As we enter the tenth year (or whatever) of self-quarantine, you've likely settled into a semi-sustainable routine of homeschooling (if you're a parent), working from home (if you're still employed), and gorging yourself on the obscene bounty of streaming entertainment you hopefully have at your fingertips.
[Yes, it's annoying, but Gen-Xers: can you imagine doing this circa 1983? No cable? Maybe an Atari 2600 for distraction? One landline? I'd have impaled myself on the SB-920 laser cannon in my Death Star playset.]
But I digress. By now, you've probably revisited a bunch of classic and venerated television series like The Sopranos or Breaking Bad or The Wire. Perfectly acceptable choices one and all, but this article isn't about them. This is about those shows you may linger upon as you're scrolling through the Netflix menu, wondering If they're worth a look. Reader: they are. And I've even limited the selections to those with four seasons or less. More variety that way.
Ash vs Evil Dead (Netflix, 3 seasons)
(if you liked The Walking Dead)
This Starz series about the continuing adventures of Ash (Bruce Campbell), a coarse buffoon with a talent for battling legions of undead, may be too irreverent for those who prefer their zombie apocalypses be dour, humorless affairs. Everyone else should prepare for (literal) fountains of gore and all the boomstick you can handle.
Banshee (Hulu, 4 seasons)
(if you liked Ozark)
Admittedly, watching this series about an ex-con (Antony Starr) impersonating the sheriff of a small Pennsylvania town all at once might be a bit ... overwhelming. There is a question of how many Russian mobsters, ex-Nazi cops, Amish gangsters, and Native American terrorists you can take in one sitting. Be fun to find out, though.
Black Books (Netflix, 3 seasons)
(if you liked The IT Crowd)
Bernard Black (Dylan Moran) is a chain-smoking, wine swilling misanthrope who runs a used book shop he'd just as soon was wholly devoid of customers. He's Randal Graves from Clerks with a better inventory and vocabulary. At three six-episode seasons, it's a quick alternative to some of the more involved shows out there.
Catastrophe (Amazon Prime, 4 seasons)
(if you liked Fleabag)
An unflinching look at relationships, most notably those of expediency between an American (Rob Delaney) who impregnates an Irish schoolteacher (Sharon Horgan) while on a business trip in London. The show is pretty frank about how unbearable marriage and parenthood can be, but with plenty of toilet humor for us Yanks.
The Expanse (Amazon Prime, 4 seasons) (if you liked Game of Thrones)
Hear me out! Instead of Lannisters, Starks, and Baratheons, you've got Earthers, Martians, and Belters vying for control amidst the arrival of a mysterious organism that threatens all their existences. Canceled by SyFy because of the budget (the F/X are phenomenal), this was picked up by Amazon on Jeff Bezos's insistence. See? Even billionaires dig Amos.
Mr. Show with Bob and David (Hulu, 4 seasons) (if you liked Better Call Saul) BCS's Bob Odenkirk got his start on the short-lived Ben Stiller Show, but really cut his teeth with David Cross on this HBO sketch comedy show. Precursors of some of Jimmy McGill's alternate personalities can be found here, as well as hard-hitting exposés on the East Coast/West Coast ventriloquist feud and the secret history of blowjobs.
One Day at a Time (Netflix, 4 seasons) (if you liked ... One Day At a Time)
This Cuban-American reimagining of the classic Norman Lear series is recognizably sitcom-y, but tackles issues like PTSD, coming out as a teenager, and domestic violence. Incidentally, my long-standing crush on Justina Machado had nothing whatsoever to do with this recommendation.
Penny Dreadful (Hulu, 3 seasons)
(if you liked Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)
If you ever watched that terrible League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie and wondered what a well-executed adaptation of characters from literary genre classics would look like, give this a look. The atmospheric Victorian series, which includes the likes of Dorian Gray, Victor Frankenstein, vampires, werewolves, and witches, is nasty fun. A sequel, Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, debuts April 26 on Showtime.
Spaced (Hulu, 2 seasons)
(if you liked
For the longest time, I thought this Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Baby Driver) series was actually about, you know, outer space. Turns out I was probably thinking of Red Dwarf, because this finds a ridiculously young Simon Pegg sharing a "flat" with a woman he barely knows. Hijinks ensue, thanks to several Wright stalwarts (Nick Frost chief among them).
Terriers (Hulu, 1 season)
(if you liked Stumptown)
AKA that show Shawn Ryan was involved with other than The Shield. Sharply written, intricately plotted, and masterfully acted (Donal Logue has never been better), the show received high praise, landing on many critics' "best of" lists in 2010. Naturally, it was canceled after one season.
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