What We’re Watching | Homicide: Life on the Street

Each Wednesday I share what my wife Kim and I are watching in terms of movies and TV each week in a feature called “What We’re Watching Wednesday.” This week, it’s an oldie but a goodie Homicide: Life on the Street.

There is television, then there are those shows that are so far above what should be called “television.”  Examples include The Sopranos, of course, and Game of Thrones, but even before that, there were shows like Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere, but in my and my wife’s minds, the show that when you talk about “they don’t make television shows like that anymore” is, and always will be, Homicide: Life on the Street.

The show began in 1993 and ended in 1999 after seven seasons of often struggling to stay on TV, even though it was better than most anything on the air during that time. It was about a homicide unit in Baltimore and based on the book, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon. Unlike many other shows, it wasn’t filmed in Hollywood, but in Baltimore — and the city was also a main character in the show. Not that the ensemble cast wasn’t brilliant, because it was, beginning with Andre Braugher as Detective Frank Pembleton. Others in the cast included Melissa Leo, Daniel Baldwin, Yaphet Kotto, Ned Beatty, Richard Belzer, Clark Johnson, and Kyle Secor.

Then there were the guest stars: Robin Williams, Wilford Brimley, Steve Buscemi, Vincent D’Onofrio, Moses Gunn, Bruno Kirby, J.K. Simmons, Lily Tomlin…I could just go on and on. They didn’t steal the show, but often showed the strengths of the established characters and actors, who at the time weren’t recognized as great as they were. Braugher and Leo are the most notable of the cast that went on to further fame: Braugher in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Leo in The Fighter for which she won a Best Actress Oscar in 2010.

Kim and I have been waiting to get this on DVD, literally for years. For the longest time, it was hard to find on DVD, with a complete collection costing up to $300. Finally, this past year, it was rereleased through Shout Factory for about $100 and this past Prime Day, we couldn’t pass up a deal to get it at half that price. Since then, we’ve been making our way through it slowly, because this is not the kind of show one wants to devour in a binge-watch. This is the kind of show one wants to savor which we are doing.

Kim says I have to share this clip with Buscemi, so here you go:

For you, what are those shows that shouldn’t really be classified as television because they’re that good?

What We’re Watching Wednesday | Crude but funny

Each Wednesday I share what my wife Kim and I are watching in terms of movies and TV each week in a feature called “What We’re Watching Wednesday.” This week, it’s TV shows that are crude but funny.

Mainly, there are two shows we have been watching, both on Hulu: Drunk History, which started from sketches on Funny or Die, and Letterkenny. a Canadian show. Both are as crude “af” but also as funny “af” too. If  you don’t mind the occasional sight of vomit and fart jokes, these shows are for you (but really there are some funny lines in between, especially with Letterkenny, with dialogue so fast we had to put the closed captions on just to keep up).

Here’s from the opening of the first episode of Letterkenny (and yes, this is NSFW and does contain vulgar language):

And this clip from Drunk History is one of the less crude ones, but still funny:

So do you ever like your humor a little, or even a lot, on the raunchy side? If so, to what shows or movies do you turn to?

Spies, Intrigue, and Felicity: A Show I Never Expected to Like

Each Wednesday either my wife or I share what we are watching (either together or separately) in terms of movies and TV each week in a feature called “What We’re Watching Wednesday.” This week, in the spirit of the holiday we’re celebrating here in America, she gives her (spoiler-free) review of the show The Americans, which recently just ended after six seasons.

It happens to me with books. I pick something up quite by accident and casually begin reading, and end up clutching the book in a fevered dream every chance I get until it is over, when I am left with that curious emptiness once the story is fully told.

The Americans was just such a TV series for me. Recommended by a friend (Michelle of the blog That’s What She Read) quickly abandoned by my husband as “too complicated to invest in,” I continued on alone, watching most episodes during downtime in the wee hours of the morning at work. I argued with it, rolled my eyes a few times, and then the questions began mounting that I decided I needed answers to. In short, I was hooked.

