My July List of Shows to Watch

Good Omens (Amazon Prime): After Fleabag, this is a show I will most highly recommend. Based on the book, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies by Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, this is an outrageously funny and wicked series. The premise is simple. Armageddon is scheduled to occur on Earth within a week, the Anti-Christ has been born, and Heaven and Hell are primed and ready, as this epochal event will finally decide the supremacy of one of them. But thwarting these fine plans of God and Satan are their respective representatives on Earth – Angel (played by Michael Sheen) and Demon Crawley (played by David Tennant). These two who have known each other for more than 6,000 years, have struck a rather good rapport, complete with banter, sarcasm, and dare I say it, ‘bromance’! They have seen each other through thick and thin since Adam and Eve, and every historical event since. They have rescued each other from sticky situations, and in the process, have also got mighty comfortable living among humans, and are rather loathe to give that up. Hence, their plan to thwart Armageddon, and try and together influence the Anti-Christ, a boy growing up peacefully in a village (due to a hilarious mixup), to become a fine, balanced young man. When the day of Armageddon finally arrives, matters come to a head, but Angel and Demon have the last laugh.

For me, the best part of Good Omens is the chemistry between the goody-goody, naive, and eager-to-please ‘Angel’ Michael Sheen, and the arrogant, yet heart-in-the-right-place swagger of ‘Demon’ David Tennant. If you have seen Broadchurch then you will know Tennant as detective Alec Hardy, and believe me, it requires some leap of imagination to connect him to this loose-limbed, utterly cynical Demon Crawley. They are brilliant actors, brilliantly cast. Not that there is anything to cavil about the rest of the cast. Jon Hamm (Don Draper of Mad Men) as Archangel Gabriel is deliciously ironic and masterful, and Frances McDormand as God and the narrator for the series, is outstanding. In fact, the narrator is as much the star as the story and the  actors. Do not miss this one for anything.

Chernobyl (Hotstar): As the name suggests, this series is a docu-drama based on the April 26, 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power station near Pripyat, Ukraine, with was then part of the Soviet Union. It’s a gripping re-enactment of the precise events – man-made and scientific – which led to this horrific accident, in which many lost their lives, and thousands more had to deal with radiation-related illnesses. A large swathe of area around the power station is still an abandoned, exclusion zone, and likely to be for the foreseeable future. The series highlights the work of all those who responded to this accident, and all those who tried to cover up, including the State of Soviet Union, then headed by Gorbachev, which lied to the international community about the magnitude, and the cause of this accident. This series is a gripping thriller, and you will be most tempted to binge watch the series. In a departure from the usual, the actors all speak English, with no particularly local accent. A refreshing change indeed.

Homecoming (Amazon Prime): I saw Julia Roberts’s name on the cast of this series and decided to watch it. This is a thriller in a sense, as we remain tantalisingly close to discovering what happened at the Homecoming Transitional Support Centre run by the Geist group in the US, which exists ostensibly to help soldiers transition smoothly into civilian life. The place has counsellors, and all the other facilities expected of such a place. Julia Roberts is a counsellor too. But in the present, when the movie begins, she’s a waiter at a small cafe, with nary a memory of what exactly it was that she did at Homecoming, and what was her role in a particular incident involving a young veteran. Is Homecoming truly a place of transition into civilian life, or does it have a more sinister purpose? Quite a gripping series.

Nothing to Hide (Netflix): Ever since I watched The Chalet and Call My Agent, two thoroughly entertaining French series, I have been on the lookout for more French shows to watch. Nothing to Hide is about four couples and a single friend who meet up for dinner at one of their houses. As the evening begins, an impromptu rule is made – everyone will surrender their phones and any message or call that comes on any of the phones, will be shared with everyone. Some resist this, but soon, all phones are piled up in the centre of the table. Well, one can imagine the confusion and tragic-comic situations that ensue. Some truths are revealed, some lives unravel, some lies upturned. But was it a real game? Certainly, a lovely watch on a rainy day.

Hamid (Netflix): India’s Kashmir has many, many untold stories. Lately, a few movies have been made highlighting the truth of life in Kashmir, without being preachy. One such is Hamid. It’s told from the point of view of an eight-year-old boy, Hamid, whose father, like many Kashmiri men, has vanished when he stepped out of their house to buy a pair of batteries. The mother (played ably by Rasika Dugal), joins the unrelenting ranks of the Kashmiri ‘half-widows’, women whose husbands have disappeared, with no confirmation of whether they are alive or dead. These widows’ lives are defined by daily visits to police stations and check-points, in the hope of some information, some glimmer of hope. Meanwhile, Hamid decides to contact Allah and dials a number, which happens to belong to an Indian Army officer! Their conversations are hilarious, yet poignant, and reflect the conundrums on both sides of the conflict. A true gem of a movie. You won’t be dry-eyed by the end of it. I was also left with the yearning to somehow magically wave a wand and make it all right for everyone in that troubled state.

