The traffic jam of TV programming on Sunday nights could rival the gridlock approaching the Cape Cod bridges on summer weekends. Even if you exclude reality programming, special events like awards shows, and sports — and what viewer does? — there are dozens of series that air during the primetime hours on Sunday nights throughout the year.
And because it’s the night when most sets are tuned in, many of those shows are the best that the broadcast and cable networks have to offer. That means maxed-out DVRs, overloaded Netflix queues, and generally confounded viewers who want to watch 10 shows in one night, from “Mad Men” to “The Good Wife” to “Downton Abbey” to “Breaking Bad” to “Drop Dead Diva” to promising upcoming shows like “Newsroom.”
But we’ve all only got so much time to devote to TV, so we thought we’d try to help prioritize by recommending the essential shows for five different types of viewers. Here are some shows to watch in either real time or as close to it as possible on DVR and online for maximum enjoyment (or for brushing up on to get by at parties.)
This is the most finicky of viewers. With all of the reality programming and game shows that air in the summer, the Snob has more time to dig into all that important reading he or she is always nattering on about — but not completely off the hook on Sundays.
“Mad Men” (10 p.m., AMC) is a must for any self-respecting “golden age” of television viewer. (Series finale June 10.)
“Newsroom” Set in the world of 24-hour cable news, this new HBO drama from Aaron Sorkin, creator of acclaimed series “The West Wing” and “Sports Night,” should entice fans of his famously verbose style. (Premieres June 24, 10 p.m.)
“Breaking Bad” (Season premiere July 15, 10 p.m., AMC.)
Streaming PBS’s veddy enjoyable British soap “Downton Abbey,” which is currently available on Hulu.
This TV glutton knows the show-runners by name, has read all the books that “Game of Thrones” is based on, and has endless theories about who killed Rosie Larsen on “The Killing” and lets you know about them. If you aspire to this level of addiction, must-watches include:
“Game of Thrones” (Season finale June 3 on HBO at 9 p.m.)
“Girls” (Season finale June 17 HBO at 10:30 p.m.)
“Veep” The uproarious Julia Louis-Dreyfus comedy has had us in stitches in its first term. (Season finale June 10 HBO at 10 p.m.)
“The Killing” (Season finale June 17 AMC at 9 p.m.)
Streaming Everything else.
This viewer seeks the simple pleasures: laughs, camp, shiny objects.
“The Simpsons” The old standby for the viewer who just wants to relax is the Fox animation block starting at 7 p.m., with Homer & Co. at 8 p.m. If you missed it during the season, catch up with reruns.
“Drop Dead Diva” This frothy Lifetime dramedy dependably delivers giggles and heart. (Season premiere June 3, 9 p.m.)
“Episodes” This Matt LeBlanc sitcom, about a “Matt LeBlanc” sitcom, is one of Showtime’s best. (Season premiere July 1, 10:30 p.m., Showtime)
Streaming “Revenge,” ABC’s campy throwback soap, moves to Sundays in the fall. It’s currently available on Hulu.
THE ON-THE-GO VIEWER
The On-the-Go Viewer loves TV but doesn’t watch one, catching up with the top shows on laptop/tablet. Timeliness is less of a factor for this viewer, so if you can only squeeze in a few shows and must use something other than your TV to do it, we recommend the following — all of which are available from such streaming services as Hulu, Netflix, iTunes, or Amazon.
“Breaking Bad” The final 16-episode season of this gripping AMC series will be broken into two parts. The first eight begin July 15.
“Game of Thrones”
“The Good Wife”
“Drop Dead Diva”
No inclination to watch but don’t want to appear too far out of the loop at the water cooler? That makes you the Minimalist. We recommend you brush up on these buzzworthy shows by checking out clips and recaps on network websites, or the longer, funnier summaries on sites like Television Without Pity and Hitfix.
“Mad Men” of course.
“Girls” This HBO comedy about four young women navigating life in New York City has been a hot topic.
“True Blood” Everyone loves to gab about this HBO supernatural campfest full of vampires, werewolves, and fairies. (Season premiere June 10 at 9 p.m.)