Home for winter break? Five shows to make your staycation enjoyable

Sunday, December 9, 2018 - 6:26pm

"You"

Lifetime

Winter is probably one of the worst times to be a television writer: The shows worth watching are already over or on mid-season hiatuses, the shows premiering continue to prove why they were not rolled out during the fall and holiday movies are only funny if you have a group of people to shit-talk them with.

As a perennial “staycationer,” I know too well what bleak television options can do to an already boring three weeks. So, I have decided to intervene before it is too late (and you actually start to believe that Jenny McCarthy’s “Santa Baby 2” is funny). Even in our era of instantly gratifying binge-watching, it is still impossible to have watched everything — and if you think you have, congrats, you’re better than all of us. All too often, high quality programming will fly under the radar either because it’s upstaged by bigger premieres or because it’s just not marketed well. This holiday season, everyone deserves a chance to become massively popular. From me to you, here’s a list of five underrated shows to jazz up a lethargic winter break.

To ensure that everyone can at least have one new show that makes being home even slightly better, I selected shows that range in quality from critically acclaimed to laughably bad, from a variety of streaming platforms and networks. They are ranked in order from five to one in terms of how fervently I want to discuss the program with someone that isn’t Google.

5.  “Insecure”

As yet another awards season approaches, normally, I would be coming to terms with the fact that I would have to spend another three months explaining to people who Issa Rae (“Killing Lazarus”) is and why I want to inhabit her skin. No longer. Although the show has been on for three critically acclaimed seasons, it never fails to surprise me when I realize that outside of my Twitter feed, “Insecure” is not as big as I think it is. “Insecure” is a half-hour comedy from showrunner Issa Rae following the awkward exploits of Issa Dee and her best friend, Molly as they navigate their late 20s in L.A.

What makes this show worth binging?

“Insecure” is not only worth watching because of its three-dimensional cast of characters and its uproarious situations so well-done you cannot help but relate to them, but also because of its lush cinematography, which makes every cast member appear as though they are fresh out of a magazine photo shoot. Additionally, its soundtrack is at the vanguard of hot music trends, playing everything from Halle x Chloe to Kari Faux. Also, the quicker you watch, the quicker you’ll be able to fawn over Issa Rae’s red carpet looks.

Where to find it: All three seasons of “Insecure” can be found on Amazon Prime, as well as on the HBOGo app.

4. “Dancing With the Stars: Junior”

As much as I like to consider myself a person with a highbrow taste, I still admittedly fall victim to the oldest trick in the network playbook: throwing children into the equation once the original formula has grown stale. “Dancing with the Stars: Junior” is no exception — it is simply “Dancing with the Stars” but with kids. It absolutely should not be as enjoyable as it is, and yet I am completely caught up. To illustrate its widespread appeal, consider the fact that I was not the biggest fan of “Dancing with the Stars” and that I am allergic to children, and I still love the shit out of the show.

What makes this show worth binging?

The cast of  “Dancing with Stars: Junior” is reason enough alone to label this show as bingeable. For starters, the legendary Frankie Muniz (“Racing Stripes”) hosts, and all I can say is that you must see it to believe it. Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson is also onboard and trying her absolute hardest to follow simplistic choreography. Every other child dancer appeared on “Dance Moms” at some point, so it basically acts as the “Dance Moms” reunion we’ll never see. Additionally, the excitement of seeing how much kids can fuck up live television by blatantly ignoring cues is the type of endearingly hilarious content you need on a cold winter afternoon.

Where to find it: Every episode is currently streaming on Hulu and ABCGo.com

3. “GLOW”

Anyone who knows me knows the two things most sacred to me are history and female-centric comedy. Thus, it should come as a surprise that, despite this fact, I still have not completed “GLOW” — a show pretty much tailored to my niche tastes. But, alas, what is winter break for? From the creators of  “Orange Is the New Black” is the fictionalized story of the very real Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, an all female wrestling troupe comprised of failed L.A. actresses. Pretty much the E! Network’s “Total Divas” with a dash more social commentary.

What makes this show worth binging?

“GLOW” is a classic underdog tale of misfits joining together, only this underdog story avoided casting Vince Vaughn, so it’s actually enjoyable. Unlike most shows considered “feminist” today, the white characters are not the only ones with depth — it actually features a diverse cast in which dynamism is equally distributed. It also is worth mentioning for someone as into costume design as I am, that the 1980s hair and makeup are done so accurately that it feels as though it could be archival footage. Also, it’s only in its second season, so it won’t feel like a chore to get caught up.

Where to find it: Season one and two are currently streaming on Netflix

2. “Barry”

Another venture into the unknown that we will partake on together is “Barry.” Revealing that the star of the dark comedy is Bill Hader (“Ralph Breaks the Internet”) should be incentive enough to start it. The series follows Barry, a hitman who, while on a job in Los Angeles, decides he wants to be an actor. If this premise still isn’t enough to hook you, the show also tackles large scale issues like PTSD and trauma with an acerbic wit.

What makes this show worth binging?

I already mentioned Bill Hader as a draw for the show, but to reiterate... Bill Hader is in this program. Go watch! “Barry” also includes on-point commentaries of the different niche groups within the acting community in Los Angeles, and features a brand of dark comedy that is able to be hilarious without relying solely on shock or gross-out humor.

Where to find it: The first season of Barry is currently streaming on HBOGo.

1. “You”

Every so often a show like “You” comes around and makes you believe in television again. Upon first viewing the trailer for “You,” several questions probably run through your mind: Did Penn Badgley (“The Paper Store”) really plow through his “Gossip Girl” money that fast that he already has to resort to Lifetime? Was that really John Stamos (“Fuller House”)? Who got pushed off of that clearly CGI bridge? All of these questions are mere roadblocks deterring you from your destiny of watching and completing the never-ending thrill ride that is “You.” “You” attempts to be a critique of the pitfalls of social media stalking, but abandons this plotline mid-season to focus on a murder spree. Yes, it aired on Lifetime. Yes, it’ll be back for season two in 2019. Catch the fever!

What makes this show worth binging?

Would it be too broad to say that everything makes “You” worth watching? Because this is a statement of truth. Penn Badgley has been robbed of an Emmy nod for his turn as Dan Humphrey carbon-copy, Joe Goldberg. The range Badgley possesses to play yet another Brooklyn outsider in love with an aloof blonde is astounding. You will never be bored watching “You,” as the stakes increase so abruptly that you will most likely have to rewind several times throughout an episode to comprehend what has happened. Also, John Stamos plays a therapist who smokes weed during sessions. So, yes, I feel it is completely justified to assert that everything about “You” makes it a binge-worthy piece of art.

Where to find it: Every episode of “You” is currently streaming on the Lifetime app. Thank me later.