Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Clockwise, from left: She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power (Image: Netflix), Peak Blinders (Photo: Netflix), Evil (Photo: Elizabeth Fisher/CBS), Stumptown (Photo: Jessica Brooks/ABC), The End Of The F****ing World (Photo: Netflix)
Graphic: Libby McGuire

The Thanksgiving cornucopia is no longer limited to the dining room table; it’s now in our living rooms, offices, or wherever we watch TV, thanks to the sheer volume of programming options. We won’t belabor that point, as the abundance of scripted TV shows—which, as of this year, number more than 500—is by now as common a topic for discussion during family gatherings as your personal life and finances. That number makes catching up even over a long weekend (assuming your employer gives you one) a daunting task, but The A.V. Club is here to make that just a tad more manageable. For this edition of our Thanksgiving binge guide, we’ve once again searched across networks and platforms, but the banquet is made up mostly of recent premieres and finales, as well as an amuse bouche or two to whet the appetite for all the TV that’s still to come this year. As always, some shows will be easier to consume in a group than others, so maybe save the antisocial teens or Philip K. Dick dystopia for when everyone else has succumbed to the tryptophan.


Living Undocumented (Netflix; six episodes)

2019 has been the year of challenging must-see TV, with Chernobyl and When They See Us delivering feats of direction and storytelling along with relevant explorations of corruption and bigotry. You can count docuseries Living Undocumented as part of that development. Directed by Aaron Saidman and Anna Chai, and executive-produced by Selena Gomez, Living Undocumented follows eight immigrant families entangled in a bureaucratic nightmare, at the mercy of inhumane executive orders. The series delves into just how long this quandary has existed; footage from Trump rallies is interspersed with archival video of former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama making their own pledges to implement a workable solution. But mostly, Living Undocumented focuses on how these families fight all the harder to stay together even as their futures grow more uncertain. They welcome new life and opportunities, their resilience serving as just as powerful a statement as any given on the floor of a legislature chamber. [Danette Chavez]


Stumptown (ABC, Hulu; seven episodes)

If you miss the days of 1970s bourbon-drinking, fists-flying, clever TV detectives, check out the new ABC series Stumptown. Based on a graphic novel, Stumptown focuses on Dex, a bisexual vet with PTSD who lives with her brother in Portland, as she kicks off a new career as a private investigator. Stumptown also functions as a kind of sequel for Donal Logue in Terriers, or if Jake Johnson’s New Girl character were an ex-con with a bar. For star Cobie Smulders, Dex is as far from How I Met Your Mother’s Robin Sparkles as you can imagine. Because of her military training, Dex is an unsinkable warrior, able to escape from her own trunk mid-traffic, or take down a mobster’s muscle with ease. Dex contains shades of writer Sara Paretsky’s gritty female private eye V.I. Warshawski—like V.I., Dex is determined to do the right thing, even though she makes many mistakes along the way. She is funny, sarcastic, unwilling to take no for an answer, and downright riveting as she battles her own demons alongside criminals of all sorts. So far seven episodes are available on Hulu, the last of which features a Friendsgiving that will fit in perfectly with your own cozy holiday. [Gwen Ihnat]


Evil (CBS, CBS All Access; eight episodes)

Demonic possession and divine vision seem like an odd fit for Robert and Michelle King—only if you haven’t been following what they’ve been up to since The Good Wife ended. The Kings already dabbled in the unearthly with their one-and-done body-politic-snatching satire BrainDead, and their latest effort for the Tiffany Network, Evil, starts out grounded in the topical, post-Trump, reality-versus-unreality tension that drives their CBS All Access spin-off The Good Fight. Call it The X-orcist Files: Forensic psychologist Dr. Kristen Bouchard (Katja Herbers) is pulled out of the courtroom to help the Catholic Church distinguish between cases of genuine hell-on-earth and garden-variety delusion, alongside priest-in-training David Acosta (Mike Colter) and resident skeptic Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi). Despite some familiar trappings, it’s a lack of knowing that sets the tone for Evil’s early going, the protagonists haunted by startling outcomes and a shadowy figure of seemingly bottomless wickedness played by Michael Emerson. Eventually, Evil’s mysteries start to come into focus, but this much is always certain: There hasn’t been anything this stylishly unsettling on network TV since Hannibal. [Erik Adams]


