YOUR WEEKLY BINGE: Shōgun

If you thought Netflix’s Ripley was the pinnacle of prestige television this season, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.

Based on the 1975 novel by James Clavell, Shōgun is a new FX limited series, available to stream on Hulu. Yes, you may remember the first television mini-series adaptation of the novel, which was a huge success back in 1980, but we’ve come a long way in 44 years, and everything in this current series reflects that.

Created by husband-and-wife team Rachel Kondo and Justin Marks, Shōgun is an epic, magnificent, daring and staggeringly beautiful series that not only honors the novel, but the Japanese culture of the 15th century on which it is based. Although it is an American production, almost the entire cast is made up of Japanese actors, the setting mostly in Japan, and most of the dialogue is in Japanese. It may be big ask for mainstream American audiences to embrace something so different and unlike what they are used to, but the reward is a show as good as anything you’ve ever seen on television. From the costumes to the production design to the cinematography to the acting and the overall visual beauty, not much beats this production of Shōgun, as you will likely see at the Emmys later this year.

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YOUR WEEKLY BINGE: The Tourist

Usually, when a show is cancelled by a streaming service after just one season, it’s not a good sign. But when another streamer instantly jumps in and picks it up, it often means someone might have made a mistake. We saw that already on our Weekly Binge with Girls 5Eva, which was dropped by Peacock, only to be picked up by Netflix, where it has found a much larger and devoted audience. I believe Peacock just didn’t know what they had, and it took Netflix to figure it out.

In the case of another series, The Tourist, which ran on MAX for one season back in 2022 (back when it was HBO MAX) but then was dropped, only to be picked up by Netflix for its second season, which premiered back in February, I believe the reason was a little more content-driven. (Or maybe Netflix just has so much coin, it can afford to go around sweeping up everyone else’s castoffs. Who knows.)

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YOUR WEEKLY BINGE: Colin from Accounts

I’m starting to think Australia has the best shows. First, there was discovering the most excellent Mr. Inbetween (see my Binge alert from February 8), and now I’ve found an equally insanely good comedy, Colin from Accounts, available to stream on Paramount+.

Colin from Accounts stars Harriet Dyer and Patrick Brammall, real-life husband and wife who also created the series and wrote each episode, who play Ashley and Gordon, a couple brought together by weird and awkward circumstance whose romance turns out to be even weirder and more awkward. It would be too simple to label Colin from Accounts a rom-com, but, if I must, then I will, since it does involve romance and it is terrifically funny, but I truly want you to dismiss any other standard expectations that may come with the label.

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YOUR WEEKLY BINGE: Lawmen: Bass Reeves

Whenever there is a hit show, there inevitably comes a flood of imitators and similarly themed shows trying to capitalize on the same success. For writer Taylor Sheridan, who already had established himself in 2016 for writing the screenplay for the Best Picture-nominated film Hell or High Water (which I LOVE), he exploded into another atmosphere with the success of Yellowstone, the Western soap opera starring Kevin Costner that proved to be alternative programming for those Americans longing for something on TV that felt more “traditional”, with a focus on the heartland and more relatable characters—mainly meaning white and rural. I’m totally not commenting on the political aspects of this, but Yellowstone proved to be a massive hit, so Sheridan followed it up with several other series cut from the same cloth (and targeting the same audience), including The Last Cowboy, Tulsa King, Mayor of Kingstown and two Yellowstone prequels, 1883 and 1923 (all available on Paramount+).

But Sheridan’s most recent creation, a series which premiered on Paramount+ in 2023, interestingly breaks from some of the familiar traditions of his previous series. Lawmen: Bass Reeves is an 8-part mini-series about the legendary frontier lawman Bass Reeves, starring David Oyelowo as the titular character. What makes Lawmen: Bass Reeves so good is it has all the great things about a Taylor Sheridan influence without too many of the negative ones. In this series, Sheridan only serves as an executive producer, as it is Chad Feehan who serves as series creator and writer. While the Sheridan themes are most definitely still there, Feehan expands the limitations of the traditional Sheridan universe to tell much deeper and more diverse stories. And, for the purposes of breaking from the cookie cutter Yellowstone imitators, Lawmen: Bass Reeves certainly stands apart.

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YOUR WEEKLY BINGE: Ripley

If ever there was such a thing as “prestige TV,” Ripley is it. Based on the novel that inspired Anthony Minghella’s luscious 1999 pulp masterpiece, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Ripley can be easily written off as not more than a TV series capitalizing on a familiar and much-beloved movie, but that would be horribly unfair. The eight-part Netflix miniseries, starring Andrew Scott in the titular role, is a much deeper exploration of the character of Thomas Ripley, and I’m told a much closer adherence to the book it is based on.

I will admit, it was hard for me to get excited about this series, because I really wasn’t interested in seeing another version of the story that I thought had been done so well in Minghella’s film. But I quickly realized, once I did start watching, that the vision for Ripley, by writer/director Steven Zaillian, was so different from the film, that it truly does stand on its own, even though it does share major plot beats with the film and novel.

Zaillian, known more for his screenplays than for his directing, is as prestige as it gets in Hollywood, having won an Oscar for his screenplay for Schindler’s List in 1993 and been nominated four other times. Because of this, he was able to enlist Oscar-winning cinematographer Robert Elswit, who won his Academy Award for There Will Be Blood, to be behind the camera for Ripley and boy does it show.

Here are just a few of the films that Elswit shot: Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Good Night, and Good Luck, Michael Clayton, Nightcrawler, and Inherent Vice. But I dare say his work on Ripley will go down as his crowning achievement.

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YOUR WEEKLY BINGE: Griselda

It was only a matter of time. And timing.

