Summer Binge-Watching Tips: 13 Series to Catch Up On
The Mindy Project
Best Starting Point: ''Harry & Sally'' (113) — It's an office reunion when Mindy Kaling's one-time paramour B.J. Novak drops by the show. Thanks to cast shake-ups, episodes prior to this mid-first season winner aren't super-necessary, but this gem is when the sweet comedy hits its stride.
Most Skippable Episode: ''Girl Crush'' (213) — Despite a winning guest spot by Anna Gunn, this throwaway half hour was sandwiched between episodes that contained major bombshells in Mindy's world — making this one, which was light on laughs, seem semi-inessential.
Biggest Jaw-Dropper: ''The Desert'' (215) — When Mindy and Danny had to head out west for a conference, fans already knew they were in for a special treat. But it was the episode's final moments, in which Danny gives new meaning to the ''friendly skies'' by planting a passionate kiss on Mindy, that had viewers reaching for their remotes to rewind repeatedly.
Ultimate Game-Changer: ''Be Cool'' (218) — Mindy giveth, and Mindy taketh away. After just a few super-cute episodes together, Danny breaks up with Mindy giving her the cop-out line to end all cop-out lines: He's worried about ruining the friendship. Fans were just as devastated as Mindy until?
Finale Fall-Out: ''Danny and Mindy'' (222) — Luckily, by season's end Danny and Mindy decide to make a go of it. After a series of rom-com-style hijinks, the duo meet on the top of the Empire State Building where Danny declares his love for Mindy and the two proceed to make out. Bring on season 3! —Erin Strecker
Best Starting Point: ''Sweet Baby'' (101) — To understand the world of Olivia Pope, you're going to need to start from the top, before all of D.C.'s dirty little secrets begin to boil over.
Most Skippable Episode ''The Price of Free and Fair Elections'' (318) — Even the title is boring! Basically, creator Shonda Rimes raised the stakes so high in season 3 that the finale didn't hold a candle in the shock-and-awe department.
Biggest Jaw-Dropper: ''YOLO'' (309) — This one episode has torture (now with 100 percent more face licking!), terrorism, and a murder in the VP's office. THIS is the reason the season 3 finale had no chance of shocking us.
Ultimate Game-Changer: ''White Hat's Back On'' (222) — Up to this point, B613 was just a nefarious government organization that ruined Huck's life. But, with a single word (''Dad?''), it went so much deeper.
Finale Fall-Out: ''The Price of Free and Fair Elections'' (318) — Okay, yes, we just told you to skip this episode, but you should still know where we left off: Rowan killed the president's son, Maya is in the B613 hole, Huck found his family, Harrison is out, and Olivia left Fitz behind to fly off into the sunset with Jake. How long can that vacation really last? —Katie Atkinson
Best Starting Point: ''Pilot'' (101) — You have to start at the beginning with The Blacklist, since the series hinges upon puzzling out these characters' increasingly twisted motives and tangled family ties.
Most Skippable: ''The Stewmaker'' (104) — Skipping episodes is tricky, since clues are sprinkled throughout the show, and this episode has a big one. BUT, get ready to fast forward because watching the Stewmaker melt human bodies into sludgy soup is enough to make you throw up dinner.
Biggest Jaw-Dropper: ''The Judge'' (115) — I'm just going to say one word: Jolene.
Ultimate Game-Changer ''The Kingmaker'' (120) — The Blacklist is a constantly evolving game, but this episode is the catalyst for fundamental changes in both Liz and Red. Liz discovers that Red murdered her adoptive father, snuffing out her vestiges of innocence and setting her on a warpath. As his former friends and allies leave him stranded, Red is on his heels for the first time, fearful that Berlin might win.
Finale Fall-Out ''Berlin: Conclusion'' (122) — While Liz and Red hunt down the elusive villain Berlin, bodies pile up in this bloodbath finale that leaves one main character dead and two on the critical list. True to form, the last shot of the episode throws a major twist that makes us question everyone's motives. —JoJo Marshall
The Good Wife
Best Starting Point: ''Hitting the Fan'' (505) — After weeks of planning to start their own firm, Alicia and Cary finally make their move to split off from Lockhart/Gardner. And as the episode's title suggests, the you-know-what finally hits the fan.
Most Skippable Episode: ''We, The Juries'' (512) — The case of the week fell flat as Florrick/Agos and Lockhart/Gardner worked together to defend a couple accused of smuggling drugs. Meanwhile, Marilyn begins her investigation into Peter's possible voter fraud. All in all, it's a snooze.
Biggest Jaw-Dropper: ''Dramatics, Your Honor'' (515) — No one saw it coming: Gunfire erupted in the courtroom and Josh Charles's Will Gardner was shot and killed in the crossfire.
