It’s that time of year again, when all the fall/spring shows have wrapped up their runs and the summer TV season starts gearing up. There are plenty of promising series that will be premiering across the network and cable landscape over the next few weeks, but what if you’re left craving more of your favorite show in particular?
We’re still tinkering with our Cosmic Treadmill prototype, so we can’t bring you new episodes of The Flash from the future. And Matthew Weiner still refuses to take our “please make more Mad Men” phone calls. So we’ve decided to bring you the next best thing: suggestions for 10 streaming shows to check out if you’re fiending for the likes of Gotham, The Following, Arrow, and more. It may not speed up the wait until your favorite shows return in the fall, but hopefully it’ll get you hooked on shows you might not have seen—or even heard of—yet, all of which are perfectly suited for summer binge-watching.
Now then, put on your comfy pants and settle in for some serious couch potato action.
If you’re missing Arrow, check out… Torchwood
For fans who love John Barrowman—Malcolm Merlyn—in Arrow, Torchwood is a no-brainer. The series is a spinoff of the classic British series Doctor Who, but it’s self-contained enough that you can jump straight into Torchwood without too much confusion. Barrowman stars as Captain Jack Harkness, a dashing, immortal, pansexual former con man and “Time Agent.” In Torchwood, he’s become head of a top-secret extra-governmental agency tasked with defending the Earth from aliens and hoarding the tech they leave behind.
Season 1 is hit-or-miss, but the show is a blast when it’s firing on all cylinders, and it achieves true, dark brilliance during the Children of Earth miniseries that served as its third season. Just don’t get attached to any of the cast: Torchwood can be as brutal as Game of Thrones or a Joss Whedon show when it comes to putting its characters through the ringer.
If you’re missing The Blacklist, check out… Leverage
Leverage, which aired for five seasons on TNT, is another drama about bad people doing good things, anchored by a veteran character actor. Timothy Hutton plays former insurance investigator Nathan Ford, who, after the death of his son, assembles a thief, a grifter, a hacker, and a “retrieval specialist” into a team dedicated to standing up for the little guy. Wherever ordinary people are getting steamrolled by the rich and powerful, Ford’s team arrives to con the con men and swindle the swindlers. Like the show’s opening says, they provide “leverage,” and the show can be enormously entertaining as viewers try to guess how exactly they’ll dismantle whichever pompous, greedy windbag they’re up against that week.
It’s Robin Hood for the modern age—light and thrilling popcorn entertainment with a side of social commentary. Angel fans will be happy to see actor Christian Kane on hand as resident “muscle” Eliot Spencer, a former black ops veteran who knows his way around (or straight through) an action sequence.
If you’re missing Castle, check out… Murder, She Wrote
The whole “crime writer solves crimes” conceit was around for a good long time before Castle came along, but few have done it as successfully as Murder, She Wrote, one of the longest-running shows in television history with 12 seasons under its belt. Angela Lansbury won a shelf-load of Emmys and Golden Globes for her performance as Jessica Fletcher, a widowed English teacher turned mystery writer living in Cabot Cove, Maine, a quaint little town with a murder rate to rival Detroit’s. Just like Nathan Fillion’s Richard Castle, Jessica Fletcher uses her knack for imagining fictional crimes to solve real ones, a role she’s constantly forced into by the fact that the Cabot Cove police force isn’t terribly effective on their best days.
With all 12 seasons streaming on Netflix, there’s plenty of Murder, She Wrote to enjoy. For bonus fun, try watching the show while imagining that Fletcher is actually the one behind all the killings and is just using her purported knack for crime-solving as the perfect alibi.
12 of 12 seasons available on Netflix Instant
If you’re missing Elementary, check out… Life
For any Elementary fans suffering withdrawals, there’s no shortage of Holmes-related material to choose from on Netflix, with one obvious option being the excellent BBC Sherlock series starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. But we’re going with a more outside-the-box suggestion in the form of Life, a short-lived and underrated NBC series starring Damian Lewis as Charlie Crews, a former Los Angeles police detective who served 12 years for a crime he didn’t commit. He emerges with a new Zen outlook on life, a love of fresh fruit, and a hefty chunk of change, courtesy of a legal settlement against the police department after he’s exonerated by DNA evidence. Once again a free man, Charlie returns to his job as a cop and applies his newly enlightened worldview to both his daily police work and to exposing the conspiracy that framed him for the murder of his friend and two others.
Lewis is stellar in the lead role, as is his chemistry with Sarah Shahi as his new partner. With only two seasons produced and a satisfying conclusion to wrap it all up, Life is a perfect snack-sized treat for lovers of “smartest guy in the room” mysteries.
If you’re missing The Flash, check out… Misfits
In The Flash, crime scene investigator Barry Allen is struck by lightning and gifted with incredible speed, spurring him to become the titular hero. In Misfits, a group of juvenile delinquents serving community service are struck by lightning and gain superpowers ranging from invisibility to time manipulation. Unfortunately, there won’t be any sleek costumes and superheroic fame for this lot; they’re trying to figure out their powers while still serving time. Soon they discover they weren’t the only ones amped up by the storm, and, over the course of five seasons, they face off against cults, time travel, and the no-kidding Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Since it’s a British series, the seasons are bite-sized, ranging between six and 10 episodes, so Misfits is a perfect match for binge-inclined fans of The Flash’s colorful world of heroes and villains.
