Summer has officially begun, which means almost every TV show is on summer break. While “Game of Thrones” does return July 16, the next three weeks are what I like to call “hiatus hell.” Before you give up on channel-surfing and watch the “The Bachelorette,” check out these top 10 easy to love TV shows to binge instead. This list is comprised of shows with a lot of heart and little to no nightmare-inducing storylines. Kick back with your drink of choice and lose yourself in 10 unique TV worlds.
(list in no particular order)
Netflix’s “One Day at a Time”
Justina Machado (“Elena of Avalor”) helms her new family sitcom “One Day at a Time,” a wonderful take on the American family. Penelope Alvarez (Machado) is an army veteran, nurse, and single mom struggling to balance it all. The show tackles cultural and generational differences in everyday family situations. For example, the pilot focused on daughter Elena’s (Isabella Gomez, “Matador”) reluctance to have a quinceañera, as she felt it was misogynistic, but her mother reminds her that sometimes traditions can evolve. What used to be an announcement of a young woman’s availability for marriage could instead be a sign of her maturity and her family’s pride.
Todd Grinnell (“Hollywoodland”), Marcel Ruiz, Stephen Tobolowsky (“Memento”) and Rita Moreno (“West Side Story”) also star in “One Day at a Time.” The show has already been renewed for a second season. It’s fun, easy watching that’s perfect for a lazy Sunday.
This show may have ended a few years back, but it’s an absolute cult classic. NBC’s “Community” follows a study group of seven community college students whose lives tend to spiral out of control. “Community” is known for its odd storylines and frequent experimentation with format and medium, with episodes done in cartoon, claymation and more. The show, created by Dan Harmon (“Rick and Morty”), starred Joel McHale (“The Soup”), Alison Brie (“GLOW”), Donald Glover (“Atlanta”), Gillian Jacobs (“Love”), Danny Pudi (“Powerless”), Yvette Nicole Brown (“Elena of Avalor”) and Chevy Chase (“Saturday Night Live”). Award-winning writer Jim Rash (“The Descendants”) and Ken Jeong (“Dr. Ken”) also starred.
During the show’s run, “Community” collected several accolades, including a Primetime Emmy nomination for writing for Season 3’s episode “Remedial Chaos Theory” and a Creative Arts Emmy win for the Season 2 episode “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas.”
Try not to judge Season 4 too harshly–that was the gas leak year. Cool? Cool cool cool. #SixSeasonsAndAMovie
What would you do if you could see demons and you met someone who could see them too? Netflix’s “Crazyhead” explores a world of zombies, demons, and demon hunters as two new friends try to save the world. The UK-based show stars Cara Theobold (“Downton Abbey”) as Amy, a twenty-something who thought seeing demons was a sign of mental illness, and Susan Wokoma (“Chewing Gum”) as Raquel, an experienced demon hunter with a mysterious family tree.
The series also stars Tony Curran (“Gladiator”), Arinzé Kene (“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”), Lewis Reeves (“Unforgotten”), Riann Steele (“Waitress”), Charlie Archer (“New Blood”), Lu Corfield (“Casualty”), and Billy Seymour (“Atonement”). The series is written by Howard Overman (“Misfits”).
“Crazyhead” is an impressive blend of irreverent humor and terrifying demons that’s a breath of fresh air to comedy horror. But fair warning, this show can get a bit gory, so watch with caution.
The CW’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”
The musical comedy “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” from The CW is an offbeat story about a thirty-something trying to find love and meaning in her life. When she sees an ex-boyfriend, Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) decides to leave her prestigious job at a law firm to make him fall for her. Her plan may be crazy, but Rebecca’s hopeful, musical take on love and life is both entertaining and endearing. Each episode is spiced with several original songs sung by Bloom that take on everything from UTIs to feminism, all with polished Broadway quality. Yes, Rebecca may be crazy. Who isn’t when they fall in love?
Bloom, the star, writer and creator of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” picked up a Golden Globe for Best Actress-Television Series Musical or Comedy for her role in 2015. The show has been renewed for a third season, which premieres Fall 2017.
Netflix’s “Juana Inés”
“Juana Inés” is a biopic mini-series on Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, the badass Mexican genius of the Spanish Inquisition. She was a feminist and indigenous rights activist back when being a beautiful, intelligent woman could get you killed. “Juana Inés” brings to life the spitfire woman who refused to let censorship stall her education.
The series follows Sor Juana from her teenage years in Spanish royal court to her last days in a convent. Sor Juana is played by Arcelia Ramírez (“The Color of Passion”) and Arantza Ruiz (“La Querida Del Centauro”), the latter playing the nun’s younger self. Yolanda Corrales (“Always on My Mind”), Hernan Del Riego (“Cantinflas”), Lisa Owen (“Lord of the Skies”), and Margarita Sanz (“Frida”) feature in supporting roles. “Juana Ines” was originally shot in Mexico City, where Sor Juana really lived. The mini-series won 11 awards at the Pantalla de Cristal in 2016. Netflix picked up the mini-series for distribution soon after.
