16 Series That You Probably Aren’t Watching, But Should
Fargo - For those who appreciate crime dramas with a darker bent, FX’s well-crafted series based on the movie of the same name is worth a long look. The tone of the series is similar to that of the film, but the show has separated itself with more plot and terrific acting, especially Billy Bob Thornton, who is turning his Lorne Malvo into one of the most memorable characters of the year. The series also features Martin Freeman (of “The Hobbit” and “Sherlock” fame), Allison Tolman and Colin Hanks. Really, the entire cast is great.
Louie - Straight and (mostly) unfiltered from the mind of Louis C.K., this half hour comedy on FX follows the comedian as he plays an especially schlubby version of himself. (Or maybe that’s the real Louis C.K.) The closest comparison I can think of is Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” though Louis has a different brand of humor. The fourth season debuted this month. I have to say — I’m jealous of anyone who hasn’t yet started to binge-watch this show.
Justified - Based on a story by Elmore Leonard, who is one of my favorite authors, and starring Tim Olyphant, who was excellent in “Deadwood,” it’s no surprise that this FX show is near and dear to my heart. Olyphant plays Raylan Givens, a smooth-talking U.S. Marshal based near his hometown of Harlan. He has a complicated relationship with an old friend, Boyd Crowder (played brilliantly by Walton Goggins), which drives the show. It has been renewed for a sixth and final season.
The Americans - Yet another quality show airing on FX, this is a period drama set during the Reagan-era Cold War. It follows two Russian spies living in America and the FBI agent who is trying to stop them. It’s not always clear who you’re supposed to be rooting for, as there are plenty of flaws and misdeeds to go around.
Sherlock - Haven’t yet checked out this BBC import starting Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as a modern day Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson? What are you waiting for?
The Newsroom - People seem to either love or hate this Aaron Sorkin-led series, though if you liked The West Wing, it’s worth checking out.
Hannibal - Just renewed for its third season (on NBC), the series is a prequel of sorts to “Silence of the Lambs,” starring Hannibal Lecter as an as-yet discovered cannibal with a penchant for hosting dinner parties. Warning: this is not for the faint of heart — the imagery and violence is extremely graphic.
Sleepy Hollow - This series is so crazy that it actually works. Ichabod Crane comes back to life in modern day Sleepy Hollow, and with the help of a spunky local police detective, he has to save the world. It has sort of an “X-Files” vibe to it, only with more headless horsemen.
Treme - This HBO series just called it a wrap after four seasons. From David Simon, the creator of “The Wire,” it’s set in the colorful and vibrant Treme district in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. It isn’t a crime drama per say, though there is crime and there is drama. There are a lot of laughs and tears as well.
Ray Donovan - The titular character (played by Liev Schreiber) is something of a fixer for a Los Angeles law firm. He’s an anti-hero with a good heart and a family that can’t seem to stay out of trouble. The second season begins soon on Showtime.
Orphan Black - This Canadian import is in its second season and airs on BBC America. It follows a ne’er-do-well who discovers that she’s a clone. Tatiana Maslany is a revelation in the lead role(s) — it’s amazing how she’s able to make each one of her multiple characters so distinct. I gave up on the series midway through the first season — too much to watch at the time — but picked it back up and I’m glad I did.
Broad City - The first season just wrapped up on Comedy Central. It stars Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson and credits Amy Poehler as an executive producer. This series follows Ilana and Abbi as they live (and sometimes work) in the Big Apple — it’s sort of a more outrageous version of “Girls,” but funnier. Jacobson has comedy chops in her own right, but she generally plays it mostly straight (or is it sane?), while Glazer’s hijinks get the girls into all sorts of strange situations. One of my favorite comedians — Hannibal Buress — is a series regular.
It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia - Airing on FXX, this series has been aptly described as “Friends” on crack. The first season is a bit uneven, but the series really hits its stride once Danny DeVito joins the cast. I still think that the the final episode in the fourth season — “The Nightman Cometh” — is one of the funniest half hours I’ve ever seen.
Veep - This hilarious HBO series starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Vice President Selina Meyer is in the midst of its third season. The writing is sharp and the ensemble cast is terrific.
Archer - Just wrapping up its 5th season on FX, this crass (but witty) animated series follows the antics of a spy organization. The recent season (“Archer Vice”) was perhaps its best yet.
Rectify - The second season of this Southern Gothic begins in June on SundanceTV. It follows an ex-con who was released on DNA evidence after being convicted of the rape and murder of his then 16-year-old girlfriend. It has a deliberate pace, but it’s a well-crafted show.
A few more recommendations: Banshee, Bates Motel, Borgen, Luther and Masters of Sex