Best TV shows to stream online via Netflix, Hulu, more
As Netflix, Amazon, HBO and Showtime dive deeper and deeper into the TV Anywhere (and anytime) pool, the opportunities to stream online -- and binge happily -- continue to grow. And grow rapidly. We are now in the midst of the best period for TV production -- and hence viewing -- of any time in the medium's history.
But where to begin? In my continuing quest to figure out how to answer this for myself, I offer you another binge list -- ways to spend your valuable time without actually wasting your valuable time. As usual, the same conditions apply, beginning of course with a fast Internet connection. And consider the ritual of deciding whether to binge a show similar to the ritual of deciding whether to read a book: Is the cover enticing? Does the subject (sci-fi? historical fantasy? satire?) interest you? In that spirit, I've attempted to create some diversity here, but also provide some editorial direction. Pirates might not be your "thing" -- for example -- but "Black Sails" has some excellent action, and a first-rate lead in Toby Stephens. So if pirates are your thing, this is a reasonable place to go. Here's another point to consider: Bingeing isn't about bingeing on commercials. It's about total immersion in the show, with the fewest breaks possible. For that reason, most of what is here is on Netflix or the subscription services of the major pay services. But Hulu is also an acceptable venue -- at least it seems to have figured out a way to make those breaks as painless as possible. Happy bingeing.
Season 3: Titus Welliver's tough cop juggles investigations and raising his teen daughter (Madison Lintz, "The Walking Dead"). With Lance Reddick, Jamie Hector, Amy Aquino. 10 episodes.
(Credit: Amazon Video/Aaron Epstein)
NETFLIX: THE GET DOWN
Part 2 of Baz Luhrmann's '70s NYC portrait finds a new beat in the Bronx. With Shameik Moore, Justice Smith and Mamoudou Athie as Grandmaster Flash. five episodes.
(Credit: Netflix / Myles Aronowitz)
NETFLIX: FIVE CAME BACK
Top directors from '40s Hollywood shot World War II action and found themselves changed forever. Those masters (John Ford, Frank Capra, more) are profiled by modern filmmakers (Steven Spielberg, Guillermo Del Toro, more). Also streaming: 13 World War II documentaries.
AMAZON: AMERICAN PLAYBOY: THE HUGH HEFNER STORY
New docuseries charts the Playboy founder's trailblazing life through publishing, nightclubs, civil rights advocacy, more. 10 episodes. (Free first episode through Thursday at Playboy.com and Amazon.com.)
How to build a fashion empire online, as adapted from the bestseller. Starring Britt Robertson ("The Secret Circle"). 13 episodes.
(Credit: Netflix / Karen Ballard)
NETFLIX: 13 REASONS WHY
Young-adult drama series tracks a teen (Dylan Minnette, "Awake") investigating why his crush ended her own life. With Kate Walsh, Brian d'Arcy James. From producer Selena Gomez, "Spotlight" writer-director Tom McCarthy. 13 episodes.
(Credit: Netflix/Beth Dubber)
Original drama series follows the feud between two Georgian London brothels powered by feminist wiles. With Samantha Morton ("The Last Panthers"), Lesley Manville ("Maleficent"), Jessica Brown Findlay ("Downton Abbey"). 8 weekly episodes.
(Credit: Hulu/Liam Daniel)
AMAZON: HAND OF GOD
Ron Perlman and Dana Delany return for the drama's second and final season: His visions-plagued vigilante judge now faces trial for killing a cop.
(Credit: Amazon Studios/Nicole Wilder)
HULU: THE PATH
Season 2 follows Aaron Paul's onetime religious devotee into the secular world after his sect leader's mysterious departure. With Michelle Monaghan, Hugh Dancy, Rockmond Dunbar. Weekly episodes.
(Credit: Hulu / Greg Lewis)
AMAZON: Z: THE BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING
Christina Ricci stars as 1920s jazz baby (and F. Scott Fitzgerald wife and muse) Zelda Fitzgerald, moving through global circles of literature, high society and speak-easies. Fictionalized bioseries co-stars David Hoflin, David Strathairn. Ten episodes.
(Credit: Amazon Prime TV / Giovanni Rufino)
Judd Apatow-produced series with (wild) Gillian Jacobs and (nice) Paul Rust starts its second season of intimacy-fear and commitment-phobia.
(Credit: Suzanne Hanover/Netfflix)
HULU: WHAT HAPPENED . . . MS. SYKES?
Emmy-winning comic Wanda Sykes goes for broke in her stand-up hour, joking about marrying a white Frenchwoman, raising their twins in the Black Lives Matter era and battling breast cancer.
"Game of Thrones" favorite Jason Momoa dominates a gritty new drama of 1700s renegades trying to muscle in on North America's fur trade. (Already renewed for season 2.) Six episodes.
(Credit: Netflix/Duncan de Young)
AMAZON: THE GRAND TOUR
Two-parter "The Beach (Buggy) Boys" finds Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May riding the '60s throwback across the deserts of Namibia.
