Hello, friends. Happy Friday! Today is the first day of April, which I hope means some true spring weather is coming our way. I am definitely ready to put away my winter coat for good.
Before we dive into this week's top picks, here are a few things coming up:
- Today- Happy The Home Edit Day! Season two is now live on Netflix. Why is it so satisfying to watch other people's junk get organized?
- Friday, April 8 - The fifth season of the Spanish high school drama Elite drops on Netflix. This is basically Gossip Girl, set in Spain.
- Thursday, April 14 - The Kardashians hit Hulu. The family made such a big deal when their show on E! ended, but apparently they just planned to change networks / streaming services. I'd love to tell you that I am not going to watch this, but I think we all know that's not true.
- Friday, April 22 - I am elated that Selling Sunset season five has a premiere date! This show is the truest definition of a guilty pleasure.
I didn't share a round up last week (I was visiting my family in Miami, FL and was totally unplugged) so this week's list is extra long! Let's get right to it.
1. Bridgerton (Netflix) - When the first season of Bridgerton was released on Netflix, I devoured it. I loved it so much that when I finished watching, I immediately started again. To say I was counting down to season two would be a major understatement.
For those who aren't familiar, Bridgerton is based on a book series (of the same title) by Julia Quinn. They are romance novels set in Regency times in England. There are eight books total, each one focusing on a different Bridgerton sibling. The siblings were named in alphabetical order: Anthony, Benedict, Colin, Daphne, Eloise, Francesca, Gregory and Hyacinth.
Season one focused on Daphne and her love affair with the Duke (played by the outrageously handsome Regé-Jean Page). Season two is all about the eldest Bridgerton sibling, Anthony. He is determined to find a wife and sets his sights on Edwina Sharma.
For me, this second season was not nearly as strong as the first. Anthony is pretty unlikeable and they don't do much to change the audience's impression of him. The Duke, who was one of the best characters in the first season, has just magically disappeared. In real life, Page declined to return, but it leaves a major hole in the family that never really gets addressed, and worse, isn't believable. My biggest complaint, and one I know many other fans share, is that it was way less steamy! The first season was known for its passionate love scenes and in this season, the central characters don't have sex until the second to last episode. That is too long to wait!
All that said, there was still a lot to love. The costumes are outstanding. They are a visual feast for the eyes. They hair and makeup is also incredible, particularly Queen Charlotte's wigs. There is one scene where her hair is towering above her head and the wig is a powder blue color adorned with strands of pearls. I cannot imagine how heavy those hair pieces were for her to be shooting in all day!
Bridgerton made a name for itself with brilliant, orchestral covers of pop songs and that same treatment returned for season two. It's so much fun as a viewer to try and figure out why those violin strings sound so familiar. This season they chose Madonna's Material Girl, Robyn's Dancing on My Own, Alanis Morrisette's You Oughta Know, Pink's What About Us, Miley Cyrus' Wrecking Ball and a few more.
Story-wise we did get to see some important flashbacks that informed why Anthony is the way he is, as well as what the grieving process was like for Lady Bridgerton when her husband passed away. Eloise also got a tremendous amount of screen time this season. There were new tensions in her relationship with Penelope, and she had a first crush, Theo. I thought Kate Sharma (played by the beautiful Simone Ashley) was a great addition to the cast. She played the protective older sister with sincerity, and was the ideal sparing partner for Anthony.
There are eight episodes in this new season. I thought episode six (the wedding) was the strongest of the entire bunch.
If you're curious to hear what the critics have to say about the new season, I really enjoyed this episode of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour.
2. Life & Beth (Hulu) - Life & Beth is created, written and directed by Amy Schumer. Oh, did I mention she also stars in the show?
Schumer is best known as a stand-up comedian, and in more recent years has had success with film (Trainwreck and I Feel Pretty). This TV show is loosely based on her personal life. Her character, Beth, appears both as an adult in present day and as a young version of herself in middle school.
The show gets off to a very slow start. In fact, I almost gave up after episode four. Schumer seemed like a very muted version of herself and I just couldn't quite emotionally connect with her character. For me, the scene where it clicked was when she was out a club with her girlfriends (all in their 30s) and they decide to leave because it's too loud. One of the friends says to the group, "If we leave now, I think Nordstrom Rack is still open!"
There are ten episodes and I thought the best one was episode seven. Beth is taking important clients out to dinner and she brings her dad (played by Michael Rappaport) with her to help schmooze and impress them. This is Rappaport at his finest and their chemistry together is perfection.
Michael Cera plays John, Beth's unlikely love interest. He's a farmer, he's quiet and he prefers to be by himself. In real life, Schumer is married to Chris Fischer, a farmer and chef. Both Amy and Chris have spoken publicly about the fact that he has autism spectrum disorder. If you know that before watching the show, it's obvious that the character of John is inspired by Chris.
During the final episode, when the credits roll, you get to see the cast playing a game of volleyball. If you watch until the very end, you'll get to a see a few moments where Chris hops into the game to play alongside Amy. That moment made me smile.
I wanted to love this show, but I have to say I'd give it a B-.
3. Bad Vegan (Netflix) - If you aren't familiar, Bad Vegan is a four-part documentary series about restaurateur Sarma Melngailis and her fall from grace. I grew up in Newton, MA in the house directly across the street from the Melngailis family, so when I learned this was happening, I was eager to watch.
Sarma graduated from Penn and worked at Bearns Stern right out of college. Her true passion was food, so she left to go to culinary school. She met a chef who quickly became her boyfriend, and together they opened a vegan restaurant in New York City called Pure Food & Wine.
