When the days turn so hot you're afraid to leave the air conditioning, use your indoor time wisely by catching up on TV shows that have already gotten a thumbs-up from viewers and critics.
These dozen titles are new enough that it's not too late to immerse yourself. Find them OnDemand, on DVD, streaming on Netflix or in old-fashioned reruns.
If you lived next door to Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings in 1982, you'd have no idea about the dead KGB turncoat in the garage, the encoded radio signals or elaborate disguises. "The Americans," made with the help of real spies, just wrapped up a killer first season and will return. The Russians are more interesting than our guys, both at the KGB offices in Washington and deep undercover as boring parents who just happen to be hockey fans. With Keri Russell ("Felicity") and Matthew Rhys (Kevin on "Brothers & Sisters").
'Key and Peele'
If you don't know what those T-shirts saying "Don't Sleep on Barry O!" mean, fix that problem immediately by tracking down the "Obama's College Years" sketch from this partnership of "MadTV" exiles. With two seasons under their belts and a third in the works, Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele will make you believe in life after "Chappelle's Show."
For Vice President Selina Meyer's accident-prone staffers, power in D.C. comes with a sailor's vocabulary, several smartphones and varying levels of competency. The second season of Julia Louis-Dreyfus' Emmy-winning show is playing through June 23, making 18 densely packed half-hour dark comedies of error. And no, the president hasn't called. With Tony Hale (Buster on "Arrested Development") and Reid Scott (Brendan on "My Boys").
British actress Hayley Atwell and Charlotte Rampling play the same Nazi-fighting secret agent decades apart. This four-hour miniseries serves up espionage, history, feminism and fashion as our heroine and her daughter follow the trail of a long-cold betrayal.
With Michelle Dockery (Mary in "Downton Abbey") and Michael Gambon (the second "Harry Potter" Dumbledore).
The first six-hour season of "Rectify" was so unsettling, its renewal was almost a surprise. An eccentric escapes the frying pan of Georgia's death row only to land in the fire of his still-suspicious hometown. Secrets and alliances reveal themselves at a deliberate Southern pace in real Georgia locations. With Clayne Crawford (bad guy Kevin Wade on "24") and Abigail Spencer (Sally Draper's teacher on "Mad Men").
"Why do crazy people keep gravitating to me?" demands a distraught Norma Bates, one of the most delightfully unstable women in recent memory. A melodramatic, slightly surreal, darkly funny "Psycho" prequel shouldn't work, but it does, thanks to sharp writing and amazing work from its lead actors. White Pine Bay is one of those isolated TV towns where the drugs, bribes and double lives thrive. With Vera Farmiga (Oscar nominee for "Up in the Air") and Freddie Highmore ("Charlie and the Chocolate Factory").
'Call the Midwife'
Devotees of this often-heartbreaking production about 1950s midwives in London's East End don't hesitate to say it's "better than 'Downton Abbey.'" Two seasons have already aired on PBS, with a third coming. It's a perfect breather from the sex-and-violence formula, but its high-stakes stories and warts-and-all characters make for a serious night on the couch. With Cliff Parisi (Minty on "Eastenders") and Miranda Hart (also starring in and writing her own hit sitcom, "Miranda").
This action-packed musical soap turned out to be quite the education. Lessons included sex tape blackmail, shoplifting, more blackmail, eloping / annulling, embezzlement and the worst place to hide a paternity test. The country music insidery stuff is fascinating, and some of the actors can sing. With Connie Britten ("Friday Night Lights") and Powers Boothe (Cy Tolliver on "Deadwood").
TNT's reboot slowly won over Southfork purists with a hefty dose of swagger and lots of screen time for the original crew. Since the death of Larry Hagman, Bobby and Sue Ellen will have to move on in the shadow of J.R.'s eyebrows. The younger Ewings and Barneses are each amoral in their own special ways. With Mitch Pileggi (Skinner in "The X-Files") and Brenda Strong (Mary Alice in "Desperate Housewives").
Good thing DC Comics can't sue itself, because Oliver Queen sounds a lot like Bruce Wayne: a haunted-by-tragedy billionaire playboy by day, black-clad vigilante superhero at night. But Oliver's Occupy mindset, his angry ex and her grumpy cop dad set him apart. The do-gooder archer actually kills people when he has to, and nobody has any superpowers. With Stephen Amell (Jason on "Hung") and Willa Holland (Kaitlin on "The O.C.").
Think "The Newsroom" meets "Mad Men" in 1950s Britain. Americans actually liked this character-driven, slow-building workplace drama better than the Brits did. It's not a serious commitment - low ratings killed it after two six-hour seasons, despite accolades. With Dominic West (McNulty in "The Wire") and Ben Whishaw (Q in "Skyfall").
(Streaming on Netflix now)
Gillian Anderson is back to solving mysteries, but the evil she's tracking this time is more terrifying than any "X-Files" monster of the week. As London detective superintendent Stella Gibson, she's been assigned to help Belfast police review a cold case. The five-part show reveals the face of its villain immediately and follows him back from his crime scenes to his job and family. The first hour will terrify even hardened consumers of serial killer fiction. With Jamie Dornan (Sheriff Graham in "Once Upon a Time") and Archie Panjabi (Kalinda in "The Good Wife").
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