The last few years have been a boon for good television – so much good television that you could be forgiven for missing a few standouts. We created this list of TV shows from the past few years that deserve your attention despite the fact that they have managed to fly under the radar for whatever reason.
“David Makes Man”: This OWN drama about a South Florida teenager navigating life in the projects while simultaneously attending a magnet school for gifted children was created by Tarell Alvin McCraney, whose semi-autobiographical play served as the basis for “Moonlight.” This series, similarly inspired by McCraney’s childhood, won a Peabody Award last year for “its visually stunning interiority, its heart-wrenching, immersive world and its contemplation of identity as fluid, plural, restrictive and powerful.” The show, available to stream on HBO Max, has been renewed for a second season on OWN – and counts network owner Oprah Winfrey and Michael B. Jordan among its executive producers.
“The Good Fight”: Even if you watched and loved CBS’s “The Good Wife,” you may not have seen this spinoff – following the unexpected second act of veteran prosecutor Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) at a predominantly Black law firm – because it’s only available on CBS All Access, the network’s streaming platform. Let us reiterate what Washington Post TV critic Hank Stuever said after the show’s 2017 premiere: It’s worth yet another subscription. Now on the heels of its fourth season (shortened because of the global pandemic), “The Good Fight” has continued to impress critics with sharp if forceful commentary on the legal system and its limitations. It helps that the show is infused with the slightly surreal DNA of its predecessor – a trademark of creators Robert and Michelle King.
“Godfather of Harlem”: Forest Whitaker plays legendary Harlem drug kingpin Bumpy Johnson in this thrilling prequel series to the film “American Gangster.” The show begins with Johnson’s release from Alcatraz; his return to New York pits him against Italian mob boss Vincent “The Chin” Gigante (Vincent D’Onofrio). The Epix series also incorporates other real-life figures including Malcolm X (Nigel Thatch, in a repeat role) and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. (Giancarlo Esposito), both of whom build a strategic alliance of sorts with Johnson.
“Gentleman Jack”: This HBO period drama, a collaboration with the BBC, explores the life and diaries of Anne Lister, the 19th century landowner who flouted societal mores as an open and unapologetic lesbian. Suranne Jones plays the protagonist, whom we meet as she is reeling from a breakup with a woman who rejected her by accepting a marriage proposal from a man. Lister sets her sights on upgrading the now-historic estate she inherited from her family – and courting the heiress neighbor she hopes to make her wife. Stuever called the eight-episode series, renewed for a second season, one of last year’s “most engaging dramas.”
“Search Party”: This tongue-in-cheek satire follows a group of self-absorbed millennials, led by Dory (Alia Shawkat), who become obsessed with the mysterious disappearance of a college classmate. The series became a sleeper hit after landing somewhat unceremoniously on TBS in 2016. It has since moved over to HBO Max, where the dark comedy’s third season premiered last month. As Dory and her friends confront the consequences of their inadvertently criminal high jinks, “Search Party” continues to deliver smart, exacting commentary on the listlessness of young adulthood.
“Wynonna Earp”: This Syfy series follows Wynonna (Melanie Scrofano), great-great-granddaughter of the legendary Wyatt Earp, as she battles literal demons: the ghosts of the outlaws slain by her forefather. Creator Emily Andras has said the supernatural Western draws inspiration from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” which she told the Hollywood Reporter was ultimately “about being a woman in the modern world and carving your path and making your own family.” “Wynonna Earp” excels at those themes and has also earned praise for LGBT representation, particularly around the show’s most-shipped couple, “Wayhaught.” Stream the show’s first three seasons on Netflix; the fourth will arrive Sunday on Syfy.
“Sorry for Your Loss”: Not everything that pops up on Facebook is good, but we highly recommend this series, which stars Elizabeth Olsen as Leigh Shaw, a widow grieving the sudden death of her husband. The chaos that unfolds in the wake of this monumental loss feels poignant and real. It’s a shame Facebook Watch canceled the series after two seasons.
“Imposters”: A beautiful con artist (Inbar Lavi) is pursued by several of her former victims in this comedy that aired on Bravo for two seasons before being canceled. Their vengeance takes them on an international journey that’s twisty and fun. Available to stream on Netflix, “Imposters” makes for a perfectly respectable binge.
“Twin Peaks: The Return”: We get it: At 18 episodes, Showtime’s ambitious “Twin Peaks” reboot seems like a long slog. Perhaps that’s why the series courted such a small audience when it premiered opposite HBO’s “Game of Thrones” in summer 2017. But if you’ve got time – and a subscription to the premium cable network – it’s worth your (re)consideration. As Stuever wrote that August, the reboot “turned out to be a stunning rumination on heroic good and innate evil told through a refreshingly coherent, expertly paced plot that managed to keep its loyal fans and curious newcomers guessing the entire way.”
“The Baby-Sitter’s Club”: Netflix’s adaptation of Ann M. Martin’s beloved novels honors our enduring nostalgia around the franchise while also giving the BSC universe a few updates that feel contemporary and important – but never forced. The show’s cast, notably more diverse than other adaptations, introduces a host of new talent who embody the spirits of Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia and Stacey. The series is anything but underrated (critics have offered high praise), but you might overlook this gem if you fall outside the target demographic. That would be a mistake.
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