Watch What I’m Watching! — Part 3 — Amazon, Hulu, Cable & Network TV

(Repeated from Part 1’s Introduction):  I watch a LOT of television. Putting it more crassly, “a LOT” could be replaced with “Shit Ton.” I watch so much television, this column may have those who know me questioning what they always thought to be my outgoing nature. And while nothing beats being out of the house with a crowd of friends, let’s face it – I’m a “born indoorsman.”

And why would I want to change this fact? The quality of content is at an all-time high. We’re living in a 2nd Golden Age of television, where between original programming from the traditional movie channels like HBO and Showtime, networks like AMC, FX, TNT and USA, and an unending amount of original programing from streaming giants Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, many journalists now use the term “Peak TV” to describe our current era. And this is all before we consider the few shows we still love on traditional network TV. So, I say to you, friends – join me in this call to arms… for sitting on the couch!  Watching along with me will make you the “king of pop culture” in the office, and convince your friends that you now only do about as much reading as Donald Trump. 

Here’s a short blurb on each show I’m watching, just finished watching, or comes out soon, and why I think you should join me!  In this 3rd installment, we cover Amazon, Hulu, Cable & Network TV.

AMAZON PRIME VIDEO

Sneaky Pete – As we enter Season 2 of the “Prime Video” thriller, Giovanni Ribisi’s “Marius Josipovic” has outdueled Bryan Cranston’s baddy. But in the Season 1 Finale’s very last scene, we see two mysterious men kidnapping Marius (thinking he’s Pete) and demanding that he “take them to the money.” The new season opens in the same scene, and we learn that apparently, the real Pete’s mother – who we’ve been told is dead – hid a heisted fortune away somewhere, and they expect “Pete” (who’s Marius), to show them were it is. He of course has no idea… but try telling these guys. The season becomes 10 great episodes of Ribisi’s Marius stringing these guys along all while framing various chess pieces and assets together to find the money for himself. Fantastic sub-plots, mis-direction plays, and thrilling life-or-death road trips, chases, and gun play ensue.

Why to Watch – Beyond the all-star cast of Ribisi, Margo Martindale, Peter Gerety, and other familiar faces, Season 2 bested all expectations, which were already high. With new characters, a completely different heist at stake, and fantastic performances, I would argue Second 2 gives the 1st a run for its illegally gotten gains. If you’ve already watched, or after you do, you can read my “Sneaky Pete, Season 2 Awards” here: http://www.toddflora.com/the-sneaky-pete-season-2-awards/

 

Bosch – This spring also saw Season 4 of Bosch stream on Amazon Prime. The Michael Connelly-written L.A. Detective – played by Titus Welliver, the man with the greatest name in Hollywood – is put in charge of a task force investigating the murder of a prominent lawyer. What makes this case politically sticky? The lawyer made his name suing the LAPD for police brutality. There is political pressure to wrap up the investigation quickly to soften citizen protests, and to show that the Department is willing to arrest one of their own, as a cop is suspected in the case. Elsewhere, Bosch’s amicable Ex-wife, Eleanor, while doing a little work for the FBI, stumbles onto some organized crime during a poker match. She is later murdered, sending Bosch and his daughter, Maddie, into fraught depression mixed with determination on Bosch’s part to see her receive justice. As usual, the season barrows pieces from throughout Connelly’s books to put together a compelling framework in which Bosch and the other cops can work several storylines effectively.

Why to Watch – If you love a good L.A. crime show. If you don’t really love L.A. and can’t get into L.A. as a major character of the show itself… you should take a pass on catching up with this series and its all-star cast of characters.

 

HULU

The Handmaid’s Tale –  Probably the most important Television content of our time, The Handmaid’s Tale shows a future version of the United States, known as Gilead, as a brutal, dictatorial theocracy where women are treated as practically sub-human (e.g. one rule on the books is they are no longer allowed to read). The Handmaid’s are women who are still able to have children – as many no longer can, due to our poor environmental practices – forced into slave rape to bear the children of the nation’s leaders, known as “Commanders.” The series follows June, played masterfully by Elisabeth Moss, from her initial capture through the trials of life as a handmaid to a powerful man. Important flashbacks teach us how the Commanders (and their complicit wives) took over the country, and how the public failed to stop them.

Paramount Network:Why to Watch – If it sounds hard to watch, it’s because it is. If it sounds like it’s the last thing you need right now in the age of Trump… you are wrong. It is nothing short of required viewing so that we motivate ourselves every day to fight Trumpism and an America it could lead to. There are several other shows I’ve written about that can serve as your escape. This one needs to be your homework.

