Now Streaming: Animated TV (literally and figuratively)
[Streaming movies and TV shows—on services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Instant Videos—are ephemeral: Here one day, gone the next. The purpose of the Now Streaming series is to alert you to what movies and shows are new to streaming, what you might want to watch before it disappears, and other treasures that are worth checking out.]
Archer (FX, 2009-Present) is an animated spy parody with H. John Benjamin as a James Bond stand-in whose constant drinking, killing, and womanizing has left him an alcoholic man-child. It’s also my favorite comedy on television today. The show’s secret weapon is an amazing cast of secondary characters including Jessica Walter, Judy Greer, Chris Parnell, and Aisha Tyler, who can make laugh lines out of almost anything. Netflix currently has only the first two seasons but if history is any indicator, FX should add season 3 soon after the fourth season premieres.
Avengers, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes
If you can’t get enough of Marvel superheros, then the animated The Avengers, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (Disney XD, 2010-Present) should provide you a quick fix. Like the Avengers feature film, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes gets off to a slow start in the early episodes before its superteam gets together, but once the Avengers assemble it becomes one of the most enjoyable superhero shows since Bruce Timm’s classic Batman: The Animated Series.
Red Vs. Blue
Red Vs. Blue (Rooster Teeth Productions, 2003-Present) is one of the earliest and most critically acclaimed works of Machinima. By taking footage created within Halo and adding in their own dialogue, the team at Rooster Teeth has created 10 seasons of an ongoing comedy series that features its own mythology and running jokes. Now the first five seasons of the show are available for free on Hulu, showing just how far original Internet programming has come in the last decade.
The Sarah Jane Adventures
Amazon Prime, season 4 just added
In its first three seasons, the Dr. Who spin-off children’s show The Sarah Jane Adventures (BBC, 2008–2010) was rightly written off as, well, a kids show. Former Dr. Who companion Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen from the Tom Baker era of the original series) and a group of kids who live in her neighborhood investigate sci-fi mysteries in a decidedly low-stakes imitation of Dr. Who. In the show’s fourth and final season, however, it started to create some genuinely compelling television including a two-part crossover with current Doctor Matt Smith, and a final set of genuinely effecting episodes with the show’s adolescent cast saying goodbye to Sarah Jane after Sladen passed away from cancer.
Parks and Recreation
Netflix, season 4 just added
My favorite non-animated comedy on TV this fall Parks and Recreation (NBC, 2009-Present) stars SNL alum and general comedy/improv genius Amy Poeler as small-town politician Leslie Knope. Netflix has just added the shows fourth and best season, which sees Leslie running for city council. A word of advice to first time viewers: Skip the show's uneven first season and jump right into its vastly improved second. That’s where the show finds a better character angle for Leslie, and the secondary cast members in the show's somewhat over-the-top world—like Nick Offerman’s surly Ron Swanson—create one of the best ensembles in sitcom history.
Most people are probably already aware of South Park (Comedy Central, 1997–Present), Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s foul-mouthed animated show about four young kids growing up in Colorado. Netflix Watch Instantly’s recent addition of the show’s feature film Bigger, Longer and Uncut, however, reminded me that the show’s entire 16-season archive is available from Hulu. Netflix also has the first 15 seasons if you’re willing to trade off some of the most current episodes to lose Hulu’s advertisements.
- Everybody Loves Raymond (CBS) seasons 1-8: Netflix
- Parenthood (NBC) season 3: Netflix
- ’Til Death (Fox): Netflix (9/15)
- America: the Story of Us (History): Netflix (9/21)
- Hoarders (A&E): Netflix (9/21)