Summer 2021 TV: 7 Shows You Have to Watch

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Watching TV might seem like the last thing you should be doing during this summer of love. Aren’t you supposed to be out there making memories, reuniting with friends and family, catching fireflies and whatnot? But… we are still so tired. And the couch is so comfortable. TV, I will never quit you. Here are 7 new shows to watch this summer while we all wait around patiently for the next season of Selling Sunset.

Feel Good (Netflix)

Feel Good is the kind of show that’ll make you want to call your broker immediately: “Danny, put everything we’ve got on heart emojis!” It’s a British dramedy about the romance between Canadian comedian Mae Martin and schoolteacher George, a beautiful English Rose of a woman. Or, in Mae’s words: “She looks like a fit little squirrel.” The hitch is, Mae is a recovering addict and this is George’s first time dating a woman. Things inevitably get messy. The supporting cast is key; of course there’s a goofy flatmate to ease tension. Mae’s mom is played to a tee by Lisa Kudrow (the only cast member of Friends who’s stood the test of time, let’s be honest). The show wrestles with serious topics—the second season deals with trauma and addiction—but it’s always offset by Mae’s silliness.

Cruel Summer (Hulu)

July of 1998 was so hot, my Blood Sugar Sex Magik CD melted and got lodged in the player of our Camry, making it the permanent soundtrack for my first summer with a driver’s license. Cruel summer indeed. Small potatoes, though, compared to what happens in the new mystery Cruel Summer. The show follows the entwined lives of two teen girls over three separate summers, tracking the aftermath of a kidnapping. In addition to the gripping plot, there’s a stellar soundtrack and mall scenes filled with choker necklace-stuffed kiosks that will make your ‘90s heart sing. Watching these kinds of teen shows as parents can be weird. Like, when you go back and watch My So-Called Life but end up identifying with Angela’s MOM. Stick with it, though, because the final scene of this series is the juiciest 30 seconds of TV you’ll watch all year.

Hacks (HBO Max)

Maybe you already saw Jean Smart on Mare of Easttown earlier this summer. In Hacks, she plays Deborah Vance, a legendary Las Vegas comedian who pairs up with a twitty 25-year-old comedy writer in hopes of saving her longstanding casino gig. A mentorship forms, alongside an on-again-off-again working and personal relationship. It’s fun to watch these two women battle it out while crafting jokes. And, even with humor as a base, the show has depth. Every single character is crafted to perfection. Will we ever grow tired of seeing Kaitlin Olson (Deborah’s daughter) as a mouthy teenager stuck in a grown woman’s body? Nope. FYI Designing Women is streaming on Hulu right now so the Jean Smartification of summer can be complete.

The Way of the Househusband (Netflix)

Apparently I like anime now? Is this my midlife crisis? If so, bring it on. The Way of the Househusband follows an ex-crime boss who retires to become a househusband. Now, instead of navigating the gritty world of crime, Tatsu battles dust bunnies with his Roomba while his wife, Miku, works full-time as a designer. Still, he manages to get dinner on the table every night. And find danger via hilarious confrontations between his ex-yakuza brethren. Each episode is quick and funny and weird. Win, win, win.

Underground Railroad (Amazon)

Not every TV show needs to be binged! While it can feel good going down, I often feel sick afterwards, like when I eat my children’s untouched dinners because I “don’t want the food to go to waste.” Underground Railroad is fully available in 10 chapters, but I’d suggest consuming it in weekly episodes so you can digest each segment fully. Adapted from the Colson Whitehead novel, the series follows Cora, an enslaved woman who escapes a grueling plantation in Georgia via a literal underground railroad. It’s directed by Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk) so you can count on every single shot being perfectly gorgeous. Definitely worth taking nice and slow.

Sex/Life (Netflix)

If Lifetime and HBO had a baby, it’d be Sex/Life. Billie is a rich suburban mother who starts a sex journal that takes her on a fantasy-charged trip down memory lane. Viewers are left wondering if she’ll give up her boring husband and open-concept kitchen for her music exec ex-boyfriend. There’s a lot that doesn’t make sense on this show — like Billie’s insatiable sex drive while parenting a newborn and toddler, or her gravity defying nipples. But it’s all in good fun. And there’s one scene in episode 3 that’ll blow up your group text. Let’s go ahead and file this one under ‘shows so bad, they’re good.’

Starstruck (HBO Max)

Some shows are so ideal for summer, they’re easy as pie and you’re likely to forget them by the time you’re packing that first school lunch. Take Starstruck, for example. Comedian Rose Matafeo plays Jessie, a millennial in East London who hooks up with Tom on New Year’s Eve, only to find out later he’s a movie star. She’s sloppy, fun, and charming. He’s really, really famous. Quite a few folks across the Internet describe the show as Broad City meets Notting Hill. Accurate!

Ted Lasso (Apple+)

Ted Lasso was the best thing to come out of the pandemic. Season 1 was a balm to so many people last winter as we all watched the earnest, Midwestern Ted Lasso step into a new life as a soccer coach in England. Season two comes out July 23 (which is a good thing, ‘cause that show is the only reason we’re keeping Apple+). Our beloved Ted will be back, managing his mediocre U.K. team alongside scheming team owner Rebecca. We’re over here counting down the days.

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Toby Lowenfels is a writer and mom of three in Nashville. Follow her daily musings at @tobyfels.