It’s the dead of summer, the days are sweltering, and your options are clear: find a cool place to relax outdoors — any river, ocean, lake, or pool will do — or relegate yourself to the air conditioned oasis of your domicile (we’re hoping you have A/C). For those who choose the latter, you’ll need something engaging to help you while away those long hours indoors. And nothing turns the long wheel of time like a good binge-watching session.
However, for cord-cutters who have already burned through the standards from Orange is the New Black and House of Cards, to Archer and Always Sunny, it might be time for a little help discovering some new blood. That’s why we’re here. For your summer viewing pleasure, we’ve compiled our list of some slightly out of the way favorites, many of which you’ve likely heard of, but may have failed to launch as of yet.
We’ve done the ‘work’ for you, so sit back, grab a cool drink, and peruse our litany of binging beauties from the big three cord-cutter allies, Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Prime offerings from Amazon Instant video.
You may know him as Stringer Bell from The Wire, Charles Miner from The Office, or the perennial badass in movies like Pacific Rim – but if you don’t know Luther, you don’t know Idris Elba. This gritty crime drama follows the brilliant, yet utterly-flawed detective as he hunts down maniacal killers, while his own personal life turns to ashes on the sidelines. Relentlessly clever, shockingly violent, and expertly acted, Luther’s three seasons will keep you on the edge of your seat for hours on end.
Peep Show (Netflix)
While it could easily be compared to a British version of the Odd Couple on steroids, there’s nothing quite like Peep Show. A comedy series from sketch duo David Mitchell and Robert Webb, the show is shot almost entirely from POV, but the view of the camera soon fades away to be upstaged by utter hilarity. Incessantly anal Mark Corrigan and his sex-crazed, man-boy roommate Jeremy Usborne (Jez) dig themselves into all sorts of unbelievably uncomfortable situations. With eight seasons of dark, bold comedic gold to navigate, you’d better get some popcorn.
Comedy Bang-Bang (Netflix)
Undoubtedly the weirdest talk show on planet earth, Comedy Bang-bang takes subversive humor, over-the-top gags, and witty one-liners to 11. The show is not for the timid, but even though it fails occasionally (see the fake trailer for a movie about a grown man still in the womb) the constant list of A-list stars in odd situations is unlike anything else on the comedy scene. Throw in the fantastical and hilarious Reggie Watts on the loop machine, and this one’s a winner.
South Park (Hulu Plus)
Sure, after 17 years on the air, this show isn’t exactly a sleeper hit. But how long has it been since you went back to the old days of construction paper animation, Chef’s Salisbury steak, and monsters with Patrick Duffy for a leg? If you’ve been out of ‘The Park’ for awhile, now that the entire series has landed on Hulu Plus (and therefore your TV), it might be time to spend a few cathartic hours with everybody’s favorite little bastards.
Shark Week (Netflix)
Do we really have to say anything? It’s shark week! And thanks to this compilation of four loaded collections of the massive fish doing their dead-eyed shark thing, you can make every week Shark Week – for a while anyway. Did we mention it’s Shark Week?
Chances are you’ve already checked out this retelling of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s ingenius archetypal sleuth – but in case you haven’t, it’s time to get on board. While the series may deviate immensely from the scores of short stories upon which it’s based, what we really like about it is its ability to capture the absolute essence of Holmes. Adding a 21st century spin makes Sherlock a perfect escape for both newcomers and diehards of the series alike, and masterful performances from Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman don’t hurt either.
Workaholics (Amazon Instant)
Sure, you’ve probably seen this ridiculous series following the hijinks of three stoner telemarketers, but did you know there are four full seasons loaded and ready on Amazon Instant? We kind of figured this show would taper off after Season one, but there are evidently plenty of hilarious nuggets left in the brains of this young comedy team to keep things in high gear. From ‘future babe’ attacks, to office camping, there’s plenty of fun to be had.
