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Binge-worthy television for wintertime

Even sunny California suffers inclement winter weather, inspiring us to spend more evenings in cozy surroundings — like in front of our video screens, rather than venturing out to movies or concerts for cultural diversion. It’s the optimum time to binge on TV shows, courtesy of Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and newer players in the realm of streaming services.

So what’s binge-worthy? That could depend on your taste or your mood, but some shows, especially those that trade in long-form storytelling rather than stand-alone episodes, lend themselves to marathon viewing. Plenty of classic programs are now available for streaming and serve as audiovisual comfort food. Better yet, here are some recent vintage high-quality shows available for streaming hour after hour, until you finish a season . . . or pass out on your couch.

ESPIONAGE ACTION

If you loved the lush, exciting television adaptation of John le Carré’s The Night Manager and generally embrace espionage action with an international flavor, check out the six-episode miniseries of his best-seller The Little Drummer Girl. Set in Greece during the 1970s, it addresses the strife that continues to rage between Israelis and Palestinians. It stars Michael Shannon, Alexander Skarsgård, and an impressive young actress named Florence Pugh, and is directed by Korean master of tension Park Chanwook.

CRIMINALLY ENTERTAINING

The Bureau is a French production, like the addictive multiseason police procedural Spiral. Don’t let the subtitles put you off — The Bureau is one of the most compelling spy thrillers on television: a topical, realistic look at the trials faced by intelligence officers trying to balance their private lives while pursuing a treacherous profession. There have been four 10-episode seasons, with the last one currently being broadcast in France.

Killing Eve is a treat, featuring Sandra Oh as a British MI5 desk jockey who tries to find and outwit a wily female assassin over the course of eight episodes, even as the two women become increasingly consumed with one another.

Jed Mercurio — creator and head writer of Line of Duty, a must-see four-season look at a U.K. police anticorruption team in action — is back with a new six-part project titled Bodyguard. Keeley Hawes and Richard Madden portray England’s Home Secretary and the ex-military PTSD-plagued police sergeant assigned to protect her despite their political differences.

For sophisticated neo-noir fun set in modern-day Los Angeles, Bosch — based on author Michael Connelly’s novels about a wry, rebellious, driven LAPD detective — is a blast. Titus Welliver is right in the pocket as Harry Bosch, whose snark is equal to his devotion to doing the right thing despite the consequences. The series has already notched four 10-episode seasons with a fifth due next year.

PERIOD PIECES

Mixing crime, romance, music, politics, and history, the two seasons of Babylon Berlin evoke Germany’s Weimar Era in magnificent, darkly elegant fashion. The series, renewed for a third run in the near future, is based on the novels of Volker Kutscher and revolves around a police inspector working on a case in the turbulent, anything-goes 1929 Berlin before the Nazis’ rise to power.

William Makepeace Thackeray’s 1848 novel Vanity Fair has been interpreted yet again with a well-executed seven-installment run, which premiered earlier this year. Its heroine, Becky Sharpe (Olivia Cooke), is a social climber of questionable scruples, but that shouldn’t lessen the pleasures the series offers for anyone seeking an elegant, short-term period drama to fill the gap left by the end of Downton Abbey. Plus, Monty Python comedy stalwart Michael Palin is on board as Thackeray himself.

Turning to full-on comedy in period clothing, Upstart Crow is the hilarious and erudite invention of Ben Elton, who co-created the era-jumping historical farce Black Adder (also worth a binge). If you’re intrigued by the idea of a sitcom about the Bard himself, Upstart Crow follows Will Shakespeare (Peep Show’s hapless David Mitchell) over three six-episode seasons and a Christmas special as he travels from his home in Stratford, where his family torments him, to his job as a London playwright, where smug aristocrats, balky actors, and his own valet torment him.

If big-screen blockbusters aren’t enough to sate your passion for superheroes, there are two fresh options for home viewing: the debut of Titans, an R-rated take on DC’s younger generation of champions who are led by an embittered Dick “Robin” Grayson, sans Batman; and the third 13-chapter series of Marvel’s urban crime drama Daredevil, with Charlie Cox as the blind New York City vigilante and Vincent D’Onofrio, who is spectacular as the title character’s arch enemy. Warning: This current Daredevil run should only be watched if you’ve seen the first two seasons, so binge the whole thing. It’s worth it.

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Michael Snyder is a print and broadcast journalist who covers pop culture on "Michael Snyder's Culture Blast," via GABnet.net, Roku, and YouTube, and on KPFK/Pacifica Radio’s “David Feldman Show.” You can follow Michael on Twitter: @cultureblaster

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