You know, tv's been damned good lately. It used to be that television was Hollywood's red-headed stepchild, where all the B-level talent went when they couldn't get work in the movies. But no more. Now the very best of the best of actors, writers and directors have headed to tv. Between cable stations like HBO and Showtime and internet streamers like Netflix and Amazon, the competition has gotten fierce.
So here's my list of some fab shows that I have been obsessing over lately...
The Best of the Best -
The Honourable Woman
So stinking unbelievably good. A BBC production starring Maggie Gyllenhaal as an Anglo-Israeli heiress/Baroness/businesswoman. Middle East/British political intrigue. Sex. Coooooomplicated characters. Gyllenhaal is so excellent that she just floored me. She is...delicious. Powerful. Raw. Strong. And her British accent is absolutely flawless. Can't recommend this enough. (Netflix)
Second Best American Actress Playing a Brit -
Gillian Anderson plays a Scotland Yard superintendent investigating a series of murders in Belfast. Good Brit whodunit stuff, but with tasty, gritty, many-shades-of-gray characters. And speaking of shades of gray (or Shades of Grey if you will), Jamie Dornan plays the bad guy, a seriously twisted but strangely sympathetic serial killer. Fun. (Netflix)
Best Most Screwed Up Family on the Planet
Ah, the Pfeffermans! They are a wonderful train wreck! And I'm not talking about Mort/Maura, their transgender father, she's a lovely human being. It's the kids! They are the most self-absorbed group imaginable, and yet you still love them. What an amazing cast! They are ALL fabulous - they just completely go for it - no vanity here, they all allow themselves to be SO vulnerable and...human. Jeffrey Tambor, as Maura, is delightful. Judith Light, as the mom, is stunning, and let's herself be as old as she is. No small thing in Hollywood. No Botox on this woman. Melora Hardin, who usually plays the lovely, aspirational, feminine character (remember her as Monk's dead wife Trudy?), tears it up as Tammy, the narcissistic lesbian. And Bradley Whitford is almost unrecognizable as Maura's transgender friend, Marcy. Warning: LOTS of what I think of as "real people" sex and nudity. By that I mean not the kind of "prettied up" sex you usually see on tv. So you may have a few "I did not need to see that" moments. (Amazon)
Best Documentary That Will Make You Cringe -
State of Play
An HBO Sports documentary produced and narrated by Peter Berg about the culture of sports. Each episode takes a stark and ugly look at a different aspect of sports - searching for happiness after a sports career comes to an end, living with a disabling sports injury, life for a sports wife, and the brutal violence of football (which features my alma mater, Westlake High School in Austin!). But the most cringeworthy episode of all, is the movie which kicked off the series - "Trophy Kids". Anyone who has any kids playing any sports anywhere has to watch this. It follows five obsessive Southern California sports parents and I'm telling you, it's painful. And it makes me wonder why in the hell would anybody agree to let themselves be followed around with a camera like that. You'd have to be pretty out of touch with the reality of your world to think that what you're doing would make you look good on the small screen. Yikes. Watch. (HBO and On Demand)
Best New Brit Myst -
Everything you need in a British mystery series. Period piece. Clever women. Tracking down the killer. Terrific British actresses. Curl up with a cuppa tea. (Netflix)
Best Look at the Juicy Underbelly of the World of Classical Music -
Mozart in the Jungle
Yes, it really is sex, drugs, and classical music. It's a world I adore - New York, the arts, theater, music, temperamental artists - it's good stuff. The show manages to steer clear of the silly, soap operay tone of Smash, and instead reminds me of the brilliantly funny Canadian series Slings & Arrows (which would also be a damned good binge - available on DVD only at Netflix). I adore Gael Garcia Bernal, who plays the passionate Argentinian maestro, who takes over the symphony and shakes things up, and Malcolm McDowell is terrific as the forced-into-retirement older maestro. And it's great to see Bernadette Peters in anything! (Amazon)
Best Silly, Fun, Formulaic (But I Don't Care) TV Show That Isn't New At All But I Just Discovered It (But I Don't Care) and How the Hell Many Episodes Of This Thing Are There Anyway? (But I Don't Care) Sci-Fi Show -
Yes, I know. It's been on for ten years. But I never watched it because, seriously, who on earth over the age of 15 watches the WB/CW channel? But based on my previous sci-fi binging, Netflix kept "suggesting" it to me and when I realized that Kim Manners of The X-Files was one of the producers, I gave it a go and now I'm completely hooked. It's really clever and funny and well-written, and I love watching those Winchester boys kick some demon butt. I am now on...oh good Lord, really? Season 6. That's a lot of demon butts. I keep stepping away and watching something else, but I keep going back for some more Sam and Dean. But I don't care. (Netflix)
Best Show I Can't Binge Because It's on Network TV So I'm Forced to Wait a Full Week Before the Next Show and It's Killing Me -
I only have to give you one reason to watch Empire. Taraji P. Henson. She is the best thing on television. Seriously. I mean, the rest of the show is fun, but as the jailbird matriarch, Cookie Lyon, Henson is amazing! I watch the show just waiting for her to come on screen. I love her. She's one of those rare characters, like Maggie Smith's Dowager Duchess on Downton Abbey, that makes you want to needlepoint throw pillows with all of their best lines. Only Violet's pillows would be silk crewelwork, and Cookie's would be make out of faux animal print. (FOX)
Okay, so that's what I'm watching lately. What's your latest binge?