New movies haven’t been interesting to me in the past few months, so I’ve been focused on the small screen, doing some catching up on old shows, enjoying new episodes of favorites and discovering new series.
Here’s my rundown of what I’ve been watching the last couple months, with some thoughts to hopefully aid you in deciding whether you want to seek it out yourself or not. Yes, there is just too much TV, so I’m here to help—at least a little.
Ted Lasso (AppleTV+) in its 3rd and final season
If you think it’s crazy that the creators of Apple TV’s flagship and multiple-Emmy-winning hit show are ending the most popular and beloved series after just three short seasons and 34 episodes (and even crazier that Apple let them do it), maybe you won’t once you see the first few episodes of this, its third and final season. We’re almost to the end and most of the episodes have been disappointingly scattered, unfocused and, most surprisingly, joyless. The brilliance and freshness of the first season is long gone, as the show now feels tired, unable to break new ground, relying solely on the charm of the characters – and the actors who play them – who, despite their individual brilliance, simply can’t bring enough life to the uninspired script. I’m seriously hoping the final two episodes can find a way to bring things together and end the show on a high note, but it will be a tall mountain to climb to end the show anywhere close to the way it started. By far the biggest disappointment of the season so far.
Succession (HBO) in its 4th and final season
Three episodes into its final season, Jesse Armstrong’s epic, darkly comedic drama about a twisted, cruel, narcissistic and power-hungry trio of siblings all vying for a place in their sadistic father’s heart and company already had a barn-burning, game-changing episode (if you were anywhere near social media that week, someone was talking about it), so who knows what is still yet to come in the final two episodes. This show has been one of my favorites since its first season and, even though it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, it continues to get better and better and I can’t get enough. It will be sad to see it go, especially when it’s saving its best for last, but if any show knows how to tell a story and leave the stage before it becomes tired and predictable, it’s Succession.
Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Prime Video) in its 5th and final season
I’ve had the good fortune to have access to eight of the nine episodes in this final season, and I can tell you, this show is taking some big swings, but doesn’t miss on any of them. This has been, quietly, the most consistently high-quality show on television for the past five years, every element, from acting to costumes to production design to writing all coming together to create a show that should go down as one of the best of all time. If any show defines the new era of prestige TV, it’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and if you haven’t treated yourself to this show that is, well, marvelous, do yourself a favor and catch up and then savor every morsel of its final season. Alex Borstein deserves all the Emmys every year.
Perry Mason (HBO), 2 seasons so far
I finally caught up with the first season of this gritty, noir drama set in Los Angeles in the ‘40s, starring Matthew Rhys (The Americans) as a private eye-turned lawyer. The first season was inconsistent, centering on a disturbing and overwrought case of a mother charged with murdering her baby, and mixes in an even more bizarre and uninteresting subplot about a leader of a cult-like church who claims to be channeling God’s belief that not only is the mother innocent, but that the baby will come back to life. All of this is pretty uninvolving, but what makes the show worth watching anyway is its total vibe, which begins with Rhys’s stellar performance as the melancholic and moody private eye who can’t let go of his memories of fighting in the war, but tries to channel his particular set of skills to do some good. He does investigating for a lawyer he respects, played by the always-great John Lithgow and teams up—when he actually relents and admits he can’t do everything himself—with able cohorts, played by Shea Whigham and Juliet Rylance. I’m looking forward to diving into season 2, which, according to the buzz, is much better than the first. Both are available to stream on HBO MAX.
Barry (HBO) in its 4th and final season
I boldly declared Season 3 of Barry, which aired last year, the best season of television ever (only Twin Peaks: The Return comes close), so it would make sense that I had high hopes for season 4, which, like so many other top-tier shows, is ending far too soon, if you asked its fans. But star/writer/producer/director Bill Hader would say that it’s best to let the story dictate a show’s timeline, not demand, so season 4 will be the end for hitman-turned-acting student Barry and his loveable cast of misfits, criminals, and wanna bes. Barry is the definition of dark comedy (it’s much funnier than Succession) but in this final season 4, from what we’ve seen so far, it’s embracing the dark much more than the funny as we slowly wend our way to what could be a very bleak ending for our anti-hero, played with Emmy-winning brilliance by Hader. Hader also directs every episode of season 4, which, halfway in, is bolder and darker than any previous season. Although it hasn’t come close to the brilliance of season 3, I have high hopes that the conclusion of this show will leave me satisfied. Or crying in a corner, who knows.
