Monday, March 22, 2021

Quick TV Catch-Up

Three TV shows with a very high ratio of quality to obscurity:

Patriot on Amazon Prime. This one's awfully hard to explain; the title gives you nothing; it's much more about tone than genre, and you'll know while watching the pilot if it's for you. Give it a try, there's a lot to love and it hits the ground running at full speed in the pilot. Not unmissably, world-stoppingly great, but you probably haven't heard of it and probably will really like it.

The Taco Chronicles on Netflix is perhaps the most chowhoundish of the survey-a-food-genre genre. It was produced by actual Mexicans, which helps. It taught me a thing or two (and I really know my tacos), and nearly all their venue selections are admirably super-obscure and great-looking.

Per a previous posting, The Bureau (French title Le Bureau des L├ęgendes), a terrific French spy series which you can pretty much only watch via $6.99/month subscription to Sundance NOW - but you'll easily watch all four seasons in a couple months.

Two un-missable series from the non-distant past which were never super popular but have faded even from there:

Party Down, a comedy about cater waiters featuring a cast that would cost billions to reassemble now; free on Hulu. You need to be patient for the show to hit its magnificent stride (give it until "Celebrate Ricky Sargulesh", episode 8 of season 1, which I think was its peak) and...

Rectify (free on DirecTV, and reasonable enough on iTunes or Amazon Prime), one of the earliest, best, and slowest of the super-slow cable dramas. Such great acting, writing, directing, film-making.

Above all, I love Succession (HBO) so much. It really is unmissably, world-stoppingly great. I think it rivals Shakespeare. I loved it way more the second time. And I recently viewed it a third time and realized I'd only previously caught like 40% of the plot and off-cuff remarks and nuance. This is the Infinity Show, it just gets better as you rewatch it.

The only two series close to Succession in terms of breathtaking-classic-for-the-ages grandeur are Atlanta (free on Amazon Prime and Hulu) and The Leftovers (HBO). First season's a slog re: Leftovers, but intentionally so. "International Assassin", in Season 2, is the best single episode of television ever produced; it's actually Kubrick-good.

Some random notables. For All Mankind is pretty good. It's a counterfactual where Russia landed on the moon first, spurring an extended cold war in space, all the way to Mars. The Expanse is the only sci-fi that gets close to the Battlestar Galactica reboot in quality. Rick & Morty continues to be a whole other thing; the smartest, funniest, densest entertainment ever committed to videotape, though I believe it's been cancelled (they're still making it, it's just not ok for civilized people to talk about it). Stanley Tucci's Searching for Italy on CNN is terrific if you don't need it to be super super chowhoundish. All Creatures Great and Small from Masterpiece on PBS is an unapologetically sentimental bit of lovable fluff from UK about a 1920s country veterinarian (perfect for lockdown soothing, but I prefered Doc Martin for the genre). NOVA, which I watched as a kid, is actually still very good. Super inconsistent (the shows with David Pogue are un-watchable), but when they're good they're very good and it's a good way to keep up with science stuff. Lincoln: Divided We Stand on CNN is watchable and interesting, probably of little interest if you're already well-informed about Lincoln. 

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