I love my dark and tortured shows, especially with a strong lean towards science fiction and fantasy. But of late I’ve wanted more light and goofy escapism, meaningful and in-depth social criticism, and I’m always game for period drama when it’s well done. So, basically, I like what I like. Keep that in mind with this ultimate, perfect, no-way-to-contradict-it list of summer binge suggestions. Most of these are definitely NSFW or children.
Chewing Gum: Light and Goofy, with an edge. There are two seasons of this supremely funny and painfully awkward series centers on Tracey (Michaela Coel) who just wants to lose her virginity. It’s raunchy, in the most innocently stumbling way possible. It’s squirm-in-your-seat uncomfortable, which might remind you of the discomfort in watching the British version of The Office. And you will fall in love with Tracey even while you’re unsure you want to ever hang out with her in the long-term. The second season expands attention to her circle of friends, and her sister becomes a driving force as well. Seriously, it has lifted the dark cloud of misery from my mood on more than one occasion. More details here: NYT review.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Light and Goofy, with a dark but subtle edge. Kimmy is like a more innocent, less focused Tracey. The series and its cast are the perfect brain candy for 2017. As with Chewing Gum, you may want to binge on several episodes of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt despite not wanting to spend more than 20 minutes with the main character. And the supporting characters are the perfect foils and friends for Kimmy. Everyone is flawed in the most disturbingly beautiful ways, and you’ll end up feeling better about whatever has you in the dumps. More details: New Yorker review.
Sense8: Intense, hopeful, lots of skin and sex. If you don’t mind being confused for a while in a show, and you love sharp turns and sudden starts in your narrative, check out Sense8 for a wicked good time. You may also need to remember that suspension of disbelief is a handy tool as well. Sense8 begins in violence, and continues in violence mixed with longing, desperation, love, and vulnerability. You can’t help but fall in love with these characters, just as they all fall in love with each other. It’s both visually and thematically gorgeous and hopeful, despite the consistent dark and violent episodes. Trust me on this one if you’re into sci-fi and fantasy. It’s an antidote to a lot of the rhetoric floating around these days. There are two seasons, and (thankfully!) a holiday special coming. More details: Hollywood Reporter review.
Black Mirror: Dark, squirmy, self-critical, and sometimes funny social commentary. If you can make it through the discomfort of the first episode, you’ll be fine. And if you don’t recognize some of your own vices in the first season, you’re lying. Some of the episodes are harsh criticisms, while others are kinder, gentler lectures. You’ll reel back in horror, weep in frustration, and deny you’d ever behave in the same way. Good for you, there are many, many episodes to catch up on. (Don’t miss the San Junipero episode if you need a positive break.) Eventually you’ll admit that yeah, okay, you recognize yourself in some episodes. More details: Hollywood Reporter review.
The Crown: Slow, precise, more recent period drama. Considering that the subject of this drama is still the Queen, it feels odd to call this a period drama, but it is. As someone who is peripherally interested in the modern monarchy, this was instructive and, well, calming. It’s beautifully made, and in these times without respect for norms and “the way things are done,” it can dispel some anxiety. It’s basically a family drama in which the decisions seem both silly and immensely heavy. There is scandal, political intrigue, and personal turmoil, all with a muted veil of decorum. The Crown is good after a particularly stressful week. More details: Vanity Fair’s review.
Dear White People: Get over yourself. It’s not a lecture; it’s a really well-made show. Go see the film on Amazon or iTunes or whatever, and then check out the first season of the series on Netflix. The characters of the series pick up from the film, but the series really delves into issues that the film introduces. Topics addressed include hypocrisy, privilege within the Black community, LGBTQ issues, peer and family pressure, obliviousness of different groups to each other, language, and in a stunning pair of episodes about Reggie, police brutality and the after effects. Each episode (or pair of episodes) focuses on one character, and each will humanize the audience further. Seriously, it’s really good. More details: NYT review.
Do you have additional must-sees on Netflix? I can already tick off a few more suggestions in my head. Share in comments!