Written by Heather Bass/edited by Connor and Jeff Bass. Thumbs Up for the shows from all of us! Television is chewing gum for the eyes. Frank Lloyd Wright
We love TV in my house and I’m not ashamed to admit it. It’s chewing gum for the eyes and candy for our souls. One of the best escapes we have found is diving into a series, binging, and getting lost in sweet, scary, soulful, silly and surprising stories. We have 101+ shows worthy of praise and highly recommended by some, or all, of our family. We hope you will like them too. Here’s installments #1-4.
IF YOU MISSED THE FIRST FOUR INSTALLMENTS, CATCH SHOWS 1 – 85 BELOW:
Better Things- Better Things follows the life of Sam Fox, a 50-year-old, single-mom living in Los Angeles. She tries, with varying degrees of success, to raise three daughters, care for her mother, and keep her career going in Hollywood. Sam loves big and hard. She lives life without a filter. Better Things successfully mixes comedy, tenderness, and vulnerability. Fun fact- Pamela Adlon, who plays Sam Fox, was the voice of Bobby Hill on King of the Hill.
Brooklyn 99- Andy Samberg (SNL) is hysterical as Detective Jake Peralta, who works in NYPD’s 99th Precinct. This show is funny, silly, and sometimes even sweet, makingit one of our favorites. It is pure comedic joy. I have 100% considered recreating some of the hijinks that take place on the show. You will too.
Chuck- Zachary Levi (Shazam), and Yvonne Strahavski (The Handmaid’s Tale) are a mismatched but adorable crime-fighting duo in this entertaining show. Chuck Bartowski is a computer nerd who inadvertently downloads a powerful computer program that uses his brain as a hard drive. Unbeknownst to him, his brain becomes the host to every piece of information available to the US government. The result is the US government categorizing him as a national security asset and also a national risk. Sarah Walker, an undercover government agent, is sent to help Chuck manage this new information and also join him in top secret missions when his brain activates to super spy mode. This show is as fun and easy to watch as eating the entire container of ice cream when you swore you’d only have one scoop.
Cuckoo- Cuckoo is a British sitcom that was nominated for Best New Comedy and Best TV Comedy Actor. Silly, ridiculous, and delicious. Andy Samburg plays Dale “Cuckoo” Ashbrick, a crazy American hippie who loves drugs and sees the world through rose-colored glasses. He crosses paths with Rachel, who is taking a gap year before med school. To the surprise and torment of their families, they wed suddenly and secretly. Upon Rachel’s return (and announcement), her parents struggle to make sense of the massive dose of chaos that Cuckoo just injected into their lives. I can’t say too much without giving away a major plot line, but Andy Samburg had to leave the show after the first season because of scheduling conflicts (probably Brooklyn 99) and he was “replaced” by Taylor Lautner (Twilight) in season two. It’s cute and funny and worth the watch.
Dead to Me- Dead to Me is a compelling dark comedy about two strangers who meet during a terrible time in their lives at a very unlikely place: bereavement therapy. Jen (Christina Applegate) is mourning the loss of her husband who was killed in a hit-and-run accident. Judy (Linda Cardellini) is grieving the loss of her fiancé who died from a heart attack. The women bond over their grief and ultimately become inseparable friends. Jen is a new widow who is just trying her best to take care of her family and keep her job. Judy, who seems like a light-hearted, carefree spirit, is really a human onion with layers and layers of complicated surprises. This show is full of twists and turns and tons of dark humor. It was recently renewed for a third and final season and we can’t wait!
Disenchantment- This hysterical cartoon for grown-ups comes from the same hilarious team that brought us the Simpsons and Futurama. Set in the crumbling kingdom of Dreamland, binge drinking Princess Bean gets into all kinds of trouble with her trusty sidekicks Elfo and Luci. While none of us needs further encouragement, as a tribute to Bean, you’ll fly through this series as fast as that case of wine you bought during quarantine.
Emily in Paris- We have Darren Star (Sex and the City, Beverly Hills 90210, Younger, Melrose Place) to thank for this light, entertaining, binge-able rom-com. Emily (Lily Collins) is a 20-something Chicagoan, who through somewhat of a fluke, lands her dream job in Paris, France. Emily has to juggle the demands of work and forming a new social life, which isn’t always easy. The entire show is eye candy with the City of Lights as the backdrop and Patricia Field, the costume designer from Sex and the City, responsible for wardrobe. Patricia Field has explained that her goal is to always make the characters look as good as she can, even if that means stretching credibility. She never wondered if Carrie Bradshaw (a character from Sex and the City) could afford the Manolo Blahniks… her job is to “create the most interesting, original and beautiful wardrobe for my actors.” I am so grateful I read the Patricia Field interview because I could not figure out how Emily could afford her wardrobe based on her salary. Her wardrobe is enviable. There are Pinterest pages dedicated to her wardrobe. After digging even deeper, I found a YouTube contributor named Luxe Mind who broke down Emily’s salary and costs of living her “Emily in Paris life”… in a nutshell, she called it “Emily Bankrupt in Paris”. Emily’s salary is estimated to be $60,000 a year and the estimated total for what she spends on wardrobe in the show is $94,000! Lots of eye candy! I still recommend this show. It is escapism at its finest. Have fun getting lost in the beauty of it all. And then watch The Total Cost of Emily’s Outfits on YouTube… alone or with your friend/daughter so you can feel better about your decision to have healthcare, a 401K, a roof over your head and food in the kitchen instead of 25 Chanel purses.
Good Girls– This dark and outlandish show is ripe with drama, thrills and humor. The cast sparkles. Christina Hendricks (Beth), Mae Whitman (Annie), and Retta (Ruby) play three suburban moms from Michigan. Beth and Annie are sisters; Ruby and Beth have been best friends since childhood. Through no fault of their own (or maybe just a little of their own), they struggle in every way imaginable. They struggle to make ends meet, struggle as moms, struggle with their disappointment that life hasn’t turned out the way they hoped it would. When they are literally at the end of their ropes, they decide to descend into the dirty world of crime to pay the bills and take care of their families. Their simple plan starts as a “one and done”, but things don’t go exactly according to plan (do they ever?). While they find themselves in over their heads, they consistently prove just how resourceful moms can be. They also prove that females, and the strength of female friendships, can change the world… at least the world on their little cul-de-sac.
Good Karma Hospital- If you liked the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, you will like this show. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is about a group of British retirees who travel to India to live in a hotel for the remainder of their twilight years. The Good Karma Hospital has a similar vibe. It is about a young British doctor, Ruby, who flees London (and a broken heart) for a distraction, a new job, and new challenges at the Good Karma Hospital in India. Ruby expects to find a perfect tropical escape complete with sunshine, beaches, and a whole lot more. The Good Karma Hospital is located in a coastal town in the tropics of South India, but that’s where the similarities end. She is not prepared for sacred cows (everywhere!), crazy tuk-tuks (motorized rickshaws), or the havoc Indian food can play on a tummy new to India. More importantly, the most meaningful thing she finds in India comes from the people at the under-resourced and over-worked cottage hospital. They teach her about life, love, loss, acceptance, humility, faith, and fun. This is a great little show to watch to decompress after a long, stressful day. Sometimes it’s the simple things that mean the most.
The Good Place- We love this show so much! It has provided hours and hours of joy and laughter. Like many of our favorites, sayings from the show have slipped into our daily vocabulary. (For some reason, that’s a high compliment from our family.) The Good Place is the town where good people go when they die – a comedically perfect utopia. Ted Danson plays Michael, the architect of the town, who overseas the daily operations in the Good Place as well as the lives of its citizens. Eleanor, played by Kristin Bell, is a terrible person who lived a terrible life doing terrible things to nice people. By divine mistake, she incredulously finds herself in the Good Place in lieu of a deserving good person with the same name. Eleanor finds a spiritual soulmate in Chidi and she struggles to truly earn her spot in the Good Place. The show chronicles this struggle in a sweet, fun, and poignant way. I miss this show. And am so jealous for anyone who is watching it for the first time… so forking jealous. If you’ve watched it, you’ll get this joke, if not, you better start watching.
