Binge Watch This!

Binge Watch This!

Well, hello.

Happy New Year. Actually, there are many holidays that we are much overdue on giving you plenty of holiday greetings for. Fret not! We’re back for the new year with plenty of opinions, ideas and posts to carry you through the new year.

Before we move into the new year and beyond, lets reflect back on some of my personal highlights from the small screen in 2017. As you can imagine, there is flat-out way too many decent shows to watch out there. Everyone has a show or shows that they sit down and watch religiously, want to discuss with everyone and anyone or consume with the knowledge that co-workers and friends will ridicule their choice.

Who cares what they think. We’re going to sit at home, block out the drama of the outside world and binge-watch our cares away, hour after hour, carrying us through those endless snowfalls and never-ending downpours.

So, if you’re scrolling your DVR or Netflix looking for that next show, here are some of the titles that got our attention. If you have read previous posts in the TWHB entertainment section, you’ll know that I usually have a couple go-to programs that make the list each year. However, just one show makes a reappearance as you’ll note. Trust me, it was difficult to leave Homeland off this list, as the show is one show that when it’s going well it’s great, but when it goes off the rails it’s just as entertaining in a comical way.

There aren’t too many comedies that made the cut, either. Perhaps that speaks more to my dry and dark humour of the past year. There are a couple that made the list, but one of the titles is difficult to describe as a comedy based on the overall concept the show.

So without further ado, here we go.

Mr. Robot

 

By far the best show on traditional television, USA Network’s Mr. Robot grew on me after a binge-watch session a couple years ago. Centering on the main character, Elliot Alderson (played by Rami Malek), a young hacker living in the city battles demons, both real and fictitious, in his daily life, all the while floating in an ambiguous position caught on the edge of reality. With plenty of parallels to current issues, and that of the recent past, the series does a remarkable job of staying culturally relevant without sacrificing their ongoing narrative.

I can’t remember watching a program that I had to question whether to believe what the narrator, Elliott, is relaying to the viewer, or to believe what I see on the screen. The show is such an intense watch that, often, after the show is finished, I lay in bed trying to digest what happened over the last hour. That may be the biggest hindrance for those who have next to no knowledge of the show getting into it. Having the patience as a viewer to sit in the dark and be a voyeur on Elliott’s journey can be a turnoff to those who like to know what is going on in every instance of a show. If you can work through it, there is a pretty faithful following on various online forums that can help you with your inquiries. However, the show does a great job of answering most of the questions that it raises in the long run.

With cameos from Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire, Broadway), Joey Bada$$ (hip-hop star) and the ongoing dynamic between Elliott and alter-ego Mr. Robot (played by Christian Slater), this was one of the most gratifying seasons of the program that I can remember. With special homages to shows of yesterday — from Knight Rider to Back to the Future and other titles — the nostalgia, combined with the solid acting, made this season one of the best programs that I can recall.

 

The Punisher

Marvel Films has been the king of the box office for much of a decade to this point, with successes from Iron Man, Captain America and the Avengers to bring in huge chunks of change to the studio, as well as Disney, the parent company. However, it has been a mixed bag for Marvel programs on the small screen. Daredevil was greeted with great acclaim for it’s dark, gritty and realistic portrayal of the superhero lifestyle. However, follow-ups, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist — “You know, Iron Fist, defender of Kung Lung, sworn enemy of the hand” — Yeah, that guy didn’t do too well for the Netflix Marvel franchise. While the team up of The Defenders, the executive assistants to the Avengers in the Marvel universe, was good, it left fans wanting more… or at least less of Iron Fist.

Before the end of 2017, Marvel TV redeemed themselves with the debut of The Punisher. A franchise that flamed out with two lackluster movies was now revived as a 12-episode series on Netflix. Jon Bernthal was cast to be Frank Castle, the man in all black who wears a skull across his chest. You may notice the symbol if you have ever worked out at a public gym. The Punisher was easily the best program that Marvel delivered to the small screen all season.

The Frank Castle character, while driven by the loss of his family, was given more context than just shooting and killing anyone that got in his way —even if that is all the man wanted to do at the beginning of the series. Castle’s ethos makes for a noble journey, but the manner in which he dispatches of enemies, both in terms of style and his emotional mindset, make the show intriguing beyond his ultimate quest for vengeance. The co-stars and villains were as fascinating as Castle himself, existing in his world, but having their own motives and missions to fulfill. It was a refreshing take on the hero drama

It has to be said. While The Punisher has drawn praise in the wake of the perceived failures of its Marvel TV predecessors, the show did come at an ideal time in comparison to its cohorts. The show was not building to a team-up or the next series in the lineup of Marvel’s calendar, the show existed independent of the others before and after it. That freedom to concern yourself with only one portion of the universe is an enviable situation that I’m sure the other Marvel showrunners would love to be in the position of.

