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.
Clocking just 15 minutes per episode, Special is like a candy bar. It’s quick to consume but sweet as sugar. This new Netflix Original is set around a gay man with cerebral palsy, a disability that affects his body coordination but not his brain. As Ryan puts it in the first episode, it’s a disability that doesn’t make him normal but also is not severe enough for him to be part of the “cool disabled crew”. Ryan decides to turn his life around by pretending his disability is due to a car accident. People around him, especially at the exploitative millennial magazine “eggwoke” where he is an intern, start treating him differently. The car accident story provides a more accessible framework for them to understand his condition. It’s hard to believe a TV show can come out today and still manage to be so different from the rest, but Special does it. In other words, and I’m sorry to be this cheeky; Special is special.
In After Life, Ricky Gervais plays a kind-hearted journalist who turns dark after his wife passes away. Her parting gift to him is a video manual on how to deal with life. But his pessimism and annoyance with people keep delaying him from watching it. Worst of all, a new recruit at the newspaper is assigned to work with him. Her determined personality not only further delays him from dealing with his sadness, but gives him the platform to be even darker and more pessimistic. After Life is a mix of dark humor, straightforward drama, and tragedy. It’s a difficult story packaged in the easiest and most digestible TV form. The episodes are quick, have clear arcs and plot; and yet, you won’t be able to shake the feeling that you’re watching something much deeper than a Ricky Gervais comedy.
In one scene, the main character’s husband looks at her with disdain after she makes an inappropriate joke - “you are somebody’s mother!” She looks back with the same disdain - “I’m sorry, I forgot, moms aren’t supposed to be funny.”Funny is a good word to use here, because this show is hilarious. Comedian Andrea Savage makes a TV show based on her life, or rather, that is her life (it’s a thin line). The show’s easy going tone is only interrupted by Andrea’s lack of consideration of what is appropriate.Her jokes are heavy and offensive, and if you don’t mind either, so funny. They range from teaching her mom about unexpected sexual slang to trying a by-all-means approach to comfort her daughter’s fear of Nazis. Funny, natural and entertaining - I’m Sorry is a joy to watch.
Nadia is a game developer and proud aging hipster living in New York. Her story starts at her thirty-sixth birthday party looking at herself in the bathroom mirror. On her way out, she finds a friend who hands her a joint laced with cocaine, “that’s how the Israelis do it” her friend says.Nadia hooks up with a guy and they stop at a bodega on the way back to her place. So far everything seems normal (in a New York-hipster kind of way). But on her way out of the bodega, she is hit by a car and dies. The story restarts, at the same birthday party, staring at herself in the mirror.Russian Doll can be summarized in what Nadia screams later that night: “the universe is trying to f*ck with me, and I refuse to engage”. Her strong personality and the events that happen to her allow the show to explore themes of vulnerability, trauma, and even life and death. Russian Doll repeats almost every episode, but its originality and plot twists make it more refreshing with every repeat.This rhythm takes some quick getting used to, but the moment you do you will not be able to look away. Natasha Lyonne from Orange is the New Black is masterful at playing Nadia. She co-created the show with Amy Poehler and Sleeping With Other People director, Leslye Headland. She packs a lot of the originality and character that possibly makes Russian Doll the most fun and original show you will watch in 2019.
Sex Education is an original mix of what its title would indicate, but also of heartfelt and funny stories. Otis, a British teenager whose mom is a sex and relationship therapist, starts harnessing her knowledge to help the sex woes of the kids in his high-school. Hilarity regularly ensues as you’d expect from anything involving sex and uninitiated teenagers. But for all its worth, Sex Education is never cringe-worthy. Its realistic writing of teenage misadventures can teach any adult a thing or two. If you liked Lovesick, another Netflix British comedy about sex trouble, you will like Sex Education.
If you’re looking for a funny yet original sitcom, look no further than Derry Girls. It takes place in 1990s Northern Ireland where civil unrest reigns. News of bombings is regular. This is a cause for concern for a lot of people, but for one group of teenage girls life continues as usual. Making fun of the first boy at their all girls school and being embarrassed by crushes are unshakable priorities. Derry Girls might have been a good show with just the 90s nostalgia and the political undertone, but the sharp and hilarious writing elevate it to greatness. It is truly one of the best sitcoms ever made. If you liked The End of the F***ing World, you will enjoy Derry Girls. They differ in plot but they both carry similar elements of dark and dry humour. Watch out for Sister Michael, she is hilarious.
A wealthy family has to cope with the sudden loss of their fortune and their relocation to a dreary town that the father once purchased as a joke. Their life changes but their expectations of life don’t. Expect the undemanding, easy hilariousness of reality television. This is definitely a no-brainer TV show that gets better as the seasons go by and you get more used to its kind of humor.
Bill Hader writes and stars in Barry as an assassin who decides to take up acting in Hollywood. In very familiar Bill Hader fashion, Barry is funny and yet has a lot of heart. He plays his character so well that you find yourself rooting for him from the start as he navigates Chechnyan gangs, the FBI, and intense acting lessons. A lovely, funny, and smart TV show.