Ultimate Game-Changer: ''Dramatics, Your Honor'' (515) — It wasn't just a dream. With Will Gardner dead, the show will face a series of challenges for its main characters. How does Alicia survive without Will? And how does Lockhart/Gardner survive without one of its managing partners? Will's death is a devastating loss and dramatically changes how the show will look going forward.
Finale Fall-Out: ''A Weird Year'' (522) — A weird year indeed. In the season 5 finale, Alicia begins to question what she wants out of life and specifically her career. Then, Eli presents her with the idea of possibly running for state's attorney. Meanwhile, Diane worries about the future of Lockhart/Gardner and makes a play to bring her business to Florrick/Agos. What happens next? Season 6 can't come soon enough. —Breia Brissey
Best Starting Point: ''Pilot'' (101) — Being royal is complicated, so the only way to really understand the relationships at the center of this show is to start at the beginning.
Most Skippable Episode: ''Royal Blood'' (112) — The entire story behind Clarissa, Catherine's daughter, was irrelevant, and this episode served as the center of it all. No thanks.
Biggest Jaw-Dropper: ''Dirty Laundry'' (114) — King Henry kills a woman by humping her out of a window. That is all.
Ultimate Game-Changer: ''Consummation'' (113) — Mary finally makes her decision, and she and Francis get married! We also meet Mary's mother, find out Clarissa might not be dead, fear for Francis' life, and watch Bash ride out of town. Talk about good drama!
Finale Fall-Out: ''Slaughter of Innocence'' (122) — King Henry is dead, Lola is giving birth, and Mary has locked Francis out of the castle walls, therefore leaving him susceptible to the plague. Marriage is tricky. —Samantha Highfill
Best Starting Point: ''Pu$$Y Weed'' (102) — A lot of the best comedies take a full season to find their footing. Broad City, remarkably, only took one episode. Still, if you need to be hooked right away, starting out with the Pilot ("What a Wonderful World") might make you dismiss this show outright. The relationship between the two leading BFFs Abbi (Abbi Jacobson) and Ilana (Ilana Glazer) hadn't become quite as charmingly codependent yet. But episode 2 not only gives new meaning to the term ''nature's pocket'' but also featured the best, most relatable part of the series — the two girls just philosophizing about random topics, like what kind of dogs they'd sleep with (if they were dogs!). The moment I fell in love with this series was when Ilana waxes philosophical about why she'd choose to be a three-legged mutt over a more adorable breed.
Most Skippable Episode: ''What A Wonderful World'' (101) — Really, the pilot wasn't bad, per se. I still rewatch it. But, aside from a laugh-out-loud scene starring Fred Armisen as an adult baby, the setpieces aren't as sharp as what comes later.
Biggest Jaw-Dropper: ''Apartment Hunters'' (109) — Dayummmmmnnnnn! Where to begin with this episode? It starts out with an instant-classic opening dance montage that was set to Drake's ''Started from the Bottom'' and calls to mind Missy Elliott's ''The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)'' and has Abbi poppin' and lockin' in an inflated trash bag and Ilana rocking a Nicki Minaj wig. It ends with a slow pan over an elaborately creepy dungeon basement set, showing just how far this show will go to get a laugh. It's also the farthest the series has yet to verge into the surreal while remaining totally relatable. Also, it delivers the funniest throwaway quote of the season: ''Bitch, you're 22.''
Ultimate Game-Changer: ''Stolen Phone'' (106) — Like the best Seinfeld episodes, ''Stolen Phone'' juggles several complicated story lines throughout and ties them together in a wholly satisfying knot by the end. Also, this episode is a shining exemplar of how the series mines New York City and modern technology so brilliantly for laughs.
Finale Fall-Out: ''The Last Supper'' (110) — Fittingly, the brilliant first season ends with Abbi and Ilana walking off toward the gritty New York horizon while wearing wildly inappropriate footwear and gabbing about gross sex. May they gab about gross sex forever. —Stephan Lee
Best Starting Point: ''Never No More'' (202) — You should probably skip over the Rayna's-in-a-coma business and get right to the introduction of the year's villain: Jeff Fordham. Also, meet Layla, the season's most annoying character!
Most Skippable Episode: ''I'm Tired of Pretending'' (209) — Juliette fighting Layla? Boring. Deacon fighting Teddy? Hotter, but still boring.
Biggest Jaw-Dropper: ''Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad'' (220) — Juliette cheats on Avery with Jeff freakin' Fordham. Not only is it shocking and disgusting, but it also kicks off the Avery-Juliette cliffhanger that would end the season.
