As bad as it is for the folks along the coast, Hurricane Florence has proven less of an event than we were expecting a few days ago. Which isn’t to say you shouldn’t stay vigilent—there’s still a tropical storm warning for some parts of the Triangle, and you should be on the lookout for flash floods. But it is to say that, at least as of Friday morning, you probably still have power (if you’re reading this), and many of you have the day off (or, at least, you’re “working” from home), which means you may have some time on your hands. So we figured we’d offer some suggestions for killing that time with some binge-worthy television shows available for streaming right now.
We’re going to skip some of the most obvious choices of the peak-TV era—Breaking Bad and The Sopranos and Mad Men and The Wire and Game of Thrones and The Handmaid’s Tale, etc.—and try instead to find some gems that might have slipped past your radar. Ready? Here we go.
SHARP OBJECTS (2018) Seasons:1 Available on:HBO Go/HBO Now Synopsis:Based on Gillian Flynn’s (Gone Girl) debut novel, Sharp Objects tells the story of an alcoholic, emotionally disturbed reporter assigned to cover the disappearances of two young girls in her small hometown, where she has to confront her overbearing mother and her own demons. Why you should binge:There are some irksome elements to this eight-episode miniseries—the trope of the hard-drinking female reporter who (spoiler!) sleeps with her sources is a bit tired and offensive to actual female journalists—but on the whole, it’s a tightly wound, if at first slow-burning mystery full of, as might expect from Flynn, plenty of twists, including a big one in the show’s closing episode. Also, Amy Adams will win all the Emmys.
MARCELLA (2016–) Seasons: 2 Available on:Netflix Synopsis: Another mystery series centered on a brilliant but troubled woman, only this time set in London and starring the incredible Anna Friel, Marcella follows a former detective who returns to work to investigate a long-open case when the killer appears to become active again. Why you should binge: Marcella is as taut and sharply written as television series come. It’s also a show that doesn’t give away the game quickly. It takes until the end of season 2 for us to discover how truly screwed up our titular lead really is—and why, and the answer will make you rethink the entire show. But intersecting with this engrossing character arc and Marcella’s chaotic home life is a fast-paced thriller that never slows down or disappoints.
NO OFFENCE (2015–) Seasons:2 (series 3 currently airing in the UK) Available on:Acorn TV Synopsis:A female-driven British police drama, No Offence follows a team of Manchester detectives as they investigate a serial killer of girls with Down syndrome (season 1) and then a Manchester crime boss (season 2). Why you should binge:At turns quirky and haunting, No Offence is among the most eminently enjoyable shows I’ve come to watch—the very definition of bingeable. It’s smart, but not so highbrow that you have to obsess over every little particular. It’s quirky and raunchy and briskly paced. It can overplay its hand—I figured out the Big Reveal of season 1’s last two episodes pretty early on—but this is a forgivable sin because the show is simply fun. Until I pulled this post together, I didn’t realize season 2 was available, so guess what I’m doing this weekend.
THE EXPANSE (2015–) Seasons: 3 Available on:Amazon Prime Synopsis: Based on the James S. A. Corey novels, this show is set in a twenty-third century in which humans have colonized the solar system but are divided among Earthers, Martians, and those who live in the outer reaches, called Belters. Earth and Mars are in a fragile Cold War that threatens to turn hot after a ship called the Canterbury is destroyed in an incident that, we later learn, is part of a vast conspiracy. Why you should binge:Probably the smartest sci-fi in a decade, certainly since Battlestar Galactica, The Expanse doesn’t really hit its stride until the latter part of the first season, but once it does, it becomes a visually stunning, often thought-provoking ride.
