Summer viewing: Five shows to catch up on this summer

Summer is a great time of the year. It’s a chance to relax a little and catch up on some things you might have missed during the year. In today’s age of “Too Much TV,” it is easier than ever to hear about a great show but just not have the time to watch it. Well with it being summer perhaps you have found yourself with a little extra free time and no new shows to watch. You’re in luck because I have five great shows that are available on Netflix or Amazon that are ready for your viewing pleasure. Three of the shows on the list have completed airing and two are still in their runs but all five are more than your time. Let’s get started…

1. Justified 

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Justified was one of the most underappreciated shows of recent years. Every year during its run I attempted to convince friends to watch it and no one ever did. Most likely because the early seasons of the show didn’t have the benefit of a streaming service providing an easy way to catch up. Thankfully that is not the case anymore! All six seasons and 78 episodes of Justified are available to stream on Amazon Prime (plus iTunes and DVD/Blu-Ray, if you’d prefer to own it).

Justified follows the story of US Marshall Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) who is reassigned to his home state of Kentucky after a questionable shooting during his posting in Miami. As Raylan returns home he is confronted by the ghosts of a past he thought he’d left behind. Justified is very much a show about facing and coming to terms with your past.

Packed with memorable characters and one-liners, Justified is the perfect show to binge this summer. The writing is sharp and witty, and the stories are thrilling. This is a show that knows exactly what it wanted to be and did exactly that. Justified was simply a fun show to watch and one that is very deserving of your time.

2. Person of Interest 

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Person of Interest (or POI) is a show that seemed to catch a lot of people, myself included,  by surprise. What started out as a simple CBS procedural eventually evolved into a complex examination of the modern surveillance state and the possible future of artificial intelligence.

POI follows ex-CIA agent John Reese (Jim Caviezel) and billionaire Harold Finch (Michael Emerson) as they access an intelligence program called “The Machine” the provides the social security number of a person connected to a violent crime. The catch is, Reese and Finch don’t know if that number is the victim or perpetrator.

The first two seasons of the show are largely procedural in nature, focusing on a “number of the week” whose story would be resolved by the hour’s end. The show used those episodes to flesh out the backstories of its characters in meaningful ways before becoming something else entirely in season three. By that point, the show switches to an almost completely serialized format as the endgame begins to take shape.

What you get with Person of Interest is a thrilling and intense ride of a show that culminates in one of the best series finales I’ve ever watched (my review of which can be found here) that wraps the show up in a satisfying manner and pays tribute to what came before. I miss this show a lot, largely because it had a cast of characters that I had grown very fond of. Even during the standalone episodes, it was always a treat to watch “Team Machine” do their thing.

The first four seasons of Person of Interest are available to stream on Netflix. The fifth and final season is out on DVD/Blu-Ray now and should be on Netflix in the coming months.

Side note: If you aren’t the type who wants to watch every episode of a show Matt Fowler over at IGN.com made a great list of “essential” POI episodes from the first four seasons which can be found here.

3. Fringe 

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Here is a show very near and dear to my heart. Fringe premiered on FOX in the fall of 2008, right as I was discovering my love of TV. To the outsider, Fringe might just look like an X-Files clone (and it certainly does at the beginning) but it very quickly develops an identity of its own centered on a strong core trio.

Fringe follows FBI Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) as she enlists the help of mad scientist Walter Bishop (John Noble) and his wayward son Peter (Joshua Jackson) to solve crimes based on the use of “fringe science.” The initial setup for the show can seem a little derivative of the “weird science” aspect that The X-Files famously popularized. Indeed the show gets off to a rather rocky start. A lot of different plot lines are introduced (some of which are dropped entirely) before the show settles its groove around episode 10 of season one. Once season two comes around Fringe finally gave up trying to imitate another show and told its own story.

Without going into too much detail about the twists the story takes, Fringe is ultimately about the ties that bind us to other people and the strength found in those bonds. That no matter how many crazy things might happen to us, we always have family. The core trio is truly the heart of the show and regardless of some strange plot decisions in seasons four and five, it is the characters that I was ultimately more invested in than the mysteries. Like, Person of Interest it was just fun to watch these characters do their thing.

I’ll admit, I might be clouded by nostalgia on this one but I believe Fringe a wild ride more than worth taking.

You can stream all five seasons of Fringe right now on Netflix.

4. The Americans 

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I am fairly confident in the assertion that The Americans is one of (if not the) best drama on TV right now. A fact that the television academy has finally recognized with a Best Drama nomination and outstanding lead actor/actress nominations for Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell. This show is one spectacular emotional gut-punch after another as a tale of undercover Russian spies gives way to a nuanced and thoughtful meditation on marriage and family.

In a nutshell, Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings (Rhys and Russell, respectively) are two deep-cover Soviet spies living in America in the 1980s as part of the “Directorate S” program. Their mission is to do whatever it takes to sabotage America efforts during The Cold War. Truthfully, the espionage aspect of the show is just a smokescreen for the real focus of the show, which is how these two grow to love one another and the way their work affects their personal lives. That’s just the basic setup, it becomes much more complicated throughout its four completed seasons.

Come for the spycraft but stay for the incredible family drama. Like every show on this list, it is the characters and actors that give this show its heart. I challenge you to not be invested in the marriage of Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings (Rhys and Russell respectively). I’m afraid to say much more than what I already have because the less said about the various turns the story takes, the better. It is a story that has been riveting to follow and I can’t wait to see where the showrunners take us in the final two seasons (set to air in 2017 and 2018 respectively).

The first three seasons of The Americans are available to stream on Amazon Prime. No word on when season four will be added.

5. Better Call Saul 

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Breaking Bad was a perfect show. There was absolutely no need for it to have a spinoff. Yet, here we are with Better Call Saul.

When Better Call Saul was announced you could’ve counted me among the skeptics. I was afraid this was just going to be an attempt to extend the brand of Breaking Bad. Thankfully, I was very wrong. Peter Gould and Vince Gillian knew exactly what they were doing when they pitched this show.

Set six years before the events of Breaking BadBetter Call Saul follows the exploits of struggling lawyer Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk), or the man we would eventually come to know as Saul Goodman. The show follows Jimmy’s various attempts to play it straight in a world that has no interest in letting him be the good guy. What follows is a show so very different from Breaking Bad. The stakes here are much lower and more personal than its parent show. With a supporting cast made up of Michael McKean, Rhea Seehorn, and Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul has proven itself to be a worthy successor to Breaking Bad.

The show really finds its stride in season two when it gives an increased role to Seehorn’s character Kim and nicely divides the show’s main plot lines between Jimmy and Mike’s (Banks) exploits. The show can at times feel like two different shows in one as Jimmy’s smaller legal matters dominate one-half, and Mike’s decent into Albuquerque’s criminal world take up the other. It is a delicate balancing act that is executed with near perfection. This show is such a treat and one I am happy to be a fan of. You should watch it too, just don’t expect the same thing as Breaking Bad.


Well, that’s all I have. What shows are you all watching this summer? If you’ve seen any of the above recommendations; what did you think of them?

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