My Summer list of top shows on streaming sites

 

  1. Fleabag (Series, Amazon Prime): This is my pick of this year so far, a two season series, which is a tremendous rule breaker on several counts. Phoebe Waller-Bridge (also the writer for the TV adaptation of the immensely popular Killing Eve), has created, written and acted in this series as a highly promiscuous, single, young woman, identified simply as Fleabag, whose way of coping with a tragedy is to use sex, and lots of it, pretty indiscriminately too. This not just affects her relationships with men, but also makes her an object of ridicule to her father, her sister, as also her Godmother (played so fiendishly by one of my favourites Olivia Colman of Broadchurch). Fleabag’s at heart a very sensitive person, who is alive to others’ thoughts and perceptions, yet, isn’t averse to poking fun at herself, in an almost self-deprecating way. She does this by what’s called breaching the ‘fourth wall’ – she makes the audience her ally, turning to the camera to say her asides to every evolving situation. Her asides are hilarious, heart-warming, and brutally critical and honest. And no one notices it, till the Hot Priest she meets in Season Two. (A number of characters are named thus, by their qualities or personality. Another is named Hot Misogynist!) Hot Priest’s very Catholicism precludes sex between them, despite their very evident mutual attraction. They become friends, discussing everything, while drinking gin and tonic. Hot Priest has chosen this calling after many trials in life, and is very sensitive to Fleabag’s vulnerability, which he tries to genuinely understand. He’s the only one who actually notices her speaking to the camera, in a way suggesting, he’s the only person so far who has actually noticed Fleabag. Phoebe Waller-Bridge has done such a tremendous job of conveying her confusion, and frustration, amid flashbacks of the tragedy which still haunts her. Will Fleabag and Hot Priest have sex? Does Fleabag finally find her meaningful relationship? The chemistry between Fleabag and Hot Priest played by Andrew Scott (Jim Moriarty from Sherlock, who would have thought?) is red hot, and very believable. Do not miss this one for anything.
  2. Goliath (Series, Amazon Prime): First, a confession. I love Billy Bob Thornton! We really have to stop seeing him only as Angeline Jolie’s ex. He’s such a brilliant actor. I loved him in Fargo, and here he’s done a superb job as a lawyer, who has co-founded a hugely successful law firm, but is now out of luck, and spends his days in a bar, while living in a motel. He is cajoled into taking up a case against the biggest client of his erstwhile Firm, which leads to many dangerous situations, and ultimately, resolution. Thornton, with his unkempt hair, that faint twinkle in the eye, and the cool smirk, can convince you of anything. Any moment you expect him to go OTT, but he never does. Season Two is more vicious and gory, and I didn’t dig it as much. But watch Season One for sure.
  3. Sex Education (Series, Netflix): Prima facie, this is about a bunch of  high schoolers in England, whose only obsession seems to have loads of sex, and lose virginity at the earliest. The protagonist is a teenager who is sexually untested and awkward, despite having a sex therapist for a mom. Yet, inadvertently, he and a friend set up a clandestine sex therapy clinic in school. What could have just been a voyeuristic story, becomes so much more, including a funny, whacky commentary on how we perceive each other, the cliches we swallow so eagerly, and why goodness is still a valued commodity.
  4. the Upside (Movie, Amazon Prime): This has Bryan Cranston as the protagonist who is a millionaire quadriplegic, paralysed from the neck down. After interviewing many candidates, he finally appoints a recently paroled con, who predictably, and after some false starts, helps Cranston live a full life. This is a done to death storyline. What makes it watchable is Cranston, who has played this role so convincingly,  dramatically opposite the role of a chemistry teacher–turned-meth-producer he played in Breaking Bad. Nicole Kidman acts as Cranston’s assistant, but she is rather under-used, in my opinion.
  5. Yes, Prime Minister (Series, Amazon Prime): This old BBC series is full of laughs and good, old fashioned, British humour. The way the British can poke fun at themselves, I can’t really imagine anyone else doing with the same subtlety and good-humoured sarcasm. And the language, always, the language, makes you want to just keep listening to them speak, on loop! I always have an episode downloaded and kept for lean times!
  6. Sommersby (Movie, Amazon Prime): A man returns from war after seven years, after he is presumed long dead. He finds his wife on the verge of committing herself to another guy, and the lands in disarray. He resumes life with his wife, convinces the villagers to take up tobacco farming, as also gives opportunities to black people to own land. How does this go down with the rest? Why does his wife see him differently? Is he even what he claims to be? Richard Gere and Jodie Foster are really good as the couple with good chemistry, who must make a conflicting decision, eventually.
  7. Dirty Dancing (Remake, Amazon Prime): This is a very creditable remake of the original Patrick Swayze movie, about a young girl, an inherent do-gooder with a very high moral code, who falls in love with her dance instructor during a stay at a holiday resort. In the process, she kindles in him a deep need to do better in life. The song “I’ve had the time of my life” is still one of the most iconic numbers. The remake is very well done and a definite must-watch. Nostalgia at its best.
  8. Wine Country (Movie, Netflix): A bunch of women get together for a weekend in wine country Napa Valley to celebrate one of them turning 50. In the process, they face up to each others’ weaknesses, and home truths some have being avoiding. The movie has some of the best names from Saturday Night Live like Tina Fey and Maya Rudolph, though Tina Fey has a very negligible role. You almost wonder what she’s doing here. It’s a good watch, on a slow day.
  9. Spotlight (Movie, Netflix): If you haven’t seen this film about one of the biggest exposes of the Catholic Church in the US, then rush and watch it. Starring Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo, this is about the ‘Spotlight’ bunch of investigative reporters of Boston Globe newspaper, who unearthed the multiple child sex abuse cases by Roman Catholic priests in the Boston area.
  10. Primal Fear (Movie, Netflix): An altar boy is found running away from a murder scene, covered in blood. Did he kill the Archbishop? His lawyer played by Richard Gere thinks his client is innocent. The story keeps you on edge, now you believe the altar boy is the murderer, and now you don’t. Watch it till the last second. That’s all I will reveal!

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