The show, in case you haven’t heard of it, concerns Philip and Elizabeth Jennings, a couple with two children living in Falls Church, Virginia, proprietors of a travel agency. Their house is nice (though I earnestly prayed that as the seasons wore on they would get rid of that awful wallpaper in the kitchen), their kids are occasionally annoying, and oh…they are Russian spies.

I credit Keri Russell for pulling me in. She portrays Elizabeth with such unapologetic brutality that you watch her to see whose ass she is going to kick next. And at the same time you realize she is the Alpha in this situation, like Tony Soprano or Vic Mackey in The Shield, you root for her, only occasionally swatting away the pesky reminders that these characters are supposed to be enemies. Is it close to reality? According to my own research, spying is a lot more boring than one might conclude, watching this show, and frequently less successful. This fascinating article details the experiences and exploits of a real spy during the same time period.

Elizabeth’s husband Philip, played by Matthew Rhys, is the conscience of the pair…and his struggles with some of the things he has to do raise the most interesting questions. Could a couple who lives seamlessly embedded in American culture and raise children here remain true to their mission without wavering for all that time? Elizabeth acknowledges at one point that things are “easier here, not better” but it is difficult to believe, given the backstory they have for her, that it isn’t both.  The show may not be strictly historically accurate, but as a play of drama, loyalty and moral dilemmas, it is excellent.

What We’re Watching Wednesday | Hulu

Each Wednesday either my wife or I share what we are watching (either together or separately) in terms of movies and TV each week in a feature called “What We’re Watching Wednesday.” This week, it’s the streaming service Hulu.

A couple of years ago, my sister got us a gift of Hulu for a year, but we decided that it wasn’t worth it for only two or three shows, at the time, the original CSI for me and Brooklyn Nine-Nine for both of us so we canceled it so she wasn’t paying for it and also because we didn’t want to continue it. However, earlier this year, when I learned from Kim of the blog Sophisticated Dorkiness that Hulu had “gotten” the complete ER, I was very tempted. I used to have several episodes of the series, especially the early years, recorded on VHS, and always wanted to rewatch the series, especially those first few seasons with Anthony Edwards and George Clooney.

Fast forward to last week: I was thinking about getting MHz Choice through Amazon Channels because we had watched an episode of Inspector Montalbano based on the brilliant Italian book series by Andrea Camilleri that we had borrowed via Hoopla from the Free Library of Philadelphia. I thought about getting the channel, but wanted to see what else they had. Unfortunately, I didn’t recognize any of the other titles and one of the shows we wanted to finish watching (the third season), Borgen, isn’t available for streaming. So I decided that wasn’t worth it and then I remembered Hulu. Maybe it was time to give them a second look…

…and I’m glad I did. This time around, the streaming service had more shows than just CSI and Brooklyn Nine-Nine that we wanted to watch. For example, we had been watching Bob’s Burgers on Netflix, but then it was abruptly taken off. We’ve been wanting to get back to the show and now we can. A few other shows we are looking forward to: Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue, The Shield (which we never did see the end of), The Bridge (both the original and the American remake), Spiral, Raising Hope (which I have seen multiple times, but want to see again…and again…and…), CSI: Miami (which I want to finish), My Name Is Earl (another one I have seen multiple times, but want to see again..and again…and…), Wayward Pines (since I recently just read the first book of the series), and Good Behavior (also written by Blake Crouch, who wrote Wayward Pines).

Yes, they also are movies, but not as many as Netflix or Amazon Prime that we are interested in seeing, but there is this one that we want to see again:

Do you use Hulu? If so, what do you recommend watching? If not, what have you been watching lately that you would recommend, either TV or movies?

What We’re Watching Wednesday | Documentaries

Each Wednesday I share what my wife Kim and I are watching in terms of movies and TV each week in a feature called “What We’re Watching Wednesday.” This week, though, it’s Kim who is sharing…only what she is watching by herself: documentaries.

