We’re officially in the second half of 2018, which means its time to reflect on the first half of the year. Specifically, we’re ranking the best shows so far that feature South Asian talent.
As hard as it was to keep peak TV gems like “The Americans” and “Killing Eve” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” out of this list, our focus is on highlighting excellent shows with South Asian actors who are series regulars.
Summer is definitely the best time of the year to catch up on these shows, just in time for fall and spring, when a barrage of new seasons will be ready to greet us.
Starring: Rose McIver, Rahul Kohli, David Anders, Robert Buckley, Aly Michalka
The CW’s resident zombie dramedy gave us a wonderful season 4 this year. In it, McIver stars as undead crime-solving medical examiner Liv Moore. The show doubled down on feels and thrills in its penultimate season. Kohli plays Liv’s best friend and boss Ravi Chakrabarti. Ravi’s story this year was packed with emotional gut punches, both happy and sad. It gave Kohli to fully unlock his acting prowess full circle. So far, as good as he is on the show, Ravi’s arc is usually limited to being the very funny and intelligent sidekick.
Seasons 1-4 are available on Netflix and CWTV. Season 5, the final season, will air in 2019.
Starring: Tina Desai, Jamie Clayton, Max Riemelt, Doona Bae, Brian J. Smith
Netflix’s mega science-fiction drama “Sense8” closed out its two seasons run with a movie-style 2.5-hour finale this year. It focuses on eight people from across the world who are psychically and emotionally connected. One of them is Kala Dandekar, a devout Hindu and a pharmacist from Mumbai. Despite going heavy on the surrealism, the show has never shied away from tackling themes like religion, identity, LGBTQ issues. In the finale, Kala get a unique happy ending, entering into a polyamorous relationship with the two men in her life.
Seasons 1-2 and the finale are available on Netflix
5. “The Magicians”
Starring: Summer Bishil, Arjun Gupta, Jason Ralph, Hale Appleman, Stella Maeve
Talking about excellent science-fiction dramas, “The Magicians” was on top of its game this year for its third season. The show centers on the students of Brakebills University, where they learn how to properly channel their magic. They include Bishil’s super confident Margo Hanson and Gupta’s tough-but-sweet Penny Adiyodi. Margo had the greatest arc of the show so far as she transformed into an even more sassy but earnest ruler of a kingdom called Fillory. Penny had an emotional journey this year, letting Gupta showcase his vulnerable side. Rizwan Manji also recurs as a conniving, fun character named Tick Pickwick.
Seasons 1-2 are available on Netflix, season 3 will be added shortly. Season 4 will air in 2019.
4. “New Girl”
Starring: Zoeey Deschanel, Hannah Simone, Max Greenfield, Jake Johnson, Lamorne Morris
Fox’s heartwarming comedy wrapped its run this year with a shorted seventh and final season. The comedy follows a group of friends navigating their life and relationships and it lived up to its quirkiness till the very end. Simone was the breakout of this show. Playing the Indian-American Cecelia Parikh, she broke norms and showed the audiences what a well-developed character of South Asian descent should look like. In the final season, Cece runs her own modeling agency and is in a happy married life with a kid.
Seasons 1-6 are available on Netflix, season 7 is available on Hulu
Starring: Abigail Spencer, Matt Lanter, Sakina Jaffrey, Malcolm Barrett, Goran Visjnic
Even though NBC canceled this time-traveling drama after two seasons, “Timeless” went out in a blaze of glory this year. It’s second season was momentous and gave us some thrilling episodes as the central team traveled to different places in time to right the wrongs made by a villainous agency called Rittenhouse. Jaffrey plays Homeland Security agent Denise Christopher. In the final season, her character was put under the spotlight in a noteworthy episode set in the 80s, she was forced to come out to her parents in order to save the world. Karen David essayed the role in this episode.
Seasons 1-2 are available on Hulu
2. “Silicon Valley”
Starring: Thomas Middleditch, Kumail Nanjiani, Zach Woods, Martin Starr, Amanda Crew
HBO’s start-up comedy gave us one of its finest seasons this year, earning the number 2 position on our list. The four protagonists finally took their company Pied Piper to a more stable place as they try to create a new internet, hiring multiple coders and a swankier office in Silicon Valley. Nanjiani perfectly portrays Dinesh Chugtai, a Pakistani-American engineer and coder whose narcissistic personality often clashes with his crew.
Seasons 1-6 are available on HBO Go and HBO Now. Season 7 will air in 2019.
“The Good Place”
Starring: Kristen Bell, Ted Danson, Jameela Jamil, Manny Jacinto, William Jackson Harper
Of course, NBC’s afterlife gem of a comedy is the winner on this list. It’s important to put this show on your radar. After an unexpected yet brilliant twist to end the first season, this year’s second season continues to churn a twisty, smart story about four humans who try to become better people after their death. Jamil plays a British-Pakistani philanthropist Tahani Al-Jamil with sheer brilliance. Tiya Sircar also recurs on the show.
Season 1 is available on Netflix, season 2 will be added shortly but is also available on Hulu. Season 3 will premiere on Sept 27, 2018, with two episodes on NBC.