Even though it is not particularly wintry yet in these parts it still gets dark before the local news comes on so the time is right for parking yourself in front of the old tv machine and watching something other than Masters of None (no slam). I loves me some Tom Haverford/Aziz Ansari but I’m figuring you have already binged yourself silly on that one and there are plenty of other shows equally deserving of your precious time.
River: The latest collab between the BBC and our besties at Netflix is one of those shows you should schedule some quality time with real soon. Starring Stellan Skarsgård as John River (Alexander’s dad) and Nicola Walker (Jackie “Stevie” Stevenson here, but forever known as MI-5’s Ruth Evershed). The two play a couple of police detectives but the similarities to all other cop buddy shows ends there. Like the little boy in the Sixth Sense John River sees dead people but unlike Haley Joel Osment’s Cole Sear, River also talks to them, gets into fisticuffs with them and even buys them banana milkshakes at the drive-thru. River is unabashedly weird, even weirder than that “friendship” between the tiger and the goat that was supposed to be his dinner only way less creepy than that because eating your friends is just plain wrong, except perhaps if your plane crashes in the Andes or you get stuck in a blizzard on the Oregon Trail.
Stevie is a major karaoke fan and the song I Love to Love* figures prominently throughout the series. Now Ruth Evershed/Stevie has a lovely voice, but anyone who has had the aural misfortune of seeing (and hearing) the film version of Mama Mia knows that is not the case with Stellan, or Colin Firth, or Pierce Brosnan for that matter. Thankfully Stellan doesn’t spend too much time crooning as he spends all six episodes acting his pants off, not literally of course, but he really impresses here. After a pretty shocking reveal about mid-way through episode one I was hooked. I don’t want to say too much more lest I ruin this cleverer than average show. #nospoilersforyou (Netflix)
Iris: ” You’re not pretty, you’ll never be pretty but you have style”, says the not-so-very-nice owner of Loehmann’s to a young Iris Apfel. No matter how backhanded of a compliment that was, Iris more than took it to heart. True style is something very few people have and it doesn’t necessarily have to mean couture as we see Ms. Apfel collects both designer and flea market finds with equal zeal. Prior to this movie I knew very little about Iris other than her obvious love of Mr. Magoo inspired eyewear but you don’t even need to know that to enjoy this documentary. In addition to being a fashion icon Iris was also a very successful interior designer who along with her husband Carl decorated homes around the world, including the White House for nine presidents. Not too shabby.
Iris is the last movie from Albert Maysles, best known (along with his brother David) for bringing the world the greatest documentary ever made Grey Gardens and for that we will forever be in their debt. In Iris, Maysles found his staunchest, chicest character since Little Edie wore a skirt upside down (mainly because it didn’t fit the regular way) and slapped a sweater on her head with a lovely brooch because after all, accessories do make the outfit. (Netflix, iTunes)
Getting On: is one of the best shows on HBO that you have probably never heard of. I had not until recently and it’s already in its third (and possibly its last) season. Consider it the John Kasich of premium cable, stuck at the kids table while Game of Thrones and Girls hang out at the adult table sucking up all the attention à la someone we all know that I refuse to acknowledge exists. Uncomfortably funny in the British Office sense (not at all surprising since it is based on a BBC series with the very same name), Getting On stars Laurie Metcalf (Roseanne) as self-centered head of medicine Dr. Jenna James, Niecy Nash (Reno 911) as the sweet and kind nurse Didi Ortley and Alex Borstein (MADtv’s Miss Swan) as her nut-cake boss and fellow nurse Dawn Forchette.
Getting On is set in a geriatric extended care facility called Billy Barnes and anyone who has ever spent an iota of time in such a place will be able to practically smell the hand sanitizer through the screen. Just like in real life, Billy Barnes tries to alleviate its medical industrial state institutionality with therapy dogs, music and water features. Now I like all three of those things but no amount of puppy love, Duran Duran or even a spectacular waterfall could ever make an extended stay in a care facility seem appealing. This show sucked me in though and I binged watched all three seasons in two nights. Much less impressive than it sounds since there are only six episodes a season (and there is one more left of the current season) but still, squad goals people. (HBO, Amazon, Hulu)
* Iceland’s favorite pixie scream queen Bjork got her first recording contract covering this alleged disco classic. The world makes no sense sometimes.