Ultimate Game-Changer: ''Tomorrow Never Comes'' (210) — The midseason finale ends with a double cliffhanger: Peggy is shot and killed, and Will might or might commit suicide. Moving forward, both of those life-or-death experiences irrevocably change the season's trajectory.
Finale Fall-Out: ''On the Other Hand'' (222) — Juliette and Avery's relationship is up in the air, as is Scarlett's decision on whether she wants to leave Nashville. As for Rayna, well, she had just accepted Luke's proposal before receiving another ring?from Deacon. Decisions, decisions. —Samantha Highfill
Please Like Me
Best Starting Point: ''French Toast'' (102) — With all due respect to the pilot, ''Rhubarb and Custard,'' fast forward past all the set-up of Josh's ex-girlfriend outing him as gay — to himself — and to episode 2 as the 20-year-old moppet settles into his new(-ish) identity and starts dating out-of-his-league, out-and-proud hunk Geoffrey. ''French Toast'' also features one of the greatest pieces of physical comedy in this series (perhaps any).
Most Skippable Episode: ''All You Can Eat'' (104) — Sure, Josh and his mom's dating exploits are amusing, but they're fundamentally nonstarters. (That said, the entire first season is only three hours long, so do you really need to skip any of it?)
Biggest Jaw-Dropper: ''Portuguese Custard Tarts'' (103) — Niamh is pregnant? A gratingly amusing side character suddenly threatened to change the lives of Tom and the entire group.
Ultimate Game-Changer: ''Spanish Eggs'' (105) — Despite appearing in only five episodes, Aunt Peg underwent a full character arc. We didn't know how much we needed her until she was gone. (Word of advice: Rewind the naked Geoffrey at the top of the episode and skip the whole Aussie football match scene; it's a cringer.)
Finale Fall-Out: ''Horrible Sandwiches'' (106) — Nothing is simple for Josh and the gang in the season 1 finale, which includes a birthday, a funeral, another bad turn for Josh's mum. Still, creator Josh Thomas says season 2 will be just another day. Subtle yet sublime, the essence of what's great about PLM. —Lanford Beard
Best Starting Point: ''City of Heroes'' (201) — In season 2, the villains, the twists, and just about everything is deeply rooted in Oliver's past, which means starting at the beginning is your best (if not only) choice.
Most Skippable Episode: ''Blast Radius'' (210) — Other than learning that Sebastian Blood is creepier than we imagined, this episode doesn't do a lot to move the greater plot forward. By introducing Shrapnel, it moves away from the central storyline, which means you could miss it and not feel a thing.
Ultimate Game-Changer: ''Three Ghosts'' (209) — This is the moment fans realize that Slade Wilson has not only made it back from the island, but is the mastermind behind all Blood's actions. Just like that, Deathstroke officially becomes season 2's Big Bad.
Biggest Jaw-Dropper: ''Seeing Red'' (220) — Slade finally makes true on his promise to Oliver in this episode, when he kidnaps Ollie's family and forces him to choose between saving his sister and saving his mother. And when Moira volunteers, Slade put a sword through her heart (and the hearts of everyone watching).
Finale Fall-Out: ''Unthinkable'' (223) — With Slade in purgatory, Oliver is ready to return to his city. Little does he know that Thea has left town with Malcolm Merlyn, Quentin's life is up in the air, and Laurel could be on the fast track to becoming the new Canary in town. —Samantha Highfill
Best Sarting Point: ''Dark Descent'' (101) — With a single five-episode season on its rap sheet, there's no reason not to start from the beginning of this serial killer saga starring Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan. Plus, the opening moment in which Dornan nuzzles a pair of ladies' unmentionables really sets the twisted tone for the entire series.
Most Skippable Episode: Wait — did you not just hear the part about there being only five episodes? Don't skip a one or the clues won't add up.
Biggest Jaw-Dropper: ''My Adventurous Song'' (104) — Dornan's murderous Paul runs into a few?complications during a botched home invasion. Deliberate pacing and clever editing make this scene a heady brew of nightmare fuel. (No judgments if you sleep with a hatchet tucked under your pillow after watching this one).
Ultimate Game-Changer: ''The Vast Abyss'' (105) — Three words: Red nail polish. A brief but significant brush with Anderson's Superintendent Stella Gibson — not to mention mounting suspicion from the police — lead Paul to uproot his family and place a very important call to Stella.
Finale Fall-Out: ''The Vast Abyss'' (105) — ''I called to say goodbye,'' Paul informs Stella. ''You think I'd let you walk away?'' she answers. No f---ing way. —Amy Wilkinson
Masters of Sex
Best Starting Point: ''Pilot'' (101) — Dr. Bill Masters hires single mom Virginia Johnson to be his secretary, and she's desperate (and spunky) enough to go along with his revolutionary research on human sexuality. Other characters and brewing conflicts in Masters' orbit include his desperate-to-be-pregnant Libby, an undercurrent of competition and resentment from driven but unseasoned underling Dr. Ethan Haas, a complicated relationship with boss/father figure Barton Scully, whose marriage to wife Margaret isn't as perfect as they would hope, and Masters' disapproval of his philandering colleague Dr. Austin Langham.
