TV Shows that feed curiosity, mystery and suspense, cutesy, emotional manipulation and voyeurism.
This is a look at some binge worthy distractions while 2021 wraps up.Thanks to the pandemic, adults are watching 40% more TV than they have in years past, according to statista.com. As COVID-19 turns into COVID-2021, some TV productions have resumed (implementing COVID compliance, of course), making for interesting set structures, cast and story dynamics, but most importantly, more things to bide our time.
Now that our couches have officially marked us as their own (somewhere there are secret casts of our butt cheeks), everyone is asking, “What the hell should I watch?” We preface this by saying, we’re not the experts, but as we all live out the rest of year hungry for new entertainment, hoping the virus numbers continue to go down as people get vaccinated, it seems befitting to make a few suggestions on what might be worth a watch. Keep in mind, the shows we mention are only ones we’ve watched. There are dozens of other new series’ out there that we haven’t gotten to just yet.
The below is a curated list that is by no means is the be-all and end-all of what’s worth your time, but it is a variety of old, new, and interesting. Consider them mere suggestions while you wait for this year to end. Below our editorial team put together their individual takes on each show. Call it a collective glimpse of differing dynamics and personal preferences …
The Mandalorian | Disney+ (Fantasy/Drama)
The Mandalorian is by far one of the more anticipated second seasons to stream on any platform since, well … the pandemic. The series is centered around protecting “the child” (aka baby Yoda) until it can safely be taken to more of its kind (you mean there are more adorable Yoda’s out there?) by way of the most skilled warriors in the Star Wars realm, the Mandalorians.
Audiences flocked to the new streaming service Disney+ as the promise of a far more interesting Star Warsspinoff came to be. Like a bunch of suckers, we became unapologetically obsessed with baby Yoda even though we still don’t technically know his name because he’s referred to ad nauseum as “the child.”
So, was Season One the best thing ever? I mean, not really. A little slow in the beginning, the story wasn’t entirely as brilliant as I expected. We all know how extraordinary of an actor Pedro Pascal from Narcos is, and The Mandalorian didn’t showcase his talents very much until the second half of the first seasom. (Oh, hang on to your pants, I’m not done.) It was, however, a refreshing take on a cult classic series. All that said, when Disney announced it would be releasing Season Two on October 30? My teenagers, partner and I were chomping at the bit.
Season Two has not been a letdown. In fact, regardless of how cheesy oversized killer spiders may seem (hint: Episode Two), we get to see more baby Yoda, Pascal is more alive and complex, and Timothy Olyphant kicks off the first episode. Viewers experience epic battles, wild species that only exist in the Star Wars realm, funny banter, and of course, visual stunners. Directed by Swingers star and Avengers: Endgame director, Jon Favreau (yeah, the same guy who starred in the movie Chef), his stylized approach to story gets to shine a bit brighter with small jabs of humor, unbelievable wardrobe, and an outstanding cast. The series is worth the couch time. We also finally meet Rosario Dawson as Ahsoka Tano who will be instrumental in returning Grogu to his people.
So now that we’ve wrapped Seasons One and Two, here is a teaser trailer for Season Three releasing in 2022. I also want to give a shout out to my friend Mr. B that works in the art department and is an unbelievable visionary when it comes to props.
The Undoing | HBOMax (Drama/Suspense)
Nicole Kidman is the quintessential triple threat: She can sing, dance, and damn, can she act! Now that Big Little Lies has ended (for now), HBO’s The Undoing starring Kidman and Hugh Grant is goddamn fantastic. Written by David E. Kelly, the series revolves around the secret lives of the private school elite, but it is somuch more. This series explores the murder of a mother, the mystery surrounding it, the secret and tattered lives of those we love, betrayal, the power of wealth, the dismantling of relationships, and of course the kids desperately affected by it all.
The Fraser family, Grace (played by Kidman), Jonathan (played by Grant), and Henry (played by Noah Jupe) live a charmed life. Grace is a thriving therapist publishing her first book, Jonathan is a successful pediatric oncologist, and Henry is a well-adjusted preteen with a great education and two parents who love him. In the series pilot, this happily married, well-functioning family seems ideal until new mom Elena comes into their lives. Grace takes an interest in Elena and in a few brief exchanges, Grace begins to wonder what trouble or pain Elena is in. From there, the story unravels one steady mind-blowing thread at a time.
Kidman and Grant show immense depth, and the cast, which includes Donald Sutherland, Matilda De Angelis, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Édgar Ramírez, Lily Rabe, and Noma Dumezweni, is exquisite. The series is provocative, suspenseful, beautifully shot, and addicting.
Emily in Paris | Netflix (Comedy/Romance)
Lily Collins is an actress known for her role as Snow White in Mirror Mirror, her prominent eyebrows, sweet doe-like brown eyes, and being the daughter of legendary musician Phil Collins. When Netflix announced the release a new series starring Collins, Emily in Paris, I was skeptical. Was this Netflix’s attempt to take a stab at their version of a Hallmark or Lifetime Channel? It kind of is, but the quirky series is just sweet enough to endear those who like a little cotton candy in their TV shows.
