#TheATOD5 – Streaming Binges

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It Keeps Getting Better

Television and film has never been so bold or so powerful as it is today. With networks willing to push boundaries, have uncomfortable conversations, dare to think outside the box, and create smarter, funnier, and more thought-provoking content, as viewers we have so much to watch, digest, and take in.

As we get older, the reason we’d all become complacent with what television we consume is because up until now, no one has dared to challenge us to see things differently. These shows below are the voices inside our heads asking us to see the world through a different lens. Not the kind of lens that blinds us or allows us to hide quietly in the shadows, but rather the voice that demands we stand for something, even if its ridiculously simple comedy.

Cover photo by @mattia.venza

The Morning Show (DRAMA)

@AppleTV

When the first mention of this show made its way to me, I couldn’t quite wrap my head around. I hadn’t yet seen a show produced exclusively by Apple TV, and initially my fear was this would be an attempt to round up some A-list talent and put on a show just because they could, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The Morning Show created by Jay Carson and developed by Kerry Ehrin is nothing like that. The Morning Show, executive produced by stars Jennifer Aniston (Alex Levy) and Reese Witherspoon (Bradley Jackson), holds up a mirror to us all.

The cast includes Steve Carell in one of the most horrid roles of his career playing the unforgivable Mitch Kessler, Mark Duplass as tortured producer Charlie “Chip” Black; Billy Crudup as the painfully powerful yet against-the-grain network exec Corey Ellison; tough-as-nails yet the boldest of them all Karen Pittman (Mia Jordan); Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Hanna whose drive, strength, and internal struggle for justice is fierce, Nestor Carbonell as the weatherman and super sweet Yanko Flores; adorable and truly torn Bel Powley  (Claire Conway);  Desean Terry (Daniel Henderson); Victoria Tate  (Rena); Janina Gavankar  (Alison Namazi); Tom Irwin playing the slimy network head; Joe Tippett  (Hal Jackson), and Brett Butler  (Sandy Jackson).

It’s a testament to intense writing and story that doesn’t dare take the audience for fools. The story exposes the sexual misconduct of the star of The Morning Show, Mitch Kessler (Carrell), and the many cover ups the network took part in. It’s an homage to every person who has been on the receiving end of someone who has abused their power to have sexual dominance over another. It’s intense, sometimes vile, honest, heart-wrenching, funny at times, and transparent. In short, this is the take down of scumbags like Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer and it’s damn rewarding to see.

The Category Is…Mexico City

Network | Revry @revrytv

Created by Ocean Vashti Jude and Lauren E. Zubia Calsada , The Category Is…México City is the kind of beautiful docu-series that gives us a far more intricate stripped down look at the Latin capitol, the dance community and one liberating LGBT refuge, House of Mamis, where the mantra is simply, everyone is welcome. This season  looks at the vogue scene and ballroom culture and how it has evolved past New York City and is now shaping queer communities around the world.

The show takes place in México City, and each under 10-minute episode introduces us to a cast of dancers that will steal your heart and make you want to celebrate, cry, laugh—and dance. Season One examines themes of cultural and gender identity, LGBTQ discrimination in Latin America, and self-expression and advocacy through dance. Providing an unfiltered look at the flourishing México City ballroom scene, the episodes showcase a chosen family of dynamic queer performers including house mother, Mendoza; trans-activist, Negraconda; dance enthusiast and dreamer, Ponyboy; and more.

“Voguing is something that in the U.S feels exciting and is something to marvel, but voguing at its core has always been raw and about family. We traveled to México City to film a voguing house that goes by the name of House of Mamis,” says Zubia Calsada. “It was inevitable that we would tell this story about these beautiful humans.We are both Latinx filmmakers who have always been othered, yet we have a strong love of the Latina Mother and what she represents in a household.” Zubia Calsada continues, “Immediately, when we were invited into their spaces (the subculture), we were welcomed by the glue of the house, House Mother Mendoza, who has the holiness of a saint but the presence of a warrior. Crammed into a tiny apartment were 7-8 Mamis. Some painting their nails, others smoking by the window, and a few preparing food for the house. It’s a cozy ecosystem.”

“It is quickly apparent that México City is truly a queer epicenter, and I use that word specifically. In the states voguing is a sport, it is lucrative and sadly it is very binary. Young LGBTQ folks leave their small towns and come to México City to join houses and live authentically,” says Vashti. “People don’t make a living off voguing and drag, but they are seen here; Sometimes in the most brilliant spaces like museums and opera houses. Places that once held the attention of kings and queens now give space to trans women and gay boys that love a good heel. México City on the surface is very traditional and a proud place, but if you go looking down the smaller streets, you will find a familiar beat, extravagant dancing and mind-blowing energy with faces of glitter welcoming you into some kind of paradise.”

