For television viewers, we are in the Diamond Age of television. It started with HBO and its extraordinary programming but the crown has passed to the streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, DC Universe, CBS Access, and YouTube Premium. These services have added to the television marketplace with their own exceptional programming and have even raised it a notch or two. In order to compete, network television and basic cable have introduced new and better programming (The Walking Dead, Into the Badlands, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, all the WB DC superhero series, The Gifted, Manifest, The Expanse). With so many new and good series, it is easy to miss a few. Here are some that are worth a look.
Bodyguard – Netflix
Bodyguard is a six-episode series that was originally broadcast in the UK on BBC One. Richard Madden (Game of Thrones) stars as Sergeant David Budd, who is a deeply troubled person suffering from PTSD. He served in Afghanistan and is now assigned to a security detail guarding UK Home Secretary Julia Montague (Keely Hawes). Sgt. Budd is dealing with this new high-profile assignment and a separation from his wife. He also refuses to get help for his PTSD because it might “jeopardize” his new job. Throw into this mix an ongoing terrorist situation, as well as a threat against the life of the Home Secretary and the viewer is in the midst of a truly explosive situation.
Since Bodyguard is only 6 episodes, there is no fluff. Each episode is a tight drama with an ever-changing and evolving story. I have not met anyone who has guessed all of the stunning details that are finally revealed in the final episode. To say that it is a rollercoaster ride is an understatement of what transpires in the series. It captivated the British audience and, if the comments on social media are any indication, it has captivated the American audiences as well. The acting, writing, and directing are all top notch. The series is extraordinary in that the viewer is unsure whether to cry or become angry or both at the same time. Regardless, Bodyguard is exceptional storytelling well worth your time. Binge it; you won’t be sorry.
Titans – DC Universe (see our own Transmute Jun’s review of the pilot episode)
Titans is the hit series on the new DC Universe streaming service. The series stars Brenton Thwaites as Dick Grayson/Robin, Anna Diop as Kory Anders/Starfire, Teagan Croft as Rachel Roth/Raven, and Ryan Potter as Gar Logan/Beastboy. It’s a dark look at the Teen Titans without being bleak. The series does not fall prey to some of the problems for which DC is famous, such as utter bleakness. There is a great mix of humor and drama flavored with some of the best fight scenes on television.
The production values on the series are good to exceptional. The writing is tight and the acting is excellent. The villains are wonderfully delicious as they range from the usual evil doctor who can make a mean omelet to the family who goes on killing outings. The killing family is both horrific and hilarious at the same time.
The Titans, as a group, are brought together when an evil doctor and his minions try to capture Rachel to use her to usher in a new evil era on Earth. Rachel does not know who her father is and she has only recently learned that the woman that she knew as her mother is not her real mother. Kory cannot remember who she is or from where she came. Kory does discover that she has been searching for Rachel for months. Gar is a misfit who was saved by a strange doctor from certain death, and Dick is running from his past as Robin.
Titans is what the DC Universe should be. It is dark without being bleak. It takes itself seriously but is still willing to poke fun at itself. Titans has already been renewed for a second season, so viewers should not be afraid to become invested in the characters and have the series dropped. A new episode is dropped every week. The last episode is scheduled to drop on December 28. Titans is definitely worth your time.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – Netflix
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a new movie on Netflix. It is comprised of six vignettes about life in the Old West. The title character appears in the first vignette, which may lull viewers into believing that the movie is a comedy. It isn’t. It is a breathtakingly beautiful and poignant film about life in the Old West. It is fantastical, philosophical, and real at the same time.
The Coen brothers gathered an extensive and talented cast to tell these six tales of the Old West.
- Willie Watson is the Kid and Tim Blake Nelson is Buster Scruggs in the eponymous first vignette, “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.”
- James Franco stars in the second vignette, “Near Algondones,” as the Cowboy.
- Liam Neeson is the Impresario and Harry Melling is the Artist in the episode “Meal Ticket.”
- Tom Waits is the Prospector in “All Gold Canyon.”
- Bill Heck is Billy Knapp and Zoe Kazan is Alice Longabaugh in “The Gal Who Got Rattled.”
- Tyne Daly is a Lady, Brendan Gleeson is an Irishman, and Saul Rubinek is a Frenchman in “The Mortal Remains.”
The first vignette, “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” is hilarious while the second vignette, “Near Algondones,” is funny and oddly tragic. The third vignette, “Meal Ticket,” is poignantly sad. Keep a tissue handy for this one. “All Gold Canyon” has the most epically beautiful scenery of the movie and is a perfect example of how humanity behaves when there are no laws. “The Gal Who Got Rattled” is both poignantly hopeful and sad. The last piece, “The Mortal Remains,” is an odd and puzzling piece. It is not clear if it is a fantasy or just a simple tale of people on a coach. But, of course, this is why it is so good: because it is so thought-provoking. One can only hope that this first film may lead to a series on Netflix.
Of course, there are so many more new series out there. These are just the latest three that are very special to me. Please let me and other members know what we are missing.