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One of the central functions of television journalists — editors, critics and reporters alike — is to sift through the seemingly infinite options now available to viewers through broadcast, cable, streaming and video-on-demand options. And as silly as it may sound, that function is more important than ever, thanks to the inauspicious confluence of a global pandemic and "peak TV."
To this end, we've already collected recommendations for reality TV that will help you escape reality and British TV as cozy as a Cotswolds cottage, among other helpful guides. But the TV team here at The Times knows there are viewing options for any and every mood, so we've also launched this weekly recommendation engine — one based on what we're watching ourselves. Think of it as your work-from-home water cooler, where we bring the water cooler to you.
Available on: HBO, HBO Go, HBO Now
I’ve been waiting more than a year (18 months, if we’re counting) for the return of “Insecure” — with good reason: Star Issa Rae has been busy executive producing “A Black Lady Sketch Show” and headlining movies like “The Photograph” and “The Lovebirds." But starting Sunday, viewers can get reacquainted with their favorite flailing-but-trying heroine when the 10-episode fourth season of the HBO comedy premieres. Issa, the character, is on her path forward, trying to get her block party to the finish line and evaluating new and old relationships — and, like most of us, encountering some of those risky left turns without traffic lights in the process. Plus, there’s a new show-within-a-show that includes “Real Housewives of Atlanta’s” Porsha Williams. Self-Care Sunday at its best.
— Yvonne Villarreal
Available on: Pop TV, Netflix
Tuesday is the end of the line for the beloved Canadian comedy, a fish-out-of-water tale about a formerly wealthy family stuck in the titular out-of-the-way burgh. Since its debut in 2015, Dan and Eugene Levy's series has sweetened, by degrees, into a perfectly pitched sitcom, combining the characters' personal growth with winking dialogue and impeccably over-the-top costumes. (My colleague Robert Lloyd recognized this before I did — before pretty much everyone else, for that matter.) Now, David (Dan Levy) and Patrick (Noah Reid), TV's most relatable couple, are poised to wed, in what will surely be an emotional finale. I confess I haven't brought myself to watch it yet: The Roses may be ready to say goodbye to Schitt's Creek, but I am most certainly not.
— Matt Brennan
Available on: Acorn TV
Cush Jumbo, whom Americans will know as an American Lucca Quinn from "The Good Wife" and "The Good Fight" — but she's British, folks — is Jess, the emotional center of this dark four-part drama set in a sunny Scottish village. When four out a family of five die in a fire, not accidentally, a central question quickly emerges: Was it friendly town doctor Tom (David Tennant) or his troubled schoolteacher wife (Anna Madeley), Jess' colleague and best friend? With only two viable suspects, you have an even chance of guessing right, but teasing out the murder mystery — pursued by Jumbo's policeman husband (Matthew McNulty) — is less the point than the eternal mystery of human beings, the things that go on in their heads and behind closed doors.
— Robert Lloyd
"David Makes Man"
Available on: OWN, On Demand
The 10-part drama is a masterful ode to the human spirit as it finds beauty, grace and redemption in the worst of circumstances. The 2019 series by Oscar-winning “Moonlight” writer Tarell Alvin McCraney follows teen David (Akili McDowell) as he navigates between his turbulent home life in an impoverished black community in South Florida and his hopes for a better future at a prestigious, majority white magnet school. Challenges abound in this surprisingly uplifting, largely overlooked series, where David’s bittersweet journey is pure poetry. “David Makes Man” has been renewed for a second season, so there’s more to come — and all the more reason to catch up.
— Lorraine Ali
Available on: Airs weekdays on KCBS-TV in Los Angeles; check your local listings
The most fascinating thing about “Judge Judy” Sheindlin's daytime show — and likely one of the reasons behind its continuing popularity — is both its reliability and its unpredictability. You could turn on an episode from several months ago and one from 15 years ago and probably not be able to tell the difference. Sheindlin’s suffer-no-fools demeanor never softens, and her bailiff Petri Hawkins-Byrd is always there by her side, “the Batman to her Robin,” as he has put it. Sheindlin recently changed her style, but she looks remarkably similar to the woman who instantly shot to the top ranks of daytime when "Judge Judy" premiered in 1996.
I’m always amused by those who try and charm her — they have no chance. Her withering put-downs (“On your best day, you’re not as smart as me on my worst day”) are just as crushing as ever. Although the cases are all civil court disputes that seem small compared to the bigger problems we all face, Sheindlin always finds a way to make them compelling. And the show goes quickly, handling two or three cases in a half hour. Those of us who work during the day rarely get a chance to catch “Judge Judy.” Now that we’re all stuck at home, it's the perfect time to take that afternoon break and sample an episode or two. The syndicated show will end next year, so take advantage while you can.
— Greg Braxton