Peaky Blinders—Let’s talk Netflix Original deep cuts. When I was first laid up with my bad back in December, I cruised through this British Series. Set in the 20s, it focuses on the mean streets of industrial Birmingham. It’s a melting pot of trouble. Commies, cops, IRA, and The Peaky Blinders, the local gang, are all doing battle in this hardscrabble universe filled with young men deeply scarred by their experiences in WWI. It’s a far remove from Downton Abbey. There are flashes of excitement, especially when the show gets political, as it does at the outset. Will the factory workers fight for their rights? Will they embrace a socialist movement? Will they embrace revolutionary moment? Or will they fall into the hands of the local gangs, offering a quick buck. Unfortunately, as the show develops, politics become an afterthought, and the show’s plot turns toward simple gang warfare. Not bad, I just feel that the politics of England between-the-wars carries with it a seed of originality that simple gang warfare fails to bring. I did stick out for both seasons.
Veep—OK, I’m four seasons late to the party here, but this is brilliant funny stuff. Never watched it, but then I shot an Evening with Veep for San Francisco Sketchfest this year and I was intrigued. I had no idea that Armando Iannucci, one of the creative minds behind I’m Alan Partridge and In The Loop was behind this. The writing is great, as is the acting. Full marks here.
House of Cards—Watching House of Cards and Veep at the same time is a bit surreal, since the plot lines are nearly identical, featuring Vice Presidents climbing the ladder to the Presidency. A shocking number of plot points start converging. The two shows represent an interesting exercise in taking similar broad plot points and creating two very different experiences. Enough of that, let’s talk House of Cards. I loved the first two seasons. Now that I’m more than halfway through season 3, I can’t say I’m feeling it so much. The first two seasons focus on Frank Underwood’s rise to power. His end game becomes clear and is the driving force of the series. Now that he is fully in power in season 3, the show seems to lose focus. As President he seems rudderless. Other than maintaining power and flaunting his power, he seems adrift with no political agenda. It seems odd to me that someone who is a career politician, who was so focused on achieving the Presidency, would get there and then have no clear policies that he wants to enact. As the season progresses, he pushes policy through, but it all seems so reactive as opposed to proactive. It strikes me as a bit of lazy writing. Given the strength of the writing and acting in the first two seasons, I’ll play out the string, but I’m starting to think the five hour investment I have in front of me could be better spent.
Girls—I’ve been mixed on Girls. I like Lena Dunham. That said, the show, at times has irritated. I dug season 1. Season 2 made my skin crawl a bit. I skipped season 3. I’m digging Season 4. I find myself looking forward to each episode. Isn’t that the draw of TV? There you have it. Have I mentioned how every time I look at Lena Dunham, I think of 90s underground filmmaker, Sarah Jacobson? I think Dunham, whether she realizes it or not, took the mantle Jacobson was blazing before her untimely death, and has run with it. I think Sarah would be proud to see someone like Dunham strutting her stuff so boldly on TV. That thought makes me happy.
Togetherness—I’m a big Mark Duplass fan. I really enjoyed the first season of Togethrness, which features a married couple moving in different directions after becoming parents. It seems real. It seems heartfelt. It seems wounded. The characters aren’t always sympathetic, but they are not in a good place. The side story of the directionless sister and the best friend, who is an out of work actor, feels real as well. What happens when you approach middle age and all your hopes and dreams seem forever out of reach? Togetherness goes there and it’s good stuff.
Hockey—I watch a lot of hockey. The Sharks, my team, are a bit of sideshow this year. They’re offering up as much drama as some of the shows on this list. As the regular season comes to an end, and it becomes increasingly likely they won’t make the playoffs, I keep watching. I suppose it’s the masochist in me. Sports fans understand.