Queue: Out-of-the-Box shows you won’t feel pretentious watching


It’s Friday night and The Boot is dead. You flip on your Samsung Smart TV™ in the hopes of finding something new to watch, but are tired of the same old guilty pleasures, cliché characters and recycled plots. You’re tired of being heckled for watching “Riverdale” but aren’t pretentious enough to try “Twin Peaks” or “Portlandia,” so you’re fine settling for something in between. All you want is something engaging, distinct, intense: is that too much to ask for?

If this is you, don’t worry. Just keep reading.

Fargo: 5 / 5

“Fargo” is a show that’s both compellingly weird and weirdly compelling. Calling it “out-of-the-box” doesn’t quite do it justice — that would be implying that a single box could somehow encapsulate all its strangeness, depressiveness, artistry and utter hilarity.

Set in North Dakota and parts of Minnesota, and based on several true stories, each season of “Fargo” revolves around a different violent crime that’s infinitely complex, with layers of circumstance and coincidence. And despite its foundation in reality, “Fargo” is one of those shows that’s virtually impossible to predict: characters who act impulsively, events that seem too wacky to be true and dialogue that borders on the absurd succinctly make the show highly addictive and all too binge-worthy.

Additionally, “Fargo” features a variety of enigmatic, eccentric and genuinely zany characters. The show’s star-studded cast drives the plot inexorably forward, including the likes of Martin Freeman, Ewan McGregor, Patrick Wilson, Kirsten Dunst, Colin Hanks, Billy Bob Thornton, Nick Offerman and Key and Peele. “Fargo” just concluded its third season, the first two of which can be found on Hulu (free for students!)

The Magicians: 3.5 / 5

Did “Fargo” beat you up and take your lunch money? Are you now in the market for something a little less gritty and atmospheric, but still want a show that manages to captivate your dark sensibilities? If you answered yes to either of these questions, “The Magicians” is the perfect alternative for you. The show follows Quentin Coldwater, a clinically depressed college graduate suddenly admitted to a magical grad school and seemingly thrust into the delightful world of magic of which he’s always dreamed. But as Quentin soon discovers, learning about magic doesn’t make his life easier – if anything, it f**ks it up even more.

Combining playful comedy and genuine characters with frequent violence and pervasive quirkiness, “The Magicians” is the f-bomb filled, drug- and sex-fueled Harry Potter sequel we always wanted. The show is currently in its third season, with the first two seasons available on Netflix.

Patriot: 4.5 / 5

“Patriot” is one of those shows that’s very difficult to explain without watching for yourself. The show centers on John Tavner, an American spy who’s left exhausted and depressed after his latest assignment goes tragically awry. Pretty much all John wants is to go back home and take time off, but his dad — an influential politician to whom he reports directly — believes John is the only one capable of handling an urgent task. Namely, unofficially going undercover at an industrial piping firm so he can transport a bag containing 11 million euros to Luxembourg where it’ll be used to buy the Iranian presidential election and prevent nuclear war.

Based on the description so far, you’re probably picturing a James Bond-style action show, right? Think again. “Patriot” slyly subverts nearly all traditional spy movie tropes, largely at the expense of its protagonist. John Tavner is perhaps the unluckiest spy ever, not to mention the saddest. For instance, John periodically picks up an acoustic guitar and breaks into song, expressing his feelings and misgivings about recent events in humorous down-tempo improv country songs (yes, you read that right).

Although John is a resourceful and hard-working dude, it’s really his humanity, rather than his badassery, that makes him a compelling character. Coupled with a distinctly self-aware sense of humor, it’s pretty difficult not to fall in love with the show within an episode or two. The one and only season of “Patriot” to date is available on Amazon Prime.

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