The television landscape looks a lot different today than it did five years ago. The rise of streaming and a la carte viewing has led to the imminent death of the monoculture and appointment viewing.
With Game of Thrones nearing its final season, some are already mourning the loss of water-cooler television. But for every mega-hit show about dragons or White Walkers, there are dozens of quality series that find passionate, albeit smaller, audiences. (FX reports that there were 455 original scripted shows in 2016 and estimated as many as 500 in 2017.) So there's just a lot of original programming out there to sift through first.
January presents a perfect opportunity to finally catch up on all of the TV you missed in 2017. Unless you're an awards season enthusiast, this month is notoriously awful for movies. Really, what better to do than stay inside and cuddle up around your screen of choice? And if you start now, you'll be done with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel just in time to watch star Rachel Brosnahan take home the Golden Globe on Sunday, January 7.
In case you need inspiration, we made some recommendations for shows — everything from female-driven storytelling to sci-fi to gross-out comedy — you must to add to your binge list:
For fans of: Royal family drama; female-driven storytelling; Peter Morgan's The Queen; politics; the English countryside; Meghan Markle
What's it about? The Crown is a sumptuous look at Queen Elizabeth II's (Claire Foy) early reign, from strained conversations in Buckingham Palace with Winston Churchill (John Lithgow) and marital woes with Prince Philip (Matt Smith) to the casual everyday sexism of the 1950s. (Even the Queen isn't immune to that.) The second season of the stately drama ups the emotional ante, focusing on Lilibet's insecurities (the crown can be heavy) and Philip's complexities with key features from the Kennedys and Vanessa Kirby's captivating Princess Margaret.
Where to watch: Seasons 1 and 2 are available on Netflix. But don't get too attached to Foy's Queen Elizabeth II — Olivia Colman will be stepping into her royal shoes when The Crown returns later this year after a time jump.
The Marvelous Mrs. MaiselAmazon
For fans of: Gilmore Girls; female-driven storytelling; Tony Shalhoub; stand-up comedy; tea-length hemlines; Lenny Bruce; witty, fast-paced dialogue
What's it about? From the eccentric mind of Amy Sherman-Palladino (Gilmore Girls), The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel follows Miriam "Midge" Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan), a witty, Jewish Upper West Side housewife whose picture-perfect life is turned upside down when her husband Joel (Michael Zegen) — an aspiring stand-up comedian who lacks confidence and actual jokes — leaves her for his secretary ("the Methodist version of me," Midge says.) But when she wanders into the Gaslight Café in a drunken rage and delivers a truly hilarious stand-up set, Midge emerges as the radical new voice of the New York City comedy scene in 1958. Famed comedian Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby) also appears as a supporting character.
Where to watch: All eight episodes of Season 1 are available to stream on Amazon Video.
For fans of: Stranger Things; Twin Peaks; sci-fi; time travel; cool German music; Stephen King; subtitles; rain
What's it about? Netflix's first German language show, Dark, is a total mind trip. Spanning multiple decades, Dark follows four interconnected families in a small German town in three distinct timelines: 1953, 1986, and 2019. To say anything more would ruin all the fun, but just know that when it comes to Dark, the real mystery isn't a question of who, how, or why but rather, when?
Where to watch: You can find Season 1 on Netflix. Pro tip: Turn the English dub off and watch it in the original German with English subtitles.
For fans of: True crime; Making a Murderer; The Jinx; brave, badass women; whodunits; Reddit threads; not having all of the answers
What's it about? The Keepers is the rare true-crime story that puts the focus on the victims and not the alleged perpetrator. The docuseries examines the unsolved murder of a Baltimore nun, Sister Catherine Cesnik, and the women — Sister Cathy's former students — who have worked tirelessly to solve the crime. But over the course of the riveting and heart-wrenching series, it ultimately becomes a powerful story about survivors of sexual assault and its lingering effects. Just brace yourself: This is the kind of show that sticks with you long after you've finished watching it.
Where to watch: All seven episodes are available on Netflix.
For fans of: The Goonies; Aliens; Stand By Me; Steven Spielberg's entire canon; the 1980s; Dungeons & Dragons; "silent, violent little girls"; John Hughes earnestness; Winona Ryder
What's it about? When a boy mysteriously vanishes in Hawkins, Indiana, in 1983, his manic mother (Winona Ryder) and his best friends refuse to give up hope of finding him. They're especially encouraged when a young girl with psychokinetic abilities (Millie Bobby Brown) wanders into town. But Stranger Things is more than a thrilling sci-fi series, it's an entertaining coming-of-age tale featuring an abundance of '80s pop-culture references and a cast of cute, scene-stealing kids. Stranger Things 2 dives even further into the Upside Down — the show's other realm — revealing the terrifying Final Boss who lurks beneath the town.
