clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

It’s finally time to watch these incredibly popular TV shows

With new releases delayed, this the moment to revisit your backlog

If you buy something from a Polygon link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

The Witcher holds his sword Photo: Katalin Vermes/Netflix

In the era of Peak TV, it’s literally impossible to watch everything. According to FX’s annual report, over 500 scripted TV series were broadcasted or streamed in the U.S. in 2019. When you add reality and documentary shows into the mix, as well as international programming, that number reaches into the thousands.

When Game of Thrones ended last year, many publications (including this one) declared it to be one of the last watercooler shows — one that seemingly everyone watched live and discussed immediately afterwards on social media. But that’s not to say that popular shows don’t break through the zeitgeist and start trending. Just look at Tiger King.

And then there are the shows that it seems like everyone but you is watching. The shows you know you should watch but never quite got around to it. With new releases being delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, now’s the time to catch up on these shows you may have missed while they were airing.


As Valery Legasov and Ulana Khomyuk, Jared Harris and Emily Watson stand over a table covered with documents in Chernobyl Photo: Liam Daniel/HBO

HBO’s Emmy-winning miniseries about the real-world disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant really is as good as everyone says. (It has a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes and is the fifth highest rated TV show on IMDB.) Sure, if you’re in the mood for something fluffy and escapist this isn’t the show to watch right now, but its exploration of the ways in which powerful government forces make behind-the-scenes decisions with little thought to the human cost seems especially urgent right now. Polygon called it “perhaps one of the best examples of cosmic horror that has ever been filmed.”

Chernobyl is streaming on HBO (also available as a Hulu or Amazon add-on)


hailee steinfeld’s emily leans her head on DEATH’s shoulder (as played by wiz khalifa) Apple TV Plus

A teenaged Emily Dickinson writes poetry, crushes on her best friend, Sue, and hangs out with Death (played by rapper Wiz Khalifa) in Apple TV Plus’ quirky YA comedy. According to our review, Dickinson fits right in with your favorite plucky 19th Century heroines, like Little Women’s Jo March or Pride and Prejudice’s Elizabeth Bennet. “Emily is a strong-minded protagonist, sharing a modern mindset with many familiar beloved heroines,” writes Polygon’s Petrana Radulovic, “but Emily was a real person, and that touch of her real life which makes Dickinson feel like a worthy coming-of-age story for modern times.”

Dickinson is streaming on Apple TV Plus.


Two girls — one with soft blond hair and pink highlights, and the other with dark, curly brown hair — press their foreheads together on Euphoria Eddy Chen/HBO

“HBO’s Euphoria gets Gen Z teens unlike any other contemporary teen drama,” writes Palmer Haasch in Polygon’s review of the show’s first season. Starring Zendaya as Rue, a high schooler fresh out of rehab, the series is a surprisingly, sometimes painfully earnest portrait of modern adolescence. Rue and her classmates explore their sexualities, struggle with mental illnesses, and experiment with drugs in a way that doesn’t feel exploitative or gratuitous. With season 2 filming put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ve got plenty of time to catch up on this beautiful show.

Euphoria is streaming on HBO (also available as a Hulu or Amazon add-on)


fleabag talks to hot priest in season 2 of fleabag Photo: Steve Schofield/Amazon Studios

Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Emmy-winning adaptation of her one-woman stage show is messy, dirty, depressing, and hilarious in equal measure. The show stars Waller-Bridge as the unnamed protagonist (she’s listed in the credits as simply “Fleabag”), an antihero more charming than Walter White, Tony Soprano, and Don Draper combined. While the first season mainly focuses on Fleabag’s dysfunctionally dealing with the death of her best friend, season 2 kicked off the summer of Hot Priest with the introduction of Andrew Scott’s character. After bingeing the show, you can rent a recording of the stage production, with proceeds going towards charities dedicated to supporting victims of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fleabag is streaming on Amazon.

The Mandalorian

Baby Yoda reaching out with his wee little hand Image: Lucasfilm/Disney

Well, the Baby Yoda is out of the bag, so unless you’ve been avoiding Twitter for the past six months, you’re probably already aware of the twist at the end of the first episode of The Mandalorian. But even with those spoilers revealed, the Western-inspired Star Wars series is still worth checking out if you missed the buzz back in November. You’ve got just enough time to catch up before Disney Plus releases an eight-part behind-the-scenes documentary on May 4.

The Mandalorian is streaming on Disney Plus.

Schitt’s Creek

Dan Levy holding a glass of wine while Catherine O’Hara, wearing a feathered hat, reads a menu Photo: CBC

If you haven’t yet experienced the joy that is Schitt’s Creek, drop what you’re doing and start bingeing now. The Canadian sitcom from father-son team Dan and Eugene Levy is surprisingly kind and gentle — though still bitingly funny — for a show about a fabulously wealthy family (inspired by reality shows like Keeping Up With the Kardashians) who lose all of their money after being defrauded by their business manager. They move to the small town of Schitt’s Creek that patriarch Johnny Rose previously bought as a gag gift for his son, David. Johnny and David are played by Eugene and Dan Levy, respectively, and are joined by Annie Murphy as David’s sister Alexis, and the legendary Catherine O’Hara as their mother, former soap actress Moira Rose.

Seasons 1-5 of Schitt’s Creek are streaming on Netflix
Season 6 of Schitt’s Creek is streaming on Pop TV (available with on-demand live TV services like Fubo TV and Hulu with Live TV)


Logan Roy (Brian Cox) sits at the head of a dining table in Succession Photo: Peter Kramer/HBO

We here at Polygon really love Succession. HBO’s prestige drama about a family of scheming, soulless capitalists, the Murdoch-like Roys, is like a train wreck you can’t look away from. Each episode has a WTF moment that leaves your jaw on the floor, whether it’s patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox) playing “Boar on the Floor,” hypebeast older son Kendall (Jeremy Strong) rapping about his dad, or perpetual family punching bag Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen) taking out his frustrations by pelting water bottles at his own personal punching bag, Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun). Season 2 ends with a bombshell revelation, but we’ll have to wait a while to see how things pan out for the Roys, since production on season 3 has been delayed.

Succession is streaming on HBO (also available as a Hulu or Amazon add-on)


in Watchmen, vigilantes Looking Glass (Tim Blake Nelson) and Sister Night (Regina King) walk into a crime scene flanked by masked police officers Photo: Mark Hill / HBO

Lost and The Leftovers showrunner Damon Lindelof had a lot of baggage to contend with when creating a Watchmen TV show for HBO: skeptical fans, the legacy of the disastrous 2009 film, creator Alan Moore’s well-known disdain for adaptations of his work. However, Lindelof managed to pulled off a thoughtful, provocative, and totally bonkers show set in the Watchmen universe. With killer performances from Regina King, Tim Blake Nelson, Jeremy Irons, and Jean Smart, the first (and possibly only) season of the show is well worth watching, whether or not you’re a fan of the source material.

Watchmen is streaming on HBO (also available as a Hulu or Amazon add-on)

The Witcher

geralt rides roach the horse in the woods in the witcher on Netflix Photo: Katalin Vermes/Netflix

While Netflix’s adaptation of The Witcher falls flat when compared to The Mandalorian, fans of over-the-top fantasy, catchy bard tunes, and/or Henry Cavill with long, platinum hair will still find plenty to love. Netflix reported in January that The Witcher is one of the streaming platform’s most popular shows ever (though that was admittedly before the Tiger King phenomenon.)

The Witcher is streaming on Netflix.