Hi, friends. Happy. New Year! I can't believe today is the last day of 2021.
I was off of work this entire week (which was glorious), so I was able to do an incredible amount of streaming. I'm excited to share with you everything I watched. Before I do that, here are a few exciting things coming up:
- Today - The sixth season of Queer Eye is officially live on Netflix! I love this show so much. I cannot wait to laugh and cry alongside the Fab Five.
- Wednesday, January 12, 2022 - Netflix just announced they are releasing a second season of Cheer, the shows that follows Coach Monica and the Navarro cheer team as they fight for a national title. I thought this show was one and done, so I'm elated we'll get more time with the squad.
- Tuesday, February 1, 2022 - The Real Housewives of New Jersey return to Bravo. The network just released the trailer for the new season and I can't wait.
- Friday, February 18, 2022 - This one is far out, but I've been waiting so long I had to mention it. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel will be back on Amazon Prime!
- Friday, March 25, 2022 - The countdown is on to season two of Bridgerton.
Ok! Let's get into this week's picks.
1. Emily in Paris (Netflix) - Season one of this show was a bit of a hate watch. Emily (played by Lily Collins) was unlikeable and everything she did to try and fit in was cringe-worthy. That said, I was looking forward to season two and hoping the writers had figured out a way to make her more palatable.
I loved this new season! Being transported to Paris and St. Tropez was a a delightful escape from reality here in the U.S. where the Omicron variant is spreading like wildfire.
Emily is fitting in more at work, even taking on the launch of Gabriel's new restaurant. I found the client storylines this season much more interesting - the war between the two fashion houses, the rebrand of the leek (ha!), and the champagne challenge. We also got to learn much more about Emily's boss, Sylvie, giving her real depth and complexity.
Kate Walsh makes an appearance in the final two episodes as Emily's boss from Chicago. She visits the Paris office to see how things are going and she's insufferable. She's constantly munching on baby carrots, loudly sucks down her Starbucks ice coffee during meetings, and values profits over client relationships. Also, all the skin tight clothes they had her in somehow made it worse?
Outside of work, Emily finds herself in a love triangle. She still has feelings for chef Gabriel (who is also her neighbor), but now she has a new crush on Alfie, her partner in French class. Alfie is played by Lucien Laviscount, who is ridiculously handsome and charming. I fell down the rabbit hole of his Instagram account and let me tell you, the photos did not disappoint.
Emily's roommate, Mindy (played by Ashley Park), got a love story of her own this season. It was so fun to see her join a band, sing her heart out and find love with another musician. The scenes where she is belting it out are some of my favorites.
The very last scene of the very last episode left us on a cliffhanger. It was a perfect ending and one that sets the show up beautifully for a season three.
2. Don't Look Up (Netflix) - This movie has been getting a ton of press coverage due to its star-studded cast: Leonardo DeCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill, Cate Blanchett, Tyler Perry, Timothee Chalemet - the list goes on.
The movie is written and directed by Adam McKay, who was Will Ferrell's writing and producing partner for many years, and who penned the scripts for The Big Short and VICE, the movie about Dick Cheney.
The premise of this film is that a PhD student, Kate (Lawrence), and her advisor, Dr. Mindy (DeCaprio), discover a comet that is barreling towards earth. At the time they report this, there are roughly six months before it makes contact.
Kate and Dr. Mindy fly to Washington D.C. to share this terrifying news with the president, who is played by Streep. Side note: I would happily live in a world where Meryl Streep was president! Jonah Hill plays her bratty son, who she has given the role of chief of staff.
When the president does not seem concerned, Kate and Dr. Mindy turn to the press to share the news. Blanchett and Perry play the co-hosts of the morning show titled "The Daily RIP." Not hard to miss that joke. I thought Blanchett was incredible in this role. I hope she gets nominated for this!
The entire film is a satire on the current state of our country. Whether you think it's about climate change or COVID, the film shines a light on how the division in our country is literally killing us.
At the every end, there is a scene where Kate and Dr. Mindy are around the dinner table with Dr. Mindy's family and it was so beautifully written that it brought me to tears. Though I must say, as someone who saw Leonardo DeCaprio as Jack in Titanic when I was in the 8th grade, it is inconceivable to me that he could play a character who has two sons in their twenties.
One fun fact: some of the scenes in the movie were filmed at my alma mater, Wheaton College. When Kate is running across campus (which is supposed to be Michigan State) and then gets arrested, that is upper campus at Wheaton. I squealed when I saw the dorms and dining hall on screen.
Though this isn't a "feel good" movie, you should absolutely watch it.