How I Met Your Mother- How I Met Your Mother is equally smart, adorable, and funny. It sits at the apex of corny 2000’s sitcoms. Running for NINE seasons, totaling 208 episodes, its staying power is a function of its compelling narrative format: every episode is narrated by a future version of the main character, Ted Mosby (played by Josh Radnor), while he tells his children the complete story of his adult life and how it culminated in him meeting their mother. There is a rich cabinet of supporting characters (including but not limited to Neil Patrick Harris as a suit-loving womanizer, and Cobie Smulders as a Canadian popstar-turned-journalist) that will start to feel like one of your crazy distant relatives after watching their lives unfold over the nine-year journey of the show. We love this show and feel confident you will too.
I’m Sorry- Andrea Savage (Veep & Episodes) wrote this and starred in it. She plays a neurotic mom who brilliantly juggles work and family life with wit and immature irreverence. It is in equal measures Sooooo Wrong but Soooo Right! I hesitate (just a little) to recommend this show because it really pushes the envelope to the point where some people might feel uncomfortable watching it.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia- Edgy, gritty, filthy are some of the first words that come to mind to describe this situation comedy organized around the louche ensemble characters who invite us into their depraved world. Nothing is out-of-bounds or off-limits in this one. Consequently, not recommended for the ears of young children or sweet grandparents. The show first aired on August 4, 2005. It was renewed for a FIFTEENTH season in May of 2020, so you know it has to be good. We have greedily binged this guilty pleasure during our 11 months of social distancing. We are currently rationing the number of episodes we watch so we don’t run out before the new season. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is about a group of narcissistic friends- aka “the gang”- who run a dive bar in Philadelphia. Each character has a unique outlook on life, and they create hysterical chaos in every episode. Dennis and Dee are siblings. He thinks he is the world’s most perfect human; she is desperate for approval and fame. Their father, Frank, literally has zero inhibitions. Mac seeks justice in all situations. And Charlie is the adorable “village idiot.” This is the kind of show that takes root in your brain and seeps into your vocabulary. Never in my life would I have uttered the words “toe knife”, but thanks to It’s Always Sunny, I have.
John Mulaney- We LOVE stand up comedy in our family. We seek it out wherever we go (back in the day). John Mulaney is one of our top three favorite comedians of all time. His comedy is as smart and clever as it is funny. He is a story-teller at heart and often makes himself the butt of his own jokes…. you will love him for it. Check out his stand up shows on Netflix and then take the deep dive into all the other platforms where he can be found. Happy laughing!
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel- We typically don’t describe comedies as important – but this one is. It is a comedic gem that blends historical fiction, drama, and the important art of stand-up comedy into one show that is as smart as it is funny. The production design team and period costume/wardrobe team need awards for they way they bring Mrs. Maisel’s 1950’s Manhattan to life. Miriam “Midge” Maisel is a go-getter, little firecracker. She thinks she has her life perfectly planned and figured out: college/ husband/ kids/ life in the Upper West Side… and her plans succeed until her husband, a corporate businessman with dreams of being a stand up comedian, leaves her for another woman. Midge is left shocked and bewildered and assumes her life will fall apart just like her marriage. Midge does what any woman who just had the “I’m leaving you for another woman” bomb dropped on her would do- she hops on the subway in her nightgown, downs a bottle of wine, and ends up on the stage where her husband struggled at comedy. The set she delivers in her drunken, incensed state is pure comedy magic. And we all fall in love with Mrs. Maisel, comedienne. You will too…
The Mick- Grifters, Greenwich, and a federal manhunt – need I say more? Two worlds collide as comedic veteran Kaitlin Olson (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) stars as Mickey – the aunt we wish we had – struggles to care for her abandoned nieces and nephews as her sister flees law enforcement. Mickey starts out as a fish out of water in this comedy, but by the end she turns the whole dysfunctional environment into her own fantastic little fishbowl.
The Middle- Every once in a while a show comes along that captures your heart. The Middle is that show. Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond) plays Frankie Heck, the mom of a lovable middle American family. The Heck family is as flawed as it is funny, caring and delightful. You find yourself rooting for each character like they are members of your own family. Don’t get me wrong, this show is a wonderful comedy. It’s just really easy to get invested in the characters as you watch them grow up over the years. Have Kleenex handy for the final episode. You might cry, but it will only be because you are laughing too.
New Girl– Zooey Deschanel plays quirky and bubbly Jess, who always sees the glass half-full side of things. After a difficult break up, Jess moves into an apartment with three men each with their own unique personality and circumstance. Jess adds zaniness and unconditional love to their lives, and they add stability, support and fun to hers. My son and I binged our way through this in record time. Enjoy!
Rick and Marty- This fast-paced animated comedy pushes boundaries – masterfully and literally – setting the show in different dimensions of time and space. Let’s be very clear, this is very smart comedy masquerading as grotesque and lewd animation. It follows the travails of Rick – an unstable, genius alcoholic grandfather (these are his better qualities) and Morty – his sweet, anxious, moron of a grandson. If my son hadn’t asked me to watch this with him, I never would have known the joy that is Rick and Morty. For all of Rick’s deplorable characteristics and the inter-galactic mayhem that follows him (he causes most of it), the show consistently includes a sweet moral arc that humanizes these outlandish characters. The delivery is fast-paced, the cultural references are deep (and dark), and I would recommend against watching this while eating for two reasons. One, the comedy is so fast you are likely to spit-take your meal right through your nose. That would be bad. Two, a lot of the settings are deliberately gory. But don’t knock this one until you try it!
Santa Clarita Diet- The cast alone should make you want to watch this dark comedy that dances in the macabre world inhabited by Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant — the adorable leads who play a real estate sales team in Santa Clarita, California. They have a very predictable and almost boring life… until something goes incredibly wrong… And the wrong is what makes it so funny! I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but my son told me it’s important for people to know what they are about to watch. SPOILER WARNING: Please stop reading if you want the full surprise. If you want to know what you’re getting into, be prepared for a fantastic comedy about life as a zombie. For a little cherry on the top of this yummy show, Nathan Fillion (Castle, The Rookie) shows up for a disturbing and hysterical cameo.
Schitt’s Creek- Eugene Levy (Cheaper By the Dozen 2) and Catherine O’Hara (Home Alone) play Johnny and Moira Rose. The Roses are a family who have it ALL and lose it ALL in a matter of minutes. Their finances force them to move to the only place that will take them — the aptly named small town of Schitt’s Creek. The show has earned every accolade it has received. The character development is what sets it apart from straight-ahead situation comedy. Please invest in it. I’m glad I did. I almost gave up during the initial episodes. I’m glad I didn’t. The Rose family’s development within Schitt’s Creek shapes their world view in a most charming and tickling way. I have watched it from start to finish two times. Judge me if you must.