The return of the native

The shows I have watched and loved in recent times, like The Outlander, Game of Thrones, and now, Good Omens, are all based on books. Books that I haven’t read. Which is an unusual thing for me.

Back then, I had already read the books on which a movie or show was based. I especially remember watching the BBC series Pride & Prejudice, and re-connecting with the beloved characters of Mr.Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett. Over time, I watched Rebecca, Guns of Navrone, The Godfather, the Lord of the Ring series, Sense and Sensibility, Jane EyreThe Jungle Book, the Agatha Christie series, Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mocking Bird, even The Good Earth…well, you get the drift. The movies were like coming home to a familiar, beloved story, just with enhanced colour and drama.

But then, earlier, I devoured books at a frenetic pace. Today, I devour content on the web at a frenetic pace! As a result, I realise much to my dismay, that I have fallen behind with books. I realised this with the Game of Thrones.

Nearly a decade ago when I was introduced to GoT by Sachin, I got hooked. It was almost an addiction. I couldn’t wait to devour each bloody, violent, often incestuous, utterly exhausting episode. After watching season one, I was so smitten that I couldn’t wait to read the books.

It was altogether a peculiar feeling to not have read the book/s on which this series was based. I was very willing and eager to embrace George R.R. Martin, his bearded self and all. But what a let down! I just didn’t and couldn’t get his style of writing. I did persevere some, but gave it up as a lost cause, instead waiting with the exaggerated impatience of a true fan for the next season to stream. I was struck by the thought that if I had happened upon the books first, I would never have bothered to watch the series. Now, what a tragedy that would have been…!

Then take The Outlander, another lovely show on Netflix, which I watched at a friend’s recommendation, and then realised that this too was based on a book series by Diana Gabaldon. I hastily borrowed the books from Shemaroo library, and devoured the first two books. Then, I stopped abruptly. It’s a well-written series, but I was now, willy nilly, more loyal to the screen! I wanted to maintain the suspense of the show.

Indeed, I have traversed a long way. Reading had always been my thing. But in the last couple of years, the tide has slowly, but inexorably, turned. What still flummoxes me is that I had not even heard of  some of these books or the authors till the shows came along! And there is a vestige of sadness at this state of affairs.

The last straw, so to speak, is the outrageously funny series Good Omens I have just finished watching on Amazon Prime. It’s based on the book, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies by Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, and though their names were familiar, I had not read a single book by either. Good Omens is one of the most entertaining shows I have watched in recent times, particularly because of its central cast – Michael Sheen and David Tennant. They are absolutely brilliant as Angel and Demon, respectively, trying to prevent Armageddon on earth. One of the highlights of the show is the ‘bromance’ between the loose-limbed, arrogantly cynical Tennant, and the goody-goody, wholesome Sheen.

Good Omens
The good omen which has re-ignited my reading 

Post this show, I am utterly ashamed at my in-the-doldrums reading habit. So, I have decided to pick it up again, starting with Good Omens, of course! In a nod to the times we live in, as also to eyes that aren’t as ‘powerful’ as before, I have downloaded the Audibles app to ‘read’ this book. So if you see me pounding the treadmill (okay, I walk briskly, not pound…it just seemed more dramatic, is all), or walking with my headphones on, you can assume I am ‘reading’ a book, all thanks to this show, a good omen indeed!

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!

Badla…or The Invisible Guest?

Just last week I watched Contratiempo or The Invisible Guest, a Spanish thriller on Netflix. I wish I hadn’t. For, Badla, the newly released Hindi film starring Amitabh Bachchan and Taapse Pannu, which is based on Contratiempo, would then have been a virgin experience for me. I watched Badla last night, and came away with an overwhelming sense of deja vu. Not because I wasn’t aware that this was a remake of the Spanish flick, but because it isn’t just a remake, Badla is a fame by frame, dialogue for dialogue copy of Contratiempo.

Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t disappointed by the story, the cast or the acting. Badla is a genuine thriller. From word Go, Amitabh Bachchan, who acts as the protagonist Taapsee Pannu’s defence lawyer, and Taapsee herself, engage your attention. Prima facie, the story is this: Married accused Naina Sethi (Pannu) is accused of the murder of her paramour Arjun (Tony Luke) in a hotel room, which was securely locked from the inside, suggesting there was no way a third person could have committed the crime and escaped undetected. Naina insists she was knocked off by a blow to her head, and when she came to, her lover was lying in a pool of blood, dead. Naina’s lawyer hires Badal Gupta (Bachchan), a defence lawyer with an ‘only-wins’ track record, to help deconstruct what happened in that hotel room.

In the intense interaction between Naina and Badal, layers are slowly peeled off, to reveal many possible ‘truths’, and one more murder, albeit with a missing body. Naina’s many faces are revealed, and this has to be among Taapsee’s best roles, almost equal to the role she essayed in Pink. She is by turns, innocent, crafty, desperate. Bachchan is perfect as Badal Gupta. The steel in him comes to the fore when he’s calling Naina’s bluff, while at other times he’s the most understanding lawyer an accused can ever have. Till the last second of the movie, the suspense is built, and it explodes in a quiet crescendo, across literally, an expanse of space, leaving you stunned at the reveal.

But only if you hadn’t, like me, watched The Invisible Guest already. I knew the story and who the likely accused was/were and the big reveal, before I went to watch Badla. I was seriously fine with that since I was genuinely curious about how Director Sujoy Ghosh had handled this movie. His Kahaani was a stunning film, and he has the deft touch when it comes to suspenseful thrillers.

Ghosh could have gone two ways – One, loosely base the film on Contratiempo, while completely localising the story, and maybe giving it his own creative touches. Or two, do a complete copy of the original film. Unfortunately, he chose the latter option. And excelled at it! Except for a couple of stray references to the epic Mahabharatha, there is nothing, absolutely nothing original in this movie. The movie is also set in the same European winter as Contratiempo. Badla is thus, a Hindi copy of the Spanish original. To be sure, the director has given credit to the Spanish film. But couldn’t he have taken the effort to localise the story a lot more?

My advice to you – do not watch Contratiempo before Badla. And if you do, be prepared to watch Contratiempo a second time. Just in Hindi, this time round!

MyGoodEarth rating: 4.5/5 (pre-Contratiempo), 3.5/5 (post-Contratiempo)

 

 

My top 15 most mushy movies ever!

