Credit to Author: Noel Ransome| Date: Fri, 25 Jan 2019 16:33:22 +0000
There’s too many damn dramas out there, and the winter season is the best time to binge on all those slow, episodic feelings. Canada’s streaming service Crave already had a lineup of greats in this department thanks to HBO and Showtime, but with the network the addition of The Movie Network (with an additional $10 fee), they’ve made my job a lot easier. But we’re talking TV, and in terms of selection, it’s numerous. From The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, The Wire, 2018’s Barry and to the assassin-on-spy thriller , Killing Eve. If you’re looking to feel something, or improve your TV literacy, there’s a lot of recent-ish and past dramas here that are absolutely worth watching.
The Night Of (2016, HBO)
Creator: Richard Price, Steven Zaillian
Stars: Riz Ahmed, John Turturro, Bill Camp, John Turturro
Innocent 22-year-old Pakistani-American Nasir Khan (Riz Ahmed) steals his father’s cab (dumb) in Queens, New York (dumb) and hits up a party. Along the way, he picks up an unknown white woman (very dumb). They snort some drugs, drink some drinks, have some sex, and to Khan’s surprise, miss unknown is murdered in his sheets (dumb). Other (dumb) stuff happens and we’re left with a whodunit mystery of idiotic proportions. Luckily, we get some satisfaction over eight episodes, but along the way, there’s a conversation around the treatment of POC in criminal justice that’s worth having here.
Billions (2016-Present, Showtime)
Creator: Brian Koppelman, David Levien, Andrew Ross Sorkin
Stars: Paul Giamatti, Damian Lewis, Maggie Siff
The Ringer really, really likes Billions, so I guess it’s probably good (haven’t seen it all). But don’t let the title fool you, this isn’t (just) about the ultra rich swimming in their richness like Succession. It’s about lawyers who can’t prosecute the evil mega-rich players (Damien Lewis’s Bobby Axelrod) in New York’s world of high finance. So enter our one said lawyer, Charles “Chuck” Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) attempting to make an example of the billionaires that get away with these crimes. When you consider our crooked white men sitting in some powerful seats, we can all see the appeal in that. The show apparently gets more and more over the top the further along it gets, but in a good way. (Editor’s note: It also has a banging punk/metal soundtrack thanks to Axelrod’s love of 80s guitar rock.)
The Sopranos (1999-2007, HBO)
Creator: David Chase
Stars: James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli, Tony Sirico
HBO has a thing for making deplorable sociopaths seem likeable…like Fox News. And by now you know the story; a bunch of Italian mafioso dudes in New Jersey dealing with family, friends, betrayal, and the FBI. It also just went through a 20-year anniversary if you wish to know more about the experience. But one doesn’t come to The Sopranos for a single serving of polo wearing happenings involving extortion etc—we’ve had plenty of those. It’s the big personalities in Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), Christopher Moltisanti, Paulie ‘Walnuts’ Gualtieri and Carmela Soprano that keeps you coming back. This scene still makes me laugh on cue.
The Handmaid’s Tale (2017-Present, Bravo)
Creator: Bruce Miller
Stars: Elisabeth Moss, Max Minghella, Amanda Brugel
They call this speculative fiction, but it doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to envision a future where submissive women are regulated to sexual slavery as ciss white men serve as their masters—that’s our past right? But make America great again, eh? The TV series is adapted from Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel bringing the harsh vision from the pages to the screen. Thanks to Elizabeth Moss as June Osborne who plays one of the mainy handmaids (slaves) in an oppressive vision of America among other great performances, it’s hard to watch, but it’s oh so necessary.
True Detective – Season 1 (2014, HBO)
Creator: Nic Pizzolatto
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson
Welcome to the chilly, twisty, turny, philosophically ranty, super-seriously gazey, buddy-buddy cop vs. occult pretensions of Nic Pizzolatto. You know what you’re getting here; hollywood level actors (Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson) in a whodunit scenario that’s an excuse to explore the complicated lives of fully grown men. It’s a great show, but your end episode mileage may vary. As for season 2, I can’t promote that.
Band of Brothers (2001, HBO)
Creator: Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman
Stars: Scott Grimes, Damian Lewis, Ron Livingston
History is strange. We’re supposed to remember the looks, who’s and where’s of our past, but rarely do we have the tools to remember the emotions. Released in 2001, Band of Brothers was a 10-episode mini-series that dramatized the war-time scuffles of “Easy Company”, an infantry regiment during WWII. And yes, it borrowed certain aesthetics from Saving Private Ryan—raw, dark colour grades with shaky camera work—but it also adapted that with quieted moments that placed audiences within the headspaces of everyday soldiers. It was a rare glimpse into the horrors of war that can still hold up today.
Star Trek: The Next Generation (SPACE, 1987-1994)
Creator: Gene Roddenberry
Stars: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes
Star Trek is the infinite milking cow of every studio executive’s wet dreams. It spawned movies, cartoons, toys, and most importantly TV shows. There’s a lot to choose from here ( Star Trek, Deep Space Nine, Voyager) but Star Trek: The Next Generation was responsible for reinvigorating a series that would have stayed axed in 1969. It starred the always smooth Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), and fleshed out the idea of humanity’s growth and discovery of new cultures. From memorable births of alien concepts (The Borg), to episodes that challenged our ideas about death within the series, there was plenty of drama here to go around.
The Wire (2002-2008, HBO)
Creator: David Simon
Stars: Dominic West, Lance Reddick, Sonja Sohn, Wendell Pierce, Idris Elba, Michael Kenneth Williams
You’ve never seen a show like The Wire and you’ve never experienced characters like those in The Wire. We’re talking Indri Elba’s top-tier hateable hood scoundrel of a dude, Stringer Bell. And big belly swindler, Proposition Joe. And then there’s Michael K. Williams and his big-gun-toting-trench-coat-having gay avenger. Writer David Simon has managed to create an entire system of schemes, stories and interactions that display the wider perspectives of Baltimore’s narcotics scene. It’s the best show on this list, and if you don’t watch it you suck.
Barry (2018, HBO)
Creator: Terence Winter
Stars: Steve Buscemi, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Shannon
Much like Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire doesn’t make it clear who you should root for—not surprising since Terence Winter was a major force behind The Sopranos. Everyone’s a little bad, a little good, and a little terrible. Taking place in the roaring twenties, Boardwalk Empire tells the story death, corruption and crime that took place during prohibition in Atlantic City. On one side, it’s the law, on the other, it’s the gangsters including top dog, Enoch ‘Nucky’ Thompson who struggles to maintain his power through five long seasons. People get shot and shit, it’s good watching.
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