The dog days of summer are traditionally TV’s silly season, but there’s no shortage of series tackling more challenging subject matter at the moment. In addition to Netflix’s harrowing peek inside the machinery of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, “Immigration Nation,” and the discussions of abortion, gender violence and other topics in Diego Luna’s “Pan y Circo” (Amazon Prime) — both streaming now — Misha Green and Jordan Peele’s upcoming “Lovecraft Country” (HBO) situates the Black experience of postwar America within the realm of horror. Even the frothy reality show “Selling Sunset” (Netflix) handles one subject’s surprise divorce with uncommon care.
And if you need a chaser for the above, you have options: Netflix’s “Umbrella Academy” turns family strife (and superpowers) into a whole lot of apocalypse-averting fun. “Saturday Night Live” alumna Paula Pell tried her hand at a short-form “Murder, She Wrote.” And there are more than enough good vibes to go around in this interview with “Wynonna Earp” star Melanie Scrofano about directing her first full episode of the sci-fi western.
Still not enough? As always, here are five more titles that the Times TV team is watching this week — and that you should be watching too.
“Moesha,” newly streaming on Netflix, leads this week’s TV recommendations from the Los Angeles Times.
“The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu)
Hulu’s dystopian drama “The Handmaid’s Tale” is a dark journey into where the nation could end up if democracy went totally sideways due to a medical crisis, authoritarian leadership and deep political divisions. Imagine! Though close to the bone, this beautifully crafted series, based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel and starring Elisabeth Moss as an enslaved breeder, paints a picture so bleak that it’s a poignant reminder of how good we have it. 2020 America is swelltastic compared to the future where the country is split into two states, and the bad one, Gilead — yes, just like the pharmaceutical company — is dismal. The oppression, however, is met with a rebellion that, like everything is this series, speaks to the times. “The Handmaid’s Tale” is gripping, fast-paced, deep and yes, even humorous. The future revolution is being televised, and you’ll find it on Hulu. — Lorraine Ali
“Star Trek: Lower Decks” (CBS All Access)
“Star Trek” has always had a streak of comedy running through its star-cruising drama, and this animated series — the third in the current CBS All Access franchise revival, fourth if you count the featurette anthology “Short Treks” — reverses the ratio. Set among the support crew on a starship that specializes in “second contact” — it less boldly goes where some have gone before — the series focuses not on the usual top brass but on the lower-rank dorks and geeks and troublesome slackers who actually make things run: the extras who populate the corridors and cafeterias of the live-action shows. But this is a “Star Trek” series at heart, not a spoof, in which the day is always saved and every comical humiliation leads to a reconciliation or redemption, and it honors the franchise with studiously canonical callbacks and name-drops. (“Circled by spears — this is classic. What am I, Kirk? Is this the 2260s?”) Like “Futurama,” it’s real science-fiction rooted in the absurdities and self-seriousness of the genre. The animation is not especially elegant, but the acting (drawn and voiced) is effective, so that much of the time you’re conscious only of the characters, not the cartoon. For some excellent animation (and tense silent comedy), check out “Ephraim and Dot,” a beautifully designed episode in the “Short Treks” anthology, in which an adorable tardigrade — “Star Trek: Discovery” viewers will recognize the species — looks for a place to lay its eggs as a starship droid gets in the way. — Robert Lloyd
One glaring snub of the recently announced Emmy nominations was the lack of recognition for Showtime’s espionage drama “Homeland.” The series scored only one nomination — directing — in its eighth and final season when it would not have been out of place in the drama series and acting categories. The show’s concluding season ranked as one of its best, and the excellent performances of Claire Danes as emotionally troubled CIA agent Carrie Mathison and Mandy Patinkin as her conflicted but devoted mentor Saul Berenson reached new levels of rawness and poignancy. Though it had a few awkward seasons after its triumphant debut, “Homeland” deftly nailed the landing as a gripping international thriller and as a pointed examination of the ramifications of mental illness. The show definitely deserved a more celebratory curtain call in its farewell. — Greg Braxton
“The Owl House” (Disney Channel)
I am the first to admit that I am terrible at keeping up with TV shows as they are running weekly, but “The Owl House” is one of the few exceptions. Created by Dana Terrace, this Disney animated series follows Luz Noceda, a human teenager who accidentally stumbles through a portal to the demon realm where she meets an older witch named Eda and the tiny demon King. This new world is a dream come true for the fantasy-loving Luz, who decides to stay and train to become a witch herself. Some episodes include fun nods to familiar books and games, and overall, the show embraces that feeling of being a fan regardless of what other people might think. For me, “The Owl House” has found its stride as Luz has started exploring magic school and meeting other teen witches. The latest episode was prom-themed and featured a memorable dance/fight sequence; its revelation that one of the show’s main characters is bisexual was a bonus, and a significant milestone for LGBTQ representation on a Disney show. — Tracy Brown
“The Other One” (Acorn TV)
This British sitcom, available to stream starting today, follows a pair of half sisters who learn of one another’s existence after their father keels over and dies at his surprise birthday party. Both named Catherine Wolcott and born just five days apart, the women grew up 13 miles apart as their father maintained a double life for decades. Cathy (Ellie White), daughter of the Wife, is a tightly wound re-insurance agent engaged to a doctor, while Cat (Lauren Socha), daughter of the Mistress, is a free-spirited food truck worker.
While they couldn’t be more different, the sisters form an unexpected bond amid their shared grief. Like the similarly named “The Other Two” — which you should most definitely catch up on — “The Other One” is an acerbic but heartfelt comedy about mismatched siblings and embarrassing parents. The cast is full of Actors You’ve Seen in Other British Shows, including Socha (the surly babysitter from “Catastrophe”) and the always excellent Siobhan Finneran (O’Brien from “Downton Abbey”) hamming it up as Cat’s lusty mother. — Meredith Blake