5 of 5 seasons available on Hulu
If you’re missing The Following, check out… Bates Motel
The Following is what happens when you decide to make a show about a serial killer and then set out to do so in the stupidest way humanly possible. That’s a description that also summed up many critics’ expectations when A&E’s Bates Motel was first announced. A prequel to Psycho? Set in modern day? Featuring a teenage Norman Bates? At first
blood blush, it sounds terrible, so it’s all the more impressive that Bates Motel somehow just works.
Much of that success hangs on the casting of Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore as Norma and Norman Bates, respectively, with the talented pair managing to sell all the creepy complexity of the most notorious mother-son relationship since Jocasta and Oedipus. We all know how Norma and Norman’s story ends, but Farmiga, Highmore, and the sharp character work of the show’s writers make the journey to that macabre destination a thoroughly addictive ride. Season 3 just wrapped on A&E last month, so it hasn’t hit any of the streaming services yet, but you can watch seasons 1 and 2 in full on Netflix Instant.
2 of 3 seasons available on Netflix Instant
If you’re missing Gotham, check out… Life on Mars
Gotham unfolds a relatively straightforward police procedural against a wholly unusual backdrop: a city which will one day be defined by a brooding, rodent-obsessed crimefighter and the eccentric psychopaths he fights, and which is already showing signs of the madness that is to come. Don’t expect any costumed freaks from Life on Mars, but the cult-hit British series also combines a top-notch police procedural with more fantastic elements, to great success.
John Simm stars as Sam Tyler, a Manchester cop who gets hit by a car in 2006, only to awaken in 1973. But he’s not out of place in the past; it’s as if his life had simply been lifted out of one decade and dropped in another. He’s even still a cop. Over the two seasons that follow, Tyler works as a detective inspector while trying to solve the biggest mystery of all: Is he dead? In a coma? Or has he genuinely travelled through time? Fans of “mystery box” shows like Lost will find plenty to love in Life on Mars, not to mention a much more satisfying resolution. If Life on Mars gets its hooks into you, the sequel series, Ashes to Ashes, is also available on Hulu.
2 of 2 seasons available on Hulu
If you’re missing Grimm/Once Upon a Time, check out… Beauty and the Beast
Both Grimm and Once Upon a Time bring fairy tale characters and creatures into the modern day, but the cult classic Beauty and the Beast was updating a beloved fairy tale to great effect way back in 1987. This is the show that made a romantic icon out of Ron Perlman in a lion mask and ren faire getup, and it’s still fondly remembered for serving up one of the best on-screen romances in TV history.
Linda Hamilton stars as Catherine Chandler, a young New York lawyer who is rescued by the noble but beastlike Vincent after she is attacked and left for dead in Central Park. He transports her to his home, a secret community of people living a steampunk life in the tunnels and passages beneath New York City. Just as in the fairy tale, Vincent and Catherine are immediately drawn to each other, and Beauty and the Beast traces both their unlikely romance and the interactions between the “World Below” and the “World Above.” Hamilton didn’t return for the third season, a loss which hamstrung the show, but the first two seasons still hold up very well. (Fun fact: A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin was a writer and producer on the series.)
3 of 3 seasons available on Netflix Instant
If you’re missing Mad Men, check out… Magic City
Mad Men was a rare bird, a genuine cultural phenomenon that rippled across the pop culture landscape to influence not just TV and film, but also the world of fashion and larger notions of what it is to be “cool.” Starz’s short-lived period crime drama Magic City isn’t nearly as brilliant or nuanced as Mad Men, but it is a good time, soaked in booze and dripping with style.
The underrated Jeffrey Dean Morgan channels the same easy, alpha-male charisma as Mad Men’s Jon Hamm in the role of Ike Evans, owner of the glitzy Miramar Hotel in 1959 Miami. It might sound like a dream job to some, but Evans is continually under the thumb of local mob boss Ben Diamond (Danny Huston), the silent majority owner of the hotel. Evans wants to run a clean business, but the tendrils of organized crime are hard to escape, so Evans frequently finds himself caught between Diamond, the law, and family drama involving his wife (Olga Kurylenko) and sons (Steven Strait and Christian Cooke). Starz canceled Magic City after two seasons, but the writers got enough of a heads up to give the characters and storyline some proper wrap-up, so viewers won’t be left with a frustrating cliffhanger. There is also a feature film spin-off in the works that will add Bruce Willis and Bill Murray to the cast.
2 of 2 seasons available on Netflix Instant
If you’re missing Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, check out… The 4400
In The 4400, a mysterious ball of light descends from outer space and deposits exactly that many people on the shore of a lake. All of them are people who went missing during the previous five decades, none have aged a day, and none remember where they’ve been during all those years. But things get really weird when it becomes apparent that all have been gifted with different powers, ranging from telekinesis to the ability to bring the dead back to life. The series follows the government’s attempts to respond to this extraordinary event, the 4400’s attempts to return to lives they’ve been missing for decades, and the larger questions of who abducted them in the first place—and why. If you’ve been enjoying S.H.I.E.L.D.’s attempts to come to terms with the powerful Inhumans this season, you’ll find a lot to like in The 4400.
4 of 4 seasons available on Netflix Instant
Photo via Orin Zebest/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Jason Reed