I’m always in need of at least one hour a day of entertainment. That’s 365 hours a year—a lot of programming.
While I end up kissing a lot of frogs each year and, when reporting, often state the prominent (Game of Thrones, amazing! – duh!), I do come across a few gems I’d like to share.
The caveat is these all suit my peculiar tastes, so they might not be for you. Hopefully, I have made the appropriate notations below to help you decide if they are right for you.
Best of 2019 – So Far
Chernobyl – HBO – Five Episode Mini-series. The best series of the year that will win all the awards Grammy/Golden Globe time. Painstakingly accurate, this richly detailed illumination of a fuzzy moment (for many of us) of a significant historical event is both dramatic and poignant. Not to be missed. My favorite thing of the year by far.
The Chornobyl Podcast – Each episode of the HBO series is dissected by the writer Craig Mazin and NPR’s Peter Sagal, answering all the obvious and not-so-obvious questions. Who is a composite character? How much radiation is lethal? All that and more in this great use of the podcast medium.
Veep – HBO – Seven Seasons – This vulgar series comes to a glorious end, revealing star Julie Louis-Dreyfus’s Salina Meyer as one of the most fabulous comedy creations ever. And Jonah. What can I say? Pure laugh-out-loud gold!
Toy Story 4/John Wick 3/Always Be My Maybe – It’s the year of Keanu Reeves! And wow! The Matrix icon comes to Toy Story as Duke Kaboom, brings even more firepower to John Wick, and steals a whole series with a two-scene cameo playing “himself” on the Netflix show, “Always Be My Maybe.” Now, if only those memes turn out to be true.
Conan Needs Friend Podcast – Before Conan was steamrolled into the non-mainstream TNT by Jay Leno and NBC, Conan was the most innovative and funniest man on the comedy scene. The Simpsons, Saturday Night Live, and his late-night show were no problem for the Harvard-educated lanky redhead. So, maybe you’re not one of the 56 million who saw Kevin Hart, Ice Cube, and Conan driving around LA on youtube with his CONAN clips. You should; it’s hilarious. This podcast connects him one-on-one with hilarious and exciting guests like Dana Carvey, Lin Manuel Miranda, and Howard Stern. Thoughtful and always funny.
Revisionist History Podcast – Malcolm Gladwell’s delivery is not for everyone. Still, you can’t go wrong here if you want a podcast with the highest production value and a treasure trove of thoughtful (if not riveting and compelling) topics. Best of all, four seasons if you haven’t caught any! The “Save Brian Williams” episode is a favorite.
Stranger Things – Netflix – Three Seasons – This throwback to eighties styles, music, and storytelling has been a massive success because it’s both fun and creepy. The details and creepiness get even more delicious as each season receives more money.
The Quirky Good of 2019 – So Far
Rolling Thunder – A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese – Netflix – Bob Dylan is not for everyone. Still, if there is a chance, this hazy “historically accurate” retelling of his 1975 tour is the best chance to understand his appeal. “Hurricane” is fresh and delivered with a scorching passion while Joan Baez dances the boogaloo and wins our hearts! But did KISS inspire Bob’s makeup?
Aziz Ansari Right Now – Netflix – If you are unfamiliar with the Parks and Rec/Master of None star, you might not love this one-hour stand-up as much as I did. Ansari touches on race, what’s entertainment these days, and his recent METOO allegations, all with a refreshingly sincere approach. A unique and captivating voice!
Barry – HBO – Two Seasons – Last year’s best series’ winner came back as strong as ever, with the very odd Henry Winkler and the always fascinating Anthony Carrigan as NoHo Frank, a character you’ve never seen before.
Bosch – Amazon – Five Seasons – I feel like a broken record hawking this excellent adaptation of Michael Connely’s LA-based detective fiction protagonist Harry Bosch. The production is excellent. The LA backdrop is always visually exciting and recognizable. Each season is better than the last.
Shangri-La – Showtime – Only for die-hard music fans who know who producer Rick Rubin is. A fascinating look at the creative process at a very famous Malibu recording studio.
Of course, many others have a good performance or a few good episodes here or there. Alternatively, one or two good/great seasons. Streep is fantastic in Big Little Lies, but did we need a second season? No. Same for Handmaid’s Tale. Enough already with dystopia.
The good news is more to come! Especially, in late fall, with what might be the last season of the magnificent Curb Your Enthusiasm!