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Hajee’s Picks: My Favorite TV Recommendations

In the time of lockdowns and self-isolation, we can seek solace in art. Here are a bunch of my favourite current TV shows to watch on the web right now, from comedies and dramas, to thrillers and limited series.

Apr 4, 2020

Cultural critic Hajee — that’s what my friends say to make fun of me when I incessantly give them unsolicited film and TV recommendations. But there’s something inherently gratifying about it: investing wholeheartedly in a film or TV show, having it move you, potentially change the way you think, then passing it on to a friend, knowing they will be consumed by it and have a comparably cathartic and transformative experience. That’s beautiful to me.
It’s been nearly three weeks since I’ve been back home in Mumbai, India, having had to abruptly leave New York because of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was utterly unnerving to be suddenly displaced when all was going as planned. This isn’t the semester we hoped for. It won’t be the summer we planned. For most of us, the end of this crisis isn’t even in sight.
Amid all this uncertainty, one thing we can still count on is art. It can teleport us into different worlds, taking our minds away from our current reality. My go-to art form is television shows because of the scope for complex character development and fleshed out plots that the form allows.
So, here are a bunch of my favourite TV shows to watch on the web right now — from comedies and dramas, to limited series and thrillers. Most of them are fairly mainstream, while some may be lesser known. All of them, however, have meant a lot to me and are certainly worth your time.
It makes sense to begin with comedies because most people are seeking some lighthearted laughter as an escape. For the longest time, my favorite comedies have been Friends, How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men. But watching these in 2020 makes it harder for some to fully relate to these characters and their stories. We can more clearly see the misogyny underpinning the writing, the homophobic humor or the lack of diversity in the cast.
Luckily, there are plenty of wholesome, hilarious comedies out there today. One of my favorites is Sex Education, a British comedy following Otis, a socially awkward teenager with no sexual experience, and his mother, Jean, who is a professional sex therapist. Using the knowledge he has gained from her, he partners up with the misanthrope Maeve to start an underground sex therapy clinic in his highschool.
Through this wonderfully bizarre premise, the show explores a range of issues teenagers have to navigate as they explore their sexualities. With its diverse cast, well-rounded characters and feminist gaze, this show is highly progressive and an immensely fun watch. Two seasons of eight episodes each are out so far on Netflix.
But your sex education doesn’t have to end there. Big Mouth is an animated comedy that follows three teenagers, Andrew, Nick and Jessi, and their struggle going through puberty, dramatized through omnipresent hormone monsters that control and frequently torment them. Equally bold and bizarre, this animation is incredibly real, relatable and hysterical, all at the same time. Three seasons of 10 episodes each are out so far on Netflix.
Now for some darker comedies, with far more complex characters that you’re not always supposed to like: I’ll start with Fleabag, a show written and performed by the immensely talented Phoebe Waller-Bridge, based on her one-woman play act first performed in 2013. The show is pathbreaking for its emotional and sexual honesty, especially with a female lead who is self-sabotaging, dry-witted and not quite likeable. Oh, and she constantly breaks the fourth wall and talks straight at you, a technique which is flawlessly executed through all her interactions with her dysfunctional family and long list of men. Set in London, Fleabag is extremely audacious, side-splittingly funny and painfully depressing at the same time. It is a quick binge: just two seasons of six episodes each on Amazon Prime.
Perhaps the show that has best handled its problematic protagonist is BoJack Horseman, an animated dark comedy about a has-been TV star trying to revive his fame from the 1990s. Set in Los Angeles, its razor sharp satirical wit cuts through various aspects of show business, politics and human nature. More importantly, through six seasons of masterful character development, BoJack Horseman emerges as one of the most empathetic shows on television, exploring mental health, trauma and toxic behavior with a level of honesty and nuance previously unseen. Its sixth and final season just aired on Netflix this January.