  1. Dirty Dancing – What a lovely movie about innocent and beautiful love, shared by Patrick Swayze’s and Jennifer Grey’s characters. The couple’s dance to the number I’ve had the time of my life is an iconic one, and is a fitting celebration of this beautiful movie.
  2. Titanic – Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet winged their way into our hearts with this one about doomed love on a doomed ship. Yet, you are left with a beautiful feeling of love triumphing, above all.  Celine Dion has lost oodles of weight lately, and we will never stop losing our hearts to My heart will go on
  3. Pretty Woman – Richard Gere became an iconic romantic hero with this movie about a prostitute and a millionaire businessman finding love with each other, despite many social hurdles. Most of my generation can hum Pretty woman walking down the street…. all the way till the end:-)
  4. An Indecent Proposal – Here, I won’t talk about the love shared by Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson’s characters, which ultimately triumphs, but rather the near silent, but almost desperate love that the oh-so-dashing and handsome Robert Redford has for Moore’s character. It’s actually two parallel love stories. Most of us wished it was Redford who had triumphed, though!
  5. Gone With The Wind – What can one say except that this is possibly one of the few movies which almost outshone the book it’s based on. The clashes between the dashing Rhett Butler and the feisty and beautiful Scarlett O’Hara has made my heart skip many beats!  Set against the American Civil War, the movie became famous for its line, ‘Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn’. Clark Gable who played Butler, was the stuff that a woman’s fantasies are made of!
  6. Ghost – Patrick Swayze in a movie? I will take him in any role, even as a ghost! This movie has one of the most romantic scenes of all times – Demi Moore and Swayze are electrifying!
  7. The Notebook – It’s a sad love story, which brings tears to your eyes and twists your heart up into many knots. A young couple, divided by class, fall in love and are torn apart, only to connect after many twists and turns. Ryan Gosling and the pretty Rachel McAdams share a lovely chemistry in this.
  8. Pride & Prejudice – Jane Austen’s iconic book made legends of the main characters Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy. Our hearts longed for the principled yet brooding and taciturn Mr. Darcy – he with his pride and she with her prejudices. The Keira Knightley and Mathew Macfadyen version is a good one, but the best adaptation of this novel has to be the six-part BBC series which starred Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. The lake scene where Firth strips, set many hearts racing!
  9. The Godfather Part III – This movie was panned badly by the critics, and with reason. The plot is shallow, the execution very poor. But powerhouse actors like Al Pacino, Andy Garcia and Diane Keaton rescue this somewhat clumsy movie from utter failure. For me, the passionate love depicted between Andy Garcia and Sofia Coppola’s characters, shown as cousins in this movie, is very moving. The bleak longing in Garcia’s eyes at this forbidden love, especially after he decides to give her up, is the highlight of the movie. Their romance is utterly believable.
  10. Notting Hill – “I am just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her’, is a classic line as far as movie lines go. This movie with Julia Roberts as the acclaimed movie star, who is attracted to a book shop owner Hugh Grant (he with his boyish, handsome looks and the messy mop of hair falling on his forehead!), makes for a lovely, romantic comedy. Grant as always, is mildly ironic, self-deprecating, and good fun!
  11. Serendipity – A name and number written on a book, reunite two people – John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale – who met years earlier serendipitously, are crazily attracted to each other, but Kate decides to leave it to a book and a dollar note to reunite them! And they do reunite of course. It’s a heartwarming story.
  12. You’ve Got Mail – This was the time when emails were a big deal, Facebook and Insta didn’t exist, and technology had not yet taken over our lives. Meg Ryan, often termed America’s sweetheart, and Tom Hanks star in this lovely David v/s Goliath kind of romantic comedy where Ryan’s tiny bookstore has to shut down because of Hanks’s mega book store chain. Considering today book stores big and small are downing their shutters, this movie is bitter sweet indeed!
  13. The Wedding Singer – This is a sweet love story between Drew Barrymore and such a young Adam Sandler, a wedding singer. She’s engaged to a Casanova, while attracted to the wedding singer. Of course she dumps her Casanova and embraces Sandler. And we all love this happy ending.
  14. The Holiday – This one is completely for the dreamy Valentine’s Day indeed. On a whimsical home exchange plan, Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet find themselves in the other’s home on different continents, where they both meet the love of their lives. When one of the men is the dreamy Jude Law, your heart too does strange things!
  15. Shakespeare in Love – Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes star in this lovely movie about the bard desperately in need of a muse to kickstart his creativity and overcome his enormous writer’s block. Paltrow and Fiennes (he as Shakespeare), are the perfect cast for this romance, which also shows us a different side to the bard.

 

My Top 10 Series – Part 2

Here’s Part 2 and final list of My Top 10 Series…I loved chronicling my favourite shows, hope you like reading it:-)

