As we move into May, there are a lot of great TV shows to choose from… but a lot of those great shows are ones that you had to invest in a long time ago if you want to enjoy them now. Online streaming has obviously made it easier for people to binge-watch and get caught up, and I’m all for people marathoning shows that are part of the cultural zeitgeist, but I also know there are a lot of people out there who don’t feel like catching up with Mad Men while it’s entering its last season or getting into Game of Thrones now that it’s 4 seasons and 5,000 characters in.
For the more casual TV viewers, I’d like to offer up some safer but still rewarding investments: 3 comedies that you can watch now without making a huge time commitment or having to memorize 50 back stories.
Bob’s Burgers is in its fourth season and has been airing on FOX since 2011, so there’s a good chance you’ve already watched it, but if not, now is the time to start. It’s not a show that you need to watch in order from the beginning (like The Simpsons, there are consistencies between episodes and occasional callbacks, but you don’t need to have watched every episode to keep up). If you’re looking for a few episodes to start out with, I’d recommend the episodes “Tina-Rannosaurus Wrecks” (Season 3, episode 7) and “Broadcast Wagstaff School News” (Season 3, episode 12) because they’re both Tina-centric episodes and Tina is hands down the best character. If you don’t believe me, check out this Slate article called “Why Tina Belcher Is a Folk Hero for Anxious Young People”.
The show’s humor is smart and satirical, but it’s also very genuine and features characters that you’d probably like in real life. It’s available for streaming on Netflix (and, you know, whatever other online sites you “legally” use to stream TV shows), and I’d recommend trying an episode or two if you want to relax and feel better about yourself after a long day.
This is a New Zealand comedy that’s currently streaming on Netflix (although again, you can probably find it elsewhere if you get creative), and I stumbled across it completely by accident, but decided to give it a try because it features Rhys Darby (Murray from Flight of the Conchords). Darby actually wrote the show and stars as 7 different characters in it (each gets their own episode, and they all come together in the finale), making him possibly one of the biggest overachievers in television.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised. The show uses a mockumentary format, and real-life New Zealand TV presenter David Ferrier interviews 7 off-kilter locals in a fictional town called The Bay. My favorite characters were Terry Pole, an oblivious lifeguard with dreams of winning a local sexy legs competition, and Mary Ledbetter, a retired woman who constantly provides “little criticisms” (but never complaints) to local businesses and her ever-present husband. The characters are pretty absurd, but the audience still comes down on their side in the end (or at least I did).
It’s unclear whether there’s going to be a second season of Short Poppies—Rhys Darby has said that he didn’t originally plan on it, but that he’s reconsidering—but for the time being you can invest in the eight 20-minute episodes on Netflix.
I won’t lie; the original reason I decided to write this post was so that I could talk about HBO’s excellent new comedy, Silicon Valley. The show was created by Mike Judge (Office Space, King of the Hill) and is a satire of, as you may have guessed from the title, the tech startup culture in California’s Silicon Valley. The story follows Richard, an engineer who accidentally creates a game-changing compression algorithm while working on a music industry app and finds himself with a multi-billion dollar startup on his hands. At least it’s supposed to be a multi-billion dollar industry: in the second episode, Richard has to return the celebratory margarita machine he just bought upon discovering that he doesn’t own his companies name and can’t cash his investor’s check.
The humor’s pretty zany, but it works well with the show’s premise, and it’s already become popular with both people inside and outside of the real Silicon Valley. If you like some of the other shows and movies Mike Judge has directed, as well as comedies like 30 Rock and Parks and Rec, there’s a solid chance you’ll love Silicon Valley.
Only three episodes of the first season have aired so far, but HBO has already announced that they’re picking up Silicon Valley for a second season. Now is a great time to get in at the ground floor for this show.