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19 New TV shows to Binge These holidays are fantastic, gripping or just weirdly fascinating

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The television world at the end of 2020 is plentiful and ambiguous. In the last 12 months or so, several streaming services have been introduced, including Disney+, Apple TV+, HBO Max, Peacock, and every other network seems to have some kind of tailor-made on-demand platform that provides access to a few “premium” extra dollar shows. While there isn’t really one show that is both incredibly successful and extremely good right now, there are a lot of flawed-but-pretty-good shows tucked away on these new services. Read on for a guide to the best of the last few television months.

The Mandalorian, on Disney+

The Mandalorian continued the nifty juggling act of appealing to both Star Wars superfans and individuals in its just-concluded second season, who do not really care that the titular bounty hunter lives in the same universe as Darth Vader and Han Solo. You rarely get visual proof that under the Mandalorian armor it’s really Pedro Pascal, but there’s a weekly parade of familiar faces from the best of prestige TV when Timothy Olyphant appears as a local lawman, it feels like Justified In Space, and it’s Breaking Bad In Space when Giancarlo Esposito plays the heavy. The Mandalorian operates since it goes back in the first place to the samurai films and western serials that influenced George Lucas. Also, Yoda’s baby.

The Mandalorian, 2019.

The Mandalorian, 2019.

Small Axe, on Amazon Prime.

Another bold declaration from Steve McQueen, the director/writer behind 12 Years a Slave and Widows, is this five-part anthology series about the lives of Black Britons. The ultimate focus is on battling racial injustice, and some installments grapple with complicated historical figures, but Lovers Rock is the moment of (relatively) light relief, a sweet, reggae-filled slice of life at a West London house party over one night, highlighting McQueen’s gift to build a cultural snapshot with a splash of romance. Not since Twin Peaks: The Return has a series that has sparked too much controversy on whether film or television should be considered (its film), but in either category, Tiny Axe is a must-see.

Bridgerton, on Netflix.

Pride and Prejudice meet Gossip Girl with a splash of Hamilton is Shonda Rhimes’ first episode under her gigantic Netflix contract, and what could be more binge-y than that? The show follows a group of rich young ladies as they cross the marriage market of England in the 19th century, based on Julia Quinn’s romance novel series, the appropriate stately homes, lavish parties, thwarted romances, and jealous schemes are freshened up with a feminist viewpoint and a stunning multiracial cast, never mind historical accuracy. It declines on Christmas Day, and before the new year, plenty of viewers can finish it.

Bridgerton, 2020.

Bridgerton, 2020.

The Flight Attendant, on HBO Max.

Look no further if you want to grasp what HBO Max’s “Max” means: this pulpy comedy/murder mystery/addiction drama starring Kelly Cuoco would once have been an ambitious TV series on the network. Cuoco plays Cassie, who has a great time partying hard with attractive plane passengers before she wakes up next to one (Michiel Huisman) with his throat cut in a Bangkok hotel bed. The Flight Attendant walks a tricky tightrope between comedy and darkness with only a few wobbles, as Cassie scrambles to solve the crime before she’s convicted of it.

The Flight Attendant, 2020.

The Flight Attendant, 2020.

Ted Lasso on Apple TV+

You wouldn’t imagine the well-funded Apple TV+ breakout hit to be a goofy little sitcom adapted from a series of promos from NBC Sports. But, despite no experience in the other form of football with boundless charisma that raises the fish-out-of-water premise, Saturday Night Live veteran Jason Sudeikis plays an American college football coach recruited by a Premier League franchise. Lasso’s team and their fans dislike him at the beginning of the show’s first season, and even the owner who hired him, played by Hannah Waddingham with a steep reserve, is secretly rooting for him to fail. There’s a lot of spirits, a lot of silliness here.

Euphoria on HBO Max.

The Christmas special of Euphoria should have been lightweight, a stopgap to keep viewers fed and the show refreshed in the minds of streamers with short-attention spans. Instead, writer-director Sam Levinson turned to Zendaya’s Rue and her sponsor, the genius Colman Domingo, in a subtly devastating hour of dialogue that tackles addiction with a seriousness that is uncommon on TV. When it is deprived of the buzzy music signals, digressive cut-scenes, visual flair, and unnecessary nudity, what is Euphoria? Well, a troubling window on drugs, religion, race, love, and suicide.

