The Verge’s 10 favorite shows to binge this summer

The Verge’s 10 favorite shows to binge this summer

It looks like many of us are going to be pretty much stuck at home for the foreseeable future, and it’s possible that you’ve already binged all of the series that your friends and family have recommended. Don’t despair! If you’re still looking for series to lose yourself in, there are still plenty out there.

We went to the staff of The Verge to ask what they recommended for a solid week, month, or (gulp!) year of indoor viewing. Here’s what we came up with.

Bunheads

Bunheads Photo by Adam Taylor / ABC Family

Is there anything Sutton Foster can’t do? I saw her tear up the Broadway stage in Anything Goes, and she made me tear up at her off-Broadway performance in Sweet Charity. I am currently loving her in the long-running series Younger, in which she plays a 40-something posing as a 26-something in order to land a job in publishing. (I’m about halfway through the second season; no spoilers please!) But my favorite is the all-too-short but wonderful series Bunheads, in which she plays a dancer-turned-dance-teacher in a small-town ballet school. The actors include Kelly Bishop (who played Sheila in the original cast of Chorus Line) as the owner of the school and a cast of funny and immensely talented young dancers. To top it off, each episode has at least one fantastic song and / or dance number. Bunheads only lasted one season, so it won’t take you long to binge, but what it’s got is fantastic. Streaming on Hulu. —Barbara Krasnoff, reviews editor

Feel Good

I’m a sucker for any and all of the LGBTQIA shows on streaming platforms — and yet, they rarely live up to my expectations. However, following the story of Mae Martin and her new relationship with George had me completely entrenched in all of the highs and lows. It’s a quick watch, but it’s one I keep returning to. Mae is a stand-up comedian and recovering addict who feels very deeply and sincerely about many things. The show touches on incredibly heavy topics and still manages to keep a light-hearted and funny vibe. It’s a frank look at what it’s like to be in an intense relationship while battling one’s own demons. There’s only one season on Netflix so far, but it’s worth watching several times over. Streaming on Netflix. —Kaitlin Hatton, social media manager

Avatar: The Last Airbender

Avatar: The Last Airbender Photo: Nickelodeon

Despite all the acclaim, I was skeptical that Avatar: The Last Airbender was really as good as everyone said it was. It was on Nickelodeon, after all, which had its moment back in the ‘90s when I was a kid. But let me add on to that pile of praise for this show: it’s incredible, and it’s bingeable with only three seasons and episodes that are 20-odd minutes long. This show is all about fantasy, mysticism, and putting an end to a war that might end in a truly apocalyptic fashion. However, it’s easy to lose sight of those brooding themes (in a good way!) when you’re following Aang, the Avatar, and his charming friends as they discover their world together. It’s a beautifully animated show with enough silly humor to entertain kids. But it masterfully dives into themes of friendship, love, and finding hope in desperate times in a way that any adult would probably appreciate — especially during these times. Streaming on Netflix. —Cameron Faulkner, writer

Queen Sugar

A show about estranged siblings coming together to run a sugar cane farm in Louisiana wasn’t something that I thought I would spend every waking moment inhaling during quarantine, but it has been. Queen Sugar tells the story of the Bordelon family, at the center of which are three very different siblings. Nova is a journalist who often writes about racial injustices, particularly in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans. Charley is a sports manager and the last person people would expect on a sugar cane farm, and yet, it truly does become her life’s work. The youngest sibling, Ralph Angel, is often looked down upon by his sisters, but he has one of the most redemptive storylines on the show as he tries to rebuild his life after being released from prison.

At the center of much of the humor and love of the show is their Aunt Violet and her boyfriend Hollywood. Every time either of these characters is on-screen, I am filled with so much joy because their love for each other is contagious, and the chemistry between these characters is so palpable. And I would be remiss if I did not mention that the show features the most adorable little boy that has ever existed: Blue, Ralph Angel’s son.

It’s an absolutely brilliant and important show, and I wish I started watching it sooner. The show not only exposes the hard truths of what it’s like to be Black in the face of overt racism, but it also demonstrates the importance of finding joy and a road to triumph, especially when the bedrock of your life is adversity. Streaming on Hulu. —Mariya Abdulkaf, social video producer

Instant Hotel

Instant Hotel Photo: Netflix

Let me begin by saying that mediocre reality competition shows are what I live for. I discovered this show one lazy weekend and couldn’t turn it off. The gist of the show is a bunch of Australian homeowners who rent out their properties to vacationers (similar to Airbnb homes) and compete to see who has the best instant hotel. They travel around the country to each location and judge the homes and their stay on a variety of things like decorations, comforts, price, and activities in the area. Many of the contestants are very kind, but it’s the others who make petty comments and dish out hurtful scores that I can’t get enough of. It’s a very low-stakes, high-entertainment binge. Streaming on Netflix. —Kaitlin Hatton

Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica Photo: Syfy

If you start watching season 3 of BSG, you will be absolutely and utterly lost, and it’s fantastic that way.

