This month, Hulu added nearly the entire library of FX television shows as a result of Disney’s recent acquisition of Fox. And aside from some uncomfortable corporate consolidation undertones, it’s a boon to everyone who is stuck indoors right now.
Think of FX like a basic cable HBO — a network that consistently churns out damn good television. It’s hard to go wrong with a lineup so consistently good, but here are a few favorites.
Better Things follows Sam Fox, a middle-aged actress and single mother to three kids. The list of reasons to appreciate the show is long: it’s one of the warmest you can watch, full of love and empathy for nearly every person on-screen. It’s very funny, with cold opens that often leave you laughing within 30 seconds. And it’s completely beholden to its own interests, with each episode being an entirely different, lovely experience. Currently in the middle of its fourth season, Better Things is a fantastic showcase for co-creator and star Pamela Adlon, who faced the unenviable task of contending with co-creator Louis C.K.’s admission of sexual misconduct between the show’s second and third seasons. Somehow, Adlon didn’t just weather the storm but she made a good thing even better.
This is just... the coolest show. Distilled cool. One-hundred-proof slick. The story of Raylan Givens (devilishly handsome Timothy Olyphant), a US Marshal reassigned to his Kentucky hometown after his Wild West attitude gets him in hot water, Justified starts simply enough. Each episode features Givens on a new case, giving it a nice episodic feel while ongoing conflicts simmer in the background, eventually building to long-game payoffs. It’s a tremendously good binge, stylish from beginning to end.
Atlanta has a quick hook: Earn Marks (Donald Glover) wants to prove to the mother of his daughter that he’s worth something, so he convinces his cousin, up-and-coming rapper Al “Paper Boi” Marks (Brian Tyree Henry) to let him be his manager. The show almost immediately abandons this premise in favor of surreal standalone episodes with only the smallest hints of continuity between them. In Atlanta, creator Donald Glover and his collaborators have crafted a vehicle where anything can happen, and they can do whatever they want, from “Teddy Perkins,” an astonishing and unsettling episode about a Michael Jackson analog to an episode about a party Drake throws where Drake never appears. Satirical, sharp, and provocative, it’s impossible to know where Atlanta is going, but it’s always worth the ride.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Let’s get this out of the way: the earliest seasons of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia don’t play so well in 2020, 14 seasons (and counting) removed from the pilot. Always Sunny has always been about the limits of good taste, and as times change, jokes simply hit you differently. But they’re also instructive: Always Sunny is never a lazy show, continually evolving the situations it throws its cast of awful barflies in, always possessing a clear sense of who the real villains are: the privileged, moronic white bigots at the center of the show. It’s perhaps the finest show about a collection of jerks since Seinfeld and easily the most inventive.
An eight-part drama about the push and pull between two of the most dynamic influences on the stage and the screen, Fosse/Verdon explores the tumultuous relationship between Bob Fosse (Sam Rockwell) and Gwen Verdon (Michelle Williams). As a choreographer and director, the former was known for changing Broadway forever behind the scenes, and as a dancer and actor, the latter was the face of that change. The reality of their dynamic was more complicated and involved than that, and while Fosse/Verdon is a bit shy when it comes to showing the fruits of their relationship — dancing, mostly— the series is a soulful, compelling look at two titans of show business struggling to hold their lives together when they weren’t putting on a show.
One of the greatest missed opportunities in television, Terriers is a dramedy about two pals, Hank Dolworth and Britt Pollack, who work together as unlicensed private detectives in a San Diego beach town. As familiar as that may sound — the detective genre is one of TV’s most enduring — it’s never really been done like Terriers. Almost lackadaisical in a manner that recalls The Big Lebowski, but also melancholy with a rich sense of place and character, Terriers is easy to love, a show that deserved a revival but also ended perfectly after its only 13-episode season.
You probably know all about The Wire. There have been blogs about it since blogs were invented. This is the other Best Show Ever Made, the story about a thoroughly corrupt anti-gang unit in the LAPD and their ongoing attempts to stay ahead of the consequences of their actions. That relentless focus on consequence makes The Shield one of the most breathtaking TV shows you can watch, as stunning decisions made in the pilot reverberate to the very final episode, seven seasons later. The show attracted actors that were both already famous and a few years out from blowing up: Forest Whitaker, Glenn Close, Anthony Anderson, and Michael Peña all show up for varying lengths of time, each contributing to the tension in a different way. Uncompromising and raw, The Shield ended too late to be adored as a nostalgic classic but also too early to benefit from a streaming glow-up like Breaking Bad. Tear through all seven seasons, and you’ll be astonished it’s not a bigger sensation.
You’re the Worst
It’s a rom-com where you root against the couple... kind of. You’re the Worst opens with the meeting of Jimmy (Chris Gere), an insufferable writer, and Gretchen (Aya Cash), a publicist who prefers her life in flames. Together, they make a barely functional, astonishingly misanthropic pair that should be forbidden by law. But through sharp, clever writing and a willingness to break your damn heart, You’re the Worst manages to use the toxic couple at the heart of its story to make a surprisingly earnest exploration of love and relationships. While the middle seasons stumble, veering a little too far in the direction of unpleasantness, the show lands on its feet to be one of the most memorable and unlikely romantic comedies on television.