Starring: Yara Shahidi, Luka Sabbat, Trevor Jackson, Jordan Buhat, Emily Arlook, Chloe x Halle
Why watch: It’s the first time I’ve seen college portrayed like actual college while exploring what it’s like to be a student amid a deepening political polarization in the U.S. The show comes after woke culture, has one of the most diverse casts I’ve seen all year while establishing the classic find-yourself trope common in coming-of-age sitcoms. But it never feels forced or like a 45-year-old man who never went to college tries seeming hip with the younger generation.
A spin-off from the Emmy Award-winning “Black-ish,” “Grown-ish” watches Zoey break out onto her own at the fictional California University, with storylines frequently revolving around Adderall, sex and relationships.
I wish I had a friend group like this in college. It’s always fun to see how they interact with each other’s differences, but it’s also frequently surprising how accurate writers capture female conversation and hook-up culture. At 20-ish minutes per episode, it’s not a commitment. The fashion and hair inspiration born out of this series are enough to keep you going.
If there’s ever a pop-up shop where the cast’s clothes are being sold, I’m there.
Starring: Aidy Bryant
Why watch: It changes the conversation on plus-sized women. The show starts by introducing viewers to Annie’s (Aidy Bryant) world and how people react to her. These interactions include people telling her she reminds them of Rosie O’Donnell, her mother consistently encouraging fad diets, a fitness instructor who stops her at a coffee shop to say she can help make Annie healthy and her hookups with a man who has sex with her but is ashamed to let anyone know. It’s as good a time as any to plug in that men are trash.
To top it all off, Annie’s boss at a magazine is fatphobic and shows prejudice toward her push for body positivity and frequently makes jabs at her weight. The first few episodes are heartbreaking as we see Annie’s journey toward self-acceptance stumble. Luckily, it’s the precursor to Annie growing into an unapologetic boss woman.
“Shrill” refuses to fall into fat stereotypes and makes the protagonist more than the punchline. She’s incredibly relatable, real and hilarious. I can’t recall the last time, if ever, I saw someone so unapologetically herself.
My only issue is the first season, at only six episodes, is far too short.
“The Bold Type”
Starring: Katie Stevens, Meghann Fahy, Melora Hardin, Aisha Dee, Samuel Page
Why watch: This is for the girls who grew up on “Sex and the City” and dreamed of working at Cosmopolitan writing a sex column a la Carrie Bradshaw. Loosely based on the Queen of Hearst and former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan, Joanna Coles, the show follows three women as they navigate the world of magazines in New York.
Is it factual? Absolutely not. The editor-in-chief hits publish from a word document on a major investigative piece, fact-checkers are nowhere to be found and somehow Jane just writes when inspiration strikes. But that’s what makes it so enjoyable and empowering.
Its focus on female friendships and women showing up for each other is the backbone of the series. Well, that, tears shed in the fashion closet and conversations regarding race, sexuality, equality and sexual assault.
If you miss the Carrie Diaries or Samantha Jones, “The Bold Type” delivers, especially with editor-in-chief Jacqueline Carlyle. Its third season doesn’t match the quality of the first two but just like Jane, Sutton and Kat, you’ll be in it for the long haul at that point.
Starring: Zendaya, Jacob Elordi, Hunter Schafer, Eric Dane, Barbie Ferreira
Why watch: It’s easily one of the most messed up shows I’ve ever seen.
If Zendaya was a love language, she’d be mine. She just is that good. Her transformation into Rue, a drug-addicted 17-year-old, is enough to get past the mind-fuckery of the first two episodes, one of which includes the infamous locker room penises scene.
Media marked “Euphoria” as controversial, which reminded me of “Gossip Girl” in 2005 when it turned bad reviews into a marketing strategy. The intensity never idles, and each episode ebbs and flows in a way reminiscent of a darker, edgier “Beverly Hills 90210” and a more anxiety-ridden “O.C.”
Alongside violence, abuse and repressed childhood trauma, “Euphoria” does everything but glorify drug culture. It’s preoccupied with provoking dialogue about the realities of growing up in the isolated digital age. There are moments that make you wonder if this is what people mean when they talk about living in a simulation. At times, the scenes are so visually trippy and stunning that it’s easy to feel like you’re in one.
“Game of Thrones”
Starring: Emilia Clarke, Kit Harrington, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage
Why watch: To tell your kids that you did it. And to be in on the joke when “GOT” memes make their way into your group chats. If you’ve gone this long without joining the cult that makes up Thrones fans, I’m jealous. What is it like to not feel searing amounts of disappointment after having years taken off your life by George R.R. Martin?
This makes the list solely because of the attention the final season garnered this past May when writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss became two of the most hated men in Hollywood, a feat that’s difficult to achieve considering who make up that cohort.
Adding dragon fire to the flames was their appearance at the Austin Film Festival where they reportedly said they had no idea what they were doing and the show was their film school.
Regardless of not remotely meeting expectations, season eight is still a beautiful, albeit flawed, closure to 73 episodes of wars, dragons, incest, White Walkers and Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie). Don’t expect your questions to be answered but definitely look forward to a few “Oh shit!” moments from Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) and a savage destruction of character development.