With the fall television season about to start up, I thought I would share some of the new shows I’ve been watching over the summer. I’ll be back in a few weeks with what new shows I’m watching this fall.
Of all the shows on this list Derry Girls is by far the show I recommend the highest. It’s an Irish sit-com that’s currently streaming on Netflix. It feels a little odd to call it a sit-com because it doesn’t feel like an American sit-com. A sit-com it is nonetheless because it is a situational comedy. Like many traditional sit-coms the humor comes from what is happening each episode with little plot carrying over from episode to episode. The show takes place in Londonderry, or Derry if you prefer, Northern Ireland in the mid to late-90s. It revolves around 4 teenage girls and one teenage boy. The music is great too. It’s a real time capsule of 90s music. It doesn’t limit itself to whatever years the show takes place but a whole range of late 80s through late 90s music. There are some songs I didn’t even remember existed. The show is very funny, and I love the characters. It’s a sheer delight to watch and I’m sad that there’s only 12 short episodes 23-24 minutes long. There will be more, but it’s going to seem like way too long before we get them.
This Way Up
Sticking with European comedies This Way Up is an British tv show streaming on Hulu. It stars Aisling Bea as a woman who just got released from rehab after having a mental breakdown. It’s intimated that she tried to commit suicide, but you never get full details that confirm that. Sharon Horgan plays her older sister who is struggling to keep tabs on her sister because she’s very worried about her while also trying to set boundaries so that she can have her own life. Aasif Mandvi plays her boyfriend. It’s also a really funny show with great characters. This show does have a through plot line. Currently there’s only six 30 minute episodes, so you can speed through it in a night or two.
I was only 7 when Chernobyl happened. I have no memory of ever knowing about it at that time, and basically little knowledge of what exactly happened other than that there was a nuclear meltdown there back in the 80s. When this HBO miniseries premiered the initial reviews I read based on the first episode just made it seem bleak and very graphic, and I was not in the mood to deal with any of that so I told my husband to watch it without me. By the end of the 5 episodes the consensus seemed to be among critics that it was the best show of the year. Everyone was raving about it, so I finally decided to watch. It certainly is bleak. There is no way it couldn’t be, but it’s also really good. I figured I wouldn’t be able to binge watch it because it was too depressing. Instead I watched one episode on a Saturday night and watched the remaining four the next day. I really don’t think I ever grasped the immensity of what happened or how much worse it could have been. It’s definitely worth yet another reminder that people are terrible.
When They See Us
Speaking of bleak and terrible, When They See Us is the Ava Duvernay’s Netflix miniseries that looks at the five young men/boys who were convicted of raping a jogger in Central Park in 1989. They were all exonerated many years later after someone else confessed to the crime. It’s a damning look at our criminal justice system and racism. Unlike Chernobyl I could only watch one of these episodes at a time. I think it’s quite possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever watched. The fourth episode that centers largely around Korey, the one boy who was sentenced to adult prison rather than juvenile detention, and who spent most of his time in prison in solitary confinement is the most brutal hour of television I’ve ever watched hands down. It’s definitely not a pleasant watch, but it’s an important watch and a very well done production that everyone should see precisely because of how uncomfortable it will make you.
Dead to Me
Dead to Me is another Netflix show that stars Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini as two women who meet and strike up a friendship at a grief support group after Christina Applegate’s husband died and Linda Cardellini’s fiance died. Though you quickly learn that nothing is as it seems and Linda Cardellini’s character has a lot of secrets. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Christina Applegate in anything and it was really pleasant to have her back on my tv. I liked the dynamic between the characters and look forward to more time with them. However, there are so many dramatic reveals in this show I do worry about how long it can keep it up if it keeps trying to do the same format in future seasons.
Private Practice is obviously not a new show, but since I binge watched 15 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy in like 4 months last year I decided I should watch Private Practice as well. I always liked Addison as a character in Grey’s so I was down with a spin-off featuring her. I liked it well enough, and I plowed through it’s 6 seasons pretty quickly, but I did not like it nearly as much as I like Grey’s. Mostly I think because this show and I had a very big disagreement about who should be couples on this show. At the beginning I thought they were trying to make Addison and Pete end game, but they pivoted pretty quickly on that and paired him up with Violet, who I hated from the second she graced the screen. By the end of the show, their relationship had also made me kind of hate Pete, so I didn’t really mind when Tim Daly left the show before the final season. Sadly, Amy Brenneman didn’t go with him. I also hated Addison and Sam together. I was still rooting for Addison and Pete back when they got together and then eventually the fact that they stayed together for so long after she tried to start having a baby when he flat out said he didn’t want one made zero sense. They were together for seasons and it was not great and I never felt like they had any chemistry either.
I like Audra McDonald a lot as an actress, but I never felt like they gave Naomi any great storylines, so I didn’t even really miss her when she left after season 4. Charlotte and Cooper were pretty much what kept me in this. I loved their characters and their relationship, and I’m super happy that the show never really tried to screw them up too badly. I had no idea that Amelia was a character on Private Practice before she was on Grey’s. I always thought her drug addiction, dead fiance and baby were just back story they created for her. I had no idea it was a whole plot line on a different show. It was kind of fun to see her character as such a baby. I also never understood Sheldon that much. He was a fine character, but I don’t know why they had to make him such a sad sack all the time. They couldn’t even give him a happy ending. Here find love, but sorry she has terminal brain cancer. Geez. I was fine with Addison ending up with Benjamin Bratt’s character. By that point I was just happy she was no longer with Sam and this show was very clearly phoning it in by the final 13 episode sixth season. It was a fine diversion, but nothing I’d say anyone should feel super compelled to watch. Though clearly I have many feelings about it.
David Makes Man
David Makes Man is a new show on the OWN network written by the same person that wrote the movie Moonlight. You can tell. The two properties share a lot of the same DNA. David is a middle school kid at a magnet school who is trying to keep things together to get into an elite high school, but he is torn by all the warring parts of his life. He’s David at school where he surrounded by mostly white kids and doesn’t really fit in. At home with his recovering addict mother who is barely keeping them afloat he’s Dae. And in the neighborhood where he lives he’s DJ who is getting dragged into the drug dealing business mostly against his will. It’s a good show, I’m not sure it’s an entirely enjoyable show to watch though. There are definitely moments of joy and levity, but mostly it’s a lot.
What/If is a Netflix series starring Renee Zellweger as a mysterious woman who offers to finance the failing company created by Jane Levy’s character as long as she can spend one night with her husband. There are a lot of nefarious machinations that go on. It’s very over the top and I got bored with it pretty quickly, but I wanted to know what her deal was and it was only 8 episodes so we finished it. I don’t really recommend it though.
I was spoiled on the twist in this show long before I ever watched it. If you haven’t watched it and don’t want to be spoiled leave now. This Amazon show stars Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph star as a married couple who it turns out are both dead and are now stuck with each other forever even though they don’t really want to be. It had a few moments, but mostly I didn’t care for it. The one good thing about it was that the show was short and the episodes were only 30 minutes. In the age of super long streaming shows I always appreciate the few things that are less than 30 minutes long.