The mission of both filmmakers with this series is, “to show people an unflinching look at how a group of very different people can come together and save each other, nurture each others’ talents and present them with something they’ve never had, all while being authentic—that is family.”

YouTube Teaser HERE | Downloadable Vimeo Teaser HERE

Last One Laughing Hosted by Rebel Wilson

@Amazon Prime Video

Watching Rebel Wilson brighten up the screen with her confidence, undeniable humor, and electric, radiating beauty, seeing her in her own element in Australia with a cast of other comedians in a reality show is everything you’ve been missing. Last One Laughing is one of the most clever comedic formats in a while. Rather than competing in a stand-up series, the goal of some of Australia’s most revered comics is to make it through six hours, locked in a room together without making each other laugh.

Season One includes comedians Anne Edmonds, Becky Lucas, Dilruk Jayasinha, Ed Kavalee, Joel Creasey, Frank Woodley, Nazeem Hussain, Nick Cody, Sam Simmons, and Susie Youssef. You can expect to watch absurdities, childishness, strategy, brilliance, and a battle of wits play out. Hosted by Wilson, her comments while watching the sheer insanity and cleverness of 10 comics battling it out for $100,000 is worth seeing, but its just fun to watch people be nonsensical, lose their minds a bit, binge drink, crack up laughing, and get more creative with humor (including physical) than you may have ever seen before.

Amid the craziness of life, this show is the perfect ingredient for a good belly laugh to remind you that people aren’t all a-holes. Some of them are rather funny!

Self-Made

@Netflix

Madam C.J. Walker is one of the most successful female entrepreneurs in American history, and yet many of us hadn’t known her story until recently. Octavia Spencer plays Walker in the brilliantly written and flawlessly performed Netflix Original Mini-Series, Self Made.

The series tells the history of two female entrepreneurs, head strong and hell bent on changing the lives of Black women in America. Walker, played by Spencer is a woman that society has not been kind to and yet she is the kind of woman every woman wants to be: Fierce, tenacious, savvy, and tired of being told she isn’t worthy of a place at the table in business or in beauty.

Having done laundry for Miss Addie Monroe, Addie gives Walker hair care treatments to help her feel beautiful and correct alopecia.Walker becomes a true evangelist for Addie’s product and wants to start to sell it. Told she woudn’t do well, Walker turns around and does so anyway selling out of Addie’s product. Proud to share what she has done, Addie denies her the chance to do sales. Deterred from doing sales for Addie, Walker decides to create her own line of hair products, determined to be as successful as Addie, and she faces every challenge presented head on. Her story is remarkable.

The trailblazing entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker who built a haircare empire that made her America’s first female self-made millionaire is a story everyone needs to know.  Walker is an inspiration, and Spencer’s performance is spellbinding. The series explores multiple storylines including the life of Walker’s daughter Lelia (Tiffany Haddish) who is finding her place in the world, her mother’s business, and is coming to terms with embracing her own sexuality.

By the time you get to the end of this four-episode mini-series, you will be empowered and cheering on Walker for everything she stands for and endured (and be enamored by Spencer’s portrayal of her).

Never Have I Ever

@Netflix

Sometimes we all need is a sweet and down-to-earth teenage show to remind us that innocence still exists. That is why we found ourselves immersed in the Netflix series, Never Have I Ever. Created by Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher, Never Have I Ever starring Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Poorna Jagannathan, and Richa Moorjani, narrated by tennis pro John McEnroe, this show is a deep dive into the complicated life of a modern-day first generation Indian American teenage girl (Devi played by Ramakrishnan), inspired by Kaling’s own childhood.

After losing her favorite person in the world, her father Mohan (Sendhil Ramamurthy), Devi is trying to navigate her way through life which includes her mother Nalini’s (Jagannahan) insistence on keeping Indian culture alive and grappling with her newfound single parenthood, her cousin Kamala’s (Moorjani) secret romance and an arranged Indian marriage, learning more about her two best friends Fabiola (Lee Rodriguez) and Eleanor (Ramona Young), hoping to get her first kiss from her crush Paxton (Darren Barnet), and battling it out with her nemesis Ben (Jaren Lewison). With a prominent cast including Adam Shapiro, Mark Collier, Iqbal Theba, Jae Suh Park and Tembi Locke, there are so many characters to love. 

Like all good teenage stories, there is drama, family conflict, insecurity, humor, and the heartbreaking moments of a girl missing her father. It’s a lovely series that doesn’t shy away from the strength of women, the beauty of Indian culture, embracing who you are, and exploring the many facets of friendship and family.