Where to watch: The first two seasons are available on Netflix — globally and in the Upside Down (but they get terrible service down there).
For fans of: The Archie comics; Gossip Girl; Zodiac; milkshakes; teenage angst; campy musical numbers; murder mysteries; Twin Peaks; pop culture quips; Jingle Jangle; Cole Sprouse
What's it about? It's hard to imagine a show more binge-worthy than The CW's Riverdale. Based on the iconic characters from the Archie comics, the show's stylized, subversive take on Archie (KJ Apa), Betty (Lili Reinhart), Veronica (Camila Mendes), and Jughead (Cole Sprouse) is so captivating and so enjoyable that it's hard to look away. Archie's hot and hooking up with his teacher; Jughead's a brooding bad boy; Veronica's a reformed mean girl; and Betty isn't the wholesome girl next door who moons over Archie anymore. Oh, and there's a murder mystery to solve! The second season doubles down on the crazy and introduces a serial killer and a street drug called Jingle Jangle.
Where to watch: You can catch up on Season 1 on Netflix and watch Season 2 episodes on the CW app.
For fans of: Marvel; The O.C.; superheroes; teen melodrama; parents behaving badly; Brian K. Vaughan; dinosaurs; shipping
What's it about? Dubbed "The O.C. of the Marvel Universe" by Marvel Television head Jeph Loeb, Marvel's Runaways follows six former best friends who must unite against a common enemy: their parents. The realization of their parents' misdeeds awakens the teens' individual abilities, some supernatural, some not. Based on Brian K. Vaughan's seminal comic book series, Runaways explores complex relationships, gender fluidity, and features a primarily female group of superheroes. And one character has a pet dinosaur.
Where to watch: The first season is available on Hulu. If you start binging now, you'll be ready for the finale when it drops on January 9.
For fans of: True crime; satire; mockumentary-style filmmaking; high school comedies; Election; Snapchat; Making a Murderer; Serial; dick jokes
What's it about? Who drew the dicks? That's the central mystery of American Vandal, a hilarious true-crime parody that is more wholehearted than it has any right to be. The irreverent comedy follows high school reporter Peter Maldonado (Tyler Alvarez) and his best friend and camera man Sam Ecklund (Griffin Gluck) as they investigate a ridiculous act of vandalism that left 27 teachers' cars marked with spray-painted penises. Teen oaf Dylan Maxwell (Jimmy Tatro) stands accused — but did he really do it?
Where to watch: The first season is available to stream on Netflix.
The Handmaid's TaleHulu
For fans of: Dystopian fiction; female-driven storytelling; Margaret Atwood; women; Bitch Planet; Children of Men; the Resistance
What's it about? Based on the Margaret Atwood novel of the same name, The Handmaid's Tale takes place in the Republic of Gilead, a near-future where women are stripped of their agency and subjected to more traditional gender roles. For example, handmaids are fertile young women who are forced to submit to their male masters and bear children for the conservative ruling class. The Emmy-winning series follows Offred (Elisabeth Moss), a handmaid who joins a revolution to overthrow Gilead's totalitarian rule.
Where to watch: Season 1 is available on Hulu. Offred's story continues in Season 2, which is set to premiere in April.
For fans of: David Fincher; Se7en; serial killers; The Silence of the Lambs; psychological thrillers; the 1970s; Spring Awakening
What's it about? On the surface, Mindhunter may look like Zodiac: The Series, but it's more of a slow burn like Fincher's seminal mind-fuck, Se7en. Starring a baby-faced Jonathan Groff as a FBI agent Holden Ford, the series dramatizes the early days of criminal psychology at the FBI and the creation of Behavioral Science Unit. If you want to watch Groff have a lot of unsettling conversations with serial killers, this is the show for you.
Where to watch: You can watch the first season on Netflix (preferably with the lights on).
For fans of: Nick Kroll; cartoons; gross-out comedy; awkward preteen years; male friendship; first crushes; hormone monsters; Duke Ellington
What's it about? Puberty. It's about puberty. Big Mouth follows two preteen best friends, Nick (voiced by Nick Kroll) and Andrew Glouberman (voiced by John Mulaney), as they go through puberty, and it doesn't gloss over the stuff that makes us human, like first periods, wet dreams, unwanted erections, and strange bodily fluids. Featuring an all-star cast of funny people (Jordan Peele, Jenny Slate, and Maya Rudolph, just to name a few) and appearances from the Hormone Monster and the Hormone Monstress, Big Mouth is gross-out comedy at its best — and most endearing.
Where to watch: So there are 10 episodes of Big Mouth to watch on Netflix, but since it's a half-hour comedy, that's only five hours of your life.