We Are Who We Are on HBO Max.

This story by writer/director Luca Guadagigno of American teens exploring themselves and their sexualities in Northern Italy is essentially Call Me By Your Name Part 2, but it’s more intentionally paced and richly textured as an 8-hour miniseries than the film, with a larger cast of characters and shakier plot mechanics. It’s the kind of show where an intimate, soft-spoken scene between two characters will play out for several minutes while Young M.A’s “OOOUUU” blares from the next room, and most of the conversation is semi-audible in the great dramatic voice, a gentler look at teen sex-and-drugs than Euphoria.

We Are Who We Are, 2020.

We Are Who We Are, 2020.

P-Valley on STARZ.

Even if you’re not watching anything else on STARZ, it is worth subscribing to this semi-overlooked summer show. The adaptation of her own play by Katori Hall follows the dynamic interpersonal lives of the workers at the Mississippi Delta’s hottest strip club as a potential property war threatens to shut down the club and the livelihoods of those who rely on it. Yeah, there’s a lot of nudity, but it’s feminist nudity-the very impressive dance sequences that reflect the performers’ pride, splendor, and athleticism, and the eight episodes (all directed by women) take the dancers’ viewpoint rather than the men who leer at them. With as much authenticity and complexity as liquor and lash glue, Hall and her team have lovingly furnished P-Valley.

The Boys on Amazon Prime.

This gritty, realistic alternative to Marvel, which is quickly becoming the signature show of Amazon Prime, drops superheroes into modern life. The outcome: moral bankruptcy, corporations bent on casual global supremacy, and, at every turn, weakening government and democracy. A familiar sound? Season two leaned into the satire of the Trump age, working on themes of Neo-Nazism, fascism, and social media political exploitation. It might sound like a lot on paper, but the cynical tone of the film, pitch-black comedy, and devoted performances from the likes of Antony Starr and Aya Cash keep the show afloat. At the notion of “prestige,” The Boys thumbs his nose, but don’t be surprised if it comes up big with Emmy nominations, it has already made Obama’s year-end list.

Gangs of London on AMC+

Did you know AMC even has an on-demand premium channel? It is home to this ambitious British gangland drama, apart from the archives of different shows, whose scope extends to Middle Eastern drug gangs beyond numerous ethnic factions battling for influence in the UK capital. There is plenty of well-scripted family crime drama, and familiar British faces such as Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark’s Game of Thrones), Joe Cole (Peaky Blinders), and Paapa Essiedu (I Could Kill You), but the best thing about the show is the bravura battle scenes, which are both impressive and grotesquely humorous in their John Wick-ish intensity.

Industry on HBO Max.

If you ever wanted Billions to be around 1000 percent hornier, can we interest you in the industry? A group of Gen Z grads at an investment bank in London follows HBO’s provocative workplace drama, as they snort, fuck, and find their feet in the high-stakes world of global finance. The kind of binge fodder that goes down easily and makes you feel a little bad about yourself afterward is quick and reckless. Which is actually very on-brand for the show, as you’ll come to see.

The Good Lord Bird on Showtime.

As a pure-hearted hero, it would be easy to depict John Brown, a white abolitionist who risked everything to fight slavery. “But this Showtime miniseries based on the award-winning 2013 novel of the same name by James McBride is a more complicated portrait, narrated by an enslaved boy who joins the crew of Brown, which explores all the facets of his legacy: “Many things people call John Brown… murderer, saint, prophet. He prophesied that war was imminent, and it came.” Ethan Hawke brings Brown to life with a wild-eyed intensity in one of the greatest performances of his career.”

The Undoing on HBO Max.

This is a world of Huge Little Lies, and since then all the cast and authors have done is just a slice of the cinematic universe in Monterey. This involves everything from the signature images of Jean-Marc Valee on Sharp Objects, the high-powered prosecutor of Laura Dern in Marriage Tale, the budding relationship of Reese Witherspoon with Beyoncé and her early-2020 hit Little Fires Everywhere, and most recently The Undoing. The reunion of David E. Kelley and Nicole Kidman culminated in a series that, while not half as good as BLL, is almost as watchable. You can leave disappointed if you are tapping in for the whodunit factor; instead come for the luxurious sets, the patrician sneering of Donald Sutherland, and Hugh Grant turning two decades of romcom hero reliability into reprehensible sleaze.

