The Guardian’s lead critic said of Trapped: Seductive, involving, gripping...I am already, thoroughly, trapped. I’m quoting a publication to give some grounding to my overly excited claim: Trapped (or Ófærð) is one of the best TV shows ever made. I am obsessed with it. The plot is simple: a cop tries to solve a murder before a storm arrives, but the way it gets stretched is exceptional, and can only be compared to Scandinavian classics like The Hunt, The Guilty or Headhunters. And the fact that Trapped is from Iceland (not Norway or Denmark) adds a more chilling twist to the Scandinavian thriller genre. I don't want to say more and ruin the show for you, but this is an amazing binge.
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.
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.
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.
When I learned about Street Food the first time, I was reluctant to sit through yet another Netflix cooking show. They’ve made so many that when I want to bring up an episode with a friend I forget if I saw it in Ugly Delicious, Chef’s Table, Salt Fat Acid Heat or others. I can’t say that Street Food is a different format. It uses the same slow-motion takes of food, the same close-ups on chefs and the same style of interviews. Here is the thing though. Street Food might be similar to other Netflix cooking shows, but it’s also better than them in almost every way. Much better. It’s only 30 minutes long per episode, so it doesn’t indulge in egos or stray into unrelated stories. It doesn’t showcase kitchens where only the rich eat, like Chef’s Table often does, but stalls that are accessible to everyone. And in the best way, it connects the story of the food makers to the food. The show is mostly about middle-aged to senior women, and people who do not make that much money. It’s not about glamorous young chefs. It’s about food stripped away from any marketing or showbiz. Real cooking, real chefs, real diners. In its unpretentious nature, Street Food feels euphoric.