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Good Shows: The Latest

Good shows to watch on Netflix and elsewhere.

This is an HBO dark comedy that was intensely loved by anyone who knew about it before it was inexplicably canceled. Laura Dern plays a corporate executive who has a full-blown meltdown. I’m talking mascara streaming down her cheeks and screaming “I’m going to destroy you” to a coworker. When she comes back from a retreat in Hawaii she is forced to take, Den’s character is no longer filled with corporate rage but with inexplicable and almost obnoxious positivity. She tries to spread her new outlook around by giving people books like “Flow Through Your Rage” and telling them about sea turtles. Things get more real when she decides to take on her old company’s abuses. I think the reason this show has such hard-core fans is that they fell in love with Laura Dern’s character. Watching this show is like letting in a flawed, dependent, but extremely determined and well-meaning person into your life. Enlightened is funny, engaging, and all-around near-perfect TV.

8.0

Some of the best black actors working today team up for When They See Us - the list includes Michael K William (Omar Little from The Wire) Jovan Adepo (Fences) and Jharrel Jerome (Moonlight). And as most on-camera faces in this miniseries are recognizable (there is also Felicity Huffman and Michael Peña), so is the writer, director, and creator of the show, Ava DuVernay. She is the director of Selma, for which she became the first female black director to ever be nominated for an Oscar. I’m spending a lot of time on credentials because the performances and high-quality direction are one of the few things that will get you through this show. It’s a tough watch - chronicling the story of five black teenagers who get falsely accused of rape. The case, known as The Central Park Five, was also made into an excellent documentary by the same name (available on Amazon Prime). When They See Us goes through the mechanisms and details of how the U.S. justice system framed these teenagers. It also pays special attention to their time in prison, and their family relationships. It’s an excruciating but incredibly important watch.

9.4

Here is a TV show where the performances are so good that it's hard to give any credit to the story. Patricia Arquette as a prison employee, and Benicio Del Toro and Paul Dano as inmates are an unbelievable trio. They all shine in their own right in this true story of escape from a prison in Upstate New York. Arquette is almost unrecognizable in the role of a frustrated middle-aged woman who gets romantically involved with the inmates. Dano plays the young one, a smart but easily excited guy. Del Toro plays an experienced, shrewd, and boss-type prisoner. Together they take an already exceptional story and create one of the most realistic mysteries in recent memory. Because of this, the pacing might be slow for some - but remember, it's not like the cast is difficult to follow.

9.3

Rilakkuma and Kaoru is that perfect mix of cute and profound that you’d expect from a Japanese show about a woman living with teddy-bear roommates. The first episode is about cherry blossoms, but really, it’s about loneliness. Actually, the best term I can find to describe this show, and I’m not joking, is “slice-of-life.” The stories are endearing and intimate. You won’t be able to help but relate to the main character as she deals with being single while her friends are in relationships, her apartment building being demolished and she can’t find another affordable place to move into, her stressful job, etc. I have never seen a show combine this many absurd elements (the woman lives with three goddamn teddy bears), with so much realism. And all of this is done in an easy, quiet tone.

8.2