HULU: SHUT EYE
Jeffrey Donovan ("Burn Notice"), David Zayas ("Dexter"), Isabella Rossellini, KaDee Strickland star in this tale of tarot card storefronts. Ten episodes posted.
(Credit: Hulu / David Bukach)
HULU: CHAPPELLE'S SHOW
Hot off his "Saturday Night Live" hosting gig, the long-MIA comic can now be enjoyed in 28 episodes of his acclaimed Comedy Central sketch series, aired 2003-2006. (Chappelle returns in 2017 with new stand-up specials for Netflix.)
(Credit: AP / Scott Roth)
NETFLIX: BLACK MIRROR
Bryce Dallas Howard, Gugu Mbatha-Raw appear among the six new episodes of this dark, adult, anthology thriller.
(Credit: Netflix / Laurie Sparham)
AMAZON: SNEAKY PETE
Original drama series: Con man Giovanni Ribisi assumes the identity of his ex-cellmate to evade revenge-seeking gangster, with Marin Ireland, Margo Martindale, Peter Gerety. Ten episodes.
(Credit: Amazon Prime / Eric Liebowitz)
NETFLIX: HATERS BACK OFF
A totally untalented star pursues her big-time dreams in "Haters Back Off." See what else is streaming on Netflix.
(Credit: Netflix / Carol Segal)
Director Ava DuVernay's new documentary (just seen at the New York Film Festival) considers our Constitution's 13th amendment in light of alleged "involuntary servitude" in today's sprawling prison industry.
NETFLIX: THE FALL
Season 3 with Gillian Anderson's homicide detective hunting a serial killer. Six new episodes, with Jamie Dornan, John Lynch, Archie Panjabi.
HULU: THE BEATLES: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK — THE TOURING YEARS
Director Ron Howard's documentary covers the group's live-performance period of 1962-66, from The Cavern Club to Shea Stadium to Candlestick Park.
(Credit: SubaFilms Ltd)
NETFLIX: THE RANCH
Ashton Kutcher comedy finds a failed footballer returning to his Colorado ranch clan (Danny Masterson, Sam Elliott, Debra Winger).
NETFLIX: GILMORE GIRLS: A YEAR IN THE LIFE
They're back: Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel, in four 90-minute chapters moving through the seasons. Other WB returnees include Kelly Bishop, Scott Patterson, Keiko Agena.
(Credit: Netflix / Saeed Adyani)
NETFLIX: THE CROWN
Series from "The Queen" movie writer Peter Morgan dramatizes the earlier life of Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy), starting with her 1947 marriage to Prince Philip (Matt Smith).
Hugh Laurie's San Francisco neuropsychiatrist courts danger with an alluring patient and her police detective spouse. With Gretchen Mol, LisaGay Hamilton, Paul Adelstein, Ethan Suplee.
(Credit: Hulu / David Moir)
AMAZON: GOOD GIRLS REVOLT
Young female researchers at a news magazine in 1969 battle discrimination. Hour series with Genevieve Angelson, Anna Camp, Erin Darke, Jim Belushi.
(Credit: Amazon Prime / Colleen Hayes)
Billy Bob Thornton, William Hurt, Maria Bello, Sarah Wynter, Dwight Yoakam, Harold Perrineau appear in David E. Kelley's latest legal series, where a lawyer (Thornton) fights powerful corporate interests.
(Credit: Amazon Prime / Colleen E. Hayes)
AMAZON: CRISIS IN SIX SCENES
Woody Allen's half-hour series co-stars him with Miley Cyrus, Christine Ebersole, Joy Behar, Elaine May, Michael Rapaport.
NETFLIX: MARVEL’S LUKE CAGE
Mike Colter takes his superhuman crime-fighter from "Jessica Jones" into his own adventure series. With Alfre Woodard, Mahershala Ali, Frank Whaley, Sonia Braga.
(Credit: Netflix / Myles Aronowitz)
Sex, tech and culture intersect in a Chicago-set half-hour anthology from filmmaker Joe Swanberg. With Orlando Bloom, Marc Maron, Malin Akerman, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Hannibal Buress.
NETFLIX: BOJACK HORSEMAN
Season 3 for this critically acclaimed adult cartoon: Our boozing humanoid horse (voice of Will Arnett), once a sitcom has-been, now achieves movie stardom. Does BoJack still hate Hollywood? With Amy Sedaris' Persian cat, Paul F. Tompkins' Labrador retriever, Aaron Paul's human slacker.
(Credit: Tornante Company, ShadowMachine Films)
The hunt for Pablo Escobar continues in this second season dramatizing the '80s battles of drug kingpins vs. law enforcement. Acclaimed series also available in Ultra HD 4K.
(Credit: Netflix / Juan Pablo Gutierrez)
NETFLIX: LADY DYNAMITE
Comic Maria Bamford's original series follows a woman finding herself, with Mary Kay Place, Ed Begley Jr., Ana Gasteyer.
(Credit: Netflix / Doug Hyun)
NETFLIX: BEING MARY JANE
With Season 3 just added, fans can catch up to all of this smart BET drama series, tracking the complicated life of a TV news anchor (Gabrielle Union).
