I like television. A lot. I grew up watching TV and have a weird memory of us having cable, but it was something that you still had to tune in, like MTV would be static and I would tune the dial a little to the right. Was that a real thing? Anywho, I have feelings attached to TV shows and those memories are very real. I remember Growing Pains and Who’s the Boss ended the same night and I was so fucking sad, or watching the “first” New York Real World on my bedroom TV, and Roseanne and Dharma and Greg with my parents. I would get ready for school while catching a few videos in the morning on MTV and I knew that when the news started I had to leave to catch the bus. ER is one of the first memories that I have of thinking I wanted to be a doctor or nurse. I would sneak into the living room late at night to watch reruns of the Muppet Show and Kids in the Hall. My parents would record shows for me on VHS. I had episodes of David Letterman, especially if a favorite band was performing, and any of the award shows that went too late were recorded so I could watch when I was home from school. And of course, my love for TV meant that any punishment handed out usually involved no TV and no music.
As an adult with a career, I budget for my love of TV. I consider cable and streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu to be my entertainment. I do not spend money on bars or clubs, but I have every channel to help take me out of reality. I decided to write about something different today. I thought that as an avid fan of television, and one that knows when a guilty pleasure is just that, I would suggest five shows to y’all. Some are ridiculous and some are great, but they all have my attention. There is no order here, just my suggestions.
1. Ozark on Netflix
This show is dramatic. Some warnings should include verbal and physical abuse, death, gruesome murder(s), and sex. It is well written and the acting is phenomenal; the show is extremely addictive. I wanted so badly to savor season two, and instead, I finished it in three days. The episodes all have cliff hangers, so plan to be let down when you cannot start the next episode because you have to work, or make dinner or whatever.
The overall summary: a family moves from Chicago to the Ozarks to continue their money laundering business for a major Mexican drug cartel. Jason Bateman is great with his dry humor and sometimes flat affect. The wife and kids are just as amazing at their roles and in the second season, we really see Wendy (wife/mother) adapt into the role of criminal. She has a background in politics and you see how well that plays into the crime needs.
The family inevitably becomes involved in the local crime in the Ozarks and that includes working with one of my favorite TV characters, Ruth Langmore. She is that (often overdone) stereotype of a kid that grew up in a criminal (trailer park) family that is smart and witty, and you think she has a chance to escape, but really she is just a great criminal. She is very broken and we see more of that in season two. Truly all of the characters are great, but Ruth really grows to be amazing in the second season.
2. 90 Day Fiancé: Before the 90 Days on TLC
Okay, so this is a guilty pleasure, but IT IS SO DANG GOOD. First, I would recommend all of the 90 Day series – and there are a lot. We watch all of them when the TV remembers to record them. The idea of the show is that people from the USA want to marry someone from another country, and they have to get a K-1 visa which allows their partner to come to the states for 90 days, but they have to get married during that time. Usually the couples have met online or while on vacation, and they have hung out only a few times or maybe never in real life and instead have just had relationships via social media and their phones. Obviously, this means that when they get together for 90 days, it all goes bananas and we don’t know if weddings will happen or not. One major plot point that usually goes down is many of the American families think their daughter/son/brother/sister/cousin is being used for a green card. It sometimes feels that way to the viewer too, but usually the foreign partner is sobbing in another room and missing their homeland.
Oh, I forgot the warnings: The majority of these people are bananas. Some of them are men that are newly divorced looking for younger Asian women, but some of the people are truly seeking love. There is a lot of awkwardness, some physical and verbal assault situations, one has a ridiculous robbery take place that includes a machete and yet they do not think to spend more time on that and instead focus on the dumpster fire of a relationship. There is mention of sex, but never on camera sex. And it is often thick with misogyny disguised through cultural differences.
This particular series focuses on the couples hanging out before the 90 days to see if they do want to marry, or in one ding dong’s case, he is in Brazil hanging out with her and her family. The couple was on the last season and still do not speak each other’s language and only communicate via a translation app on this phone. The rest of the cast is just as ridiculous and there is maybe one couple that I am only sorta rooting for, and they met on a dang karaoke app!
The show is fun for many reasons. If you are not laughing at the overall ridiculousness of it, you can at least laugh at Tarik’s fishnet shirts.
