As the summer term begins, many students may be finding themselves with too much time on their hands. The weather will likely be gorgeous, by Vancouver standards, but who are we kidding? None of us are actually going to go outside, right? To prepare you for your newfound free time, here is a list of the best shows to binge watch this summer:
The Last Kingdom
By Alex Bloom
The Last Kingdom, based on the books by Bernard Cornwell, has quickly become one of my favourite shows. Set in late ninth century AD England during the struggle between Saxons and Danes to control the Isles, it tells the story of Uhtred of Bebbanburg (Alexander Dreymon), a Saxon raised by Danes. Even though he rejects his Saxon roots, Uhtred is able to move relatively freely between the two warring groups. Uhtred’s liminal position allows the audience to see the nuances of the conflict, which is not only a conflict between armies, but between faiths and cultures.
The Last Kingdom has high production values and this means stunning costumes and sets, not to mention climactic battle scenes. The show is action-packed, with at least one battle or skirmish occurring in almost every episode. For fans of action, The Last Kingdom does not disappoint. Every combat sequence is both realistic and well-choreographed. For those who don’t like violent shows, I don’t recommend it as it is quite visceral.
What could be a dour and boring historical narrative is made entertaining by the roguish personality of Uhtred, who never fails to find humour in a situation. If you liked Vikings or Game of Thrones or if you are simply interested in history, then The Last Kingdom is for you.
The entire first season is available on Netflix and the second season is also available on Netflix as it is released.
By Nathan Ross
It was very tempting to talk about Orphan Black as the show to watch, as Canadian sci-fi needs as much love as it can get. Yet, with Orphan Black being relatively well-known leading up to its final season this summer, I would encourage those looking for another great Canadian sci-fi to check out Dark Matter.
Dark Matter follows the adventures of six people on a ship called the Raza who wake up with their memories erased and with no idea who each other are or why they are together. Combined with the ship’s android (the delightfully aloof Zoie Palmer), they try and figure out who they are. It doesn’t take long, though, for the show’s first great twist to reveal itself, as very early on, our protagonists learn they’re the bad guys. At least, they were before their memory wipe.
Learning everyone’s backstory is a great ride, and the show gives out a lot better writing than it ever needs to as a lower-budget Canadian show. It even has some big-name guest stars like Wil Wheaton and Ruby Rose that shows it loves to aim high.
The third season begins airing in June, which means you’ll have tons of time to get through the first two seasons until then. Happy binging!
By Edna Batengas
This British series is most definitely one of Netflix’s hidden gems. A 24-year-old virgin named Tracey, who lives in a London estate with her evangelical Christian family, is desperately and hilariously trying to lose her virginity. This is a quirky comedy about a young woman who isn’t particularly sure of what she wants. Chewing Gum most certainly holds nothing back from the imagination. It is fearless, uncensored, and rude, so if you are easily made uncomfortable, this show may not be your cup of tea.
It’s uplifting to watch a show with a black female protagonist as the main character. Tracey’s highly relatable in many aspects, as she knows that she isn’t perfect. She wants to leave her conservative and strict religious life behind and indulge in the endless possibilities of the world.
The themes of gender, race, religion, and social class repeatedly appear in the show. However, they are portrayed from unique viewpoints and not as the issues we might assume them to be. The show also tackles multiple insecurities that the main character is facing, such as worrying about whether her boobs are too saggy or not. Tracey often breaks the fourth wall, conferring with the audience about her true thoughts. Chewing Gum will have you laughing hysterically but it will also make you feel far less bad about yourself. There are two seasons with six episodes each and every episode is around 25 minutes long. Trust me, it is extremely binge-worthy.
Better Call Saul
By Vincent Justin Mitra
Better Call Saul, whose first season aired in 2015, is the prequel series to the award-winning AMC television show Breaking Bad. Set a few years before Breaking Bad, the show follows Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) in his early days as a struggling lawyer before he fully adopts his Saul Goodman persona. The show also focuses on Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), the gruff and stoic enforcer from Breaking Bad.
Saul is great, both for returning fans of Breaking Bad and those who are watching for the first time. While there are repeated, subtle cameos by characters from the original show for fans to get excited about, these are done in a way that works well even when they aren’t recognized. Though a familiarity with Breaking Bad does add a level of context and dramatic irony to some events in the show, Saul is equally effective and compelling as a standalone show.
