So this was a light month for Netflix in regard to television. Only six TV shows are being given new episodes in May, and you better believe I won’t be recommending “American Dad” or “Royal Pains.” Of the four left, only three earn the Indiewire seal of approval. As fun as “Top Gear” can be, I doubt many people are going to start binge-watching in the 20th “series” (those tardy individuals would start with “series” 15 when Tom Cruise stops by and takes a car onto two wheels).
So what’s a TV fan to do? Dig deep, that’s what. Read on to see our three new picks as well as two selections to watch (or rewatch) from the recent past.
1) “Scandal” – Season 3 (made available May 17th)
Why Should I Watch? It’s freaking “Scandal!” If you haven’t started watching yet, there’s probably no hope for you. That being said, the reasons stack up rather fast simply by summarizing the plot. A D.C. fixer starts her own crisis management firm only to get entangled in the politics she aimed to leave behind as well as a torrid affair with none other than the President of the United States. Throw in the alluring Emmy nominee Kerry Washington and the creator of “Grey’s Anatomy” — remember how addictive those first few seasons were? — and you’ve got yourself a recipe for one long Memorial Day weekend…indoors, in front of your television. Stock up on wine.
Do I Need to Catch Up? Yes. This is a night time soap opera, so the twists stack up as quickly as the characters. You need to start from the beginning, and Netflix has the first two seasons waiting for you to do just that. Also, season three is the one that just ended on ABC, so you’ll be completely caught up before Season 4 starts in September. Go ahead. Tell your annoying coworker you’ve been watching all along. He’ll never know.
Best Episode: “No Sun on the Horizon” – Even for “Scandal,” there was a LOT going on in this episode. President Fitz faces off against his VP Sally in a live debate, but stakes high enough for Aaron Sorkin’s “The West Wing” aren’t near enough for Shonda Rhimes, who throws in an assassination attempt, an “act of God,” and the cliffhanger of all mid-season cliffhangers: you know one of the main characters is dead, but which one?! You have to keep watching to find out, so get to it.
2) “Derek” – Season 2 (available May 30th)
Why Should I Watch? Ricky Gervais’ sweet-as-candy story of a slow but pure-of-heart nursing home worker who only sees the good in his coworkers and patients didn’t garner nearly the buzz it deserved last year. Shot in the documentary style made famous by Gervais’ original British version of “The Office,” “Derek” perfectly embodies the emotional mindset of its titular hero, taking a close look at each of its main characters without disrespecting the unnamed inhabitants of the old folks home. There are no geezer jokes here. Well, at least no out of taste geezer jokes. Just lots of laughs coming straight from the heart.
Do I Need to Catch Up? Without seeing the second season, it’s hard to say. There were a few key plot points in the first season of “Derek,” including a compelling relationship between Derek and his coworker (and costar) Kerry Godliman. It’s not exactly a budding romance, but there’s a lot going on in fleeting looks and meaningful gestures. Go ahead and catch up on the first season. At seven episodes and 30 minutes per, it wont take you too long.
Best Episode: “Episode 7” – It was a tough choice between the pilot and the finale (the difficulty reinforcing the idea of “Derek” as a great show), but a sequence from the finale is what sticks with you days, even months after you’ve finished the series. Derek is trying to reconnect with his estranged father, or, more accurately, Derek doesn’t want to reconnect with his long lost dad. The soft-hearted man has never held grudges before, making the decision an odd one for his friends to try to understand. His arc comes full circle by the end, and also sets up an intriguing plot for the next season, which is technically what we’re recommending here, so watch the whole series and pay close attention to Episode 7.
3) “Psych” – Season 7 (made available May 1st)
Why Should I Watch? Honestly? Dule Hill. If you watched any of “The West Wing” but especially the episode where Charlie holds a “Team Toby” meeting to help the curmudgeon-y speechwriter win back his ex-wife, then you’re on board the Dule train. With seven seasons, including the recent series finale, available on Netflix, you’ve got hours upon hours of the otherwise scarce actor to watch.
Do I Need to Catch Up? Nah. “Psych” was a serialized crime show on USA. You could watch any old episode on a Saturday afternoon and be right in the thick of things with the crime-fighting detective duo. Feel free to start wherever you want.
Best Episode: “Bollywood Homicide” – Okay. I promise I’m not recommending the season four episode simply because its name derives from the guilty pleasure buddy cop comedy “Hollywood Homicide” starring Josh Hartnett and Harrison Ford. I wouldn’t choose it just so I could discuss the under-appreciated comedic chops of the endlessly rewatchable 2003 film, or drop a line about how hysterical Ford is during an interrogation scene where he air humps the one-way glass. No. This episode is quality. Just listen to the theme song.
4) “Bob’s Burgers” – Season 3 (available now)
Why Should I Watch? How many reasons do we need to give you? We already wrote five. Then we gave you five more! “Bob’s Burgers” is the best animated program on Fox, and an ideal pairing for past and present fans of “The Simpsons” on Sunday nights. You shouldn’t need more reasons than we’ve already given you, and, really, you shouldn’t need any for a 22-minute show on Netflix. Just try it.
Do I Need to Catch Up? Not at all. You should, obviously, given the reasons listed above as to the show’s many appealing traits, but you don’t need to know anything to jump into the colorful world of the Belcher family. The third season was just made available in April, so start wherever you like — it’s all good.
Best Episode: “An Indecent Thanksgiving Proposal” – I mean, talk about “Sophie’s Thanksgiving Choice.” It’s impossible to pick a best in this flock of fine contenders. From “Tina-rannosaurus Rex” where Tina is wrecked by guilt over an accident she lies about, to “Boyz 4 Now” when Louise develops a crush on a boy band singer, Season 3 of “Bob’s Burger” is a veritable smorgasbord of delectable delights. What makes “An Indecent Thanksgiving Proposal” stand out is really just one thing: Bob talking to the turkey. From the opening scene when he romances it in the restaurant to a booze-fueled hallucination when he rides “Lance” all the way to the stars, Bob’s love for his food is one of the show’s best recurring bits. Bonus: “Bob’s Burgers” rivals “Parks and Rec” for Punniest Program. Example A) “If you want to open the door to this family, use the tur-key.”
5) “Friday Night Lights” – All Seasons (available now)
Why Should I Watch? You haven’t watched “Friday Night Lights” yet? Are you a criminal? Do you not have access to Netflix? Why are you reading this article then? Get your life together, man.
Do I Need to Catch Up? Yes. Immediately. With every episode.
Best Episode: All of them. Ok, maybe not season two. Fine! I’ll pick one! While the first season is simply a masterpiece unto its own, I cannot with a pure heart name any episode the best if it asks us to root for the (West) Dillon Panthers — it doesn’t feel right anymore (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, STOP READING). So out of the the last two seasons, I’ll pick “Thanksgiving.” “The Son” is the darkest, and arguably the best from a dramatic perspective (Coach throwing a drunken Saracen into the shower is simultaneously heart-stopping and wrenching), and “Always,” the series finale, is filled with memorable moments like Coach’s laughing-turned-venomous reaction to being asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage. But “Thanksgiving” has it all. Honest moments abound, such as the Jess/Landry/Vince love triangle reaching a harmonious, respectful end. Matt is back from Chicago. Coach gets his revenge against the team that wronged him. And Tim Riggins takes the fall for his brother — and new father — Billy. It’s dramatic. It’s funny. It’s heartfelt. It’s everything “Friday Night Lights” wants to be and almost always is — so give it one more look.
Correction: Originally, this article said “Scandal” was available May 1st. It’s been corrected to reflect the true date, May 17th.