Vengeful Binge

17 shows to binge-watch while hiding out from coronavirus – The Boston Globe

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“Catastrophe”

If you haven’t seen this four-season delight, you owe yourself. The outline of the comedy is nothing special: A lovably goofy American guy played by Rob Delaney has a fling in London with a feisty Irish woman played by Sharon Horgan, an unexpected baby ensues, and they try to raise the baby together despite being near-strangers. But the cast members — including Carrie Fisher and Ashley Jensen — are great, and the writing, by Delaney and Horgan, is too. The pair are one of TV comedy’s most believable couples, as they argue and make up and click in a charming but never cloying way. Work, parenting, sobriety, monogamy, sex — they’re all part of this surprisingly romantic story. Amazon

Christina Applegate (left) and Linda Cardellini in Netflix’s “Dead To Me.” Netflix

“Dead to Me”

You’ll breeze through the 10 episodes of the only season so far of this comedy with dramatic themes. I couldn’t wait to see how show creator Liz Feldman would get out of the corner in which she puts the story at the beginning. I’m not going to spoil anything here, but the plot is juicy and twisty and funny. Christina Applegate is remarkably good as a real estate agent whose husband was recently killed by a hit-and-run driver, and she is obsessed with finding out whodunit. Linda Cardellini is excellent, too, as a bohemian free spirit Applegate meets in a grief group. Together, they’re a twisted-up Lucy and Ethel. Netflix

Cristin Milioti in Amazon’s “Modern Love.”Christopher Saunders/Amazon Studios

“Modern Love”

While the eight half-hours of “Modern Love” have the sparkling feel of urban romantic comedy, they’re about the very many faces of love out there in the world — between lovers, yes, but also between friends, between people tossed together by circumstance, between a birth mother and the gay couple adopting her baby. The adaptation of The New York Times column of the same name was created by Irish writer-director John Carney of “Once” and “Sing Street,” and he brings just the right touch to almost every episode. OK, so there’s a bit of corniness here and there; the charm of the whole project makes its excesses tolerable, as does the swiftness of the storytelling. Amazon

Haaz Sleiman (center) in Apple TV+’s “Little America.”Apple

“Little America”

In this excellent eight-episode anthology series, each half-hour zeroes in on one immigrant in order to tell an entirely discrete story about his or her experiences in America, in coming to America, or in having to adjust to America. Each episode seems to have the reach of a full-length movie, but the season holds together impressively as a collection of short stories whose themes resonate and contrast with one another. “Little America” is consistently inventive, and the diversity of storytelling styles matches the diversity of the characters. When Iwegbuna listens to cassettes sent to him by his family in Nigeria, the family members appear in the room with him as they talk. One episode from the middle of the season — my favorite, called “The Silence,” which I will not spoil here — has almost no dialogue. Each episode has its own language, literally and figuratively. Apple TV+

Alex Borstein (left) and Laurie Metcalf in HBO’s “Getting On.”

“Getting On”

This one didn’t catch on, alas. Perhaps that was because the physical and mental rigors of old age and the existential despair of navigating hospital bureaucracy are not generally considered comedic targets. But this HBO series, a remake of a British sitcom, succeeded in sending up — and up and up — the goings-on in the geriatric ward of a struggling hospital. The humor was dry and the décor was gray, like “The Office,” and it wasn’t above poop jokes, either. The cast was all aces, led by Alex Borstein (yup, Susie from “Mrs. Maisel”), Laurie Metcalf, and Niecy Nash, and the special guests — Harry Dean Stanton, Jean Smart, June Squibb, Rita Moreno — always added a kick. I laugh out loud when I watch “Getting On,” as it treads shamelessly on tender ground. HBO

Aziz Ansari in Netflix’s “Master of None.” Netflix

“Master of None”

I can’t heap enough praise onto this lovely comedy, which has delivered two fine 10-episode seasons so far. Netflix gave Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang enough rope to hang themselves, and instead they made an auteur series that balances effortlessly between humor and drama, straight-ahead storytelling, and experimental narrative. The show is about Ansari’s Dev looking for love in New York City, being a good son, being Indian-American, and trying to be an actor who isn’t pigeonholed into playing only heavy-accented cab drivers. It’s about growing up but not growing numb. And it’s about a search for the best food in whatever city Dev happens to be in. Netflix

Josh Thomas (left) and Keegan Joyce in Hulu’s “Please Like Me.”Ben Timony/Participant Media

“Please Like Me”

Australian comic Josh Thomas created and starred in this bittersweet, affectionate comedy that lasted four seasons, ending in 2017. It’s one of my favorite little-known shows. Like many series these days, it’s essentially nonbinary — not entirely a comedy and not entirely a drama. Thomas’s Josh is the central character in a small group of pals, all of whom are looking for love and aiming for grace. It’s the opposite of “Seinfeld” or “Friends” in tone; they’re all bonkers, but quietly so, without catchphrases or applause. Josh is an awkward, endearing, and tall gay man caring for his mother, who is bipolar and has suicidal tendencies — all of which adds some gentle drama. Guess who plays Mum’s best friend? A then-unknown named Hannah Gadsby. Hulu

Matt Ingebretson in Comedy Central’s “Corporate.”

“Corporate”

We know that the corporate setting can be soul-crushing; thank you “Dilbert,” “The Office,” and “Better Off Ted.” But this cheeky Comedy Central series takes that idea to new blackly comic heights. Matt and Jake (played by co-creators Matt Ingebretson and Jake Weisman) are junior execs in training at the nefarious Hampton DeVille company, a kind of Amazon whose slogan is “We make everything.” The two crash cake parties all over the building when they’re not helping to fire others; they know they’re buying into evil, but their cynicism and passivity keep them in the race. Don’t expect any sweet twists or resolutions, by the way. This is nihilism at its most entertaining. Added pluses: Great turns by Anne Dudek, Adam Lustick, and Lance Reddick as the powers that be, as well as a cameo by Aimee Mann. Comedy Central

Daisy Haggard in Showtime’s “Back to Life.”Luke Varley/Luke Varley/SHOWTIME

“Back to Life”

I fell in love with this little, precisely observed portrait of a woman recently released from prison, which is from some of the executive producers of “Fleabag.” A fast but meaningful watch at only six half-hour episodes, it follows an anguished — and yet touchingly buoyant — 36-year-old woman who has just been released after serving 18 years in prison. Miri (played by co-writer Daisy Haggard, who was the sourpuss head of comedy on “Episodes”) is trying to restart her life, but her family and neighbors have a hard time letting her do so. It’s like a light version of the more meditative “Rectify,” with some wonderful humor from Geraldine James as Miri’s pent-up mum and a masterfully gradual unraveling of Miri’s original crime. The series was just renewed, and I’ll be first in line when it returns. Showtime

Scott Ryan in FX on Hulu’s “Mr Inbetween.”Mark Rogers/FX

“Mr Inbetween”

Yet another tale of a hitman with a heart, this FX drama has no right to be as good and as affecting as it is. Writer and star Scott Ryan is a revelation as Ray, who is as laconic and laid back as TV’s other fixer named Ray, Ray Donovan. He murders and beats up his targets with a cool street efficiency. But he’s otherwise quite sympathetic, caring for…

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