simple substitutions

Three Shows to Stream to Beat the Summer-TV Blahs

Photo: Keshet

August sucks. It’s hot, there are no holidays, and TV is at its least interesting. (There are only so many episodes of Breaking Bad and Louie.) What’s a fan to do? You can only rewatch old standbys so many times before your TV heart cries out for new shows, interesting shows, meaty dramas, silly comedies, something, anything that’s not a reality show about yokels or a TNT cop show. There is hope, though. Hope in the form of little-seen gems or international imports, shows you can dig into and enjoy through the magical powers of the Internet. Here are a few options to get you through the rest of the dog days. Or at least a weekend parked in front of the AC, marking days until the return of more robust programming.

If you miss Homeland, try Hatufim (a.k.a. Prisoners of War) on Hulu.
Homeland is loosely based on this Israeli drama, and while the shows have their respective nation’s different religious and political attitudes, they still share a similar emotional intensity and suspenseful storytelling. On Hatufim, two former POWs return home to Israel after seventeen years in captivity, and much in the way we watch Brody on Homeland struggle to readjust, so too here. It’s a little less of a political thriller and a little more of a rich, serious drama, in the best possible way. Out of the first season’s ten episodes, only three have been posted so far — a new one goes up each week — and at this point there isn’t the same focus on a sleeper-agent plotline as in Showtime’s adaptation, though the returning POWs on Hatufim, like Brody, may not exactly be what they seem. (A second season just started airing in Israel.)

If you love complaining about how American adaptations ruin British shows, try The Inbetweeners on Netflix.
MTV’s version of the show starts August 20, which gives you more than enough time to fall for the hilarious, endearing British original about four high school guys who are obsessed with, well, what high school boys are obsessed with: getting laid and seeming cool. (They struggle mightily on both counts.) Think Freaks and Geeks with more boner jokes and less earnestness. Often raunch and cynicism seem to go together, but The Inbetweeners is actually pretty upbeat about most things. Alas, we cannot be upbeat about the fact that there are only eighteen episodes. Make more episodes of things, England!

If you’re afraid that the new season of Community won’t have enough pop references, try The Middleman on iTunes.
This criminally underrated series from 2008 follows Wendy “Dubdub” Watson (Natalie Morales), who gets recruited to work for a secret agency that battles monsters and demons. It’s based on a comic book, so there are superhero allusions aplenty, but there are also constant sci-fi mentions, eighties B-movie Easter eggs, Doctor Who jokes, James Bond nods. Plus, it’s funny and charming and there is, gasp, a capable young woman. Over its twelve-episode run, Middleman establishes itself in the Buffy vein of smart, quippy heroines, a sort of Veronica Mars for the Area 51 scene, or a Wonderfalls with action instead of self-reflection. But where those shows were often dark and moody, Middleman stayed bright and ebullient, with the kind of fun, cheeky style that dooms shows to near-immediate cancellation.

Shows to Beat the Summer-TV Blahs