Here are 8 hidden TV gems you can catch up on right now (2023)

Here are 8 hidden TV gems you can catch up on right now (1)

TV’s content boom continues mostly unabated (give a pandemic and lockdown or two), along with the rise in guides to watching all of these shows, old and new. The TV review, a culture journalism stalwart, is now complemented by an abundance of features and columns and even TV-focused podcasts, including series featuring the former stars of some of the biggest shows.

Despite our best efforts, some of the most promising shows still manage to slip through the cracks—even those of us who consume TV for a living find ourselves catching up at the end of the year with everyone else. Before the wave of superlatives begins, The A.V. Club is highlighting some of TV’s hidden gems, including quietly great shows that have flown under the radar, and shows whose greatness can’t be ignored.

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2 / 10

Megalobox 2: Nomad (Netflix, Funimation)

Megalobox 2: Nomad (Netflix, Funimation)

I waited too long to watch the Netflix fighting anime Megalobox, distracted by the fact that the protagonist looks exactly like an anime version of Penn Badgley. Learn from my mistake—run, don’t walk, to Megalobox, and especially to its sequel, Megalobox 2: Nomad. Commissioned to commemorate the 50th anniversary of iconic boxing anime Ashita No Joe, the first season follows a classic boxing script: A nameless fighter going by “Joe” rises up from fixed underground matches, collects a ragtag family of supporters, and eventually challenges the world champion.

It’s incredibly satisfying, with gorgeous fighting backed by a seething electronic score that manages to look cool while never letting the viewer forget just how punishing it really is. Nomad, the follow-up season, picks up a few years after Joe wins the title, with his found family scattered to the winds, and Joe himself deep in the throes of both grief and a pill addiction. Come to watch Joe claw his way back to being a whole person, stay for Nomad’s sharp treatment of an issue that seems to come out of left field, but eventually feels like a natural fit for its themes: immigration. The fighting is sharp as ever, but Nomad dares to suggest there might be something more important than boxing. [Eric Thurm]

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Starstruck (HBO Max)

The title says it all. “Starstruck” is exactly how you’ll feel after falling for this dreamy, sparky, hilarious British romantic comedy series from New Zealand comedian Rose Matafeo. She plays Jessie, an aimless twentysomething Londoner whose New Year’s Eve hook-up turns out to be a major movie star. What follows is like a gender-flipped riff on Notting Hill, with Nikesh Patel’s dashing Tom Kapoor in the Julia Roberts role and Matafeo as her own enchanting riff on the Hugh Grant archetype.

As Tom and Jessie dance along their will-they/won’t they (or more like could-they/should-they), Starstruck updates the feel-good vibes of a classic ’90s rom-com with a thoughtful modern perspective on sex, dating, and growing up. At some point, Tom’s movie star status almost becomes incidental to a story about vulnerability, self-doubt, and the line between friendship and something more. Through it all, Matafeo and Patel generate off-the-charts chemistry that’ll make any rom-com lover swoon. With just six episodes that clock in at about 20 minutes each, you can easily binge-watch the series in an afternoon. Don’t worry, there’s already a second season in the works. [Caroline Siede]

For more on romantic comedies, be sure to read Caroline Siede’s A.V. Club column When Romance Met Comedy.

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4 / 10

Wellington Paranormal (The CW; streaming on HBO Max)

Wellington Paranormal (The CW; streaming on HBO Max)

Sure, within the expanded What We Do In The Shadows universe, the courageous officers of Wellington Paranormal may not have the most otherworldly powers. But what they lack in supernatural abilities, they more than make up for with a vigorous can-do attitude. Does this mean they’re competent and inspiring heroes? Not in the least. The show operates at a quieter emotional register than its American counterpart, and somehow manages to maintain a dry and understated sense of humor in the face of terrifying and ghoulish foes, such as zombies, a sea monster, and even the officers’ own sinister clones.

Officers Minogue (Mike Minogue) and O’Leary (Karen O’Leary) are quite often overwhelmed by their opponents, and it’s usually only by sheer chance—and occasionally a collection of weaponized slugs—that they survive to fight another day. But once you’re attuned to the frequency the show operates at, it’s an incredibly solid sitcom, with abundant long-running jokes (Minogue will tase himself multiple times each season) and a cast of misfits who are drawn with a clear affection for their bumbling ways. They’re not ever going to solve a crime well, but darn it, that thing is getting solved one way or another—and possibly because their nemesis accidentally defeats itself. [Lisa Weidenfeld]

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5 / 10

Dug Days (Disney+)

Dug Days (Disney+)

Pixar’s contributions to the Disney+ lineup haven’t gotten as much attention as the Marvel and Star Wars shows; but the studio has produced some of the service’s most delightfully offbeat original programming, focusing primarily on short films in series like Forky Asks A Question, SparkShorts, Pixar Popcorn, and—best of all—Dug Days. Set just after the events of the movie Up, this five-part series (which takes about half an hour to watch in full) follows the upbeat, squirrel-obsessed talking dog Dug, as he settles into his new life with Carl Fredricksen.