I am that person. The one who tries to get you to watch a documentary.
When we first got cable, I discovered my love for watching the obscure stories, little independent documentaries about unfamiliar subjects. I have always liked to learn about people whose life experience was vastly different from my own.

And I love a well told story, slowly unfolded. They affect me. I try to spread my enthusiasm and I can tell straightaway if I have chosen my audience correctly. If you are not one whose eyes glaze over as someone bangs on about social issues, history, or the best restaurant in Berlin, read on.

All three of these series are available on Netflix.

Chef’s Table

You may think you are utterly disinterested in cooking, or assume this series bears some resemblance to the cooking competition shows that fill the offerings on Netflix and elsewhere. If you will indulge me, watch one episode. Watch Season 3, Episode 1. And tell me if you aren’t hooked. Then go back to the beginning.

Each episode of Chef’s Table stands alone and tells the story of one chef, what inspires them, how they got started, what they serve in their restaurants. Whether cooking is your thing or not, their stories are fascinating. Part biography, part travel show, a feast for the eyes and the soul. The chefs themselves are at times holy, other times profane, deeply connected to the food they serve, deeply connected to the places they live, and their life experiences are the flavors they bring to the plate. I have learned so much that inspires my own cooking and that confirms my suspicion that if I worked in a professional kitchen I would hide in the bathroom and cry a lot.

Wild Wild Country

We have seen and enjoyed a couple of Mark and Jay Duplass’ films, most notably Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) and The Skeleton Twins (2014) but their documentaries are another thing entirely and I hope they produce more.

Wild Wild Country concerns the establishment of Rajneeshpuram, a commune of followers of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh established in Wasco County, Oregon in the early 80s. In the first episode, one of the interviewees notes that if you wrote a book with all of the elements of this story in it, it would be dismissed as “too ridiculous.” Indeed, the rise and fall of this community and all the things that happened are a strange, fascinating tale. I found myself looking up articles and interviews seeking answers to the questions I was left with.

Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist

Many of us remember the footage on the news of pizza delivery man Brian Wells, handcuffed and seated on the ground in front of a state police cruiser with a bomb around his neck that would later take his life, having robbed the PNC Bank on Peach Street in Erie. The Pizza Bomber, they called him. I must admit once it rotated out of the news cycle I forgot about it. I live in Pennsylvania but at the time we were about as far from Erie as we could be while still being in the same state. I was not aware that the investigation, and the mystery, took years to solve. In some ways, this short documentary reminded me of the first (and still, most affecting and compelling) podcast I ever listened to, S-Town.

Have you seen any of these? What did you think? If not, do you like documentaries? Any ones you can recommend?

What We’re Watching Wednesday | Trailers

Each Wednesday I share what my wife Kim and I are watching in terms of movies and TV each week in a feature called “What We’re Watching Wednesday.” This week, it’s not really either…yet as we’re watching trailers for upcoming movies.

These are a few trailers for upcoming movies that look like they could be good.

The first one is the one we really want to see: Spike Lee and Jordan Peele. We’re there. However, we also love Adam Driver, best known for his Riley as Kylo Ren in the new Star Wars movies, but whom we loved in Logan Lucky in a very un-Kylo Ren-like performance.

The second is one that I think looks good, but we’ll see. The third is Melissa Mccarthy in a rare dramatic performance. We have seen her do drama in St. Vincent and she was excellent. This new one looks promising.

What are you watching this week? Any trailers for upcoming movies you’re excited to see?

What We’re Watching Wednesday | Shows set in Scotland

Each Wednesday I share what my wife Kim and I are watching in terms of movies and TV each week in a feature called “What We’re Watching Wednesday.” This week, it’s shows set in Scotland.

