The Minnesota stay-at-home order may be over, but life is far from normal. More people will get sick. More people will die. More businesses will close. More people will lose their jobs. More families will be on the brink.
In the shallower end of the importance pool, people are still not supposed to gather in big groups. And, we're still weeks away from any live sports of any real significance returning to television. (I'll pretend I didn't hear you tell me that I should check out the Bundesliga soccer league because it's surprisingly great. No!)
It's that last life-modifying factor, the lack of live sports on television, that has lifted the phrase "binge-watching" into the upper echelons of societal chatter. Sure, when we cross paths with a casual acquaintance or visit relatives or catch up with friends or wait for our millionth Zoom meeting to start, we're first going to ask how people are doing and how they're loved ones are doing with this nasty virus lurking all around us.
But it doesn't take long to probe more trivial territory:
"So what are you watching?"
So glad you asked!
• Band of Brothers, HBO: I don't know how I let two decades slip by without watching this 10-part series, but it's the best World War II depiction ever put on screen, in my view. It's based on actual soldiers from the same company, and they're interviewed at the beginning of each episode, and at the end of the final episode. They must all be gone by now.
When the war is turning in the allies' favor and a handful of soldiers on a mundane patrol through the woods stumble across a concentration camp and have no idea what they've just come upon...it’s devastating television.
The final interviews with some of the company's crew end with a lieutenant recalling his grandson asking him if he was a "hero" in the war. No, he told his grandson. He wasn't a hero. "But I was in a company of heroes."
• Normal People, Hulu: This show is one of the reasons I still subscribe to Rolling Stone magazine. A few years ago, when all these TV streaming services launched, people said we were in the midst of "peak TV," as in, there were so many amazing shows to choose from. Now I think it's more like "too much" TV. There are simply too many shows on too many streaming services to endlessly scroll through.
Set in Ireland, "Normal People" could easily get lost in that sea of mediocrity. But then I read a review in Rolling Stone in which it was described as one of the most realistic, complicated, poignant love stories captured on the small screen in years. And it was.
The two young actors at the center of the show, Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal, have big careers ahead of them.
• Better Things, Hulu. If you're a parent of pre-teens, teens or young adults in the social media age, this show is right in your wheelhouse. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you’ll shout “YES!” at your TV in one episode, and “NO!” in the next episode.
Actor/comedian Pamela Adlon is the mother and the show's anchor. She created the show along with her frequent collaborator, comedian Louis C.K. You can say what you want about him and his terrible behavior that had him banished and disgraced at the height of the #metoo movement, but that doesn't change the fact that if Louis C.K. is involved in something, it's going to be funny, and excellent.
• Bosch, Prime Video: I texted a friend weeks back, saying my wife and I were looking for a new show. He replied, saying that season six of "Bosch" was premiering that very night. I texted back, wondering what it was about.
"Hollywood detective. Divorced. Loves his daughter. Loves jazz. Plays by his own rules," came the reply.
Dude should write about TV for Rolling Stone...
If you accept the fact that the lead character, Harry Bosch, is going to go a little rogue in order to catch the bad guys, or kill them if necessary, and that Bosch is going to be knocking on death's door on multiple occasions each season but the grim reaper will never answer, then you will enjoy Bosch.
Also, if you're an audiophile to any degree, you'll find yourself, like me, obsessing over his hi-fi system in his living room, where he enjoys his jazz on vinyl. The ancient McIntosh receiver, the turntable, the tube amplifier, his geometrically pleasing tower speakers...delicious!
A seventh and final season of Bosch was recently announced.
• Rectify, Netflix: As an 18-year-old, Daniel Holden is convicted of raping and killing a 16-year-old girl. He’s on death row for 20 years before new DNA evidence leads to the vacation of his sentence. He is released from prison, but his troubles are far from over. In some respects, they’re just beginning.
The assumption would be that the show’s four seasons are all about the search for the new rapist and killer, and that is part of the plot. But this is mostly about Holden’s inner demons and how he struggles to hold them at bay, and about how what transpired in his life over two decades absolutely ripped his family to shreds.