Peacock has come a long way in a year. When we posted our first ranking of their original programming on launch, it was tepid at best. But now, we’ve erased those initial entries and replaced them with five genuinely great choices for your viewing pleasure! (And though we’re sticking to scripted series for this list, we do also recommend checking out Amber Ruffin’s late-night talk show as well).
Check out the five best original series on Peacock below:
Whatever you think you know about the medical field will be upended by the Peacock series Dr. Death. And that after watching these eight episodes, you may never want to go to the doctor again. The limited series is more unnerving than any horror movie.
Dr. Death follows the true story of Dr. Christopher Duntsch (Joshua Jackson), a Dallas neurosurgeon who horrendously botched surgeries, leaving his patients heinously maimed or, in a few cases, dead. Among his transgressions: he sliced vocal cords, left sponges inside people’s bodies, cut into muscles and nerves instead of bone. Wanting to cover their own you-know-whats, his employers passed him on from hospital to hospital with letters of recommendations carefully crafted by their legal departments. Finally, two doctors—neurosurgeon Robert Henderson (Alec Baldwin) and vascular surgeon Randall Kirby (Christian Slater)—made it their personal mission to stop him.
The writing, directing, and performances combine to make a taunt eight hours of TV, one that you will most likely quickly binge your way through. You’ll also be left with the unsettling knowledge that this is a true story, that this could and probably will happen again. That it could happen to you. You might even be inspired to suddenly start eating right, getting your eight hours of sleep every night, and making sure to drink water and exercise regularly…. —Amy Amatangelo
A new Max is back, as the retro after-school hangout spot frequented by the latest Bayside High class—a class which includes not only a core trio of white kids from Bayside’s Pacific Palisades neighborhood (Zack, Kelly, and Jessie’s kids included), but also a trio of Black and and Latinx kids who are forced to bus in from a lower income neighborhood after their own school gets defunded following a $10 billion budgeting ruh-roh by that irascible bleach-blonde scammer, Zack Morris—these days better known as (sigh) Governor Zack.
Enter: Saved by the Bell. Well, Saved by the Bell 2.0. The original talent is (almost) all on hand—stars Elizabeth Berkley, Mario Lopez, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Tiffani Thiessen and even Lark Voorhies all reprise their original roles (as does Ed Alonzo as the Max’s titular Max), while Berkley, Lopez, and Gosselaar join SBTB vets Peter Engel and Franco Bario as producers (the latter three as EPs). The dope af theme remix is here, too, rapper Lil Yachty putting a solid Gen Z twist on Scott Gale’s iconic surf-slacker jam. But while 90s-era Saved by the Bell was a goofball sitcom of the sturdiest variety, Peacock’s Saved by the Bell is pure 2020. Gone is the old school multi-cam format, the live studio audience. In their place is a slick single-camera comedy that—barring a smart pivot back to the original theme song and tone for the Homecoming/reunion episode halfway through the season—will feel far more at home alongside Peacock’s other high school sitcom, A.P. Bio, than anyone trying to imagine a post-Peak TV take on Saved by the Bell is likely to believe.
To that end, it’s nearly impossible to articulate just how impressive the high wire act is that showrunner Tracey Wigfield (Great News, The Mindy Project) is walking here. Not only has she managed, in the series’ short Season 1 run, to split the difference between a love letter to and send-up of Bobrick’s beloved original, but she’s also succeeded at updating the show’s vibe to hew more closely to the politically progressive, wryly self-aware tone endemic to contemporary Teen TV. I can’t count the number of times I squawked so loud I rose half off my couch each episode, including in the final minute of the finale, which features a pitch-black joke so contextually perfect I literally stopped and rewound, just to bask in its dark clarity. —Alexis Gunderson
“Own your freakiness, before it owns you.” So rings the declaration of Muslim mother, fierce bassist, and indomitably sweet spirit Bisma (Faith Omole). While she serves it as a piece of encouragement to the perpetually nervous, stage fright-ridden, but dorkily charismatic Amina (Anjana Vasan), it could easily translate to a subheading for Peacock’s new raucous musical comedy series.
Documenting the accidental (but transformational) addition of the sometimes hapless, staunchly buttoned-up microbiology PhD student Amina to an all-woman, devoutly Muslim British punk band that takes delight in shredding the ears of its disapproving audiences, creator Nida Manzoor’s series revels in the same tone of cathartic outrage as its titular band’s riot grrl, punk, and heavy metal idols. With instantly lovable characters who practically bathe in anxiety around their interpersonal relationships, played by a cast of delightfully excitable performers who thrive in the series’ melodramatic, stylized interludes, the show’s first season is a combination of loud joy, anger, and terror that is especially well-suited for an audience facing the challenges of coming into their own, or coming out themselves.
In addition to a genuinely exciting soundtrack and brilliant bits of silliness in each episode, the series also sets itself apart by making the girls’ repeated screw-ups a necessary launch pad on the road to DIY stardom. In its season finale rendition of “We Are the Champions,” there’s little doubt that no matter how often they get knocked down, the girls will keep rumbling, and continue to fine-tune their freakiness through encouragement and raw enthusiasm of their sisterhood. —Shayna Warner
Rutherford Falls has all the makings of a typical Michael Schur sitcom: a catchy little jingle of a theme song, with mirrored musical interludes sprinkled into the story; topical pop culture references; an endearing slew of quirky characters; workplace banter. If you’ve even remotely enjoyed the comedies that have come before it (like Parks and Rec or Brooklyn Nine-Nine), you’re sure to enjoy Peacock’s latest addition to the bunch. The concept blends a traditional workplace comedy with deeper, more dramatic topics surrounding colonialism, Indigenous land, and, of course, “cancel culture”—all of which, when tossed around with clumsy humor, can land like a rotten egg on linoleum. Fortunately, with quick-witted writing and easy-going performances, Rutherford Falls opens unsuspecting, nuanced discussions on the once-fraught subjects.
The most controversial aspect about watching Rutherford Falls? You’ll have to subscribe to Peacock, although the NBC platform houses most of Schur’s other series. If that bounty hasn’t seduced you yet, let Rutherford Falls be the straw that breaks the camel’s back: it may not be perfect, but it’s more than worthy of a friendly stream. In other words, best to get started now, in case it hits the masses like a true protege of The Office or Parks and Rec might. —Fletcher Peters
Meredith Scardino’s series, which is also executive produced by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock—her bosses from Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt—focuses on the four remaining members of a one-hit wonder ‘90s girl pop group. Thrown together then by a lecherous and demoralizing manager, they had nothing in common, no autonomy over their talents or their bodies, and no idea what they were getting into. They sang songs entitled “Jailbait” and “Dream Girlfriends” (which included lyrics like “We’ve got the kind of birth control that goes in your arm. And tell me again why Tarantino’s a genius”). Now Wickie (Renée Elise Goldsberry), Dawn (Sara Bareilles), Summer (Busy Philipps), and Gloria (Paula Pell) have all but been forgotten by anyone beyond a bored Wikipedia editor—until a chance at a comeback has them taking a second look at where they’ve been and where they’re going.
Girls5eva is a cautionary tale about the era of low-rider jeans and sateen “going out tops”; about a time when young girls were supposed to giggle when their boyfriends compared them to the women in Maxim magazine and didn’t flinch if their professors offered to buy them drinks after class. But it also has a special present for the Gen Xers, late Millennials, Xennials, and anyone else who groks with its commentary on aging and the frustration and rage one can feel over being ignored and underappreciated—especially the frustrations we have with ourselves for not being “better.”—Whitney Friedlander
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