The Unicorn (CBS, CBS All Access; eight episodes)

One of the strongest network debuts of the year, The Unicorn stars Walton Goggins as Wade, a widower whose decency, charm, and dedication to his family make him quite the catch on the dating scene he’s rediscovering. The sharp-witted pilot makes a great case for Wade’s desirability, but it’s not long before The Unicorn’s true nature is revealed: This CBS sitcom is a relationship comedy, but it’s one that explores all the different ways families come together, in good times and bad. Goggins, who’s made his bones playing sly, amoral types who nonetheless show a glimmer of redemptive potential, is the good-hearted center of The Unicorn, but he’s surrounded by an equally capable and endearing cast, including Ruby Jay, Makenzie Moss, Omar Benson Miller, Maya Lynne Robinson, Rob Corddry, and Michaela Watkins. “Turkeys And Traditions” is an instant Thanksgiving classic; the episode, written by Skander Halim and Gina Ippolito, captures the importance of family customs, both their retention and creation. [Danette Chavez]


Looking For Alaska (Hulu; eight episodes)

After over a decade of shelved adaptation attempts, John Green’s beloved YA novel Looking For Alaska finally got the small-screen treatment this year, in the form of an eight-episode Hulu miniseries. Created by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage—the forces behind teen series like The O.C. and Gossip Girl—the series weaponizes nostalgia for the early aughts by transforming Green’s book into an explicit period piece set in 2005. Bookish Miles Halter (Charlie Plummer) leaves behind his Orlando home to seek a “great perhaps” at an elite Alabama boarding school. There he makes the first real friends he’s ever had, including his tightly wound roommate, Chip “The Colonel” Martin (Denny Love), and the immediate object of his affection, Alaska Young (Kristine Froseth). Freed from the first-person perspective of the novel, Looking For Alaska takes huge advantage of the chance to flesh out its ensemble. Love nearly steals the entire show, while This Is Us Ron Cephas Jones and Veep’s Timothy Simons turn in wonderful supporting performances. A soundtrack of nostalgic hits and a refreshingly matter-of-fact approach to topics like drinking, sex, and tragedy make Looking For Alaska a poignant teen show for audiences of all ages. [Caroline Siede]


You (Netflix, 10 episodes)

Penn Badgley resumes his duties obsessing over the personal lives of attractive New Yorkers in Sera Gamble and Greg Berlanti’s adaptation of You, the Caroline Kepnes’ thriller novel of the same name. The Gossip Girl alum stars as Joe Goldberg, a bookstore manager who sees himself as much of a collector of first editions as he is of beautiful, somewhat aimless women. In season one, that’s Elizabeth Lail as Guinevere Beck, a grad student flailing about in NYU’s MFA program. Her relationship with Joe turns into a Faustian deal—it stokes her creativity, but costs her something much more dear than tuition. Badgley fits the brooding, romantic hero role to a T, sparking an obsession among Twitter users that just feeds into the series’ (and the book’s) exploration of unhealthy relationship dynamics. You is packed with twists, but it never loses sight of the people caught up in its winding plot. You can catch up on season one just in time for the premiere of season two in December, which will find The Haunting Of Hill House’s Victoria Pedretti in Joe’s sights. It might not seem like the most intuitive watch for this time of year, but You actually serves as a reminder to shed toxic relationships when and where you can. [Danette Chavez]


The End Of The Fucking World (Netflix, 16 episodes)

You’re going to need something bracing to jolt you out of your food coma and/or the lull in conversations, and there’s nothing less saccharine than this story of neglect, anger, and overcoming those emotions to find genuine connection. Based on Charles Forsman’s graphic novel of the same name, The End Of The Fucking World subverts the idyllic potential of the English countryside by setting a pair of disaffected teens with varying levels of antisocial behavior loose upon it. James (Alex Lawther) and Alyssa (Jessica Barden) aren’t driven enough to go full Bonnie and Clyde, but they’re irrevocably changed by their time spent on the lam. Season one was brutally funny, occasionally moving, and utterly uninterested in redemption; the second season, which debuted earlier this month on Netflix, reaches many of the same heights (and depths). If you’re inclined to get a jump on your Festivus grievances, then you might acknowledge that the ambiguous ending of season one is precisely what made The End Of The Fucking World such a powerful story. It would certainly be in the spirit of Charlie Covell’s series—the first half of it, anyway. [Danette Chavez]