Most Skippable Episode: ''Brave New World'' (106) — A bold move by Margaret and multiple orgasms for Jane are nice, but the deadly combination of an impotent Austin and a ''romantic'' trip to Miami for Bill and Libby just ends up being a diversion (and a pathetic one at that when Libby realizes a beat too late that she doesn't want to be bedded by an older gentleman).
Ultimate Game-Changer: ''All Together Now'' (107) — Johnson officially becomes Masters' sexertary, only she thinks it's a partnership rather than a romance; their disconnect over this will have ripples throughout the rest of the season. Meanwhile, Margaret's orgasmic relationship with Austin deepens, Barton is gay bashed, putting him deeper into Masters' trust, and Ethan decides to help Libby get pregnant after realizing the nature of Virginia's ''research'' with Bill.
Biggest Jaw-Dropper: ''Involuntary'' (109) — The study goes full-on porno, resulting in Virginia offering herself up for a starring role, threatening her success as a student and her chance to strike out on her own. Most damning of all, though? When Masters tries to pay her, implicitly (and insultingly) denying their partnership. Elsewhere, Masters discovers Libby's secret pregnancy, and Ethan ends his short engagement to Vivian Scully (as in, daughter of Barton and Margaret).
Finale Fall-Out: ''Manhigh'' (112) — When Barton's decision to embark on aversion therapy for his homosexuality is the least riveting element of an episode, you know you have a real doozy of a finale. Driven by ego or desperation, Masters foolishly presents the results (and footage) of the study to his horrified colleagues. He shows up, broken, at Johnson's doorstep after A.) Ethan proposed to Virginia just hours before, B.) Libby delivered their son, and C.) Virginia has been seriously considering joining forces with her professor Lillian DePaul. Virginia's decision sets the stage for a season 2 that EP Sarah Timberman promises will ''defy any of the conventional parameters of a love story.'' And a real-life one at that. —Lanford Beard
American Horror Story: Coven
Best Starting Point: ''Bitchcraft'' (301) — The Coven premiere is a fast-paced and fun introduction to several generations of witchcraft, establishing an expansive mythology and larger-than-life characters.
Most Skippable Episode: ''The Sacred Taking'' (308) — The Coven decides it's time to take out Jessica Lange's Fiona, which leads to an elaborate plot to gaslight her into suicide. It's fun but ultimately a nonstarter. Soon enough, Fiona and the Coven are unified again.
Biggest Jaw-Dropper: ''The Magical Delights of Stevie Nicks'' (310) — Tough to choose just one mind-blowing moment from a series that traffics in them. But let's go for a rare non-violent sequence when guest star Stevie Nicks sings ''Rhiannon'' for the assembled witches.
Ultimate Game-Changer: ''The Axeman Cometh'' (306) — A prologue flashback introduces Danny Huston's Axeman, a suave serial killer with music in his heart and murder in his eyes.
Finale Fall-Out: ''The Seven Wonders'' (313) — After initially teasing a Coven spinoff, creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk opted to end the story of Miss Robichaux's witches definitively. Which means about half the cast dies in the finale (some for the second or third time). On to the Freak Show! —Darren Franich
Best Starting Point: ''Daddy Daughter Day'' (102) — Pilot notwithstanding, the second episode is a fine example of the show's perfect blend of strong-voiced characters, '80s nostalgia, and those heartwarming family moments that make the series a surprisingly moving gem of a sitcom.
Most Skippable Episode: ''Stop Arguing and Start Thanking'' (109) — The standard Thanksgiving fare could have done without a guest spot from dad Murray's obnoxious brother, but there's much to be thankful for in the show's first big holiday endeavor.
Biggest Jaw-Dropper: ''Lame Gretzky'' (117) — Suffocating mom Beverly went to hilarious new word-fabricating heights when she sabotaged Erica's SAT prep to keep her close at a college close to home. Never change, Bev.
Ultimate Game-Changer: ''Muscles Mirsky'' (115) — The introduction of Adam's tomboy love interest was a great injection of pre-pubescent high stakes, supplemented by the older Goldberg siblings' opposing views on romance.
Finale Fall-Out: ''Livin' on a Prayer'' (123) — Barry finally gets the girl, Erica completes her transformation into Beverly, and Murray's hard shell is cracked ever so slightly. But, let's face it: nothing should ever change for this family in the long run. —Marc Snetiker