent the best things pre-teen entertainment can offer. Doug is back in our lives and it feels like reconnecting with a good friend.
Today I started re-watching on of my childhood favorite shows. Thanks to the wonders of modern entertainment, I’ve the whole catalogue available at my fingertips (as well as the physical media on the shelf). Truly an exciting time to be alive. All that said, the show still holds-up beautifully and hits me right in the feels. I anticipate that I’ll be re-visiting this familiar portal of fun quite frequently. As a result, expect more takes and entertaining memories to fill your future pages.
– Nostalgic Millennial
FOR FANS OF: Clarissa Explains It All, Hey Arnold, Recess
The Golden Girls (1985)
The beauty of streaming is how easily we can binge our favorite shows of yesteryear without relying on rerun schedules. So, if you haven’t yet rewatched Golden Girls, you really owe it to yourself to re-live its iconic sitcom glory. Dorothy, Blache, Rose, and Sophia remain every bit as hysterical and genuinely endearing. The classics are classic for a reason; the ground-breaking subject matter and delicious sarcasm feel timely and still easily watchable. No one tells a story like Sophia, nor does anyone butcher one quite like Rose. And life is more fun when Dorothy wields her sharp jabs. The Golden Girls ushered-in a new era of vital, lady-leading narratives, adult humor, but genuine heart. For an easy laugh and top-tier performances, it’s always a good time to hang out on the lanai with the ladies.
Oh, and in case I haven’t said it lately, thank you for being a friend.
FOR FANS OF: Designing Women, Frasier, Modern Family
Listen, I get it, Judd Apatow isn’t for everyone but humor me for a bit. Relationships are messy, this much we know. But they can also be as remarkably uninteresting as they are quirky. In that intersection is where this underrated series sets. Equal parts wonderful situational humor and utterly devastating minutiae.
Mickey and Gus are deeply flawed, but defy conventional cliche. Through 34 episodes, we travel the full arc of a chance relationship through its ups-and-downs, foreign and flaky roommates, distorted paradigms of family, and the ever-so familiar millennial anxiety. Neither one of them has their shit together and knows it’s a damn-near impossible task to accomplish…but that doesn’t stop them from trying and failing in both awkward and hysterically understated fashion. Because, let’s face it, life can only be so interesting when you’re a child-actor tutor, like Gus.
Brutally honest honest and unflinching; a rare timely moment for the present while still completely refreshing. In so many ways, Mickey and Gus are all of us. And it just might be Apatow’s best work.
FOR FANS OF: Crashing, Girls, Master of None
She’s Gotta Have It (2017)
Modern love has never looked this artistic–at least, not on TV anyway. Spike Lee’s reimagining of his own film expands scope and delves deeper into modern love, identity, and racial progression through the polyamorous explorations of Nola Darling. And damn if it’s not perfectly Spike–both ahead of its time and familiar in tone. All the signature moves are there:
- A got-to mixtape.
- Full-frontal addressing of the camera.
- Bold sneakers.
- Vivid art.
- Challenging the status quo.
- And, of course, the dolly shot.
When it comes to representation, Lee shatters the standard, never apologizing for placing topics, cultures, lifestyles, and appetites on the forefront that deserve awareness and normalization. A trend setter of progress and edgy truth. In that light, She’s Gotta Have It is an ode to self-expression, the exploration of pleasure, the limits of human relationships, and the power of identity to transcend circumstance, regardless of how silly or dire they may be. Naturally, in true urban auteur fashion, the gut-wrenching moments pack a punch as much as they sneakily arrive through swelling conflict. DeWanda Wise brings new meaning to the term “tour de force” as she anchors the brilliantly vibrant run on her own shoulders; curating for us a journey that breaks prediction while leaning into the artful potential of personal liberation.
A 21st Century take on Greek Comedy through the beautiful streets of New York by its very own black prophet. If you weren’t convinced of Spike Lee’s brilliance before, his venture into mold-breaking TV seals the deal.
FOR FANS OF: Black•ish, Dear White People, Do The Right Thing
Not sure if this counts as “awesomely bad” or “guilty pleasure”, but I can say this: UnReal knows exactly how meta it is and makes zero apologies for it. Although, that’s ultimately why we watch.
It was only a matter of time before our incredulous fascination with reality TV produced a full-on fictional series dissecting its intoxicating nectar. An added bonus is that it came through the insatiable talents of Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer. UnReal is a powerhouse vehicle showcasing impeccably unhinged leading-lady characters swimming in the ocean of dog-eat-dog reality entertainment. As we follow the production of a dating competition series, we’re thrust into an adrenaline-fueled orbit of sex, limitless betrayal, addiction, and ambition. This is a binge-able party that will either have you hate watching or just as easily saying, “inject this show into my veins”. Dive-in and see if you can stop, I dare you.
FOR FANS OF: The Bold Type, Gossip Girl, Revenge
Add some of these hidden gems to your list and save yourself from needless scrolling and the inevitable Friends re-watch. Go watch something…new!
What’s the best TV hidden gem you’ve streamed recently? Share in the comments and help me expand the list!