Lodge 49 (AMC, Hulu; 20 episodes)

For a ruthlessly funny takedown of the 1%, please (re)watch Succession, seasons one and two. But if you’d rather spend those 20 hours with people whose livelihoods have been ravaged by the captains of industry, only to remake society in their big-hearted image, then take a seat inside of Lodge 49. Jim Gavin and Peter Ocko’s modern fable reckons with economic realities and the far-reaching effects of grief, but is equally packed full of wonder at our ability to endure and thrive in even the most uncertain times. With a wonderful cast and incisive writing, Lodge 49 is one of the most clever and life-affirming shows on TV, in league with half-hour series like The Good Place and Russian Doll. The lodge was recently shuttered by AMC, but hope springs eternal among the Ancient and Benevolent Order of the Lynx that this wise and affecting series will find a new home soon. Take a break from shouting across the dinner table to spend some time with this winning, relatable found family. [Danette Chavez]


Peaky Blinders (Netflix; 30 episodes)

Brevity is the soul of most British-produced dramas, which manage to tell cogent, compelling stories in less time than it takes to prepare your preferred holiday meal. Steven Knight’s Peaky Blinders has waged class and gang war in six-hour bursts for the last six years, and though there have been several cliffhangers, each season has felt like its own, self-contained story. Peaky Blinders began with the cunning Thomas “Tommy” Shelby (Cillian Murphy) trying to leverage a stolen cache of guns and ammunition into greater prominence for the eponymous gang, which is inspired by the real-life Peaky Blinders. The series—chiefly written by Knight, who usually taps a single director to helm a season—is full of twists and turns that heighten the suspense but also speak to the elusive nature of class transition. Because for all of their Brummie boasting, the Shelbys—including Aunt Polly (Helen McCrory), Arthur (Paul Anderson), and John (Joe Cole)—are eager to expand beyond their corner of the Midlands, leaving absolutely nothing out of their reach, not even the winner’s circle at the Epsom Derby. Just when you think you’ll get lost in the byzantine plot, the show’s spartan direction or inspired casting choices (Tom Hardy doing his best Bob Hoskins impression as a bootlegging baker) grounds you in the action once more. Not only can you easily consume the series to date over the course of this long weekend, but your family drama is bound to look bearable compared to the Shelbys’ conflicts. [Danette Chavez]


She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power (Netflix; 39 episodes)

If there was ever a property that embodied the spirit of Friendsgiving—found family, nostalgia, a general air of rebellion—it’s She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power. An update of the ’80s classic, Noelle Stevenson’s reimagining follows Adora’s emergence as the sword-wielding, all-powerful titular heroine as she links with Glimmer, Bow, and a league of rebellious princesses to protect Etheria from the evil Horde. Hilarious, poignant, and oftentimes moving, She-Ra blends the excitement of the hero’s journey with the drama of an eroding friendship/previous life, which would be a fairly heavy concept if not for the pastel-tinged adventures and the abundance of hope. In the same vein as Steven Universe, Stevenson and Dreamworks’ girl-led wonder finds the ideal balance between in-depth introspection and escapism while placing queer-coded characters at the center. Even in its modernized glory, She-Ra maintains some of the beloved beats of the original (while, at least in one phenomenal homage, gently pokes fun at its more dated elements), making it a magical and worthwhile visit for old and new fans alike. [Shannon Miller]


If you’re still hungry for more, here’s our handy guide to Disney+ originals, and a list of archival titles. For more on Apple TV+ premieres, check out these listings. For other recent recommendations, check out A Black Lady Sketch Show (six episodes), Green Eggs And Ham (13 episodes), and The Man In The High Castle (40 episodes).

Share This Story