There was a time, before I became a parent, that I used to read for fun. I’d read and read and read and form opinions and feel competent and smart. I’d read fiction, non-fiction, memoir. I’d try to read Noam Chomsky, then just dive in to “The Red Tent” again instead. I loved that satisfying feeling of closing the book, slowly, after consuming the last line, and then just sitting for a moment to savor the experience.
Nowadays (i.e. days when I use words like “nowadays”), with two young kids and the energy level of a slug, the reading doesn’t happen so much. I tried to get back into the joy of books but it felt like work, usually at a time when work was the last thing I wanted to do.
But you know what doesn’t feel like work? You know what feels like the perfect escape just when I need it? And you know what can be done while cleaning the kitchen every night? Watching television.
So I thought I’d compile a short (read: non-exhaustive) list of my summer binge-watch essentials. This list is for anyone looking for the perfect entertainment/off switch for the thinking brain to be enjoyed at the end of a long summer day while you’re finishing up your chores or when you should probably be sleeping.
**NOTE** I don’t have cable. I stream a lot of TV from Netflix, Amazon Prime, network websites, and Hulu Plus. There are other ways, less “legal” ways, if you look hard enough. If you do have cable, I’ve heard On Demand is pretty comprehensive.
IF YOU LIKE BEACH READS:
1) Jane the Virgin : The CW is having another moment with this super well-crafted dramedy modeled after the crazy popular Spanish telenovela. It’s creative and quirky and features great performances and witty writing. Rogelio De La Vega will make you laugh every time he speaks.
2) Younger : This one comes from TV Land, which I seem to remember as a place to watch old-timey shows like “Green Acres” and shit, but then they made that “Hot in Cleveland” show with Betty White, so I guess times have changed. Anyway, “Younger” is about a recently divorced 42-year-old mom who passes herself off as a 26-year-old hipster to get a job in the New York publishing world. She instantly lands a hot 26-year-old boyfriend and I found myself watching just to see what would happen with them. I’d never want to be 26 again, but this show is a fun little voyeuristic look at the idea of faking it.
3) Grace and Frankie : Hot off the Netflix Originals press, this show, starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, is charming in its irreverence. Plus, it’s really cool to see smart, creative, complicated, beautiful women in their 70s represented on television. The supporting performances are slightly lackluster (except for June Diane Raphael as Brianna), but you forgive them because Lily Tomlin is so fantastic.
IF YOU LIKE NOIR FICTION
1) Daredevil : Netflix is on a roll. It’s undeniable. And Daredevil is one of its most successful original series yet. I tend to get excited about comic book characters in movies but I wasn’t sure about this one. Vincent D’Onofrio, who plays the villain, literally scares me. Like, I try not to look at him. But Charlie Cox, who plays our hero, is really fun to look at and made me believe he was blinded as a child and now has crazy augmented other senses. I watched this one in blocks, rather than a true binge, because its world is so unhappy and there’s a lot of violence (“Sons of Anarchy” ruined me. I can only handle so much fake blood in one year).
2) Bloodline : It took me a little longer than usual to get through this one because it is SO DARK. But I stuck with it because Kyle Chandler. It’s twisty and sad and tragic and nobody is blameless, which can be tough to watch but is also pretty much how these things go. Follow the Rayburn family through some super intense shit and see who’s side you’re on in the end.
3) Orphan Black: Tatiana Maslany plays the main character, Sarah Manning, – and EVERY SINGLE ONE OF HER CLONES – in this sci-fi-ish thriller from BBC America. She does this so well that you’ll forget she’s doing it. That is to say, the characters are so different and so three-dimensional that you take them each at face value and believe that they are indeed different people. I suppose you could say, “That’s called acting,” but I think it’s called “amazingly high caliber, next level acting that makes a show super fun to watch.” I think Alison Hendrix is my favorite.
IF YOU LIKE THE CLASSICS
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS : If you haven’t yet seen my favorite television show of all time, I’m jealous. I wish I could see it all again for the first time. I’ve watched this series three times through (five seasons, most of them short) and I will absolutely watch it again. And again. I will watch this show with my children as soon as it’s appropriate. You don’t have to love – or even understand – football to enjoy this show, you just have to be a human. Seriously, guys, watch it. It could even make you a better parent.