The best TV shows of 2024 (so far)

Even the most dedicated couch potato probably hasn’t caught up on all the excellent programs that debuted during the first half of this year. These 10 programs, listed in order of their greatness, should be on top of your must-watch list.

“Shōgun” (Hulu): This stunning miniseries is just as faithful to James Clavell’s novel as the 1980 TV adaptation. But this ends up being much more riveting because of the decision to focus on Japanese characters, shooing English navigator John Blackthorne into the background. Yes, that means you need to read a lot of subtitles. Deal with it.

“The Contestant” (Hulu): Tomoaki “Nasubi” Hamatsu looks back at how he was duped into starring a sadistic version of “The Truman Show” that drew boffo ratings in Japan. The documentary ends up indicting the puppet masters of reality TV — as well as all of us who gladly let them pull the strings.

“The Greatest Night in Pop” (Netflix): “We Are the World” is not a great song. But this documentary about the star-studded recording session is fantastic, especially when it shares tense moments, like Bob Dylan freezing up, intoxicated Al Jarreau struggling with his solo and Waylon Jennings walking out after Stevie Wonder campaigns to include a chorus in Swahili.

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

“Hacks” (Max): The third season has been a splendid showcase for female guest stars, most notably Helen Hunt as a ruthless executive and Christina Hendricks as a kinky power broker. But nothing is more entertaining than when leads Hannah Einbinder and Jean Smart bounce off each other with no one else around.

“Ripley” (Netflix): The latest incarnation of the cold-blooded Tom Ripley may be the most haunting one yet. Director and writer Steven Zaillian raises the chill level by using black-and-white cinematography and a matter-of-fact approach to gruesome crimes. Andrew Scott, best known as the Hot Priest in “Fleabag,” slowly becomes more menacing — and mesmerizing.

“Jerrod Carmichael Reality Show” (Max): Carmichael retains his title as comedy’s most daring performer in this self-produced reality series in which he’s not afraid of coming off badly. He treats the screen like a confessional booth, as if the only time he can truly be honest with himself is when the cameras are rolling. It may not be the healthiest form of therapy but it does make for a unique viewing experience.

“3 Body Problem” (Netflix): David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the team that tackled “Game of Thrones,” know how to turn dense novels into heart-pounding thrillers. This adaptation of Liu Cixin’s “Remembrance of Earth’s Past” trilogy deals with heady ideas, including the extinction of mankind. But the top-notch cast and mind-blowing special effects make it worth burning a few extra brain cells.

“Girls5eva” (Netflix): This brilliant spoof of the music world moved from Peacock to Netflix for its third season, enhancing its chances of getting the attention it so richly deserves. The songs are intentionally stupid. The scripts, which have executive producer Tina Fey’s fingerprints all over them, are not.

“Elsbeth”(CBS): This procedural is technically a spin-off of “The Good Wife.” But it’s really more of a reboot of “Columbo.” Longtime character actor Carrie Preston takes full advantage of the opportunity to be finally front and center, bringing vivacity and warmth to her kooky crime fighter.

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