I know many of your are stoked for a three-day weekend, but Labor Day is a funny egg for pop-culture enthusiasts. It’s basically the worst weekend of the year for movies, there’s nothing on television (except for Breaking Bad on Sunday), and football hasn’t begun yet. So what the hell are you going to do with all your free time? Watch preseason NFL? I don’t think so. I’d suggest you use it wisely, and get caught up on a show or two you’ve missed before its fall premiere. If you’re not spending your entire weekend drafting a fantasy football team, Labor Day weekend is the perfect time to catch yourself up to speed.
As such, I’ve provided five quick Netflix recommendations for ongoing series that will return in September or early October that you can watch this weekend in time to catch first runs as they premiere over the next few weeks.
Scandal — It might not look like the kind of show you think you’d be interested in, but this show is nuts. It’s insanely addictive TV candy with loads of sex appeal, terribly unlikeable leads that you root for anyway, and just enough cliffhangers to push it to the brink of parody but not go over it. I checked it out because of my long-and-abiding affection for Joshua Malina, but I got hooked, and stuck around for the entire shebang. If you don’t believe me, then listen to Danger: “Scandal is the kind of show where something insane will happen and the characters will spend all episode trying to figure it out, and then just as they’re wrapping it up, something even more insane will happen.” Both seasons of Scandal are currently on Netflix, so you’ll be ready for the third season when it arrives in October. The cast loves to live tweet episodes, too, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Bob’s Burgers — It may be because I travel in similar Internet circles as Josh, who has been pimping Bob’s Burgers on our Station Agents podcast basically since its inception, but several people I know — including myself — have reluctantly jumped on to the Bob’s Burgers bandwagon this summer and not regretted it an ounce. Basically, the entire month of July I slowly doled out episodes, saving one or two until the end of the day. It’s kind of the perfect series to watch right before bed: Smart, but not too challenging, hilarious, but also incredibly joyous. It’s a fantastic celebration of family, and while it may be sacrilege to say, Bob’s Burgers has become my favorite H. Jon Benjamin show. There are two seasons available, so you’ll have to track down the third before the fourth season kicks off in late September (although, each episode is also self contained, so you can easily jump into the fourth season and go back to the third season when it hits Netflix).
Luther — Luther is a show we’ve talked about a lot here (see, 5 Bleak British Television Series that Will Kick In Your Pretty American Teeth) as one of the bleaker, grittier detective shows on television. It is intense, and may at times rattle your brain stem. But it is also pummelling great drama, and Idris Elba is a goddamn tour de force (and Ruth Wilson is fantastic, too). If you haven’t watched Luther yet, just trust me, OK. You won’t regret it. Better still, there are only two seasons (both available on Netflix), and it’s only 10 episodes in all, which means you can use your weekend to get caught up before the season three premiere on BBC America next week.
New Girl — Only one of the first two seasons is available on Netflix at the moment, and honestly, you can skip the first nine episodes (I’d recommend starting with “The Story of the 50,” the episode with Lizzy Caplan). Once New Girl hits its stride, however, it becomes one of the best, funniest sitcoms on network television. Even if you don’t care for the quirk of Zooey Deschanel, the supporting cast — especially Jake Johnson and Max Greenfield — more than make up for it. The second season, which unfortunately is not on Netflix yet (but can easily be tracked down online) rivals the second season of Happy Endings, which is apropos since Happy Endings‘ Damon Wayans, Jr. is returning to New Girl for a multi-episode arc in season three. Once New Girl returns in the fall, it’s going to be one of the more heavily discussed shows on the Internet, especially now that the NBC Thursday night lineup has been obliterated. You may as well jump on board now.
The League — Three of the first four seasons of The League are on Netflix, but again, it’s a fairly self-contained, episodic show, so you won’t need to have seen the fourth season to jump into the fifth, which begins Wednesday on FXX. You don’t have to give a damn about fantasy football, either, to appreciate The League (although, it will certainly heighten your appreciation of it, at least the first season), but it does help if you appreciate shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, as The League is approximately where those two shows intersect. The humor can be uncomfortable, the language is profane, and it’s occasionally hit-and-miss, but when The League is on (as it mostly is during the first three seasons), it is f**king brilliant.
If you don’t have time for television, here’s a list of the best movies on Netflix released over the last two years.