Recently, there was a bit of an uproar on the internet (it’s a day that ends in “y,” so go figure) that streaming giant Netflix would be taking the mega-influential sitcom FRIENDS off of its service. Rather than go out to a Half Price Books and procure the series cheaply, people decided to use our greatest power as Americans and complain. I’m not going to knock people’s comforts; I’ve got plenty of my own shows that I’d be furious to lose on streaming (specifically because they’re not available on streaming). So, Netflix shelled out an ungainly amount (upwards of $100 million) to keep the show on so people could re-watch it again for the umpteenth time. The even bigger frustration is what the giant payout ultimately means. Will there be shows that are lower priority on the chopping block? People are taking the DAREDEVIL cancellation pretty hard, and frankly, it’s hard to take Netflix’s cancellation with a grain of salt when that $100-mil payout could’ve presumably funded a fourth season. Since Netflix is all about late-night viewing desperation and discovery, I’ve decided to tell you about five television shows you could be watching, shows with smaller episode commitments, rather than re-watch a show you’ve presumably seen again and again.
THE GOOD PLACE (Commitment: 26 episodes)
Created in 2016 for NBC by PARKS AND RECREATION‘s showrunner, Mike Schur, THE GOOD PLACE follows Eleanor Shellstrop, a hot mess to end all hot messes as she navigates The Good Place (the show’s analogous afterlife) alongside her companions: Chidi Anagonye – an indecisive ethics professor, TahaniAl-Jamil – an obnoxious, affluent socialite, and Jianyu Li – a monk who has taken a vow of silence. Spearheading the whole thing is Michael, an immortal architect who has designed The Good Place and who runs the whole thing alongside Janet, a perky computer program. On the other side of the spectrum, there’s The Bad Place. And that’s about as much as I’m willing to divulge because one of THE GOOD PLACE’s strengths is its mystery, its willingness to gnash its way through as much plot as possible like a chainsaw cuts its teeth on the trunk of a tree. The show’s bravery in discovering its limitless imagination is one of the reasons why people are taken in by the majesty of this show. It calls to mind the earlier seasons of LOST, in that you as the viewer aren’t exactly attuned to where the writers are taking you, but the elusive nature of the journey you’re taking. It’s also worth mentioning that in this garbage ball of a timeline we live in, a show like THE GOOD PLACE can give us hope that there is inherent good in well-intentioned, if not misguided people, and that deep down, we’ll do the right thing, even if there’s no beneficial motivation in sight. And thankfully, the show was just renewed for a fourth season!
CRAZY-EX GIRLFRIEND (Commitment? 44 episodes)
Do you like absolutely hysterical musical comedies? Well, then you should queue up CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND, the brainchild of series star Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna. Originally starting as a half-hour series for Showtime, CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND moved over to the CW, and fortunately lost none of its spicy, ribald nature. The show follows Rebecca Bunch, a successful New York lawyer, suffering from depression and anxiety, who upends her whole life to follow her beloved ex-boyfriend back to his home of West Covina and then the mania begins. What follows is a show that delves through the varying layers of female sexuality, mental illness, acceptance to people’s sexuality, religion, identity and is discussed with a frankness one would not expect on the CW. It’s also pitch black hysterical, with jokes that would catch anyone off guard with how far the writers will go to craft a joke that’s simultaneously gut busting and cringe-worthy (in a good way). Since it’s a musical, I must inform you that the songs are absolutely the ear-wormiest tunes to ever roll out of the television. The songs are written by a rotating roster, often involving series creator Bloom, but also Adam Schlesinger, who in addition to being the bassist for Fountains of Wayne, crafted the titular track for the beloved Tom Hanks film, THAT THING YOU DO! Not only was it a critically acclaimed show, Bloom won Best Actress in a Comedy at the Golden Globes. To the networks’ credit, despite its ratings anemia, the CW let it run for its planned four seasons (something the creators had in mind from the get-go) It’s a wholly unique, sentimental and phenomenal show and it’s really a shame that CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND never took off like it should have, but at least we got to close out the show on its own terms, instead of mourning its untimely demise.
