By DRWHO42, Scott C., Jason, and Miclpea
These are concerning times with COVID-19 being the issue, which is forcing us to change our daily routines and isolate ourselves at our homes to flatten the curve. With all this extra time we will have on our hands, our TVs are going to become our best pals, and luckily, fans have a treasure trove of television content to explore whether it is something new, or something not-so-new.
We noticed that the power of fandom has led to great opportunities for fans to connect through online viewing parties. The first of which was a Doctor Who global rewatch viewing party organized by Emily Cook, a writer for Doctor Who Magazine, and featured the 50th anniversary episode ‘Day of the Doctor’. Former Doctor Who showrunner Stephen Moffat joined in and tweeted along with fans. This event was successful and the next viewing party, set for Thursday March 26th, will feature the inaugural episode of the resurrection of the series, ‘Rose’. The rewatch will mark the 15th anniversary of the airing of this episode and to make the event special Russell T. Davies will be joining the live tweet. Time for Whovians to clear your diaries.
The cast of Timeless organized a fan screening of their own with Malcom Barrett leading the charge allowing fans to vote on the episode. The voters chose ‘Holllywoodland’ and the live rewatch screening featured Malcom Barrett, Abigail Spenser, Matt Lanter joining via YouTube broadcast channel. We hope the Time Team assembles for another rewatch party soon.
The blog team has come up with our top recommendations to help get you through this self-imposed hibernation.
War of the Worlds – This reimagining of the H.G. Wells alien invasion centers on groups of people in Europe as they fight to survive after a cataclysmic attack. There are a few things which appeal to me, the first of which is the European locations the events take place and the second being the gripping suspense as survivors struggle to survive. This series is not for the faint of heart. This invasion is brutal and some of the scenes are graphic, however, there is a balance where some of the deaths are offscreen so things don’t go overboard, and we are left to use our imagination to visualize what may have happened. The series airs Sunday evenings on EPIX and you can catch up through Demand.
The Equalizer – This series, set in the ’80s and filmed in my hometown city of New York, is about a retired CIA operative named Robert McCall, played by Edward Woodward, who helps people who are in trouble. Over the four seasons of the series, he helps various people reaching from elderly tenants from an evil landlord looking to evict them to a child who is brutally bullied from a school gang to innocent people who are targeted by killers. Looking back at this series there are a lot of familiar faces including, Giancarlo Esposito, Vincent D’Onofrio, William H. Macy, and Ed O’Neil. The series provides viewers a suspenseful experience and each episode invest time in the people who ask Robert McCall for help. The music score for this series, composed by Stewart Copeland, is organically matched to the hustle and bustle of New York with a unique flair during the action sequences. Edward Woodward received a Golden Globe for this role. Fun fact: When this series filmed on location throughout New York City the crew paid off the parking meters for any cars they came across and the meter was about to expire. They left a card on the car which said: “Paid for by the Equalizer”. The series can be found on the NBC App and streaming platform.
Haunting of Hill House – Looking for a fright along with a bit of family strife? this series has it all and then some. This series, on Netflix, tells the tale of a family that must come together after the death of a family member. During this time the old wounds are opened along with a mystery that involved the murder of their mother. This is a series where you have to pay close attention to what is on the screen because the directors hid over 20 visual easter eggs throughout the first season of this series. With the second season scheduled to debut in the fall, this is a great time to relive the viewing experience or introduce friends and family to this series.
Lost in Space – Looking for a space adventure? This reboot of this classic 60s sci-fi series is a compelling adventure that blends familial ties, problem-solving and interstellar adventure all into one nice package. There is magical chemistry with this cast and there are a lot of interesting obstacles and twists the characters run into on their journey to a new colony on Alpha Centauri. There are currently two seasons of this series available on Netflix with the third, and unfortunately finale, season set to be heading into production later this year.