Ted Lasso- This show is the funny, feel-good comedy we have all been looking for during the pandemic! Our entire family, including extended family like grandmas and grandpas, gave it 10 out of 10 stars. 11 stars if that existed. Jason Sudeikis is perfect as Ted Lasso, a small-time football coach who gets hired to coach a soccer team in London, England. We fell in love with Ted. We laughed belly-laughs while watching it. And now we’re quoting it. (That’s a sign of high praise in our house.) I honestly don’t know how they were able to write such a heartwarming, endearing, and HYSTERICAL show, but they managed to pack it all into one amazing masterpiece. It’s a favorite for sure and a must watch if you haven’t seen it. *Small disclaimer * My parents were not fans of some of the language, so make sure to preview it before you watch it with kids.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt- This show is pure sunshine, and we have creators Tina Fay and Robert Carlock to thank for it. Kimmy Schmidt, played by Ellie Kemper, is sunshine, rainbows and unicorns wrapped into the world’s most upbeat, optimistic, bubbly person. After being rescued from a doomsday cult, Kimmy moves to New York City to start a new life. It’s just plain fun to watch her interact with her surroundings, her roommate, landlord and boss. And as the theme song says… Females are Strong as Hell!
Younger- This light-hearted show follows 40-year-old Liza as she finds herself suddenly single and jobless. How hard can it be for a talented, educated mom to get a job, even at the bottom level, after not working for 15 years? The answer is hard. Very hard. Luckily for Liza, she looks much younger than 40 and when she gets hit on at bar by someone nearly half her age, she decides to pass herself off as 26. Her BFF gives her a makeover, and she lands a job as an assistant to a very temperamental woman in publishing. Just pause and imagine all the things 40-year-old Liza is going to have to endure as a fresh-faced 26-year-old just starting out: endless, ridiculous errands, babysitting for a boss she should actually be dating, and the list goes on… and the question always remains, is the grass greener on the other side? Enjoy this lovely serving of mind candy, you deserve it.
Black Mirror- Hello Twilight Zone for the new millennium! This is a fun, freaky, suspenseful show. Each episode stands alone and each is guaranteed to quicken your pulse push you to the edge of your seat (which is closer to the refrigerator). Set in the plausibly very real and near future, the show focuses on how technology might completely alter reality as we know it. I have many favorite episodes, but the one with Mylie Cyrus is Just Wow.
The Boys- Just thinking about this one makes me chuckle out loud. You know the laugh that escapes when you’re really uncomfortable? That kind of chuckle. The Boys is as fun, funny, and fabulous as it is cringy. It’s about a ragtag group of vigilantes who work together to take down a powerful and corrupt group of “superheroes”. When the superheroes are in the public eye, they are paragons of virtue and morality, but behind the scenes they are the opposite. My son and I started watching this one separately because he was at college. When the pandemic hit, he came home and we continued watching together. In order for us to continue watching it together, we had to agree that every new episode was written to shock and/or gross out the viewer more than they’ve ever been grossed out. We actually think the writers challenged each other to write the most disturbing scene they could imagine. We’re here to tell you, if that was the challenge, they succeeded. You will totally enjoy watching Billy, Hughie, Homelander, Starlight, Queen Maeve, and Stormfront. And for a little blast from Karate Kid past, Elizabeth Shue shows up as Madelyn Stillwell, the woman in charge of the superhero organization. I WISH I could make the comment I want to make here, but it would ruin the scene/surprise between Madelyn and Homelander. Insert nervous chuckle here…
Dr. Who- This timeless classic represents must-see viewing. First airing in 1963, this show has mesmerized legions of fans for 58 years. The central character – known only as The Doctor is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey who travels through time and space in his utterly cool time machine, the TARDIS, which looks like a bright blue British police call box, but only on the outside. The Doctor is an eccentric, endearing scientist who adores Earth and he will do anything to protect Earth and its citizens from the evils that lurk in the universe. He always has a sidekick from Earth for the many adventures that take place. I cannot say enough positive things about this show, especially about the 11th Doctor, played by Matt Smith (The Crown) from 2010-2013. He plays a compassionate doctor, full of heart, with an almost childlike wonder, coupled with a veil of worldly weariness from the horrors he’s witnessed in his other incarnations. It’s a bit sci-fi, it’s a bit fantasy,and it’s a whole lotta fun!
Firefly- Firefly… thinking of this show gives me bittersweet memories. Firefly was a Space-Western that aired in 2002, and it was amazing. With a 97% on rotten tomatoes, I feel safe in saying that is objectively almost a perfect show. Starring Nathan Fillion as Captain Malcolm Reynolds and set 500 years in the future, Firefly portrays the lives of various crew-members aboard the starship Serenity as they take various odd-jobs from around the cosmos. Most of the episodes are self-contained, but there are a few overarching stories that transpire throughout the show. So why am I “bittersweet” about this show? Because it only lasted for one season. After only 14 short episodes, Firefly was cancelled. Although it did experience a bit of a premature demise, the MASSIVE outcry from fans culminated in a full-length feature film titled Serenity being released to put the show to rest for good, while tying up several loose ends. I’m not going to sugar-coat it, watch the show now. It’s amazing.
Limitless (not the movie!)- Limitless is a tv show based on the movie with the same name. In the show, Brian Finch (Jake McDorman) is a late 20-something who who is a struggling musician and borderline loser. Imagine what happens when he accidentally takes a pill that unlocks the full potential of his mind, down to every last neuron! Within hours he is literally the smartest human alive. He winds up helping the FBI solve impossible cases. It doesn’t go smoothly for him because the side effect of the drug is death and he has to secretly partner with a questionable US Senator (played by Bradley Cooper) to get the secret antidote which stops the deadly side effects. My son and I am SO MAD they canceled this show after one season.
The Magicians- The Magicians is a beautiful story about, well, magicians. However, these aren’t your average pull-a-rabbit-out-of-a-hat magicians, these magicians are capable of instantly teleporting to fantastical worlds, tearing out pieces of your soul, and everything in between. The main story is centered on Quentin Coldwater as he starts his studies at the magical Brakebills University. Simple story line: A monster known as The Beast attacks the school and a real dust-up ensues. While like every other show on the planet, The Magicians is broken into seasons, it feels more appropriate to say that The Magicians is broken up by quests. Every season sees the titular magicians on a different quest to save a (not the) world. While there are some scenes that are definitely horrible (some ludicrous levels of gore/violence/assault a for show on Netflix), it is an absolute must-watch.
The Mandalorian- This show is the reason we have Disney Plus, hands down! And for those of you who know me and my Hamilton obsession, I know reading this just shocked you. You don’t have to know a single gosh-darned thing about Star Wars to watch and fall in love with this show. It takes place a handful of years after the Return of the Jedi and the fall of the Galactic Empire. For some of you this makes sense, for some of you it doesn’t, and that’s ok, because this show is about one character, The Mandalorian. He is a bounty hunter moving about the galaxy, not unlike cowboys in the 1800’s wild west. His path crosses with Baby Yoda and the show takes off. We flew through season one last December, and season two this December and are already anxiously awaiting season 3. I suspect you will too.
Marvel’s Agent Carter- This installment of the Marvel franchise — unlike some — is enjoyable for the whole family: moms, dads, sons, daughters, and grandparents! I fell in love with the Agent Carter character in Captain America… she and Captain America fell in love and it was as sweet as it was tragic. Hayley Atwell plays Peggy Carter. She is tasked with navigating life as a single woman living in 1940’s America and keeping her life as a secret agent hidden. The stakes get higher when she is hired by billionaire Howard Starke to clear his name when he is accused of treason. Agent Carter and Howard Starke’s butler join forces to clear Howard’s name. They have one crazy adventure after another. This is another show I wish hadn’t been canceled after two seasons. Watch and enjoy. And promise you’ll share Hayley Atwell’s makeup secrets if you ever learn them!
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.- If you love superheroes, this is the show for you. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. picks up right after the events of the first Avenger’s movie. Here’s a quick refresher in case you need it: the Marvel superheroes (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captian America, Black Widow and Hawkeye) have to team up to save the world from Loki and his army. *Spoiler alert*- they succeed. The Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division (S.H.I.E.L.D.), run by Agent Phil Coulson, is a team of unique, brilliant and maybe even supernatural people who investigate and intervene in alien events on Earth. You will fall in love with all the characters… May, Daisy, Fitz, Simmons, Ward, and of course, Agent Coulson. – T.A.H.I.T.I. It’s a magical place. – If you’ve watched it, you know… if you haven’t, you should.
