By DRWHO42, Jason, Miclpea, and Scott C.
Summer is just around the corner and our sights are set on spending more time outside whether it is in our yard gardening, going on walks around the neighborhood, or being adventurous with hikes or biking in mind. The question now is what to do to unwind when we return home and want to watch something good or interesting on TV?
But with summer officially starting next weekend here in the US, with the traditional television season over, for now, there may be limited options available to you. Luckily, there are plenty of gems left waiting for you to explore and enjoy.
The team has come up with a new list in this second edition of our recommendation list consisting of both current and past series, which we have found worthy to add to your watch list or worth a trip in the “way-back machine.” While we have some go-to favorites we selected these series (and some films) out of pure enjoyment, and we hope you will feel the same.
Picks by DRWHO42
1) The J.J. Abrams spy thriller Alias has recently been added to the Amazon Prime streaming platform and the timing couldn’t be more perfect for fans of the series to relive this exciting spy series which J.J. Abrams brought to ABC back in 2001. Looking back the cast and for this series was stellar which included Victor Gaber, Terry O’Quinn, Carl Lumbly, Greg Grunberg, Melissa George, Amy Acker, Gina Torres, Mia Maestro, and Ron Rifkin. The series helped propel both Jennifer Garner and Bradley Cooper to major stardom.
The first season of the series was set up perfectly for viewers who enjoy episodic cliffhangers as Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) was engaged on missions in pursuit of artifacts for a Milo Rambaldi (a fictional prophet). Early on we learn that the covertness of her CIA unit was extremely strict and this forced Sydney to keep her CIA affiliation and personal life compartmentalized. Unfortunately, her disclosure to her fiancé led to him being killed and this thrust Sydney to question who she was working for. She then learns that she was not working for the CIA but a rogue agency called SD-6 leading her to become a double agent for the real CIA.
There are lots of twists and turns throughout the course of this series and this may be the perfect time to introduce this series to viewers who did not watch it during its original run or if you want to relive this landmark series.
2) Line of Duty (AMC) is a law enforcement drama series from the UK and centers on a team of Anti-Corruption law enforcement officers set in a fictional area within the UK. The division, known as AC-12, is headed by Chief Inspector Hasting (Adrian Dunbar) along with his “A-team” of investigators Detective Sergeant (Martin Compston) and Detective Inspector Fleming (Vick McClure). This series is unique because they are focused on corruption (referred to as “bent” in the UK) and crimes perpetrated by members of the law enforcement. The team’s objective is simple: seek the truth and follow the trail of evidence no matter where it leads. Once you watch the series for yourself you will get a sense that there is more than meets the eye as these investigations unfold.
So far there have been five seasons of this series with each season focusing on a primary investigation, which are called ‘inquiries’ in the UK. The series, which has recently encountered a delay in filming its sixth season due to the pandemic, draws high ratings in the UK and the series has been nominated and has won several awards thus far.
The first season of this series starts off within an intense situation then turns its attention to building up the lead characters of the series. The pace of the first season may appear to be a bit slow at first but it picks up pace midway with tensions escalate between the investigators of AC-12 and the police unit which is being investigated coupled with a few suspenseful situations leading up to the season finale.
The series rose quickly on my ‘must watch’ list due mainly to the intricate puzzle the writers bake into the story for each season. There are gripping plot twists and turns over the course of the season (each comprising 5 or 6 episodes) which left me yearning to watch more. I often found myself unwilling to stop for breaks in viewing because I was keenly interested to see what happens next.
There are a few familiar faces to US viewers in this series including Thandie Newton (Mission Impossible: II, Crash, ER) , Lennie James (The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead), Keely Hawes (Spooks, Bodyguard), and Stephen Graham (Boardwalk Empire, Snatch).
AMC has recently begun airing Line of Duty weekly on Saturday evenings (Season 2 is currently airing). If you want to binge the series Amazon Prime has seasons 1 through 4 available while Hulu has Seasons 3 and 4 available. The fifth season is available on Acorn TV.
3) Orphan Black (Amazon Prime) might be a series about clones but it also is a standout in my book for the exceptional acting performance by Tatiana Maslany, who played over 10 different clones which were all part of an experiment. This series figuratively is a Masterclass for acting as there is no one I can recall in the history of television who played clones or twin characters so well because each character was uniquely different from the way they walked, talked, and eye movement.
The rest of the cast built about each of the clones were well balanced and their interactions felt organic as each episode progressed. The cast included Dylan Bruce (Midnight, Texas), Jordan Gavaris, Kevin Hanchard (Suicide Squad), Maria Doyle Kennedy (Outlander), Kristian Bruun, Michael Mando (Better Call Saul), and Evelyn Brochu (X Company). Of all I enjoyed Kristian Bruun’s Donnie the best as his character and his clone, Alison Hendrix accounted for most of the light-hearted moments and offered a change of pace from the more serious nature of the series plot.
