5 TV shows you can't miss this November

Mike McCahill

If it's good TV you're looking for this month, you're in for a treat. Here's our selection of some of the best shows around, including chilling murder cases, time travel, philosophy jokes and more. 

The Good Place: Seasons 1 and 2 

Michael Schur's follow-up to comedy hall-of-famer Parks & Recreation was met with modest reviews upon its US debut last year; now binge-able on Netflix ­with new episodes appearing every Friday, ­it's revealed as an uncommonly thoughtful proposition for network TV.

As much philosophical tract as a sitcom, it uses the meanderings of self-involved party girl Kristen Bell through an afterlife manned by so-called "Architect" Ted Danson as a platform to consider, among other subjects, free will and determinism, the perils of showrunning, and the power of individuals and collectives alike to exert change. The good news: it's also breezily amusing.

What is it? Possibly the first primetime US sitcom to feature (excellent) Immanuel Kant jokes.

Why should I watch it? If you feel your intelligence being ill-served or insulted by Mrs. Brown's Boys.

Best episode? Season 1 is all binge-friendly cliffhangers, but the penultimate episode does something you rarely see even in ever-bold Peak TV: overturning the show's original premise entirely.

Best character? The cast, smaller than Parks & Rec's, plays very nicely together; the surprise for UK viewers will be former T4 host Jameela Jamil, revealing sharp comic timing as lost socialite Tahani.

Watch on: Netflix 

 

Louis Theroux: Dark States  

After last year's larky cinematic leg-stretch My Scientology Movie (which premieres on BBC2 November 5), Theroux returns to his day job, bringing his usual sharp eye and very English detachment to bear on a variety of life-and-death concerns. The Dark States trilogy finds our bespectacled investigator looking into drug use in West Virginia, sex work in Houston and gun crime in Milwaukee; with Talking to Anorexia, he returns home to meet young Londoners battling eating disorders.

We may miss Theroux's early, funny ventures, but he's become one of TV's best and most sympathetic listeners a distinguishing feature, in a medium increasingly skewed towards gabbling.

What is it? Four new hour-long films from Michael Moore's star pupil, in advance of his bigger-screen face-off with L Ron Hubbard's lot.

Why should I watch it? For searching, humane enquiries into that growing hinterland between American dream and nightmare.

Best episode? Although it occasionally resembles a footnote to Kim Longinotto's excellent feature-length doc Dreamcatcher, the Dark States episode "Trafficking Sex" once again illustrates Theroux's exemplarily sensitive way around confused and traumatised women: nobody's adding to their exploitation.

Watch on: BBC2; iPlayer

 

Mindhunter: Season 1 

Much of the advance publicity for this period police procedural focused on Seven and Zodiac director David Fincher, director of the first and last two episodes. Yet this smart, needling study of the agents whose legwork redefined the FBI's approach to serial killers owes just as much to the input of playwright-turned-screenwriter-and-showrunner Joe Penhall (Blue/Orange).

Detectives Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Tench (Holt McCallany) are an instantly great pairing innocence and experience, naive enthusiasm versus nicotined ennui in a cop show that digs a little deeper, psychologically, than most.

What is it? Much-trumpeted (but undeniably engrossing) detective drama, set in the Son of Sam era.

Why should I watch it? If you felt True Detective could have hurried along a bit, and done with a few more laughs. (Or one laugh.)

Best episode? The Fincher episodes are typically soupy with mood, but the series' stakes come into sharp focus in Episode Three with the unwavering testimony of heavy-set murderer Ed Kemper (Cameron Britton).

Best character? Another improvement on True Detective: the women make strong showings, with both no-nonsense PhD student Hannah Gross and Anna Torv, as a psychologist outthinking our heroes, doing much to disrupt the general men-in-suits vibe.

Watch on: Netflix 

 

Red Oaks: Season 3 

Some indication of the disparity between Netflix and Amazon: where the former's nostalgia repository Stranger Things returns this month amid deafening publicity, Amazon has all but snuck out this cursory-seeming, six-episode final run of what has been by far the better 1980s-throwback vehicle.

Its country-club coming-of-age dramas have provided a haven for directors you'd hope American cinema would have taken greater care of (Amy Heckerling, Hal Hartley); smashing, touching work from Brit lead Craig Roberts, and veterans Paul Reiser and Richard Kind, ensures its uniquely bittersweet tone is sustained to the last.

What is it? Think Wet Hot American Summer, only geared towards the eternal battle between art and commerce.

Why should I watch it? Because few shows have been so unfailingly supportive of all their characters' dreams.

Where did we leave it? With country club supremo Getty (Reiser) facing jail time, while aspirant filmmaker David (Roberts) struck out for the city.

Best episode? The Hartley-directed Episode Five finds a lovely pay-off to the strand involving David and long-time crush Skye (Alexandra Socha).

Best character? Though Ennis Esmer's ever-game tennis pro Nash is on comparatively subdued form this season, his final destination is a nice, rueful 21st-century joke: America itself was headed this way.

Watch on: Amazon Prime 

 

Timewasters: Series 1 

This has been an unexpected treat from the channel that keeps bringing you Celebrity Juice: a clever-silly time-travel sitcom, created by writer-star Daniel Lawrence Taylor, in which members of a failing South London jazz quartet enter a grimy tower-block lift only to emerge in the Roaring Twenties.

In coming years, there will almost certainly be serious academic dissection of its characters' blackness, and what the show has brought to a still all-too-pallid primetime line-up. For now, enjoy Taylor's excellent ensemble at play, and some choice jazz covers of very contemporary hits.

What is it? Yoof-oriented mash-up comedy, where Downton meets Wiley.

Why should I watch it? To witness a cherishable new energy being brought to the ITV2 schedules. Also: how many episodes of Family Guy can you watch?

Best episode? Episode One is a model comedy pilot: brisk set-up, funny pay-offs, appropriate consideration of whether WhatsApp would still work in the 1920s, and Kevin Eldon as a homicidal John Logie Baird.

Best character? As you'd want from a quartet, each player brings something essential into the front parlour but don't be surprised if Adelayo Adedayo, as band conscience Lauren, steps even further into the limelight.

Watch on: ITV2; ITV Hub

 

Enjoyed this list? Share it!