SANTA CLARITA DIET (Commitment? 20 episodes)
This entry is a little bit of a cheat, as it’s a Netflix Original series, but I included it so that I can try and bring a little more attention to it, because I don’t hear too many folks talking about it, and I selfishly want it to get more views so that it can continue on. 2017’s SANTA CLARITA DIET was created by Victor Fresco, whose track record involves brilliant, short-lived single-camera sitcoms like ANDY RICHTER CONTROLS THE UNIVERSE and BETTER OFF TED. SANTA CLARITA DIET retains the solid, sharp writing of his previously departed shows, but this one amps it up alongside some wonderfully glee-laden gore scenes – oh, yeah, it’s a horror-comedy! The series concerns Joel and Sheila Hammond, a married couple slash real estate agents whose lives are flipped upside down when Sheila wakes up one day and turns into a zombie. Now Sheila must control her urges to consume human flesh, and with her husband learn to come to terms that her and their lives may never approach normalcy again. The one thing about this show that always stands out to me is its sweetness. Yes, it’s wholly acerbic and acid-tongued, but it’s a show that functions beautfilly as a show about a family who cares deeply for each other despite the tremendously messed up situation that they’re in. The actors, from Drew Barrymore, Timothy Olyphant, Skyler Gisondo, and Liv Hewson, form a tight familial unit and have some of the best comedic timing on television. I love a show with a droll sense of humor, and man, this one delivers exponentially. One of my favorite comedic moments on television this year comes from Season Two – Sheila coming to terms with her insatiable appetite to consume people, decides that if she’s going to kill to eat, it might as well be an awful person. So, naturally, they go after a neo-Nazi … and then they discover he’s in a wheelchair. The debate of whether it’s ethically sound to cannibalize an awful human being with a disability is bar none, one of the funniest things of all time. This one has actually, luckily, gotten to its third season airing next year. Please go out and watch it.
HAVEN (Commitment? 78 episodes)
I haven’t watched Hulu’s CASTLE ROCK yet, and I did devour 11/22/63, but there’s been a sorrowful lack of serialized Stephen King programming on our boob tubes. So, I recommend Syfy’s little-mentioned HAVEN, a series that premiered in 2010, and was loosely (LOOSELY) based on King’s short story THE COLORADO KID. The show is centered on Agent Audrey Parker (the effervescent Emily Rose), who is dispatched to the quaint, but afflicted town of Haven. Soon, she finds herself drawn into a decades-old mystery that, at the middle of it all, is a supernatural problem known to the locals as The Troubles. What follows is a wonderful concoction of sci-fi, horror, and drama, led by the three compelling leads: Rose, alongside Lucas Bryant and Eric Balfour. The trio have a warm, lived-in chemistry (especially Rose, who endears simply because of her talented turn as Elena Fisher in the UNCHARTED games). As with most modern properties, you’ll find underneath the episodes are nods to King stories (IT and CHRISTINE, notably) but importantly, a sense of wonderment. Plus, the Season Three arc involving a murderer known as The Bolt Gun Killer is terrifically tense work.
RECTIFY (Commitment? 30 episodes)
Hailing from Academy Award winner Ray McKinnon, RECTIFY is a slow, meditative piece of work that requires patience from any viewer attempting to tackle its short series run. But if you are a viewer who can sit and watch and bask in the beauty of a transcendent piece of fiction, then this show is undoubtedly for you. The story of RECTIFY is about Daniel Holden, a man imprisoned for nineteen years after he was accused of raping and murdering his sixteen-year-old girlfriend. He is later acquitted, based on DNA evidence for the murder, and is released into a society that has changed and moved beyond the life he knew. The mystery of who committed the crime isn’t a primary focus of the show (though it is solved in the last season), but rather how Daniel reacquaints into modern society, and how the townspeople react to the release of a man they deemed a murderer for half his life. The performances on this show are breathtaking, from Aden Young as Daniel, to Abigail Spencer as his sister Amantha, and Clayne Crawford, who takes a repugnant character like Teddy Jr. and turns him into the most empathetic, poetic character on television. Stick with the show, find its rhythm, and live in its Southern lyricism. By the end of the run, you’ll be so overwhelmed with emotion, you won’t have a dry eye for a decade.
Tags: Abigail Spencer, Adam Schlesinger, Adelaide Clemens, Aden Young, Aline Brosh McKenna, Clayne Crawford, D'Arcy Carden, David Hull, Donna Lynne Champlin, Drew Barrymore, Emily Rose, Eric Balfour, Gabrielle Ruiz, Hulu, J. Smith-Cameron, Jameela Jamil, Kristen Bell, Liv Hewson, Lucas Bryant, Manny Jacinto, Michael Schur, NBC, Netflix, Nicholas Campbell, Pete Gardner, Rachel Bloom, Ray McKinnon, Santino Fontana, Scott Michael Foster, Skylar Astin, Skyler Gisondo, Stephen King, Sundance TV, Syfy, Ted Danson, The CW, Timothy Olyphant, TV, Vella Lovell, Victor Fresco, Vincent Rodriguez III, William Jackson Harper