With everyone locked inside while a global pandemic has sports on hold, we haven’t had a lot of football content to talk about. Which poses a bit of an issue for a site that’s meant to be covering football.
Fortunately for us, Liverpool right back Trent Alexander-Arnold recently took to social media to list his three favourite television shows, then spent a few hours engaging with fans about what theirs were—and what they thought of his picks, Game of Thrones, Entourage, and Money Heist.
Which means us talking about television shows is now football.
So we’re going to do that now, maybe sort of trying to limit it to shows airing or in production. Or at least shows that we’re currently watching. Who knows, maybe you’ll even find something new to help pass the time. So. Thanks, Trent. Even if we’d maybe rather have kept pretending Game of Thrones never happened
Schitt’s Creek (CBC/Netflix)
This Canadian comedy just ended after six gloriously hilarious, ridiculous seasons. It’s really impressive the way a show about superficial, spoiled, self-centred, former rich people could end up being one of the sweetest, warmest half hours of television you’ll ever see. The cast is led by comedian heavy hitters Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, but you’ll find yourself falling in love with the whole Rose extended family, and in fact, all of the inhabitants of the unfortunately named town of Schitt’s Creek.
If you’re venturing in for the first time, what I will say is the Roses start off pretty terrible—hilarious, but terrible. It takes almost the full first season for some relatable humanity to start seeping into their personalities. But stick around, and by season two, if you wouldn’t die for Moira Rose, then I don’t even want to know you.
Russian Doll (Netflix)
I had no idea what Russian Doll was about when I started watching, which made the whole experience much trippier. I love sci-fi, and I love time travel stuff. I could spend hours trying to bend my mind around how it would all work—in this case, repeating the same day over and over again. It’s comedy, but the show embraces the darker aspects of its concept more explicitly than Groundhog Day. Natasha Lyonne is a gift as Nadia, and just when you think you’ve got a handle on the rules of this universe and show, it throws a hard curveball that puts you right back at square one. Highly recommended.
Gourmet Makes (Youtube)
Is this a YouTube show and not an actual network show? Yes. But you know what? It’s 2020, get used to it. So if you want something that’s pure comfort and fun in a time of existential horror and hardship, Bon Appetit’s Gourmet Makes is for you. It’s hosted by a pastry chef named Claire, and her challenge each episode is to try and make gourmet versions of well known snacks. So she tries to make gourmet Twix, Pringles, Hot Pockets, Warheads, etc. Part of the fun is watching her get frustrated in this entirely no-stakes environment as she attempts to replicate the flavour of a red Skittle. It’s fun and silly and pleasant, and you’ll find yourself watching five of them before you know it.
Money Heist (Netflix)
Look, I’ll give Trent credit here, there might not be a show currently in production that’s more of a blast than Money Heist, 50% criminals do a crime thriller and 50% telenovela. It’s both a bit trashy—sometimes more than a bit!—and smart enough to know it and lean into its pulp elements to mostly good effect while looking pretty and blowing shit up. That’s a difficult balancing act to pull off, and every now and then it doesn’t quite manage it, but it’s the perfect show to spend a little time with right now. They even do a YNWA montage in S3. Just do yourself a favour and watch it with subtitles.
Westworld (HBO/Sky Atlantic)
Probably the best show currently in production, and if you disagree my regard for you is going down. Or would have been before the current season started up. It’s still very good, still well worth your time—wonderfully acted, wants to keep you thinking and on your toes, ridiculous production values. All that good stuff. But if seasons one and two were written for me specifically—even, perhaps at times, exclusively—season three seems written for the people at AVClub who moaned about everything awesome about seasons one and two in between articles giving Game of Thrones’ flashy late-season idiocy pass after pass. In summation: fuck you, AVClub.
Better Call Saul (AMC/Netflix)
I wanted to throw a pick to the just completed Bojack Horseman, arguably the best current show out there up until it dropped its final season and ended a few months back, but I’m going to try to stick to the rules and plump for the boring pick that’d get on pretty much every best show of circa now list. Which means plenty of others have probably already said everything there is to say about it and you should probably go read them. Or just go watch it. Or take up crocheting or whatever. It’s your life.
Like the rest of you, I’ve spent 20+ minutes scrolling Netflix trying to decide what to watch. Once recently, and while not in a cheery mood, the BBC drama Giri/Haji (Duty/Shame) seemed to be just dark enough to be worth my time. Plus it was starring Takehiro Hira and Kelly Macdonald. With no real expectations, I ended up being blown away.
Half in Japanese with subtitles, half in English, the show really draws you in with the creative storytelling choices and understated humour. Based around a Japanese police officer trying to track down his brother in London, the show exhibits depth and nuance in story telling. It also sprinkles in moments of anime, nods to old samurai movies, and even an incredibly powerful dance scene. There is only one season so far, but hopefully a second will be forthcoming.
Kim’s Convenience (CBC/Netflix)
Another Canadian comedy, Kim’s Convenience does a fantastic job of telling the story of an immigrant family with heart and humour. Mr. Kim is a loveable curmudgeon trying to retain his Korean identity while also trying to fit into the Toronto lifestyle. Mrs. Kim is a fantastic foil, a woman looking to find herself as an individual. Their two children, Janet and Jung, try to bring their parents along to the 21st century. Similar to Schitt’s Creek, the show uses witty dialogue to navigate topics effortlessly and without becoming trope.
What We Do In The Shadows (FX/Hulu)
This is theatre of the absurd in the best possible way. The TV show is from the mind of Taika Waititi, based on the mockumentary movie of the same name that he masterminded, and follows a household of vampires living in Staten Island. It’s exactly the irreverent take on the supernatural that you would expect from the New Zealander, with a who’s who list of guest characters, and it’s a great escape from the daily quarantine doldrums.
The Untamed (Netflix)
My attitude towards television is the queerer it is, the better, and The Untamed—a Chinese drama based on an actual queer web-novel—fulfills that brief perfectly. If you want an actual primer on the show, here’s one from Vox. I’m just going to go ahead and say: it’s really pretty, and it’s really gay, and it made me laugh quite a bit. What more can you ask for?
(Full disclosure: I may have skipped entire episodes in the middle because they keep crying. They do so prettily and quite gayly, but that’s really not my thing. If it is your thing, holy shit watch this show).
An alternate career I’ve considered quite strongly is Person-standing-at-street-corner-asking-if-you-have-accepted-the-love-of-Leverage-into-your-life. This is an almost pitch perfect show about found families destroying capitalism, one ludicrously over-the-top heist at a time. If you haven’t watched it yet, I am so jealous because you get to experience it for the first time.
I considered recommending The Good Place just to annoy Grace, but we’re living in difficult times and no one needs that kind of negativity in their lives.
Now, there are some really good shows I love already mentioned here (with Better Call Saul, Westworld, and Russian Doll particular favourites) so props to my fellow TLO contributors, even if it makes my life momentarily harder. Great job, everyone! (grumbles).
Anyway, here’s a few that people haven’t mentioned:
Brooklyn Nine Nine (NBC/Fox/Netflix)
Yeah, maybe not the most shocking pick, but there aren’t many shows out there better at the basics of pure sitcom storytelling. If you want to relax, unwind, and just enjoy the simple pleasures of Andre Braugher precisely pronouncing words, this is where you go.
Look, you’ll know if this is for you or not pretty quickly. But if there’s a part of your brain that yearns for teen sci-fi fantasy shows in the vein of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this will definitely scratch that itch. If what I just wrote sounds of no interest to you then, well, it’s not going to win you over. But it really is quietly doing some of the best storytelling that genre niche has seen in years.