Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Jenn's Pick: If You Like This, Watch That! [Contributor: Jenn]

I feel like every year I write an article about how we’re in a season of peak TV. And the truth is that every year, I’m technically right — with more and more streaming services developing their own content in addition to cable networks continuing to create their own, peak TV is constant. With so much content available to consume, you might feel a little bit overwhelmed. Where do you even begin? 

I thought it would be helpful to create a little “if/then” guide for you: “If you like ___, then you might like _____.” The categories below feature mostly shows I haven’t discussed before or ones that are newer (though you can always check out lists of some of my 2022 favorites if you want discussions about how great Abbott Elementary and Mythic Quest are). 

So let’s dive in, shall we?


Ghosts (CBS/Paramount+)

I have talked about Ghosts before but I feel like it’s important to reiterate just how fun this CBS show is and what a stellar ensemble cast it has. The tricky thing with ensemble shows is that some characters get left behind storytelling-wise. But Ghosts strikes a really intricate balance with a cast of 10 people — and most of them are the ghosts! 

The show manages to tell compelling, funny, character-based stories while depicting different combinations of characters each week. Whether we’re meeting Trevor’s parents, watching Sas have a love story, or joining Alberta on her quest to discover who killed her, each week of Ghosts is something different and fun. Everyone should be watching this charming series!

Grand Crew (Peacock)

A true ensemble, Grand Crew is a story about shenanigans and wine. I could stop right there and most of you would already be sold, but I’ll elaborate: this series is all about supporting your friends through career highs and lows, relationship disasters, family issues, and misunderstandings. And it also features wine! The whole cast is stellar and they all have their own specific comedic strengths, but for me personally it’s been really fun to see Nicole Byer and Echo Kellum play siblings. If you’re looking for your Happy Endings/Cougartown successor, this is the series for you!

The Bear (Hulu)

I really enjoyed The Bear when I binged it this past year. I wouldn’t classify it as a comedy (I know awards rules dictate that it is), but it’s a really powerful show about grief, pursuing your dreams, and complex familial — and coworking — dynamics. Jeremy Allen White is a fantastic lead who is dynamic and compelling and heartbreaking, but Ayo Edebiri as Sydney truly blew me away. What stands out most to me in shows is when they refuse to depict characters as flawless — The Bear is great at depicting characters’ flaws and complexities. It’s also an unexpectedly tense show that makes you feel on edge whenever there is a kitchen-related crisis. (Or maybe I just feel stressed whenever I see people rushing and struggling to complete a task in a certain timeframe, or witness their failings.)

The Bear will be back for a second season, so be sure you binge the first season on Hulu before it returns.

Loot (Apple TV+)

Talk about a show with an incredible ensemble: Maya Rudolph, Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, Nat Faxon, Joel Kim Booster, and Ron Funches lead the cast (with a recurring Adam Scott in an unlikable role!). Loot follows billionaire Molly who receives a massive settlement after her divorce and decides to invest it — and herself — in a charitable foundation she forgot she’d founded. The first season is so great, balancing individual stories and pairings with the overarching narrative of Molly trying to figure out who she is and become the best version of herself. 

I like that Loot is unafraid to make Molly unlikable or craft stories where she makes mistakes. The joy of it all is watching Molly slowly become passionate about the other people in her life and the foundation that she runs. Loot is a fantastic ensemble show that I wish more people watched. Catch up before the second season now! 


Daisy Jones & the Six (Amazon Prime)

I read “Daisy Jones & the Six” in two days. Why, you ask? Because I knew the Amazon Prime series had just dropped and was already getting a serious case of FOMO. Even though there are a few things that the series changed from the book (and only one I didn’t care for), the TV version of Daisy Jones & the Six is so good and compelling. The show stars Riley Keough as the titular Daisy who joins a band and skyrockets to fame with them — only to have the band dissolve in a short period of time. 

Both the book and series are framed as a “behind the music” interview. And this leads to such a great exploration of memory and complex relationships. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll take center stage with dynamics between band members ranging from distrust and petty jealousy to affection and love. Daisy and Billy’s relationship is tumultuous and so captivating because of the chemistry between Claflin and Keough.

Even though Claflin did a great job playing a character who is often unlikable, making decisions that serve his own self-interest and desire for control at all costs, Keough is truly what sells the series to me. She depicts Daisy’s addiction with such vulnerability and raw power. Daisy Jones is a talent and a star, but there’s a part of her that is leaning on her alcohol and drugs in order to survive the voices in her head and the people in the world who don’t believe she is enough.

The music in the series is fantastic and catchy (I definitely downloaded most of the Aurora album), and I’d be truly surprised if the series didn’t get nominated for an award in some capacity this season.

