Sure, for the most part, summer is pretty cool. There are the longer days, hanging out by the pool, hitting the beach, festivals and all sorts of fun to be had. But, with all of your favorite shows on hiatus until the fall, it can be hard to find something to watch while enjoying a few hours of the great indoors.
Thankfully, we have just the remedy.
Here’s a look at seven TV shows to binge-watch (or in some cases, re-watch) this summer, that are not only entertaining, but have a redemptive message at their core.
Daredevil is not your average super hero story. Instead of the slick polish of the Avengers franchise, Daredevil takes on a gritty tone, laced with jarring visuals. But more than just a show about good vs. evil, Daredevil is about calling. Matt Murdock isn’t just battling the villains of Hells Kitchen; he’s battling his own convictions and ideas about Christian faith as he tries to figure out the line between vengeance and justice.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Ellie Kemper’s Netflix comedy may be one of the most relentlessly optimistic sitcoms ever created. Thanks to creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, it still manages to capture the surreal tone and frenetic comic pacing of the classic 30 Rock, but it also does it with real heart. Despite some dark themes at the heart of the show—Kimmy is the survivor of a cult and has suffered years of abuse— the protagonist is a wide-eyed, good-hearted, caring hero who makes everyone who she encounters have a better day, including the viewers.
The Wonder Years
Before Freaks and Geeks or Boy Meets World, there was The Wonder Years. For six seasons, the sitcom captured all of the awkwardness, heartbreak and hilarity of coming of age in America with genuine heart, and almost no cynicism. It’s wholesome, honest and most of all really funny. Not only is the series finale one of the great show send-offs of all time (just try not to cry), The Wonder Years still has possibly TV’s best intro credits.
The West Wing
In an era where politics has hit seemingly all-time high levels of vitriol, spite and cynicism, The West Wing offers a refreshingly optimistic look at what the American political system could be like. Sure, no one in President Josiah Bartlet’s administration is perfect. But, watching the show, you get to see people who are dedicated to trying to do what they believe is right, even when it’s not easy. And, perhaps most significantly, you don’t have to agree with its politics to enjoy its characters. And in the age of polarization we’re in now, that’s really saying something.
Friday Night Lights
Out of all of the shows on Netflix that warrant rewatching (Parks and Rec, Arrested Development, Breaking Bad to name a few), none are as nearly rewarding than Friday Night Lights. Beyond being about high school drama and Texas football, Friday Night Lights was a show about relationships and their power to help people overcome all kinds of adversity. Ten years after it first debuted on TV, clear eyes, full hearts still can’t lose.
So Chef’s Table may not be “redemptive” in the scripted narrative sense, but it is an inspiring look at people who are truly dedicated to their craft. Each episode profiles one of the world’s great chefs as they painstakingly prepare a meal, with excellence, beauty and total commitment to making cooking into an art. Even if you are terrible at cooking, a few episodes of this show will make you want to be better at whatever you are passionate.
Sure, Planet Earth isn’t a traditional TV series, but it remains one of the great accomplishments in modern filmmaking. If you ever need some perspective about the world or just want to marvel at the magnitude of creation, put on Planet Earth for a few hours, and get a tour of some of the planet’s coolest places capture by some truly spectacular photography.
Jesse Carey is a mainstay on the weekly RELEVANT Podcast and member of RELEVANT's executive board. He lives in Virginia Beach with his wife and two kids.