Each episode tells a funny little story about Dug learning how to live as a “normal” house-pet, while surrounded by all the tiny animals he wants to murder and the neighboring humans who confuse him. The complete series fits together into a charming and elegiac portrait of a tired old man (voiced by Ed Asner in one of his final performances) and his goofy but well-meaning canine pal (voiced by Dug Days creator Bob Peterson), discovering together what it means to be a good companion. [Noel Murray]

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6 / 10

Little Things, season four (Netflix)

Little Things, season four (Netflix)

Romantic dramedy Little Things is a slice-of-life character study of its two leads, Dhruv (Dhruv Sehgal) and Kavya (Mithila Palkar), and their evolving romantic relationship. Set against the backdrop of the sprawling city of Mumbai, the show is a realistic and engaging portrayal of how Indian millennials navigate the pressures of establishing a career and family in their 20s.

Don’t expect any major drama or twists in this one. It’s a rarity for Indian-origin shows not to have exaggerated stories, but Little Things is a simple and honest look at Dhruv and Kavya’s challenges, which are mostly about balancing their individual identities and coupledom. Little Things ends up breaking taboos with Dhruv and Kavya’s live-in relationship (or cohabitation), which is relatively uncharted territory on Indian TV. For a global audience, it’s an honest depiction of how modern couples are subverting stereotypes. The show hinges on Sehgal and Palkar’s sweet, natural chemistry. Their long walks and thoughtful conversations about the eponymous little things make for a relaxing and fascinating experience. [Saloni Gajjar]

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7 / 10

Feel Good, season two(Netflix)

Feel Good, season two(Netflix)

When it comes to the depiction of onscreen intimacy on television—especially queer intimacy—shows often go the way of either fading to black or focusing on aesthetic eroticism, pulling away from the actual dynamic between the two characters and exploring how that translates to physical intimacy. This is not the case in Mae Martin’s dramedy Feel Good, originally commissioned by Channel 4 and renewed by Netflix for a second season that premiered in June.

Created by and starring Martin as a semi-autobiographical version of themself and Charlotte Richie as their girlfriend George, Feel Good tackles not only the challenges and joys of queer intimacy but also addiction, trauma, and figuring out gender identity through an empathetic narrative that is both caring and hilarious. As the narrative progresses through Mae’s journey with addiction, their childhood trauma, George’s indecision and how she handles Mae’s intensity, there’s never any doubt about their intimate connection through both equally excellent seasons. Season two includes a delightful montage sequence of increasingly deranged role-play scenarios, ranging from a Twilight-inspired vampire/human scene to a king and knight scene, complete with costumes. [Priyanka Bose]

8 / 10

Sonny Boy (Hulu)

Sonny Boy (Hulu)

Sonny Boy is at once an intriguing slow-burn of a series and one of the most ambitious and experimental pieces of television in recent years. At first glance, its plot—students find themselves and their school drifting into another dimension and struggle to survive in light of their new superpowers—is deceptively simple and familiar. But there’s nothing straightforward about Shingo Natsume’s engrossing series, which is less interested in linear narrative storytelling (despite the coming-of-age story at its core) and more inclined to challenge expectations at every turn.

Sonny Boy oscillates between imaginative set pieces and somber poignant musings, with scenes sometimes literally being deconstructed as they’re appearing on screen. In a sense, it’s not too far off from how Chuck Jones played with absurdity, creation, and destruction within a story in “Duck Amuck,” challenging both the viewer and the characters they’re watching. There’s the same level of playfulness in presentation, from its soundscape to its aesthetic shifts, that are present in the work of Natsume’s past collaborators, Masaaki Yuasa and Shinichirō Watanabe (who serves as music advisor for the series). In spite of the way it explicitly references everything from The Drifting Classroom and Lord Of The Flies to M.C. Escher and Stanley Kubrick, building upon a number of isekai stories and smartly deconstructing the genre, Sonny Boy is the kind of series that is impossible to describe as anything other than a truly unique work of art. [Juan Barquin]

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9 / 10

Flatbush Misdemeanors (Showtime)

Flatbush Misdemeanors (Showtime)

Summing up the appeal of Flatbush Misdemeanors is a bit of a fool’s errand, like so many of the situations that series creators and stars Kevin Iso and Dan Perlman navigate in this Showtime comedy. The story meanders amiably through the eponymous Brooklyn neighborhood, its brand of location-specific humor drawing comparisons to HBO’s High Maintenance and HBO Max’s South Side. There are all kinds of capital-C Characters, including one man (Kareem Green) who sabotages a neighbor’s window box with years-old “puppy piss” before an all-important (to him) garden competition. But just two episodes prior, local hottie/firebrand Jasmine (Kerry Coddett, who also writes for the show) leads a protest against a soulless management company.

This is the smartly drawn world that Kevin (Iso) and Dan (Perlman) wander through, with little more than each other to rely on—which means that, when the shit hits the fan, they’re usually shit out of luck. But the hard knocks in Flatbush Misdemeanors are just as easily overcome as they are delivered. The show’s comedy is more agreeable than acerbic, though that doesn’t keep it from being laugh-out-loud funny. The Wire’s Hassan Johnson steals every scene he’s in, while Iso and Perlman radiate bemusement and angst as the season goes on, practically demanding we bear witness to the kooky neighborhood shenanigans they witness. [Danette Chavez]

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