If Breaking Bad was a show about a good man trying to be a criminal, Better Call Saul could be described as being about a criminal trying to be good. Like its predecessor, it delivers excellent episodes that don’t talk down to the viewer while also managing to provide a bit more humour and levity, resulting in a very bingable show.
The first two seasons are available on Netflix; the third season is ongoing.
Bill Nye Saves the World
By Tessa Perkins
Amidst the chants of “Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill!” it’s clear that the science guy is back in business. He’s back with a bit of a political message this time, as well as a strong desire to debunk misinformation and pseudoscience. Millennials can bask in the nostalgia while remembering the glory days of Bill Nye the Science Guy and us SFU students can remember the glorious day he graced our convocation ceremony to receive an honorary degree. Now, he joins us on Netflix to remind us, with his brand of quirky humour and his ability to simplify complex scientific information, that science still rules and facts and evidence never go out of style.
This time around, he also has a team of lively correspondents: model Karlie Kloss, YouTuber Derek Muller, comedian Nazeem Hussain, writer/comedian Joanna Hausmann, and TV host Emily Calandrelli. They go out into the field to report back on subjects like alternative medicine, how climate change is affecting our lives, GMOs, artificial intelligence, vaccines, and “Earth’s people problem.” With all of these serious topics, it’s no wonder Bill often “needs a minute” to rant about an injustice or wrong in our society. The tone may be heavier, but Bill still has his sense of humour, and with a little help from his friends — panelists, correspondents, and guest stars — he may just get us a bit closer to saving the world.
Please Like Me
By Oscar Alfonso
Created by the Australian comedian Josh Thomas as a loose adaptation of his life, Please Like Me stars Josh and follows his 20-year-old self as he comes of age, discovers his sexuality, and figures out how to cope with his mother’s suicide attempt. A mixture of comedy and dramatic television, I discovered Please Like Me through a Tumblr GIF set in 2014 (those were the days) and have since made everyone that’ll listen watch it with me.
Through the comedy, Please Like Me weaves a sincere, excruciating, and heart-warming focus that features racism, abortion, homophobia, the impacts of mental illness, and the volatility of chaotic, yet beautiful relationships. Each episode (named after food) opens with an upbeat gem of a theme song by Clairy Browne & The Bangin’ Rackettes that is set to everything from kitchen scenes, an elevator ride, and a drag show (or two). The half-hour episodes of Please Like Me move through so much so fast that you’ll spend the entire show alternating between wanting to hug the characters and wanting to throw something at them.
As we’ll never really know what Josh actually does for school or work, it’s a perfect summer television partner for contemplating where you are in life. This is a show I’ve cried over, where television conventions go out the window as everything ends, and characters get better only to later get worse. Like moving through all of the stages of a relationship in quick hormone-laden succession, binging Please Like Me is an intensely exhilarating experience, and I’ll recommend it every time.
By Janis McMath
This show is listed as a comedy, but it will never hesitate to break your fucking heart. If you’re in the mood for an emotional revolution, watch Transparent. The show follows the Pfefferman family, a dysfunctional group of people all trying to figure themselves out. Morton (Jeffrey Tambor) comes out to his three adult children as trans and all the secrets of the rest of the family follow.
This show works hard to truthfully represent the reality of the struggles of those in the LGBTQ+ community (specifically the trans community) and does well in this regard. Director Jill Soloway was inspired by her own father’s coming out in creating the series, and maybe that’s why it’s so honest and beautiful. I have no idea what magic was put into making this series, but I’m happy that such magic exists.
What I really love about this show is its amazing ability to write characters that are so embarrassingly relatable. Similar to the characters in Six Feet Under — and unsurprisingly since Soloway also worked on Six Feet Under — the characters in Transparent grow on you quickly; you’ll both hate and love them for being such stupidly human fucks. Sometimes the Pfefferman family comes together and it’s wonderful and genuinely moving . . . and sometimes they all fuck everything up and burn it all to the ground. This show is amazing.
Transparent will fundamentally change you as a person. You need to binge watch its three seasons this summer so you can binge watch the fourth season when it comes out in the fall.