It’s a bit of an odd time in television at the moment. Most of our summer shows have ended their seasons and we’re waiting for premieres of all our returning fall favorites. What does one watch in the meantime? Even though its Peak TV, with over 500 scripted shows available, I surprisingly still find myself at times looking for something good to watch. Thankfully, this break has actually given me time to catch up with a few series that I loved from the past year, or ones I had been meaning to check out for awhile now. Watching One Mississippi, Better Things and Bojack Horseman has been some of the best TV watching I’ve had in recent memory. They’ve all made me remember how fun, relaxing and emotionally satisfying watching television can be, and why it’s long been a happy place for me.
Before you go and tell me that there’s no room on your already busy TV watching schedule for anything new, I’ll offer up why these three shows are more than worth your time. First off, one of the best things about them is that they are all half hour shows. We are all busy people and the fact that they all manage to be meaningful, poignant and effective in roughly 30 minutes makes me love them even more. Not only that, every one of these shows is funny and leaves me with a smile on my face. These days there’s not much more we can ask for out of a television show than for it to leave us entertained and happy.
Another reason I’d recommend these shows is that they share similarities to other great comedies such as Master of None and You’re the Worst (which also just returned for Season 4 and I recommend you watch). These shows all raise relevant, big-picture questions about the society we live in, but in a way that manages to keep things light enough to remain comedies for the most part. They also realize that sometimes just dealing with everyday life issues, and how we as people relate to one another, can be as compelling and intriguing as the next new TV gimmick or apocalyptic stakes. So I’m not saying anyone has to check these shows out. I just think you’ll find yourself smiling a little bit more if you do. I know I am.
One Mississippi (Amazon)
It’s likely One Mississippi has slipped under your radar. Even for the most TV obsessed of us it is easy to miss the Amazon show that just dropped its six-episode second season earlier this month. As soon as I heard it was back, I quickly devoured the episodes and was left not just wanting more, but also with a need to shout to anyone who would listen just how much I loved it. Loosely based on standup comic Tig Notaro’s life, the show that was emotional, meaningful and impactful in Season 1, turned into one of the most romantic and feel good shows on my TV in Season 2.
Tig, her stepfather Bill (the fabulous John Rothman) and brother Remy (Noah Harper) each navigate new relationships as they begin to move on from the loss of Tig and Remy’s mother in Season 2. It’s impossible to not get completely sucked into their stories and root for everyone involved. Mixed among the ongoing love stories is a thoughtful reflection on issues such as sexual assault and its effects on victims, as well as what it’s like to be a lesbian in the most Red of all U.S. states. I absolutely adored One Mississippi and I think if you give it a shot, you will too!
Better Things (FX)
This is a show I had be meaning to check out forever, but just never got around to it. I finally was able to catch up on Season 1 of the Pamela Adlon (Louie) series just before Season 2 premiered on September 14. On the surface, this is just another show about a single mother balancing the demands of her career while also raising her three daughters. But Better Things is so much more than that. Adlon, who also created the series, stars as Sam Fox. She is extremely talented and able to seamlessly jump between being silly, sarcastic and landing jokes one minute, to emotionally exhausted, devastated or even angry the next. Add in the fact that she directed every episode in Season 2, and I am even more in awe of Adlon and her many talents.
Better Things does something else that few other shows can pull off — each of Sam’s children are interesting, complex, and three-dimensional characters that I actually want to watch. They feel like real kids going through real issues that aren’t always tied up with a nice little bow. Life on Better Things is sometimes dirty, often messy or uncertain, but always feels relatable. We all know life can be hard, but that’s OK, and Better Things is a show that proves that over and over.
Bojack Horseman (Netflix)
I won’t lie. Bojack Horseman, more so than my previous two recommendations, can be difficult to watch at times. I believe the Netflix animated series to be one of the best and smartest shows on TV, but its emotional moments can land very close to home for many. It’s a sentiment that seems a little absurd to say about an adult cartoon that follows a middle-aged horse who is a washed up 80s sitcom star, but it’s the truth. This universe, where animals and humans live among each other, provides some laugh-out-loud sight gags, and there’s often animal puns littered in every single scene. But Bojack (Will Arnett), his roommate Todd (Aaron Paul), ghost writer Diane (Alison Brie), frenemy Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins) and ex-girlfriend Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris) are all compelling and complex characters whose lives I have become get deeply invested in. These characters aren’t all human, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have real emotions and struggles just like the rest of us.
Bojack is probably the most timely show on this list. It deals with things such as depression, abortion, and women’s rights, while being both funny and true to life. It can be serious one minute, especially when delving into Bojack’s family issues or depression, but then provides commentary on Hollywood and celebrity culture in a hilarious way that is unmatched by anything else on television. Bojack is one of those shows that will have you laughing one minute, and then be blindsided by Feelings the next. Yes, it is a cartoon, but it’s affecting and heartbreaking, all while still being funny, which makes it consistently one of the very best, and most human, shows around.
Have you seen any of these shows? Thinking of trying them out? Sound off in the comments!
Better Things airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on FX. One Mississippi is available on Amazon. Bojack Horseman is available on Netflix.
Editor in Chief Bridget Liszewski comes from a long line of TV Junkies who fostered her love of television from a very young age. She's channeled that passion into covering both US and Canadian television shows, and is thankful everyday for the invention of the DVR. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, she loves college football and is a fan of sports in general. Bridget is always up for talking TV and you can follow her on twitter at @BridgetOnTV.