Once Upon a Time- This majestically scripted, filmed, and acted series resurrects classic fairytales and recasts them as modern escapist fantasy. The show toggles between two worlds, a “real world” set in Storybrooke, Maine and a fantasy world where the fairytales unfold. As with all fairytales, the show grapples with themes of good and evil, hope and despair, good magic and black magic, curses and cures, greed and compassion. The fairytales are well-disguised in the first instance so it is fun trying to figure out which classic tale supplies the plot for each episode. The production value is unrivaled – it was created by the team that brought us Lost back in the day. While each episode stands on its own, we recommend watching this series in order to familiarize yourself with the narrative structure and the jumping from realm to realm. This show is appropriate for the whole family although very little ones might get spooked by some of the black magic and witchery.
Stranger Things- This sci-fi/mystery/thriller is set in Hawkins, Indiana in the early 1980’s and they get it so right, if you grew up in the 80’s you will feel like you traveled back through time! If your kids are like my kid, born in the new millennium, it’s a great way to share a glimpse of growing up in the 80’s. The show features a ragtag little gang of friends who like to ride bikes, communicate on walkie talkies, and play Dungeons and Dragons in the basement. It’s a sweet and simple life in a small midwestern town… until one of the boys goes missing. Before you know it, there are discoveries of secret government labs, scary supernatural happenings, and a powerful girl who might be a touch hero/ a bit antihero. Plus, Winona Ryder is the mom and she is FANTASTIC! You’ll find yourself craving, and probably buying, Eggo waffles after watching this.
Timeless- This is a fun show that combines adventure, crime fighting, time-travel and history. Imagine a villain who is set on destroying America as we know it by traveling back in time to change the past. A scientist, a history professor, and a soldier are tasked with traveling back in time to critical moments in history in order to thwart the villain. Things get complicated when they must blend into the time period, stop the butterfly effect, and not inadvertently change history themselves. We were sad it was only 2 seasons long.
The Umbrella Academy- This is a show my 20 year old insisted we watch together, and I’m so glad we did. It grabs your attention and holds it until the very last episode. Here’s the problem- there’s just too much to write about! You have to see it to believe it. It’s about a family of adopted superheroes raised by a father who might be planning the apocalypse or might be trying to prevent the apocalypse, you just never know. Each sibling is wonderfully and beautifully flawed and in spite of the dysfunctional family dynamics, they somehow find a way to make things work, even if it isn’t perfect. It makes me think of how we are all trying to find a way through the pandemic, we’re making things work, even if it isn’t perfect.
WandaVision- I need to preface this by saying that if you don’t know anything about WandaVision, DO NOT LOOK IT UP!!!! The best way to watch this show is completely blind. That said, here is what I can say about this show. WandaVision stars Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff, one of the most powerful of Marvel’s Avengers as she lives a sitcom-like perfect life with her husband, Vision (played by Paul Bettany). Watch the first three episodes of the show before deciding if you want to invest more time in it. Why three? Because this show is weird. It begins as a sitcom that is seemingly isolated from the events of the Avengers, but slowly begins to morph into something bigger. And no, I cannot tell you anything more without spoiling. Sorry! Just give it a try, especially if you like Marvel.
The Witcher- True confession time, I wouldn’t have watched this without my son asking me to watch it. It’s a show based on a book that inspired a video game- now you understand my hesitation. After watching it, and LOVING it, it’s proof to me that I need to keep an open mind in life and not judge things before giving them a try. The Witcher is delightful and mesmerizing, and has the catchiest little tune that you won’t be able to stop singing. The main protagonist, Geralt of Rivia, is played by the very easy-to-look-at Henry Cavill… you’re welcome xoxoxo. Geralt of Rivia is a solitary monster hunter who feels more at home slaying beasts than mingling with humans. More often than not, he finds the real monsters are the people trying to use his hunting prowess for their personal gain. My son and I are wildly excited that the second season is currently being filmed! Long live The Witcher! PS. There was one scene that my son flat out refused to watch with me… you’ll see it when it’s coming… and you wouldn’t want to watch it with your kid or mom either!
The Alienist- This is not a show about aliens from space. It’s a gritty, gruesome, brilliant thriller set in New York City in the late 1800’s. In the mid-nineteenth century, the term psychologist didn’t exist, they were called alienists. An alienist’s goal was to assist patients in overcoming their “mental alienation”/illness. In The Alienist, Dr. Laszlo Kreizler secretly teams up with a newspaper illustrator, and a NYPD secretary (Dakota Fanning!) to solve a string of brutal and disturbing murders, possibly committed by one of New York City’s first serial killers. They use early forensic investigation techniques and the emerging disciplines of psychology to find the killer. This is an incredibly well done show, but it’s not for the faint of heart. I watched it by myself (I shouldn’t have) and I know it would freak my husband out too much for him watch it. That being said, I couldn’t stop watching. It’s not all stressful… There’s a dash of romance, a pinch of history and the costumes and set are perfection. Fun fact: Season 1 and 2 have the same characters, but entirely different plot lines. You might want to watch both with the lights on.
Big Sky- This little five episode surprise came out of nowhere in the midst of a pandemic, when it seemed like nothing new was coming out, and what a fun treat to find. It aired on ABC which I have to admit, surprised me. Not because I don’t like ABC, but because this show is very edgy, creepy, and downright scary. I guess I have always considered network tv to be a little more careful and conservative with pushing limits, but then Big Sky comes along proving me wrong. Human trafficking takes center stage in this thriller. The show highlights the lengths traffickers will go to “get the goods and move the goods”. It also focuses on how far loving families and concerned law enforcement will go to get the girls back. It is a nail biting show and the finale of the the 5th episode will leave your jaw on the ground.
Castle- Richard Castle is a successful crime novelist who – for purposes of story development – becomes embedded in a NYC police precinct and assigned to follow detective Kate Becket. Neither is difficult to look at. If you are reading this then presumably you are within our target demographic and, therefore, you will assuredly understand our reference when we describe the irresistible flirtation, banter, and sexual tension simply this way: Moonlighting 2.0. The guiltiest of guilty pleasures involves reading the tabloid coverage of the show and theorizing as to what was going on behind the scenes between the two leads and how and why the show ended. Let’s just say: we await Stana Katic’s Oprah appearance to hear her side of it.
The Catch- This show has all of the classic elements of a success which leaves us wondering what we see that the networks do not. (My husband and I loved it, but it was canceled after two seasons and we still can’t figure out why.) Equal parts sexy, intriguing, and fun, The Catch is about Alice Vaughan and Valerie Anderson, two private investigators in LA, whose specialty is exposing fraud. Alice has a spectacular life. Her career, hair, wardrobe, and fiancé could make anyone envious… Until she finds out her fiancé is not who she thought he was and could quite possibly be a con-man. This show is packed with an amazing cast, beautiful settings and stunning wardrobes. It’s a fun little “catch-me-if-you-can”.
Game of Thrones- I was LATE to the party watching this one, but I have a really good reason why I didn’t watch it until 2020. In the early days of the show, I turned on the tv late one night and the scene I happened to see was one of the top three most brutal and disturbing scenes in the entire show. I never gave it a chance after that because I thought the entire show was like the scene I had witnessed. Yes, I “judged a book by a cover/ after reading just one page”, and yes, I probably have a little PTSD from that scene, but the pandemic came along and I was in a show hole, so I gave it another try. I LOVED IT like the rest of the world! Imagine nine noble families ruling over a land called Westeros. There are good guys, there are baaaaaaddd guys, there is love and hope and hate and war. There are Dragons! Just watch it if you haven’t. Or watch it again because it has been so many years since you last watched it. I’d recommend closing your eyes or fast forwarding if you need to. I watched the final season with a dear friend on Zoom during the pandemic. Like the rest of the world, we were very disappointed with how they chose to end it.
