Since it’s so hard to know which of the hundreds of new TV shows are worth your time, here are six that I’ve enjoyed and strongly recommend you try…
“Barry” is an HBO series that ran its first season last spring and had me hooked from the first episode. Bill Hader, another SNL alum, plays the title character, a hitman tired of killing people. On a job in LA, he comes upon an acting class run by teacher Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler, perfect in the role) and gets involved with both the lessons and the other students. Meanwhile, his boss Fuches (the ever-dependable Stephen Root) steers him into trouble with the Croatian mob and some Bolivian drug dealers. It’s all played completely straight, but had some of the funniest moments of the year. My wife didn’t watch the show with me in its original run, but we just binge-watched the first season together via the HBO Go app, and now she’s ready to watch season two with me when it starts Sunday night. I already have the DVR set to record it.
“Flack” is a drama series on Pop about publicists who help clients get past career crises. A famed celebrity chef and family man who womanizes. A pop star about to be dropped by her label. A client who announced she was pregnant, then hired a surrogate to have the baby, then was photographed in public without her fake baby bump. The head of an organic cosmetics company that promises to rejuvenate women is caught having a face lift. Anna Paquin stars in this very entertaining show, which stays just this side of farce. Your cable/satellite provider probably carries the Pop channel (now owned by CBS), but you can also watch all the episodes — including the first five you’ve missed — on the Pop app.
“After Life” is a Netflix limited series starring Ricky Gervais as a man whose wife recently died of cancer. It’s left him more than morose — he’s practically suicidal — so he decides that he’ll do and say whatever he wants every day, and when that gets old, he’ll end it. That doesn’t sound like the recipe for comedy, but Gervais has written his character into some situations that are ripe for poking fun (e.g. his overcoming-grief sessions with the worst therapist ever), and that’s when the show is at its best. Keep an eye out for Ashley Jensen, who was Gervais’ second-banana in the underrated HBO series “Extras” a few years back.
“Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj” is Netflix’s answer to John Oliver, with another former “The Daily Show” correspondent spending a half-hour breaking down a topic, with plenty of comic asides and astute observations. The show is very well produced, and Minhaj is really good as the host. Come to think of it, he’s the entire show.
“Russian Doll” is a Netflix series starring Natasha Lyonne as a woman who keeps dying and being rejuvenated. It starts in the bathroom of a friend who’s throwing Lyonne a 36th birthday party — then things get weird. If you think this is just another “Groundhog Day,” you’ll miss the really rich interplay between Lyonne and everyone she meets on her adventure, not to mention the odd ways she dies over and over (I’ll just say that if she watched where she was walking, there would only have been one episode).
“Shrill” is a Hulu series starring Aidy Bryant from SNL as Annie, a Woman Of Size dealing with a society that looks dimly upon girth. She works for a weekly newspaper with John Cameron Mitchell as her pain-in-the-ass boss and dates a guy who, after sex, makes her leave his apartment via the fence behind his building. Fortunately, she has Lolly Adefope as her wonderful roommate Fran and Julia Sweeney as her mother, with whom Annie has great chemistry. I’m only a couple of episodes into this one, but plan to watch the rest soon.