TV, Cable & Streaming – Best of 2019 & 2020 (so far) – Part 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

_______________________________________________

Marc Maron: End Times Fun – (Netflix)  This was obviously recorded well before the coronavirus outbreak, but it feels like it was done five minutes ago. Resonates sharply with our current times. Maron is also incredibly funny and inventive. An extended bit in the last ten minutes featuring Jesus, Mike Pence, Iron Man, and Satan on Judgement Day will have your jaw on the floor, wondering how he came up with that and then had the nerve to do it.

__________________________________________________

My Brilliant Friend – The second season is currently showing on HBO. We loved the first. The series is based on four novels by Elena Ferrante. Each season adapts one of the books, so there will be two more seasons. So far, the current season is as good as the first. As the characters are getting older, the stakes are higher. It’s very layered, emotional, and upsetting at times. The atmosphere is rich and almost three-dimensional.

________________________________________________

Occupied – (Netflix)  We came to this series late, and as usual when we like something, binged through all three seasons. Most of these series are fairly formulaic, but it comes down to how it’s done, and this one is very, very good.

___________________________________________________

The Outsider – (HBO)  Based on Stephen King’s terrific novel, this series combines the police procedural with the supernatural in a very concrete way. Ben Mendelson, great as usual, plays a police detective struggling to get his head around a seemingly impossible mystery. Cynthia Erivo is a self-styled investigator who shows him the way. My initial attraction, other than that I really liked the novel, was that Richard Price created the series and co-wrote it. Besides being an excellent novelist, he was also behind another great series on HBO, The Night Of, not to mention writing several episodes of The Wire, the greatest series ever, as I never get tired of saying.

_____________________________________________________

 

_____________________________________________________

The Plot Against America (HBO) – David Simon series based on a Philip Roth novel that posits an alternate history in which Charles Lindbergh runs against Franklin Delano Roosevelt for president. He wins on a platform of keeping the U.S. out of World War II. Jews in America rightly fear that Lindbergh’s embrace of Hitler is not good news. The sixth and final episode, written by Simon, aired last night, and it was a killer. The parallels with what’s going on in this country today have been unavoidable throughout. I doubt that Trump Republicans would like this series, assuming they would even watch it. Which would be appropriate.

____________________________________________________

Santa Clarita Diet – (Netflix)  Another series I came late to, after much prodding by a friend. I loved it immediately and proceeded to watch all three seasons. Timothy Olyphant discovers his wife (Drew Barrymore) is a zombie. Hilarity ensues. It’s quite a change seeing him in a comic role like this, after knowing him from Deadwood and Justified.

________________________________________________

Secret City – Two seasons on Netflix – a political thriller set in Australia, with Anna Torv (Fringe) a nosey reporter. Murders, coverups, and conspiracies that go all the way to the top. Very well done. Anna Torv, besides having a great name, is very appealing and, as we know from her time on Fringe, she can carry a show. Jacki Weaver plays a scary character, as only she can.

__________________________________________________

The Sinner – Seasons one & two are on Netflix, the third season just wrapped on USA. We started this series this year, burned through first two seasons, and loved it. I’m less sure about the third. It’s still very good, especially Bill Pullman as the police detective, but I found it disturbing in ways I didn’t like.

___________________________________________________

___________________________________________________

The Stranger (Netflix) – Excellent thriller. This is yet another series based on a book by crime novelist Harlan Coben. As usual in this type of story, there are many twists and turns and much misdirection on the way to the end.

_______________________________________________________

Trapped – Two seasons on Amazon Prime – a great cop show set in Iceland. This is one of the best series we’ve seen, either last year or this. Great cast and characters.

_____________________________________________________

True Detective – (HBO)  The first season of True Detective, with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, was fantastic and set a very high bar. Most people didn’t like the second season. I was one of the few who did, though it clearly wasn’t on the level of the first. This third season hasn’t received much love either. Shuttling three different time periods, it unravels a story heavy with gloom. Very noir. Mahershala Ali and Stephen Dorff are excellent. Plus it has one hell of a shootout in episode five, which you can see in the following clip.

____________________________________________________

Unbelievable – Netflix mini-series. This is excellent! A young rape victim in Seattle isn’t believed, then two female detectives in Colorado get involved. Kaitlin Dever (Justified and Booksmart) is the rape victim; Toni Collette and Merritt Wever are the cops. Very detailed and takes its time.

__________________________________________________

 

 

 

__________________________________________________

Unforgotten – Three seasons have aired on PBS’s Masterpiece Mystery and are now  available on Amazon Prime. Cop unit in the UK finds old cases thought to have been solved, but new evidence reveals the truths that have been buried. The great Nicola Walker (Last Tango in Halifax) is head of the team, with Sanjeev Bhaskar as her partner. Both are excellent.

_________________________________________________

Unorthodox – (Netflix)  Over four episodes this show tells the story of a young, unhappy bride in an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. She gets the courage to escape this world and goes to Berlin to find her mother and start a new life. Shira Haas is both inspiring and heartbreaking as the main character, Esty.

__________________________________________________

The Valhalla Murders (Netflix) – More cops in Iceland. Another layered narrative with tragic dimensions. Very good.

________________________________________________

Veep – (HBO) The seventh and final season. Since the 2016 presidential election (shudder), the challenge of this excellent political satire has been to keep moving the narrative forward in ways that seem fresh. The current administration in the White House is a farce and satire in reality, so it’s hard for a show like Veep to stay ahead of that. But it does a good job, and this season was a fitting end to a great series.

_________________________________________________

_________________________________________________

Vera – Ten seasons on Amazon Prime/Acorn/BritBox. Yet another cop show from the UK, this one with Brenda Blethyn as the prickly head of a team in Halifax. Excellent! We discovered it last year and burned through the nine seasons then available one after the other. Have now seen the tenth, which became available earlier this year. Each season is four episodes of approximately 90 minutes each. Vera is quite a character.

_______________________________________________________

What We Do in the Shadows –  The first season is available on Amazon Prime, the second kicked off on FX on April 15. I love this show. A small group of vampires share a house on Staten Island. They have the usual domestic problems. As with The Office, an unseen film crew is ostensibly shooting a documentary, which allows for direct-to-camera commentary by the characters. Very black, deadpan comedy. 

_____________________________________________________

When They See Us – (Netflix)  A very powerful account of the young African-American men who became known as the Central Park Five. They were wrongly convicted of the rape and murder of a white jogger in Central Park. The series, directed by Ava Duvernay, follows the story from the night of the attack to their eventual exoneration after years in prison. It’s another sad commentary on race and injustice in this country.

____________________________________________________

That’s all for now. See you next time. Stay strong. — Ted Hicks

_____________________________________________________

_______________________________________________

About Ted Hicks

Iowa farm boy; have lived in NYC for 40 years; worked in motion picture labs, film/video distribution, subtitling, media-awards program; obsessive film-goer all my life.
This entry was posted in Books, Documentaries, Feature films, Film, Film posters, History, Home Video, Streaming, TV & Cable. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to TV, Cable & Streaming – Best of 2019 & 2020 (so far) – Part 2

  1. DaVID M FROMM says:

    Glad you included Veep and especially The Plot Against America.

  2. Vic Losick says:

    Good suggestions all, especially the dude on the TV!

  3. Kimball Jones says:

    I’ve seen almost all of these and loved every one of them. Great list, Ted!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s