The 2000s kick-started the Golden Age of Television. There is no better descriptor for the era we are living in. A myriad of excellent TV shows are on the platter for the intelligent viewer.
With the wide reach of streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hotstar, it has become much easier to watch shows and that too without annoying ads.
Entertainment is at our beck and call for us to indulge. With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing most of us indoors, the small screen is the to go destination now.
In this age of ‘Peak TV’ with an abundance of choices, many shows are overlooked as the big ones like ‘Breaking Bad’, ‘The Wire’ or ‘Game of Thrones’ grab the spotlight.
These are some excellent shows which not everyone might have seen or which might not seem as appealing due to its quirky or weird premises.
BoJack Horseman probably is the weirdest show of all time. The concept of BoJack Horseman seems to have emerged from a 'psychedelic trip through the multiverse'. The show is classified as an adult animated tragicomedy sitcom. There’s so much going on just in the name of the genre. All these things tend to usually turn someone off from watching this show, especially the animated part, but if you are willing to try it out, you won’t be disappointed. The show follows a washed-up former sitcom star – the titular ‘BoJack Horseman’, who is a talking horse -- trying to get his major comeback by releasing an autobiography. The plot generally revolves around him, his friends/acquaintances including his agent, his ghostwriter, his homeless friend and so on. Although the first season is primarily a sitcom, the story then evolves into a great tragicomedy until the sixth and final season. It takes a deeper look into themes of superstardom, alcoholism, depression, sexual harassment, guilt and much more. It does so in a unique manner difficult to replicate.
BoJack Horseman finds a way to properly balance elements of comedy and drama to great effect. The final few episodes of the sixth season are arguably some of the best written episodes on modern television and brings the show to a spectacular but somber end. If you can see past the animated style (which many consider ‘kiddish’, arguably a wrong opinion), then this show should definitely be on your watch list.
Available on: Netflix
Afterlife is about a depressed man considering suicide after the death of his wife. Sounds like the perfect premise for a comedy show? You’re spot on. This black comedy show is produced, directed by and starring Ricky Gervais as the aforementioned depressed man. Gervais is probably best suited to shed light on these topics through humour. In huge contrast to his breakthrough role as the bumbling office manager David Brent in the Office UK, Gervais plays a much more somber and melancholic character named Tony Johnson. He is funny nevertheless, but the comedy is the not-in-your-face kind, but rather sarcastic and deadpan, relying solely on the delivery and timing of the jokes.
The character of Tony Johnson can be perfectly summed up with the reply he gives, when asked to tell a new worker ‘what’s what’.
He replies ever so cheerfully, by saying, “Humanity is a plague. We’re a disgusting, narcissistic, selfish parasite, and the world would be a better place without us.”. If this isn’t real comedy, then what is? In all actuality, Afterlife delivers many jokes as well as an endearing story. The show is still relatively new, with only two seasons under its belt and a third on the way, and so is quite a quick watch.
Available on: Netflix
What We Do in the Shadows
Going with the theme of comedies with weird concepts, What We Do in the Shadows is a mockumentary comedy about … vampires! The show follows the lives of four vampires living in Staten Island as they go about their ‘normal’ lives. Based on the 2014 movie of the same name by Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement, the show has found a way to replicate the success of the particular brand of humour, found in the movie. Although it takes one or two episodes to get into the show, once you start getting used to it you won’t be able to check your stop laughter. The show’s plot mainly focuses on the manner in which the vampires integrate themselves into the modern society in their new home of Staten Island.
Much of the comedy is also derived from these topics. The series’ basic premise stands out as a breath of fresh air in a comedy sphere, which is overstuffed with sitcoms. What We Do in the Shadows have come out with really creative and smart comedy including an episode where the vampires are summoned by the Vampire Council, made up of actors who played famous vampires (or vampire related characters) in movies and TV shows, reprising roles in a humorous interpretation. One has not experienced true humor until they have seen Jim the Vampire (played by an amazing Mark Hamill), asking for rent.
Available on: Hotstar
Barry is not an underrated show by any means. The show has after all been nominated for about 30 Primetime Emmy Awards. But still not many have watched this excellent black comedy drama created by and starring SNL alumni Bill Hader. The plot of Barry follows the titular Barry Berkman, a hitman who decides to leave his killing ways to become an actor in Los Angeles. The show delivers consistently on the jokes throughout, without missing out the opportunities to deal with issues like PTSD (Barry is a former marine) and depression.
Bill Hader’s starring role earned him two well deserving Emmy Awards for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series. He is backed by an amazing supporting cast including Henry Winkler as Gene Cousineau (an acting coach), Sarah Goldberg as Sally Reed, Barry’s love interest and struggling actress, and a personal favourite and scene stealer Anthony Carrigan as NoHo Hank, the leader of the Chechen mafia. The first season was followed up by an even better second season, which further explored Barry’s journey as well as a hilarious subplot involving the Burmese, Bolivian and Chechen mafia. The series’ dark tone and particular type of black comedy helps for the show to stand out among the rest. If you want to laugh as well as see a really good drama, then Barry is a great choice.
Available on: Hotstar
Now, to take a sharp turn from all the off-the-wall comedies and delve into a psychological crime thriller series. Produced by Charlize Theron and David Fincher, Mindhunter is a show based on a 1995 book of the same name and follows two FBI agents who operate the agency's Behavioral Science Unit. The plot revolves around the two agents, Holden Ford and Bill Tench, who are trying to understand how a serial killer’s mind works. Throughout the show various infamous serial killers are featured including Montie Rissel, Charles Manson, David Berkowitz and so on. Mindhunter’s appeal comes from the nail-biting tense manner in which the series is presented as well as the great acting by the full cast. David Fincher also directed about five episodes in the series, but the series was put on indefinite hold after the second season as he wanted to take time ooff to focus on other things.
But now the season has been renewed for a third edition, though further details have not been revealed. The series has perfected the formula for an edge-of-the-seat thriller with hardly any action. The portrayals of the criminals have been widely lauded for contributing to the edgy nature of the show, which is its essence. If anyone is looking for a show to binge during the weekend, then Mindhunter is the obvious choice.
Available on: Netflix