  1. Fargo (Season One on Netflix): I have watched the first season of this series, and it’s a crime story with the blackest humour you can imagine, helmed so ably and eccentrically by Billy Bob Thornton (Angelina Jolie’s ex-husband, the couple was known for wearing tiny vials of each other’s blood around their neck!), and the able Martin Freeman. Freeman plays a severely hen-pecked husband, who snaps one day and hits his wife on the head, and she dies. Helping him cover up this murder is Thornton, which subsequently leads to more murders and hilariously bizarre situations. Thornton is deliciously ironic, and this series is so, so worth watching. I hope to watch Season Two soon.
  2. Ozark (Seasons One and Two): The story of Ozark is similar to Breaking Bad in that, it is about a man providing for his family, and also trying to protect his family from his bad choices. Except that, after a point, the choices they make are more voluntary, than forced. Ozark keeps you on the edge of the seat, and is a superbly cast and produced series. Yet, Breaking Bad touches your heart more.
  3. The Crown (Season 1-2 on Netflix):  It is the biographical depiction of the life and times of Queen Elizabeth II, who is currently the longest reigning monarch in the world. The series has been dramatised superlatively, remaining faithful to the real events which are widely known. Two seasons are over and the third is eagerly awaited. Superb, not-to-be-missed series.
  4. Broadchurch/The Sinner (Seasons 1-3 and Season One, respectively, both on Netflix):  The British crime series, Broadchurch, is set in the fictitious town of Broachurch in Dorset. The investigation is into the death of 11-year-old boy which shakes up the close community. Leading the investigation is DI Alex Hardy (actor David Tennant), who is a sharp detective, but with his own personal demons to slay. Assisting him is actress Olivia Coleman as DS Ellie Miller. This unlikely duo works well. This is an outstanding series and keeps you on the edge of your seat. While, The Sinner is about a mother on a beach with her family, a seemingly pleasant, happy day, with nary a cloud in the sky, when suddenly something snaps, and she commits murder. Jessica Biel is the reason you must watch this, what a performance, and what a story!
  5. Alias Grace (Season 1 on Netflix): This American-Canadian mini-series is based on a novel of the same name by Margaret Atwood. The main protagonist is the intriguing Grace Marks who is in prison since the last 15 years for having committed murder. She tells her story in flashbacks, to the psychiatrist Dr. Jordan who is here to evaluate her for a possible pardon. Grace is no ordinary person and till the last moment one is kept guessing about the veracity of her story. Stunning portrayal by Sarah Gadon as Grace.
  6. Fauda (Season 1-2 on Netflix)This is an Israeli political thriller, which gives a glimpse into the complex security and other challenges between Israel and the Palestine territories. The story, though primarily told from the Israeli point of view, does depict the Arab thinking too. Though it has faced some criticism over its handling of the issue, for the rest, it’s a taut and suspenseful series.
  7. Humsafar/Zindagi Gulzar Hai (One Season Each on Netflix): Both these Pakistani serials star Fawad Khan. Bollywood movies no longer seem to have a place for the chivalrous, utterly romantic leading man, which Shahrukh Khan at one point had managed to craft as his image. Fawad is your quintessential romantic hero, utterly good-looking, supremely charming, and so very chivalrous. But not just Fawad, the rest of the cast of both these serials, have done a superlative job. How I wish such realistic, yet appealing serials were being produced in India too. But then, Pakistan has a long and rich tradition of producing well-narrated and sensitive TV shows. Remember Dhoop Kinare?
  8. Sherlock (Seasons 1-4 on Netflix): Most of us saw the first three seasons before it came on Netflix, but having said that, it’s one of the best series on the site. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Holmes as no one before, and even the formidable Robert Downey Jr comes only a close second!
  9. The Chalet (Season One on Netflix)This is a a French crime-suspense mini series. As with most things French, it’s absolutely stylistic, and it’s chilling and spooky, without depicting much gore. Hats off to the director for pulling off this almost implausible plot on the basis of its production values, sets, location and cast. A special mention has to be made of the haunting title song and music. Fabulous and riveting.
  10. Boston Legal (Seasons 1-5) and Grey’s Anatomy (Season 1-15): You may be surprised at these choices. Boston Legal is about a law firm in Boston, which has a set of lawyers, who are morally and ethically sometimes compromised, but are bright, and defend their clients well. I recommend watching this mainly for William Shatner (of Star Trek fame, remember the dashing Captain James Kirk?), and even more, for James Spader.  Spader who acts as lawyer Alan Shore, is brilliant, but is not averse to using shady means to get his victories. Yet, he is honest about his methods, and is uncompromisingly unhypocritical, and that is what I love about his character, and this show. Grey’s Anatomy is about a bunch of new interns at Seattle Grace Hospital in the US, who go through their gruelling training and exciting relationships at the same time. What sets it apart for me, is the sheer casting – Ellen Pompeo who plays Meredith Grey, Patrick Dempsey who plays Dr.Derek Shepherd aka McDreamy, and Sandra Oh who plays Dr.Christina Yang. The chemistry between Pompeo and Dempsey is superb. In its 15 Seasons, the serial has seen many shifts and changes, including the cast, though Ellen Pompeo has been the constant. I would recommend watching upto Season 8 or 9, till when it’s really interesting and keeps you glued.

My Top 10 Series – Part I

There was no way I could do just one list for My Top 10, so am going to cheat a bit, and do two lists:-) These are series which are either ongoing, or finished in the recent past, across platforms. Each of the below has given me many hours of unadulterated entertainment and joy. For that, I am truly grateful. I have mentioned and reviewed only the seasons I have seen. So, here goes:-)

