Orange Is the New Black recently returned for a fifth season.
Orange Is the New Black recently returned for a fifth season.
Cara Howe/Netflix

The 10 Best Series to Binge-Watch This Summer

Once upon a time, summer was television's dead season. Granted, this was before many cable networks generated their own original content, and even before reality television – a cheap way to produce content year-round – was a thing. Once, network shows simply disappeared for a few months, only to reappear with new seasons every September.

Those days are over, to an extent. Summer is inundated with new and premiering shows, though it's still a time when many networks take a knee on showcasing their best and brightest shows. Fortunately, this provides a time to binge-watch any number of deserving shows. If anything, summer is no longer dead season as it pertains to original programming. Rather, we are now in the heat (no pun intended) of binge season, so here are ten programs to get you started.

Good news and bad news. The bad? Man Seeking Woman was recently cancelled by FX after three seasons. The good news? You can now binge-watch it on the FXNOW app knowing full well that you’ll see it through to a nice resolution. This show about an unlucky-in-love guy and the family and friends who support him is so much more than standard rom-com fare. Man Seeking Woman is one of the more unique, weird shows ever produced by a cable TV network.

This one isn’t going to be for everyone. If you like fast-paced, ever-changing plots, go re-watch Breaking Bad. Rather, Flaked – which stars Will Arnett as a recovering alcoholic living in Venice, California – is more a slice-of-life show that shines a spotlight on the importance of friendship and community. The show is a bit self-indulgent, and the romantic plot line is sorta unnecessary, but when it’s good, Flaked really has a way of tugging at one’s emotions.

Talk about consistency. Orange Is the New Black has debuted a new 13-episode season every summer since 2013. As for the seasons themselves, well, they have been far from static. Hell, the most recent season only takes place over the course of several hours. This show really has something for everyone. It can be funny. It can be poignant. It can veer into social commentary. The show, which follows the lives of various inmates at a women’s prison, is starting to show its age, but for those who haven’t tuned in, OITNB is one hell of a way to kill 65 hours.

As most shows do, Community began to fade after a few years, particularly that final season that took place on Yahoo!. That said, for a time, this was unquestionably the funniest, most original comedy on television. Community takes place at a fictional community college, where a group of folks – of mixed age, race, gender and background – form a sort of quirky little family inside the school walls. The show also served as a launching pad of sorts for a number of talents who have since moved on to bigger things, including Donald Glover and Alison Brie (both of whom will appear later on this list).

Yes, when I first heard that Ashton Kutcher was launching a sitcom on Netflix, in which he would star as a washed-up former football star who returns to his family’s ranch in Colorado, to say I was doubtful would be an understatement. And yes, The Ranch – a sort of throwback to an '80s family sitcom – can be hokey in spots. But with a cast that includes Sam Elliott and Debra Winger, the show doesn’t lack for talent. Not only that, but The Ranch tackles a number of real-life topics – divorce, unplanned pregnancy, financial woes, even immigration. Most important, comedy aside, the show has heart. A welcome surprise from both Kutcher and Netflix.

Aziz Ansari must have been watching FX’s Louie, which takes a pseudo-fictionalized look at the like of real-life comedian Louis C.K. Not only did C.K. star in the show, he writes and directs it as well. Ansari’s Master of None takes a similar approach. In creating and writing the show, Ansari has really opened some eyes. More important, Master of None features elements of drama, which has allowed Ansari the opportunity to showcase his acting chops. Ansari hasn’t revealed when, or even if, we’ll get a Season 3, but in the meantime, treat yourself to two of the finest seasons of original programming Netflix has produced.

We covered this already. Brockmire might very well be the best comedy on television right now.

Man, Donald Glover is on a roll. Dude has put out three hit records under his Childish Gambino moniker, starred in the aforementioned Community and even had a role in the latest Spider-Man reboot. Plus, he created and starred in the best new show of 2016. Atlanta is told through the lens of “Earn” Marks, who can’t seem to find any direction in life, until he decides to help get his cousin’s hip-hop career off the ground. Atlanta was awarded the Golden Globe for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy, and Glover won Best Actor – Television Series – Musical or Comedy, both awards well-deserved for one of the more unique programs of the past several years.

Shows about damaged folks are interesting, in that such programs often make people feel better about their own lots in life. On the other hand, the characters in these types of shows can often grow tiresome and even grate on audiences (think Meredith Grey in Grey’s Anatomy). “Casual,” an original program from Hulu currently in its third season, manages to humanize a trio of damaged individuals – a sister, her younger brother and her teenage daughter – to the point where it’s awfully hard to root against those on screen. Michaela Watkins is a revelation as a recently divorced therapist re-entering the dating world, and Tommy Dewey does a fine job of playing a character who masks some real emotional issues with humor and charm.

No, you need not be a fan of professional wrestling to appreciate this fictionalized tribute to the real-life Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. Rather, one must simply appreciate top-flight storytelling and actors who seamlessly bridge the gap between comedy and drama. Speaking of which, Alison Brie is in peak form as Ruth "Zoya the Destroya" Wilder. Brie always had a likable camera presence, and anyone who watched Community won't question her comedic abilities. But, like Ansari with Master of None, Brie has proven her dramatic chops as well with one of the best original programs Netflix has produced.

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