Thanksgiving is upon us, and for a lot of people, that means that we have an extended break from work to enjoy family and friends. It’s also a great time to finally get around to one of those shows that you’ve been meaning to binge-watch. There’s a glut of really fantastic shows out there. Here are our recommendations for something to stream while you’re sitting on the couch in a turkey-induced stupor.
SO HOT RIGHT NOW
Marvel’s The Punisher (Netflix)
Frank Castle, aka The Punisher, is out for revenge after the events of Daredevil. From the start of the season, Castle is a recluse, carrying massive emotional baggage from his time in Afghanistan. Drawn out of his shell by a string of compelling characters played by Amber Rose Revah, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, and others, Castle gradually grows more likable to the audience just as the story picks up speed, diving into police conspiracy and shootouts. It’s a violent and explicit series about US veterans and enraged single white men released at a time when America has been wracked by mass shootings in Las Vegas and Texas, meaning that it’s rife with material to discuss after the credits roll. —Shannon Liao
Best seen with: It’s a two-fer: you can watch it with your fellow Destiny 2 guardians and enjoy the gore, or discuss the underlying issues with your more politically minded family members.
Shows about serial killers are nothing new, but this series pulls off a neat trick by focusing on the people that figured out how to hunt them down in the first place. Based on John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker’s book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit, the show follows a pair of mismatched FBI agents (Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany) and a psychology professor (Anna Torv) who begin interviewing serial killers in the 1970s in order to understand why they do the things that they do. With David Fincher executive producing (and directing the pilot), Mindhunter is filled with the kind of unrelenting tension the filmmaker excels at, and infamous serial killers like Richard Speck and Edmund Kemper even pop up as characters. Be sure to stay for the final scene of the season, which plays like a lead-in to the most insidious expanded universe in the history of entertainment. —Bryan Bishop
Best seen with: Ask your friends and family if they liked Seven, Zodiac, True Detective, or The Silence of the Lambs. If they say yes, you’re good to go.
Channel Zero, “No-End House” (SyFy, YouTube)
Channel Zero is an anthology series with self-contained seasons that are based on “creepypasta,” the internet’s equivalent of spooky campfire tales. It made a decent debut in 2016, but really hit its stride with this fall’s six-episode “No-End House,” where four young adults enter a haunted house and come out in a mirror world that preys on their dreams and fears. Beyond some effective grotesquerie and familiar horror tropes, you’ll get a compelling story about protagonist Margot (The Path’s Amy Forsyth), who finds a way to reconnect with her dead father (American Horror Story’s John Carroll Lynch) through the house. At its best, it’s a surprisingly complex tragedy about the bonds of family and friendship… just a deeply, deeply creepy one. —Adi Robertson
Best seen with: Anyone interested in a more focused and less edgy version of American Horror Story, or a longer and more character-driven take on The Twilight Zone.
IT’S TIME WE CAUGHT UP
Stargate Universe (Stargate Command)
The third entry in Syfy’s Stargate franchise, Universe is a much darker, more somber show than its predecessors Stargate SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis. In it, a space expedition is unexpectedly stranded billions of miles from home on an ancient starship called Destiny. The show is less episodic, and more story-driven than the shows that preceded it, focusing on the more gritty, realistic characters as they work to survive as they try and find their way home. —Andrew Liptak
Best seen with: Anyone who’s enjoyed the latest season of Star Trek: Discovery, Battlestar Galactica, or The Expanse.
Program-your-own Taikathon (Netflix / Amazon / streaming)
With Thor: Ragnarok in theaters, millions of mainstream moviegoers who have never heard of writer-director Taika Waititi are becoming familiar with his improv comedy style. This is a great time to catch up on his past projects, which lack the superhero throwdowns and ’splosions, but have the same sort of goofy, amiable, self-effacing humor. The funniest of the pack is Hunt for the Wilderpeople, a wild family adventure about a teenager and his adoptive uncle taking off into the wilds. That one’s rentable on a variety of streaming services. Netflix has Eagle vs. Shark, Waititi’s ridiculously dry rom-com starring his longtime comedy partner Jemaine Clement. And Amazon Prime has his improvised dark vampire comedy What We Do In the Shadows and his funny family drama Boy, about an 11-year-old meeting his absentee criminal father.
