America’s first full month of social distancing has come to an end, and sometimes it feels like all we have to show for it is thousands of lousy quarantine-house memes. So, if we must recruit survivalist roommate dream teams, you can keep your famous dead authors and your former Democratic presidential hopefuls; I’ll take patron saint of pantry cooking Alison Roman, homebody prophet Fiona Apple, the adorable dog from Yoga With Adriene and Showtime’s Desus and Mero—the funniest talk-show hosts currently airing new episodes via video chat—to keep everyone laughing. Also, this quarantine house had better have TV. How else would we keep up with the only medium that hasn’t stopped giving, even as other arms of the entertainment industry are forced to pause? Below, you’ll find this critic’s picks for the best new shows of April 2020—plus a bonus recommendation for readers who’d rather be watching sports. And for more suggestions, here are some highlights from February and March.
Mrs. America (FX on Hulu)
A rare degree of moral, political and philosophical complexity differentiates Mrs. America—which depicts the struggle between second-wave feminists and conservative gadfly Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett) over the Equal Rights Amendment—from so many other recent dramatizations of women’s movements past, such as the stiff, excessively reverent movie Suffragette and Amazon’s superficial Good Girls Revolt, a fictionalized account of female Newsweek journalists’ 1970 uprising. And it’s through this messiness that the show makes its subtle argument for feminism as a movement whose instincts epitomize democracy. Betty Friedan, Shirley Chisholm, Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug quarrel because they all share the goal of equality for women but each has her own idea of what that entails and how to achieve it. Sadly, creator Dahvi Waller implies, these good-faith disagreements make them vulnerable to an enemy with Schlafly’s poise, tenacity and preternatural air of authority. [Read TIME’s full review.]
Home (Apple TV+)
This excellent nine-episode docuseries explores extraordinary dwellings around the globe, from an airy, bespoke bamboo palace in Bali to a remarkably versatile 344-square-foot Hong Kong apartment called the “Domestic Transformer.” I went in skeptical; didn’t HGTV, Bravo and Netflix already have fancy-house content more than covered? Yet Home offers more than real-estate porn, profiling the people who are driven to build singular environments for themselves and their loved ones. In doing so, it frames our private spaces as expressions of our identity, values and social status at a time when we’re more likely than ever to be rethinking our relationships to our own homes and the ones on TV that we covet. (Disclosure: TIME Studios employees worked on Home as producers.) [Read a longer consideration of watching home-design shows in quarantine.]
The Innocence Files (Netflix)
If you’re marinating in guilt over the human cost of binge-watching true crime docuseries, here’s a timely alternative… that also happens to be a binge-worthy true crime docuseries. The Innocence Files, from a team including executive producers and directors Liz Garbus (Lost Girls; What Happened, Miss Simone?) and Alex Gibney (Going Clear, The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley), explores the work of the Innocence Project—a nonprofit that uses DNA evidence to get wrongful convictions overturned. Through extensive interviews with subjects including the exonerated themselves, episodes not only trace how this heroic organization has managed to free so many innocent people, but also reveal many cracks in the American criminal justice system, from racist policing to unreliable witnesses to incompetent forensics experts. The result is both a sobering look at how one trial can steal decades of life from an innocent person and a hopeful glimpse of selfless lawyers righting grievous wrongs.
Fueled by deeply committed performances from Merritt Wever and Domhnall Gleeson, Run is an energetic hybrid of rom-com and action thriller whose half-hour episodes move as swiftly as the vehicle that is their primary setting. Created by actor, director and writer Vicky Jones, with best friend and longtime collaborator Phoebe Waller-Bridge as an executive producer, the show shares an emotional palette with Killing Eve and Fleabag (of which Jones directed the stage version). Its primary colors are frustration, regret and desire. [Read the full review.]
Never Have I Ever (Netflix)
Mindy Kaling‘s post-Mindy Project output has been as inconsistent as that sometimes wonderful, often excessively silly sitcom itself was. Her debut feature, 2019’s Late Night, was a gem; the Four Weddings and a Funeral reboot she helmed for Hulu, not so much. But Never Have I Ever may be her best work yet—a warm, culturally literate, endearingly goofy comedy about a sheltered Indian-American high schooler looking for illicit adventure while mourning her father’s sudden death. Newcomer Maitreyi Ramakrishnan brings heaps of charisma to this unique protagonist, Devi, a lovable hothead who kicks off her sophomore year with a multi-step plan to free herself and her two best friends (Lee Rodriguez and Ramona Young) from their nerdy reputation. Like recent hits Sex Education and Blockers, the effortlessly inclusive show puts a contemporary spin on the heavily straight, white and male teen sex comedies of generations past; our hero is on a quest to lose her virginity, and she doesn’t mind telling her crush Paxton (Darren Barnet) so. The setup plays to the writerly strengths of its creator, who loves to update rom-com tropes but doesn’t always create characters with Devi’s depth. And an impressive supporting cast adds to the all-ages fun, with Niecy Nash dispensing tough love as Devi’s therapist and surprisingly entertaining narration from temperamental kindred spirit Joe McEnroe. [Read TIME’s interview with Maitreyi Ramakrishnan.]
The Last Dance (ESPN)
Is ESPN’s docuseries on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls swiftly paced, beautifully constructed and packed with thoughtful interviews from some of the most distinguished names in basketball? Yes. Does it make the best of access to not just Jordan, but also Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and a wealth of previously unaired behind-the-scenes footage? Yes. Is its excellence mostly lost on this viewer, who didn’t even know before watching the first episode that Jordan, Pippen and Rodman played for the same team? Also, sadly, yes. [Read Sean Gregory’s more educated appraisal of the documentary.]
Correction, May 1, 2020
The original version of this story misstated what year of high school Devi is starting in Never Have I Ever. She is a sophomore, not a senior.
- Essay: The Tyre Nichols Videos Demand Solemnity, Not Sensationalism
- For People With Disabilities, Losing Abortion Access Can Be a Matter of Life or Death
- Inside the Stealth Efforts to Smuggle Starlink Internet Into Iran
- Natasha Lyonne on Poker Face and Creating Characters Who Subvert Leading-Lady Tropes
- How to Help the Victims and Community After the Monterey Park Shooting
- Why Grocery Staples Are So Expensive Right Now
- Quantum Computers Could Solve Countless Problems—and Create a Lot of New Ones
- Where to Watch All of the 2023 Oscar Nominees
- How to Be Mindful if You Hate Meditating