The Umbrella Academy: Robert Sheehan, Justin H. Min, Aidan Gallagher, Ellen Page, Tom Hopper, David Castañeda, Emmy Raver Lampman — Photo: Christos Kalohoridis/Netflix
With theatrical releases having come to a sudden, screeching halt, our collective eyes have turned to our TVs and devices, where streaming services now reign supreme. There is so much exceptional content out there — both new and classic — that it’s helping make quarantine a bit more bearable. With that in mind, here are three binge-worthy shows that you should immediately put at the top of your must-watch list.
The Umbrella Academy
The Netflix series bears only a modest resemblance to the comic book series written by Gerard Way and lavishly illustrated by Gabriel Bá. The toning-down of the book’s extravagant violence is for the better, though the storyline remains as offbeat and wild. The adventures of a profoundly dysfunctional family of adopted siblings, each with his or her own special superpower, retains all of its bizarreness, and season two, which dropped last weekend, is as good as, if not better than, the first. Both deal with the siblings attempting to halt a predetermined apocalyptic event, and both delve into some fairly resonant emotional terrain. Season two, which takes place in Dallas leading up to Kennedy’s assassination, elevates the show’s LGBTQ quotient in a beautifully organic way. The cast is fantastic, with standouts including a quietly simmering Ellen Page, Kate Walsh (doing her very best Wendie Malick), David Castañeda as the brash, impetuous Diego, a scene-stealing Robert Sheehan as the flamboyant clairvoyant of the clan, and the remarkable Aidan Gallagher, whose portrayal of the time-traveling Five, a fifty-something assassin trapped in the body of a 14-year-old, brings essential gravity and urgency to both seasons. Bonus: Mary J. Blige shines in season one as a brutal assassin from the future. I heard a rumor you’ll drop everything and watch it now on Netflix. (★★★★☆)
This FX on Hulu miniseries does a little time-hopping itself, back to the ’70s and the incipient struggle for the Equal Rights Amendment, notably the war of words (and baked goods) between conservative nightmare Phyllis Schlafly and her minions and the queens of women’s rights Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, and Shirley Chisholm, who slowly, tortuously attempt to get the ERA ratified. It’s a stunningly well-written and produced series, and features perhaps the most clever opening credits sequences you’ll ever see. Cate Blanchett makes a steely yet surprisingly vulnerable Schlafly without ever attempting to make her sympathetic. She’s essentially a demon in apron strings. The ensemble is sensational — there’s not a bad performance, from Rose Byrne as Steinem and Margo Martindale as Abzug to Uzo Aduba as Chisholm and Sarah Paulson, as an amalgam of several conservative women who, as the series progresses, evolves ideologically. It’s Tracey Ullman, however, who walks away with the series as a brash, perpetually inflamed Betty Frieden. It’s a masterful performance in a series filled with them. Exclusively on FX on Hulu. (★★★★★)
If you’re looking for the granddaddy of mind-bending time-travel shows, this German Netflix-produced series, which recently concluded a satisfying three-season run, can’t be beat. It’s a mind-scrambler of a show that gets more and more addictive as it moves forward (and backward and sideways). A mix of science fiction and dense, brooding drama, Dark keeps pushing its own envelope on what a series is capable of. For example, by the time you get to the middle of season three, you are witness to a murder that is at its very core impossible. And yet, there it is. It leaves you gobsmacked. Dark is one of those meticulously considered shows that you can either obsess over or go with the flow and enjoy the ride. Either way, by the time you get to the series finale, the landing is so perfect, so beautiful, so emotionally resonant, that you’re instantly ready to return to season one, and give it another go. Find Dark here. (★★★★★)
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