Best seen with: Family members with a sense of humor, though you might want to fine-tune that — Hunt for the Wilderpeople is all-ages family fun, while What We Do In The Shadows is more for you and the cool younger cousins who like gross-out humor. —Tasha Robinson
The Night Manager (Amazon)
This suspense-driven TV mini-series on Amazon will give you a taste of international intrigue while you cuddle up with blankets in your home. Tom Hiddleston plays the night manager at a hotel in Cairo who anticipates the needs of his guests, but not the secret documents that draw him into a web of espionage. As a British soldier turned luxury hotel employee, Hiddleston possesses all the charm of Loki, who he plays in the Thor franchise, but less of the mischief. In six too-short episodes, this spy drama enlightens and entertains. —Shannon Liao
Best seen with: Adults who will appreciate the jet-setting and spy thrills.
Schitt’s Creek (Netflix)
Created by Eugene Levy (Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman) and his son Dan, Schitt’s Creek is about a wealthy family of four who find themselves living in a crappy motel in a nowhere town when all their belongings are unexpectedly repossessed by the IRS. This half-hour series, which also airs on Canadian TV, feels like a secret that I want to tell everyone about: it’s deeply funny, strange, and just heartwarming enough to keep your head in the game during the holidays. The characters, including an overwrought Catherine O’Hara, manage to be annoying and likable at the same time — maybe like your own family? —Lizzie Plaugic
Watch it with: Your siblings, who will roll their eyes at first, and then get angry if you binge it without them.
OLDIES BUT GOODIES
The Great British Baking Show (Netflix)
It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what choux pastry or proofing is, watching The Great British Baking Show feels like wrapping your entire body in a warm loaf of freshly baked something or other. At least, it does until the end of each episode when someone gets eliminated and you’re suddenly crying for reasons you can’t quite explain. Another reason to cry: last year, three of the hosts quit after it was announced that the show would leave the BBC for the UK’s Channel 4. The newest iteration of the series premiered this September to mixed reviews, but four seasons of the BBC version are on Netflix right now. That should last you to the pie course, at least. —Lizzie Plaugic
Watch with: Your cousin who says her pumpkin pie is better than yours.
Halt and Catch Fire (Netflix)
On a surface level, Halt and Catch Fire is about the rise of computers in the late ‘80s, and the lives of a few fictionalized people who built them. The show’s main trio — a slick salesman, a downtrodden engineer, and a quirky but brilliant programmer — initially read like stock characters in a college play. But their struggles to understand one another, and their individual failures as humans, soon make this drama a compelling, relatable watch. The show just wrapped its fourth and final season in October, but the first three seasons are streaming now on Netflix. —Megan Farokhmanesh
Watch with: Your family members who have nostalgia for the days of modems, and / or constantly ask you for tech support.
Long before Baby Driver, Hot Fuzz, J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek, or even Shaun of the Dead, actor Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright worked together on a UK sitcom called Spaced. The premise sounds pretty well-worn by now: Pegg plays an aspiring comic artist who is so desperate for a new apartment that he pretends to be in a relationship with a total stranger (Jessica Stevenson) so the pair can land a new place as flatmates. Hijinks and romance ensue, along with an avalanche of pop culture references. Pegg and Stevenson created the show together, with Wright directing both seasons, and it’s combination of whimsy and effervescent filmmaking still make it a joy to watch, even if it does feels slightly dated at times. —Bryan Bishop
Watch with: Fans of the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy and anyone who pines for the days before fan culture had been weaponized to fill every moment of our waking lives.