The Last of Us (HBO Max)

I heard the buzz for The Last of Us, but knew relatively nothing about the series apart from the fact that Pedro Pascal was in it, it was adapted from the popular video game of the same name, and was being adapted by Craig Mazin (who I knew as a writer and actor from one of my favorite series, Mythic Quest). After consulting with trusted friends that this show was not too scary or gory for me, a 34-year-old baby, I checked it out. And I was hooked.

I knew I’d be hooked because of Pedro Pascal (what a dreamy man), but truly everyone in the series delivers: no one, perhaps, more than Bella Ramsey as Ellie. The quick recap is that a fungus-based (Cordyceps) apocalypse has destroyed the world as we know it. Once you’re infected with the fungus, it takes over your body, essentially using you as a host while you mutate into various forms. Except if you’re Ellie. Ellie is apparently immune. And that means she may be able to help find a cure. Enter the grumpy Joel (Pascal) who lost his daughter early on in this world-ending disaster and hasn’t been the same in the 20 years since. He desperately tries to not form an emotional attachment to Ellie, who he’s tasked to deliver to a group who is researching the cure, and ends up treating her like his surrogate daughter.

The world-building in The Last of Us is incredible. The scope of set and production design is immaculate, as well as the prosthetics and makeup on the infected/Clickers, etc. is impressive. But the storytelling is truly what makes this show top-tier. I knew from mass positivity that I’d love the episode “Long, Long Time” (and not just because it had Nick Offerman). And I did. I found the ability for the show to tell stories of love and tenderness and longing within such an intensely traumatic backdrop really inspiring. I can’t say enough good things about the show’s ability to craft character-centered content, so just go and check it out for yourself! You won’t be disappointed.


The Big Brunch (HBO Max)

When I heard that Dan Levy was going to be hosting and judging a brunch-related show, I was immediately in. So if you’re looking for a charming, fun competition show... The Big Brunch is the one for you! I don’t know how much I really need to sell you on it (10 competitors battle it out by creating intricate brunch dishes) but it’s got incredible food and fun challenges. All the chefs are great and it made me want to go out to brunch. You’re welcome!

Selena + Chef (HBO Max)

Selena Gomez is a treasure and a delight. And in the midst of the pandemic, she created and starred in her own cooking show, Selena + Chef. It was a clever, wonderful concept to get us through social distancing: Selena wanted to learn how to cook and professional chefs sent her all the ingredients she’d need each episode to make a good meal. They’d video call into Selena’s house (where she was staying with her grandparents and roommates) and they’d walk her through how to cook the meal while they cooked it in their home. “Cooking a good meal together, apart” was pretty much the tagline and it was truly great.

Selena’s skills have improved so much over the course of the seasons, and we’ve gotten the chance to see so many amazing appetizers, entrees, and dessert recipes cooked on screen (available on the HBO Max website, by the way). Better still is that Selena donates money to the charity of the chef’s choice at the end of every episode.

Silly and fun, featuring hilarious appearances from Selena’s close friends and family, this is not a cooking competition show but it’s 100% worth watching anyway!

The Great Pottery Throw Down (HBO Max)

By the way, I didn’t intend for these all to be from HBO Max but here we are! From the same universe that brought you The Great British Bake Off comes a pottery competition show with the same spirit. I love watching shows where people practice skills that I don’t even remotely have (hence why I love dancing series). This show is exactly what it sounds like: competitors participate in two challenges each week just like The Great British Bake Off — a small challenge and then a “main make” which is the main challenge. The judges are so sweet and encouraging, the amateur potters are so supportive of one another. If someone finishes early, there’s a chance they’re helping other contestants. They truly become a little family and it’s precious. Get your happy tears out while watching this British competition series!


Schmigadoon! (Apple TV+)

If you’re even a casual lover of musical theatre and haven’t yet watched Schmigadoon!, please stop reading this article and immediately remedy that. The first season of the show is a star-studded affair — starring alongside leads Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key are Ariana DeBose, Kristin Chenoweth, Fred Armisen, Martin Short, Aaron Tveit, Ann Harada, Alan Cumming, Dove Cameron, Jane Krakowski, and Jaime Camil. The show follows a couple, played by Strong and Key, who are at a crossroads in their relationship and stumble into a small town stuck in a 1940s musical vibe.

There are parodies of The Music Man, The Sound of Music, Brigadoon, Oklahoma!, and many more in the first season. The second season takes the majority of the cast — while adding icons Tituss Burgess and Patrick Page — and transports them into the gritty “Schmicago” (of course parodying darker musicals like Chicago, Sweeney Todd, as well Hair and Godspell). The music is fantastic. The jokes are so layered and clever. The characters are nuanced. And truly it’s one of the best shows on TV that more people need to be watching.

Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies (Paramount+)

If you’re looking for fun musical camp, look no further than the new show on Paramount+ with a familiar title. Because while Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies will give viewers some little Easter eggs for fans of the initial film, original members of the Pink Ladies are front and center in the series. Four young women are outcasts at Rydell High and band together in order to find their own place in school and make a difference for people who are outsiders. 

There’s Jane (Marisa Davila) who is the studious “good girl” whose reputation is soured thanks to her ex-boyfriend and the high school rumor mill. Cheyenne Isabel Wells is Olivia who hangs with the T-Birds (her brother is a member) and has been shunned at school for an alleged affair. Speaking of the T-Birds, Ari Notartomaso (who does go by they/them/he when they are not playing their character) plays Cynthia. And Cynthia is desperate to be in the T-Birds gang but they shut her out because she’s a girl. Rounding out the Pink Ladies is Tricia Fukuhara playing Nancy — obsessed with fashion and dramatic and witty.

The show is, as I’ve alluded to, a musical. The songs are catchy and fun and it’s the kind of show bursting with fun energy and choreography, 1950s wardrobes and sets. It’s got a lot of representation and new, young talent which is refreshing to see. If you have Paramount+ and are looking for something to tap your foot along to, check out Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies!


Shrinking (Apple TV+)

There’s one comedy on TV right now that’s vying for Ted Lasso’s spot as a show that “claims to be a comedy but makes you cry a whole lot” and it’s the new series, Shrinking. Honestly it should be no surprise that this show gives you similar vibes as it’s co-created by Bill Lawrence, Brett Goldstein, and Jason Segel. 

Shrinking is a show about a therapist named Jimmy (Segel) who’s mourning the loss of his wife and making pretty unhealthy decisions due to the pain of that loss. He’s stopped parenting his daughter, Alice (Lukita Maxwell), leaving his neighbor Liz (Christa Miller) to pick up the slack. He gets frustrated with his clients one particular day and gives them impulsive advice — which seems to actually help a client who he couldn’t get through to before. This leads Jimmy to believe that he needs to rethink his approach to his clients. Not everyone is thrilled with this idea, especially Jimmy’s curmudgeonly mentor Paul (Harrison Ford). Meanwhile Jimmy’s friend and therapist colleague Gaby (Jessica Williams) is also navigating her own divorce and clients.

The reason that Shrinking is so wonderful is because it combines everything that I have come to know and love about a Bill Lawrence show (silly comedy and zany moments, with some of the absolute best occurring between Jessica Williams and Harrison Ford) while also incorporating some bite (Jimmy is wholly unlikable on many occasions! Characters are mean and things don’t get resolved neatly in the next episode! Grief is depicted as all kinds of things and not just sadness!) and some unexpected twists.

Honestly, I hope every actor in this cast is up for an Emmy nomination this year. Everything about the first season worked for me, and I look forward to seeing how the show plays out in season two!

Trying (Apple TV+)

I’ve talked about Trying and I will keep yelling about it until more people I know watch this Apple TV+ gem. A British comedy, Trying is about a couple: Nikki (Esther Smith) and Jason (Rafe Spall) who want to have kids but can’t. Thus begins their journey to adoption. Along the way they face personal and professional hurdles, deal with their wacky family and close friends, and discover what it means to be parents.

Honestly, it’s a comedy that made me cry multiple times. It’s heartwarming and sweet, hilarious and just the perfect antidote to bleak shows (some of which you’ll find on this list). If you want something that will make you feel hopeful and remind you of the idea that family is what you make it, watch Trying now!


You (Netflix)

Look, You is one of those shows I binge watched so I could keep up with internet discourse. At its best, it’s an interesting look on things like class systems, obsessions, and power. At its worst, it’s just a hot mess. But sometimes that’s exactly what you need to watch in order to pass the time. Season four of You was something else. The audience spent half the season convinced they knew what was happening, only to have their perceptions shattered by reality. Penn Badgley was working overtime to bring the most unhinged parts of Joe to life. And he really delivered on that. This season’s first half was more like a mystery than others which was fun to explore because it put Joe in the unprecedented situation of being the “mouse” in a cat and mouse game.

