We’re nearing the end of summer and perhaps you’re still facing the same question after another binge-watch: What should I watch next? There’s always something else, but in the sea of streaming libraries finding the next right one can be daunting. Allow me to help.
Each month, I compile a short-list of worthwhile television titles waiting to be unearthed from the algorithms of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and the like. Because life’s too short to watch the wrong stuff.
Here are a few can’t miss TV shows that will upgrade your “To-Watch” list for the next month.
Hey Arnold! (1996)
Straight from the vault of classic Nickelodeon, not only does Hey Arnold! bring the nostalgia factor it stands just as strong as it did the day it premiered. Not many pre-teen shows find that balance of comedic hi-jinx and deep-rooted empathy as masterfully as Football Head and his 4th grade crew. Rarer still are animated installments examining humanity with as much family-friendly earnestness.
Hey Arnold! is a tapestry of those friends that defined our lives for a short time but were never heard from again. They find us at formational times. Though maybe we don’t know exactly what it’s like to ride the downtown bus dressed as fruit, or live in a boarding house with the most forward thinking, feminist icon, and absurdly random Grandma, or harboring a shrine of garbage dedicated to your secret crush, or to have the coolest room ever seen on television — but we do know what it’s like to adventure alongside our classmates. And that brings with it a meaningful collection of random memories and happenings. That’s what keeps me coming back to Hey Arnold!. Between sessions with Stoop Kid, shooting free throws, or meeting Pigeon Man, each episode returns to an inherent, albeit creatively random, sense of humanity. This one is a modern-day, urban gem. Thanks to Hulu, we can revisit P.S. 118 one more time.
FOR FANS OF: Doug, Recess, Rugrats
Ryan Murphy is the king loglines; brilliant ideas, lackluster execution. The bulk of his catalogue is filled with shining stars that fizzled out as quickly as they arrived (see Glee and Nip/Tuck) or Herculean projects that deliver in grandeur but feel devoid of any ounce of nuance or cohesive vision (see Scream Queens, 9-1-1 and Versace). So jumping into his latest Netflix soiree seemed like a 50/50 gamble. But, it promised the glamour of old Hollywood and Queen Patti LuPone, so yeah, I took the chance.
Possibly the best series he’s crafted.
Perhaps it speaks more to Mr. Murphy finally selecting the proper playground for his grand strokes — and oftentimes directionless — vision. I mean, does it get any more grand and deliciously operatic than golden-age Hollywood? The secrets, the parties, the conniving choices, the sex, and the “I’ve gotta make it” obsessions; feels like a perfect pairing for the popular mastermind of larger-than-life archetype.
He’s fashioned a narrative that speaks as much to gender, racial, and sexual equality as it does the glitz and glamour of “The Land” itself. Of course, in true Murphy form it falls short on nuance or earned feeling but in this arena it feels appropriate. The Hollywoodland of yesteryear is one we view with a certain lens of distorted reality, mythic even as we peel back the layers of truth. And suddenly, it feels right to dance in this party Mr. Murphy has crafted and not feel left wanting. Hollywood, thru an amazing cast, impeccable costumes, and finely tuned production design, delivers copious amounts of, well, everything. Characters going hard, dialogue unapologetically dipping into melodrama, and much, much more. Here, finally, we find an RM idea finding it’s proper footing in a grand reality of sorts … and it’s wildly seductive.
Also, can we just give Jeremy Pope and Laura Harrier all the leading roles now?
FOR FANS OF: Feud: Bette and Joan; Fosse/Verdon; Nip/Tuck
The Last Dance (2020)
Is Michael Jordan the greatest basketball player of all-time? For anyone born before 2000 that question isn’t even up for debate. And now, with the arrival of this monumental docu-series, that debate may be settled for all generations
… at least for a while.
In terms of sports documentaries, The Last Dance prides itself on potentially reinventing the mechanisms of which the stories unfold. Sure all the interviews from the heavy-hitters you expect to see are there (Scottie, Rodman, The Bad Boy Pistons, Larry Legend, Phil, Costas, Wilbon, and so many more). But it’s at the intersection of the never-before-seen (or heard) footage colliding with MJ’s exclusive views that many say takes this from top-tier to arguably unmatched. His Airness appears to bring that unfiltered opinion, unmitigated competitive edge, and no bullshit attitude in response to each vulnerable moment from his run and claimed truth from another.
For any basketball fan The Last Dance is likely more than just a salute to the man that transcended the sport and became a pop-cultural icon on the wings of the greatest sneaker game we’ve ever seen. It’s a window into the blossoming of the game under the reign of a true poetic genius. (At least, that’s my hopeful take). And damn if that’s not what we’ve been hoping for since MJ’s last retirement … a true peek behind the curtain.
I’ll be honest, as a cord-cutter, I didn’t get to catch this one live. Thank goodness Netflix came in clutch after the fact, right? I’m diving-in right now and making this recommendation mostly blind. Why? Because it’s Michael Freaking Jordan … and sometimes you just know when something is going to deliver the goods.
FOR FANS OF: 30 for 30 Series; He Got Game; Hoop Dreams
Supermarket Sweep (1990)
Y’all, there are old episodes of Supermarket Sweep on Netflix! This is not a drill.
The mad dash down the aisles cart in-hand, the round-robin questions, the random featured products, the gathering of ham after ham, and all that bad 90’s hair. It’s all there in such a fantastic time capsule. Because who doesn’t love an all-American game show?
Okay, but seriously, in the thick of the crazy summer that is 2020, there’s something to be said about the silly comfort found in familiar fun. Supermarket Sweep is utterly ridiculous but that remains its endearing quality. Its capacity to make phrases like, “The Big Sweep” and “Grand, Super Bonus” part of our normal vernacular if even for a time is impressive enough. Not to mention that tagline — you know the one.
The next time you’re at the checkout counter and you hear the beep, think of all the fun you can have on SUPERMARKET SWEEP!
It’s the king of all cheese and that’s why we love it. So you bet I’m recommending to put this gloriously campy game show back in your life. Because we need a little more innocent fun in our lives.
And remember, the secret to landing the $5,000 in time is splitting up. You cover more ground that way.
FOR FANS OF: Deal or No Deal; Family Feud; The Price is Right
Worried about an over-stuffed queue? Don’t be.
Add some of these ready-to-binge shows to your list and save your summer TV selections. If nothing else, there are no excuses on finding something to watch when Hey Arnold! is right there.
What’s the best show you streamed recently? Share in the comments and help me expand the list!