Binge Guide

7 TV Shows You Should Binge-Watch This August

Ozark, Ballers, Better Call Saul, and Insecure are among the month's top binge TV offerings.

by | August 1, 2018 | Comments

Late-summer TV is underway, and we’ve got a nearly equal number of years-running returning series and sophomore season entries. From corrupt lawyers and Hollywood producers to megachurch pastors and struggling millennials, there’s plenty to choose from to get you through this last leg of the hot months, so curl up, cool off, and get ready to binge.

Better Call Saul 98% (AMC)

What it is: Ever wonder how, exactly, Breaking Bad’s Saul Goodman got to be so darn slimy? AMC’s acclaimed spin-off, Better Call Saul, is here to help. The companion series satisfyingly builds on the original Vince Gilligan drama, while also coherently etching an identity of its own for viewers of all proclivities.  

Why you should watch it: The series takes a character we think we know — the Saul Goodman who Breaking Bad’s Walter White eventually meets in that Albuquerque, New Mexico, strip mall — and breaks him down to his nuts and bolts, starting at Jimmy McGill. Played wonderfully by Bob Odenkirk in what could become his career-defining (certainly career-changing) role, Saul/Jimmy and his uneasy partnership with Jonathan Banks’ Mike Ehrmantraut make for must-watch hours for any lover of prestige TV, Breaking Bad die-hard or not. Season 4 premieres August 6 on AMC.

Where to watch: Amazon, FandangoNOW, Google Play, Microsoft, Netflix, Vudu

Commitment: Approx. 23 hours

Ballers 72% (HBO)

What it is: From creator and multi-Emmy nominee Stephen Levinson (Entourage), Ballers stars movie star of the world Dwayne Johnson as Spencer Strasmore, a Miami Dolphins retiree who finds a second-wind career as a financial manager for the footballer pros and rich industry friends he left behind.

Why you should watch it: Yes, Johnson ranks among the world’s highest paid and biggest movie stars (and that’s not just in terms of his 6′4″, 260 lb. build), but Ballers is definitive proof that he’s got the acting chops to back up his paycheck and larger-than-life appeal. Plus — like Entourage before it — watching high-rolling men butting heads and behaving badly often makes for entertaining TV. Ballers season 4 premieres August 12 on HBO.

Where to watch it: Amazon, FandangoNOW, Google Play, HBO NOW, Microsoft, Vudu

Commitment: Approx. 15 hours

Get Shorty (Epix)

What it is: The sheen of Hollywood and its surrounding City of Angels can turn even the coldest heart to one of gold — at least that’s the underlying notion behind Get Shorty, which charts hit man Miles Daly’s (Chris O’Dowd) unlikely journey to becoming a Hollywood producer.

Why you should watch it: There’s something inherently funny about a murderous mobster finding his inner artist and sensitively grappling with those two divisions of his character. We saw it play out to great success earlier this year with Barry on HBO, but Get Shorty really mastered the formula nearly 30 years ago with Elmore Leonard’s 1990 novel and its 1995 film adaptation starring John Travolta, Gene Hackman, and Danny DeVito. That film, however, Get Shorty the series is not. Darker and more character-driven than its feature counterpart, Get Shorty also boasts a welcome return to form for Ray Romano, whose B-movie producer Rick Moreweather is his juiciest role in years. Season 2 premieres August 12 on Epix.

Where to watch: Amazon, Epix, FandangoNOW, Google Play, Microsoft, Vudu

Commitment: Approx. 8 hours

Insecure 96% (HBO)

What it is: Inspired by creator Issa Rae’s web series Awkward Black Girl, Insecure follows the awkward day-to-day happenings of Issa Dee, her best friend Molly, and her love-on-the-rocks boyfriend, Lawrence, with notes as often comedic as they are heart-wrenching and true-to-life.

Why you should watch it: Issa Rae is utterly fearless, and Insecure is all the better for it. The freshly minted Emmy nominee weaves hot-button issues like gentrification, race, gender, and poverty into solid storytelling and character development. If you want to see what tough love and hard truths look like both in friendship and romance, Insecure serves those down-deep, human universals in spades — and it’s among the best series on television to do so. Season 3 premieres August 12 on HBO.

Where to watch it: Amazon, FandangoNOW, Google Play, HBO NOW, Microsoft, Vudu

Commitment: Approx. 8 hours

Mr. Mercedes 91% (Audience Network)

What it is: From esteemed showrunner David E. Kelley (most recently of Big Little Lies fame), Mr. Mercedes is a cold-blooded, small-screen adaptation of Stephen King’s Bill Hodges Trilogy. The series follows longtime career detective Hodges (Brendan Gleeson) as he’s forced out of retirement by ruthless serial killer Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway), who knows just how to get under Hodges’ skin and into his mind.

Why you should watch it: Gleeson is the kind of actor who offers a natural gravitas to any situation, but Detective Hodges especially gives him a lot to chew on. Met mark-for-mark in this twisted game of cat and mouse by an impressive Treadaway (previously of Penny Dreadful) and a reliably pitch-perfect supporting turn from Holland Taylor as Hodges’ neighbor Ida, Gleeson’s latest isn’t just one of his strongest projects in recent memory — it’s one of TV’s finest hidden gems. Seek it out. Season 2 premieres August 22 on the Audience Network.

Where to watch: Audience

Commitment: Approx. 8 hours

Greenleaf (OWN)

What it is: An original scripted drama from Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network, Greenleaf stars Broadway veteran Merle Dandridge as Grace, a pastor who returns to her estranged family — megachurch bishop James Greenleaf (Keith David) and Lady Mae Greenleaf (Lynn Whitfield) — after a 20-year absence. The occasion? The mysterious death of her sister Faith.

Why you should watch it: Greenleaf packs an emotional punch, thanks largely due to its trio of lead performances and a hearty supporting turn from Ms. Winfrey herself. To little surprise, the drama in this Tennessee family runs thicker than their shared blood, and it makes for a savory and soapy hour of must-watch TV. Season 3 premieres August 28 on OWN.

Where to watch: Amazon, FandangoNOW, Google Play, Microsoft, Netflix, Vudu

Commitment: Approx. 20 hours

Ozark 81% (Netflix)

What it is: Ozark, from creators Bill Dubuque and Mark Williams, is the story of Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman, who also directed six of the first season’s 10 episodes), a financial adviser in Chicago who’s been laundering money for the cartel with his partner for years. But despite his meek, follow-the-leader personality, Marty talks his way out of a death sentence when things go awry with his crime boss and moves his family — including wife Wendy (Laura Linney) — to the Ozarks to keep the dealings afloat and the family alive.

Why you should watch it: Ozark isn’t the first series of its kind to portray good people doing bad things, but it’s about as good as those series come. Now sitting pretty with three Emmy nominations going into September’s ceremony (including both Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series and Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series nods for star and director Jason Bateman), the series conjures an all-encompassing bleakness situated snug in the apparent beauty of the Ozarks, and it establishes Bateman as so much more than the comedic actor most know him as today. Even more than just a vehicle for Bateman, however, it’s an ensemble drama (with an equally stellar Laura Linney, no less) that tackles the power of wealth and greed, human nature, and the ties that bind within family and beyond. Season 2 premieres August 31 on Netflix.

Where to watch it: Netflix

Commitment: Approx. 10.5 hours

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