The cast of the series recently performed a live virtual table read and after watching it I was reminded how great this cast was and how exceptional Tatiana Maslany is at her craft.
Honorable mentions and recommendations: Money Heist (Netflix), Dexter (Netflix), Upload (Amazon Prime). Hannibal (Amazon Prime until June 4th / Netflix beginning June 5th), Bodyguard (Netflix), Doom Patrol (DC Universe, HBO Max), Legion (Hulu), Elementary (Hulu), Sleepy Hollow (Hulu), The Thick of It (HBO Max)
Picks by Jason
1) Devs (Hulu) – This limited series from Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Annihilation) is just what the doctor ordered if you’re in the mood for a thought-provoking futuristic thriller. The existential themes in Devs will leave the audience pondering about deep questions on the possibilities of life, at the perfect time if ever to do so. It can also at times be like a horror show with its creepy shots of ominous statues and overall dark tone, which is unsurprising considering Garland’s aforementioned work, but there are some moments of comedic levity.
Those light moments usually come courtesy of Stephen McKinley Henderson (Fences) as a playful, millennial dissing developer named Stewart, as opposed to the usually hilarious comedian Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation), in a serious, starring role as Forest, the lead developer of a tech company with a secret. Sonoya Mizuno (Ex Machina) stars as Lily Chan, a woman seeking answers after her boyfriend mysteriously disappears after his first day at Devs. Zach Grenier (Zodiac) as Kenton, an overzealous security guard, and Alison Pill (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) as Forest’s right-hand woman Katie, help to round out the talented cast.
Viewers of Devs will most likely be left ruminating on the nature of reality, but I also found it entertaining along the way with its originality and suspense. Definitely check it out!
2) Snowpiercer (TNT) – Based on a French graphic novel and a 2013 film by Bong Joon Ho (Parasite), this sci-fi show has a premise that is quite timely considering our lack of mobility both physically and by class, by being quarantined at home and most people lacking financial stability. The show is about the last survivors of a new ice age on Earth, who are stuck aboard a 1,001-car nonstop train, where the rich live in luxury, and the poor suffer while just trying to survive.
Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind) plays Melanie Cavill, the voice of the train via daily announcements, and the head of hospitality for Wilford Industries, which owns and operates the Snowpiercer. Daveed Diggs (Hamilton) stars as Andre Layton, the leader of the Tailies (the poor people who live in the tail of the train), and the last living detective on Earth. The Tailies are hardly being fed and are ready to revolt, except Layton wants to hatch an actual plan, as opposed to their other futile attempts at using sheer brute force to make their way up to the forbidden utopian-like cars. Before the revolution can get off the ground, Layton is enlisted by Melanie Cavill to solve a murder among the well-to-do.
The film version of Snowpiercer is action-packed, while the TV show is inherently a slow burn by the nature of the medium. I’m intrigued by the talented cast, the possibilities within the premise, and learning more about the futuristic world aboard the Snowpiercer. My hope is that the show doesn’t simply devolve into yet another detective drama, aka CSI: Snowpiercer. That aspect will undoubtedly be part of the show, but like the Tailies, one can always dream for more.
3) Bates Motel (Netflix) – I actually find horror to be comforting in a weird way during unsettling times, hence the recommendation of this great show based on the Alfred Hitchcock classic film Psycho. Freddie Highmore (The Good Doctor) as high school age Norman Bates, and Vera Farmiga (Source Code) as his mother Norma, provide a master class in both acting and inappropriate family bonds to the McFly degree. Olivia Cooke (Ready Player One) is also excellent as Norman’s innocent girlfriend Emma.
The show was produced by Carlton Cuse, who was a showrunner on Lost, and there’s a certain mysterious quality that those two shows share, along with fully fleshed out characters that the audience completely invests in. Norman is a lovable psychopath, much like the titular character from the show Dexter, which was a personal favorite of mine until they switched showrunners in season five, leading to a downhill freefall and a disastrous finale. Bates Motel is quite the opposite, with a steady run and outstanding finish, so much so that you may find yourself checking into the vacancy again, despite the creepy figure in the window.
Honorable mentions and recommendations: Lost (Hulu), Dexter (Netflix), What We Do in Shadows (Hulu), Daredevil, Luke Cage, The Punisher, Jessica Jones, The Defenders (Netflix), The Flash (CW), The Runaways (Hulu), The Mandalorian (Disney+), Glow (Netflix).
Picks by Michael
1) Stargirl (DC Universe and CW) premiered May 18 on DC Universe and May 19 on the CW. The first episode opened with one of the best fight sequences that I have seen on television. The visual effects and the fight choreography as The Justice Society battles the Injustice Society are equal to most big-budget films. This sets a seriously high standard for the series to match in later episodes.