Still yet to catch up on: The Mandalorian, Yellowjackets
Beef (Netflix) 1st season
Each time I recommend this show to friends, I get the same reaction: “YOU like a show called ‘Beef?!’” An understandable response, considering I’ve been a vegetarian for over 30 years, but I quickly advise them that the titular beef refers to an ongoing dispute between two people, not steak. And what makes Beef, a drama about the anxieties of modern life in the big city (namely: Los Angeles) so compelling and good isn’t just its various philosophical meanderings and angst-ridden human dramas, but the tremendous performances from co-stars Steven Yeun and Ali Wong, who play two strangers whose paths cross during a road rage incident. A simple (or not so simple) case of road range quickly escalates and both characters find themselves embroiled in a heated and insane case of one-ups-manship, each one driven by pride, ego and various elements of their individual lives. It is a fascinating study in human psychology, human behavior and humanity’s ability to mine the deepest compassions while also delving the depths of cruelty. It may not be your cup of tea, but if you love great performances by actors who are given character arcs unlike anything you’ve seen and you love to examine the human heart, don’t miss out on Beef, a show unlike any other you’ve seen.
Dead Ringers (Prime Video) 1st season
Oscar-winning actress Rachel Weisz portrays twin gynecologists in this twisted, dark and strangely funny remake of the 1988 David Cronenberg film, which starred Jeremy Irons. Weisz is the only reason to watch this disturbing, borderline horror series that blends science fiction with character drama, as she truly is magnificent in the dual roles of Beverly and Elliot Mantle, doctors who, despite their massively different approaches to their science, are both completely dedicated to improving the way women give birth. Not for the squeamish, there are extremely graphic scenes of childbirth and various other procedures involving female reproductive organs, but, if you can handle that, then buckle in for a harrowing and, quite frankly, addictive ride, driven by two performances by Weisz that will remind you why she has an Oscar and why the Emmy will very likely be hers as well.
Shrinking (AppleTV+) 1st season
This heartfelt comedy starring Jason Segal and Harrison Ford looks really weird on paper, and, sadly, the show just can’t seem to get past its own self-imposed hurdles involving casting and story, but there is still much to recommend it, most notably Ford’s best acting performance since Frantic. Segal and Ford play therapists who share a private practice in Los Angeles. The main plot of the show revolves around Segal’s character, who is unable to get over the death of his wife. He is useless as a single parent to his teenage daughter, he’s a bad friend to his neighbors and he’s an even worse therapist to his patients. The character is overwrought and much less charming than the writers think he is, and this is coming from someone who loves Jason Segal. It just never feels authentic to me, and every part of it falls flat. EXCEPT for Ford, who is a revelation and who makes Shrinking worth watching. He finds nuance and actually reminds us that he can be a gifted comic actor (I’m one of the few who remember Regarding Henry and Working Girl) and he is beyond charming and watchable in a show that has many flaws but none that can’t be overcome by Harrison Ford finding a whole other gear.
Poker Face (Peacock) 1st season
You probably read my review, so you know how much I adore this premiere season of a show that I hope goes on forever. Natasha Lyonne, who made the Netflix show Russian Doll such a massive delight, again swoops in and makes a show her own with her distinctive, unique and exceedingly charming comic chops. Lyonne plays Charlie Cale, a drifter who has a particular skill: she can tell when people are lying. When her gift gets her in trouble with the wrong people in Las Vegas, she is forced to go on the run, and each episode has her in a different locale, solving a different murder. A not-too-subtle homage to some classic detective shows of yore, like Columbo and Murder, She Wrote, Poker Face comes loaded with big-time guest stars, A-list directors and writers and a wink to the audience not to take anything too seriously. It is candy made with the absolute best ingredients, and if you love a little nostalgia mixed with charm, talent and murder, Poker Face is un-missable.
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story (Roku Channel) movie
This movie was #3 on my Top 10 films of 2022, but, because it is an exclusive streaming film, it wasn’t eligible for the Oscars, so I have to include it here in my streaming round-up. You can read my review here, or you can just trust me, this one will not let you down. The hardest thing about this film is finding it. Here’s how: it’s on a standalone streaming channel called The Roku Channel. Download it just like you do any other app (Netflix, Hulu, etc), create a free Roku account, and you have access to all of the free, ad-supported content. Trust me, the few ads you’ll have to sit through watching this movie will be more than worth it.
