It’s a Pandemic Christmas, y’all! The trees are dusted with snow and Covid, the world has gone pear-shaped and going to the grocery store is like a scene from “The Road”. So, the best thing to do is stay in your jammies all day and binge hours and hours and sweet, precious hours of TV. That’s exactly what we’ve been doing at my house, so here are some thoughts on shows that I’ve recently gobbled.
The Mandalorian (Season 2)
I mean… it’s a master class. This gem on Disney Plus does more in a half-hour than any Game of Thrones ep ever did in twice the time. And unlike the last season of Game of Thrones, The Mandalorian makes sense and it doesn’t make me want to scream, yell and start walking the Earth. Action, story, heart, compelling characters, fan service… it’s all in there. Plus, it looks (and is) expensive. Can’t wait to re-watch. THE BEST!
The Flight Attendant
Fun! Kaley Cuoco and her castmates are really great in this twisty thriller on HBO MAX about a super cute and super drunk flight attendant who parties her way into a murder mystery. Though, even with all the cool locations and high-energy action scenes, I still found myself a little bored at times. Not sure why. Maybe it’s because all the characters sort of sound the same. Which is to say, relentlessly glib. Or maybe it’s because the flashbacks to childhood drinking were kind of cringey. They spent a boatload of cash shooting in Rome and Bangkok, then gave Jason Jones a flannel shirt and trucker hat borrowed from Don Jr. and made him shoot these critical scenes in one day outside Westchester. Anyway, The Flight Attendant is delightful, fresh and a definite recommend.
The Queen’s Gambit
Speaking of smart drunk women! I loved this Netflix original about an orphan girl who rises to the tippy top of the male-dominated chess world in the swinging ’60s. The Queen’s Gambit is lavishly produced, beautifully directed and full of feminist themes. This premium series is, in many ways, a pretty straight-ahead feel-good sports movie. Also, if you’re deep into the race for who will win Best Costumes at next year’s Emmy’s, this is probably your huckleberry. So good.
The Crown (Season 4)
Look, I’m gonna be straight with you. I slept through the first three seasons of this Netflix show. My dear wife would put it on, I’d stay awake for the cold open and part of the first act and then it was off to Snoozeville for this guy. I’m not super down with royalty as a concept and watching stiff British rich folk walk around mansions and not much else was not super compelling for me. But this season of The Crown, the Diana season, was pretty great. Mainly because the events being discussed took place in my lifetime and I felt invested. But also, because the writers seemed to go all-in on the idea that the institution of British royalty is a bummer for nearly everyone involved or not involved. Literally, no one wins. This show is still about sweaters and horses and wigs and gilded furniture, but this season seemed more acid in its look at these very pale people and their very pale lives. So, yeah, I’d say watch it. Why not? Knock yourself out.
Just, no. Look, I was down for a twisty, trashy, lavishly produced bit of fluff, but even that low bar was too high for this HBO Max stinker-roo. So many strained American accents, so many coats, so many lengthy courtroom scenes…. So, yeah, no thanks.
The Haunting of Bly Manor
I don’t know. Some of the characters and twists were fun, but this Netflix series failed to be very scary. Like, at all. Which, I think is not good for a horror show. I would pass.
Britannia (Season 2)
I’m sure very few of you have seen this weird, fun show on Amazon Prime about the Roman Invasion of Celtic Britain, but you should be watching Britannia. Part straight ahead sword and sandals series, part tongue-in-cheek metadrama, it’s very weird and funny and extremely good. The cast is incredible and so is the incongruously modern soundtrack. All in all, it’s a very fresh take on a familiar world and I ate it up with both hands. The first season is terrific, but the second is straight-up bananas. Do you enjoy cannabis? Then I recommend you eat a gummy and snuggle up with this one.
Oh, and we’ve also been gulping down docs too….
These two series about the NXIUM cult (one on HBO Max, the other on STARZ) are both good and flawed in their own special ways. But, like the two docs on Fyre Fest, they do sort of work together to tell the whole story of what really is the stupidest fracking cult I’ve ever heard of.
Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults
YES, we like cults. Maybe that’s because we are currently being antagonized by one involving our outgoing President and we JUST WANT TO UNDERSTAND! Though this HBO Max series never really tells us why Heaven’s Gate was “the cult of cults”, it does a surprisingly effective job of humanizing a tragedy that a lot of us (cringe) made jokes about at the turn of the Millennium. Sure, it was a weird UFO cult, but for the most part, these really were a bunch of well-meaning folks who just wanted to get off this dog shit planet. Can you blame them?
Murder on Middle Beach
Everyone loves a murder! But this one is kind of boring. This series on HBO Max has moments and individual eps that are intriguing (“gifting tables”, what?), but mostly, the whole thing kind of snoozes along. It wants us to care about the people involved but fails to pull that off. It is, in the end just another reminder that every family is screwed up in its own peculiar way. I get enough of that in therapy. On we go.
And finally, some thoughts on a few series we’re still in the middle of watching…
The Expanse (Season 5)
I’ve read the entire The Expanse book series. Twice. I’ve listened to the entire The Expanse series on Audible. Twice. I’ve re-watched every season, including Season 4 just last week. So, it’s safe to say I’m a fan of this Amazon Prime sci-fi series. That’s why, when they dropped the first three eps of Season 5 this week, I stopped what I was doing (which was nothing) and watched them all in one night. Then promptly fell into a depression, like a kid who ate all his Halloween candy in one sitting. Picking up a couple of years after the events of Season 4, this season splits the cast up and sends them on separate journeys across the solar system. Which seems like a bad idea but is very much the opposite of that. So, yes, watch this show and watch it hard. Small rec: if you can hold off, maybe re-watch the previous season and let Prime drop a few more eps of the current one before jumping in. This might delay the sad and grumpy feeling that I am currently experiencing waiting for ep 4 to pop up in my cue.
Just started this gem. Set (for some reason) in 1988, this comedy on HBO Max is about a wealthy Australian woman in England, who finds herself suddenly broke and is forced to take her spoiled children back down under to move in with her working-class family. It is hilarious and a little heartbreaking and its star, Sarah Kendall, is terrific! You have to dig around on the app to find it, but it’s worth fighting with the stupid HBO Max interface to get the goods.
This Amazon Prime series is a really funny and often genuinely scary paranormal comedy from Nick Frost and Simon Pegg. There’s something about the series that keeps it from being totally binge-worthy, but Nick Frost and Malcolm McDowell are so good. And the episode at the geek convention is worth watching all by itself.
Toast of London
Matt Barry (What We Do In The Shadows) stars in this absurd and funny Netflix import about Steven Toast, a turdy, loser actor in London. Fair warning, it is EXTREMELY weird and in no way straightforward forward and I reckon it’s not for everyone. But so far it has managed to pull many genuine guffaws out of my pandemic deadened soul.
Based on the comic, this Hulu series is about demons and Satan’s kids and it still manages to be kind of blech. Some of the cast are pretty good, but some…are not. We watched a few and now when we’re searching for something new to watch, one of us will go, “We could finish Helstrom” and the other one will go, “Um… yeah… what else is there?” There’s always something else.
Fargo (Season 4)
Same deal as Helstrom, except this one is on FX.
That’s all for now. Love to know your thoughts and what you’re watching/loving/hating right now!
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