Mindhunter- Can you believe there was ever a time when profiling serial killers didn’t exist? Mindhunter is a show based on the FBI agents who invented it. For years, the agents fought to break the MMO mold (means, motive, and opportunity) used by the FBI to investigate and solve crimes. They interviewed America’s most notorious serial killers to help create a new way to investigate crimes using psychology and sociology as a way to find MMO. They struggled to be taken seriously. They struggled to make a change. But they never gave up. And the changes they were able to make has changed the FBI for good. And I feel safer knowing it.
Nashville– Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere play Rayna James and Juliette Barnes, two of Nashville’s country music superstars. Rayna James is the Queen of Country, or is she? When her label forces her to team up with rising star, Juliette Barnes, in order to guarantee ticket sales for her upcoming tour, she grapples with the fact that her star might be fading. We think of this as a soap opera for nighttime; lots of silly drama, but totally addicting and fun to watch. Skip this if you are looking to increase your standardized testing scores.
Prodigal Son- If a young man changes his last name in order to distance himself from his father, you know some bad sh** went down. That is exactly the case for Malcolm Bright, son of Martin Whitly, more famously known as The Surgeon — a serial killer. As a child, Malcolm had the burden of notifying the police about strange happenings in their house (ok, the basement if you really want to know) which ultimately led to his father’s arrest and incarceration. Malcom grew up, joined the FBI as a profiler, got released from the FBI, and currently works for the NYPD as a consultant to help solve crimes. In the beginning of the series there is a copycat serial killer on the loose mimicking The Surgeon, which forces Malcolm to confront his father after a decade of silence. The crack in the door that opens between the two of them blows wide open as Malcom routinely gets drawn into Martin’s insane orbit in order to solve horrible crimes. Not to mention possibly exorcizing his own inner demons related to his father and what he did to their family and the victims. His relationships with his mom and his sister are equally complicated and strained at any given point in time, because they are all survivors of The Surgeon, even though they lived to tell about it. We all know healing is not a straight or well-ordered path
Revenge- While some say revenge is a dish best served cold, here the Revenge is smoking hot! This show has it all: secrets, intrigue, conspiracy, beautiful people, stunning settings, and killer fashion. Nobody is wearing sweatpants on this one! The show follows Emily Thorne — a gorgeous, single, wildly wealthy, philanthropist who bursts onto the scene Hamptons scene in 2011. She has her sights set on befriending the Graysons of Grayson Global. Conrad Grayson is the CEO and his wife, Victoria, is queen bee of the Hamptons socialite circle. Her goal is not for the reasons you think. Emily is actually Amanda Clarke, daughter of David Clarke, who was a hedge fund manager for Grayson Global. In 1993, he was falsely accused and convicted of funneling money to a terrorist group who ultimately claimed responsibly for the downing of a commercial airliner. It ruined both of their lives. Emily/Amanda has a single-minded mission: avenge her father. And the Grayson family is in her cross-hairs to receive a full dose of old-testament, eye-for-an-eye justice…
Rookie Blue- This is a show that punches above its weight class. It is a classic police drama that follows the bonds that develop in a rookie class of officers as they navigate the growing pains in their professional and personal lives. While there is nothing new or novel about the plot, the ensemble character development and acting brings this rookie class to life in a compelling way. It is a great and relatively light addition to the line-up that we enjoy when we lack the stamina for the more intense law enforcement shows on air.
The Undoing- This fabulous mini-series starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant is a wonderful, modern-day whodunnit. Grace and Jonathan Fraser seem like the couple who has it all. She’s a therapist and he’s a pediatric oncologist. They have an adorable little boy who plays the violin and goes to a fancy private school. They live and move in the circles and places where the top one-percent of the one percenters are found. And then there’s a murder. Whodunnit??? People circle their wagons to protect the ones they love, and you’re left wondering if you can get away with murder depending on which circle you’re in. It’s a fun watch, a little outlandish in places, but a great escape. On a total tangent, I found Nicole Kidman’s wardrobe and perfect manicures swoon-worthy. Especially considering I have 100% committed myself to ath-leisure wear and naked fingernails and toenails during the pandemic. I confess I was actually jealous of her nails… and the outfit she wore to the gala…
What/If?- Think of Indecent Proposal re-shot as a soap opera. What/If? is a binge-worthy guilty pleasure. If you are not familiar with Indecent Proposal, in a nutshell, it follows a down-on-their-luck couple and the lengths they’ll go to and morals they will erode in order to secure much needed money. Robert Redford played the money guy who wanted to sleep with another man’s wife in exchange for the money. In What/If, Renee Zellweger has the money and will give it in exchange for sleeping the woman’s husband. As the ripple effects of relatively good people doing questionably bad things begins to touch all areas of their lives you see how quickly one action can unravel everything. It is expected that future seasons will tackle different tales of morality. This show had me at Renee Zellweger. (I meant that pun!) I am so happy she has made a victorious and triumphant return to Hollywood.
White Collar- I watched this a long time ago… all 6 seasons… and I still have a real fondness for this show. Cutie-pie Matt Bomer plays white-collar criminal, Neal Caffrey. In exchange for his freedom, he teams up with an FBI agent to help catch other white-collar criminals. This show is a delight. There’s action and intrigue, but at the end of the day it’s about the power of friendship… Have fun watching it!
You- Oh Boy! This show is a doozy! My son watched it (alone). I watched it (alone). And thank goodness for that. It is a dark, DARK, super-sexy show. The main character, Joe, is a brilliant, charming, dark, dangerous, obsessive guy. Whoever he sets his sights on, he gets. And from the bottom of my heart, you do not want to be the one he sets his sights on. It pretty much always turns out horribly for that person. Yep- he’s a sociopath that you love to hate and hate to love.
Anne with an E- Anne with an E is a fresh take on the classic tale of Anne of Green Gables. It follows the life and adventures of sweet and sassy Anne, a tween orphan girl living on Prince Edward Island during the late 1800’s. Anne is the underdog in pretty much everything, but that never gets her down or dampens her curiosity, optimism, and enthusiasm. You will love this version and Anne and root for her, her friends and her family throughout the show.
The Durrells in Corfu- I found this treasure of a show four months into the pandemic. For four glorious seasons I laughed and cried with this special family. The story begins in 1935. Louisa Durrell is a widow in England trying her best to support herself and her four children. They have almost nothing, and nothing is going well for them. Almost on a whim, she announces that they are moving to the Greek island of Corfu. It’s a real life Odyssey for them. They have to overcome mountains of obstacles and learn how to survive and then thrive. They learn to fit into a new culture and to live without electricity. The situations and lessons they learn are hilarious and sometimes profound. Louisa is phenomenal and flawed mother who cares deeply for her four wonderfully and wildly different children and would do anything to keep her family safely together. This family loves fiercely, but not effortlessly. The delightful Durrells live their best lives in Corfu from 1935-1939… and then WWII shows up on their front doorstep… You have to watch to find out what happens. I am so happy this show was 4 seasons long… I would have been thrilled with 4 more seasons, but I can’t control critical historical moments and dates… unless I could live in the tv show Timeless?!?