I think it was last year that the BBC show Shetland premiered on Netflix. Kim and I slowly have been making our way through the series, and we’re now on Series 3, where the action definitely has picked up with guest stars Ciarán Hinds and James Cosmo, both of whom were in Game of Thrones. It’s not that the first two series were bad, but it feels like this one has stepped up the series’ game.

The next show, David and Olivia? Naked in Scotland, is on Amazon Prime. We saw a trailer for this and thought we definitely needed to watch this, so we did. We weren’t disappointed in the show itself, but unfortunately it’s only three episodes long. We almost wonder if the two creators, who also star in the show, aren’t hoping to sell the show to a larger network at some point. We sure hope someone picks it up, because it was, and is, really good. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a trailer for this show, but if you have Amazon Prime, definitely give it a try.

So how about you? Watching any good TV this past week? Movies you’d recommend?

What We’re Watching Wednesday | Subtitles

Each Wednesday I share what my wife Kim and I are watching in terms of movies and TV each week in a feature called “What We’re Watching Wednesday.” This week, it’s subtitles.

My wife and I don’t mind subtitles. In fact, to be honest, we prefer subtitles over badly-dubbed English. We like to hear the language in which the show or movie was done and to watch the lips match the words that are coming out of the characters’ mouths. For me, I think it began with watching early Jackie Chan movies. Lately, it’s extended to many shows on Netflix including a couple I’ve mentioned here on the blog such as Narcos and Money Heist.

This past week, we discovered together an Argentine comedy on Netflix that has been on TBS Latinoamérica called Psiconautas about a Spanish con man who flees to Argentine to start another con as a psychotherapist to a group of people at a cafe. We are only a few episodes in, but so far it is hilarious. The trailer below does not have subtitles, but you still get the idea:

On my own, I also discovered a Japanese anime show called Aggretsuko, also on Netflix about a red panda who works in an office, but has a secret life at night as a death metal karaoke singer. I’ll admit that I’m not really into anime, but the show came up as a highlight recently and I started watching it. As with Psiconautas, I’m only a few episodes in, but I’m enjoying it. In parts, it is a commentary on office life and being a young woman in a male-dominated workplace. However, I won’t lie: I love the death metal karaoke sections.

So how about you? Watching any good TV this past week? Movies you’d recommend? What do you think of subtitles? Like or dislike?

 

What We’re Watching Wednesday | Zombies

Last week, I started a new feature here on the blog called “What We’re Watching Wednesday,” (graphic to come later), where I’ll be sharing what my wife Kim and I are watching in terms of movies and TV each week. This week, it’s zombies.

Kim and I aren’t really into zombie TV or movies, but for some reason, I thought I’d give Santa Clarita Diet on Netflix a try anyway when it first came out last year. The trailers actually looked good…and I was surprised to find that I did like it. After only a few episodes, I stopped watching to wait for Kim to catch up. The show, starring Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant, is now in its second season. Yes, it starts with a bit of gross visuals: vomit and blood (hit fast forward or do the fake lookaway), but after the first few episodes, it hits its stride with the interplay between Barrymore and Olyphant’s characters at the forefront, with Barrymore playing a newly-discovered undead person and Olyphant, her ever-supporting husband. And by then you’re hooked, or at least we were.

Last night in anticipation of this theme, I watched the South Korean zombie movie Train to Busan, also available on Netflix. Kim had no interest in this so I decided to watch it while she is away for a few days this week, visiting her sister and mother in Delaware. Unlike other zombie movies that we both have liked, such as Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland, which were comedies, this one isn’t a humorous romp. This one is more akin to 28 Days Later, although not quite as bleak and with some surprisingly poignant moments within it (not shown in the trailer below). At the center is a father accompanying his daughter to his ex-wife’s, which is set up with a backstory at the start of the movie that makes one wonder at first if the movie ever will pick up. But believe me, it does…and once it does, it never lets up until the very end.

So what you have been watching lately? Movies and/or TV? Anything worth sharing? Share away in the comments.