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Having spent a lot of time huddled up on the sofa these past few months (uh, in between vigorous outdoor workouts, of course), the editorial team here at VanMag is now pretty confident we’ve reached the very bottom of Netflix and can be effective guides. And so, with plenty of downtime to come, we humbly present to you our personal recommendations for your next binge show.
Is it cruel to recommend a binge of a one season, 10-episode show? Perhaps. But this has been my go-to suggestion for the past six months and it hasn’t failed to please yet. The comedy (created by former SNL head writers Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider) follows a proud television tradition of documenting selfish people as they grapple for fame, but the twist here is that the two desperate-to-thrive Millennial protagonists are siblings whose teenage brother has become an overnight, Bieber-like music sensation. Petty emotions, soul-searching, and showbiz send-ups ensue. Molly Shannon plays their mom, Ken Marino plays the bumbling agent, and honestly, any more than 10 episodes would probably be too much of a good thing at once. Consume with caution. Stream on Crave. — Stacey McLachlan, editor at large
This was a tough one because I’ve had such a good year of TV. I mean can you believe it was Donald Sutherland who was the the killer in The Undoing? Oops = spoiler alert: do you put that before or after the reveal? Also The Crown was as good as ever. But I think the most fun I had was tearing through the first two seasons of Amazon Prime on the recommendation of our former Art Director, Brenna Higginbotham, who’s a voracious culture consumer and a consummate culture snob–so his choices are always on point.
The Boys—terrible title, I know—is the anti-Marvel series, in that it imagines a future where super heroes are controlled by a malevolent company (is there any other kind?) who use their powers to drive profits whatever the cost. So there’s no shortage of social commentary on rampant consumerism, hero worship, nazis…all of which is barely noticed thanks to how much fun it is. The series follows a “rag tag group of misfits” lead by the unbelievably foul-mouthed Karl Urban and Jack Quaid (son of Dennis and Meg) who are determined to expose the “supes” for the dirtballs that they are, despite, not having any, you know, powers. It’s funny, suspenseful, well written—all of which have made it Amazon’s biggest hit and the only show to challenge Netflix for number of viewers. But seriously—I’m not kidding on the language warning. A lot of C bombs.—Neal McLennan, Food Editor
There are many many widely agreed-upon reasons for why this show is great, but let me get personal for a second: this is the first TV show I’ve ever watched that has a dad character that actually reminds me of my dad. I’m so used to TV dads being goofy or lame or stoic or detached in a—uh, oh, I’m gonna say it—extraordinarily Caucasian way. And while I love me a Ty Burrell, there’s something about Appa (Mr. Kim) that hits me on a much more personal level. The stubbornness, the work ethic, the pride, and the humour feel so unapologetically authentic. It’s a show that’s full of a very specific sort of love. I cry watching it even when it’s not sad, just because I’m so happy to see TV that I can actually relate to. And whether or not you have an Asian-Canadian dad who never admits he’s wrong and communicates love via food, it’s absolutely worth the watch. Season 5 comes out in January on CBC, and you can watch the first four seasons on Netflix.—Alyssa Hirose, assistant editor
I spent a large chunk of this year watching The Sopranos for the first time, but I figured that would be a fairly outdated recommendation (do it, and do it now, especially with The Many Saints of Newark coming out next year). To keep it more current, there were a plethora of new releases I enjoyed as well: the final season of the magnificent Bojack Horseman, the previously mentioned The Boys, and the wonderful High Fidelity (unceremoniously axed after one season), to name a few.
But the show I had the most fun watching this year was hands down Ted Lasso. The half-hour fish-out-of-water comedy stars Jason Sudeikis as the titular football coach who crosses the pond to England to coach… well, football. Hijinks, as you can probably guess, ensue. It’s a dumb, formulaic plot, but there are surprises here. The characters are wonderfully well-rounded, the corny jokes are refreshingly made with tongue firmly in cheek and the show’s sensibility is so—like Ted’s homemade biscuits—gosh darned sweet that it’s physically impossible not to like.
It’s also (along with perhaps my favourite film of the year, Boys State) worth the Apple TV+ subscription. The Morning Show is also there, if you hate yourself.—Nathan Caddell, associate editor
Given that 2020 has lasted 10 years or so, I found it was a bit of a blur to recall which of the thousand or so television shows I’d recommend for year-end. But then I remembered the greatness that was Zoe Kravitz as Rob in High Fidelity. I’d lived and breathed the original—author Nick Hornby was my hero back in my 20s, when music geekdom was the world the I inhabited with my friends (and in fact, my first gig in publishing was as a music writer). And so while I was intrigued by the reboot, a part of me eyerolled the fact that we can’t help but want to tell the same stories over and over again. (Please stop making Footloose, ok?) But the moment a teary-eyed Kravitz opens with her “Top 5, Desert Island, Most Memorable Heartbreaks,” I was in, probably obsessively so (yes, I looked up the story behind the obviously Easter-egg-filled wardrobe choices). Sidekicks Simon and Cherise are wonderful, the soundtrack is fantastic, the story compellingly human and vulnerable—hold the phone, I’m 100 percent going to watch it again right now. Stream it on Crave. —Anicka Quin, editorial director