5 Shows You Should Catch Up On This Summer

shows you should catch up on

With most shows about to enter the dreaded summer hiatus period, your TV dance card is going to start looking a little anemic soon. Now, I suppose you could use this time to go outside or catch up on the latest blockbusters, but as TV fans it is far more likely that you’ll use these long summer months to marathon new-to-you shows.

But which ones? I have my own list of shows to catch up on this summer all planned out (Breaking Bad and Grimm are at the top of the list), but if you’re still pondering your own lineup then I have a few suggestions for you. To keep things manageable, I only picked shows that are currently airing or that aired at some point during the 2011-2012 season. While some of them have garnered critical accolades, all of these shows could use some mainstream love and if you give them a shot, you might just find yourself a new favorite show in time for fall.

1. The Fades
 

the fades bbc america

The horror genre experienced a resurgence on television this season thanks to American Horror Story and The Walking Dead, but the best new horror show came from across the pond. Rather than settle for having ghosts or zombies, The Fades went for maximum terror by giving us flesh-eating zombie ghosts (called Fades) bent on world domination.

The Angelics, a group of battle worn soldiers with angel-like powers, stood as humanity’s final defense against the Fades, but with them dying at an alarming rate the fate of the world came to rest on the shoulders of Paul, a nerdy teenager prone to having apocalyptic visions so intense they led to bed wetting.

The Fades is full of memorable characters, chief among them Paul’s pop culture savant best friend, Mac, and his quickly coming unhinged mentor, Neil. But what is most impressive is the ease with which the show straddles genres–it’s a drama, a comedy and a horror show all rolled into one and no one part is less impressive than the others. Because it speaks the language of pop culture, The Fades knows we know the classic horror movie tropes and it delights in subverting them at every turn.

Despite earning a BAFTA nomination for best drama series and an abundance of critical accolades, BBC 3 recently cancelled The Fades after only one season, but hey, if we can boost the signal enough with DVD sales BBCAmerica might just do us a solid and foot part of the bill for a second season. Stranger things have happened.

2. Portlandia
 

Portlandia

Portlandia is in danger of being pigeonholed as a hipsters only sketch show, but in actuality its humor is hardly exclusive to brunch devotees and people who wear too many scarves. It finds the funny in specificity and delights in exploiting the universal truth that the more we try to set ourselves apart from each other with our unique hobbies, tastes and fashion choices, the more alike we become.

Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen are delightful as a never-ending parade of offbeat characters and it’s always fun to watch them get an assist from folks like Kyle MacLachlan and Kristen Wiig. Not all of the skits land, but sketch comedy is hit and miss by nature and Portlandia hits far more than it misses.

If you’re looking for a good gateway episode, start with “One Moore Episode,” a season 2 outing that cleverly illustrated the dangers (and wonders) of getting sucked into marathoning a new show.

3. Up All Night
 

Up All Night

Let’s get this out of the way first: Up All Night is only mildly funny. As sitcoms go, it’s akin to a PG-rated Showtime comedy–not a lot of laughs, but it does create a fun and quirky world for you to hang out in for thirty minutes every week. I’ve talked up Maya Rudolph’s Ava on more than one occasion, but what I’ve failed to mention in the past is Will Arnett and Christina Applegate are pretty great too. Particularly Arnett, who is, quite possibly for the first time ever, playing a character that is believable as a human being.

Their relationship provides Up All Night with a warm center for all the zany workplace storylines and new parenting missteps to bounce off of, and if their half of the show doesn’t quite live up to Rudolph’s hilarious Ava yet, it’s getting there. If the show gets a second season pick up–which I think it should–then it will likely have all of the kinks ironed out by next season, and when that happens a cast this good is going to be a force to be reckoned with.

4. Shameless
 

Episode 204

Shameless is a show that doesn’t get a lot of recognition one way or the other. It’s quietly competing against the also under-appreciated Parenthood for the title of best family show on television, and much as I adore Parenthood, the Gallagher family is starting to edge the Bravermans out of their top spot.

The show is brash, grungy and not at all concerned with wholesome family values, but it still has an abundance of heart thanks to the bonds between the Gallagher kids and the honorary Gallaghers who help keep the family going. Its biggest asset is its remarkable cast of young actors, particularly Emmy Rossum, who deserves all the awards for her strong, often heartbreaking work as the eldest Gallagher, Fiona, and Jeremy Allen White whose angry, wisecracking Lip is the closest thing to a breakout character a show that flies this low under the radar can get. It’s not easy to stand out in a cast that includes William H. Macy and Joan Cusack, but Rossum, White and their co-stars do it every single week.

5. Haven
 

HAVEN "The Tides That Bind" Season 2 Episode 7 (2)

Based on Stephen King’s The Colorado Kid, Haven is basically The X-Files if all of Mulder and Scully’s cases took place in one really weird town. (Or maybe that makes it a less bizarre Twin Peaks? Feel free to discuss.) Haven is plagued with “troubled” people whose odd abilities and afflictions tend to wreak havoc on the rest of the residents of the picturesque seaside town and each week Audrey Parker and her partner, Nathan Wournos, are tasked with keeping the peace and making sure no one inadvertently traps the whole town in a snow globe. Again. Sometimes they get a helping hand from the resident smuggler/bar owner Duke Crocker.

If you love monster of the week shows (and really who doesn’t?) then Haven should go straight to the top of your must watch list. It has a little bit of everything: a burgeoning love triangle, an on-going doomed to never be solved to everyone’s satisfaction mythology and weekly cases that are often as cool as they are inventive. As an added bonus it’s filmed in the most scenic town in the world.

And unlike the other shows on this list, there’s a brand new season debuting for your viewing pleasure this summer.

 

Now that I’ve made my pitches, let’s hear yours. Which shows do you think everyone should check out this summer?

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