Sofia Vergara shot to fame playing Gloria, the smarter-than-she-seems arm candy to Ed O’Neill’s Jay in the massively successful (and award-winning) sitcom Modern Family, which aired on ABC from 2009 to 2020, but struggled to carve out a serious acting career and has mainly parlayed her fame to a career as a host on shows such as America’s Got Talent and Germany’s Next Top Model. Being from Colombia, English is Vergara’s second language and her strong accent and stunning beauty made it hard for any casting director to take her seriously for roles.

Although it might have initially worked against her, it is to Vergara’s credit that she managed to establish herself fully in Hollywood, downplaying her Colombian roots. If there’s one thing Colombian actors have in common with German ones, it’s that you can’t avoid playing at least one stereotype role in your career. Surprisingly, Vergara had managed to avoid playing a Colombian drug dealer (or the wife/girlfriend of one) all this time, despite how good Hollywood is at typecasting.

Well, whether Vergara finally got sick of limiting herself to cheesy reality competition shows or she finally found a project that allowed her to embrace her heritage without lowering herself to being a cliché, it was worth the wait, as Vergara absolutely slays as notorious Colombian drug lord Griselda Blanco in Netflix’s 6-part series, Griselda.

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YOUR WEEKLY BINGE: Everybody’s In L.A.

If you’re looking for a quick 6-episode investment in something weird, wonderful and actually unique, I highly recommend this pseudo talk-show that aired each of its episodes live on Netflix during one glorious week in May 2024. I watched each episode live and couldn’t believe what I was watching and had no idea what was going to happen next. It was certainly fun watching it live, but it would be just as worthwhile watching these shows even after the fact.

Hosted and created by comedian John Mulaney, Everybody’s in LA was inspired by the annual Netflix Is A Joke festival, for which seemingly every comedian in the world descends upon Los Angeles to film specials around town, so Netflix can have a cache of content to air year-round. Because of this, Mulaney—who was born and raised in Chicago, went to Georgetown and was the head writer for Saturday Night Live, during which he was an avowed New Yorker–was inspired to invite some of his closest New York and Los Angeles comedian friends to discuss, sometimes in great detail, aspects of Los Angeles that make it one of the weirdest, best, and most perplexing cities in the world.

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YOUR WEEKLY BINGE: Under the Bridge

True DetectiveI really wasn’t in the mood for another crime drama about cops investigating a young girl’s death. But then, just like the most recent season of , the casting really intrigued me. When I saw that Hulu’s new show, Under the Bridge, starred Lily Gladstone and Riley Keough, I had to give it a chance. Gladstone was the best thing in Martin Scorsese’s latest film, Killers of the Flower Moon (and came thisclose to winning the Oscar for Best Actress) and Keough, with her starring role in the recent hit show Daisy Jones & The Six, is finally being known for something other than being Elvis’s granddaughter. I like both actresses a great deal, so I was curious to see them together.

Under the Bridge is based on two things: the real-life murder of a teenage girl in Victoria Island, Canada, in 1997, and the subsequent book by the same name, written by Rebecca Godfrey. Keough plays a fictionalized version of Godfrey, returning to her hometown ten years later in order to write about the murder. There’s a hint of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood in this tale, as Godfrey chooses to focus her lens almost as much on the murderers as she does the victim, but that’s just one of the ways in which Under the Bridge really feels different from every other crime drama.

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YOUR WEEKLY BINGE: Travel Man

If there’s one thing that COVID awakened in people, it’s the desire to travel. And, as a result, travel shows are more popular now than ever. Last year, AppleTV+ premiered The Reluctant Traveler with Eugene Levy and earlier this month, Max dropped four episodes of Conan O’Brien’s new travelogue, Conan O’Brien Must Go. It’s not new to have celebrities competing with the experts with their own shows where they travel the world, as everyone from Stanley Tucci, Ewan McGregor and Michael Palin have all had their own series where they visit various spots on planet Earth and take us along with them.

For my part, no matter how much I still love PBS’s Rick Steves and his professional, even-handed approach to traveling, my favorite stranger-in-a-strange-land show is Travel Man. The show premiered in 2015 on British television and there have, so far, been twelve seasons of the show, the most recent season bowing in March in Britain. Seven of the twelve seasons are currently available here on Prime Video and three seasons are available on Peacock.

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YOUR WEEKLY BINGE: Murder in Boston: Roots, Rampage, and Reckoning

It’s not always easy to face the truth of the past, but it’s sometimes essential to do so. In this country, the past is a dark and shameful thing, in many ways. We are slowly coming to terms with it, but, in order for any change to truly happen, we must understand where we came from and how far we have to go.

In the 3-part miniseries, Murder in Boston: Roots, Rampage, and Reckoning, currently streaming on MAX, filmmaker Jason Hehir tells the story of how a brutal murder in 1989 tore a city apart. But, mostly, it tells the story of how a city was forced to face its own identity, in all its ugliness. Boston’s history and journey to self-awareness is a microcosm of the entire country’s ongoing battle with acknowledging its past and reckoning with the scourge of racism that has always and still does seep into every corner of this country.

If you love true crime, this documentary will hold your attention, with tons of archival footage from the crime of the century, at least for the city of Boston, and a fascinating unfurling of events, including the really great way Hehir tells the tale, peeling back the layers, until the truth of who did it and why is finally revealed.

But, far from just being another documentary about a famous American crime, Murder in Boston: Roots, Rampage, and Reckoning is a documentary about American society, the justice system and, of course, racism. It’s impossible to look away and it’s impossible to ignore it when it’s presented in such a clear, concise, and undeniable way. It’s an incredible story, and this is an incredible documentary that I recommend highly, no matter how hard it is to stomach.