Now that we’re halfway through the calendar year, and another set of Emmy nominations will soon be upon us, it’s time to take stock of which television shows have so far emerged from the pack to remain front of mind. The shows that have stuck with Variety’s chief TV critics Daniel D’Addario and Caroline Framke include some new entries into the awards conversation, including ABC’s “Abbott Elementary” and Hulu’s “The Dropout,” and some returning series that made the case for their greatness in novel ways, like HBO’s “Barry” and Netflix’s “Russian Doll.” They also include shows that deserve a second look — both from awards voters and from TV fans who may have missed them amid the ongoing glut of content.
It’s those shows — ones that haven’t, yet, gotten their moment in the sun, but that sit on streaming services waiting for their ideal viewer to stumble in — that may well provide critics with the most to say. The documentary series “The Andy Warhol Diaries,” for instance, may well be the single most accomplished piece of art to emerge from Ryan Murphy’s deal with Netflix, while HBO’s “Irma Vep” is a sharp, crisp appraisal of the film world by a master director with a keen eye for absurdity. “Ms. Marvel” brought pep and youthful sprightliness to the Disney+ superhero colossus, while HBO’s “Rothaniel” infused the standup-special genre with Jerrod Carmichael’s insight and heart.
In all, the first half of the year has provided TV fans with a feast worthy of the upstart restaurant on FX’s “The Bear” — one of the fifteen series that our critics singled out as among the year’s very best. Consider this a road map for the next six months of catching up on what you’d missed.