The restaurant was an instant hit, attracting A-listers like Alec Baldwin and Owen Wilson. The dining room was always full and Sarma and her chef boyfriend even published a cookbook.
Eventually, the couple broke up and Sarma took control of the restaurant. She wound up meeting someone new through the app Words with Friends and she developed a deep affection for him before they ever even met in person. If you have ever watched the TLC show 90 Day Fiancé, this behavior pattern is already starting to feel familiar to you.
This new boyfriend, who originally called himself Shane, but turned out to actually be named Anthony, told Sarma he had been in the military and that people were still watching him / after him. If you watched The Tinder Swindler, this should also feel familiar.
As their relationship intensified, Anthony started asking for huge sums of money, would demand they disappear at a moment's notice, and he even sent Sarma alone to Rome, Italy at one point because "the people" were watching her and she needed to pass this test.
It's a story that almost feels too insane to be true. Except there are receipts.
The documentary is incredibly well done. Sarma is interviewed, as well as her father, her sister, several former staff members at the restaurant, a Vanity Fair reporter who had been following her career, and even the police officers who eventually arrested her and Anthony.
By the end, you don't know whether to feel sorry for her or to villainize her for the role she played in defrauding her investors and team.
4. Selena + Chef (HBO) - After Bad Vegan, I needed something light. I turned to the cooking show Selena + Chef, which originally premiered during quarantine in the spring of 2020. Selena Gomez learns to cook by video chatting with celebrity chefs. Each episode she makes at least two dishes, with the chef coaching her remotely.
First of all, Selena actually doesn't know anything about cooking. She didn't know her oven had a convection setting, she didn't know what a Dutch oven was, and at one point she sets her oven on fire by poorly wrapping asparagus in parchment paper.
All of the celebrity chefs immediately comment on Selena's knife set, which has turquoise blue handles and the blades of each knife are an iridescent rainbow color. They are basically Lisa Frank knives.
The very first episode she cooks alongside chef Ludo Lefebvre. I have actually had the chance to do a few events with chef Ludo because he's an ambassador for one of my former clients, Wine Insiders. He and his wife Krissy (who is exceptionally talented in her own right) both help Selena as she attempts to make her first French omelette and cheese soufflé.
Selena needs constant validation as she tries to follow along - is she cutting the vegetable the right way? Is she choosing a pot or pan of the right depth? If she mixing things together properly?
The chefs have incredible patience with her. The roster of culinary masterminds they booked for this show was truly impressive - Roy Choi, Nancy Silverton, Candace Kumai, Antonia Lofaso, Angelo Sosa and more.
There are ten episodes in the first season. Each is about 28-30 minutes long. At the close of every cooking lesson, Selena (and the show) donate $10,000 to the charity of the chef's choice.
5. Formula 1: Drive to Survive (Netflix) - I know it's surprising that I'm addicted to a show about car racing, but what can I say? It's just so good!
Much like Cheer isn't really about cheerleading and Friday Night Lights isn't really about football, Drive to Survive is much more about the rivalry between the team principals, the competition between the drivers, and the frenzy that surrounds this high intensity sport.
This is season four of the show, and the second Formula 1 season during COVID. At this point, everyone in the paddock is used to wearing masks, and they all have masks branded with their team names and colors.
This year, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Seinz are the two drivers for Ferrari and they have such a fun relationship. They clearly enjoy each other's company. I loved watching Charles drive Carlos around his home city of Monaco.
On Team McLaren, there is a fierce competition between their two drivers, Daniel Ricardo and Lando Norris. Lando, who is much younger, gets a thrill every time he beats Daniel.
There was a heavy focus on driver George Russell this season, who was driving for Williams Racing, but eyeing the second seat at Mercedes.
The final two episodes put the spotlight on the two drivers vying for the world championship: Lewis Hamilton for Mercedes and Max Verstappen for Red Bull Racing. My heart was pounding during both of those episodes. The stakes were so high.
In addition to Lewis and Max, there's just as intense a rivalry between their team principals, Totto Wolff and Christian Horner (who is married to Ginger Spice!). I love seeing how the two of them lead their teams and respond in the face of defeat.
Somehow I never new that Lewis Hamilton had a bulldog until there was a quick shot of him this season. Apparently his name is Roscoe and he has 452,000 followers on Instagram.
Even if you think you're not interested in racing, I guarantee this show will suck you in.
6. The Weekend Away (Netflix) - Amidst all this binge watching, I did pause to watch one movie. The Weekend Away stars Leighton Meester (best known as Blair Waldorf on Gossip Girl) as Beth, a woman on her first trip away from her young daughter. She travels to Croatia to meet her best friend Kate for a girls weekend.
After their first night, Kate goes missing. Beth wakes up with a very foggy memory of what happened and races to the police station to try and find her.
Christina Wolfe was cast as Kate, the perfect counterpoint to the reserved Beth. Kate is vivacious, adventurous and wears a sequin dress the first night that Beth jokes looks like a "human disco ball." Ziad Barki plays Zain, a taxi driver who helps Beth zip around the city on her search. Luke Norris plays Rob, Beth's husband, who turns out to have a greater role than you initially expect.
I would say this movie is suspenseful, but not scary. It kept my attention the entire time. There is a moment where Beth's search takes a turn and you think she's solved it (security footage - aha!), but no, there's still more to come.
I was shocked by how many scenes in the movie are just Meester on screen alone. She really does carry the movie.
While I wouldn't have paid to watch this in the theater, it was entertaining on a rainy night at home.
There you have it! This week's list. Happy streaming!