Spring is coming! That means plenty of time to lay out with your streaming service of choice and watch new shows to your hearts content. Or if you’re an adult it just means the days are longer and you need a break after work. Either way, here are our top 10 picks for new and new-ish shows to binge this spring.
For the Sci Fi Fanatics
Time After Time (ABC/Hulu) – There are certain questions you just have to ask: What if H.G. Wells actually built a time machine that worked? And what if he was friends with Jack the Ripper? And what if Jack the Ripper used that machine to travel through time to evade justice? Okay, maybe no one needs to ask any of those questions. But put them together and you get this charming show that’s aware that the subject material is not-too-serious, but it is happy to embrace a gothic romance and mystery to keep you pushing that “Play Next Episode” button.
Legion (FX/Hulu) – By far one of the most visually striking shows to come out in a while, Legion is based on a lesser-known X-Men spin-off. It tells the story of David Haller – a man who has lived his entire life in and out of mental hospitals. After enduring a bizarre interrogation by government agents, he begins to realize that he might not be crazy; that the voices he hears are actually manifestations of a power that has lain dormant in his mind until now. The show is shot from David’s perspective, with a trippy and psychedelic style that makes the linear story as much a visual poem as a traditional TV narrative. You almost feel crazy watching it – wondering if you missed something or if what you are seeing is real or imagined. The lines of physical and mental reality blur into a beautiful tale about embracing the reality of one’s true identity.
Emerald City (NBC/Hulu) – I am particularly attached to the old stories of OZ by Frank L. Baum, so I was skeptical of a remake that attempts to reframe a story about honest good winning over evil in shades of grey and social commentary. However, after I got through the pilot, I found that I quite enjoyed the update. The show is in some ways a topical cousin of Once Upon A Time, but the writing and production for Emerald City is vastly superior. This allows it to dig into themes that can’t be touched without an honest look at villians, failures, and the result of good intentions. And did I mention the design? It’s a veritable feast for the eyes with every new character and location.
Helix (Sci-Fi/Netflix) – This show is described as a techno-thriller, and it takes full advantage of its darker elements to fill the niche left by the dearth of good horror shows available to stream right now. Its first season is an extended monster movie about a mysterious illness that threatens the lives of a research team at the South Pole. The new, second season is about a cult, set away from the world, that may be hoarding the cure to a doomsday virus. A lot of critics didn’t like this show, and I will admit that it gives too much exposition to explain the mystery toward the end. However, the first two thirds of both seasons are suspenseful and entertaining.
For the Drama Queens
This is Us (NBC/Hulu) – Get ready to cry. This show follows the life of two twins and their adopted brother. As adults dealing with their own children, hopes, fears and failures, the three siblings remember their childhood and process the strengths and weaknesses of their parents that molded each of them. Beautifully written and acted, this show brings a cinematic quality to episodic drama. It is told from about six different perspectives, which could be confusing, but instead manages to weave a rich tapestry of nuance into each episode. Do not watch without a box or two of tissues.
The Path (Hulu Original) – Now beginning its second season, The Path tells the story of one family’s life in a cult. The show examines the themes of power dynamics: husband to wife, leader to disciple, parent to child, man to woman. As one cult member (Aaron Paul) begins to question everything he has been groomed to believe, the web of lies, theft, and possible murders becomes too much for him to navigate. He wants to leave the cult, but his beloved wife won’t. If you enjoyed Paul’s performance in Breaking Bad as an adolescent struggling to become a man, you will appreciate this next step in his creative life as he portrays a man struggling to become a good man.
Shut Eye (Hulu Original) – Borrowing a lot of mood, style, and cast from Burn Notice, Shut Eye follows Charlie Haverford and his wife, simple small business owners who run a chain of psychic parlors in Los Angeles – and make a living by scamming rich widows out of money. The only kink in their otherwise flawless business model is the fact that they owe too many favors to the Roma family who claim control over every fortune teller in the neighborhood. It’s a mob story with gypsy fortune tellers and snarky one-liners, which is unafraid to go dark but well aware of all the glorious irony that is foundational to its premise.
For the Class Clowns
The Mick (NBC/Hulu) – For those of you who like very dark humor, this show might well be your new favorite. The creators have basically taken Kaitlin Olson’s character from Always Sunny in Philadelphia and dropped three, spoiled children into her lap. Olson plays Mikenzi, the white trash sister of a wealthy socialite who flees the country for tax fraud, leaving her three children behind. As the children’s only living relative, Mikenzi is left with the task of keeping them alive and of frequently fielding the question, “When are mom and dad coming back?” She’s terrible at a adulting, but her experience scraping by and her unwillingness to take anyone’s crap make her the perfect caretaker for her entitled niece and nephews. But just because she’s perfect for them doesn’t mean they like her. Sharp humor about growing up, first world problems, the perils of parenting and the privilege of being white all swirl together to create a no-holds barred comedy with quite the unexpected heart.
The Detour (TBS/Hulu) – Another dark-ish comedy, the Detour is basically a serialized version of National Lampoon’s Vacation movies created by Jason Jones and Samantha Bee. It joins the Parker family on their road trips across the country as they discover each other’s secrets, have super awkward Talks (capital-T, as in “The Talk”), and accidentally fail to commit several crimes. The script is comedy gold delivered by a cast that has its chemistry down to a science. Deep down, the secret to the power of this show is the love and affection that the incredibly flawed parents hold for their kids. Moments of dark comedy are artfully balanced by the constant reminder that love is a powerful glue that can help fix even the worst mistakes.
Santa Clarita Diet (Netflix Original) – For those of you who love zombie movies, have you ever tried loving a zombie? Drew Barrymore plays the suburban housewife-turned-undead who will make you truly consider a life after death relationship. The mild-mannered Sheila wakes up one morning without a pulse, and yet more vivacious than she’s ever been. Her family must adjust to her newfound zest for existence as they find themselves asking the question: has the soft ease of middle class life killed their ability to feel the things that make life worth living? Oh, and she also has to eat people to survive. So there’s that beautiful piece of awkwardness. Timothy Olyphant plays her devoted husband and steals just about every scene he’s in. The only drawback to this show is the extremely abrupt ending.
Bonus – For Saturday Mornings
Voltron (Netflix Original) – If you’re missing the good old days of Saturday morning cartoons, try Voltron and a bowl of cereal. The creators have kept the original tone and look of the show with very few updates. It is still a show about kids who discover that they are defenders of the universe and get to ride around in giant robots. That’s really as complicated as it gets. The blissful simplicity and nostalgia is packed into bite-sized episodes where the good guys always win.