This past decade has been the age of streaming services. Or, as I like to call it, the era of dedicating portions of paychecks to Netflix and Hulu while bargaining with friends to get their Disney+ password and still using an ex’s HBO mercilessly.
I’m impatiently waiting for the day someone funnels them all into one place so my computer stops stalling from having multiple tabs open.
To save you a headache and hours of searching for your next binge watch, here’s a guide to shows you may have missed in 2019 — in no particular order — that are oh-so-worth not leaving the bed for a weekend. (Editors note: Part two, featuring Hulu and HBO titles will run in next week’s issue).
Starring: Dan Levy, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Annie Murphy
Why watch: It’s comedic genius. After a crooked business manager runs off with a delusionally wealthy family’s money, the family is left only with a deed to a small town named Schitt’s Creek purchased as a joke. Now they live in the town’s dilapidated motel in adjoining rooms mourning their past lives and figuring out what it means to be a family.
The hilarity lies in the ridiculousness of the details, such as David (Dan Levy) thinking minimum wage is $45 an hour, Moira’s (Catherine O’Hara) obsessive wig collection and unidentifiable accent and Alexis’ (Annie Murphy) dramatic screaming of “David!”
But above all, its portrayal of LGBTQ relationships — finally, there’s a same-sex couple that freaking makes it — and the turning around of small-town stereotypes is refreshing. It’s a fantastical dream of what societies are capable of without hatred and prejudice.
My only regret is that I didn’t get to savor the earlier seasons before the final season in January. But if you make it to season five, which obviously you will, even the iciest of black hearts will thaw at Schitt’s Creek’s ultimate blessing: an acoustic serenading of Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best.”
“One Day at a Time”
Starring: Justina Machado, Rita Moreno, Todd Grinnell, Isabella Gomez, Marcel Luiz
Why watch: Latino representation and quirky comedy. The sitcom follows the Alvarezes, a Cuban American family living in Los Angeles. When I tell you I’ve never felt more seen as a Hispanic woman, wow. It’s the pop culture prayer I needed answered to thrive.
It’s smart and the writing is anything but lazy. The series is run by a Latina and backed by female writers and directors. With a female-dominated household composed of a single mother and veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression, a devoutly Catholic grandmother who is so dramatically Cuban it’s hilarious and a young feminist coming to terms with her sexuality, conservations regarding heavy topics flow seamlessly.
One episode you’re crying from laughter and then the next, you’re hysterically sobbing at the quinceañera episode and screaming at the TV. The family begins to feel like your own, and with Abuela Lydia played by none other than Rita Moreno, all you need is a little sopa de pollo to round out the experience.
Starring: Miguel Bernardeau, Ester Expósito, Mina El Hammani, Álvaro Rico, Danna Paola
Why watch: Elite is “The O.C.” meets “How to Get Away With Murder” meets Spanish “Riverdale” but even better. Initially, it masks itself as another high school teen drama until the complexities of classism, homophobia and racism tie themselves into the plotline.
What starts off as three outsiders on scholarship making their way to an exclusive private school after their high school burns down, turns into a cat-and-mouse game of who violently murdered a classmate. There’s rage, jealousy, sex and snappy one-liners. You root for even the most villainous of characters, which arguably for the first season is the manipulative Guzman. And that is where the show thrives. No one is actually a good person.
With its successful blurring of flashbacks and present-day scenes, the suspense successfully lingers to the second season, which I watched in less than a day and downloaded the soundtrack to hold me over until season three. Also, please watch with subtitles and not the English-dubbed version.
“On My Block”
Starring: Sierra Capri, Jason Genao, Brett Gray, Diego Tinoco
Why watch: It captures the universality of the teen experience. Set in the fictionalized South Los Angeles neighborhood of Freeridge, the show follows Monse, Ruby, Jamal and Cesar, a friend group of four who’ve known each other since they were kids. Ever-present is the threat of gang turf wars and the acknowledgment that ethnicity and socioeconomic status plays a prominent role in their reality.
Jokes are frequently cracked in light of this, with characters playing a guessing game of the caliber of the gun. This only emphasizes how well the show juggles humor with the realities of lower-income communities. Black and Latino writers make up the writers’ room. The show offers the classic love quadrangles that make teen dramas such a guilty pleasure, but “On My Block” never feels repetitive. Also the soundtrack is unreal and complete with Brent Faiyaz, Daye Jack, H.E.R. and Jorja Smith.
Starring: Toni Colette, Kaitlyn Dever, Danielle Macdonald, Merritt Wever
Why watch: It’s a sobering miniseries on how police departments investigate rape. It’s bone-chilling and elicits bouts of anger at the idiocy and inhumanity of the police officers on the original case. The series is based on a true story about Marie Adler (Kaitlyn Dever), who reported a brutal rape and was coerced into retracting her statement after officers didn’t believe her and charged her with filing a false report.
As two female police officers recognize the similarities between multiple rape cases across county lines, they realize they’re hunting down a serial rapist. And man, the story hits hard. As a look into the slow, discriminatory forces of the justice system, the hashtag that went viral following President Donald Trump’s questioning of Christine Blasey-Ford, #WhyIDidntReport, echoes throughout each episode.
Above all else, the casting is just beautiful. Toni Colette as a badass detective who teams up with Merritt Wever’s detective Duvall is the greatest unlikely friendship of 2019. And if you’re a fan of Netflix’s “Dumpling,” don’t worry. Danielle Macdonald delivers.
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Gillian Anderson, Emma Mackey, Connor Swindellsm Ncuti Gatwa
Why watch: It follows the awkward virgin son of a sex therapist who runs a sex therapy clinic at his high school alongside the gungey Maeve Wiley and best friend Eric, who’s easily the fashion icon of the series. Did I mention it’s also a British comedy?
It’s deliciously vulgar and unafraid of venturing into traditionally taboo territory. It’s forward-thinking, experimental and explores how to approach conversations about sex while making you cringe at the moments that take you back to being 17.
Starring: Ben Platt, Gwyneth Paltrow, Zoey Deutch, David Corenswet, Jessica Lange, Lucy Boynton
Why watch: Ben Platt’s rendition of “Vienna” by Billy Joel. And “River.” We did nothing to deserve either.
It’s one of the more ridiculous shows out right now, heightened only by Gwyneth Paltrow as Payton Hobart’s (Ben Platt) mother. Hobart is a self-obsessed senior who has a dream of becoming president but unlike everyone else, doesn’t leave that particular ambition back in elementary school. He sees winning student body president as the gateway to attending Harvard. And his best friend is a ghost.
The show quickly proves itself a satirical parallel to modern politics in a way that’s so cartoonish and messy it just works. The fun in the show lies in its unpredictability, power suits and Jessica Lange as Dusty Jackson. As long as you don’t take it seriously, “The Politician” is enjoyably absurd.