The Undoing, 2020.

The Undoing, 2020.

Seduced on Amazon Prime.

More attention was drawn by HBO’s The Vow documentary about NXIVM, the multilevel marketing company/sex cult busted by the FBI in 2018. But Seduced is superior, because it has four tight episodes instead of a padded ten, and because it’s far clearer about the depravity of NXIVM chief Keith Rainer, who was recently sentenced to 120 years in jail. Somehow, this deeply uncharismatic little man succeeded in convincing Hollywood stars, members of the Bronfman family (who had bankrolled him), and the Dalai Lama that he was the next great spiritual leader of mankind. He was, in truth, a cruel, violent bullshit artist, but fascinating are the specifics of the scheme he managed to unfold over decades.

Seduced: Inside The NXIVM Cult, 2020.

Seduced: Inside The NXIVM Cult, 2020.

Murder on Middle Beach on HBO Max.

This was not 2020’s flashiest or most-discussed docuseries, so we don’t blame you for missing it, but for a variety of reasons, it’s worth a watch. As director Madison Hamburg unflinchingly interviews his family to find out who killed his mother, Barbara, in 2010, his subject matter is intensely personal. It’s also special to try to subvert the genre of true crime, and instead of the bloated docs we’re getting inundated with these days, it’s limited to four tidy episodes. GQ’s interview with Hamburg should address all your remaining questions when you’re done.

The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix.

One of Netflix’s most-discussed shows since its release in October has been this unexpectedly dramatic period piece about competitive chess in the 1960s starring Anya Taylor-Joy (with wonderful supporting actors like Bill Camp). The rapid rise of chess prodigy Beth Harmon from local Kentucky competitions to international tournaments feels a little too much like a classic Cinderella story, but the articulate and sometimes silent output of Taylor-Joy and the complexities of the script of Out of Sight screenwriter Scott Frank still manages to bring Harmon’s journey to a satisfying and resonant end, and her struggles with addiction.

Fargo on FX on Hulu.

In its flat third season, Fargo dived with critics, and season four, which pits Chris Rock and Jason Schwartzman as representatives of opposing Kansas City crime syndicates to explore What It Means to Be American, was received no better after a three-year hiatus. Is this some of the most self-indulgent writing by author Noah Hawley to date? Yeah. Yes. Is the cast over-stuffed with characters that do not completely cohere in their arcs? Undoubtedly. Does Rock’s teenage son grow up to become Mike Milligan, a Fargo fan-favorite? It’s clear. But Milligan’s imminent dawn is devastating to witness, as is Rock’s gradual realization that in a framework built for his failure, being the smartest gangster in the room would not help. Throw vets like Glynn Turman, and Timothy Olyphant playing a marshal again in a breakthrough show from Jessie Buckley, and this season has more highs than lows.

Fargo, 2020

Fargo, 2020

Real Housewives of Salt Lake City on Bravo.

Housewives are a taste you have gained. But if you have acquired it, all the main ingredients are in the latest entry in the series, and then some: one housewife is married to her step-grandfather (according to the dying wish of her grandmother); another is secretly separated from her husband, a big deal in Mormon society; the premiere starts with an enormous fight over an insult involving the scent of hospitals and an amputated leg. Plus, there are pretty snowy backdrops. The ladies of Salt Lake have been repping up their city so far.

How To with John Wilson on HBO Max.

Wilson builds visual poetry with anthropological panache by putting together first-person footage taken over hundreds of hours wandering around NYC (with a few notable detours) and narrating matter-of-factly in his own voice. Every 30-minute episode is apparently a lesson on topics such as “How To Make Small Talk,” but Wilson shakes loose the eccentricities of his surroundings along the way, from the daily (an unattended hot dog cart rolling down the street, a pair of EMTs fumbling down a set of stairs with a dead body) to the existential (an arresting chat with a sad, Monster-drinking attendee about mortality).

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My self Eswar, I am Creative Head at RecentlyHeard. I Will cover informative content related to political and local news from the United Nations and Canada.

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