Netflix’s “Chewing Gum”
“Chewing Gum” is a sexy yet awkward comedic triumph for Netflix. We follow Tracey, a twenty-something Christian virgin, as she struggles between the strict religious teachings her family holds and her own desires. Michaela Coel (“The Aliens”) stars as Tracey, who walks the line between endearing and cringeworthy as she tries to navigate 21st century relationships. The show also features Danielle Walters (“Kill Your Friends”), Robert Lonsdale (“The Intercepter”), Shola Adewusi (“Miss You Already”), Susan Wokoma (“Crazyhead”), Maggie Steed (“The Painted Veil”), Kadiff Kirwan (“Black Mirror”), Olisa Odele (“My Parents Are Aliens”), Sarah Hoare (“Powder Room), Abby Rakic-Platt (“The Story of Tracy Beaker”), John Macmillan (“Hanna”), and Tanya Franks (“EastEnders”).
The show was written by its leading lady Coel, who has garnered enthusiastic critical acclaim for her series. “Chewing Gum” is sure to launch Coel into the stratosphere.
The latest action comedy from Netflix, “GLOW,” features a cast of truly badass chicks. “GLOW” follows a group of hopefuls trying to fight their way into Hollywood via the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW). Basically, it’s a ladies’ WWE with spandex and ridiculous ’80s hair. The show’s concept is based off of the real-life GLOW, which really was a ladies wrestling show that featured young actresses trying to break into show business. “GLOW” stars Alison Brie (“Community”), Ellen Wong (“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”) and Betty Gilpin (“Nurse Jackie”) among a stunning cast of comedic women.
AwardsCircuit.com’s own Alan French recently reviewed “GLOW.” Read his review here.
Sometimes life can feel like a downright mess. Netflix’s “Crashing” reflects that feeling. “Crashing” follows seven “property guardians” (aka squatters) who live in a rundown, out-of-use hospital. The hospital falls apart just as often as the characters’ lives do. The show is surprisingly well-written, with quick one-liners and complex characters sure to capture your interest. The series stars BAFTA-winning actor Phoebe Waller-Bridge (“Fleabag”), Jonathan Bailey (“Broadchurch”), Julie Dray (“Ralph”), Louise Ford (“Fast Girls”), Damien Molony (“Kill Your Friends”), Adrian Scarborough (“The King’s Speech”), and Amit Shah (“The Hundred-Foot Journey”).
Waller-Bridge wrote and associate-produced “Crashing.” She was nominated for a BAFTA for her writing work on “Fleabag” and “Crashing.”
NBC’s “Freaks and Geeks”
I know this is a show from the 90s, but just go with me on Judd Apatow’s “Freaks and Geeks.” The series is a cult classic and the most realistic high school sitcom ever made. The writing is fantastic and for once, the actors are actually teens. “Freaks and Geeks” follows Lindsay Weir, an geek who finds herself in with the “freaks” and tries to balance school and her new-found social life.
The series stars now-famous faces, with the main character Lindsay Weir played by Linda Cardellini (“ER”). John Francis Daley (“Bones”), James Franco (“127 Hours”), Samm Levine (“Inglourious Basterds”), Seth Rogen (“Pineapple Express”), Jason Segel (“How I Met Your Mother”), Martin Starr (“This is the End”), Becky Ann Baker (“Men in Black”), Joe Flaherty (“SCTV”), and Busy Philipps (“Cougar Town”) also star. The show is known for launching most of the series’ cast into the big leagues of Hollywood, with Apatow also acting as the youngsters’ mentor. Segel claims the best advice he ever received was from Apatow, who told him to write his own material.
BBC’s “Call the Midwife”
Finally, there’s “Call the Midwife,” one of the most uplifting and hopeful shows on TV. “Call the Midwife” follows the lives of nuns and midwives who work in London’s Lower East End from the 1950-60s. The series is a lesson on love in all its forms as the midwives bring new lives into the world. “Call the Midwife” also makes a point of tackling current issues of the day, ranging from poverty to polio. Still, every episode ends on a hopeful, inspiring message.
The show’s cast is far too big to name, as many have come and gone in the series’ six seasons. Some of the cast’s stars are Jenny Agutter (“Walkabout”), Laura Main (“Murder City”), Helen George (“The Monster”), Miranda Hart (“Miranda”), and Bryony Hannah (“Jupiter Ascending”), among others. “Call the Midwife” is a show that will make you see the good in people. Who doesn’t need that every now and then?