1. “Narcos” (available August 28)
Why Should I Watch It? “Narcos” may have less big name talent attached than recent Netflix releases (I’m looking right at you “Wet Hot American Summer”), but a lack of star power doesn’t indicate lesser quality, just as an abundance of it fails to guarantee greatness (again, right at you “Wet Hot”). Created by Jose Padilha (“Elite Squad,” “Robocop”) and starring Wagner Moura (“Elite Squad”) as Pablo Escobar, “Narcos” pits the drug kingpin against a DEA team eager to take him down. Netflix is promising “brutal, bloody conflict” in its second period drama (though everyone’s basically agreed to forget “Marco Polo” ever happened), and considering the number of violent films chronicling activities surrounding Escobar’s drug trade — from “Blow” to “Escobar: Paradise Lost” — that seems like one attribute we can rely on lasting for at least 10 episodes of television.
Best Episode: All I can tell you is it’s likely not the pilot. Early reports, both foreign and domestic, have mentioned an introduction with improbably long narration and less-than-gripping action depicted underneath. Still, if it gets it all out of the way early, hopefully that allows for more effective and lean storytelling in later episodes. We can wait. We’re bingeing, after all.
2. “Reading Rainbow” Volume 1 (available August 1)
Why Should I Watch It? In case you weren’t a child or the parent of a child between 1983 and 2009, “Reading Rainbow” is a kids’ show hosted by LeVar “La Forge” Burton with the sole mission of encouraging children to read. Utilizing tools forgotten by modern society like “libraries,” “history,” and “literature,” Burton found fun and creative ways to discuss a book’s themes, including bringing in celebrity narrators to read from that week’s featured book. While it’s incredibly exciting to see these useful and largely timeless educational episodes resurrected for a new generation on Netflix, “Reading Rainbow” isn’t technically over. In 2014, Burton helped raise more than $5 million via Kickstarter to fund an expansion of the “Reading Rainbow” app that will include a new subscription-based classroom version (the fee will be waived for more than 13,000 disadvantaged classrooms).
Best Episode: While I’m not sure what episodes “Volume 1” actually entails, it’s hard to go wrong with any of these nostalgic favorites. I’m more concerned with what they won’t include than what they will, as there’s at least one celebrity guest who shouldn’t be influencing children’s minds: Bill Cosby was a guest narrator for Marc Brown’s book, “Arthur’s Eyes.” Perhaps they could just re-record his part with a new voice. I’m thinking Tom Cruise or Joaquin Phoenix. You know, someone sane and responsible.
3. “HitRecord on TV” Season 1 (available August 7)
Why Should I Watch It? You’re reading Indiewire, aren’t you? So you’re a supporter of independent filmmakers and a lover of the creative process? Then you should be watching “Hit Record on TV.” Pivot’s variety series relies on an open-collaboration concept for production, meaning almost every aspect of the show is constructed with the help of independent artists from around the world. Working on a theme provided by the show’s creators, one person might be responsible for writing a short sketch and then someone else will animate its set, characters and/or additional elements. It’s a massive joint effort that comes together better than I bet even the show’s founder imagined. Oh, and said founder is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, in case the rest of this pitch didn’t hook you already.
Best Episode: While it’s hard to turn down Episode 6, “RE: GAMES,” the first season’s third episode, “RE: TRASH,” features an interview with John Waters, a.k.a. the “Pope of Trash.” “Capture the Flag” may be an instantly addictive piece of entertainment, but watching the writer/director of “The Trash Trilogy” talk about his love for vomit scenes takes the cake.
4. “Doctor Who” Season 8 (available August 8)
Why Should I Watch It? In case you’re not already a fan of Time Lords, time travel and the TARDIS, “Doctor Who” Season 8 offers one bonus even sci-fi haters might be drawn to: Peter Capaldi. The Scottish star of “The Thick of It” and “In the Loop” is such an appealing presence it’s likely difficult even for non-fans to keep from getting sucked into more than 800 episodes of humanoid alien adventures. Go ahead. Give it a try. We promise you won’t sprout nerd goggles (though you might need glasses if you actually watch the whole series).
