TV to Stream | November 2020

Winter is knocking at the door and, if you’re like me, it’s likely you’re 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 perfectly bingeable TV shows that will upgrade your “To-Watch” list for the next month.

Selling Sunset (2019-20)

Nobody told me your 30s is when you suddenly become fascinated with ridiculous reality TV, but here we are.  After rifling through Love is Blind and Married at First Sight much faster than I care to admit, my partner and I dove headfirst into the world of glamorous Beverly Hills real estate because, well, why the hell not?

Maybe it’s the pandemic anxiety talking, but Selling Sunset is actually quite the indelible binge watch … for a reality show. All the notes are there:

  • Far too many aerial shots.
  • Glamour and fashion to the max.
  • Backstabbing divas.
  • And extra everything.

Gosh, it’s bad and addicting and wonderful and maddening and over-the-top all at the same time. With top-tier production quality of course.  So, yeah, give me the antics of Christina vs Chrishell, Heather’s fast relationships, Davina’s inability to be a good person or sell anything, Mary’s engagement and marriage shenanigans, and the Tiny Twin Brokers rolling in the dough.  The world of real estate has never been this ridiculous and that’s why we love it.

For mindless entertainment that checks all the boxes and provides a much-needed (albeit guilty pleasure) escape from day-to-day reality — Selling Sunset gives us augmented reality in shiny fashion.

FOR FANS OF: Love is Blind; Real Housewives; UnREAL

Thundercats (1985-89) 

That’s right, the streaming era has finally given us what we needed all along.  Every episode of the original Thundercats series is now available to relive in all its 80s-tastic glory thanks to Hulu. 

To be honest, it may be the lone thing that’s makes this awful year nearly bearable.  What a gift epic nostalgia. I mean, watch the opening sequence and tell me you’re not hyped to have Lion-O and Mum-Ra back in your life.

This one’s a no brainer. “Thundercats, hooo!”

FOR FANS OF: Gargoyles, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, & The Transformers

The Umbrella Academy (2019 – Present)

It’s no secret I’m a sucker for most comic book inspired entertainment but even casual geek fans have to admit The Umbrella Academy delivers the goods.  Last year, season one dropped on the wings of a perfectly placed Tiffany song and the brilliant energy of a talking ape.  Throughout that journey we ventured on a doomsday saga with the unconventional collection of superhuman foster siblings.

Now with season two we have more of what we love plus a good portion of time travel, new characters, more cataclysmic events pending, and a fabulously perfect Kate Walsh performance.  You know, typical comic book stuff.

But even through all the grand, tacky yet superbly deployed needle drops, incredibly choreographed action sequences, and deliciously relatable sibling banter, we have Grade-A character study.  The Umbrella Academy separates itself from it’s comic book counterparts by relishing in the rich, quirky nuance of each notable character and wrapping the encompassing experience with pristine framing.  This is a squad that manages to both celebrate the graphic novel of it all while leaning into the eye-catching opportunities only the TV medium can provide. Basically, imagine The Brady Bunch vaulted into the 21st Century, discovered My Chemical Romance, and developed super powers. 

If family feuding with anti-heroes and conspiracy theories are your bag, dive into The Umbrella Academy and prepare yourself for gritty, vibrant, high-octane fun.  And then head over to Spotify and blast the accompanying playlists because that mixtape is legit.

FOR FANS OF: Deadpool, Jessica Jones, & Watchmen

The Wonder Years (1988-93)

Catching this show on Nick At Night as a middle schooler in the throes of all the hormones and popularity pursuits, I found myself in mainstream entertainment for the first time in Kevin Arnold.  Titles of that nature are always going to stick with you because it’s more than mere nostalgia — it’s formational. 

  • Winnie Cooper was, like for many of us, my first TV crush.
  • My first best friend was named Paul too.
  • I loved the New York Jets.
  • Daniel Stern’s narration felt, many times, as though it came straight from my own psyche.

Does that make me original? Not one bit. But it does speak to how this show pulled in generations of viewers for the first time. But there’s something about The Wonder Years that still seems to transcend conventional escapism appeal.  This one hit deeper and that seems to be a fairly popular take.

Here’s what I’m getting at, The Wonder Years threads the needle of nostalgia, heart, drama, comedy, and self-discovery in a more inherently personal fashion than many of it’s predecessors yet still earns the status of mass appeal.  That is the sign of fantastic television.

Who could forget the Becky Slater punch? Or the time Kevin’s car reeked of Chinese food so bad he and Winnie can’t make out. The walk out. Karen running away. Wart returning from Vietnam. Paul joining the basketball team. Kevin and Winnie’s first kiss. And so many other moments.

Watching it all now, as an adult and parent, it still packs that emotion and uncanny relatability … but for beautifully different reasons altogether. 

This just might be the closest thing to a perfect show I’ve ever seen.  A rare title that bridges a cross-generational divide earning the label, “timeless”.  We laugh, grow, cry, discover, fail, and flourish with Kevin Arnold because, in many ways, he’s all of us.

FOR FANS OF: Dawson’s Creek, Happy Days, & Saved by the Bell

Weeds (2005-12)

No one has mastered modern dark comedy quite like Jenji Kohan. Furthermore, I’m convinced Mary-Louise Parker can do anything and do it better than most.  Perhaps that’s why Weeds feels like such a unique brand of genius … well, the early seasons at least.  Not to mention the theme song is *chef’s kiss*

Conceptually, the whole show is as plausible as it is brilliant. I mean, what’s more important in white suburbia than image and lifestyle? That’s why we easily buy into the concept of a Nancy Botwin at the end of her rope resorting to peddling weed to the all the HOA members. But in true Kohan fashion, it’s much more than that. Along the way we’re hit with razor sharp comedy, ground breaking representation, and subtle, gutting moments of discovery. Through the early seasons, the show hits its stride as we journey through Nancy’s deep-seeded anxiety and the desperate plays to stay one step ahead of everyone else.

Much like Orange is the New Black (which would come later from Kohan’s arsenal) Weeds grounds itself in the unkempt mission of subversive commentary and unabashed liberal leanings. For a mid-2000s installment, it doesn’t get much more prestige-meets-the-unapologetically-unrefined than this ensemble display with Kevin Nealon stealing the show. Sure the technology may not have aged well and some of the references are a touch “out there” but much of what anchors Weeds still speaks today.  It lands right in the stride of easy to consume episodes while packing a sobering punch.

So look, all I’m saying is give Weeds a chance.

FOR FANS OF: Californiacation, Orange is the New Black, & The United States of Tara

Hopefully this will spice up your TV selections, or—if nothing else—add a few more solid titles to that overstuffed queue.  Either way, you don’t have to settle for something mediocre when Thundercats is right there. Now, go watch something!

What’s the best hidden gem you’ve streamed recently? Share in the comments and help me expand the list!