CABLE

Paramount Network:

Yellowstone – Kevin Costner is back, playing the latest version of Kevin Costner, in a sweeping show written and created by Taylor Sheridan (Who wrote “Hell or High Water,” “Wind River,” and the Sicario films). This time, he’s John Dutton, a 5th-generation rancher who owns and runs “Yellowstone,” a working ranch in Montana the size of Rhode Island. His children, the approval-seeking Lee, hard-nosed daughter Beth, and ambitious lawyer son Jamie are all involved in the ranch business in some regard. Meanwhile, younger son Cory – the rebel who went off and fought in the Middle East – returned home to marry Monica, a Native American woman, (played by Wind River’s unfortunate victim, Kelsey Asbille) and makes his home with her and their son on the Reservation. He and Costner have some tension mixed with begrudging respect. A team of trusted ranch hands populate the property as well, led by Cole Hauser’s “Rip Wheeler,” whose body Beth seems to enjoy abusing. The Dutton clan and their allies are up against Danny Huston’s greedy developer, who wants to build a massive resort community adjacent to the Yellowstone, and a determined Tribal Chief (played by Taylor Sheridan favorite Gil Birmingham) who has designs of his own on Yellowstone assets. He also seems to have political support from the U.S. Senator, played by an ageless Jill Hennessy.

Why to Watch – Costner. A version of himself, yes. But isn’t that what we want, and have come to expect? Don’t we relish Costner playing successful, high-ranking, or even hard-scrabble people who are somehow tortured or confronting ethical dilemmas and moral absolutes? The beautiful landscapes and “Dallas-like” soapy feel of it all don’t hurt either. Based on the first 3 hours of viewing, I think this one’s a “grabber.”

USA Network:

Suits – I’ve been a fan of Suits longer than Meghan Markle has been alive… Ok. That’s not true. Meghan Markle had to be born, grow up, and be 29 years old before Suits even AIRED for the first time on June 23, 2011. But I think you get my point. I’ve been there since the beginning. The show can be incredibly repetitive, has endured some seasons with annoying sub-plots, and don’t even get started on the implausibility of some of the “law” getting practiced here. But as one of the last of USA’s “Blue Skies” lineup of catchy, mostly positive vibe shows (that included Psych, Fairly Legal, and Royal Pains), it’s always been a fun escape. And the characters have become reliable. Harvey Specter is a tough as nails pretty boy who’s always threating to “kick somebody’s ass” but ends up remembering to use the law to solve his problems.  Louis Litt is the wacky elitist theater snob who takes mud baths and other non-macho guy-spa things. He’s jealous of Harvey, but has great catch phrases like “You just got Litt Up!” Donna Paulsen, Harvey’s former assistant who is now COO of the firm, IS DONNA!  She knows everything and solves everything… oh, these stupid boys!  You get it. Now with Katherine Heigl joining the cast for the July 18 Season 8 premiere, and Dule Hill having joined last season, we’ve got some new characters to mix it up as Mike and Rachel (Patrick J. Adams and Markle) have bid their farewell.

Why to Watch – Dule Hill always gets my support. It’s in the “West Wing Code” (Section C, Chapter 34.95-A) Plus, I’ll continue to enjoy these characters and the great collection of secondary players, like Wendell Pierce (who is everywhere) as Robert Zane (Rachel’s/Markle’s father), who I HOPE will remain a player on the show. And while I know she’s hardly beloved, I’m intrigued by what the Heigl presence might do for the show… and perhaps her image.

NETWORK

NBC:

Reverie – Following “GLOW,” my favorite show of the summer so far is Reverie, 10:00PM Wednesdays on NBC. In some near future Los Angeles, a wunderkind young woman named Alexis Barrett has invented a life-like virtual reality program the public can use for everything from living out fantasies, experiencing adventures, or visiting with passed relatives. But something is happening to some participants – they are getting a bit lost and either can’t or won’t leave the “reverie” they are in, sometimes at the expense of their physical bodies lying in danger. Seeing that there are problems in the system, a former police captain, played by Dennis Haysbert, brings in his old hostage negotiator to enter participants’ reverie’s and coax them out safely. That woman, Mara Kint, is played by (Stephen Colbert Style–) National Treasure …and Todd Flora’s America Permanent Crush, … Sarah Shahi. Mara has a haunted past of her own, as she lost her sister and niece in recent years to gun violence. Mara was in the middle of trying to reason and talk down the perpetrator (her brother-in-law) at the time, and was witness to the tragic, family-ending event. Helping her along the way are Alexis, Haysbert’s character, “Charlie Ventana,” and Paul Hammond, a scientist played by former “Heroes” and “Covert Affairs” star, Sendhil Ramamurthy. The Persian-American Shahi has herself called the cast a “United Colors of Benetton.”

Why to Watch – S-A-R-A-H … F-R-E-A-K-I-N …S-H-A-H-I!!  The show as you may expect also delves into thrilling stories, themes around privacy, the use of controversial technology and even its side-effects. Finally, a mysterious “investor” who is always nosing around the office, played by “Cold Case’s” Kathryn Morris, keeps things lively. What is she really up to?!

Thanks for reading. … What are YOU watching? (tell me in “Comments!”)

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