TV Recommendations with Rev. Gretchen: Nine New Shows

It’s June, which means this is my last post in this series! I hope you’ve enjoyed watching tv over the last few weeks.  

The amazing thing about TV right now is that great shows come out every day, and new discoveries of brilliance, originality, and creativity are constantly possible. Which is amazing and also sometimes overwhelming because it can be hard to keep up and track all that’s out there that is worth watching. To help focus on some of the best brand-new shows, I offer this list of recommendations, all of which have dropped in 2023, as my last post and as a reminder to keep watching tv! 

Nine New Shows

  1. The Diplomat (Netflix, 8 episodes, 50 minutes)  Keri Russell stars in this entirely compelling story of a diplomat accustomed to behind-the-scenes nitty-gritty thrown into a high-profile ambassador position as a test run for being recruited into the vice presidency. Despite this serious-sounding premise, this is a super fun show, in a tone similar to the West Wing or the Newsroom, that is both geo-political intrigue and romantic comedy. Keri Russell is perpetually sweaty yet somehow always gorgeous and her husband is somehow slimy, and yet you can’t also kind of root for him. This is definitely one of those shows it’s hard to stop watching once you start.  
  2. The Last of Us (HBO, 9 episodes, 45-75 minutes) – Don’t let the “adapted from a video game” OR the “zombie apocalypse” part of this show stop you from giving it a try. I am generally not oriented to either of these genres, but still found this an emotionally rich and compelling story, mixed with a sort of buddy-road-trip vibe for our two main characters, Joel and Ellie, who are trying to get across the devastated country with the hope for a cure for the fungal virus that has decimated so many.  A couple of the episodes in this series provide truly brilliant acting and storytelling that you don’t want to miss.  I have some mixed feelings about the ending, but definitely already look forward to season 2.
  3. Daisy Jones & The Six (Amazon Prime, 10 episodes, 50 minutes)  This story of a (fictional) 1970s band in their rise and fall, as well as their personal relationships of love and chaos behind the scenes. Featuring original music, a cast that spent a lot of time rehearsing together (and it shows), and a stunning lead in Riley Keough, also known as Elvis Pressley’s granddaughter.  I thoroughly enjoyed this show, even if it is sometimes predictable and light, the music is great and the acting is compelling.  
  4. Will Trent (Hulu/ABC, 13 episodes, 50 minutes) – This is an extremely satisfying and easy-to-watch variation on the “guy who is really good at solving crimes” genre a la the Mentalist, Monk, or Psych, starring the compelling Ramon Rodriguez alongside Erika Christensen (who I always root for as an actress) as his “we don’t date” lifelong love interest. While this show isn’t breaking new ground, it is a highly entertaining procedural with a strong cast (probably stronger than the material they are working, including the brilliant Sonja Sohn and underutilized LisaGay Hamilton) and a throughline story that keeps you engaged. 
  5. Class of ‘07 (Amazon Prime, 8 episodes, 30 minutes) – This would probably be on my “this show isn’t for everyone list,” but if you’re into irreverent apocalyptic high school reunion stories, this Australian series is definitely for you. Set at an all-girls school reunion where suddenly they all realize they will be spending the end of their days with the people they least want to hang out with again, this show is absurd, goofy, sometimes gross, and also totally engaging and fun to watch. This show takes a while to find its rhythm, but the ensemble cast keeps you coming back, and by the second half, it feels fun and fresh.
  6. Poker Face (Peacock, 10 episodes, 50-60 minutes) – The main reason to watch this show is Natasha Lyonne, who you’ll know from Russian Doll, Orange is the New Black, or maybe further back in American Pie. She holds an undeniable charisma, such that even you’ll stick with the slower parts of this series just to find out how she fares in the end.  Lyonne plays Charlie Cale, a casino worker who also happens to be a human lie detector.  Wherever she goes, she also happens to find herself entangled in murder and mystery, which she inevitably ends up solving before moving on to the next adventure. If you’re getting Columbo vibes, that’s not an accident, as the creators reference that show along with others that use a “howcatchem” structure where you know who did it from the beginning of the episode, but the drama of the series is how they will be caught.  This pattern can get a little too predictable, and they wait a little too long to bring the long arc mystery back into play, but this is still a highly entertaining and fun crime drama, especially, again, because Lyonne is just too fun to watch.  
  7. Dead Ringers (Amazon Prime, 6 episodes, 50-60 minutes) – High-camp horror is my best description of this show, which I’m not sure sells it very well.  For me, the ick factor is overcome by the curiosity factor, as we hope to learn what identical twins Elliot and Beverly Mantle have planned for their women’s health / highly experimental reproductive laboratory once they can secure the needed funding. Rachel Weisz offers an amazing, chilling performance as the twins, as the show takes us on a gorgeous, weird, unexpected, and emotionally complex journey, building steadily towards the finale. Theoretically based on the 1988 film starring Jeremy Irons, by changing the gender to women, there is an extra layer of commentary about female control and agency, highly relevant to our world today.  
  8. The Night Agent (Netflix, 10 episodes, 50 minutes) – I’m realizing my list is heavy on the crime/political intrigue genre…not sure why that is, except that sometimes these can feel like comfort food when there’s a lot going on in the world. The Night Agent is a very solid entry in this genre, telling the story of a highly loyal CIA Agent who ends up in over his head attempting to uncover the traitor within the white house.  This show is smart without being overly complicated, and Hong Chau, who generally makes everything she’s in better, is great fun as star Gabriel Basso’s Peter Sutherland’s main contact.  
  9. Tiny Beautiful Things (Hulu, 8 episodes, 30 minutes) –  If you enjoyed Cheryl Strayed story in Wild (either book or movie), this is a little like a sequel, as it follows Strayed’s life as she becomes the author of the advice column, Dear Sugar – although slightly fictionalized into the character of Claire. The two leads – Kathryn Hahn as Claire now and Sarah Pidgeon as Claire as a young adult – are both doing great work as they work to keep the tone from being way way way too much and instead land on “much.” This is what Claire is – she’s messy and still struggling to become the person she wanted to be, even at 50, and yet also finding herself giving other people advice. I’m guessing her messiness will make this a show not for everyone too, but if you’re a Kathryn Hahn fan in any sense and/or are looking for a witty tearjerker, this show is for you.
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