Jose’s "Let’s Not Lose Our Minds While The World Implodes" Binge List
So, not much going on, you know, just the end of days, I guess. With the focus on trying to stay informed but also avoid the current hellscape why not take the time to catch up on some entertainment and binge like there’s no tomorrow, because thanks to the current administration there may not be one. Please enjoy the following recommendations to escape, become enlightened, or just decompress:
Toast of London (3 Seasons, Netflix)
Part IT Crowd, part Flight of the Conchords, full outrageously vulgar British comedy. From the mind of Matt Berry (The IT Crowd, What We Do in the Shadows – The Series) comes this wickedly enjoyable look at life through the eyes of the vain and gleefully depraved struggling actor Steven Toast. The nonstop references are a treat as well as the recurring jokes (“Yes, I can hear you, Clem Fandango”) but the show is a much-needed display of Matt Berry’s extensive comedic gifts and willingness to be uncompromisingly tasteless.
The Let Down (2 Seasons, Netflix)
Star and creator Alison Bell brings forth a perceptive tale of new motherhood in all of it glory and chaotic beauty. Via her “Mommy and Me” club we get all perspectives of motherhood and fatherhood from a social media darling dealing with incontinence to a third time mother who reeks of exhaustion to a stay at home dad trying to keep his ambitious career driven wife at bay as well as a drug dealer who becomes a surprising source of support. The series tackles each issue and character with plenty of nuance and a willingness to be emotionally messy.
Great News (2 Seasons, Netflix)
30 Rock is overrated, there, I said it. Instead, I couldn’t get enough of this Tina Fey produced, but Tracy Wigfield created romp about the never-ending wackiness inside a daytime newsroom with plenty of fast-paced dialogue and hilarious non-sequiturs. The cast is uniformly excellent from Briga Heelan as a producer on the rise who must now contend with her mother (Andrea Martin) trying to jump start her life via internship to Adam Campbell as the Executive Producer managing the daily maelstrom of news and personal lives to John Michael Higgins as the egomaniacal/surprisingly lovable lead anchor. Bonus: Series Creator Tracy Wigfield has a recurring role as the meteorologist that has the unenviable task of reminding everyone about Climate Change.
Terriers (1 Season, HULU)
Hard to believe that after The Shield’s impressive seven-year run, writer/creator Shawn Ryan didn’t have more sway at FX to get this criminally overlooked private detective show past its rookie season. Donal Logue anchors this gritty, modern day Rockford Files as Hank Dolworth, an alcoholic ex-cop turned off the books private eye. His partner is an equally engaging Michael Raymond-James, a burglar that Hank once arrested but now finds plenty useful as they navigate around the law (they don’t have a license) and try to help who they can in their San Diego-esque beach town.
The Code (1 Season, Netflix)
This one may hit a bit too close to home in its story of government endangering the lives of its citizens, but is still worthy of viewing. Set in Australia, the multi-layered story ignites when a pair of teenagers are accidentally run off the road by a mysterious convoy. A journalist (Dan Spielman) dives in with both feet and is uneasily aided by his brother (Ashley Zukerman), a renowned hacker with autism. Lucy Lawless provides plenty of gravitas as the local teacher of the two youths. The show is intense, very well acted, and more than eerie in the current state of mistrust of authority.
Iliza Shlesinger (5 Netflix Specials)
If there is a funnier, brasher, more female empowering comic on the scene then I guess I need to get out more. In my book, there’s nothing sexier than a funny lady and Ms. Shlesinger brings the funny and the truth in each of her glorious comedy specials. Unveiled, Elder Millennial, War Paint, Confirmed Kills, and Freezing Hot all show a performer at the top of their game dispelling myths and hammering the funny bone in topics like dating, politics, pop culture, body issues and just how exhausting it can be to be a woman in this mindfuck of a society.
12 Monkeys (4 Seasons, HULU)
You may not find a bigger fan of Terry Gilliam’s 1995 time-travelling masterpiece, so I was plenty skeptical when this series debuted on SyFy in 2015. Thankfully, it’s one of the rare TV adaptations that lives up to the original and finds plenty of ways to expand and surprise on the initial concept. Lots of credit goes to series creators Travis Fickett and Terry Matalas, who both previously worked on Nikita and Terra Nova. The game cast includes Aaron Stanford (X2: X-Men United) as the prison convict turned burgeoning savior James Cole, Amanda Schull (Center Stage) as virologist turned ass-kicking soldier Dr Cassandra Reilly and especially Emily Hampshire (Schitt’s Creek) who takes the gender-bent role (originally portrayed by Brad Pitt in the film) of Jennifer Goines and squeezes every ounce of manic intelligence and fun out of it.
Elementary (7 Seasons, HULU)
There were many who gave up on this modern-day Sherlock adaptation after a few seasons due to a few disappointing twists as well as the skyrocketing interest in the BBC version starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. I stayed and can report that for seven seasons it was more consistent, intriguing and created a never-ending universe of well-developed characters. Its easily my favorite Sir Arthur Conan Doyle re-imagining and the chemistry between Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock and Lucy Liu as Watson should be documented in the annals of TV history. It also features exemplary supporting work from Aiden Quinn and Jon Michael Hill as Holmes’ NYPD colleagues, as well as a surprisingly realistic portrayal of addiction with Sherlock’s perpetual struggle with sobriety.
St. Elsewhere (7 Seasons, HULU)
This show was a staple of my youth and I am truly astounded at how overlooked it is considering it was the debut showcase for actors like Denzel Washington, Mark Harmon, Ed Begley, Jr., David Morse and even up and coming stand-up comedian Howie Mandel. This weekly examination of the inner workings of an underfunded Boston-area hospital was an eclectic mix of drama, comedy, and fantasy leading up to the one of the most remembered series finales in TV history. Some of the story lines are a bit brutal, like Terrence Know as a hard-working intern turned serial rapist, but the show has more than enough heart and whimsy to win anyone over.