Larkrise to Candleford- If you are a period-drama fan, this show is an absolute treat. Larkrise to Candleford follows young Laura Timmons when she is forced to leave her small hamlet of Larkrise to seek employment at the Post Office in bustling Candleford. She is hired by Dorcas Lane, the resident postmistress. Dorcas becomes mentor and friend to Laura. The Post Office is the hub of activity in town and sometimes even the cause of conflict between the residents of Larkrise and Candleford, which as you may have guessed, leaves Laura stuck in the middle. Over the four seasons the characters begin to feel like old friends. Things get exciting when the villagers make mountains out of molehills, but in the end everything always works out. I know people have distinct opinions about happy endings, but this is a great show to come back to again and again, just to get lost in the yumminess.
The Paradise- The Paradise is an adaptation of Emile Zola’s novel, Au Bonheur des Dames, which retells the story of Aristide Boucicaut, the founder of the world’s first department store, Le Bon Marche. Instead of being set in France, The Paradise comes to life on the lively streets of 1875 Victorian England. This show is rich with amazing characters and gorgeous costumes. It portrays the lives, loves, and losses of the people who work and shop at The Paradise and the surrounding community. John Moray is the visionary and soul that turns a small shop into The Paradise. The employees at The Paradise not only work there, but they live there too. Miss Audrey is Head of Ladieswear, and responsible for keeping decorum and propriety in all things related to the young employees and The Paradise. In spite of her best efforts, there are trials, tribulations, and scandals largely driven by the arrival of plucky country girl with big dreams. I can’t recommend this show enough. It’s simply delightful. If you watch it, please don’t skip the intro. Also, please don’t confuse this show with Mr. Selfridge, which is also about a department store in London from the years 1908-1928. (I will write about this this show in another installment.)
The Crown- I love historical fiction books, so it stands to reason that I’d love this historical fiction drama. The Crown is about Queen Elizabeth II, her reign and her life. The first two seasons cover her life as a young woman, young queen and young mom. The third season shows her coming into her own. The fourth season is mostly about Lady Diana Spencer. It’s all pure viewing delight: the storyline, the costumes, the acting. I know it’s not a documentary, but they cover the historical moments beautifully. One thing of the things I learned: It’s not easy being Queen.
Downton Abbey- The people at Vox said it best: “Downton Abbey is much more than a television show. It’s a cultural touchstone — a gif-able, meme-able, hate-watch-able series with all the trappings of BBC royalty.”Downton Abbey is an epic period drama set in post Edwardian England. (If you’re curious, here’s the difference between the Victorian Era and the Edwardian Era: the Victorian Era was the time Victoria was on the throne (1837-1901) and the Edwardian Era was the time in which her son, Edward VII was on the throne (1901-1910). This show is heavy on period and heavy on drama. It follows the lives of the Crawley family, the Grantham family, and the staff who serve them at the fictional estate of Downton Abbey. It opens with the family learning about a change in heirs because of a death on the Titanic, and then things really take off! Downton Abbey is a new millennium version of the series Upstairs, Downstairs, which tells the story of how the upstairs nobles interact with the downstairs servants, and it’s wonderful. It’s like a giant, perfectly executed, high-end soap opera set in the early 1900’s. The cast, the costumes, the actual castle (Highclere Castle in Hampshire, England) are just beyond! I watched this show in real time every Sunday night on PBS. It was widely known in the house that no-one should even think about disturbing me from 9-10pm. 🙂
Elementary- This tv series is yet another modern take on the cases of Sherlock Holmes and I’m not mad about it. Seriously, who doesn’t love Sherlock Holmes?!? Elementary is set in New York City where Sherlock (Johnny Lee Miller) is living and working as a consultant for the NYPD. He meets Dr. Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) who is a surgeon and sober companion at the beginning of the show but ultimately becomes a NYPD Detective. Our family watched this show in real time and we all loved it because seriously, what’s not to love about Sherlock Holmes?
The Great- This lovely little show is equal parts comedy and drama. It’s a sassy, irreverent telling of the rise of Catherine the Great to Empress of All Russia. Elle Fanning plays Catherine the Great and she’s so good she should win an award… maybe she already has? The show takes great pride in reminding the viewer that the story they are watching is an occasionally true retelling of the story, so definitely don’t watch this and think you could pass a test on Russian history.
Killing Eve- This show is one of my ALL TIME FAVORITES! It has been described as a dark comedy/drama, but I would call it a dark, delicious, comedy-drama, thriller draped in haute couture. Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy) plays Eve Polastri, an American working for British Intelligence who becomes obsessed with profiling, chasing, and capturing Villanelle, a sociopath assassin, played by Jodie Comer (Star Wars, The White Princess). I suspect you will find yourself getting lost in the Villanelle collection on Pinterest… enjoy.
Little Fires Everywhere- This show is based on Celeste Ng’s 2017 hit novel. I read it with my bookclub and we were all really excited when it was announced that Reese Witherspoon was making it into a show. I was looking forward to watching it with my bookclub, but then the pandemic hit and I ended up watching it with my husband. It was fun watching it with someone who hasn’t read the book. I found myself hitting pause and sharing what happened in the book when the show wasn’t consistent with the book. (I hit pause more than I expected to…) I don’t want to give away any specific details if you want to read the book or watch the show, but this is what I can say… Little Fires Everywhere is set in Shaker Heights, Ohio, a posh suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. The book and show boast that it is the first planned community in America. The planners of the community imagined the magnates of the time living in a place they saw as perfect, complete with rigid architectural guidelines and deed restrictions intended to keep specific races and religions out. For a book that tackles the topics of class, culture, race, religion, education, and childrearing, Shaker Heights is the perfect setting. They are still trying to set things right over 100 years later as evidenced by the article titled This trail-blazing suburb has tried for 60 years to tackle race. What if trying isn’t enough? in the Washington Post from 10/11/2019. The one truth that unites the women in this show is motherhood. No matter who they are, as mothers they are fearsome warriors and protectors of their families. Little Fires Everywhere is a good read and a good watch… do both and have fun comparing!
Longmire- Longmire is a modern day Western, set in Wyoming, and rich with modern day problems. Walt Longmire is a dedicated, levelheaded, silently broken-hearted Sheriff in Absaroka County, Wyoming (fictional county, I checked because it looked like a nice place to vacation). He has amazing friends, family and colleagues who help him navigate life and law in his county which also has an Indian Reservation located within the boundaries. Occasionally the tribal police force and his own department butt heads, but his close friendship with Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips) helps both sides keep the peace. It’s a wonderful drama. The characters are remarkable. I was in a real show hole when this one ended.
Mad Men- This show has deservedly won Golden Globes for Best Television Series, Primetime Emmys for Outstanding Drama, and Screen Actors Guild and Writers Guild of America awards to name a few. Dive into the world of mid-century awesome with this wonderful drama set in the advertising world of 1960’s New York City. Mad Men follows the professional and personal lives of the men and women who work at fictional Stirling Cooper Advertising Agency on Madison Avenue. Stirling Cooper is a bustling place full of a cast of interesting characters. Don Draper is the creative director and genius of the company. One of my favorites is Joan, a fiery redhead who is the head secretary and runs the whole show. Don and Joan live at a time where Lucky Strike Cigarettes is the biggest account for their company, and excessive smoking, drinking, and womanizing is the norm. Just imagine what happens based on that knowledge alone. If you love great characters, storyline, sets, costumes, hair and makeup, you’ll adore this award winning show!
