Summer is upon us and you know what that means — the beach, baseball games, barbecues, and hours upon hours of binge-watching television in a dark, air-conditioned room. Here are our picks for which TV shows you should be bingeing on for the month of June.
What it is: HBO’s serialized crime drama anthology was designed to feature a new story each season. Told partially in flashback across two decades, its acclaimed first season starred Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as a pair of former Louisiana homicide detectives who are brought in for questioning when a disturbing murder conjures familiar cult imagery from a similar case they worked together in 1995.
Why you should watch it: The first season was nominated for a number of awards, taking home four Emmys, and McConaughey and Harrelson earned a fair bit of acclaim for their powerful, nuanced performances. The show is a slow burn, full of creeping tension and philosophical meditations on life and death, but it also packs a mean visceral punch, making it one of the most complex and rewarding dramas in recent memory. Since the second season premieres on Jun. 21, now is a great time to catch up on the series and get a feel for its tone before it delivers its second gut punch.
Where to watch: If you don’t have an HBO Go subscription, you can purchase individual episodes online from iTunes, Vudu, or Amazon Prime. Otherwise, you can pick up the DVD or Blu-ray in a season set, which is available now.
Commitment: Eight hours.
What it is: Inspired by the real-life story of Piper Kerman, Orange Is the New Black follows a thirty-something New Yorker as she adjusts to her 15-month sentence in a prison after a long-ago lesbian affair with an international drug smuggler catches up with her. We also get to know the diverse prison population and their past actions that landed them there.
Why you should watch it: With season three premiering Jun. 12 on Netflix, now is the perfect time to get caught up on one of TV’s most critically acclaimed, buzzed about shows. With its frank honesty and game-changing look at crime, race, gender, and female sexuality, Orange Is the New Black shows character types rarely shown on television.
Where to watch: The first two seasons are streaming on Netflix, and are available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Commitment: 26 hours.
What it is: Following the events of The Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) assembles a handpicked team of the agency’s “best and brightest” to investigate unusual phenomena in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Why you should watch it: Gregg’s Phil Coulson is one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s secret weapons. He keeps that universe grounded, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. gives him some great foils. Although the major superheroes are missing, Coulson’s fellow agents May, Fitz, and Simmons are solid characters in their own right.
Where to watch: On Jun. 11, season two comes to Netflix, where season one is currently streaming. You can also catch up on both seasons on Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, iTunes, and Vudu, and Xbox Video.
Commitment: 33 hours.
What it is: A vampiric “virus” is discovered after a plane lands in New York with all but four passengers dead of mysterious causes. The remaining survivors gradually acquire a rapacious appetite for — can you guess? — blood. The virus spreads throughout New York in The Strain‘s freshman season, exposing cryptic roots and narratives that lead back to Nazi Germany.
Why you should watch it: This one is darker than The Vampire Diaries and less tongue-in-cheek than True Blood. The devolution of the plane survivors into vampires and the spread of the disease unraveling make season one a top-notch horror-fest. The gore is plentiful and mesmerizing, with deliciously disgusting villains.
Commitment: 10 hours.
What it is: Broadly speaking, The Wire follows a ragtag task force assembled by the Baltimore Police Department to investigate a local drug kingpin suspected of multiple homicides. As the case expands, it illuminates the systemic malaise and corruption plaguing the city’s various public institutions.
Why you should watch it: There are plenty of police procedurals in the world, and there are plenty of movies about inner-city life, but nothing before or since has captured the rhythms of a city — from the street corners to the interrogation rooms, from the docks to the halls of power — like The Wire does for Baltimore.
Commitment: 60 hours.
What it is: Inspired by the Elmore Leonard story, “Fire in the Hole”, Timothy Olyphant is quick-on-the-draw Deputy US Marshal Raylan Givens, whose itchy trigger finger has gotten him reassigned to Lexington, KY, near his hometown of Harlan. He is quickly drawn back to the problems and rivalries that he’d hoped he’d left behind.
Why you should watch it: The final season was released on DVD on Jun. 2, so you you can now binge the entire series without interruption. Rylan’s rivalry with Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) is a lynchpin of the series, and watching these two play off one another is not to be missed. The recurring roles also feature a stable of some of the finest character actors in Hollywood.
Commitment: 78 hours.
What it is: An epic spoof of melodramatic miniseries that follows the tumultuous relationship between Cynthia Morehouse (Kristen Wiig) and her adoptive brother Devon (Tobey Maguire).
Why you should watch it: A preposterous potboiler full of hammy acting, zero-budget special effects, tasteless clothing, and surreal casting choices (Jessica Alba as a marine biologist! Carey Mulligan as the voice of Devon’s mannequin wife! Haley Joel Osment as Cynthia’s spoiled son!), The Spoils of Babylon is so stupid that it’s kind of genius. It’s worth watching for Will Ferrell’s performance as Eric Jonrosh, the boozy, pompous author of the (fake) source novel.
Commitment: Two glorious hours.
What it is: Based on the stand-up comedy of comedian Jerry Seinfeld, the show follows four 30-something New Yorkers going about their lives who happen to find themselves in bizarre, yet true-to-life situations on a daily basis.
Why you should watch it: The original show about nothing, after nearly a decade dominating the sitcom game, the Seinfeld‘s quirky characters and their shenanigans have worked their way deep into the cultural lexicon. No soup for you!
Where to watch: All nine seasons are coming to Hulu on Jun. 24 and the complete series is available on DVD.
Commitment: 66 hours.
What it is: Halle Berry stars in a Steven Spielberg sci-fi mystery series that explores a female astronaut’s challenging efforts to fit back into society after spending a year in space. To make matters worse and weirder, she finds that she has returned with an embryo growing rapidly inside her, even though there has been no cause for the conception.
Why you should watch it: It’s worth a watch because it has Spielberg and Berry’s names on it alone. But it maintains intrigue as a conspiracy thriller tangled around an odd, sci-fi sort of immaculate conception. Futuristic technology is still fun to see, as is a potential generation of robot kids for parents who desire familial add-ons. More mystery will arrive in season two with the addition of Jeffrey Dean Morgan to the cast.
Where to watch: The show returns with new episodes Jul. 1 on CBS, and you can watch season one on Amazon Instant Video now.
Commitment: 10 hours.
What it is: SNL alum Amy Poehler plays Leslie Knope, the sweet, slightly neurotic workaholic Deputy Director of the Parks and Recreation department in the fictional town of Pawnee, IN. Ambitious and perpetually optimistic, Leslie is sometimes prone to work-related tunnel vision, but her eccentric and affectionate staff — including her staunchly anti-bureaucracy boss Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) — help to nudge her back in the right direction when she needs it.
Why you should watch it: Parks and Rec officially ended its run earlier this year, and the complete series just found its way onto DVD this week, so it’s the perfect time to find out what made the series such a fan favorite. Created by the folks who brought you The Office, the show is a breezy workplace comedy with a sweet center and a fantastic cast of supporting characters — many of whom were relative unknowns when the series began and have gone on to become stars in their own right (Offerman, Chris Pratt, Aziz Ansari, Aubrey Plaza).
Commitment: At 125 episodes over seven seasons, it’s about 46 hours.
Which of these shows would you recommend to a friend? Let us know in the comments section below!