"Nip/Tuck," "Political Animals," "The Carrie Diaries"

Stream these TV shows over the long weekend

You've finished "Breaking Bad" -- so here are other gems to binge on during Memorial Day


Daniel D'Addario
May 24, 2014 2:20AM (UTC)

Congratulations -- you've made it. You have a three-day weekend to go to the beach, to a barbecue, on a hike, or to sit in front of your television streaming an entire series from beginning to end. Last Memorial Day weekend gave us the whole run of "Arrested Development," but we're lucky enough this year to have three days free from new series television. Finally, time to catch up!

By now, you've already finished "Breaking Bad" (duh) and "The Sopranos" and are all caught up on "Scandal" and "Homeland," or if you're not, it's by choice. But what about the other streaming options? Here are a few less-heralded TV shows that are available to stream on Netflix right now.

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"Nip/Tuck": In the run-up to Sunday night's Larry Kramer adaptation "The Normal Heart" on HBO -- a movie Kramer has called "by far" director Ryan Murphy's "best work" -- you may want to get a sense of Murphy's baroque, overtly emotional style with his freakishly watchable early series. "Nip/Tuck" follows two plastic surgeons dealing with their clients' obsessive vanity and their own compulsions; it was a critical hit in the materialistic mid-Bush years. The good news, too, is that things wildly fall off after the fourth season, so you can feel no guilt about cutting things short. (Though if you do, you'll miss a young Bradley Cooper as a self-destructive young actor!)

"Political Animals": This show, though not strictly speaking good, had a far stronger idea of its own mission than the faux-profound "House of Cards." It will also likely become a touchstone as the Hillary Clinton presidential decision approaches, along with several new network shows about women in the highest echelons of the federal government. The Clinton parallels are fairly naked -- the show is about a former first lady who runs for president, then finds herself appointed by her charismatic younger opponent to serve as secretary of state. She spends her time conspiring about how to get back to the Oval Office -- it's a bit like "Veep," if the comedy weren't intentional.

The show, which ran for a single short season as an attempt to give the USA network some gravitas, doesn't have anything to say, but says it all with verve: In this version of the Clintons' lives, they are divorced and have a self-destructive gay son, played by Sebastian Stan of "Captain America." Their other son is played by James Wolk, lately of "Mad Men," so anyone jonesing for more Bob Benson won't have to resort to watching his cancelled sitcom "The Crazy Ones."

"The Carrie Diaries": Now cancelled by the CW, this show's two seasons were a complete treat -- a low-pressure glimpse at 1980s New York that was delightfully out-of-place on a network full of frenetic superheroes and vampires. "The Carrie Diaries" took the protagonist of "Sex and the City," set the time machine for the eighties, completely trashed the show's canon (in the original, Carrie's dad is supposed to have left her as a young child), and amped up the nostalgia. If you're not the sort who likes antiheroes -- who just wants something marginally more intelligent and vastly more humanistic than a "Real Housewives" marathon on as background noise, stream this series's first season as you do your last spring cleaning.

"Keeping Up Appearances": If you burned through the new "Downton Abbey" episodes as they aired but found the fourth-season twists a bit dark (poor Anna), may we suggest a show that gets at the decline of the British empire with more outlandish wit? This early-1990s sitcom stars one Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced, by her alone, as Bouquet), a woman who spends her days pretending that she's of a vastly higher social class than she is and attempting to impress the local clergyman with her good breeding. (Of course, those who speak the loudest about class are those who have the least.) "Keeping Up Appearances," available on Netflix, is comfortingly formulaic in a way that rewards the repeat watcher. Hyacinth, like Frasier Crane in America, is perpetually planning small dinner parties; something always goes wrong. "Keeping Up Appearances" requires little attention to narrative details and would make a nice soundtrack for the drinking of a cold six-pack -- or, if you're like Hyacinth, a nice claret.

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"Alias": Okay, this isn't exactly an under-heralded series -- in its day, it was moderately popular, and made a Golden Globe-winning star of Jennifer Garner. But it's worth rewatching now, as "Scandal" appears to be restaging plotlines "Alias" did much better a decade ago. "Alias," about a double agent attempting to take down an evil spy organization from the inside, all while putting on a new wig every week, has a lot on its mind; it's about the surveillance state, and the supernatural, and the ties of family, and how Jennifer Garner can be super-charismatic if you give her the right role.

Launched at the dawn of the TV-on-DVD era, "Alias" is a perfect show to binge-watch -- its famous cliffhangers, designed to keep the audience talking for a week or for the summer hiatus months, now can deliver instant satisfaction. All that and, once again, a young Bradley Cooper -- there's nothing more the sedentary Memorial Day weekend celebrant could want!


Daniel D'Addario

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