Big Little LiesHBO
For fans of: Liane Moriarty; beach reads; multimillion-dollar beach homes; Crate & Barrel; sunsets; wine; female-driven storytelling; mothers and daughters; female friendship; Reese Witherspoon
What's it about? The complicated lives of the obnoxiously wealthy residents of the uppity coastal community of Monterey, California. Starring a Murderers Row of A-list talent (Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley, Zoë Kravitz, and Alexander Skarsgård), Big Little Lies is a murder mystery so opulent and engrossing that the least interesting thing is the actual mystery. Even the soundtrack is perfectly curated! Not to mention, Madeline Martha Mackenzie is Witherspoon's most memorable character since Tracy Flick.
Where to watch: If you don't have HBO GO or HBO Now, then save it for your next in-flight binge.
For fans of: Issa Rae; sex positivity; female-driven storytelling; Melina Matsoukas; Los Angeles; SZA; female friendship; Daniel Caesar; T-shirts with a message; Lemonade; social media debates
What's it about? For writer-star Issa Rae, Insecure's first season was a confident debut that explored being a young, college-educated, and "aggressively passive" black woman in Los Angeles — from navigating workplace frustrations with her white coworkers to avoiding uncomfortable conversations with her long-term boyfriend Lawrence (Jay Ellis) to pursuing a flirtation with high-school fling Daniel (Y’Lan Noel). The HBO show's stunning second season takes an even bolder approach, with messier mistakes (literally) and more painful confrontations. But true Insecure fans know that the heart of the show isn't #TeamLawrence or #TeamDaniel — it's Issa's ride-or-die friendship with Molly (Yvonne Orji).
Where to watch: Seasons 1 and 2 are available on HBO GO and HBO Now. If you don't have access to either, then you can at least catch up on the #TeamIssa vs. #TeamLawrence drama on your Twitter timeline.
The Good PlaceNBC
For fans of: Big twists; mystery boxes; charming comedies; Kristen Bell; Lost; philosophical questions
What's it about? The Good Place is the story of Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell), a terrible, selfish person who finds herself in The Good Place after being struck and killed by a tractor carrying a billboard for erectile dysfunction pills. But it's immediately apparent to Eleanor that she's been confused, thanks to a clerical error, with some other, kinder Eleanor Shellstrop. So this Eleanor has to learn to be a good person before Michael (Ted Danson), the architect of The Good Place, finds out. Of course, that's just the premise of the NBC comedy; what it's really about is something far more cynical, but I don't want to ruin the game-changing surprise.
Where to watch: Season 1 is available to stream on Netflix (don't read any spoilers!), and you can catch up on Season 2 on NBC.com.
For fans of: Dark comedy; female-driven storytelling; Frankie Shaw; shows about moms; South Boston; cringe-laughing; protagonists who make bad decisions; impulsive acts
What's it about? On paper, a show about a poor single mom raising a toddler in Southie sounds like a drag. But Frankie Shaw's half-hour dramedy is a sharp, sometimes painful depiction of Millennial motherhood with a distinctly feminine perspective. It's messy and uneven, but that doesn't make Shaw's rough-around-the-edges voice any less vital. Brilliant supporting performances from Rosie O'Donnell, as Shaw's South Boston mother, and Connie Britton, as her wealthy, narcissistic boss, make it an exciting new must-watch.
Where to watch: If you don't have a Showtime subscription, episodes are available on Hulu.
For fans of: Women's wrestling; female-driven storytelling; Alison Brie; Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling; the 1980s; spandex leotards; sports; hairspray; female friendship; female energy; female power; Marc Maron
What's it about? Based on a short-lived 1980s women's professional wrestling program called Gorgeous Ladies of Westling, GLOW is an unabashed celebration of female power disguised as a glittering comedy from showrunners Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch. Starring Community breakout Alison Brie as a try-hard actress waiting for her own big break, GLOW is at its strongest when it focuses on its impressive female ensemble cast. Of course all of the glitter eye shadow, '80s bouffants, and over-the-top personas don't hurt either.
Where to watch: Go watch the 10-episode first season on Netflix immediately.
Dear White PeopleNetflix
For fans of: Dear White People (the movie); satire; A Different World; Scandal parodies; Barry Jenkins; narratives about black identity
What's it about? Justin Simien's smart comedy Dear White People unpacks Very Important issues like identity, racism, activism, police brutality, and gun violence — but it's no after-school special. It's far wittier and decidedly more self-aware than that. The show, like the satirical film before it, explores what it means to be black in America from the perspective of a few students at the fictional Winchester University. Also, the show's Scandal parody, Defamation, is so hilarious it's honestly worth the five-hour commitment.
Where to watch: All 10 episodes of Season 1 are available on Netflix for your binge-watching pleasure.