In 2004, this show had a riveting story to tell but a really big hurdle to telling it. Streaming wasn’t really a thing back then, and to understand the espionage and long-term plans of killer robots humanity made, you needed more than one self-contained episode. They straddle that line of episodes in a box and long meta-arcs that span the course of seasons brilliantly. BSG gently ushered us into a golden age of television where we were treated to complex plots and were expected to keep up with humanity’s ongoing struggle on a weekly basis. (Deep Space Nine did this similarly years earlier. But unsurprisingly, the core team working on both was extremely similar). Streaming on Peacock, Syfy. —Grayson Blackmon, senior motion designer

Cable Girls

Part soap opera, part political tract, the Spanish series Cable Girls is about the lives, loves, and travails of four young women who become telephone operators in 1929 Madrid, at a time and place when it was very unusual for women to have any degree of economic independence. So far, I’m only through season 1, which concentrates on the women’s attempts to overcome their pasts, push past their assigned gender roles (despite resistance from the men who control their lives), and form lifelong friendships. However, I am really looking forward to the upcoming episodes, especially those of the fifth and final season, in which (as you can see from this trailer) they take an active role in the Spanish Civil War. Streaming on Netflix. —Barbara Krasnoff

Murder, She Wrote

Murder She Wrote Photo: NBC

You have this author, Jessica Fletcher, and she’s a Lady of A Certain Age who, nonetheless, it is acknowledged in every episode, is quite attractive. She’s basically kind and decent, and she spends the entire episode unraveling a mystery — usually murder, which is also her specialty on the page — mostly without the help of the police, who treat her as either invisible or a useless busybody, depending on where the murder takes place. (The police in her hometown have wised up to her talents and consult her, but she is often traveling when a body appears.) Most episodes are self-contained.

This is not why Murder, She Wrote is such a bubble bath, though. Part of it is Angela Lansbury’s undeniable charisma. Part of it, though, is that this is a relic from a time when TV didn’t take itself especially seriously and wasn’t trying to be gritty. In the first season, when Jessica discovers and confronts a murderer, he pulls a gun on her. She sternly tells him to put it down and he does. That’s the power basic decency is given in this show — and that’s why it’s so comforting. Jessica Fletcher lives in a world where decency wins. You can visit any time you like. Streaming on Peacock (12 seasons), IMDb.TV (5 seasons). —Elizabeth Lopatto, deputy editor

Nurse Jackie

Nurse Jackie Photo: Showtime

This show has everything it needs to be *the perfect* corona-summer binge. Edie Falco is Jackie, a saint-like nurse who goes above and beyond to save people in and out of work with the perfect family. But she has a dark secret: she is addicted to pain medication. Aside from the great plot and acting, Nurse Jackie is a relic from a time long before COVID-19 and just before smartphones. Seeing in the ins and outs of the fictional All Saints Hospital in NYC will make you think, “Was life ever that way?”

And let’s talk about the cast, Eve Best, Merritt Wever, Peter Facinelli, and Anna Deavere Smith play some of the most compelling, juicy characters of all time, and they do some of the best acting in TV history in my humble opinion. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll root for characters you hate. In short: if you’re looking for an emotionally draining but at the same time hilarious show, Nurse Jackie is just the thing. And with seven seasons, it will keep you busy for quite a while. Streaming on Netflix. —Esther Cohen, social media manager

The Last Kingdom

I’m the first one to turn my nose up at modern soap operas, whether they be the kind that air in the middle of the morning on network television or of the Real Housewives variety. But throw in a historical setting, Vikings, and plenty of gratuitous violence, and I’m suddenly the world’s biggest soap opera fan.

The Last Kingdom, a Netflix series based on the popular Saxon Stories books by Bernard Cornwell, is exactly that: a soap opera set in ninth century England during the time of the Danish Viking invasions. It’s got intrigue, romance, banter, lovely scenery, beautiful sets, and, of course, plenty of sword fighting and pillaging.

There are now four seasons of The Last Kingdom out, which means you will spend at least 40 hours watching them all. It has also been renewed for a fifth season. I just finished season 3 and have now spent many hours going down a Wikipedia hole to see how the characters in the show relate to their real-life counterparts from 1,200 years ago. Streaming on Netflix. —Dan Seifert, deputy editor

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