There are plenty of network shows worth watching, too

A reader keeping an eye on his spending seeks some advice for quality TV series.

Sterling K. Brown as Randall Pearson in a scene from NBC's "This Is Us."
Sterling K. Brown as Randall Pearson in a scene from NBC's "This Is Us."NBC/Associated Press

Q. You’re almost always negative about network shows, but some of us can’t afford all the expensive channels you write about. Have there been any network shows in the past decade that have met with your approval?


A. It is true that I find the networks lacking, particularly in comparison with what other outlets offer these days. And it is also true that, if you are careful about limiting your subscriptions to a month or two, I don’t think it’s terribly expensive – as expensive as a night at the movies, just about — to watch some of the streaming and pay cable series. But there have been a few network shows I’ve liked since 2010, and any of them might make for a good ‘rona binge. There are a few stellar comedies, including “30 Rock” (on Hulu), “The Good Place” (on Netflix), and “Parks and Recreation” (on Netflix and Hulu), all three of which originally aired on NBC. Honestly, each of these shows is pure pleasure; the fast-paced wit of “30 Rock,” the good feeling of “Parks and Recreation,” and the clever constructs of “The Good Place.” I’ve also enjoyed the sweet ensemble on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (Hulu and NBC.com) and the inspired insanity and format breaking of “Community” (Netflix and Hulu), both of which have the NBC imprimatur. I never miss an episode of NBC’s “This Is Us” (on Hulu and NBC.com), even though it’s emotionally manipulative. The reason: It is put together spectacularly, with a number of time frames operating simultaneously. The continuity, and the interweaving of themes from the past and the present, is something special. Can I sneak one of my all-time favorites in here, too, even though it only ran in the past decade for a short while? NBC’s “Friday Night Lights,” people. Available at NBC.com, Hulu, and Amazon, it’s a moving story about a Texas community, a very lively and loving marriage, and high school kids trying to find meaning. Get to it. I have an affection for the CW’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (on Netflix), which is a theater geek’s dream show. The musical series was both a good time and a surprisingly frank look at mental illness. And I was madly in love with “The Good Wife” (Amazon, CBS All Access, and Hulu). The interpersonal stuff on this legal procedural is juicy, and, unusually, the legal cases of the week are almost always fascinating. And I’ll finish with “Happy Endings,” a basic ensemble sitcom from ABC that lasted three seasons. It’s fast-talking wit with a very warm ensemble, and it left me wanting more.



Matthew Gilbert can be reached at matthew.gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.