The series stars Brec Bassinger (Bella and the Bulldogs) as Courtney Whitmore / Stargirl, a transplanted teenager from California who discovers that she has the ability to use the cosmic staff. This powerful artifact was previously used by Starman (Joel McHale). Bassinger is joined by Luke Wilson (Zombieland: Double Tap) as Pat Dugan/S.T.R.I.P.E., her stepfather, Amy Smart (MacGyver) as Barbara Whitmore, her mother, and wife of Pat Dugan; and Trae Romano (Robbie) as Mike Dugan, her stepbrother.
Stargirl promises to introduce new heroes to help the titular heroine in her battle against the Injustice Society. But, it wouldn’t be the CW without teen angst as Courtney has to navigate the world of an American high school teen while she develops as a newly inaugurated superhero.
The series has heart, action, exceptional visual effects, good acting, humor, and solid writing. I only hope that they can maintain this level of quality for the remainder of the season as well as future seasons.
2) Harley Quinn (DC Universe) captures the essence of the character of Harley Quinn in an outrageous and hilarious animated series on DC Universe. It stars Kaley Cuoco (Big Bang Theory) as the voice of Harley Quinn, Lake Bell (BoJack Horseman) as the voice of Poison Ivy, Alan Tudyk (Firefly) as the voice of Clayface, Ron Funces (Final Space) as the voice of King Shark, and Tony Hale (Arrested Development) as the voice of Dr. Psycho.
The series is a non-stop, madcap ride as Harley Quinn and her eclectic crew of misfits battles the Legion of Doom. Where else could one find a clay creature who can metamorph into any shape or person who is an aspiring but very poor actor, a man-shark who is a top-notch hacker but has a taste for human flesh, and a diminutive mutant with powerful telekinetic ability who is a blatant sexist? Somehow it all works on Harley Quinn. Season 2 is now streaming on DC Universe while Season One is on T2G2 on SYFY.
3) Kung Fu Hustle (Netflix) –If you love classic kung fu films but with a comic take, then Kung Fu Hustle is for you. While this might not be a series like others on this list it is great recommendation because it combines classic kung fu fighting with the hero’s journey, a buddy film, and a love story all in one.
It stars Stephen Chow as Sing who goes on an extraordinary and painful journey to discover his true potential. Chow not only starred in this film, he also wrote and directed it. It’s a beautiful film whose humor never overwhelms its heart. It’s a must-see film if you love the classic Chinese martial arts films. It might even bring a tear to one’s eye in these difficult times.
4) On June 18th one of my favorite series from last year, The Order, will be returning to Netflix. This supernatural-horror dramedy set on the campus of the fictional Belgrave University has witches, werewolves, and just simple fun. Patric Caird composes the perfectly atmospheric music that sets either a horror, dramatic, or lighter tone.
On the same day at 11 PM ET/10 CT, the SYFY channel premieres The Great Debate. This series will try to answer the great geek questions such as who is richer Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark? Are zombies bad or a necessary part of the supernatural food chain? Inquiring geek minds want to know.
Picks by Scott
1) Need a good laugh right now? If so, check out What We Do in the Shadows season 1 on Hulu, as well as season 2 which is currently airing on FX as of this writing. This comedy and horror series is about four vampires sharing a place in New York City and the second season just had Mark Hamill guest-starring in one episode recently. Do note that a third season has been ordered by FX and the series overall has an 97% Rotten Tomatoes rating.
2) Better Call Saul is a crime drama series that has an 97% Rotten Tomatoes rating and it is the prequel and spin-off to AMC’s Breaking Bad. Season 5 may have ended in April 2020, but with the sixth and final season not airing until 2021, now is the time to watch the show on Netflix. After that, check out Breaking Bad if you haven’t already.
3) Chernobyl is an HBO historical drama miniseries about 1986’s Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The miniseries only have five episodes, so it won’t take you long to go through it, but according to the strong reviews (it is 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, after all) and it winning 10 Emmy awards in 2019, many should definitely watch Chernobyl. Do note that it is on Hulu and HBO MAX.
4) Showtime’s Homeland is a spy suspense series that stars Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison, who works for the Central Intelligence Agency, with the task of stopping threats from actually happening against the United States. The series itself has 8 seasons and it just finished its run in April 2020, so now is a good time to check it out on Hulu. The series has an 85% Rotten Tomatoes rating.
Honorable mentions and recommendations: Killing Eve (AMC/Hulu), Brooklyn Nine-Nine (NBC/Hulu), The Americans (Amazon Prime Video), The Shield (Hulu), and Dexter’s Laboratory (HBO Max).
Well … that’s all for now. What do you think? Let us know what you are watching on the FoCC Forum and stay tuned for a follow-up article later in the summer with additional picks and recommendations.