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Television

The five TV shows we can’t get enough of this week

Kim Coates as Tig Trager, left, Charlie Hunnam as Jax Teller and Tommy Flanagan as Chibs Telford in “Sons of Anarchy.”
Kim Coates as Tig Trager, left, Charlie Hunnam as Jax Teller and Tommy Flanagan as Chibs Telford in “Sons of Anarchy.”
(Byron Cohen/FX)

Out with the old, in with the new: As Michael Jordan docuseries “The Last Dance” and Netflix’s queer cartoon “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power” come to a close, Hulu’s “The Great,” TNT’s “Snowpiercer” and HBO’s “I Know This Much Is True” have recently rushed in to fill any gap you might have found in your viewing schedule.

In fact, even as the summer schedule reveals a looming slowdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic, TV marches on — and our weekly recommendation engine is here to help you sort through options old and new. Think of it as your work-from-home water cooler, where we bring the water cooler to you.

The Times TV team recommends the five TV shows we’re watching this week — and that you should be watching too.

“Sons of Anarchy”
Available on: Hulu

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Fans of Showtime’s “Billions” are getting excited about the just-launched new season, wondering what direction the lethal tug of war between government watchdog Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) and cocky billionaire Bobby “Axe” Axelrod (Damian Lewis) will take. And what will this mean for the woman between them, Chuck’s estranged wife, Wendy, who works for Axe as his corporation’s therapist? Maggie Siff, who plays Wendy, continues to deliver a complicated performance laced with boldness and humor. Those impressed by Siff should also check out her work in FX’s “Sons of Anarchy,” the biker drama in which she played “the old lady” of biker club leader Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam). Her complex and morally torn work as Tara Knowles was one of the highlights of that series, which ended in 2014 after a seven-season run. The drama was one of the most popular series ever to air on the cable network. The drama was consistently compelling. As evidenced by the arc of Tara’s journey, it also had its share of heartbreak.

Greg Braxton

“Baghdad Central”
Available on: Hulu

Post-invasion Iraq is the setting for this gripping detective series that’s part war drama, part nail-biting whodunnit. Set between the 2003 fall of Saddam and the rise of the American/British occupation, Hulu’s “Baghdad Central” flips the usual us-versus-them narrative to show war, crime, justice and redemption through Arab eyes. Season 1, which first aired on Channel 4 in Britain, stars Waleed Zuaiter (“Omar,” “Sex and the City 2”) as former Iraqi police inspector Muhsin al-Khafaji. The worn cop has seen it all after working for such a corrupt government ... or so he thought. A fresh level of hell is revealed when he’s recruited by questionable American (Corey Stoll) and British (Bertie Carvel) forces, and when his beloved daughter disappears. The race is on to find her in a city that’s also on the brink of salvation or ruin. The region’s culture is portrayed with painstaking accuracy, while Zuaiter’s emotive performance as a desperate father who’d do anything for his family transcends customs and borders.

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Lorraine Ali

A mode of communication designed to get us to stay home, often skewered as the “boob tube” or “idiot box,” TV kept its lights on as others flickered out.

Thu Tran stars in IFC’s “Food Party.”
Thu Tran stars in IFC’s “Food Party.”
(IFC)

“Food Party”
Available on: IFC, Amazon Prime

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What I found exciting about the New Golden/Platinum Age of Television was not its muscular male dramas or sexy youth comedies but that it made room for Thu Tran’s mysterious, beautiful, handmade “Food Party.” Developed for IFC by Brooklyn-based graduates of the Cleveland Institute of Art, the series, which ran for two seasons in 2009 and 2010, is a low-fi, messy mash-up of Julia Child and “Pee Wee’s Playhouse,” constructed from cardboard, paint, papier-mâché and glitter, generally having something to do with cooking and eating and related transformational processes. Dramatically lit and richly colored, it has a dark fairy tale energy: Tran gives birth to a pie from which emerges a (real) kitten, who will later blast off in a spaceship. Meals include “shaved rabbit’s foot caviar necklace, in a bowl,” a four-course dinner contained in concentric balloons made from the “notoriously elastic dimetrodon bladder,” and spring rolls made out of an evil stepsister. Swallowed by a whale, Tran exults, “There’s so many things that you’ve eaten that look very joyful”; she emerges with an owl and a bag of shrimp, which she will serve raw with strawberries muddled with horseradish. Puppets abound, strings and sticks and human hands showing. Tran and Peter Van Hyning carry most of the human weight. Having watched “The Sopranos” once through, I am done forever, but I’ll return to “Food Party” again and again.

Robert Lloyd

“The Big Flower Fight”
Available on: Netflix

I knew I was in too deep when I found myself Googling “How many varieties of grass exist in the world?” at 2 a.m. after watching a few episodes of this series. The show had the figure at 12,000 and it was all I could think about when my head hit my pillow. The competition series features contestants — some are gardeners and florists but not all — creating pieces like couture dresses out of flowers and scenes inspired by fairy tales. Some have described “The Big Flower Fight” as the floral version of “The Great British Bake-Off” — and they do share similarities: an enormous white tent-like dome in the middle of a lush field and a heavy helping of British accents. But you probably won’t find yourself getting the urge to make a 10-foot-tall orangutan out of Carex from home after watching. And it’s hard to become attached to the contestants too, because some get little screen time. — though Henck and Yan will surely make an impression. But if you like sweeping botanical shots and familiarizing yourself with flora, it can be a nice respite from the other TV watching you’ve been doing.

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Yvonne Villarreal

“Veep”
Available on: HBO

Whenever I’m frustrated by the president’s latest, dangerous press conference or the inconsistent guidelines to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, I’ve learned that the best way to resist giving into self-quarantine sadness is to put down my News app and put on “Veep.” The Emmy-winning HBO series has been a particularly strong salve because its punchline-packed half-hour episodes get me laughing about the fact that, behind closed doors, most elected officials may not know what the heck they’re doing, pandemic or otherwise. My only challenge now is watching only an episode or two at a time to stretch its seven seasons longer than these shelter-in-place orders.

Ashley Lee


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