Recommending TV shows

Scene from “Arrested Development” pilot

Though I know that it’s not true, I feel like I have seen a touch of every TV show out there. Like many people, I feel as though I spend too much of my time watching TV, even though I never used to. Despite this, there are plenty of shows that I have not yet watched (I have not seen “Friends” for instance, nor do I intend to). 

I feel bombarded by all of the TV show options out there. Even good tv shows don’t feel that special, because there are so many well-made shows out there, that make it so that even great shows can’t stand out. But whenever I do see a show that I really like (or really loathe) you can count on me to have hard opinions on them.

Here is a list that I have compiled of current TV shows that are most likely in your Netflix queue. Glean from it what you will:

Criminally underrated: Bojack Horseman

“Bojack Horseman” is surprisingly gritty for an adult cartoon since it fleshes out the dark, depressed mind of a washed up celebrity from the 90s. The show starts off as a dark comedy but eventually evolves into a story about a guy (actually a horse) battling his inner demons. This Netflix original series takes place in a world that is half-human and half-animal. That might not appeal to you, but it does garner some praise for its accurate depiction of mental illness, something that Netflix previously failed at with its controversial, and irresponsibly negligent, show “13 Reasons Why.” The show has some zany characters but when it dives into more emotional terrain it does so with grace. Sometimes, it is a character going through a divorce or a character hitting rock bottom. Either way, it does show how soul-sucking these character’s lives can be in a way that can still be upbeat. 

Entirely overrated: Breaking Bad

I’m sorry but it’s true. I watched the pilot with the promise of being hooked from the start, and while the stakes were definitely high, I didn’t find it to be the thrill ride that others seemed to think it. I feel like one of the only reasons that people continued to watch this show was because each episode ended on a hook and they were curious to see where it lead, so they started the next episode. Otherwise, I wouldn’t feel very attached to the main character or his plights. I will however state that it had a great production value and the actors were great, it was just the overall story that I did not particularly enjoy. 

Guilty pleasure: Sex and the City/How to Get Away With Murder 

While it might be a bit of a cliche pick, “Sex and the City” redefined what could and couldn’t be considered guilty pleasure television. I watch the show, relate to the women, judge their outfits, agree with their commentary on male-female relationships and call it a day, but since calling “Sex and the City” my guilty pleasure is kind of a cop out, I’ve also added that “How To Get Away With Murder” is the best guilty-pleasure show I’ve seen in a while. Personally, I don’t really believe in guilty pleasures, I really only believe in pleasures; the shameless things that we like and the natural reasons why we like them. But since “guilty-pleasure” is a real concept, there are some pretty great shows out there that fit the profile. “How to Get Away With Murder” has all of the fixings of good guilty-pleasure TV: murder most foul, sex, courtroom drama, and unlikeable conniving characters. Watch and enjoy!

Go-to feel good: Arrested Development

If you enjoyed a family farce like “Modern Family” then you’ll love this show, since it is “Modern Family” but with the volume turned up. It’s a show about a wealthy, dysfunctional family of assholes, in which Jason Bateman’s character is the only sane one. When the patriarch of the family is arrested for his fraudulent business practices, Bateman’s character must run the family business as well as the family, and hilarity ensues. The storylines can get quite ridiculous, so be sure to suspend your disbelief. The show was cancelled after three seasons (a mark of its authenticity, in my opinion) only to be picked up by Netflix over a decade later. The show’s ability to wholeheartedly commit to a running joke is exceptional and part of what makes it so excellent. While it does have some subtle commentary on the American family that they heavy-handedly parody, this show does not need to be taken seriously and will induce some serious belly-laughs.

Good but not great: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

“The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is Netflix’s sleek and stylish revamp of “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.” The show does take its cues from other YA fictions out there: a teenager must live with her aunts after being orphaned in a tragic accident, learns to study magic, goes to school to study magic, and despite growing up in our human world, our character is special in her magical world for some reason (Harry Potter much). The show does have some good elements to it though. Kiernan Shipka was the perfect choice to play Sabrina Spellman, the action of the story keeps you engaged, this series’ version of magic is interesting since it blatantly involves satanism, and you’re always curious as to how the teenage heroine will balance her old world with her new world and all that entails. It could be a bit stronger and less derivative, but overall pretty entertaining. The series just entered its third season and is apparently still going strong. 

Show that is constantly recommended to you, but take it from me, isn’t really worth the watch:

Big Mouth

Since I love everything John Mulaney does, it breaks my heart to have to say that this show just isn’t cutting it. The show is an honest and introspective look into puberty, but unlike “The Wonder Years,” this show can get pretty gross, pretty fast. With it being animated, it gets away with its adult humor, but if it were live-action the show’s creators would be in some serious trouble for sexualizing children. Many of their running jokes long overstay their welcome, unlike “Arrested Development” where the running jokes are executed flawlessly, and often times it is difficult to understand the rules of the world that these characters live in. It has been renewed for three more seasons, but I would just skip it all together.

Dark and complicated: Russian Doll

“Russian Doll” is a Netflix original show in which a woman must relive her 36th birthday after continuously dying and restarting at her birthday party. It has a flawed character, who you might find unlikable, unless you’re like me and you like that sort of thing. Like many of the shows that I like, you get a glimpse into her emotional state and what it all means. Natasha Lyonne was born for this role and is a large part of what makes this show so good. The show is not super dramatic, but might fill you up with some existentialist dread. I have absolutely no idea how the ensemble of all-female writers intends to continue the series, but they do have plans in the works for a second season. 

Show that everybody needs to see a little bit of: The X-Files

It was recently brought back for a reboot, but the series was at its best when it first aired in the 90s. Mulder and Scully have been labeled the perfect duo, and quite rightfully so. The show even is credited with creating the “Scully Effect,” which is when women pursue careers in STEM after witnessing Agent Scully kill it on the X-Files. Being cool and spooky, it not only supplemented your lust for spectres and aliens, it also made it acceptable to have conspiracy theories against your government, and if it didn’t have all of that, it still would be an excellent piece of television.

Shows that I just want to recommend:

The West Wing (not current but still topically relevant). 

For those of you who don’t know, “The West Wing” is a fictional political show that depicts the lives of White House staffers working in the west wing and opened up the floodgates for every political show you know and love: “Veep,” “House of Cards,” and “Designated Survivor.” You can start this show and witness the characters discussing things that we are still being discussed today: statehood for Puerto Rico, abortion rights, gun control, the death penalty, prison reform, public school education, police brutality, college debt forgiveness, and a whole smattering of others. It might not be the escapism you’re looking for during an election cycle, but it still is a well-written and well-acted TV show for the ages. 

Fleabag

Fleabag pulled off the impossible task of garnering both critical acclaim and mainstream appeal.This might be because Phoebe Waller-Bridge adapted it from her one woman show, starred in it, wrote it, and created it. She also makes artistic choices such as constantly breaking the fourth wall, with reasoning behind it, which is something that critics ate up. Being a dark comedy, the show is both serious and light hearted, by swinging back and forth between the character’s grief and her amazing sense of humor. The show has mainstream popularity because it manages to never take itself too seriously, while being genuinely funny. The show also goes in depth with her sexual escapades but is not salacious just to be salacious.Overall, the show is an amazingly written look into a young woman’s life that may get to be too real at times. 

How do you feel about these shows? Be sure to discuss them in the comment section afterwards.

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

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