Xena – This ambitious and popular 90’s series tells the tale of a former warrior who gave up her immoral ways for a better path to helping others. This hibernation is a perfect excuse to relive the six seasons of this action-based series, which was filmed in New Zealand before Peter Jackson used the country as his palette for the Lord of the Rings film franchise. You can relive the adventures of Xena or your viewing partners courtesy of the NBC app and streaming platform.
Honorable mentions and recommendations: Strike Back (Cinemax), Timeless (Hulu), Persion of Interest (Netflix), Killing Eve (BBC America & Hulu), FBI (CBS and CBS All Access), Hawaii 5-0 (Netflix and CBS All Access), Colony (Netflix), Carnival Row (Amazon Prime), Jack Ryan (Amazon Prime), and 24 (Hulu)
Cobra Kai – I have a soft spot for the Karate Kid movies, and this series is a fun continuation with a fresh spin. Is the Karate Kid Daniel LaRusso really the “villain” of the story? The show flips the script and uniquely starts off through the lens of his longtime rival and Karate Kid bad guy Johnny Lawrence, following Lawrence’s quest for redemption, many years later and still reeling after his humiliating defeat at the hands of LaRusso. These two students have now become the masters, with rival dojos and a young, exciting cast to go along with longtime favorites of the film series.
What started off as a joke in a How I Met Your Mother episode, becomes an intriguing show. Cobra Kai perfectly balances comedy, drama, and action, with a helping of cheese and nostalgia. I especially enjoy how the series plays on the differences between Gen X and millennials. Hash Brown (because that’s what sensei Johnny Lawrence calls hashtags) No Mercy!
Cobra Kai can be found on YouTube. The first season is free, while the second season is on YouTube Premium until it is scheduled to also become free on YouTube on September 11th.
Curb Your Enthusiasm – Amidst its tenth season, Larry David (co-creator/writer of Seinfeld, who based the character of George in that iconic show on himself) is at his awkward, spiteful, and griping at the trivial aspects of life best. His series of usually self-imposed unfortunate events, based partially on his real-life experiences, and with improvisation within the show, are the stuff of ironic comedy gold.
This season is quite timely, such as when Larry’s friend Jeff Garlin (The Goldbergs) is mistaken for Harvey Weinstein during a series of MeToo movement misunderstandings, or when David wears a MAGA hat just to get out of a lunch, and during other situations where he wants to repel people in Los Angeles.
Curb has always had some great guest stars, and this season is no exception, with actor Jon Hamm (Mad Men) providing a particularly hilarious episode by playing an actor who has to become Larry for a role. Hamm starts acting just like David in his own daily life, complaining about wobbly tables and coffee that isn’t hot enough to burn his nose when he sticks it in the cup, repulsing Larry’s ex-wife Cheryl in the process. The scenes with Jon Hamm and David together are priceless, proving that two Larry’s are better than one.
We need humor to get through tough times like these, so I found it funny when Deadpool producer Aditya Sood tweeted something that I was thinking, which was, “the Coronavirus season of Curb is going to be something else.” Larry is already a socially awkward germaphobe, highlighted by a recent episode where the waitress serving his table announces that she’s dealing with explosive diarrhea, so then the conversation around the table centers on deciphering whether she said she has it (present tense) or had it (past tense), before they walk out, rather than risk eating the food. This season and entire series brings the funny, which I think is much needed. It’s “pretty, pretty, pretty good!”
Curb Your Enthusiasm is available on HBO, while seasons 1-8 are also available on Amazon Prime.
Better Call Saul – A prequel to one of the greatest TV shows of all-time, Breaking Bad, based on secondary character Saul Goodman and his evolution from a good man (pun intended), to becoming a crooked lawyer, can be a tricky thing to pull off. I think many people expected it to be just like the aforementioned modern classic, but it’s not. This series is slow, in pacing and in reveals, which I find to be a breath of fresh air in the current fast-paced entertainment landscape. This slow-burn quality also probably turned many viewers off to the show in season one, but those who stuck with it are now enjoying the fruits of master storytelling labors.