I was intrigued by the premise of a dystopian society in the future forced to live underground in a silo, but it was the overall vibe of this show that kept me watching. What does it take to keep an entire society going below ground, and what will some do to keep the truth from its citizens? If you want to know what truth, then you’ll just have to watch. I was also drawn to the impressive cast, which includes Rashida Jones, David Oyelowo, Tim Robbins, Common, Will Patton and Harriet Walter, but nobody really gets a chance to shine as the star of the show is, most certainly, the intriguing story and setting. Unfortunately, Rebecca Ferguson (Dune), who carries the show, feels miscast, which hurts the show a little, but, as I said, the actors are truly secondary. If you love sci-fi thrillers, it doesn’t get much more on the nose than this. At the very least, you’ll never take fresh air for granted again.
Mrs. Davis (Peacock)
Another sci-fi thriller, Mrs. Davis isn’t quite as bleak as Silo, but it is just as dark. You know you’re in for a wild ride when you find out this show is from the mind of Damon Lindelof, who created Lost and The Leftovers, but this show feels much more like his show Watchmen, the Emmy-winning show based on the graphic novel about morally bankrupt superheroes. Mrs. Davis feels a lot like Watchmen, in its cynicism, violence and anti-heroes, but, with a crusading nun at the center, this show feels even stranger. Betty Gilpin plays a nun who is tasked with saving the earth from an AI (named Mrs. Davis) who wants to control every living creature. But Gilpin’s Sister Simone is not any ordinary nun, she is badass and determined to succeed, and isn’t deterred by any obstacle, of which there are, well, many. Colorful and massively bizarre, there is as much humor as there is violence, but, mainly, Mrs. Davis, from the first few episodes I’ve seen so far, is a trippy mindgame that will satisfy any fan of the genre, but may be a little too out there to convince anyone who isn’t already on board.
The Night Agent (Netflix)
I’m only two episodes in and I’m hooked by this espionage thriller about an FBI agent who gets caught up in an international incident. It’s as boilerplate as you can imagine, but for those of us who love action, chases, intrigue and spies, spies, spies, The Night Agent is catnip. It may go off the rails later in the season, but, for now, I’m all in.
The Diplomat (Netflix)
I really wanted to give this show a try, as I was intrigued by the return of Keri Russell to episodic television, especially as this show looked to have a very similar vibe to Homeland, Showtime’s addictive spy thriller series, which earned star Claire Danes multiple Emmys. But, sadly, I decided to abandon it after just two episodes, as it just couldn’t grab me. The writing felt flat and uninspired, the characters were one-dimensional and there was way too much talking. I was promised a political thriller and all I got (in two episodes) was a talky mess. That’s not to say the show might not get better, but I feel Russell deserves better, and it will take a lot of convincing to get me to go back.
New shows also on my radar: Lucky Hank, The Citadel
CATCHING UP ON:
Peaky Blinders (Netflix)
This is an old show which aired its final episode of its six seasons last year, but I add it here because we have been binging it and are completely addicted. Peaky Blinders is a show that follows the Shelby crime family of Birmingham, England in the years after the first world war. The leader of the family is Tommy Shelby, played by Cillian Murphy, who was a war hero, and Tommy is both ruthless and brilliant, and is forced, over the course of six seasons, to navigate a minefield of enemies on both sides of the law, familial disputes, women, politics and his own complicated past to keep the family safe and prosperous. If you love crime families, they don’t come more alluring or watchable than the Shelbys. You can’t take your eyes off Murphy, as he gives a master performance, but everyone is good in this show, and there are several guest stars who you’ll recognize, like Sam Neill, Adrien Brody, Anya Taylor Joy and Tom Hardy, who is as Tom Hardy as he ever could be. Peaky Blinders gives you everything you could hope for from a crime drama set in the underbelly of gritty Birmingham in the 1920s. From the acting to the costumes to the production design to the cinematography to the absolutely killer score which, episode after episode, features needle drops that foster and cement the atmosphere of the show, Peaky Blinders is the ultimate crime drama series that, if you love that genre, is impossible to miss.