Small Planet’s Summer TV Watchlist
13 shows we recommend to help you deal with 2020.
I know, it’s a high concept musical sitcom in a long line of hit-or-miss music-themed shows. It’s outrageously plucky, with shades of winsome. And so … I wasn’t expecting to get into this, but I did! It was sweet! It was sad! There are a lot of incredibly cringey moments! I’m looking forward to the next season!
Immigrants working and cooking in small restaurants have found their livelihoods hanging in the balance because of the coronavirus. Taste The Nation shows how important it is to continue supporting small business and show appreciation for the people who make and serve our meals. I came away with a deeper, richer, more informed understanding of what American food truly is. Also, Lakshmi is a welcome departure from “traditional” food travelogue hosts (i.e. white guys on an all-expenses-paid dream vacation).
“Cross-pollination” is the go-to term to describe Giri/Haji, but that doesn’t quite do it justice. The pitch is great: Tokyo cop is sent to London to retrieve his gangster brother before hell breaks loose. The moody, arresting pilot sets the stage for something epic in scope, a taut mash-up of mob movie, police procedural, international thriller, family drama, and anime that’s like nothing you’ve seen on TV.
The reviews are all true — I May Destroy You is amazing, heartbreaking, and highly recommended. Loosely based on Michaela Cole’s own experiences as a survivor of sexual trauma, the show tackles impossibly difficult subject matter with pathos, wit, and authenticity. Cole herself is revelatory. It’s also a very interesting take on how technology affects our boundaries and relationships.
This light-hearted murder mystery is exactly what I needed during this pandemic. Based on the long-running book series (see: Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death) the show celebrates and dissects British drawing-room mysteries. A quirky oddball protagonist builds an endearing group of friends via some shaky crime-solving in the English countryside. Hijinks and scrapes aplenty … enough to keep me securely out of our mask-wearing, isolated reality.
When HBO announced this faux-gritty reboot of another golden oldie nobody needed, there was a collective groan. But, after a very broody start, it has defied expectations. It’s beautifully shot, and the cast is killer: Matthew Rhys, Tatiana Maslany, Stephen Root, Chris Chalk, and always on-form John Lithgow, among others. Perry Mason has a real sense of style that subverts (and rewards) our hazy vision of its well-worn hero, and the early-1930s L.A. noir he occupies.
Apart from a brief dalliance as a teenager (we’ve all been there), I scoffed at Jane Austen dramatizations as over-sentimental nostalgia-porn. Fast forward to 2020: social distancing and a house-bound existence suddenly make Austen relevant and dare I say, exciting. We can all relate to Bennet’s sister’s anticipation of the mail and longing for society. Andrew Davies’ 1995 adaptation is beautifully paced and, in my opinion, the definitive Pride & Prejudice.
The escapist dream, this show makes me think it might be possible to live in a 2 x 2 box, if only it had enough hidden storage and perhaps a pop-out roof deck.
The current Philadelphia-set season (a great location) continues to show people feeling emotions intensely and in a vulnerable way, ranging from sadness and depression to excitement and joy. It allows them to talk about these things without fear of judgment from others, and to explore their senses of fashion as well as their relationships to food, wellness, and dating. In the midst of everything happening, it’s no mystery why Queer Eye is so compelling.
Looking for a late ’80s/early ’90s British “comedy-drama mystery series” starring the irrepressible, pre-Deadwood Ian McShane? Neither was I, and yet my partner and I are now deep in the midst of the third season. Lovejoy is a rascally antiques dealer with an eye for fakes, and, of course, a penchant for trouble. Each episode is the right amount of ridiculous and mysterious (which is to say mostly ridiculous).
Before The Thick of It and Veep there was Yes, Minister. Equal parts hilarious and cynical, Yes Minister shows the British government as self-serving, negligent, and very silly. Though the show is decades old (Margaret Thatcher was a massive fan who requested the cast do a live reading) it feels truer today than ever. Stars Paul Eddington and Nigel Hawthorne make for one of the great comedy duets of all time, and their dialogue is a masterclass in smart writing.
You’d figure the story of a woman escaping her life in Hasidic Williamsburg would not translate to escapist pandemic TV. Wrong. Shira Haas’ tremendous performance at the center of Unorthodox is something we haven’t seen for a long time, and if she doesn’t win the Emmy it’s a crime. The storytelling is compact (four hour-long episodes) but so precise, especially in its nuanced depiction of family and alienation.
This show debuted around the same time my first child did. Maybe it’s because I had a little one of my own, but I found the science behind how we begin developing extremely fascinating.