The audience finally gets to witness Saul embrace becoming the lovable jerk he was always destined to be, in this current season number five. We also see many of the favorite characters from Breaking Bad show up this season, which makes sense since the end of Better Call Saul leads up to the beginning of Breaking Bad, except for the occasional flash-forwards that give us a glimpse into what happens to Saul’s character post-Breaking Bad. The big question as the series draws to a close next season is what happens to Saul’s girlfriend and fellow lawyer Kim Wexler? We know that she doesn’t appear in Breaking Bad, so is she murdered? If so, how and why?
This is a show that digs deep into the psychology of why “bad” people become the way that they do, and I enjoy that. Better Call Saul even briefly dives into the bigger cosmos picture, like when Saul dropped an ice cream cone onto the ground, and the next episode featured a sequence focusing only on the ants that were crawling on said cone. Weird, but I like it.
Better Call Saul is available on AMC, while seasons 1-4 are also on Netflix.
Honorable mentions and recommendations: The Watchmen (HBO), Star Trek: Discovery (CBS Access), Sliders (Fox/Syfy), The Goldbergs (ABC), Freaks and Geeks (NBC), Undeclared (Fox), Shameless (Showtime), Tales From the Crypt (HBO), The Twilight Zone (CBS), Saved by the Bell (NBC), and Lookwell (YouTube).
Star Trek: Picard – This is the first season of Picard, who is again played by Patrick Stewart. The series is set many years after Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG). Picard has retired to his vineyard after a bitter fallout with Star Fleet over a decision made to abandon the Romulan homeworld. Picard is thrust back into the limelight when a mysterious woman arrives at his home seeking his help. This sets Picard on a journey with a motley crew to discover the truth of the attack on Mars and the origin of the mysterious woman. Patrick Stewart is joined in this great adventure by Isa Briones as Soji, Michelle Hurd as Rafi, Alison Pill as Dr. Agnes Jurati, Santiago Cabrera as Cristobal Rios, and Evan Evagora as Elnor.
It’s wonderful to rejoin such a wonderful character later in life. I think of Picard as a Portrait of the Captain as an Old Man. Because of what he represents, fate will not allow Picard to go gently into the night. His past as represented by several guest appearances of characters from Star Trek: The Next Generation series comes back not to haunt him but to thrust him into a complex, far-reaching conspiracy. In these very trying times, Picard reminds us of how good we can be if we choose to be. Watch Picard on CBS Access.
Altered Carbon, Season 2 – The second season of Altered Carbon stars Anthony Mackie as Takeshi Kovacs. The series is based on a novel by Richard K. Morgan where in the future (because of alien technology), humans are able to transfer their consciousness from one body to another. The bodies are called sleeves. The rich can afford better, enhanced sleeves and can live forever.
Kovacs, a former elite soldier, has been searching for his lost (perhaps) dead love, Quellcrist Falconer (Renée Elise Goldsberry) He has inhabited several sleeves in his search for Quellcrist when he is captured by a bounty hunter, Trepp (Simone Missick). A rich criminal, Horace Bixley (Michael Shanks), wants to hire Kovacs to protect him in exchange for an upgraded, military-grade sleeve. This starts Kovacs on a journey that gives truth to the saying “be careful what you wish for.”
Kovacs is joined by his sidekick from the first season, Poe (Chris Conner) and Trepp as well as two other major characters. Again, I cannot reveal the names of these characters as it would a major spoiler. However, with only 8 episodes, the revelations and the action come fast and often. Anthony Mackie, as the recently resleeved Kovacs, brings a new warmth to the character that allows the viewers to finally sympathize with Kovacs in his search for his lost love. It’s good to see Simone Missick (All Rise, Luke Cage) return to the genre. Torben Liebrecht as Colonel Ivan Carrera is a heartless villain who has a very important but unknown history with Kovacs. But the true villain of the second season is Danica Harlan played brilliantly by Lela Loren (Power). Harlan is that complex, multi-dimensional villain who sees themselves as a savior, not the “bad guy.” Harlan plans three steps ahead of everyone else which is how she has come to run an entire world.
