FoCC Reactor: Hidden TV Gems – March 2019 Edition

By Miclpea

We are currently in the Diamond Era 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 the bar a notch or two.

I promised in my first article in this series that I would recommend series and movies on a seasonal basis that viewers might be missing, simply because of the difficulty of keeping up with all of the new content. February has been such a particularly exciting month for new and exceptional series and movies that I am writing an article for just the new content in released for that month. I believe that these series are all worth a look.

Velvet Buzzsaw-Netflix
Velvet Buzzsaw is a horror film set in the rarefied world of high-end contemporary art. It stars Jake Gyllenhaal (Source Code, Prince of Persia) as Morf Vanderwalt, a pretentious art critic; Rene Russo (Thor, Thor: The Dark World) as Rhodora Haze, the owner of a boutique gallery; Zawe Ashton (Wander Lust, Nocturnal Animals) as Josephina, an employee/assistant at Rhodora’s gallery; Toni Collette (Krampus, United States of Tara) as Gretchen, a museum staffer who wants to be a player in the high end art world; and finally, Natalia Dyer (Stranger Things) as Coco, a young assistant in way over her head.

The story centers around Josephina, who has discovered exceptional but disturbing artwork of a deceased artist who had lived in her building. She and Rhodora concoct a scheme to sell the art. Since this is a horror film, viewers can guess that the artwork is haunted when a technician discovers that human blood was used in the paintings. Both horror and tragedy ensue as the cursed paintings wreak havoc on all who possess them. The film boasts a stellar cast, which also includes John Malkovich, Daveed Diggs, and Billy Magnussen. It’s an enjoyable film with moments of unexpected levity. It’s worth a watch.

Weird City-YouTube Premium
Weird City is an anthology of stories created by Jordan Peele and Charlie Sanders about a city in the future which is divided between the haves (Above the Liners) and the have nots (Below the Liners). The series boasts a truly outstanding cast which includes LeVar Burton (Star Trek Next Generation), Dylan O’Brien (Teen Wolf, The Maze Runner), Ed O’Neill (Modern Family), Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians), Malcolm Barrett (Timeless. Preacher), Yvette Nicole Brown (Community), and Steven Yeun (Walking Dead). The episodes run the gamut from an unexpected love story to a meta episode about characters on the final episode of a television series. The entire 6-episode series can be binged in a single sitting.

If viewers are looking for something light and funny but with an undercurrent of biting satire about television tropes, this is the series. I hope that there is a second season soon. Levar Burton is hilarious as Doctor Negari, an incredibly inept doctor whose inventions and actions have wacky consequences such as matching O’Brien and O’Neill to be soul mates.

The Umbrella Academy-Netflix
The Umbrella Academy is a series based on a comic book of the same name. It is the story of a group of children who were miraculously born on the same day but their biological mothers had not been pregnant the previous day! An eccentric billionaire, Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Fiore) gathers seven of these children together to train them to fight crime. He calls this group The Umbrella Academy. He raises the children with the help of a mechanical nanny, Grace (Jordan Claire Robbins) and Pogo (Adam Godley), a genetically modified chimpanzee.

Hargreeves refers to each child by a number.

  • Number 1-Luther (Tom Hopper), Young Luther (Cameron Brodeur)
  • Number 2-Diego (David Castañeda), Young Diego (Blake Talabis)
  • Number 3-Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman), Young Allison (Eden Cupid)
  • Number 4-Klaus (Robert Sheehan), Young Klaus (Dante Albidone)
  • Number 5- (Aidan Gallagher), he has no other name.
  • Number 6-Ben (Justin H. Min), Young Ben (Ethan Hwang), current Ben is a ghost.
  • Number 7-Vanya (Ellen Page)- Young Vanya (T.J. McGibbon)

Into this highly dysfunctional family, two time-traveling assassins, Cha-Cha (Mary J. Blige) and Hazel (Cameron Britton), arrive to kill Number 5. Number 5 betrayed his boss from the future, The Handler (Kate Walsh). The Handler recruited Number 5 to work for a bureau that maintains the timeline. This same bureau employed Cha-Cha and Hazel to kill Number 5.

The series is incredible! There is murder, time travel, advanced time/space/quantum theory, ghosts, rivalry, loss, betrayal, and hope for redemption. It is a convoluted tale which seems as if it should be told by an idiot but instead, the narrator guides the viewer through this maze of a tale. This series is really a gem and since it only has ten episodes, it can be easily finished in two or three viewings. **Minor Spoiler**: Lies always come back to haunt fictional characters.

While highly anticipated by DC Universe viewers, I purposely did not include Doom Patrol in this article because, at the time of the writing, only two episodes have been shown. I want to see more before I know whether or not to recommend it. However, there are many series and movies premiering next month. Be sure to watch Next Week in TV articles by Mario Wario, DRWHO42, and Alyssa for upcoming new series and movies in their weekly column while I will help spotlight series and movies that you might miss.

Miclpea

I love going to conventions around the US. I'm an ardent fan of all things science fiction and especially The Expanse. I write for Friends of CC and I have written a science fiction script with a friend.