With winter break rapidly approaching — slow down, we’ve still got finals! — and the idea of quarantine still on so many minds, the concept of vegging out with a good TV show in the coming weeks is most welcome. I’ve compiled a list of my own personal choices for bingeworthy series, all of which I have binged myself. My goal is to present a diverse mix in terms of length, audience, medium and genre.
5. “The End of the F***ing World” (2017-2019)
Morbid comedy series “The End of the F***ing World,” based on the comic series of the same name, is one of Netflix’s best. The story follows social outcasts James and Alyssa as they endeavor to reunite with Alyssa’s father in their travels across England. Along the way, the two teens grow closer as they battle past traumas and personal demons.
Stuffed to the seams with dark humor and witty dialogue, the show is endlessly charming and brutally funny, mostly due to the actors’ performances, especially the main duo portrayed by Alex Lawther and Jessica Barden.
Where to Watch: Netflix
4. “Mr. Robot” (2015-2019)
Sam Esmail’s groundbreaking series “Mr. Robot” follows Elliot Alderson, an unstable New Yorker who by day works a desk job for a cybersecurity firm, but by night serves as a vigilante hacker. Alderson is drawn into the underworld of high-profile hacking by a mysterious man called Mr. Robot, who takes the young Alderson under his wing as the secret hacking group “fsociety” plots to stage their most daring hack yet — an attack on the megacorporation E Corp.
Esmail provides an untraditional series that is breathlessly tense and always original, experimenting with daring film techniques that often elevate the production to art status. Besides this commendable production value, the acting is brilliant across the board, most notably with Oscar-winner Rami Malek as Elliot and Martin Wallström as E Corp executive Tyrell Wellick.
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Video
3. “Dark” (2017-2020)
“Dark” portrays the strange events of the small German town Winden after the disappearance of two young children. The story focuses specifically on the drama between four families — the Kahnwalds, Dopplers, Nielsens and Tiedemanns. Jonas Kahnwald, son of a recently deceased father, embarks on a journey through time, leading him into the mysterious cave system on the edge of town and into past and future versions of Winden, all in an effort to find the missing children and unlock the town’s darkest secrets.
“Dark” is beautiful. The cinematography is gorgeous and wide-eyed, with a truly haunting musical composition. Each of the many characters is fully realized, especially Louis Hofmann’s Jonas and Oliver Masucci’s Ulrich Nielsen. A word of warning: the show features upward of thirty named characters, several with a different version for each time frame; be sure to pay close attention at the show’s beginning. Furthermore, I suggest viewing the show in its native German, finding that the English dub lacks felt emotion.
Where to Watch: Netflix
2. “Chernobyl” (2019)
The perfect miniseries, 2019’s “Chernobyl” stands at the pinnacle of what historical fiction can be, chronicling the events leading up to and following the 1986 nuclear disaster at the Chernobyl Reactor in the Soviet Union. The five-part story incorporates a mix of real-life scientists and politicians, as well as fictional characters in their efforts to prevent further disaster. One of the story’s central themes is choosing the protection of people over the propaganda of politics — a universal and undoubtedly timeless message.
“Chernobyl” wastes no time in its succinct duration to portray a very human story in the midst of insurmountable strife. Helping this narrative along is an impeccable cast, notably Jared Harris as lead scientist Valery Legasov and Stellan Skarsgård as stubborn politician Boris Shcherbina. Emily Watson likewise impresses as the fictional Ulana Khomyuk, created to embody the dozens of scientists who aided in the efforts at Chernobyl.
In all, it’s a frighteningly real story told in a most impactful manner.
Where to Watch: HBO Max
1. “Avatar: The Last Airbender” (2005-2008)
Yes, it’s worth the hype.
In the midst of quarantine and on the verge of summer vacation, Nickelodeon’s revered series “Avatar: The Last Airbender” arrived on Netflix. The timing was perfect — old fans faced the chance to rekindle their love of a childhood favorite while newbies faced the opportunity to experience the wonder of “Avatar” for the first time.
“Avatar: The Last Airbender” follows Aang, the next elemental bender in the Avatar cycle, on his journey to master all four elements — air, water, earth and fire — and defeat the villainous Fire Lord Ozai by summer’s end. His travels, along with waterbender Katara and her non-bender brother Sokka, take him across the four nations, all while being pursued by the more-than-he-seems firebender and heir to the Fire Nation, Prince Zuko.
The animated series is nearly perfect, at no point stooping to the level of mindlessness stereotypically associated with children’s media. Its themes are mature and universal, and manage to evoke a sense of deep care for the events and characters as the plot progresses. The animation itself is gorgeous, the story engaging and the characterization impeccable. If you haven’t jumped on the “Avatar” bandwagon yet, now is the time — you won’t regret it.
Where to Watch: Netflix