Here are three standouts that I was too busy to review when they premiered but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching on my own schedule. As it happens, all three feature a protagonist on a personal quest, set in cultures and communities that are often ignored.
'I May Destroy You'
(Moves to Mondays at 9 p.m., starting June 22 on HBO; premiered June 7.)
There’s something truly captivating about Michaela Coel, the creator-writer-star of this engrossing dramedy about a British social media influencer, Arabella (Coel), who battles writer’s block while trying to deliver the cheeky-millennial memoir she’s sold to a big publisher. Seeking escape from her work with a night of excessive partying, Arabella blacks out and can’t fully recall what happened — except for a vague and terrifying recollection of being raped. (Trigger alerts abound here, including one for any writer who ever missed a book deadline.)
In an instant, a show that at first seems to blend the best elements of “Fleabag,” “Euphoria” and “Insecure” takes a serious swerve in an emotionally startling direction, as Arabella and her two best friends (Weruche Opia and Paapa Essiedu) embark on separate paths of self-discovery and the recognition of shared traumas. Nearly every moment here is worth unpacking, as Arabella spends months piecing together not only what happened to her that night (and further back into her past), but also what kind of person she will now become. At its considerable heart, “I May Destroy You” tells a striking story of transformation.
(10 episodes, available on Hulu. Returned May 29.)
Creator, star and Golden Globe winner Ramy Youssef picks up his wonderful dramedy where we left it in Season 1, as the title character, a 30-year-old Muslim American in New Jersey, tries to get himself right with Allah and reject such haram temptations as Internet porn. Things change drastically when Ramy joins a small mosque headed by Sheikh Ali Malik (Oscar winner Mahershala Ali), whose calm, cool demeanor helps Ramy see Islam’s core values rather than its restrictions.
This feels like the right path, for both the character (who still has a lot of growing up to do) and for the show. Through Ramy’s increased devotion, viewers get a broader understanding of Islam’s tenets of peace and self-awareness, in addition to Youssef’s brand of humor, which still illuminates the difficulties of being Muslim in American culture.
The show is often better when it branches out to parallel stories about Ramy’s friends and family. Hiam Abbass continues to give a moving performance as Ramy’s mother, Maysa — a Lyft-driving immigrant still trying to adapt to the country she’s lived in for decades. Meanwhile, Ramy’s father, Farouk (Amr Waked), loses faith in the American Dream after being laid off. Through it all, the show exhibits a nimble command of mood, meaning, personal integrity and the quirks of family life.
(Airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on Starz. Premiered May 17.)
Here’s the tightly wound, smartly layered, compulsively watchable crime drama about an alcoholic, lesbian marine fisheries agent that you’ve all been waiting for. Monica Raymund (“Chicago Fire”) gives a compellingly frenetic performance as Jackie Quiñones, whose hard-partying nights in Cape Cod’s summertime gay mecca of Provincetown, Mass., (a.k.a. P-town) are endangering her day job. After one particularly wild binge, Jackie discovers a woman’s body washed up on the beach, drawing viewers into a larger story about the cape’s deadly opioid trade.
James Badge Dale (an actor we haven’t seen nearly enough of since 2010’s mesmerizing espionage series “Rubicon”) co-stars as Ray Abruzzo, a state police sergeant who was relying on information from the murder victim to help him expose a drug ring. While Jackie is preoccupied with staying sober and keeping her job, she is inexorably drawn into the murder investigation and the larger plot. “Hightown” captures a seamier side of life in this vacation paradise. It’s probably not what Cape Cod tourism boosters would’ve wished for, but since we’re not going anywhere this summer, the show becomes an enjoyable getaway of a different sort.