Money Heist- Yes! Yes! YES! This show has it all. I’ll give a little description, but just watch it. You will not be disappointed. A mastermind, criminal-planner who calls himself “The Professor” assembles the top criminals in the country, each with their own specialty, to pull off the biggest heist in history: rob the Royal Mint of Spain. The crime team never shares their true identities, instead they choose names of a major cities…think Tokyo, Nairobi, Berlin, Helsinki, etc. This show is a true thriller. Full disclosure, it was filmed in Spanish and dubbed in English, which I thought would off-putting, but I got over it in less than 10 minutes. “Bella Ciao, Ciao, Ciao…”
Reign- In Reign, we take the leap from historical drama to historical fantasy and I’m totally ok with it! The show follows the life of Mary Stuart, who we all know as Mary, Queen of Scots. I had to steal this quote from the CW because it’s just too perfect. “Reign chronicles the rise to power of Mary, Queen of Scots when she arrives in France as a 15-year-old, betrothed to Prince Frances, and with her four best friends as ladies-in-waiting. It details the secret history of survival at French Court amidst fierce foes, dark forces, and a world of sexual intrigue.”
Sherlock- If you love Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game, Doctor Strange) as much as I do, you don’t even need the description for this modernized adaptation of Sherlock Holmes. You’ll be just like me and say you had me at Benedict. If you are not familiar with this brilliant take on Sherlock Holmes, let me share some of the highlights: Martin Freeman (Black Panther, The Hobbit) shows up as Dr. John Watson and together he and Sherlock solve Sherlock Holmes worthy crimes. Moriarty, Sherlock’s arch nemesis, is never far from mind or sight, and he is never up to any good. Mr. Cumberbatch plays Sherlock brilliantly; he wraps the quirky, eccentric, troubled Sherlock Holmes into a package pretty enough to rival any under the tree. This series ran from 2010-2017, (2010- 3 episodes, 2012- 3 episodes, 2014- 4 episodes, 2016/2017- 4 episodes) so only 15 episodes total. We kept our fingers crossed that the 2 year span between new episodes would give us 3 or 4 more in 2019, but sadly we are still waiting.
Suits- Hello to the show where I first met Megan Markle! She was every bit as ravishing when she played Rachel Zane, donning her signature pencil skirts and button downs as she was in any of her royal engagements. That being said, she was not the reason we became immediately addicted to the show. Mike Ross bursts onto the scene as a person in the wrong place at the right time and unwittingly teams up with Harvey Specter, one of New York City’s best legal closers. Harvey teaches Mike. Mike teaches Harvey. We all fall in love with Donna, Harvey’s assistant and wish Harvey would too. We all despise and then some to accept and appreciate Harvey’s office nemesis, Louis Litt. This is a great legal drama with really great fashion. Just don’t ask my husband how he feels about all the male characters who don’t remove their suit jackets when they are seated and working at their desks…
The Borgias- Rotten Tomatoes calls this show a “sumptuous Renaissance-era soap opera-costume drama that is a blend of Corleones and Sopranos”. They are not wrong. My friend told me about this show years ago. If I’m being honest, it was a decade ago… The Borgias follows Rodrigo Borgias (played by the Fabulous Jeremy Irons) and his family in their drama-filled and scandalous ascension to the papacy. The Borgias family will stop at nothing in their quest for power and wealth. If you enjoy survivor island scenarios, this show is for you. It’s survivor island on crack. They use (exploit?!?) every person and every situation for their own personal gain… marriage alliances, murder, war, sex, incest, orgies… anything to get the upper hand. I am not a prude, but some scenes could make a girl blush.
Call the Midwife- Every once in a while, a show comes along that makes people’s eyes sparkle and their hearts glow when they talk about it. Call the Midwife is one of those shows. It is based on the best-selling memoirs of Jennifer Worth. When the story begins in 1957, Jenny is a bright eyed 22-year-old who just got a job as a midwife at Nonnatus House — a convent where nurses live and work. In the beginning, Jenny is daunted by her surroundings, but she quickly falls in love with the community and the women she works with. If you are in search of a beautiful, moving, and funny show, this is for you.
Enola Holmes- This is not a series, it’s a 2 hour movie, but it’s so good I had to mention it. At one point in the fall of 2020, Enola Holmes was the most watched movie on Netflix. Unless you are familiar with Nancy Springer’s Enola Holmes Mystery book series, you don’t know about Sherlock Holmes’s little sister, Enola. Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things) is enchanting in the role of Enola… she made me believe Sherlock was always meant to have a sister. The entire show is star-studded… Helena Bonham Carter plays her mom and Henry Cavill (you’re welcome again!) plays Sherlock. The show follows Enola from childhood, to the disappearance of her mother on her 16th birthday, to the wild adventure she goes on in an attempt to solve a mystery that could have far reaching consequences country wide. If you need a quick, uplifting watch, this is for you! PS. She breaks the fourth wall more times than I personally care for, but if you aren’t bothered by the occasional break away when a character addresses the camera directly, you’ll be ok.
The Man is the High Castle- Wowza! As a history buff and historical-fiction lover, this show seemed like a no-brainer. But the viewer has to take everything they know about WWII and turn it up-side-down… like so up-side-down that America did not win the war. And now America is ruled by Japan on the West Coast, and Germany on the East Coast. There is an area in The Midwest that is a neutral zone, but other than that, Japan and Germany are are calling all the shots. This show does a brilliant job depicting what life would have looked like if America had lost the war…. And what lengths Americans will go to in order to win back their freedoms.
Marco Polo- This show follows explorer Marco Polo on his journeys across Asia and after he is taken prisoner by Kublai Khan. Kublai Khan wants to become the emperor of the world, and he wants Marco Polo to assist. Marco has to learn as he goes in order to survive the politics and culture at court. Like all royal courts throughout history, the court of Kublai Khan is rich with greed, rivalry, sex, and betrayal. I think the critic ratings vs. audience score for seasons one and two is fascinating.
Season One: Season Two:
Critic Rating- 33% Critic Rating- 94%
Audience Rating- 93% Audience Rating- 100%
Bottom line, this show is a crowd pleaser. It only lasted two seasons, but it’s a fun one to watch. My friend and I have a theory that Marco Polo was Netflix’s attempt at making a show akin to Game of Thrones. They spent a lot of money and ended up losing close to 200 million dollars. Ouch.
Miss Fischer’s Murder Mysteries- I loved this series with my whole heart. Sometimes when I love a show too much I don’t do it justice with my words. IMDb literally wrote the mic drop description… “A female sleuth sashays through the back alleys and jazz clubs of Melbourne in the late 1920’s, fighting injustice with her pearl-handled pistol and her dagger-sharp wit.” Phryne Fisher is fabulous. She’s a smart, glamorous, fearless, champion of people who can’t help themselves. And the sexual tension she shares with Detective Inspector Jack Robinson is on par with Maddie and David in Moonlighting from the 80’s. You just want them to kiss already! I was in a real show hole when this one ended. And then just like that, they released a Miss Fisher full feature film. It gave me the same feeling I always get at a restaurant after we order and eat dessert and then get the bill with yet another little tray of sugary treats. I absolutely didn’t need anything else, but I’m so glad they brought it…
Reign- 15-year-old Mary Stuart, who will come to be known as Mary Queen of Scots, is betrothed to France’s Prince Frances to secure a strategic alliance between the two countries. She is headstrong, beautiful, passionate and armed with the friendship of her BFFs/ ladies-in-waiting. They are ready for anything that comes their way at French court. Frances is intrigued by Mary but his heart belongs to another. His half-brother/ bastard son of the King, Bash, has a spirit and sensitivity that Mary finds attractive. There is love, lust, murder, dark forces, and sexual intrigue. The costumes are spectacular! The music, while not historically accurate, is a fun addition to the pageantry. The show is a joyous escape, more historical fantasy than fact, but totally enjoyable nonetheless. Just don’t use it as a study guide for a royal history test.
