Like nearly everyone else, I loved watching the True Detective and Fargo TV series — but you probably already know about them. You may not know about five other excellent shows, however, that have commanded less media attention or have drawn fewer viewers even when critically acclaimed.
Many of them offer more complex themes and complicated characters than the average sitcom, which is why they’re perfect for adults. If you’re settling in for a long winter’s viewing, it’s worth hunting these gems down:
The Knick — This early 1900s hospital drama has it all: race relations, women’s rights, abortion, class conflict, all against the backdrop of stunning scientific advancements. Clive Owen is spectacular as a drug-addicted surgeon and you’ll find a great ensemble cast, memorable characters and meticulous attention to period detail (the medical consultant is head of the fascinating Burns Archive). Boardwalk Empire fans will recognize Dr. Cotton. (Cinemax)
Rectify — A death row exoneree returns to his small Southern hometown and finds the world still working against him. Rectify is a moving study of how we respond to someone who has been cast out. (Sundance Channel; season 1 on Netflix)
Manhattan — You’ve got to love a show that treats physicist Niels Bohr like a rock star and appears to have been recapped solely by Scientific American. Manhattan offers a fictionalized account of The Manhattan Project and the strange culture surrounding its top-secret atomic bomb development in a desert compound. There’s great attention to period detail and wonderful ensemble acting. (WGN America, Hulu)
The Honorable Woman — It’s an espionage thriller that will make you think hard about the Middle East. Maggie Gyllenhaal stars as the heiress of a British–Israeli arms manufacturer who is trying to turn her company into an agent of peace. With settings shifting over time among England, Israel and the Palestinian territories, this is a rare story that imbues characters on all sides of the conflict with heart and nuance. Stephen Rea (The Crying Game) is a standout in his role as a British intelligence officer. (Sundance, Netflix)
Getting On — If you like your comedy dark and dry, this series about an underfunded hospital extended-care ward delivers. The cast’s three queenpins are a filter-free medical director striving to make her research mark in all things fecal; an insecure, yet audacious, head nurse whose love life makes me cry and a newcomer nurse who actually thinks about the patients. (HBO)