The second season of Altered Carbon has a new visual effects supervisor, Bob Munroe. Fans of The Expanse might recognize the name as Munroe was the visual effects supervisor of the series for two seasons. With Bob’s sure hand on the brush, the visual effects are even more stunning in the second season.
The underlying concept of resleeving makes Altered Carbon the perfect series as each year brings a different actor but the same character. Both seasons are worth a watch but my vote is for Season 2. Altered Carbon can be watched on Netflix.
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist – This series is a fantastical musical comedy set in San Francisco. Zoey (Jane Levy) works at a small tech firm in San Francisco when as a result of a freak accident she gains the power to hear the thoughts of those around her. However, and this is the kicker, those thoughts are expressed as musical numbers. The thoughts range from intimate ballads to dance music to big musical productions on the streets of San Francisco (actually a lot in Vancouver).
The cast features many talented actors and singers such as Sylar Astin (Pitch Perfect, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) who plays Ben and John Clarence Stewart (Luke Cage, What/If) who plays Simon. The romantic tension simmers between them since Ben secretly loves Zoey while Zoey secretly loves Simon who is currently engaged to Jessica (India de Beaufort). Alex Newell (Glee) plays Zoey’s new best friend and confidante. The talented cast also includes such stalwarts Peter Gallagher as her semi-paralyzed father, Mitch; Mary Steenburgen as Maggie, her mother; and Lauren Graham as her boss, Joan. It is a fun, light series whose musical numbers are an integral part of each episode. Zoey. Watch Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist on NBC.
VelociPastor – All you need to know about this movie is the following: it has a priest who turns into a small dinosaur and kills bad guys and ninjas with a prostitute. The movie was reportedly made on a $35,000 budget. It stars Greg Cohan as the priest, Doug, and Alyssa Kempinski as Carol, the prostitute. It is truly bad and wonderfully hilarious at the same time. Velocipastor can be seen on Prime Video.
Dragon Ball Z – Either watch the Kai version or in its original form, no one can go wrong in watching this great anime series. Also, don’t forget about Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Super if you want to see the story before Z or after it. DBZ can be seen on Amazon Prime, or on certain streaming services.
Westworld – Set in the future, with futuristic theme parks and androids, as well as having a good cast = an amusing series. Do note that season 3 is ongoing on HBO, but if you are wondering why this series is so popular, now is the time to watch season 1 and 2 before watching the current season. It can be seen on HBO.
Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team – This anime may only have 12 episodes, and it came out in 1996, but if you ever wanted to get a taste of the Gundam universe, I recommend checking this one out. It provides a nice entry to the franchise without worrying too much about lore. After that, go watch the other Universal Century-themed Gundam animes, or others not based in that universe. It can be seen on Hulu.
The Mandalorian – It’s a live-action Star Wars TV series set after Return of the Jedi…again, it’s a live-action Star Wars TV series set after Return of the Jedi. ‘Nuff said. It can be seen on Disney+.
Bonus Pick: Strike Back – Like playing Call of Duty, or anything military? If so, check out this entertaining series, which will end this year. Do note this series isn’t for kids. It can be seen on Cinemax.
Honorable mentions and recommendations: Spider-Man the 90s animated series (Disney+), X-Men 90s animated series (Disney+), Batman 90s animated series (multiple streaming services), The Flash (The CW), Agents of Shield (Netflix) Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Disney+), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (multiple streaming services), The Orville (Amazon Prime); Stargate SG-1 (multiple streaming services), Cowboy Bepop (Hulu), and Firefly (Hulu).
Well, that’s our list. There are plenty others to chose from and enjoy. What’s yours? Join the conversation on the FoCC forum and share with us what you are watching or planning to watch. We wish everyone the best and are hopeful an end will be in sight. Before we go we have a message from our favorite Time Lord, The Doctor, which will help keep our spirits up.
— Doctor Who Official (@bbcdoctorwho) March 25, 2020