  1. Game of Thrones (Seasons 1-7 on Hotstar): What can be said of GoT that hasn’t been said already? Except that this series has created extreme fandom, with each season awaited with intense longing and impatience. The cast, the locations, and the story, are at an epic scale, and the special effects are out of this world. The question which will be answered at the end of the last season next year is – Who will finally sit on the Iron Throne? My bet is Jon Snow (er, Targaryen)…whom are you betting on?
  2. The Peaky Blinders (Seasons 1-4 on Netflix): This series came as a bolt from the blue. It’s about a gang called Peaky Blinders running the bookie and other illegal business in 1919 Birmingham, England. Led by the ambitious Thomas Shelby (played brilliantly by Cillian Murphy), it’s a family run ‘business’. Murphy’s chilling eyes mesmerise, and even as his gang is violent, his own treatment of his women is extremely chivalrous. Each season deals with a fresh set of challenges the gang faces in its effort to become more powerful and influential. Season 5 is so eagerly awaited.
  3. Breaking Bad (5 Seasons on Netflix): This five-season series is one of those series, which if someone had narrated the story beforehand, I would have baulked. The very ordinariness of the characters is finally what attracts one the most. A rather dull, chemistry teacher, diagnosed with lung cancer, starts making and selling methamphetamine with the help of a student, and not only makes loads of money, but gets into much trouble in this life of crime. Bryan Cranston who has acted as Walter White, the chemistry teacher, is so very real. He’s the reason you must watch this.
  4. True Detective (Season 1 on HBO) – Mathew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson act as detectives investigating the murder of a prostitute and other connected crimes. The story line spans almost two decades, with a lot of flashbacks, but this winning combination of actors, particularly McConaughey’s absolute, absolute brilliance, is what makes this series stand out. McCanaughey brings so much conviction to the character, Harrelson being a truly worthy foil. When I heard Season Two didn’t have either of these actors, I just didn’t watch it. (My hubby says it’s foolish of me not to, so perhaps one day, I will). It has brilliant title score.
  5. Homeland (Seasons 1-7 on Hotstar): This is an American spy series, starring Claire Danes as CIA officer Carrie Mathison, who is bi-polar, and brilliant at her work. The series is shot amazingly realistically, and most of its plot is eerily close to reality. It also addresses American jingoism and insecurities. The next season is sadly, likely to be the last.
  6. Forbrydelsen (Seasons 1-2): What a  series this Danish whodunnit is! Brilliant actor Sofie Grabol plays detective Sarah Lund, with each episode in a season covering 24 hours of the crime investigation. It’s bleak, scary, and utterly suspenseful!
  7. Sacred Games (Season 1 on Netflix): This is the first original Indian (Hindi) thriller series on Netflix, with awesome performances by Saif Ali Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Saif Khan’s turn as police officer Sartaj Singh has to be his best performance to date. The series has violence and gore, sex and nudity, and somehow, it all seems to fit in. Season 1 ended as a cliffhanger, and the next season is eagerly awaited.
  8. Big Little Lies (Season 1 on Hotstar): Aha! This is my most favourite series of 2017. A complete gem of a series starring mega stars Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley, it is set in the community of Monterey, California, where it’s the first day of a new school year for a bunch of first graders, whose mothers are divided into close-knit groups. One of the kids gets assaulted by another on day one, and from there on, the battle lines are clearly drawn between the moms. There is also adultery, domestic violence, commentary on parenting, jealousies, and tests of friendships. And finally, a murder, which is revealed in the first episode itself (though not who is murdered), but is resolved only in the last few minutes of the final episode, leaving you strung out, gasping, exhausted, and absolutely shocked! The best news is, Season 2 is being shot even as I write this, with Meryl Streep joining the cast:-)
  9. The Outlander (Seasons 1-4 on Netflix): Much smaller in scale than Game of Thrones, but almost it’s equal in story and gore, Outlander is also an epic love story in a way that Game of Thrones can never be, given it’s sheer vastness. It’s based on Diana Gabaldon’s book series about time travel into 18th century Scotland by a married Army nurse, Claire Randall, at the end of the Second World War.  There she encounters the handsome Jamie Frasier with whom she falls irrevocably in love, and gets involved in the Jacobite uprisings. Am eagerly awaiting Season 5.
  10. This Is Us (One Season Only, on Hotstar): This American series is essentially about three siblings – Kevin, Kate and Randall, the last of whom is racially different from the rest of the family, and is adopted, and their lives with their parents, mostly told in flashback. They are adults now, and each is going through life, often facing demons from the past. What is it that tugs one’s heart about this series? It depicts the challenges of parenting, the choices we make as parents, and the ups and down parents undergo in their own relationships, in a very honest and forthright manner, which you can so, so, identify with. The bond between the parents and the siblings is heartwarming, and their deep angst is understandable too. You feel these are real lives being lived, and you become such an intrinsic part of this family. It’s a complete tearjerker, and if you don’t like an emotional overload, perhaps you ought to give this one a miss. Otherwise, Watch IT!