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What to watch this winter when there’s nothing to watch

The underrated, underwatched shows you’re missing out on.

Joe Pera in Joe Pera Talks With You streams on HBO Max.

There’s a lot of TV to sift through these days. Like, way too much TV. Picking something to watch in a sea of discourse and endless options can feel daunting, but it’s even more difficult when you’ve already seen everything.

Over at Vox, we love bunkering down with something bingeable to get us through the colder months, but we’ve seen it all, too. So we gathered our favorite underwatched television shows to dive into this winter — the ones we loved but had no one else to talk to about — for those looking for a new obsession. These hidden and sometimes forgotten streaming gems will be your companion through the winter doldrums.

Dead Like Me (2003–2004)

There isn’t a show I hold nearer or dearer to my heart than Dead Like Me. Not to be mistaken with Netflix’s Dead to Me, this series ran on Showtime for an all-too-brief two seasons from 2003 to 2004. The show centers on Georgia Lass (Ellen Muth), an 18-year-old who meets her untimely death when a toilet from a space station falls on her from the sky. She then joins a group of modern-day Grim Reapers who are tasked with extracting the souls of people who are about to die, and escorting them to their afterlife. George’s fellow reapers become her second family as they show her the ropes of the “undead,” along the way helping her process the time she failed to take advantage of while she was alive.

It’s a brilliant series that masterfully grapples with the heaviness of coming of age, death, and the intricacies of grief, while simultaneously being hilarious and meditative. Two decades later, Dead Like Me withstands the test of time.

(Streaming on the Roku channel, Prime Video, and Apple TV.)

—Gabriela Fernandez, senior audience strategy editor

Ink Master (2012–present)

As a society, we do not lack for reality competition shows. As much mindless TV as it is art exhibition, Ink Master is inherently bingeable thanks to its spunk and integral dependence on visuals. Like its reality competition kin, Ink Master relies on a formula — two challenges, a critique, and an elimination — but the show’s steady framework allows you to pay attention to what actually matters: the tattoos. Ink Master focuses less on the dynamics of the competitors (though alliances and feuds do play a minor role) and instead on each artist’s creativity and ability — the design process, the technique of depositing ink into skin. The critiques sometimes feel like a thrilling attack on a competitor’s artistry when they’re going poorly, a delightful bit of schadenfreude for us non-artistic types. Plus, who doesn’t want to see heavily inked adults arguing over who made the prettiest tattoo?

(Streaming on Paramount+.)

—Allie Volpe, senior reporter

High Maintenance (2012–2020)

There is possibly no show more rewatchable than this beautiful, goofy, sly anthology series. The show loosely follows a single Brooklyn weed dealer (“The Guy,” played by co-creator Ben Sinclair), tracking his varied clientele across the borough and over the years, telling their stories and very, very, very slowly telling his. The episodes contain both sharp and loving satire of the most-talked-about region of the 2010s; some pure punchline, others deeply moving, most a delightful mix of funny and true. It also happens to be a who’s who of then-rising and local New York actors: William Jackson Harper! Greta Lee! Peter Friedman! Zach Cherry! Kate Berlant! Even if you don’t know those names, you’ll recognize some of the faces. On a second or third watch there’s only more to realize and notice, connecting the dots on how this big city is all haphazardly intertwined.

One note: It is imperative that you start with the High Maintenance webseries — also available on HBOMax, but as a separate entry — so that you can get the full impact of the stories, specifically my favorite arc, “The Assholes,” which starts in episode 5, “Olivia.”

(Streaming on HBOMax, under High Maintenance and High Maintenance: Web Series.)

—Meredith Haggerty, senior editor

Ben Sinclair stars in High Maintenance on HBO.

The Knick (2014–2015)

Few shows haunt me like The Knick, which ran on Cinemax for two seasons beginning in 2014 and is so good that I’m shocked it ever existed. The series centers on Dr. John Thackeray (Clive Owen), chief of surgery at the Knickerbocker Hospital in Manhattan. It’s 1900, and Thackeray is both a talented surgeon determined to solve disease and death and, more or less, dethrone God himself. The series deals with all kinds of social and medical issues of the era, with a killer cast; André Holland is particularly good as the new Black assistant chief surgeon who runs into deep-seated prejudice. Steven Soderbergh directed and shot every episode — he came out of “retirement” from filmmaking to do so — and if you love a good medical show but want something with some teeth, then the 20 episodes of The Knick is exactly what you’re looking for.

(Steaming on HBO Max.)

—Alissa Wilkinson, senior culture reporter

Detroiters (2017–2018)

Before Tim Robinson became an internet legend with I Think You Should Leave — his highly particular, high-decibel brand of absurdist sketch comedy — and before Sam Richardson became That Guy From That One Show (Ted Lasso, The Afterparty, Velma) the two real-life besties created and starred in Detroiters, a sitcom about two plucky ad men trying to make their way in the Motor City. Part love letter to their city, part love letter to their friendship itself, Detroiters oozes authenticity, sands off some of the rougher edges of Robinson’s wonderfully spiky comedy, and really showcases Richardson’s talent. If we’re lucky, someday we’ll get a show all his own.