Best Episode: Our resident “Doctor Who” critic Kaite Welsh was so smitten with part one of the season finale she gave it the unprecedented grade of “A+++++++.” “‘Dark Water’ doesn’t pull its punches, from the shocking pre-credits opener to the final reveal,” Welsh writes in her review. “Whilst previous episodes have dragged out flimsy plots, padded out by a treading water love triangle, this one delivers on its promise; setting the stage for an explosive finale. It feels, frankly, like an entirely different show. The show it should have been from the start.” Better get to bingeing.
5. “Real Husbands of Hollywood” Season 3 (available August 19)
Why Should I Watch It? Did you know Kevin Hart had a TV show? With all his recent movie roles and popular stand-up specials, it feels like “Real Husbands of Hollywood” — a BET original series co-created by and starring Hart — has been a bit lost in the shuffle. Featuring fan favorites like Nick Cannon and J.B. Smoove (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) as married celebrities making their way through the day-to-day grind of showbiz life, this reality show spoof should be getting a lot more traction after three seasons, especially after winning Best Comedy Series at the NAACP Awards in 2014. Now, to be clear, this isn’t “The Comeback”-level satire, but many of the jokes land thanks to the delivery from these affable actors. In other words, it’s certainly worth sampling.
Best Episode: It’s rather fitting the best episode of Season 3 doesn’t focus on the husbands. In Episode 8, “Black is the Same Old Black,” Tisha Campbell-Martin, Duane’s wife, finds herself thrown in jail for having her name on her the paperwork for her hubby’s illegal dealings with Boris. But that’s not all! When her friends (a.k.a., the other wives) protest, they, too, end up in the clink. And you better believe Bridgette Hart, Kevin’s wife, isn’t going to stand for that.
6. “Dancing on the Edge” Season 1 (available August 1)
Why Should I Watch It? The same year “12 Years a Slave” won Best Picture at the Academy Awards, its leading man (and Oscar nominee) Chiwetel Ejiofor was also drawing accolades for his Starz miniseries, “Dancing on the Edge.” Though the series was largely overlooked at the time, its impressive cast — including Jacqueline Bisset, Matthew Goode and John Goodman — and vibrant story make the miniseries worth revisiting today. A Golden Globe and Emmy nominee for his performance, Ejiofor played Louis Lester, the leader of a black jazz band touring in the 1930s. Dealing with racial prejudice, changing political landscapes and jazz, “Dancing on the Edge” may not sound like your ideal choice for mid-summer entertainment, but no one’s watching “12 Years a Slave” for fun, either. Give it a shot. You won’t be disappointed.
Best Episode: At only six episodes, “Dancing on the Edge” is best experienced in one or two sittings. It’s more of an extended film than an episodic television series, but if forced to choose one hour as the best, I’ll go with the fifth. Without spoiling anything, it’s in the penultimate episode that things truly become taxing for Louis and his band. Tension mounts, suspense increases and at least one unforeseen twist is executed with grace, making for an hour of TV that truly builds anticipation for the finale (which doesn’t disappoint).
7. “Revenge” Season 4 (available August 28)
Why Should I Watch It? In one of many experiments conducted at the Indiewire offices, I was asked to watch the series finale of “Revenge” when it first aired back in May of this year. The catch being I’d never seen “Revenge” before, the TV team hoped a blind viewing of such a twist-dependent series would produce an entertaining reaction from a nighttime soap-loving critic like myself (truthfully, I’m more of a “teen drama” fan, including shows like “The O.C.” and “Gossip Girl”). Sadly, I found the series finale utterly dull and fairly easy to understand, making for what would have been a rather dull reactionary piece. So, to sum up, the only reason to watch Season 4 is if your editor is pulling an elaborate prank on you.[Editor’s note: I regret nothing.]
Best Episode: I can only honestly comment on the series finale, and I certainly hope that’s not the best episode of the season. Watch it if you must — I hear ya, completists of the world — but lower expectations accordingly.
The Rest of Incoming TV:
“Odd Squad” Season 1 (available August 1)
“The Code” Season 1 (available August 1)
“Utopia” Season 1 (available August 1)
“Transporter: The Series” Season 2 (available August 7)
“Strange Empire” Season 1 (available August 20)
“Girl Meets World” Season 1 (available August 23)
“Once Upon a Time” Season 4 (available August 28)