6 Shows You Need To Binge-Watch This Summer

While the days when summer was a barren wasteland of reruns and reality shows made on the cheap are long gone (our fearless editor Sandrine recently offered up 37 suggestions for new shows to watch this summer), I’ve found that these three lazy months are still prime binge-watching time. Even with an abundance of new series on the horizon, there’s no reason why you can’t pencil in a weekend marathon of a series you missed out on during the regular television season or carve out a chunk of time to finally tackle that one series you’ve always wanted to check out, but never had the time to squeeze into your schedule.

Once you’ve decided to indulge in a TV binge, the question then becomes, what series should you watch. That’s where things get a bit tricky. It’s easy to go for the usual suspects: Breaking Bad, The Wire and Friday Night Lights (all worthy choices if you haven’t seen them), but there’s much to be said for going off television’s beaten path once in a while. In that spirit, I’ve offered up six less obvious, but no less addictive choices that you need to binge-watch this summer, so grab your snack food of choice and prepare to lose a weekend (or three) to a series with subtitles, a domestic supernatural drama and a fake psychic detective who does not live on CBS.

1. Borgen

If you miss The West Wing, you’ll love Borgen, which is the darker, Danish cousin to Aaron Sorkin’s popular presidential series. Borgen follows the newly elected Prime Minister of Denmark Birgitte Nyborg as she balances running a country, engaging in complex political maneuvers and caring for her family. Also along for the ride are Kasper Juul, Birgitte’s troubled spin doctor and Katrine Fonsmark, an intensely devoted news reporter.

The series, which is in Danish with English subtitles, is a dense, compelling political drama which pulls off that rare hat trick of making the personal dramas of its characters as compulsively watchable as the inner-workings of the political system Birgette, Kasper and Katrine are immersed in. Whether the focus is on the heartbreaking on-again, off-again relationship between Katrine and Kasper or on Birgette debating the pros and cons of removing Danish troops from Afghanistan, Borgen never fails to captivate. Furthermore, the exploration of gender roles within the context of the professional arena are exquisite. Birgitte and Katrine are easily two of television’s best female characters.

Where to watch it: Three seasons and 30 episodes of Borgen have been produced, but only the first two seasons have been made available in the U.S. so far. You can catch the series online and on screen via Link TV stateside.

2. Switched at Birth

Switched at Birth Season 2 Premiere The Door to Freedom

Don’t let the Lifetime movie of the week style title scare you, Switched at Birth is a stellar family drama. The ABC Family series clocks in at 40 episodes so far (the second half of season two begins Monday, June 10th at 8/7c), but it’s well worth the time commitment and since I recently binge-watched Switched at Birth myself I can attest to just how easy it is to get sucked into the dramas surrounding the Kennish-Vasquez clan.

Bay and Daphne, the two teenage girls who discover they were sent home with the wrong parents due to a hospital error when they were babies, are the heart of the series. Bay is artistic and rebellious, never quite feeling like she fits in, while Daphne is well-adjusted, competitive and deaf, all qualities that lead to her being fiercely independent. Watching the two girls and their families try to reconcile the lives they’ve lived with the lives they were supposed to live has given the drama an unexpected weight. There’s plenty of teen romance and soapy twists thrown in for good measure, but Switched at Birth always remains grounded. However, what really makes the series a standout is its honest exploration of deaf culture. Scenes between deaf characters are frequent and are generally played out in total silence with subtitles for viewers who don’t know ASL (American Sign Language). Earlier this year, Switched at Birth became the first television series to air an episode entirely in ASL.

Where to watch it: While reruns regularly air on ABC Family, you can catch up with the 40 episodes on Netflix.

3. Being Human (UK)

It’s a shame that Being Human (UK) doesn’t get as much buzz as The Vampire Diaries or even its U.S. Syfy counterpart. The supernatural roommate series, which focuses on a ghost, vampire and werewolf all living under the same roof, sounds outlandish, but in four seasons it has established itself as a funny, poignant and often scary coming of age tale. The series may feature all manner of creatures that go bump in the night, but all of those supernatural tropes are metaphors for the growing pains of young adulthood. While I favor the original trio of Mitchell, George and Annie who served as the core of the series for the first three seasons, the reigning trio of Hal, Alex and Tom don’t have any less bite than their predecessors, making every season as addictive as the last.

Where to watch it: The first four seasons are available on Netflix and Hulu Plus, and if you hurry, you can catch up in time for the July 13th season five premiere on BBC America.

4. Top of the Lake

If you missed Top of the Lake when it aired on Sundance, do yourself a favor and queue it up for this summer. The Elisabeth Moss led drama is a modern noir set against the backdrop of a small, beautiful and unforgiving New Zealand town. The subject matter (the series centers on the disappearance of a pregnant 12-year-old girl) is challenging, but if you can stick with it, the seven-episode series from director Jane Campion is well worth the effort. I don’t want to say too much for fear of giving away any of the series’ twisty plot points or heartbreaking character beats, but trust me, no other miniseries that aired this year was as good as this one.

Where to watch it: It’s streaming on Netflix, or you can always spring for the DVD.

5. Veep

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is hilarious as the ambitious, but horribly self-obsessed Vice President Selina Meyer on HBO’s best comedy Veep. Her performance alone would be reason enough to settle in for a marathon, but when you add in the performances of the series’ indispensable supporting cast, it becomes a no-brainer. If you’re looking for political humor with a razor-sharp edge this summer, you have to check out Veep.

Where to watch it: Season one’s on DVD, but if you have an HBO subscription you can watch the whole series on HBO Go.

6. Psych

Psych Season 7 Episode 12 Dead Air (8)

Yes, Psych is silly. That’s why it’s great. It’s a fun, lightweight, pop culture saturated detective series that is the definitive summer show. I envy anyone who has the opportunity to marathon all seven seasons; I imagine the process would have the same effect as eating 100 hundred boxes of Cocoa Puffs, minus the sugar coma. In the 100 plus episodes that have aired, Psych has offered up intricate homages to Twin Peaks, Clue and The Friday the 13th franchise, coined a dozen or so catchphrases and produced the father of all bromances in the the intensely codependent and entertaining Shawn/Gus partnership. If you’ve been avoiding the show on the grounds that it looks like fluff, then it is way past time to indulge because Psych is some seriously quality fluff.

Where to watch it: It’s streaming on Netflix and in constant reruns on USA and Cloo.


What shows will you be binge-watching this summer? Let us know in the comments.

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