The White Princess- As I mentioned in What to Watch Now #3, Philippa Greggory is the Queen of the Historical-Fiction Scene… she has written so many incredible books that have been turned into movies and mini-series… and I recommend all of them. If you are going to treat yourself and watch all the shows, it makes the most sense to watch them in order. If you are a logical thinker, the titles don’t line up the way your brain wants them to… The White Queen comes before The White Princess… and The Spanish Princess is the third and final show thus far. Now back to The White Princess… this story is based on Elizabeth of York, The White Queen’s Daughter, and her marriage to Lancastrian Henry (Tudor) VII. The marriage united the Yorks and Tudors, and ended The War of the Roses. Simply put, the series focuses on Elizabeth being torn between the worlds of Tudor and York. If you love family trees, family secrets and family drama, this is a show for you! And as a bonus, it sets you up for The Spanish Princess! Elizabeth of York and Henry VII are the parents of Arthur and Henry, who both go on to marry Catherine of Aragon, The Spanish Princess, which may be my favorite of all of the Princess/Queen shows.
The White Queen- Philippa Greggory is one of the world’s foremost historical novelists… aka Queen of the Historical-Fiction Scene… I know I’m writing a series about what to watch now, but Philippa Gregory has written so many incredible books that have been turned into movies and mini-series I would be remiss not to highly recommend reading any and all of her books. Her novels (and shows that follow) are largely told from the point-of-view of women. In her interpretations, it’s easy to see how the women, who had limited influence and power at the time, used intellect, rumors, religion, alliances and sex to influence the future of their lives/families lives and even the fabric and fate of the country. The White Queen is about Edward and Elizabeth who are star-crossed lovers on the level of Romeo and Juliet. The King’s advisor is not at all happy that Edward fell in love with the wrong woman. At the same time, Margaret Beauford will stop at nothing to get her son, Henry, his rightful place on the throne. The White Queen also touches on the infamous story of the princes in the Tower and the tyrant King Richard III. Have fun getting swept into this saga. My husband and I eagerly anticipated each new episode. You will too!
Big Little Lies- If you have not yet seen this, then congratulations on your early release from prison. Don’t know how you could have missed this one, but we are sure you have your good reasons. A magnificent mystery, beautifully told, the incredible acting of which is only exceeded by the impossible beautify of the setting, set design, and wardrobe selection. A refreshing new riff on the classic WhoDunIt – this thriller has more twists and turns than Nicole Kidman’s extensions. The show is not squeamish about addressing race, sex, class, gender, and money. It is the standard bearer for the limited mini-series format that is now part of our daily diet.
Bridgerton- And just when I thought 2020 had nothing good to offer… Bridgerton came along on December 25… quickly proving that Christmas miracles do exist. Bridgerton comprises 8 episodes of utter delight and escapism. It is the most-watched series on Netflix this year – 82 million households cannot be wrong! I am not going to give a description (because watching this is non-negotiable) other than a tagline stolen from IMDb: “Wealth, Lust, and Betrayal set against the backdrop of Regency-era England”. Now hurry along and get to watching! Oh, and PS. Just a little heads-up… Bridgerton employed an intimacy coach for their actors… make of it what you will… and maybe watch it alone before you share it with someone who might be too young to watch it. Or use it as a way to open the door to the birds-and-bees conversation. I’m just sayin…
The Chi- Chicago is a city with 77 officially defined community areas, but it has over 200 distinct neighborhoods, each with its own identity. The Chi is about one of the neighborhoods well-known by many: The South Side. If you watch the news, you know that the south side of Chicago can be a rough neighborhood full of real, life-and-death dangers. In this brilliant show, Lena Waithe manages to weave together both the terrifying realities that we’ve come to know from the media, but also the beautiful sense of community shared by the people who live there. In The Chi, Ms. Waithe shows us a close-knit neighborhood: a community that on any given day is driven by kids readying themselves for school, parents making their way to work, and grandparents keeping a watchful eye over the neighborhood from inside their homes or from their front porches. It’s the things that happen in the dark alleys and shadows of this community that make it so tragic. In The Chi, a series of fateful events bind the lives of Emmett, Brandon, Ronnie, and Kevin in huge and unexpected ways and also sends shockwaves throughout the entire community. The Chi brings to life the south side of Chicago, with its rich history, food, traditions and culture. It delivers it right into your living room and you will be sitting on the edge of your seat from the first to the last episode… and good news… season 4 is coming out in May.
Mr. Selfridge- There’s so much to say about Mr. Selfridge so please forgive me if it all comes out sounding like a ten-year-old hopped up on sugar and caffeine. Mr. Selfridge is a series about Harry Selfridge (real guy), his department store, and his family from 1908-1928. Selfridges is a high-end department store that opened in London at a time in history when women were beginning to enjoy increasing amounts of freedom to both work and shop. Harry Selfridge’s drive, vision, and over-the-top flamboyance made Selfridge’s a destination to seek out.
***Tangent Alert! In the second installment, I wrote about The Paradise, a historical fantasy about the first department store in France, but set in late 1870’s Victorian England. The owner/visionary of The Paradise, Moray, is essentially the same character as Selfridge. So similar in fact, that the network pushed back the release of Mr. Selfridge by a year. I watched The Paradise before Mr. Selfridge and couldn’t shake the feeling that The Paradise didn’t get renewed after the second season simply because it didn’t have the star power Mr. Selfridge had. What a pity. At any other time both shows could have easily had multiple seasons… but at the same time apparently only one could survive to make it to four seasons. ***Tangent Over!
Mr. Selfridge did a great job capturing the roller-coaster life of Harry Selfridge and the price he paid to build a retail empire that would long outlast him. PS. I was slow to warm to this show because: (1) I’m convinced it caused the cancellation of the Paradise; and (2) I met Jeremy Piven in NYC. My takeaway from that meeting is this: Sometimes it’s best not to meet the actors in person you love to watch on the screen. Anyhoo, maybe it is his discourteous disposition that’s what makes him perfect for the role of Harry Selfridge?
The Queen’s Gambit- This must see drama is another good thing that came out of 2020… and another most-watched show on Netflix. The Queen’s Gambit is set in the 1950’s-1960’s. It follows Beth Harmon, a nine-year-old orphan, as she learns to master the game of chess and battle drug and alcohol addiction. The performance is masterful and the production is spot on. It’s all so fantastic that there has been an uptick of interest in the game of chess simply because of this show! Another must watch show in our opinion.
This is Us- The story starts off simple enough… boy loves girl… girl loves boy… boy and girl get married and get pregnant with triplets. But it’s so much more than that. The boy, Jack Pearson, is a guy who has overcome a lot of struggles in life and strives daily to be the man, father and husband he wishes he’d had as a child. The girl, Rebecca Pearson, leaves a life of privilege to be with the man of her dreams- the one who puts her first in everything and wants to make her happy. This is Us follows their lives and the lives of their children in one of the most heart-warming and gut-wrenching shows I’ve watched in a long time. You fall in love with this family, flaws and all, and find yourself rooting for them from the comfort of your own home. Six seasons later I still get tears in my eyes when I think about the final episode of season one. Now that I think about it — and I just confirmed this with my husband – I cry during almost every episode. Who knew?
Yellowstone- Gunsmoke meets Dynasty meets Falcon Crest meets The Sopranos. John Dutton (Kevin Costner) is the owner and guardian of Montana’s largest ranch – The Yellowstone. Not surprisingly, he is one of the most power men in the state. The ranch is under serial siege by real estate developers seeking to surround it with ski slopes and subdivisions, gaming interests seeking to expand local casinos, and Native Americans seeking to return the lands that comprise The Yellowstone to their natural state. The show chronicles the conflicts the Dutton family encounters trying to preserve The Yellowstone for future generations. Not all members of the Dutton family are aligned – some would sell – others would die before that happens. This is one of our favorite shows – frontier justice at its finest. There are portions of it that are difficult to watch. That said, it is well-worth the investment and we rate his as a “must see.”
Stay tuned for the final installment on May 27, 2021.