SHAMELESS (2011–) Seasons: 8 (ninth series currently airing on Showtime) Available on: Netflix/Showtime Synopsis:In this comedy-drama based on a UK series of the same name—created by Paul Abbott, the same person behind No Offence—what is perhaps the world’s most dysfunctional family struggles and strives to make it on the South Side of Chicago. Why you should binge: Now entering its ninth season,Shameless is the longest-running series in Showtime’s history, and like other long-running Showtime series—looking at you, Dexter—it might have passed its sell-by date by now, especially with star Emmy Rossum leaving the show after this season. (Which perhaps the showrunners should take as a hint that maybe it’s time to wind things down.) But its first few seasons, Shameless offers a sharp, irreverent, funny, sexy take on trying to do whatever it takes to get by when you’ve got nothing. And Rossum as the striving, overwhelmed daughter and William H. Macy as the worthless, drug-addict father are flat-out incredible episode after episode; their performances alone are worth the watch.
DARK (2017–) Seasons:1 Available on: Netflix Synopsis:A German-language time-traveling sci-fi thriller series, sometimes compared to Stranger Things but darker (it is German, after all). In the present (technically, 2019), children start disappearing, and as the first season evolves, we find interwoven storylines thirty-three and sixty-six years in the past that expose complicated family secrets. There’s also a wormhole in a cave. Why you should binge:It’s a weird show, sure. And I’m not quite sure how to explain it, or even if I fully understand it. But damned if I’m not looking forward to season 2.
MURDOCH MYSTERIES (2008–) Seasons: 11 (season 12 currently airing in Canada) Available on: Acorn TV/Netflix Synopsis:An episodic procedural that is might be the campiest of these recommendations, this long-running Canadian series follows William Murdoch, a Toronto detective from around the turn of the twentieth century who solves crimes using the latest in scientific advances (finger marks!). Why you should binge:There’s always a mystery to solve, and while there’s some connective tissue between episodes and seasons, there’s not much, which means you can tune in and out as you deem fit, and plug right in when you want. It’s fun and easy to watch, with characters you come to care about for reasons you don’t entirely understand. There’s a reason this show might be on air forever.
STAR TREK: DISCOVERY (2017–) Seasons:1 Available on: CBS All Access Synopsis:Set a decade before the events of the original Star Trek series, Discovery takes a number of departures from the usual Trek formula. For starters, it’s serialized. It’s also not focused primarily on a captain, but rather on a (mild spoiler) disgraced science specialist blamed for starting a war with the Klingons. Why you should binge: Discovery is very much an uneven, imperfect series (and, truth be told, I’m much more excited about the recently announced series focused on Jean-Luc Picard). There’s a too-long arc in the Mirror Universe, there are plot points that go nowhere, some character developments don’t really make sense, there are continuity issues, and so on. But it is far and away the most visually compelling and beautiful science fiction program on television, and it also brings a welcome and heretofore unseen level of diversity to the Trek universe. More than that, it tells a fun and interesting (if sometimes clunky) story. It’s flashy, high-dollar popcorn watching—and if nothing else, it paved the way for Sir Patrick Stewart’s return to the small screen.
GLOW (2017–) Seasons: 2 Available on: Netflix Synopsis: A down-on-her-luck but, um, enthusiastic actress joins a low-budget syndicated women’s wrestling program called the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, based on a real thing that existed in the eighties, and becomes the show’s Soviet heel, playing off her former best friend’s—the two had a falling out after she slept with her friend’s husband—Liberty Belle. Why you should binge: Marc Maron. OK, the rest of the show is great. The writing is good, the actors of great (especially Allison Brie, who can do no wrong), all of the elements for engaging television are there. But the real gem is Marc Maron as the chain-smoking, cokehead director Sam Sylvia, whose interactions with Brie’s overacting character are priceless.
BROADCHURCH (2013–17) Seasons: 3 Available on:Netflix Synopsis: Another Brit crime drama—really, the British are quite good at these—starring David Tennant (of Doctor Who and Marvel’s Jessica Jones, both of which are binge-worthy in their own right), Olivia Colman, and Jodie Whitaker (the new Doctor Who) looks at the murder of a young boy and its aftermath in a small seaside town. Why you should binge:If you decide to watch this and No Offence, remember that this came first. There is … a similarity. But Broadchurch is really a top-form mystery and character study all wrapped into one. Smart, moving, powerful, surprising—you really couldn’t ask for much more. Also, the show was soundtracked by Ólafur Arnalds, for my money one of the best composers and multi-instrumentalists around.