Look, I love television. I love to see it, love to watch it. Nothing beats spending the night in with a streaming service—(using someone else’s password! ha!)—except maybe participating in a cultural conversation. I’ve seen the shows my friends love and I love them too. Here is proof that I have watched the shows and have not just seen tweets, statuses, articles and subtitled GIFs of them.
1. Parks & Recreation
Choosing a favorite Parks & Rec episode is almost as hard as choosing a favorite Parks & Rec character—they’re basically my family. My favorite episode has to be “Chairs Department” from Season 4. Leslie, who is the optimist and mayor(?) gets into trouble with her employees(?) when Ron Swanson (I know him), in a fit of his signature asceticism, swaps all of the office chairs for rough-hewn wooden cabin chairs. Aubrey Plaza is Amy Poehler’s daughter(?) but is not an optimist. She’s mad at the golden retriever she dates because he sent her a smile emoji. An animal sneaks into the office and softens everyone’s hearts. Aziz Ansari & Jean Ralphio (spelling?) want to start a company, but they get bored and don’t do that. Treat yourself! At least six people get married in this episode.
The show is just beginning but already there are twists and turns, and my favorite episode is a doozy. An old man I thought was real is a robot. Someone I thought was a good robot is a Bad Robot— a clever little easter egg from JJ Abrams! A girl kisses a girl, which is freaking amazing. Also there is robot blood everywhere. And, plus, it’s Black Mirror.
3. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Nothing can break this girl! She’s unbreakable! In my favorite episode, Erin from The Office wants to be an actress(?) or maybe just have a job? After countless failed attempts to get a job by saying hello to strangers (“um, we don’t do that in New York!”) she decides to apply for one, but can’t decide which of her magenta or yellow cardigans to wear. Her roommate, Titus, convinces her to be in a flash mob instead. The rest of the season is a flash mob.
4. Gilmore Girls
Now here is a show with heart! My favorite episode begins with an abridged edit of Carole King’s “Where You Lead,” a flawless anthem to sorority that would have been a standout in any album, but which sits comfortably among the pantheon of masterpieces that is Tapestry. The 60s were over, the 70s were deciding how they would sound, and King did not wait around for instruction. A a bold rejection of the sexy/sweet dichotomy that had pigeonholed female vocalists before her, King’s vocals are matched in their unpolished vulnerability by her lyrics (and those of collaborator Toni Stern and husband Gerry Goffin). This is to say nothing of the music, in which we hear the apotheosis of a Brill Building graduate liberated from the constraints of competitive hit-making. King is a woman who uses art as a support system for life, not the other way around, and what we got from her is art infused with more life than anyone was expecting. Tapestry still holds the record for most consecutive weeks at number one by a female solo artist.
5. Master of None
Dating is hard. Our protagonist, Tom from Parks & Rec, wears a blazer in my favorite episode. He sits at a restaurant with a cute girl. I can’t really—I don’t have a great read on this show. Some people really hate it but I find they’re generally contrarians. I’m not going to watch it, though.
There are a lot of characters in this ensemble, and they are all in my favorite episode. I am going to earnestly try to name them all: Joey, Phoebe, Ross, Chandler, Phoebe. Joey is Italian I think. Rachel. Look, I love these guys. They’ve all got personalities, and I can’t get enough of that. In my favorite episode, they walk in and out of a HUGE apartment. A ridiculously expensive apartment. “The One With The Huge Apartment.” They just walk around inside it, cross the room, smack each other a few times, and walk back to the couch. I love it.
7. Broad City
Okay I know I said the F.R.I.E.N.D.S. are like me, but Ilana and Abby are the ones who are really me. My favorite episode is the one where Ilana decides to make an extra buck by collecting cans from recycling around the neighborhood. She becomes a can lady with those big bags. It’s insane. Also she just talks to strangers. What? I guess they DO do that in New York. Abby is like “you can’t do this!” but she gets distracted by her own life, which she has. In the end, Ilana stops doing it to make sure we know that weed is regular now.
8. BoJack Horseman
Who says cartoons can’t be deep? Far and away the best episode of this show, “Hollywood Sadtime,” sees BoJack torching his relationship with his mother, his father, his exes, and his friends. They’re all animals. All sorts of animals. But his parents are probably horses. The episode is genius because of the wordplay—(“stable” where horses live and “stable” like secure)—and because it makes you sad for a month.
9. True Detective
Now you know we’re talkin’ season one. The pinnacle of this season is the episode where Matthew McConaghey (spelling?) realizes time is a flat circle, which is a thing that makes sense and is explained well. Unlike most episodes, which are just the two cops(?) driving, this one involves them finding the ghost-white body of a child in the bayou. It turns out it was a cult called the Flat Circle Boys, but Matthew McConaghey doesn’t arrest them because he agrees with them about time being a flat circle.
10. Chef’s Table
I heard the Francis Mallmann one is pretty cool.
Ben Kling is a comedian and writer with a full time job that takes up a lot of his time but that’s ok, that’s life. @benkling