Thanksgiving is finally here, giving us all reason to reflect on what we should truly be thankful for: a fantastic year for television. Seriously. Many of us will be downing our turkey dinners with a side of drunken hilarity, family dysfunction, and tense political discussion. But when the plates clear and you’re sinking into a food coma, rest assured that there’s some great TV waiting to see you through the long weekend. Here are some recommendations for what to watch while you digest.
Looking for an escape
Westworld is HBO’s latest and greatest puzzlebox of a show. If you’re not watching already, start now! There’s still time to be inevitably disappointed by a season finale that can’t possibly satisfy all of our questions. Armed with an incredible cast and stacked high with mysteries, the show is the sci-fi slow burn that keeps you coming back, no matter how frustrated you are.
Best seen with: That relative who finally finished Lost and is looking for a new show to theorize about.
Stranger Things (Netflix)
Stranger Things took the entire summer by storm and remains a must-watch of 2016. The series follows the kids and adults of a small town as they’re dragged into the mysterious disappearance of local boy Will Byers. It’s a weird, wonderful tribute to genre classics from the ‘70s and ‘80s that combines terrifying hell-monsters with waffle-loving, telekinetic little girls.
Best seen with: Your geeky roommate who can always spot a Stephen King reference.
The Get Down (Netflix)
No one is going to lie to you here: The Get Down is a bit of a mess, which is a given considering Baz Luhrmann’s output. But this series, which explores the birth of hip-hop in late-‘70s New York City, gels quickly into a moving and meaningful look into the lives of kids of color right on the cutting edge of a massive cultural moment. By the time the finale rolls around, you’ll be hooked.
Best seen with: Anyone who sat all the way through The Great Gatsby and said, “You know, that wasn’t all that bad.”
Black Mirror (Netflix)
Black Mirror has quickly become the Twilight Zone of the smartphone era, honing in on the anxieties that come with consumer technology and social media. The new season, which debuted on Netflix recently, has often met and even exceeded the high bar the series set when it first premiered back in 2011. Worried about the dangers of VR or what might happen if you upload your dying mind to the cloud? This new season is for you.
Best seen with: Any of your friends looking for a reason to quit social media and hibernate for the winter.
Looking for new faces
Insecure could be described as Girls with black women, but that would miss the point. Issa Rae, with help from showrunner Prentice Penny, offers an insightful, earthy, and deeply funny look into life in Los Angeles and what it means to be an awkward 20-something living in that community. It might not be breaking much ground for cable dramedies, but that doesn’t mean it’s not unique and worth the watch.
Best seen with: That cousin who loves Broad City, but needs something a little fresher.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (The CW)
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is easily one of the best shows on television. It’s funny, it’s diverse, it has a lot to say about how problematic romantic comedy narratives are, and it’s a musical. Underneath its love story is a heady meditation on how hard it is to find happiness these days. Watch this on the off chance that you’re up to dancing off that stuffing.
Best seen with: Your college friend who loves making fun of Disney movies but still watches them constantly.
Donald Glover has described his show Atlanta as “Twin Peaks with rappers,” and... he’s not wrong. In addition to it being a love letter to the black experience in America, it’s also unabashedly weird and surprising. How many other shows would have a whole episode devoted to a fake interview show, complete with its own animated commercial breaks?
Best seen with: That one friend who loves trap music and Twin Peaks, obviously.
Luke Cage (Netflix)
Marvel’s latest show in its stable of superhero TV series, Luke Cage, has both stellar performances and a topical take on America today. Luke Cage, who made his debut in last year’s excellent Jessica Jones, is living in Harlem and laying low as one of New York’s many superpowered heroes. But it’s not long before he’s dragging into his neighborhood’s underworld. This one is essential viewing.
Best seen with: Anyone who loves the idea of comic book superheroes meeting The Wire.
Looking to laugh while you cry
BoJack Horseman (Netflix)
BoJack Horseman might be the reigning sadcom of the moment, and this season is relentless. BoJack, a washed up sitcom actor (and horse), has a real shot at winning an Oscar, but the industry may not be willing to let that happen. While hilarious, the series embraces sadness and darkness as essentials components of not just comedy but everyday life. If you’re not up on this show yet, you really need to be.
Best seen with: The significant other who loves talking animals who talk about their existential crises.
The Good Place (Hulu)
What if, after your death, you find yourself in paradise — only to learn that it was a clerical error that landed you there? And what if, it turns out, most people don’t get to see paradise at all? What do you do? That’s the premise for The Good Place, a delightfully absurd take on the afterlife that envisions heaven as a place where you’ll never get hungover again. It’s a fun show. Just don’t think too deeply about how you’d probably never make it there.
Best seen with: That aunt that found and then subsequently lost religion at some point in the last few years.
This Is Us (Hulu)
Few shows embrace the messiness of life quite like This Is Us. The show is full of flawed but basically good people finding struggling to get by and do right, even as they’re constantly being thrown curveballs like illness or the death of children. It’s a heavy show, but it’s also amazing how often the show demands you laugh through the tears. Check this out.
Best seen with: Your tough grandmother who’s seen some real shit in her life.
Search Party (TBS / Amazon)
Millennials are jerks, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find the little moments where we’re forced to care about one another. Search Party, starring Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat, follows Dory as she finds herself hunting for an old college acquaintance who has gone missing. Surrounded by friends who are more content to post on Twitter about the disappearance, the show confronts us with how disconnected from one another our technology can make us.
Best seen with: Yourself, while you think about your loved ones.