HBO Vault (Amazon Instant)
For those who haven’t discovered alternative means of acquiring prime HBO content, let’s not forget that Amazon Instant recently scored a motherlode of shows, including a few you’ve undoubtedly seen, and some you may have forgotten existed. For the record, the list of critically acclaimed awesomeness available free to Prime members includes the full series of Oz, The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, Rome, Six Feet Under, Eastbound & Down, and Flight of the Conchords. The service also has select episodes of True Blood and Boardwalk Empire. There goes August.
Suits (Amazon Instant)
Is it just us, or does this slick series set in a high-powered New York law firm feel decidedly 80’s? Maybe its the hair. Either way, if you haven’t had a chance to get dive in yet, season one of this series proves it’s just clever enough to rise above the status quo legal-eagle formula for an original take on an old trick. The characters are engaging (especially hot-shot lawyer Harvey Spector and his genius protege Mike), the vicarious living is tangible, and is that a Primaluna amplifier on Harvey’s desk?
An Idiot Abroad (Netflix)
We’ve all got a friend or relative who is, shall we say, less than cultured? What would happen if you took your closed-minded pal and sent him or her to the farthest corners of the globe to have completely unsolicited adventures? That’s exactly what show creators Ricky Gervais, and Steve Merchant wondered. And since they’re millionaire producers, they went ahead and made a show about it. Follow this ‘Idiot’ (Karl Pilkington) as he reluctantly discovers the world outside his cozy habitat, and makes hilariously un-PC comments and assumptions along the way.
Vikings (Amazon Instant)
While we’re pretty sure this show marks the official end of any scholastic relevance from the so-called “History” Channel, this breakout scripted series is pretty damned entertaining. The story follows the rise of discontented Nordic badass Ragnar Lothbrok, and his quest to go west in the late 8th century. Viking lore, violence, a bit of sex, and absolutely epic landscapes make this show a great way to waste an evening or two.
Drunk History (Amazon Instant)
Ever wonder about the origins of Kellog’s Corn flakes, seatbelts, or Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders? There’s no better way to find out then letting a drunken celebrity walk you through it. Based on the Web series of the same name, the show follows host Derek Walters as he tours a different American town each week, and gets a trio of mostly-true history lessons from actors and comedians who call the place home. For those who haven’t seen it, it’s hard to illustrate how funny it is to see Bob Odenkirk play Richard Nixon to inebriated narration, but trust us, it’s worth a look.
Not to be confused with Marin, as in Cheech Marin, this pseudo-biographical series from IFC follows the eternally negative comedian Marc Maron as he gets into odd, socially awkward adventures, and spearhead’s his podcast. (“Podcast?! Mark, everyone’s doin’ podcasts.”) Maron has never been funnier, and a revolving cast of comedians that drop by for an interview (or a therapy session) make this series a must-watch.
Hannibal (Amazon Instant)
How this standout was snubbed by the Emmys this year is a total mystery to us. The show follows Thomas Harris’s infamous characters Hannibal Lecter and the man who captured him, Will Graham, just before the proverbial you-know-what hits the fan. With daring writing and brilliant performances from newcomers Hugh Dancy and Mad Mikkelsen, as well as the indelible Laurence Fishburne, Hannibal is a frontrunner for the best drama on NBC right now.
Adventure Time (Netflix)
How do we describe this oddball of a cartoon? It’s like someone extremely imaginative took acid, went back in time, and decided to create a series with his prepubescent self. The stories are wild, and sometimes even a little scary, but it’s also exactly as the title describes: an adventure. If you’re down to take a strange trek with Finn and his talking dog Jake into The Land of Ooo, Adventure Time is a great companion to help you kill some brain cells time.
Orphan Black (Amazon Instant)
The mystery begins when a woman sees her doppleganger in striking circumstances on a subway platform, and some quick thinking leads to life-changing events. The show proceeds to pull you down the rabbit hole with just the right mix of dark twists and turns, and a touch of comic relief. We can’t say much more for fear of sullying the suspense, but suffice it to say that this one sinks its hooks in early, and doesn’t let go.
That’s our list for wasting enjoying your summer to the max. We’re sure we’ve missed a few under-the-radar hits, so feel free to let us know which awesome dark horse delights should have made the cut in the comments below.