In such a crowded TV landscape, with so many great shows, only the strongest survive. Even then, it’s hard to keep up with them all. But, the only good thing about missing out on the first season of a great show is that you get to binge-watch your way to catch up. Three series — Orphan Black, Rectify and Moone Boy — are returning soon that flew under the radar when they debuted, but gained a lot of love, and a devoted following, as they wrapped up their inaugural seasons. And luckily, they’re now all available on streaming, so there’s no excuse to miss out.
Hit the jump for why you should make time to catch-up with them before their second seasons start in Volume 4 of my streaming recommendations series.
Style: Sci-Fi Drama
Original Broadcast: BBC America
Season Two Begins: Saturday, April 19, 2014
Stars: Tatiana Maslany
The success of BBC America’s breakout hit last year rests on the strength of its star, Tatiana Maslany, who should have received every acting award offered for television last year. Maslany plays a number of roles in the series as clones (the first season is largely dedicated to the clones finding each other, and figuring out who created them, and why. Naturally, answers beget more questions). The way Maslany makes each clone distinct is mesmerizing to watch, as are the relationships among the clones and their very different lives. The central mystery, while compelling, takes time to get going, but it’s playing the long game. Meanwhile, the way the series brings up the moral and ethical implications on human cloning, and what it could mean for society, makes it more than a series looking for a quick hook, or just focusing on one idea. Orphan Black makes for a great binge-watch, and after the way it caught the zeitgeist last year (particularly in praise of Maslany), this is not one to fall behind on.
Style: Southern Gothic Drama
Original Broadcast: Sundance
Season Two Begins: Summer 2014
Stars: Aden Young, Abigail Spencer, Adalaide Clemens
For a more detailed account of Rectify, I reviewed its first few episodes, of an eventual six, last year. But the bottom line is that it’s a gorgeously-filmed series that deals with deep themes. The series picks up just as Daniel Holden (Aden Young) is released back home from Death Row, thanks to a technicality regarding the DNA evidence. While the truth of the murder, and Daniel’s role in it (or not) is mystery that unravels slowly, the real drive of the series is about his relationships with his family (who mostly believe in his innocence) and those in the town (who aren’t sure), which are complicated and tenderly portrayed. Hints are dropped here and there that point the finger at others, and Daniel himself, who might have been responsible for the murder, but like many series this past year, it’s not something Rectify is tethered to for identity. The more interesting aspect is how Daniel does (or doesn’t) reintegrate into his family and society, and the rest of the cast are all so excellent and natural in their interactions with him. Creator Ray McKinnon captures the cadence and exceptional beauty of the landscape of small-town Georgia life,while also showing its darkness and destructive secrets. Ultimately though, it’s the story of a man who has gotten his first taste of a freedom he had stopped believing in. As the new season isn’t set to air until summer, take time to relish in the sinisterly-tinged world that McKinnon creates — this is slow-cooked TV, and it’s fantastic.
Style: Coming of Age Comedy
Original Broadcast: Sky1, Hulu
Season Two Begins: Thursday, April 24, 2014
Stars: Chris O’Dowd, David Rawle
A departure from the other heavy dramas on the list, Moone Boy is a light-hearted frolic that focuses on 12-year-old Martin Monroe (David Rawle), a strange boy who enjoys the company of his imaginary friend Sean (Chris O’Dowd, who created and wrote the series) more than anyone else. The charming show uses animation to help bring Martin’s other visions and crazy plans to life, while he navigates (and is tolerated by) his quirky but loving family (all of whom are fully-formed as characters, which is refreshing). Moone Boy is rarely hysterically funny, but it’s never too precious, either. It hums along at just the right pace and tone, and its Irish setting and O’Dowd’s weird humor, coupled with its surrealist bent, make it different from other coming-of-age shows from which it was derived (and which it acknowledges). At a mere six episodes, the series is a quick, joyful, and satisfying watch.
Catch Up on Prior Recommendations: