From the Oscar-nominated cinematographer of City of God, this is a Brazilian Netflix TV show that I can only describe as a smarter Hunger Games. In a dystopian society, the majority of the planet’s population lives in extreme poverty while a select 3% (hence the title) live in a heaven-like world called “The Offshore”. Every year, the 20-year-olds of the planet get a chance to join the 3% in a selection process that for the first time might harbor moles. With an intriguing first episode that shares just enough to keep you informed but engaged, it’s easy to want to binge-watch the whole first season of 3% in one sitting.
Bosch returned recently for a fifth season, with a sixth one confirmed. It’s a sleeper hit that you may not have heard of, but with time should get the coverage it deserves. Titus Welliver (Lost, Sons of Anarchy, Argo) plays an L.A.P.D. homicide detective who is on trial for using questionable methods during a fatal shootout. At the same time, he is trying to solve an open murder case. Bosch is carried by almost entirely by Welliver, who delivers such a good multi-layered performance that it’s hard to think anyone else could have played this character.
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.
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.
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.
There hasn’t been a docuseries as worthy of a binge since the Netflix production Wild Wild Country. 1994 might be even more gripping since its modest episode count (five) doesn’t delay any revelations. And just like Wild Wild Country, the events in this show get more and more mind-blowing as the episodes roll. Most of the story would be hard to believe if it wasn’t… you know… based on facts and backed by footage and interviews. The show starts with Mexico’s prominent presidential candidate, a shrewd political activist who was determined to bring change to the political structure, getting shot during a televised political rally. What follows is a series of in-depth interviews, including with Mexico’s president at the time (pictured above) and pretty much all the relevant people to the story who are still alive today. This is a rich, informative, and fascinating account of a violent and tumultuous year in Mexico. As the people being interviewed point out, understanding the relevance of 1994 in Mexican politics will help understand the country’s political and economic landscape today.
Three unassuming housewives team up with a violent street gang to make a little extra cash. What better TV show premise could you ask for?Good Girls is the often hilarious, always thrilling show dubbed “Breaking Bad meets Thelma And Louise.” The three lead actresses are fun and have great chemistry together as they navigate a sometimes fast-paced show, and other times a family drama. And that may be the only issue with this show, it doesn’t exactly pick a lane. However, if, like me, you don’t mind a little Detroit housewive drama mixed in with your thrilling scenes, you’ll have a great time.
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.
Patriot is about a secret agent who is assigned meddling with the Iranian elections to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Sounds serious? It is and it is not. What Patriot is really about are the bureaucratic pitfalls that involve such work. The secret agent’s team parks on the wrong street and he ends up killing the wrong guy. The bag of money he wants to use to meddle with the elections gets stolen by an airport worker in Luxembourg. Etc, etc. For all of this, Patriot is a funny and clever show. the best part is that the secret agent in question is also a folk singer - and sometimes sings awfully honest and descriptive songs of his missions in open mics. Patriot is a mix between real-life thrills and real-life laughs, and it's a near-perfect TV show.