Now, for the last of the comedy-dramas. Loosely based on the family of Rupert Murdoch, Succession follows the family of media mogul Logan Roy, who, having turned 80, decides to step down from the massive company. The question is, who will succeed him as CEO? His four offspring, each uniquely scarred by their loveless upbringing and authoritarian father, are potential candidates. The show offers pointed insight into this unreasonably rich, utterly dysfunctional family, all of whose members compulsively put wealth and power over love and relationships. Set in New York, Succession is incredibly addictive. It has all the fun you’d crave from Suits and Billions but with more mature writing and complex characterization. Watch its first two seasons of 10 episodes each on Hotstar or HBO.
Speaking of dysfunctional rich people, Made in Heaven explores the industry of marriages in elite urban India. It follows Arjun and Tara, two friends who partner up as wedding planners for Delhi’s upper class. By focusing on a different family’s wedding every episode, the show unveils and critiques different cultural quirks, customs and norms in India. At the same time, Made in Heaven closely follows the lives of its two protagonists and their trouble navigating their respective relationships in an avowedly sexist, classist and homophobic society. It is easily the best, most progressive and layered writing Indian television has seen to date. Catch its first and only season so far on Amazon Prime.
Among crime dramas, I have been a Narcos fan since it came out in 2015. It chronicles the story of drug lord Pablo Escobar in late 1980s Colombia through its first two seasons, and the subsequent rise of the Cali Cartel in season three.
Based on its success, we now also have two seasons of Narcos: Mexico, focusing on Felix Gallardo. With consistently good performances and suspenseful writing, the show is gritty and engaging throughout. Moreover, while the cop is always the narrator and the conscience of the show, Narcos doesn’t shy away from humanizing the drug kingpins it portrays, making for all the more interesting viewing. If you’ve watched some of the earlier seasons and are wondering if the new ones are as good, they are. And they’re all on Netflix.
I’m almost embarrassed to suggest this one, but it’s a guilty pleasure of sorts: You. The show is centered around a crazy, creepy stalker Joe Goldberg, whose all-pervasive voice-over largely guides the narrative. We see the whole world through his gaze, particularly the women he pursues. This unreliable narrator is completely twisted, and says the most misogynist, incel-like things throughout. The show is an alarming critique of our lack of privacy on social media and the dangers of being all too trusting of total strangers.
The show is definitely daft and unintentionally absurd in places, but if you accept the cinematic liberties and buy into the premise, it’s quite an exhilarating ride. You can catch the first two seasons on Netflix.
Finally, the limited series made in the past year have been some of the best content online. Adapted from real stories, these are mostly grim, but the craft on display is simply phenomenal.
Based on the horrific 2012 gang rape in India, Delhi Crime follows Deputy Commissioner Vartika Chaturvedi who seeks to find the perpetrators of the heinous crime. Amid increasing outrage and nationwide protests, Commissioner Chaturvedi must prove to the country, to her daughter and to herself that the perpetrators will be held accountable at a time when the nation was losing hope in law and order altogether.
On a similar vein, Unbelievable is based on the Pulitzer Prize–winning 2015 article titled “An Unbelievable Story of Rape.” It begins with the grim story of Marie, a teenager charged with lying about her sexual assault, but then quickly turns into a rousing and electrifying story of two female detectives who unearth and investigate a series of eerily similar assaults, all of which have hit a dead end.
Both these shows are real, raw and suspenseful thrillers. Their biggest strength is that they focus less on the tragedy itself and more on the power and conviction of the officers who seek justice against all odds, in patriarchal societies that neither respect their authority, nor care enough about the safety of women. Both are on Netflix.
Shifting gears, When They See Us is the most riveting and compelling show online at the moment. Created by the brilliant Ava Duvernay, who previously brought the multiple award-winning documentary 13th, this show is based on the horrifying injustice inflicted on the Central Park Five. In 1989, five black teenagers from Harlem, New York, were wrongfully convicted of raping a woman and spent between six and 13 years in prison before the real rapist was found. This gritty miniseries of just three episodes chronicles this appalling story. It is a powerful indictment of a shamelessly racist country.
That’s it for now. I hope at least some of these recommendations help you get through this time, and give you newer, different things to think about. If you liked them, do let us know so we can put out similar ones for documentaries, feature films and more.
Kaashif Hajee is a contributing writer. Email him at
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