Five under-the-radar shows worth your time
More and more millennials are moving away from trips to the movies in favor of staying planted on the couch. Aside from it being a more economical choice (a large popcorn shouldn't cost the same as floor seats at MSG), it's just more convenient to scroll through On-Demand and hit play from the comfort of home. Inviting over friends, significant others or even live-tweeting "as a family" further enhance the viewing experience. Major production companies are starting to notice the shift from the big screen to television screens as well.
The race between Netflix, Hulu, and now Amazon Prime has added to the already flooded wave of original content. To keep up with the cord cutters, premium channels like HBO, Showtime, and Starz have created standalone services with a focus on creating more programming. As of late, these Digital Stream Platforms (DSPs) are having a real Suge Knight "Come to Death Row" approach to recruitment.
We are living in the Golden Age of Television yet, there's entirely way too much new TV. A good problem to have because there are more chances for the next legendary series like Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad to emerge. Plus, networks are forced to think outside-the-box for new programming which leads the way for voices of Color such as Shonda Rhimes, Donald Glover, and Issa Rae to have opportunities that wouldn't have been present for them a decade earlier.
The problem with too much new TV though is where the fuck to actually start.
Netflix has hundreds if not thousands of selections to choose from. Starting a new series is a serious decision; it could potentially be your source of entertainment for the next 10-20 hours (try to get some fresh air in between a binge, though), depending on how many seasons there are. "Do I trust this 4-star rating?" "Am I in the mood for this?" "Is this worth my time?" All of these questions cycle in our heads before we ultimately end up rewatching The Office for the seventh time (Stanley is my OG and will be respected as such).
Below are some shows that either debuted or had a new season this year that are high quality but are somewhat off the radar. Hit us up on Twitter to let us know what you think of this list and if some other series got overlooked in 2018!
The genius mind of John Singleton (Boyz n the Hood, Four Brothers) can create and tap into gritty crime dramas like none other. Centralized during the '80s crack epidemic in Los Angeles, Snowfall is a rollercoaster of emotions from the onset. The story revolves around Franklin Saint (Damson Idris), an obedient mama's boy who slowly, then abruptly decides to ditch selling weed in favor of slangin' crack for increased profits. Of course, his dreams of becoming a local kingpin aren't without major obstacles: turf wars, race wars, crew wars, and the struggle of maintaining an honest relationship with his mother, Cissy (played by Michael Hyatt; D'Angelo's mother/Stringer's sister from The Wire). There's some comedic relief mixed in to break up the high-level intensity, but Snowfall will have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. Parallel storylines including crooked law enforcement and a "luchador-turned-dealer" weave their way into the main plot to create an interesting series that is only halfway through its second season. One thing is for certain: Damson Idris is a star in the making
After watching the trailer for Succession, you're probably wondering why you should give a shit about another show that revolves around rich white billionaires acting like assholes to everyone in sight when you could just turn on CNN. Because this isn't just another boring re-tread of that idea. Created by and executively produced by Jesse Armstrong, Will Ferrell & Adam McKay (Anchorman, Step Brothers, Eastbound & Down), the fresh new HBO drama Succession is a compelling watch with the way it balances seriousness and deadpan absurdities. HBO's response to Showtime's Billions. What makes Succession more terrifying is than Billions is the realistic "evil" nature of the Roy's. The plot jumps head first into the world of a dysfunctional media family all jocking for positions of power within the company worth billions, all while promoting and protecting their own self-interests. Don't let the lighthearted jokes fool you early on; the cutthroat actions of each family member and the harsh dialogue will make you cringe. But like a bad car crash, you can't help but look. Also, don't be discouraged early on; Succession finds its footing around Episode Four. The nerve-wracking intensity of the final two episodes will reward you for your patience.
An intelligent and skilled assassin, Villanelle (Jodie Comer), gets bored with her assignments and goes on a rogue killing spree. An equally smart detective, Eve (Sandra Oh from Grey's Anatomy), pieces clues together that are purposefully left to get lured in by the bored assassin to "hangout." If there's one show out of this list to binge, make it this one...if you aren't faint of heart. Killing Eve is one-half gruesome thriller/one-half dry, British humor whose dark jokes roll in stride. There's a weird developing appreciation that grows between the two main characters during their cat-and-mouse chase which lasts 8 episodes. Being only 40 minutes a piece, Killing Eve becomes a quick binge that'll leave you wanting more as soon as you finish. There's something about Villanelle's sadistic behavior that makes her very endearing; a testament to the brilliant acting by newcomer Jodie Comer, who brings a whole new meaning to "kill 'em with kindness." Sandra Oh, who became the first Asian actress to receive an Emmy nomination for the lead in a Drama Series for this role, does such a convincing job of bouncing through several emotions during the action-packed first season. It gets my vote for Show of the Year.
Fans of The Wire should have a strong affinity for Bosch, a great but surprisingly well under-the-radar crime show that's been tucked in Prime Video for a handful of years. The book-to-television adaptation, which takes place in Los Angeles, is a thrilling police procedural that's highly detailed from the terminology right down to the authentic tracking shots and locations of downtown LA. By any means necessary, Homicide Detective Harry Bosch (Titus Welliver) and his partner Jerry Edgar (Jamie Hector, who played Marlo Stanfield) attempt to solve murders by a singular person or a complex criminal organization from season to season. The pacing can be slow when establishing the main story arc for the season which was a chief complaint about the first (it's decent but sluggish and too cringe at times; start with the second season and you won't miss much), but the payoff with the way the plot unfolds is worth it. The show's developer, Eric Overmyer brings his expertise (and Lance Riddick, aka Lieutenant Daniels) over from his days as a producer/writer on Season Four of The Wire to create an authentically intense crime drama. Far from dense with smartly written dialogue, Bosch is a very solid show, mixed plenty of high octane shootouts and rubber burnin' car chases to keep your attention at a maximum.
Premiere Date: 2015
Season 2 came out in March; renewed for Season 3
IMDB: 8.4/10 | Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Where to Stream: Free on Prime Video (if you have a Prime account)
Netflix may have had the early advantage with original programming. In terms of quality of content, however, Amazon is striding like Usain Bolt to catch up. On paper and of course on screen, Sneaky Pete does grab attention's with two notable legends (Bryan Cranston and "character actress" Margo Martindale) but is made whole by the standout performances by the rest of the relatively unknown cast. Without giving too much away, Giovanni Ribisi stars as "Pete," a con man who takes identity theft to the next level by pretending to be his cellmate upon release from prison. "Pete" maneuvers his way and cleverly functions as a member of his new family, all the while making sure his cover doesn't get blown. He lives a double life where a violation of his parole is the least of his problems. His life, his brother's life, and increasingly his new family's life are what the titular character care about the most as they are in grave danger resulting from "Pete's" past cons. Not gonna front: the first season was incredible; the second season was a bit of a mess, but watchable. The Sophomore Slump is a real thing. Shows like these where they try to navigate through additional content after the major reveal lose their footing (Westworld for example), but the potential for a pivot with Season Three still makes Season Two of Sneaky Pete worth watching. Intriguing storyline and interesting characters will make this an enjoyable binge that won't feel like a chore.