There are so many great new shows (and even more awful new shows) premiering every year that it’s impossible to watch them all, let alone attempt to cover them. A handful of wonderful little shows slipped below the collective radar during the 2013-2014 television season, overshadowed by the bigger shows that we couldn’t stop talking about. But that just means they’re perfect to watch later this week while hiding from your relatives and general Thanksgiving festivities. Here are eight overlooked TV shows to binge on during the long weekend.
Survivor’s Remorse (Starz)Six episodes available on Starz Play
This year, Starz made a real attempt to compete with Showtime and HBO in the world of original programming. Outlander was a clear (and expected) hit, and The Missing (borrowed from BBC One) has already emerged as a tragic but engrossing, mysterious thriller. Starz’s original comedy Survivor’s Remorse has largely been overlooked, which is unfortunate because it’s one of the best, most socially conscious, and interesting comedies of the year. The six-episode first season follows a young breakout basketball player, Cam (played by young breakout actor Jessie Usher), after he moves to Atlanta and goes pro. But the show, which is unsurprisingly (and a bit unfairly) being called “Entourage in the sports world!” isn’t so much about Cam as it is about his family and the changes they go through (or refuse to go through) as they all adjust to their new lives. It’s quick and addictive — I planned to watch the pilot but blew through the entire season without leaving the couch — and wickedly funny, with humor that sneaks up and surprises you.
Married (FX) 10 episodes available on FXNOW
With all the much-deserved hoopla surrounding FX’s other first-season comedy, Stephen Falk’s You’re the Worst, the chatter surrounding Married was relatively more subdued. But it’s definitely a show that deserves praise, too. It’s the logical extreme of the romantic-comedy sitcom, one that explores the frustrating but funny middle portion of a marriage, when you’re settled down with children but always itching for a little more. Nat Faxon and Judy Greer are a powerhouse comedic duo, and the rest of the players — Jenny Slate, Paul Reiser, Brett Gelman — only elevate the humor.
The 100 (The CW) 13 episodes available on Netflix
The CW dramas are always a tough sell, but it’s starting to get easier thanks to the critically acclaimed Jane the Virgin, the refreshing The Flash, and the success of Arrow (which, by the way, I started watching last weekend and already can’t get enough of). The 100, set in a post-apocalyptic world, arrived last year and was strong and fully formed from the beginning (it’s based on a series by Kass Morgan) but took a while to catch on. Following a group of teens struggling to survive on a new planet, The 100 is still going strong, and becoming better practically every week, so you should jump on the bandwagon now.
Doll & Em (HBO) Six episodes available on HBOGO
If there is one thing that this world can’t get enough of, it’s awkward humor, the sort that drives comedies such as The Office and Curb Your Enthusiasm. It’s cathartic to watch embarrassments we can identify with, played out by people who aren’t us, and to laugh at the unlaughable while cringing with our hands over our face. It’s also a genre that’s been mostly populated by men (thankfully, though, The Comeback is back), but there’s a case to be made for HBO’s Doll & Em, a six-episode show that premiered with no fanfare and disappeared just as quickly (but it will return, eventually, for Season 2). The show stars Emily Mortimer and Dolly Wells as exaggerated versions of themselves, and Mortimer is remarkably unafraid to tackle the truths that surround being 40-something-year-old actress in Hollywood.
Salem (WGN America)13 episodes available on Netflix
The pilot episode of Salem left much to be desired: It took a subject rich with history, unique characters, immediate intrigue, and trippy visuals and turned it into something positively boring. To its credit, Salem was WGN’s first attempt at scripted programming, and its creators must have quickly realized that the key to Salem‘s success would be to give in to the twisted nature of its story — it’s inspired by the real-life Salem witch trials — and up the ante on craziness, eventually resulting in a totally bizarre but admittedly fun season. As a result, it’s even secured a second season.
Penny Dreadful (Showtime)Eight episodes available on ShowtimeAnytime
When Penny Dreadful first premiered, I watched a duo of somewhat messy but ultimately strong episodes that accurately depicted what the show wanted to do but was a little shaky on exactly how to accomplish it. A beautiful horror series set at the tail end of the Victorian Era, Penny Dreadful incorporates famous literary characters (Frankenstein, Van Helsing, Dorian Gray), and works best as a whole book rather than as individual chapters — which makes it a great pick to binge-stream over a long holiday weekend. Eva Green is mesmerizing throughout, a standout in a depraved world.
Being Mary Jane (BET) Six episodes available for purchase on Amazon Instant Videoand for free on Netflix
On the surface, Being Mary Jane may not seem like much. It’s about a single broadcast journalist who has to juggle her personal and professional life while looking for love. It’s been done before, but Being Mary Jane is a refreshing and nuanced take on the subject, largely due to its lead actress, Gabrielle Union, and its decidedly black slant — Mary Jane’s specific issues stem from what society tells her is required of a black woman. Season 1 is only six episodes long (Season 2 arrives in February), but it immediately hooks you as it unravels into a spiraling tale of professionalism, sexuality, and modern relationships.
Garfunkel and Oates (IFC)Eight episodes available on IFC Watch Now
Garfunkel and Oates is another comedy that slipped under the radar, perhaps because its existence drew too many comparisons to HBO’s The Flight of the Conchords. But don’t write it off as just a female version of that show; Garfunkel and Oates is smart on its own, with hilarious and clever songs that interrupt the titular duo’s fantastical lives in Hollywood. It’s more in-your-face than Flight, eliminating any distance between the leads and the viewer as Garfunkel and Oates share every ridiculous detail of their lives.