Stay inside and binge-watch your troubles away
For me, to binge-watch a television series has involved settling in for one episode, maybe two, per night over the course of a week or two. The prospect of anything more evoked my restless nature and sent me off the couch in pursuit of projects, chores or bills to pay.
That's how it was all the way up to this past Thanksgiving holiday, at least, when, after a month of much stress and little sleep, I sank into the couch with the wife and the poodle on Black Friday and stayed there for more than six hours and let the entirety of the BBC-to-Netflix series Bodyguard wash over me. Not only was the taut, unpredictable, six-episode political thriller (with an insane ending!) amazing, so was the rejuvenating effect of getting out of my head for an extended period of time and doing absolutely nothing.
So now, as I look ahead to some much-anticipated vacation days around Christmas and New Year's, I am anticipating some more medicinal streaming. And to that end, I've surveyed the current landscape and come up with what look like some of the most promising holes for me—and you—to fall into:
Shetland (BBC, Netflix): I’ve yet to stream a BBC crime drama that wasn’t completely addictive. The three seasons of The Fall—featuring Gillian Anderson as a detective in Northern Ireland on the trail of a serial killer (played by the incredible Jamie Dornan)—was some of my favorite television ever. To follow up my Bodyguard binge, I’ll probably dig into the four seasons of the bleak and beautiful-looking Shetland, about a detective (played by Douglas Henshall) investigating murders on the titular windswept archipelago in Northern Scotland.
Homecoming (Amazon Prime): This brand-new series is directed by Sam Esmail—creator of the wonderfully paranoid Mr. Robot series—and it’s a chilling-looking psychological thriller starring Julia Roberts as a woman who, when forced to recall her former job working with the transition of U.S. soldiers into civilian life, starts to realize that her own memories don’t match the deeper and darker truth of what was really going on at her company.
The Sinner (USA, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Xfinity/DirectTV): Each of the two seasons of this “why-dunnit” murder-mystery series starts with a murder and an apparently guilty suspect whom detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) is driven to investigate in determining what was behind the killing. Season one star Jessica Biel has received a Golden Globe nomination for her part, while for season two, Carrie Coon (The Leftovers, Fargo) is getting high praise for her alternately fragile and sinister performance. This brutal-looking psychological thriller might be my No. 1 choice.
Atlanta (FX+, Amazon Prime): As the creator and star of this offbeat FX series, writer/comedian/actor/musician Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino) has cooked up what looks like his most nuanced and compelling project. Revolving around the lives of two cousins—one an aspiring rapper (Brian Tyree Henry) and the other his manager (Glover)—the 20 episodes of the comedy’s two seasons are being praised for an unpredictable and eclectic approach to telling the story of life for two black men in modern-day Atlanta.
Roma (Netflix): There are also a ton of new films streaming on the small screen now. I’ve already seen and highly recommend The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Blackkklansman and Sorry to Bother You, and some of the highest on my current queue are trippy-looking bloodfest Mandy (with Nicolas Cage in the role of a lifetime), a few intriguing documentaries—Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, McQueen and Fahrenheit 11/9—and the Netflix Original movie Roma. The streaming giant has produced what many are guessing will be its first Oscar-nominated feature. Released last month, Roma was written/directed/produced/filmed by Alfonso Cuarón and is a gorgeously shot (in black-and-white) and deeply personal portrait of growing up in Mexico City’s Roma neighborhood in the 1970s.