Scary COVID-19’s rise in positive numbers continues to put the kibosh on in-person cultural participation as we slide into month number eight of hunkering down.
How to assuage our hunger to fill that needy arts cavity? In my house, we’ve morphed into couch potatoes. We now default to non-mainstream programming available on the flat screen.
Ironically, many shows now available on premium cable channels have saved many a night’s entertainment as small gems are surprisingly top notch and continue to pop up. This timing has been serendipitous and welcomed.
I thought I would share a few of my very subjective, five-star recommendations for tube watching, in no particular order.
An eight-part anthology series based on true stories of immigrants navigating their way through the challenges of trying to live the American dream.
For example, in “The Manager,” Indian-born Kabir is only 12 years old when his parents are deported, and he is stuck running the family’s motel. In “The Son,” a gay Syrian man seeks U.S. asylum after he is banished from the family home. Each episode is poignant, inspiring and heartfelt. As a bonus, we catch glimpses of the real families after each half-hour program.
Set in the early months of the pandemic, this eight-part series was produced remotely and focuses on how Americans are forced to cope with the early effects of quarantine.
A working mother lacks childcare and must “babysit” remotely; a father cares for an infant son as his wife suffers from COVID-19 in the couple’s bedroom; and a newly-single man tries to deal with loneliness and sobriety. The ingenious use of technology and compelling stories of our new reality makes this a riveting series
You don’t have to be a dance scholar to enjoy and be wowed by what Dance Magazine describes as “six of today’s coolest choreographers” from around the globe. This five-part docuseries features: jookin stars Charles “Lil Buck” Riley and Jon Boogz; Israel’s Batsheva Dance founder/choreographer Ohad Naharin; avant-garde flamenco star Israel Galvan of Spain; Jamaican folk dance choreographer Kimiko Versatile; and kathak-meets-contemporary force Akram Khan, a British-based dance maker of Bangladeshi descent. You may even be inspired to get up and shake your booty!
Set in post-war Sweden, this three-season drama tells the story of the trials and tribulations of the affluent Lowender family in Stockholm and the kitchen staff who work in their high end, old-fashioned restaurant. The three adult children and their mother are fascinating to watch as they fight for control of the family business. A great way to learn about Swedish history (and cuisine) as the series touches on issues from abortion to unionization. Highly binge-able!
When I was the executive director of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, I was lucky enough to present singer/musician David Byrne for one performance. He brought a stellar trio of classical musicians, and a sold-out audience sang along to Byrne’s now-classic repertoire of songs he wrote for his group, Talking Heads.
Little did I know I could relive much of that concert in a filmed version of his recent Broadway show directed by Spike Lee. Clad in his iconic gray polyester suit, barefoot and accompanied by a talented band of musicians—who also sing and dance in their matching gray suits—Byrne entertains brilliantly for over two short hours. There’s an inherent optimism and joy that American Utopia exudes just when we need it the most.
— “The Queen’s Gambit,” Netflix
— “Hamilton,” Disney Plus
— “The Crown,” Netflix (Season 4 begins Nov. 15)
— “Home,” Apple TV + (documentary)
— “My Brilliant Friend,” HBO
— “Normal People,” Hulu.
Feel free to share what you’re watching. Email me at email@example.com.
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