Hopefully you enjoyed the last five boxsets I recommended (if you didn’t see them, find the post here). But as this lockdown continues and we burn through shows like never before, I thought I’d suggest a few more to add to your list.
Continuing our love for some historical drama, The Knick only ran for two seasons (but came to a natural conclusion, don’t worry). Set in the first decade of the 20th century, it follows the work and lives of the staff of the Knickerbocker Hospital in New York. It’s a great period setting for a drama about medicine as so much was being tried, tested and discovered at that point (the infancy of plastic surgery, blood types, and C-sections are explored among others). Led by Clive Owen as Dr Thackery, the tension ramps up with each episode, mixing medical drama with a look at the political issues of the times (eugenics, poverty and race being some of the main themes). Directed by Steven Soderbergh, every scene is rich with detail and it’s compelling right to the end.
If you haven’t seen Mrs Maisel… well, it probably means you don’t pay money to a giant multi-national company that doesn’t pay its taxes. But if you do find yourself on its streaming service and haven’t seen this show then you are missing out. To give it a brief synopsis doesn’t do it justice. But to give it a go, it’s set in NYC in the 1960s and follows Midge Maisel, a poster-woman for ‘perfect wifedom’ and motherhood, whose ‘idyllic’ life comes crashing around her ears when her husband leaves her and she finds herself getting involved in stand-up comedy.
If the whipsmart humour hadn’t got to me, the sharp, brilliantly lovable characters would have and if neither of those had succeeded in grabbing me, then there was the classic underdog story. And if… know what, it’s just a great show and it deserves its trunk load of awards.
It was quite something when a show that I almost turned my nose up at (why does a good film need to be stretched into a whole series?) became one of my favourite things on television. Noah Hawley (who also wrote X-Men TV series Legion) went from strength to strength in this anthology series. Each set in a different decade, every season came with a superb cast, brilliant stories and twists while keeping to that ‘completely bonkers but it actually happened’ feel of the film. Suffice to say, this wasn’t a rehash of the film’s material but instead built upon it. Widening its scope and populating its past and its future until the film was just one story among many that happened around the town of Fargo. There’s too much to like about Fargo, so I’ll just say, maybe start with Season Two (you don’t need to have seen Season One at all to enjoy it) and go from there. You won’t be sorry. Oh, and Season Four is out soon!
On the surface, Tin Star doesn’t seem like anything new. Its a policeman, played by Tim Roth, who takes over as Sherrif in a sleepy little town in Canada, having dragged his family with him from the UK. But dark things from his past soon catch up with him. Written like that it doesn’t seem like much. But sometimes, when you have the right cast and the right writers, magic happens. And that’s the case with Tin Star. Every character,every character, is gorgeously written and so complex, so real, that every scene brings up something new and unexpected. Tin Star takes absolute pleasure in subverting your expectations, veering off the well-beaten paths and gives you something infinitely more compelling. From the start it puts its main cast through the wringer and you can’t look away wondering how they can possibly keep on going. I heartily recommend giving it a go.
Masters of Sex
One of the unsung heroes of television, this popped up on Channel 4 for two seasons then disappeared (despite it having a full run of four seasons in the US). After it became clear that C4 wasn’t going to finish it, we had to acquire the rest by… other means. Following on the coattails of Mad Men, it’s set in the 1950s, and follows Masters (Michael Sheen) and Johnson (household favourite Lizzy Caplan, see more from her in my previous TV blog), two real-life researchers who decided to study sex and blow the lid off the myths and cultural hang-ups that surrounded it. Both Sheen and Caplan act their socks off, the chemistry between them a lynch-pin of the series, while they work (or don’t) against the adversity that their studies attract from their more conservative colleagues. Special mention has to go out to screenwriter Amy Lippman, who, when given the show’s bottle episodes, consistently delivered incredible deep dives into the characters and their motivations with cracking dialogue fit for their own West End stage plays – especially the one set around an orgy. Now that got your attention, didn’t it?
So I hope these help bring you a bit of enjoyment as we continue through this whole, weird time. It’s tough to stay sane in conditions like these and art really does make things a bit better.
In the meantime, hope you enjoy these shows and that you might consider my book, The End of the Line.