Happy New Year, friends! It's the first day of 2021 and I am feeling hopeful. I know there's a lot of work to be done to get our lives "back to normal," but I feel encouraged by the availability of the vaccine and what that could mean for all of us over the next several months.
In the meantime, please stay vigilant. Social distance, wear a mask, wash your hands and do everything you can to keep the people in your community safe.
I was off of work this week (hallelujah!) which gave me an incredible amount of time to stream. I am very excited to share this week's top picks. Before we dive in, here are a few things to look forward to in the coming weeks:
- Friday, January 8 - I'm eager to watch Pretend It's a City, a new limited series for Netflix starring writer and humorist Fran Lebowitz.
- Friday, January 15 - Netflix is releasing a new reality show called Bling Empire about the ultra wealthy members of the Asian community in Los Angeles. From the looks of the trailer, it will be grand!
- Tuesday, January 19 - Seasons one - nine of How I Met Your Mother will become available on Amazon Prime. I used to love this show and it might be time for a re-watch. "Have you met Ted?"
- Thursday, January 21 - Call My Agent returns to Netflix with season four. This French show is about a group of talent agents in Paris and their very eccentric clients.
- Friday, January 22 - Back in July 2019 Netflix released a reality competition show called Blown Away featuring glass blowers. Stay with me! While I was skeptical at first, watching these artists create stunning works in a limited amount of time was nothing short of incredible. In a few weeks, the show will be back with season two.
Now onto this week's must-see TV shows and movies.
1. Bridgerton (Netflix) - If you haven't watched Bridgerton yet, stop what you're doing and get started! This is the first show to come out of the Shondland development deal with Netflix. It's produced by Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers, based on the novel The Duke and I by Julia Quinn.
The show is set in England, in the year 1813. The story centers around Daphne Bridgerton (played by Phoebe Dynevor), a young woman headed into "the season," which is a series of events, parties and galas designed to help women parade themselves in front of potential suitors.
Daphne falls for the Duke of Hastings (played by the insanely gorgeous Regé-Jean Page), who has recently returned to town after years away in the wake of his father's death.
Throughout the season, an anonymous writer who refers to herself as Lady Whistledown, comments on all the potential couples. It's very reminiscent of Gossip Girl. In Bridgerton, this important narrator is voiced by the one and only Julie Andrews. What a get!
There were so many things I loved about this show. First, Daphne and the Duke's relationship is a steamy one! After a long, exhausting year, this is just the kind of romance we all needed to see. Second, the costumes are incredible. Maybe it's because I haven't worn real clothes in nine months, but watching this made me long for the grandeur of formal celebrations. Third, the show adds some modern touches to this period piece in a way you can only notice if you're really paying attention. For example, at the first ball of the season, the string quartet is playing current pop songs like Ariana Grande's "Thank You, Next" and Maroon 5's "Girls Like You."
I enjoyed Bridgerton so much that I watched all eight episodes in two sittings. I'm even thinking about re-watching it from the beginning.
2. Sylvie's Love (Amazon) - While scrolling through Instagram, I saw writer and actress Natasha Rothwell share a rave review of the movie Sylvie's Love, so I decided to give it a whirl. It co-starts Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha (Kerry Washington's husband!) as Sylvie and Robert, two young people who fall in love in a record shop in Harlem.
Robert is a jazz saxophone player with immense talent, and Sylvie's dream is to become a television producer. When Robert's music career sends him to Paris, France, their paths diverge.
Many years later they run into each other outside a concert hall and the spark returns, flipping their existing lives upside down.
This movie is long (two hours) and at times can feel slow, but in the scenes centered around Sylvie and Robert's desire for each other, you're reeled back in.
The costumes are also fabulous. The show is set in the 1950s and 60s, and it reminded me so much of Mad Men.
3. I'm Your Woman (Amazon) - Rachel Brosnahan (best known as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) stars in and produced I'm Your Woman, a movie about a mobster's wife who finds herself suddenly on the run.
Brosnahan's character, Jean, is guided through this stressful experience by one of her husband's "associates." His name is Cal and he's played wonderfully by Arinzé Kene. Cal's wife, Teri (played by Marsha Stephanie Blake), joins in to ensure Jean and her son are able to escape to safety.
I wouldn't call this a thriller, but it definitely has suspenseful moments. Each time you think Jean may finally be able to take a breath, some new obstacle appears.
One important note: for the first 45 minutes of this movie, Jean's infant son is crying. If the sound of a baby crying is like nails on the chalkboard to you, you're going to need to skip this.
4. The Wilds (Amazon) - I was hesitant to watch this show at first, because the premise sounded pretty bleak and Darwinian. Eight young women are headed to a female empowerment retreat when their plane crashes, leaving them stranded on a deserted island. They have to fend for themselves, figuring out how to survive until they can be rescued.
I was pleased to discover The Wilds is much more about each individual girl's backstory, than it is about their time on the island. You get to know each young woman through flashbacks and I was continually surprised as new details of their lives were revealed.
I don't want to say more about the plot because there are some shocking twists, but I need to say that actress Rachel Griffiths, who plays a psychologist and researcher, was absolute perfection in this role. I always think of her as Brenda from Six Feet Under, and she has a bit of that same vibe here.
The show is 10 episodes, each one hour long. That sounds like a lot of time, but you won't be able to resist pressing "next episode."
5. Death to 2020 (Netflix) - Now that we're officially in 2021, you may feel ready to watch Death to 2020, a one-hour special on Netflix that does a spoof "year in review."
Lisa Kudrow plays the White House press secretary and Kumail Nanjiani plays a tech CEO (clearly modeled after Elon Musk).
While there are definitely jokes that feel "too soon," I guarantee the mock interviews will make you laugh.
There you have it! This week's suggestions. Keep me posted on what you're watching and anything you think I should see!
*Images courtesy of Unsplash, Variety, Empire Online, Rolling Stone, NBC News and Time Out.
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