Nine shows you may have missed, but shouldn’t
We’re living in the Peak TV era where some 500 new shows premiere every year, which means we have a lot to choose from, which is good for us, but which means that some good shows get lost in the crowd, which is bad for us.
So. Here are a few still-running shows that you might have missed while the networks, cable channels, and streaming services were raining down product on you. Obviously you’re not missing the next “Breaking Bad,” but there are a number of entertaining, well-made series — add to this list Netflix’s “The End of the [Expletive] World,” HBO’s “High Maintenance” IFC’s “Documentary Now!,” and Amazon’s “Catastrophe” — waiting for your attention.
The weather is hot and bright in Long Beach, Calif., as the bittersweet drama moves slowly forward. We join Wyatt Russell’s ex-surfer Dud on his trip through grief for his father and for his career, and along the way the ordinary becomes magical and redemptive. He stumbles into the lodge of the Order of the Lynx, a club based in the notion of alchemy, where he finds an unlikely community of locals who push one another professionally and spiritually. Dud and his sister Liz (a poignant Sonya Cassidy) have dire financial struggles, as does Dud’s Lynx mentor, Ernie (Brent Jennings), which makes their bonds even more valuable. The playfulness and the comic absurdities of this AMC show — just renewed for a second season — never overwhelm its humanity.
This Amazon gem is known primarily as the show starring “Saturday Night Live” grads Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen. That’s partly because no one wants to spoil the plot twists, as they turn with the same boldness and imagination as those of “The Good Place” and “Last Man on Earth.” All I can say is that if you decide to watch this deceptively light comedy, give it at least two episodes. Created by Alan Yang (“Master of None”) and Matt Hubbard (“30 Rock”), it’s about love, marriage, monogamy, death, and rebirth. It also features a lovely performance by Rudolph, recently seen stealing “The Good Place” as Judge Gen, and, in the only season so far, good supporting work by Catherine Keener, Peter Weller, and Julia Ormond, too.
Yet another tale of a hit man with a heart, this six-episode FX drama has no right to be as good and as affecting as it is. Writer and star Scott Ryan is a revelation as Ray, who is as laconic and laid back as TV’s other fixer named Ray, Ray Donovan. He murders and beats up his targets with a cool street efficiency. But he’s otherwise quite sympathetic, caring for his 8-year-old daughter and his ailing brother with loyalty. How does Mr Inbetween (there is no period) deal with finding himself in between two moral worlds, as he begins to tire of his business dealings? How do we reconcile his character? I’m hoping to see more of this moody Aussie import, whose episodes are a half-hour each.
“The Last O.G.”
I’m surprised this TBS charmer isn’t a bigger hit, given that it was co-created by Jordan Peele and stars Tracy Morgan and Tiffany Haddish. Also, given that it is so warm-hearted and winning. Morgan plays a guy who gets out of prison after serving 15 years on a drug charge. He goes back to a changed Brooklyn and a changed former girlfriend, played by Haddish, who lives in a brownstone with her white husband and teen twins. She wants nothing to do with him, but she lets him in her world for the kids — we can tell they’re his right away. Morgan is playing a guy living in a halfway house whose world is broken, but he brings to every scene and interaction the kind of sweetness and persistence that make his humor so distinct. The series has been renewed for a second season.
Created by David Shore (“House”) and Bryan Cranston, who needs no introduction, this Amazon series has nonetheless fallen under the radar. Too bad, because it’s a lot of fun. Giovanni Ribisi plays an ex-con named Marius who takes on his still-in-prison cellmate Pete’s identity and tries to fool Pete’s grandparents. As Marius boldly insinuates himself into Pete’s family, the whole ruse continually threatens to blow up in his face. Cranston appears as the mobster to whom Marius owes money, and the cast also includes Margo Martindale as Pete’s grandmother, who may be a scammer in her own right. “Sneaky Pete” — there are two seasons so far — is a lot of hustle-heavy fun.
This entertaining TNT series is set in and around the women who run a Florida nail salon, which also happens to serve as the embattled front for dueling mobs. Lives are endangered and lives are lost, but it’s all amid a swirl of twisty, soapy story lines and moody, garish locales. They’ve got one another’s backs, led by salon owner Desna, played by the insanely watchable Niecy Nash and her insane nails. You won’t need to spend all your time trying to figure this story out; it’s at the opposite end of the spectrum from “Westworld,” with familiar tropes and clichés aplenty — but the campiness and feminism make it all irresistible. A third season is on the way.
For the first few minutes, you may find yourself dizzy from trying to reconcile Michelle Dockery as thief-con-artist-substance-abuser Letty with Michelle Dockery as the restrained Lady Mary from “Downton Abbey.” But soon, as the twisty plot takes hold, Letty becomes indelible. Based on novellas by Blake Crouch, “Good Behavior” has Letty — whose mother, when the story begins, is taking care of her son — joining forces with an Argentine assassin named Javier. They have chemistry, but their relationship and professional jobs, like Letty’s life in general, are always on the verge of going south. TNT hasn’t renewed the low-rated show for a third season, but there has been talk of a movie or final season.
“The Last Kingdom”
You know who you are, fellow lovers of Anglo-Saxon and viking historical fiction. This British series — it started on BBC America before moving to Netflix — features some of the brutal power struggles and medieval rock-star stylings of “Game of Thrones,” but none of the supernatural stuff. Set in the ninth century, based on “The Saxon Stories” novels by Bernard Cornwell, the drama gives us an alternative point of view from “Vikings,” as it shows a similar time period from the English side. The Danes keep invading the English kingdoms, which King Alfred (a hypnotic David Dawson) has not yet united. Alexander Dreymon stars as a young man who, as a boy from Northumbria, was snatched by the Danes and raised in Denmark. His torn loyalties add physiological depth to the beautifully shot action. Season three is on the way.
We know that the corporate setting can be soul-crushing; thank you “Dilbert,” “The Office,” and “Better Off Ted.” But this cheeky Comedy Central series takes that idea to new blackly comic heights. Matt and Jake (played by co-creators Matt Ingebretson and Jake Weisman) are junior execs in training at the nefarious Hampton DeVille company, a kind of Amazon whose slogan is “We make everything.” The two crash cake parties all over the building when they’re not helping to fire others; they know they’re buying into evil, but their cynicism and passivity keep them in the race. Don’t expect any sweet twists or resolutions, by the way. This is nihilism at its most entertaining. Added pluses: Great turns by Anne Dudek, Adam Lustick, and Lance Reddick as the powers that be, as well as a cameo by Aimee Mann. A second season is coming.