Collins plays Emily Cooper, an ambitious, peppy, confident marketing executive from Chicago. Cooper is hired to work in Paris for a year to create social media campaigns and brand messaging for French companies looking for that American perspective. Unable to speak French, Cooper finds herself in a predicament as her new boss, the tough-minded, sultry, and stylish Sylvie Grateau (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu) isn’t fond of her, her American tactics, or her inability to speak French. Challenged with proving her worth in a foreign country, Cooper handles the fish-out-of-water scenario with an optimistic hopefulness that you can’t help but admire. Cooper makes fast friends with Mindy Chen (Ashley Park), co-workers Julien (Samuel Arnold), and Luc (Bruno Gouery), and her neighbor (and secret crush) Gabriel (Lucas Bravo). The situational dialogue is fast-paced with an influx of humor (some clever, some predictable), interesting relationship dynamics, and the self-exploration through the eyes of a 20-something.
This modern-day story of an American in Paris introduces you to a character you’ll fall in like with. The show is cute and endearing, and all things considered, Emily in Paris is a winsome alternative to the heavy, dramatic, fear-infusing options now streaming—in the real world and on networks. Season Two is in the works, and yes it looks a little cheesy … but hey, sometimes audiences love them some cheesy.
This Is Us | NBC + Hulu (Drama)
This Is Us took viewers by storm four seasons ago when it first aired in 2016. The series follows a family of five over the course of their lives and confronts race, the family dynamic, love, alcoholism, loss, adoption, and every real-life drama that most people relate to. Known for its ability to emotionally manipulate viewers (because we cry almost every episode), This Is Us was a revelation on network television upon its debut. Audiences everywhere immediately fell in love with Jack, Rebecca, Kevin, Randall, and Kate Pearson, and have loved them—and every new character introduced—every season since.
This Is Us aired Season Five, “Forty: Part One” on October 27, 2020 and Tuesday nights in the dead of the pandemic finally got better. Filmed during COVID, the show launches into a celebration of the sibling’s 40th birthday, yet it doesn’t miss a beat in addressing the racial and systemic injustices of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, the political instability of the White House, the everyday challenges of the pandemic, and the episode reveals some major story shockers and insights. It also surprised audiences with an uncertain rift between Kevin, Randall, and Kate creating a disconnect we haven’t really seen play out (especially not so severely) since the series began. This season is leading up to the end of what has no doubt been the most emotionally triggering, love-filled beauty the world longs for (and needs). If you haven’t succumbed to the call of the series, catch the first five seasons on Hulu or peacocktv.com. You’ll thank us, we swear.
Season Six will be the final season and it looks like it will rip your heart out without question. That said, we love when a show ends when you’re still madly in love with it.
YOU | Netflix (Thriller)
We’ve already talked about why it is we’re happily consumed by YOU and Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley), and if you need a refresher, there are few more intriguing serial killers we root for. Joe is even more glorious than Dexter (don’t get upset, it’s true), and when we were first introduced to him in Season One? We couldn’t understand why he was so damn fun to watch, but we knew we were fully invested in watching his stories of love, obsession and passion for vintage books unfold. For starters, the character Joe shows how in less than 5 minutes, he can stalk and dismantle a person’s entire life simply by checking their social media. The influencers, the IG stories, the TikTok serial posters? Basically a straight line for any psychopath to break you down one location, one selfie, and one video post at a time. One could venture to say Joe Goldberg is the poster child for why social media is dangerous.
But let’s skip past the blatant life lessons we should all pay more attention to and fast forward to Seasons Two and Season Three. Holy f*cking Love does it get good! When Joe finds Love—not just the feeling, the person, Love Quinn (Victoria Pedretti)—the entire game changes from obsession to straight up twisted happily ever after. The series is incredibly well done as we listen to every word Joe speaks in his sidebar commentary/monologues and once we meet Love, we can’t help but adore her. In fact we hang on to every well-spoken, highly intelligent word they say. (No judgment, they’re charming pyschopaths!)
You is more than a show about well-mannered killers. It is a psychological pathway to the inner thoughts of those beguiled with love, willing to do anything to obtain it. The writers manage to make you sympathize with him in ways far beyond the page, and Badgley’s portrayal of this tortured soul is endearing. Sure, Joe and Love have questionable methods to get from point A to point B, but Season Three is goddamn genius. Capitalizing on the real life drama unraveling with the antivaxxers, the Instagram/TikTok fantatics, and the pandemic, Season Three is a glimpse into Joe and Love’s attempt at parenthood, suburbia, loss, trauma, and they even throw in some swingers for the sake of entertainment.
Bottom line is this is escapism in the best possible way.
Side note: Maybe ease up on the things you share on social media. You never know if Joe’s next obsession will be you.
Other Shows Streaming
Lucifer (Netflix | Funny, dogmatic, entertaining)
I May Destroy You (HBOMax | Clever, traumatizing, triggering)
Mare of Eastown (HBOMax | Disturbing, smart, poignant)
Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu | Haunting, violently pragmatic, wildly too true-to-life)
Fleabag (Amazon Prime | Self deprecating, witty, strangely addicting)
The Night Manager (Amazon Prime | Dangerous, sexy, intellectually stimulating)
Holiday Movies I Watch Every Year
Love, Actually (Oh, please, you know you do too)
Last Christmas (One word: Khaleesi)
Office Christmas Party (You might just pee your pants)
Elf (Smiling is his favorite)
The Best Man Holiday (Have Kleenex ready)
It’s a Wonderful Life (Classic)
The Grinch (The one with Jim Carrey)
A Bad Mom’s Christmas (Fun while drinking)
Die Hard (Because, yes, it is a Christmas movie)