Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Yet More TV Tips

For prior TV tips, see postings labeled "Television", duh.

Alan Sepinwall, now at Rolling Stone, is the best TV critic. He does episode-by-espisode recaps for some of these shows.

Justwatch tells you where practically any movie or TV series can be streamed, for free or for charge (interface problem: you need to choose "Movies" or "TV Shows" after initiating a search, when it looks like results don't include your search term).

Mr Inbetween
Just completed second season on FX (you can probably find on-demand)
Season 1 streams at Hulu
People aren't cartoons. People can be lots of things at the same time. The guards at Auschwitz went home every night to their families, and some were surely loving and lovely spouses and parents. The Sopranos felt fresh because never before had we seen villains as just people. But even the Sopranos was light brushstrokes and heightened drama and a bit broad. Show biz. So the creator/star of Mr. Inbetween tried to go all the way and produced a dead-realistic, thoughtful, non-judgmental portrait of a hit man who's a real human being (and great dad) who - like all of us - isn't entirely defined by his day job. It's not some cheap manipulative play of making us like/dislike the guy. And, no, he's not "trying to get out", because he's good at it. The whole thing is subtly superb and hugely entertaining. I can't recommend it enough.
The New Pope
HBO, now playing
I haven't actually seen this, but I recently rewatched "The Young Pope" (pretty much the same show in its first season) in preparation, and it was even better than I'd remembered. Profound and profane, surreal and earnest, sumptuous and earthy, and generally as elusive as a greased pig, it's not for everyone, but I consider it a mesmerizing and surprisingly deep masterpiece ala The Leftovers. And word is The New Pope is equally good.
Shakespeare Uncovered
PBS, done
Stream season 1 on Amazon Prime; buy seasons 1 and 2 on Amazon or Apple iTunes
I've started writing at least five postings about this series, but I can't quite crack the code of what makes it tick. I'll be brief: Everyone - everyone - has the idea of making Shakespeare accessible. Only this show actually does it. A big part of it is that they don't actually show the damned plays, with their archaic language, corny-seeming drama, and jokes and references opaque to anyone not wearing a bow tie. The "way in" is by having a different well known actor host each show, having selected his favorite play, and passionately explaining why, via unstilted personal language, and using a decent BBC budget to set mood. If Shakespeare always feels like vitamins to you, watch this (I particularly recommend "King Lear: with Christopher Plummer, "Hamlet" with David Tennant, and "Henry IV/Henry V" with Jeremy Irons). You'll have better luck with DVDs from UK Amazon. Best of all, cast a DVR "net" by setting a series record order and snaring occasional reruns on PBS.
Better Call Saul
AMC, now in penultimate season
Better than Breaking Bad.
In the middle of six episode miniseries on HBO
Yet another sensational true crime deep-diving miniseries. Who has time? But this, about a scam that intercepted practically all the big winning tickets in McDonald's Monopoly promotion, is an awfully good one, crammed with color and momentum. Good accompanying podcast, too.
Bojack Horseman
Netflix, now complete
You don't need me to tell you about this, but the last season's super good again.
Showtime, now in final season
Everyone I know stopped watching Homeland soon after its sterling first season. The producers still keep shamelessly returning to an easy bag of tricks (Saul just got kidnapped yet again! I'm not even spoiling you, because that's obviously what happens to National Security Directors!), Claire Danes still Emmy-cries a lot while quivering her Emmy chin, and nothing makes a damned lick of sense, so don't think too hard. But you know what? It's the most entertaining show on TV. I don't mean hyperactive, I don't mean blowing-up-stuff. It just draws me in magnetically, and the reverse attraction of the showboating, repetition, plot holes, and illogic are nowhere near sufficient to repel me.
HBO, now on hiatus between Season 2 and 3
Probably the best show on TV. About a billionaire media baron family (nodding vaguely toward the Murdochs). Everyone's a dork or a prick - but also three dimensional and real. The repartee's breathtaking, you're brought to places you've never seen, the acting and writing are remarkable and multi-layered, and it's got every bit of the entertainment magnetism of mixed-bag Homeland. After each episode, thousands of us cluster on Twitter like dazed acolytes, endlessly repeating the best lines and plot points to each other. And I'm totally not usually that guy.
Rick and Morty
Adult Swim, currently in some weird holding pattern within Season 4
First three seasons on Hulu
Whole episodes from Seasons 3 & 4 free on Adult Swim's web site
The smartest, funniest, densest television show ever, by a wide margin. If you need to know about it, you surely already do.

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