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The best TV shows of 2024 (so far)

Even the most dedicated couch potato probably hasn’t seen all of the excellent programs that came out in the first half of this year. These 10 programs, listed in order of awesomeness, should be at the top of your must-watch list.

“Shōgun” (Hulu): This stunning miniseries stays as faithful to James Clavell’s novel as the 1980 TV adaptation, but this one is much more exciting because it focuses on Japanese characters and pushes English navigator John Blackthorne into the background. Yes, that means reading a lot of subtitles. You’ll have to deal with that.

“The Contestant” (Hulu): Tomoaki “Nasubi” Hamatsu looks back at how he was tricked into starring in a sadistic version of “The Truman Show” that garnered huge ratings in Japan. The documentary ends by indicting the puppet masters of reality TV – and all of us who were happy to let them pull the strings.

“The Greatest Night in Pop” (Netflix): “We Are the World” isn’t a great song, but this documentary about the star-studded recording session is fantastic, especially when it shows tense moments like Bob Dylan freezing, a drunken Al Jarreau struggling with his solo, and Waylon Jennings leaving the session after Stevie Wonder advocates for a Swahili chorus.

“The Great Lillian Hall” (Max): Jessica Lange’s talent is on full display in this three-play drama about a fictional Broadway star whose career is threatened by the onset of dementia. Hall has her flaws, but Minnesota’s greatest actress of all time adds just enough detail to make you pray she makes it to the opening night.

“Hacks” (Max): Season three was a great show for female guest stars, especially Helen Hunt as a ruthless manager and Christina Hendricks as a twisted power broker. But nothing is more entertaining than when leads Hannah Einbinder and Jean Smart pass the ball to each other without anyone else around.

“Ripley” (Netflix): The latest incarnation of the cold-blooded Tom Ripley may be the most haunting yet. Director and screenwriter Steven Zaillian ups the scare factor with black-and-white cinematography and a no-nonsense approach to gruesome crimes. Andrew Scott, best known as the hot priest in “Fleabag,” slowly becomes more menacing — and more intriguing.

“Jerrod Carmichael Reality Show” (Max): Carmichael retains his title as the bravest comedy actor in this self-produced reality series where he’s not afraid to come across as bad. He treats the screen like a confessional, as if he can only be truly honest with himself when the cameras are rolling. It may not be the healthiest form of therapy, but it makes for a unique viewing experience.

“Three Bodies” (Netflix): David Benioff and DB Weiss, the team that took on “Game of Thrones,” know how to turn dense novels into gripping thrillers. This adaptation of Liu Cixin’s “In Search of the Past” trilogy tackles some heady themes, including the extinction of humanity. But the top-notch cast and stunning special effects are worth burning a few extra brain cells for.

“Girls5eva” (Netflix): This brilliant parody of the music world moved from Peacock to Netflix for its third season, increasing its chances of getting the attention it so richly deserves. The songs are intentionally dumb. The scripts, which bear the signature of executive producer Tina Fey throughout, are not.

“Elsbeth” (CBS): This crime series is technically a spin-off of “The Good Wife,” but it’s really more of a reboot of “Columbo.” Longtime character actress Carrie Preston takes full advantage of the opportunity to finally take center stage, bringing life and warmth to her wacky crime fighter.

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