3. Queen Sugar on OWN (or Hulu)
This is another dramatic television show and it is one that will pull on your heart strings, or if you are like me, you will sob. I would liken this show to something like a Parenthood or This is Us, where it is a show focused on a family, but you get to break off into each of their lives and follow all of their stories. It is an all black cast (yay) and it is so well written and acted, topical, timely, fresh, and intense as hell. I watched the first two seasons on Hulu and the most recent just finished on OWN. Warnings include: some violence (specifically police brutality), racism, mention of rape, and super emotional topics.
It is beautifully shot and makes even me, hater of humidity, want to visit Louisiana. The show’s opening episode includes the death of a character and it is done so well that I cried. The first episode! The siblings (one brother and two sisters) have to come together to take over their father’s sugar cane fields in Louisiana. Their aunt acts as the matriarch of the family and her house is a central part of the show.
I really suggest you bring all the tissues when you watch this show. One of the siblings is a journalist and writer that covers issues that affect the community. This makes a great subplot for the show to include everything from their roots of slavery and privatized prisons to police brutality.
The things that come to mind when I think of Queen Sugar are: family strength, black love, feminism, and faith.
4. Baskets on FX
A friend recommended Baskets to me and I do not know why it took me so long to watch this dang show. Maybe the Louis CK name on it has something to do with that, but at the end of the day I would guess someone awful is somehow attached to every thing that I watch. That being said, a warning is that he co-created the show. I am not sure if he is doing anything more with the show, but there are three seasons so far.
The show is about the Baskets family. Chip wanted to be a classically trained clown and went to clown school in France. He fails and moves back home to Bakersfield. His twin brother is a douche that is married with some kids. And their mother is one of my favorite TV characters ever created/acted ever. Louie Anderson plays Christine Baskets and apparently has said his inspiration is that this is an ode to his mother. He is playing his own mother, but to me, he is playing my mother. Or every Midwestern mother.
Christine is obsessed with Costco. She cares about her kids, and is struggling to learn to care for herself, but that being said, she is not that great at any of it. She considers Martha her friend (a character that works at Costco who was in love with Chip and then just sorta becomes part of the family), but she never pays attention to her. Because of that, their relationship is one of my favorite TV friendships. She is ridiculous and even though they are in Bakersfield, she sounds like she is from Wisconsin or Michigan. She says, “oh who knows!” and it is everything to me. Her facial expressions and guilt trips are everything that my mother was and it is the best part of the show.
5. Atlanta on FX
I know that you have heard of Atlanta. It has won several awards, specifically for Donald Glover for writer and actor, and even best TV show by Golden Globes. This show does not mess around. Here is the thing, though: it is not like any other show you have watched. In one episode (1st season/7th episode), the character Paper Boi was a guest on a talk show and the entire episode was a mock of talk shows and commercials, they even created all of the commercials for the show as well.
Season one is sorta normal where each episode leads into the next, but the second season is a rad display of what a creative person could do with a show and rights over creativity. Each episode was a stand-alone piece that focused on each of the characters separately. And some were down-right bizarre. (Donald Glover is seen below as Teddy Perkins, a creepy character that shocked fans of the show this year.)
The main characters include cousins in a business partnership (Earn, the manager and Paper Boi is a rapper) and their friend, Darius. Darius is another all-time favorite TV show character of mine. And yes, I realize that I have named three favorites in just this short list. (please note that i mean all of them. thanks.) I will provide some warnings like harsh language, some violence, racism, bigotry, and sex. I will also provide the strong suggestion THAT YOU WATCH THIS SHOW.
It is created, written by, and sometimes directed by Donald Glover. In an interview, Glover said that he hired his brother and a room full of black writers from ATL for the show to ensure its authenticity. The show is funny and endearing, but also angering and sometimes stressful. I promise though, it is something that you have never seen before. I recommend you at least check it out for Darius. He will surely make you happy.
And that was my first post of recommendations!
I am out of work for at least another week, so you should expect more stuff like this to supplement the real life jams that I am usually shoving in your eyeballs. In the meantime, I recommend you peep my friend Marcus’ post on foods and the well thought out list of death row meal wishes.