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2014 Summer TCA Tour - Day 8

Source: Frederick M. Brown / Getty

If you’ve been tuned in, you know that we’ve just wrapped up a pretty busy season on the small screen. Mad Men ended its acclaimed run, and the Breaking Bad saga continued with Better Call Saul. On network television, “diversity” was the word.  New shows like How To Get Away With Murder and Black-ish — shows with predominantly African-American casts — became critical and commercial successes. Empire broke every record imaginable on FOX— it even got renewed for a second season after just two episodes.

If you have a life, you probably didn’t catch every great show that aired this season. But the summer― television’s traditional dry period― is coming up, so you definitely have time to catch up on some essentials you might’ve missed. Here are five shows you’ve got to give a test run.

Black-ish

Empire and Cookie Lyons made their debut on Jan. 7 and quickly became a phenomenon for FOX. Since it aired on Wednesday nights, ABC’s Black-Ish, ended up getting shorted.

It wasn’t that Black-Ish was mediocre. Let’s face it, Cookie Lyons was Cookie Lyons. Plus, the choice came with consequences: People were missing out on the ultra-cuteness of twins Jack and Diane, Anthony Anderson‘s  character Andre “Dre” Johnson, Sr. and his overzealous quest to keep it real and Laurence Fishburne‘s gruff but usually hilarious role as Pops. People expected a clunky comedic cash-in on the television’s diversifying landscape. What they got was a comedy with commentary about being Black in white America (in Johnson’s middle-class situation, a whiter America) that never loses its heart.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D 

You may want to watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D just based off FOMO. A few decades from now, textbooks and retrospectives are going to dedicate more than a few paragraphs to the multi-billion dollar franchise that was the Marvel Cinematic Universe― on how it all started from Iron Man to how it eventually trickled down to television. Maybe one of the most impressive elements of it all is how there’s not one egregious, disastrous flaw in the series of movies, and that consistency carries over on the small screen. The same case goes for Agent Carter, which aired during the midseason break, is also a treat.

Mann & Wife

If you liked Meet The Browns, here’s some good news. David and Tamela Mann, along with the executive producer of Meet The Browns, decided to team up again with more Black family sitcom humor. This time, David plays a cop while Tamela plays a schoolteacher. Both have two kids, but decide to marry and move to Atlanta. As you’d guess from that type of Brady Bunch-ish setup, hilarity ensues.

Jane The Virgin

This sleeper series was certainly one of the most slept-on television shows of last season — it barely averaged over 1 million viewers during its first season. But it still had an outstanding first season.

Jane The Virgin follows a novel premise: the eponymous virgin played by Gina Rodriguez) is accidentally artificially inseminated by a gynecologist. As a result, she’s carrying the child of the owner of the hotel she works in. However, the writing is sharp enough to push the series past the novelty, while the characters are given enough heart to appeal to the anti-rom com types. Plus, how many English-language telenovelas do you see these days?

Fresh Off The Boat

The Asian-American community has also been underrepresented when it comes to network television. Fresh Off The Boat‘s great first season was a step towards rectifying the issue. The series initially sparked some controversy after Eddie Huang, who wrote the autobiography it was based on, criticized the ABC for making his story “unrecognizable” to appeal to the mainstream audience. That’s a whole other issue on its own. But as an ABC sitcom show, it’s very similar to what Black-Ish is: a look at the American Dream through the minority perspective.

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