(Credit: BET / Daniel McFadden)
Family secrets come back to bite Kyle Chandler in new Season 2 of Florida keys drama from the producers of "Damages." With Linda Cardellini, Sissy Spacek.
(Credit: Saeed Adyani / Netflix, 2014)
HULU: THE MINDY PROJECT
Creator-star Mindy Kaling's life odyssey made the jump this fourth season from Fox to Hulu, which has continued to roll out episodes weekly (unlike most other streaming services). But with the season's first half finished, we can binge on 13 half-hours in which Mindy and Danny forthrightly grapple with parenthood, couplehood and career-hood differences of opinion. (And for those who just can't let it go, the midseason finale is set at Christmas.) -- Diane Werts
NETFLIX: MASTER OF NONE
And here's the Manhattan male side of Mindy's current-day 30-something story. Aziz Ansari of "Parks and Recreation" also writes and stars, playing an actor who can't seem to find a handle on his career or his relationships, at a time when he's feeling his life should be settled. Neatly juggling social and cultural expectations (with added first-generation-American angst), and backing its comedy with character depth, the show's first 10 episodes earned near-universal acclaim (and a Golden Globe nomination for Ansari). Find out why on Netflix. -- Diane Werts
(Credit: Netflix / KC Bailey)
AMAZON PRIME INSTANT VIDEO: MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE
The Nazis and Japanese won World War II? That's the concept behind this speculative thriller set in the '60s, as adapted by Frank Spotnitz from the Philip K. Dick novel, available on Amazon. As the Axis powers scheme over U.S. territory, young Americans seek the truth behind newsreel films depicting alternative historical events. The sprawling 10-hour tale stars Alexa Davalos, Rupert Evans, Luke Kleintank, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and Rufus Sewell. -- Diane Werts
(Credit: Amazon Studios / David Berg)
NETFLIX: MARVEL'S JESSICA JONES
Krysten Ritter, ex-"Don't Trust the B" on ABC, now plays an ex-superhero turned private eye in a world of ugly crimes and murky morals on Netflix. You know it's so when "Doctor Who" stud David Tennant embodies the bad guy. Also on hand through 13 episodes: Mike Colter's Luke Cage (soon getting his own series) and Rachael Taylor's Trish Walker. -- Diane Werts
(Credit: Netflix / Myles Aronowitz)
NETFLIX: HOUSE OF CARDS
If you need more politics during this current presidential campaign, here's an acclaimed Washington saga of outrageous ambition. And then there's the crafty British miniseries of the same name, on which Spacey's tale is based (also streaming on Netflix). -- Diane Werts
(Credit: David Giesbrecht)
Netflix scores with "Sense8," the first TV series from famed Wachowski siblings Andy and Lana, of the "Matrix" trilogy and "Cloud Atlas." Naveen Andrews, left, and Terrence Mann appear, as does Daryl Hannah, who plays a dead woman whose death mysteriously binds eight people from around the world.
(Credit: TNS / Netflix)
You've heard the hype, now see the hype. This is a prime-time soap, and a well-done one. Very easily consumed, there's no heavy lifting, but a lot of fun.
(Credit: AP / Chuck Hodes)
This Netflix newcomer runs 10 seasons, so you may ending up losing a full week if you sit through everything, so let's choose -- how 'bout the third season? That's The One when "Friends" become much more serialized, with running continuous stories; seems like a good binge attribute, no? Teri Garr and Jon Favreau are also aboard in the the third.
(Credit: AP / Danny Feld)
NETFLIX: GILMORE GIRLS
Lorelai and Lorelai (Rory). Stars Hollow, Connecticut. The denizens therein. For seven seasons, "Gilmore Girls" captivated fans with this mix, but mostly with very fast patter, written mostly by creator Amy Sherman-Palladino for her star Lauren Graham. This show still holds up, even a decade later.
(Credit: The WB / Jeffrey Thumher)
HULU: BROOKLYN NINE NINE
Season one is all here, and is definitely worth a good, old-fashioned binge. Funny show, great cast
. (Credit: FOX)
NETFLIX: UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT
Ellie Kemper is great as the former doomsday cult member who moves to Manhattan. As binge material, this one improves episode by episode. The first season is streaming now.
(Credit: Netflix / Eric Liebowitz)
SHOWTIME ANYTIME: WEEDS
Jenji Kohan's ("Orange is the New Black") comedy-drama-soap about a single mother (Mary-Louise Parker) who turns into a pot dealer, lasted eight seasons, but the first three seem to be -- by fan consensus -- the best.
SHOWTIME ANYTIME: THE AFFAIR
See what all the fuss is about, or what all the awards are about. This smart, engaging series -- filmed entirely on Long Island -- about one heck of a midlife crisis is superb.
(Credit: TNS / Steven Lippman)
NETFLIX: RIPPER STREET
This British period drama (set in London, 1889), about some guy named Jack the Ripper, is dark, dark, dark... and popular, popular, popular -- at least the first season. The second, not so much. Amazon Prime is expected to revive it, by the way.
(Credit: BBC) Show More