If you’re looking for a dark, vengeance-filled action drama, then you should check the Punisher out.

 

Luther

You have to have one British show on your list. I swear it must be a rule or something. While I have two on the list this year, I can only chalk it up to the upbringing. Growing up in a house that gave so much respect to English culture that it was comedic — from bad accents to obsession over tea to the estranged structure that is a monarchy in modern society.

With all that said, they still make some bad-ass shows.

One of these is Luther, starring Idris Elba as Detective Luther (Detective Chief Inspector Luther, to be exact). The show follows the London-based investigator as he tries to solve a murder and ultimately keep someone alive, often himself. Without spoiling the last season, Luther does lose someone unexpectedly toward the end of the season, but the majority of the season was one of wonder and humor. Because of his growing celebrity, last season’s four one-hour episodes was the shortest season for the series, likely to accommodate Elba’s busy filming schedule.

If you’re looking for a good detective show, the British usually get it done right. Well, aside from Horatio of CSI MIAMI, may he rest in peace. You could do worse than checking out a season with DCI Luther in my opinion.

 

Ozark

“Have you seen Ozark?”

“Nope.”

“OMG, it’s soo good, I love it.”

“Why, what’s so good about it?”

“Um, it’s kinda dark, but has funny bits. Trust me, it’s good.”

 

I feel that we have this conversation a couple times a year with a friend or colleague trying to convince us to get into a show they are watching or previously watched. To me, Ozark was the ‘why not’ show for me. In that sense, why not give it two episodes? Worst-case scenario, I can erase it from my Netflix viewing history and that will be that.

Instead, I ended up consuming the entire 12 episode season without guilt. Damn it, my friend was right: it was good.

The show takes place in the Ozarks, which are somewhere in central Missouri, focuses on the family of Marty Byrde, played by the show’s creator, Jason Bateman. The Byrde family are worked like some chumps by a Mexican Drug cartel which controls most of their daily movements and lifestyles. Ultimately the family moves to the Ozarks to bring a big financial windfall to the cartel in an area of the country that few would imagine could be profitable to a criminal drug organization. After investing in multiple business ventures in the community, the Bryde family pretty much takes the small community over in a short amount of time, while also pissing off the wrong people and influencing even more dangerous individuals than themselves.

I had no expectations when watching this show, but was pleasantly surprised at how invested I got after each episode. The most interesting character I’ve seen in 2017 may be that of Julie Garner who plays Ruth Langmore. A vicious, enterprising business woman in the body of a teenage girl. Just based on Ruth alone, I cannot wait to see what happens in the second season of Ozark.

Master of None

The first comedy on the list comes by way of Aziz Ansari, who plays Dev in this Netflix series. Hands-down one of the more culturally relevant programs that has hit TV in the last year or so, I don’t think a show that recently picked up an Emmy needs more publicity. The second season did a good job of equalling the success of the first season in my humble opinion.

I’m not sure if we can call Master of None a comedy, even though it has a ton of traditional comedic elements. There are many scenes where Dev is just living his life without trying to be funny such as trying to get over a relationship, contemplating on how to tell a close friend that he loves her… that doesn’t really scream comedy in my books. This is one of the first programs of last year to feature an episode that directly tied into the #METOO movement that has plagued Hollywood.

However, in comparison to the other shows on the list, this is one of the more comedic programs I checked out in 2017. Plus, I’m unsure if Bobby Cannavale’s character is funnier in this program or Mr.Robot.

Chewing Gum

Another British program, this one has humor which goes over my head and a protagonist that may be out of her mind. The accents make it hilarious, but the topics and background allow the show to bring a fresh voice into a stuffy atmosphere that is filled with shows about detectives, doctors or shows about nothing.

What if I told you that there was a British program that had nothing to do with detectives, police, crime or drama. Nor does this have Simon Cowell’s fingerprints on it, either. Chewing Gum is an odd, yet fascinating comedic series chronicling the coming of age of lead character, Tracey, played by Micheala Coel. Tracey lives on the Estates with her holier-than-thou Godly mother and her straight-and-narrow sister. There are some intriguing characteristics in just about every male that appears on the show. It is good for a laugh or two — if you can understand what they’re saying, that is.

 

Hopefully 2018 will bring more good programming in the months to come. That, or we should really get outside more.

 

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