There are a lot of lists around at the moment covering ‘binge worthy’ shows to watch during this ‘interesting’ time we find ourselves in. Here are a few that you should be able to see, depending what subscription service you may or may not have.
As far as possible this list is a ‘getaway from it’ so no deliberate ‘virus themed’ shows…just something to hopefully help us all relax a tiny bit.
I’m going to try and make a new list at the start of each week, so please do sign up if you want to get regular updates into your inbox.
The Drama: Dead to Me
1 season. A dark comedy/ drama Dead to Me sees Jen (Christina Applegate), recently widowed, bonding with the free spirited but secretive Judy (Linda Cardellini). Shifting between laughs and jumps, it’s a twisty turny thing that’s already got a second season in production.
The Comedy: Schitt’s Creek
5 seasons. When multi-millionaire Johnny Rose and his family suddenly find themselves penniless, all they have left is the town they bought for a joke because of its name…what follows is part Northern Exposure, part Trading Places as they try to live with their new surroundings, neighbours and…each other. Great performances, a lot of funny gags and a sense of heart that comes from the father, son and daughter team of Eugene, Dan and Sarah Levy and the comedy legend that is Catherine O’Hara, Schitt’s Creek is a much warmer comedy than the title might suggest.
The Documentary: The Staircase
There are a ton of ‘true crime’ documentaries on Netflix – Making of a Murderer was the water cooler doc for many when it came out. The Staircase is the story of what happened after Michael Peterson’s wife died under suspicious circumstances and he opens his life up to a film crew. It runs too long – 13 episodes, but it’s a fascinating, if grim, story into both the crime itself and the family structure and legal system, as well as the documentary making process itself.
The Drama: Justified
6 Seasons. It may not be as gritty as The Wire or as revered as Breaking Bad but Justified is a fantastic drama series starring Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens, a U.S. Marshal reassigned from Miami to his rural childhood home due to his ‘exuberant’ behaviour. Based on a short story by Elmore Leonard the series is a who’s who of other US series over its run, including Sam Elliot, Patton Oswalt, Walter Goggins and many, many more. It’s not just Olyphant’s charm that makes this work (though that doesn’t hurt), but it’s smart writing and combines drama with real humour.
The Comedy: Red Oaks
4 seasons. A coming of age comedy set in the ‘80s as a teenager enjoys one last summer working at an exclusive country club as he tries to figure out what he’s going to do with his life. A fairly gentle comedy with characters you care about and for those of a certain age, a nostalgic set of references and soundtrack.
The Documentary: Gleason. (Film)
You may or may not be an NFL fan and may or may not have heard of Steve Gleason, former defensive back in the sport. But it doesn’t matter if you haven’t. This is a story of the human spirit in the face of adversity. At times hard to watch, but ultimately inspirational and full of hope, it’s a powerful documentary.
Now TV/ Sky
The Drama: Ray Donovan
7 seasons. It might have been unceremoniously cancelled before a complete resolution, but as other shows (Lucifer etc) have shown there’s always a chance for a reprieve. In the meantime, there are seven seasons to get through before, hopefully, someone will pick it up. Live Schreiber plays the titular Ray: a Hollywood fixer who has to protect not just his clients, but also his dysfunctional family. An amazing cast (Jon Voight, Eddie Marsan, and in later seasons the likes of Susan Sarandon) and strong story lines make it a great binge watch.
The Comedy: 30 Rock
7 seasons. It might take a couple of episodes to get into, but Tina Fey’s semi-autobiographical comedy about working on a major TV network show has characters you get to know and like over time. From Fey herself starring, to Alec Baldwin as her megalomaniac boss to Tracy Morgan as the diva star it’s a comedy that grows on you.
The Documentary: Discovering…
Taking a break from the plethora of crime docs everywhere, Sky Arts’ Discovering is a disparate series of profiles – on subjects (Dance/ Horror in film, and personalities across music (Bowie, Clapton, Cash) and movies (everyone from Jeff Bridges to Max Von Sydow). If you’re wanting a quick capsule study of a few hundred popular icons, this will do it for you…
The Drama: Giri/ Haji
An 8-part thriller spread across Tokyo and London, Giri/ Haji (roughly translated as Duty/ Shame) follows the ripple effect of a single murder on a diverse set of characters. As someone pretty critical of the clichéd approaches to Japan and the Japanese in many a drama this one was done pretty well. The fish-out-of-water theme is played nicely with some good subversions along the way. There weren’t too many big names in this (Kelly McDonald probably being the biggest), but the cast are good. It gets a bit silly at times, but overall, it’s a solid, interesting take on a story of brotherly conflict, family and cultural displacement that rises above the average take.
The Comedy: Inside No.9
If you haven’t seen Inside Number 9 yet, you’re missing a treat.
Steve Pemberton and Reece Sheersmith (League of Gentlemen and Psychoville) have created 30 episodes so far. While all might loosely be described as ‘dark comedy’ that’s about as much in common as you’ll find in them as they create ingenious half hour self-standing stories, most with a twist in the tale, that are brilliantly written and performed. Guest stars abound and it’s often as much fun re-watching an episode to see how they tricked you into not spotting the clues along the way (or indeed, the brass hare which appears in every episode…)
The Documentary: Storyville
The Storyville series of documentaries really can’t be beat.
There’s nothing in common about them other than their quality – whether it’s centred on an event, a person or a movement, if it’s there, you’re guaranteed a fascinating watch.
There are plenty more channels out there – and many will give you a seven day free-trial, so whether it’s Brit Box (if you haven’t seen Our Friends in the North, with its future star studded cast of Daniel Craig, Christopher Eccleston, Mark Strong and Gina McKee, you should watch it now), Apple TV+ (not too much of interest at the moment), or Shudder (for horror fans), Mubi (for hand picked ‘quality’ cinema), Curzon (classic and independent/ BFI favourite films), or even You Tube where you can find full-length movies and documentaries available (including, one of the most powerful and heart-breaking documentaries every made: Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father), there’s a whole lot of stuff out there you can see for free via trial, or as part of a monthly package.
Well, there’s a starter for 10.
and once a week I’ll send more recommendations as well as links to reviews of some of the latest movies, books and even some of my own stuff appearing on bewbob.com
In the meantime, hope you find something to keep you busy