This week’s batch of Staff Picks highlights TV series available on popular streaming services. Whether returning for a nostalgic run-through or (finally) getting a chance to find out what everyone was talking about, we hope these may provide a much-needed distraction for those complying with the governor’s stay-at-home order.
What do you think of our recommendations? Share your thoughts and some of your own home-entertainment suggestions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Creator: Noah Hawley
Series run: 40
Tomatometer 96%; IMDb 8.9/10
Inspired by the eponymous Academy Award-winning Coen Brothers film classic, each season of this loosely based on reality and darkly comedic crime drama series centers on a different time and setting, with each featuring a laundry list of Hollywood legends. The show deservedly has won 51 of 226 award nominations. Among its firmament of stars are Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade, A Simple Plan), Colin Hanks (Orange County, King Kong), Martin Freeman (The Hobbit, Black Panther), Kirsten Dunst (Melancholia, Interview with the Vampire), Jesse Plemons (Breaking Bad, Black Mass), Ted Danson (Cheers, Body Heat), Jean Smart (Designing Women, Garden State), Ewan McGregor (Trainspotting, Moulin Rouge!), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (10 Cloverfield Lane, Smashed) and David Thewlis (Wonder Woman, Harry Potter). The fourth season — starring comedian Chris Rock (The Longest Yard, Lethal Weapon 4) and Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore, Moonrise Kingdom) among others — was set to premier in April, but has been delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Creators: Larry David, Jerry Seinfeld
Series run: 173
Tomatometer 88%; IMDb 8.8/10
Those unfamiliar with this influential series are likely very young or fresh off the spaceship — but whether spurred by nostalgic boredom or sincerely curious to understand the hub-bub of this highly acclaimed comedy, all viewers are in for a treat. The mainly standalone episodes follow the awkwardly intertwined misadventures of four somewhat-sociopathic New Yorkers, anchored by series co-creator and stand-up legend Jerry Seinfeld (Bee Movie, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee) with co-stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep, Enough Said), Jason Alexander (Pretty Woman) and Michael Richards (UHF, Young Doctors in Love).
Creators: Jackie Marcus Schaffer, Jeff Schaffer
Series run: 84
Tomatometer 81%; IMDb 8.2/10
This is the ensemble comedy for fans of fantasy football … or anyone else ready to laugh until sore. Unrepentantly ribald and wildly creative, the show features a lineup of top comedians and indy actors, including Nick Kroll (Get Him to the Greek, Cavemen), Jon LaJoie (Let’s Be Cops, The Lego Movie 2), Mark Duplass (Creep, Safety Not Guaranteed), Steve Rannazzisi (Samantha Who?, Imagine That), Paul Scheer (Long Shot, Black Monday), Katie Aselton (The Freebie, The Gift) and Jason Mantzoukas (The Dictator, The House).
Creators: Louis C.K., Zach Galifianakis, Jonathan Krisel
Series run: 40
Tomatometer 92%; IMDb 7.5/10
The preternaturally awkward Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover, Birdman) stars in the title role (and also as his own twin brother) in this peculiar comedy about a struggling Bakersfield, California flunky struggling to keep his pipe-dream alive after dropping out of a distinguished French clown college. Veteran stand-up and TV host Louie Anderson (Coming to America, Life With Louie) cross-dressed his way to an Emmy with his unironically heartfelt and believable portrayal of the Baskets matriarch. Martha Kelly (Marriage Story, Will & Grace) co-stars.
Creator: Mitchell Hurwitz
Series run: 84 episodes
Tomatometer 75%; IMDb 8.7/10
When this award-winning ensemble comedy premiered on Fox, it suffered from poor ratings and was subsequently canceled during its third season; however, the series developed a passionate cult on Netflix, which later picked up the series for a pair of revival seasons. Executive producer Ron Howard (The Music Man, Happy Days) provides narration as the Bluth family navigates financial and social ruin amidst hilarious adventures. Jason Bateman (Horrible Bosses) provides the straight-man hub to a whacky wheel of unparalleled comedic brilliance, including Jeffrey Tambor (City Slickers, Mr. Mom), Jessica Walter (Play Misty for Me, Archer), Will Arnett (The Lego Movie, Ratatouille), David Cross (Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, Mr. Show), Henry Winkler (Night Shift, Scream), Tony Hale (Veep, Stranger Than Fiction), Judy Greer (Jurassic World, Archer) and Michael Cera (Superbad, Juno). The list of notable supporting and guest-star appearances is far too long to include here.
Creators: Mark Frost, David Lynch
Series run: 30 episodes
Tomatometer 89%; IMDb 8.8/10
The lasting influence of this groundbreaking TV drama from Big Screen auteur David Lynch (Dune, Blue Velvet) cannot be overstated. The series features Lynch’s trademark surrealism and quirky humor to craft a uniquely melodramatic tone for the detective story, which centers on an FBI agent (Kyle MacLachlan — Inside Out, The Doors), who must unravel the mystery of a murdered homecoming queen in a an off-beat rural community in the Pacific Northwest. The show spawned a feature-length film prequel in 1992, along with a follow-up season on Showtime in 2017. Co-stars include Piper Laurie (Carrie, The Hustler), Sherilyn Fenn (Of Mice and Men, Wild at Heart), Ray Wise (Good Night, and Good Luck; RoboCop) and Lara Flynn Boyle (The Practice, Men in Black II).
Creator: Dan Harmon
Series run: 110 episodes
Tomatometer 88%; IMDb 8.5/10
From the mind of rightly self-proclaimed comedic genius and prolific podcaster Dan Harmon (Rick and Morty) came this ensemble comedy about a rag-tag cadre of community college misfits, which perpetually dissects and dismembers the tropes and clichés of the American sitcom, much to the delight of millions of devoted fans. Joel McHale (Ted, The Happytime Murdes) leads with co-stars Gillian Jacobs (Choke, Walk of Shame), Alison Brie (Mad Men, The Little Hours), Donald Glover (Atlanta, The Martian), Ken Jeong (The Hangover, Crazy Rich Asians) and Chevy Chase (Caddyshack).
Creator: Ronald D. Moore
Series run: 68 episodes
Tomatometer 92%; IMDb 8.4/10
This popular TV show — based on the equally popular novel series by Scottsdale-born author Diana Gabaldon — follow the adventures of a World War II nurse inadvertently transported through time into 18th Century Scotland during the Jacobite rebellion. Rooted in real history while steeped in steamy drama, the books and show balance between high-brow historical fiction and bawdy bodice-ripper. Starz picked up the show for a fifth and sixth season; the fifth premiered in February. The cast features Caitriona Balfe (Escape Plan, Ford v Ferrari), Sam Heughan (Island at War, A Princess for Christmas), Tobias Menzies (Rome, The Crown), Duncan Lacroix (Outlaw King, Vikings) and Sophie Skelton (Ren, 211).