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 of what I’m watching, or just finished watching, this spring, along with why you should be too:
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver – Nobody delivers more serious news as humorously as the man my wife and I call “Johnny O.” This Brit living in New York is truly fascinated with America and our quirks, and he and his team’s “main story tonight” segment has produced some truly insightful investigative journalism. Nobody was really taking to the Internet to protest the end of Net Neutrality, for example, until his 2017, and later 2018 special reports on what it’s end would mean for consumers.
Why to Watch: If the description isn’t enough, it’s almost worth listening for Johnny O’s frequent use of the term “frustrated” and “frustrating” pronounced with his British accent (e.g. “Frus-TRA-ting”). He also swears for emphasis better than most others speak without cursing.
Westworld – Boasting some of the world’s finest actors among its cast, Westworld combines interesting sci-fi themes and sets within an old-fashioned western motif. As a “fantasy camp” for the wealthy, Westworld, a property of the Delos Corporation, is – as was hinted at the end of Season 1 – only one of several fantasy worlds operated by Delos. Others include Shogun World and an India from the time of the Colonial British Raj. People travel to mix, mingle, fight, and fuck “hosts,” androids that one could not otherwise tell from humans, who have been programmed to fit into various roles and story narratives.
Why to Watch – If themes of selling customer data, cloning, privacy, morals, and second-class citizenship aren’t enough for you, perhaps some of these names might be: Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Thandie Newton, Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright, James Marsden, Tessa Thompson, and a great cast of other talents.
Homeland – Catch back up with this show, which contrary to some misguided rumors, still delivers in a big way. Season 3, where we saw the demise of Damian Lewis’ “Nicholas Brody,” was indeed weak. But every season since, including the most recent that concluded this spring, has mastered the art of delivering new and interesting ways to present cataclysmic. Suspense, national security threats, and acting clinics by Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin, and a great supporting cast over the years have proven to be spellbinding. I can never look away!
Why to Watch – Beyond what I’ve already stated, and despite their character’s faults, the show augments my faith in the networks of people paid to keep us safe.
Billions – Damian Lewis didn’t leave Showtime for very long, returning for “Billions” in 2016. In this most recent, Season 3 of Billions, we were delighted with almost two seasons in one. The first 60 percent or so, we see Bobby Axelrod removed from his hedge fund pending Federal investigation, and Taylor, the fascinating, ambitious, and capable gender-unspecific young trader run things (and even find love). Meanwhile, Paul Giamatti’s equally ambitious U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades is angling and machinating a run for Governor of New York. But in the shorter second half of the season, Bobby is found innocent, returns to work, and embarks on an ambitious campaign to raise significant capital. Taylor’s security and future are in doubt. Chuck’s subtly evil wife Wendy convinces him to pass on the governorship and instead he sets off on a quest to eliminate his boss the Attorney General, a Southern Trumpster brilliantly played by Clancy Brown. No longer at odds with one another, Bobby and Chuck find a certain common ground at season’s end that I won’t spoil.
Why to Watch – If you’re looking for a redeeming hero somewhere in the mix, this show is not for you. Everyone is morally bankrupt and out to climb the ladder at the expense of everyone else. But Maggie Siff’s “Wendy,” is worth the watch just to see how she plays all sides as Chuck’s wife AND a valued aid to Bobby and his employees at Axe Capital.
Next up in Part 2 of “Watch the TV I Watch!” … Netflix!