Your first post-vax or, for those pessimists: pre-omicron Thanksgiving. Did you baste the turkey as Baby Yoda floated by in the first Macy’s parade since 2019 or coo over the precious National Dog Show contestants while tearing up stale bread for stuffing? Your whole family was able to eat a lot of pro-football. Or did you hole up and binge Peter Jackson’s The Beatles: Go BackDisney+: How can I like everyone else on my timeline on Twitter?
While the latter doc might just be the ultimate “your mileage may vary” experience—heaven for Fab Four fanatics, overkill for everyone else—in my extremely humble opinion, the following five new shows represent the very best TV had to offer in November 2021. Here are some of my favorite shows from the last month and first half.
I’m not particularly excited about the convergence of TV and video games—a development whose inevitability has manifested in everything from the gamification of fandom and Netflix’s megahit video-game adaptation The Witcher to the same platform’s interactive experiments, like Black Mirror BandersnatchThe new mobile gaming hub. That is to say, I approached ArcaneAn animated series that is aimed at adults and set in the League of Legends With a little skepticism. It turned out that I was incorrect. And I didn’t even have to slog through a 5,000-word Wikipedia entry on the franchise to appreciate what I was missing.
Divided into three discrete “acts,” the nine-episode season chronicles rising tensions between the prosperous city of Piltover and the (literally) underground demimonde of Zaun, as magic and science begin to collide in ways both hopeful and terrifying. While the themes are heady, the characters—a ragtag crew of street kids in Zaun, a pair of young scientists in Piltover—are grounded. But what really elevates the show’s solid storytelling is its transcendent animation. Characters’ faces register every flicker of emotion. Zaun, a hybrid of cyberpunk, steampunk or punk-rock aesthetics makes Piltover look gilded. Neon flashes are a bright light source Arcane‘s supernatural elements with a true sense of magic. So beautiful and intricately detailed are these visuals that they’re liable to distract you from the movements of the plot. Is that a good thing?
Black and Missing (HBO)
Gwen Ifill described it Syndrome of missing white women: the media’s tendency to fixate on the disappearances of (generally beautiful, relatively wealthy) white women at the expense of paying any attention at all to people of color who vanish under similar circumstances. The Black and Missing Foundation, which is profiled in this essential four-part documentary from Soledad O’Brien and Geeta Gandbhir Why We HateThis is an effort to combat such prejudice. The series’ heroes are the organization’s co-founders, sisters-in-law Derrica and Natalie Wilson, who work tirelessly with Black victims’ families, law enforcement and media contacts to make headway in cases that have suffered from a lack of institutional support.
As they follow the Wilsons from flyer drops in communities to meetings with government task forces, O’Brien and Gandbhir profile the devastated yet determined families of missing people, drawing out patterns in structural injustice and tracking developments in a few of the foundation’s toughest cases. If Black and Missing‘s choice to emphasize victims’ humanity over the salacious details of their ordeals might frustrate true-crime addicts in search of their next binge, it also makes the project a shining example of what more compassionate and inclusive storytelling in this genre might look like.
College Girls and their Sexual Lives (HBO Max)
Premiering Nov. 18, this warm, observant and often gleefully raunchy show follows four very different freshman suitemates through their first months outside the nest at Vermont’s prestigious, fictional Essex College. As a creator, Kaling has historically struggled to rework, rather than just recycle, the clichés of genres that she knows inside and out (see: her rom-com series Mindy Project Four Weddings with a Funeral). Together with Netflix, she was a Netflix teen success. Never Have You Ever, College girls It seems that her strength might lie in coming-of-age stories. [Read TIME‘s full review.]
Different types (HBO Max)
Sabi Mehboob floats through liminal spaces. A gender-fluid young adult in Toronto, Sabi (played by co-creator Bilal Baig) has a cisgender boyfriend who shrinks from them in public and a traditional Pakistani Muslim mother who’s in denial about who her child is. Sabi has a job as a nanny or bartender, but she is still trying to figure out what her true purpose in life. The gentle, self-effacing Sabi must make the decision to combine the parts of their life, even though they missed the opportunity in Berlin to reflect on the meaning of life. This is the appropriately titled Different typesThe Canadian immigrant ‘” traces that awkward, yet touching, evolution. And Baig, an affable performer as well as a keen observer of human behavior, is one of the most intriguing new voices I’ve encountered on TV this year.
Crafted by NarcosAshley Lyle (alum) and Bart Nickerson (alum), this update Lord of Flies swaps out the schoolboys in favor of a women’s varsity soccer team on its way to nationals. It’s 1996, alt rock rules the radio, and the girls are traveling in style because (get ready to suspend your disbelief) a rich dad has lent them his private plane. The players are traumatized when the plane falls from the sky into the wild, and they wait to be rescued. They’ll ultimately spend 19 months fending for themselves out there, so you know things are bound to get weird. [Read the full review.]