Summer Binge Watch Guide
The top 12 shows to see while you wait for the new fall season to arrive
Orange Is the New Black (Netflix)
Get ready to binge the seventh and final season of the breakthrough drama-comedy about lady jailbirds (released July 26) by bingeing the previous seasons, or at least Season 6. (Skip Season 5, a dud.) It's the most popular original show in Netflix history, with 20 Emmy nominations and 105 million viewers, and the cast's standout grownup Kate Mulgrew, 64, playing Russian mafia moll Red Reznikov, is better than she was as Captain Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager.
Billy Bob Thornton, 63, hasn't had a part this good in a decade, maybe two. He plays an alcoholic Santa Monica attorney/sleuth who investigates a double homicide that involves an L.A. mayoral candidate, corrupt cops and a particularly scary Mexican cartel. The first season, which won him a Golden Globe, is OK, but the second is a humdinger, as satisfying a procedural as Law & Order, only far stranger, with two of the most bizarre dueling bad guys (Mark Duplass and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) you ever saw. And the first episode of Season 3 (airing Oct. 4) is even better.
Big Little Lies (HBO)
Thanks to a big controversy about the show's male director changing and reshooting the work of the female director of Season 2, the buzz is that it's a big letdown after the sensational first season, about a conspiracy of women (Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley) covering up a Monterey, California, murder. But it's a dirty lie! Season 2 is terrific, thanks to Meryl Streep, 70, as the mousy, inquisitive mother of the murder victim who turns out to be more ruthlessly relentless than Les Miserables' Inspector Javert.
When They See Us (Netflix)
Sixteen Emmy nominations can't be wrong — Ava DuVernay's grueling miniseries about the real-life persecution and eventual exoneration of five young men who may not have been angels, but definitely were not guilty of the notorious 1989 rape of a jogger in Central Park, is utterly riveting.
Schitt's Creek (Pop TV/Netflix)
The underdog champion comedy of the Emmy nominations this year stars Second City Television veterans Eugene Levy, 72, and Catherine O'Hara, 65, as a rich couple who go broke and wind up stuck in a small town packed with eccentrics. If you like Parks and Recreation or The Good Place, you'll probably succumb to its charms and watch all five seasons.
Dead to Me (Netflix)
ER's Linda Cardellini, 44, and Married With Children's Christina Applegate, 47, play a pair of women stricken with grief who meet in a support group and bond more and more — until a horrible secret between them threatens their deepening relationship. It's darkly comic and absorbing, not a whodunnit but a when-will-she-find-out-whodunnit? Cleverly written and perfectly played, it keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Russian Doll (Netflix)
If you liked Groundhog Day, you'll flip for this extremely ingenious series about a woman who keeps reliving the night of her 36th birthday party, because each time she dies in a different way, then wakes up back at the same party, only everything has changed because of what happened the last time. She's the only one who's aware she's in a time loop — until she finds someone else in the same predicament. Beware: If you watch one episode, you're fated to watch them all.
The Kominsky Method (Netflix)
Michael Douglas, 74, and Alan Arkin, 85, both got Emmy nominations for this must-see comedy-drama about an acting coach and his agent who face their grownup years with sarcasm, neuroses and heart.
Killing Eve (BBC America/AMC)
Grey's Anatomy's Sandra Oh, 48, has never been better than as a British MI6 secret service agent stalking and stalked by an extraordinarily charismatic psycho killer (Jodie Comer), with the highly ambiguous help of her wily MI6 boss (Harry Potter star Fiona Shaw, 61). Both seasons are must-binge TV.
Even though it's partly fictionalized, irritating purists, the fact-based drama of Russia's worst nuclear disaster is absolutely worthy of its 11 Emmy nominations. Richard Harris’ son Jared Harris, 57 (who played Layne Price on Mad Men), is deeply moving as the scientist investigating the incident and struggling to make authorities face the bad facts. Stellan Skarsgard, 68, is great as his bureaucrat boss and Emily Watson, 52, fine as a crusading fellow scientist.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Sian Clifford are the most believable loving, squabbling siblings on TV in this witty yet heartrending show about the heroine's troubled love and family life. The most water-cooler-raved storyline of the current Season 2 is the heroine's torrid affair with “the Hot Priest” (Andrew Scott, the villain Moriarty on Sherlock).
Bill Hader marvelously plays hit man Barry, who winds up discovering himself in washed-up actor Henry Winkler's acting class and struggles to escape his bloody profession, but they're outdone by supporting players Stephen Root as Barry's hit-man boss and Anthony Carrigan as the funniest, kindliest Chechen mobster ever. Season 1 was great and Season 2 is even more of a hit.