For those who are unaware of the premise, You is about Joe Goldberg (Badgley) who... well, he’s a serial killer. But he wouldn’t categorize himself that way at all. He’d tell you he’s a book-loving hopeless romantic who just happens to get himself wrapped up in the worst situations with no way out. Oh, and he narrates the entire series. Season one is fine, but seasons two and three get to showcase Joe delivering more sarcastic monologues (and playing opposite powerhouse Victoria Pedretti helps bolster those seasons in my opinion). You is dark, but it’s at its best when it doesn’t stray too far into unbelievable, convoluted territory.

This season’s ending (and the reveal that the next will be the show’s last) made a vast majority of us question exactly where the show could go and it’ll definitely be interesting to see how the series wraps up.

Poker Face (Peacock)

I was talking to our podcasting friend Gavin (from The Mixed Reviews) a while back and he described the difference between a “whodunnit” and a “howcatchem” (the latter of which I didn’t realize was a genre). Of course, a “whodunnit” is a story that many of us are familiar with because it’s been serialized a million times over: a crime happens, and we spend the rest of the TV/movie with the characters as they (and we) try to figure out who the perpetrator is. 

But with a “howcatchem,” like Poker Face, the audience already knows who committed the crime at the top of the episode. We see the perpetrator(s) commit the act, and then we spend the rest of the episode alongside Charlie (Natasha Lyonne) as she solves the crime. You might ask, “What’s the allure of that kind of story?” And I’d tell you, “Uncovering the missing components and watching someone piece it all together.”

Poker Face is a brilliant series from Rian Johnson (you know him from Star Wars and/or Knives Out fame) that follows Charlie, a human lie detector, who is on the run across the country from a casino boss. Along the way, she encounters various people she connects with and takes a variety of jobs — all which, of course, lead her to have to solve some mysterious deaths. Charlie can’t just let something go if it sits wrong in her gut, and that’s the crux of the series in a nutshell.

Dramatic, silly, funny, suspenseful, and featuring an incredible line-up of guest stars (Hong Chau, Judith Light,  S. Epatha Merkerson, Tim Meadows, Luis Guzmán, Joseph-Gordon Levitt, David Castañeda, Clea Duvall, and Rhea Perlman among others), Poker Face is totally worth your watch. I can’t wait to see where the show goes in season two!

Mrs. Davis (Peacock)

Even if I wanted to spoil the new, wild sci-fi series Mrs. Davis for you, I don’t know that most of you would believe me. I checked it out because I love the two leads: Betty Gilpin (justice for GLOW, always) and Jake McDorman (I loved him in Greek and Limitless, so why isn’t he in all my TV content?!). The show looked weird, so I wasn’t sure how long I would be able to stick around. As it turns out, the show is VERY weird but also the exact kind of weird that I like. It’s quirky and silly, campy and fun, dramatic and showcases the actors’ wide-ranging talents. It’s religious while being interesting and not preachy, and it’s futuristic while also being pretty dang relatable.

The quick summary is: A nun (Gilpin) sets out to confront an all-knowing AI known as “Mrs. Davis” and destroy it while also being tasked to find the Holy Grail. (If the summary sounds weird, it might also behoove me to inform you that Damon Lindelof is one of the creators.)

I love Mrs. Davis already though. It’s so compelling, so engaging, and definitely leaves you yelling: “WTF?!” at your screen. In my book, that’s fodder for some great television.

Outer Banks (Netflix)

The best way I can describe Outer Banks is “fun, but totally unhinged; suspend your disbelief at the door.” And every season that seems to get more and more accurate. At its core, it’s a mystery, teen drama. Following two distinct social classes in the titular location in North Carolina, Outer Banks is a story about John B. (Chase Stokes) whose father disappeared. As he and his friends JJ (Rudy Pankow), Pope (Jonathan Daviss), Kie (Madison Bailey), along with his John B.’s girlfriend Sarah Cameron (Madelyn Cline) dig deeper into Big John’s disappearance, they realize that he’s connected to a treasure — and something way bigger than themselves.

The show is a bit bonkers but a whole lot of fun. Nearly every episode ends with you wondering how the teens will get out of the mess they’re in and survive. But what I do enjoy about the show (even though it’s frustrating) is that the teens don’t get neat little bows on their stories where they win every season. They win some fights, they lose some others. And that’s just realistic: especially when they’re going up against wealthy, ruthless residents of the island like Wade Cameron (Charles Esten) and his son Rafe (Drew Starkey) who hold all the power, control the narrative, and can buy out anyone who would oppose them.

But if you’re into a teen-centric treasure hunting show that features a lot of mysteries (the biggest among them is: “How bad do these kids smell if they’re running around North Carolina in the summer without changing their clothes?”), social class dynamics, teen romance, and action sequences, then Outer Banks is the show for you!

I hope that you found some use in these recommendations, folks! Happy viewing! 


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