(Streaming on Paramount+.)

—Marin Cogan, senior correspondent

Joe Pera Talks With You (2018–2021)

Joe Pera Talks With You is one of those shows you either get or you don’t. If you’re from a small town, or the Midwest, you probably get it; it moves at the cadence of small-town life. And if you’re not, but you happen to like small, quiet, quotidian joys, you might get it, too. Joe, a shuffling, guileless middle school band teacher who moves and speaks like a man many years older, walks you through the particulars of life in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan: In one episode, he offers a taxonomy of breakfast in a local diner; in another, he narrates you through a summer thunderstorm; in a third, you watch him joyously discover the song “Baba O’Riley” by The Who. There’s no hint of snark or condescension here, toward Joe or any of the small-town residents — just sweet, unpretentious, generous, and gentle humor.

(Streaming on HBO Max.)

—Marin Cogan, senior correspondent, and Alanna Okun, senior editor

Servant (2019–present)

M. Night Shyamalan’s Servant answers the question: What if you bottled the kind of unspeakable, abject grief played to perfection by Toni Collette in Hereditary and turned it into a four-season TV show? Like the infamous Ari Aster horror film, Servant becomes more unhinged and more supernatural as the story unravels — but at its core remains a tale about a parent trying and failing to reckon with a tragedy so enormous that it consumes her, and the family fallout that results from it. The show captures the suffocating nature of repressed sorrow to a tee, taking place largely inside a dark, claustrophobic townhouse. It’s creepy, funny, and deeply nonsensical. But what’s truly underrated is Lauren Ambrose as mother and wife Dorothy Turner. She’s not a ghost, or a demon, or anything occult (I don’t think), but her increasingly whale-eyed anguish terrorizes absolutely everyone around her.

(Streaming on Apple TV+.)

—Whizy Kim, senior reporter

Toby Kebbell, Rupert Grint, and Nell Tiger Free star in Servant on Apple TV+.

All Creatures Great and Small (2020–present)

Have you ever thought to yourself, “Wow, I love the retro British charm of Call the Midwife, but I wish I could watch a version of this show without all the blood and screaming and childbirth”? Then, friend, I have the solution for you. It’s called All Creatures Great and Small.

Based on a beloved book series by James Herriot, All Creatures Great and Small focuses on a quirky little veterinarian practice in rural Yorkshire in the 1930s. In this farming community, sick animals can disrupt someone’s livelihood, but nothing is ever so pressing as to disrupt the cozy details that make All Creatures such a joy to watch. Characters are forever donning thick knitted sweater vests and fixing a nice pot of tea in front of a window box overflowing with crocuses, and then heading out to tend to an animal.

“I didn’t turn my back on the horrors of labor on Call the Midwife only to replace them with sad sick animals,” you say. My friend, I can assure you: No one has ever looked less pathetic than the animals on All Creatures Great and Small. Every single time they appear, they lie contentedly on the ground, secure in the knowledge that they are doing a good job, while the actors pet them and look concerned and post-production pipes in vague noises of distress over the footage. The result is thoroughly, blissfully charming.

(Streaming on PBS Passport and Amazon Prime.)

—Constance Grady, senior correspondent

Love Between Fairy and Devil (2022)

It’s easy for xianxia fantasies — China’s popular fantasy genre, blending magical worlds with historical Chinese culture and folklore — to get lost in the familiarity of their own tropes: If you’ve seen one plucky magic cultivator on a quest, you’ve seen them all, right? But the lively romance Love Between Fairy and Devil was a surprise hit last summer, mainly thanks to the quirky chemistry between its two breakout stars, Dylan Wang (Wang Hedi) and Esther Yu (Yu Shuxin).

The story follows the titular fairy and devil, she a lowly flower spirit, he a fabled demon who’s been sealed in another dimension for centuries, after they form an accidental soul-bond. Now he has all these inconvenient human emotions, and one very inconvenient fairy, getting in the way of his plans to take over the world. It’s a very fun, very cute show, enhanced by heavily animated CGI backgrounds that feel a bit like Lisa Frank doing anime.

(Streaming on Netflix and Viki.)

—Aja Romano, culture reporter

Paul T. Goldman (2023–present)

I’m not sure I feel good about having watched Paul T. Goldman, but I’d like for you to watch it and talk to me about it.

This is definitely a “the less you know, the better” situation, but one thing you might want to be aware of regarding the relatively new Peacock documentary is that maybe it shouldn’t exist at all. The six-part series follows the creation of the Paul T. Goldman Cinematic Universe, based on what the man at the center — whose name is in fact Paul — says is a true story. Over the course of 10 years, and with the help of real stars like Dennis Haysbert and Rosanna Arquette, director Jason Woliner (a former child actor-turned-director of the joyously sick Borat Subsequent Moviefilm) worked with Paul to create splashy depictions of his life story, raising questions about truth, complicity, anger, misogyny, guilt, and the human need to create our own narratives. It’s been compared to The Rehearsal, but here the real trouble comes with the problem of opening night.

(Streaming on Peacock.)

—Meredith Haggerty, senior editor

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