THE COUCH (MEDIA GENERAL) – Dear readers, it is summer. And you know what that means — time to enjoy the great outdoors!
What’s that? It is 95 and humid today? And tomorrow? And then it’s supposed to rain all weekend?
OK, here’s another idea: let’s catch up on some awesome TV shows! Here are six binge-watching suggestions for when the summer heat needs to be beaten.
When you need a laugh: ‘Parks and Recreation’
Always wondering why you keep seeing memes with that the cool, mustachioed man in your Facebook feed? That coiffed gentleman is Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson from “Parks and Rec,” and you should get in on the joke ASAP.
The show centers on the staff of the Pawnee, Indiana Parks and Recreations office, the developing relationships between the co-workers and friends, and the hilarity of small-town politics. Aside from sharp writing, the show is powered by its strong ensemble. Every character has their moment to shine, and it pays off as a light, entertaining show that consistently produces laughs.
Odds are very good you can select any episode out of the show’s seven seasons and get at least one knee-slapping laugh, but here are a few suggestions if you want to give the show a test-run: Season 2’s “The Possum,” Season 3’s “Jerry’s Painting,” Season 5’s “Ron and Diane.”
Where to watch: Netflix streaming
Episodes: 125 (Seven seasons of hilarity!)
Note: Sitcom pilot seasons typically struggle. It’s hard to establish new characters while setting the tone for a new show and squeezing in jokes. “Parks and Rec” is no different. The first season has its moments, but it pales in comparison to the rest of the series. That being said, it’s important to watch those first six episodes to get background information and storylines on the characters. Power through! It’s worth it.
When you’ve got a few minutes: ‘Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee’
Got 20 minutes in between meetings and need to unwind? Kick back with one of America’s comedy icons and … well, likely another American comedy icon.
Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” is refreshingly entertaining, lifting the veil on how comedians operate and what fuels their passion to perform. Seinfeld plays host to a wide range of comedians centered on the typical custom of meeting your friend and shooting the breeze over a cup of coffee. It’s always entertaining to be the third wheel to conversations between Seinfeld and his guests.
Episode suggestions: David Letterman (Season 2), Jon Stewart (Season 4), Bill Burr (Season 5), Stephen Colbert (Season 6)
Where to watch: Crackle (a free streaming app), comediansincarsgettingcoffee.com
Episodes: 48 – and Season 8 is releasing new episodes now.
When you need a thrill: ‘The Americans’
Critics LOVE “The Americans,” and you should, too. Set in the midst of the Cold War, the drama centers on two Soviet KGB spies posing as an American married couple living in the suburbs of Washington D.C.
I don’t want to give anything away by going much further into the plot, but take my word and the word of other viewers for this suggestion: all four seasons have a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 90 percent approval or higher. That’s no easy feat.
If you love a spy thriller, this show is for you. But the way “The Americans” presents the struggles of the Jennings’ marriage adds a layer to this show that makes it truly engaging.
Episode suggestions: Storylines dictate this show be watched in order. Start at Episode 1.
Where to watch: You can rent the first three seasons on DVD from Netflix, or stream episodes from Amazon. The fourth season is available on Hulu and FX.
Episodes: 52 (Four 13-episode seasons of intense drama)
Note: This show isn’t for the youngsters. Check the IMDb parental guide for details.
When you want to feel like a bookworm: BBC’s ‘Sherlock’
Speaking of thrillers, “Sherlock” starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman is an excellent summer watch. Based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous fictional detective, Mr. Holmes and his crime-solving partner Dr. Watson stumble in and out of adventures in a fast-paced 21st-century update. Episodes are full of twists, clever clues and well-written mystery. Cumberbatch and Freeman make the show a fantastic watch.
Technically, “Sherlock” is a TV show, but it really is more of a series of made-for-TV films. Each episode clocks in at north of 80 minutes, so we can live with the sporadic three-episode “seasons” of a great mystery.
Episode suggestions: Start from the beginning.
Where to watch: Netflix streaming
When you need a show to watch while cuddling: ‘New Girl’
I’m not going to go into a deep dive on comparing “New Girl” to 90s icon “Friends,” but there are a lot of similarities. Among them: the show revolves around roommates who are friends, will they/won’t they romances between some of the characters, and, most importantly, your girlfriend likely is a fan.
What separates “New Girl” from other shows about quirky 20-somethings looking for love is the innate goofiness of the show. The characters are legitimately weird, which in a way, makes total sense when you have friends that have been together for so long. Half of their conversations include inside jokes and flashbacks to prior hilarity. A great aspect of “New Girl” is they do a great job of including you in on the joke.
What started as a vehicle for Zooey Deschanel transitioned into a great buddy comedy because the ensemble proved too talented – and one that most couples can enjoy together. So, gentlemen, if you are searching for a new show that will entertain both you and your better half, try “New Girl.”
Episode suggestions: “Injured” Season 1, “Background Check” Season 4, “Thanksgiving IV” Season 4
Where to watch: Netflix streaming (first four seasons)
When you need to feel like a hipster: ‘Portlandia’
Odds are, if you already are a hipster, you think “Portlandia” had its moments, but really tailed off after Season 4, and you’re onto the next soon-to-be cool thing. (Spyke definitely thinks this show “is over!”)
Balderdash! “Portlandia” is a goofy sketch comedy show that expertly skewers so many aspects of modern living that routinely delivers giggles. Headlined by SNL alum Fred Armisen and Sleater-Kinney guitarist Carrie Brownstein, the duo dive head-first into life in Portland, playing a wide array of characters that try to deal with keeping the dream of the 90s alive.
If off-the-wall comedy is your thing, odds are you will fall in love with several of the show’s recurring characters.
Episode suggestions: “Grover” Season 2, “Cat Nap” Season 2, “Take Back MTV” Season 3, “Ecoterrorists” Season 4
Where to watch: Netflix streaming (first five seasons)