3. Dopesick (Hulu) - At the urging of several friends, I sat down to watch Dopesick. If you haven't heard of it, it's a fictionalized account of the launch and distribution of the drug OxyContin. The script is based on the book (same title) by journalist Beth Macy.
The story is told from several perspectives. First, from the creator of the drug, Richard Sackler, through his family's business, Purdue Pharma. He is played, very creepily, by actor Michael Stuhlbarg.
Will Poulter plays Billy Cutler, one of the first sales reps for the drug. He is young, eager to prove himself and ready to make serious money. One of Billy's targets is a doctor in Appalachia, Dr. Samuel Finnix, who is played brilliantly by Michael Keaton.
In the show, Dr. Finnix begins to prescribe the drug to locals who work in the mines, including a young woman named Betsy, played by Kaitlyn Dever. I have loved Dever since Booksmart, and she's equally amazing here.
In addition to prescribing to his patients, when Dr. Finnix gets in a car accident and breaks several ribs, the hospital puts him on Oxy to manage the pain. As you might predict, he becomes addicted too.
Rosario Dawson plays Bridget Meyer, a DEA agent noticing the rise of crime and deaths related to OxyContin. She tries to pursue legal action to get the distribution of the drug slowed down, but gets silenced at every turn.
Peter Sarsgaard and John Hoogenakker play Rick and Randy, two attorneys committed to taking down Purdue Pharma and the leadership team who falsely marketed the drug as non-addictive.
Though there were scenes in the show that were incredibly hard to watch, the acting performances here are stellar. I binged all eight episodes at once, which was very intense. Many of the people who recommended it to me watched it one episode at a time as it was released each week on Hulu. If you do decide to binge watch it, take breaks and switch to something light after episode five. Trust me, you'll need a moment to process what you just saw.
4. Insecure (HBO Max) - I only recently decided to pay for HBO, so I have spent a good chunk of December catching up on many of the shows I didn't have access to before. I'd heard so many people rave about Issa Rae's show, Insecure, and I was excited to start watching it.
The show centers around Issa Dee (played by Issa Rae) and her amazing friend group. Her best friend Molly (Yvonne Orji), the outrageously funny Kelli (Natasha Rothwell) and overachiever Tiffany (Amanda Seales).
The women live and work in Inglewood, CA, a Black neighborhood in South L.A. Rae has said in many interviews that she wanted Inglewood to feel like a character in the story, like New York City was in Sex and the City.
Over the course of five seasons, we watch Issa go from a community outreach coordinator at a local non-profit called We Got Y'all, to the founder of The Blocc, a cultural organization that plans events spotlighting local artists and businesses in Inglewood.
We watch Issa's friendship with Molly grow and change as they move apartments, switch jobs, date different men, and deal with tragedies in their families. Their sisterhood is really the heart beat of the show.
We also get to see Issa have several meaningful, romantic relationships. There's her long-term love Lawrence (played by Jay Ellis), her high school crush Daniel (the absurdly handsome Y'lan Noel) and the quiet but charming barber Nathan (played by Kendrick Sampson). Nathan reminded me so much of Joe from Minnesota on Michelle Young's season of The Bachelorette. Did anyone else see that resemblance?
In addition to all the amazing stories told on camera, Issa Rae also became known for creating opportunities for women and people of color behind the camera. HBO shot a special called "Insecure: The End" which followed the entire making of the fifth and final season. The special included interviews with several women: the lead director, the director of photography, the costume designer, the hair and makeup specialists, even production assistants who won contests to get the chance to work on the show. Rae created a workplace that empowered people to take on the roles they always dreamed of. The show also welcomed guest directors like Regina King and Kerry Washington.
In that special, Rae shared that Love & Basketball was the first movie she saw that felt like it accurately reflected her life. She knew she wanted to make on-screen stories like that.
I loved this show. I didn't want it to end. There are five seasons, each with 8-10 episodes that are 30 minutes long. I binged it (for days), but savor it if you can!
5. Hacks (HBO Max) - Continuing with my HBO catch up, I also watched Hacks. The show cleaned up at the 2021 Emmy Awards in September, winning Best Writing for a Comedy Series, Best Directing for a Comedy Series and Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.
Jean Smart plays Deborah Vance, a tenured comedian with a residency in Las Vegas. The hotel where she's been the lead act for 30 years wants to retire her show. In a desperate attempt to revive it, her agent recommends she hire a young writer to punch up her jokes.
That young woman is Ava, played by Hannah Einbinder. Ava tries to get to know Deborah so her material can feel more natural, but all Deborah is interested in having Ava do is digitize her lifetime of performances and TV appearances.
I thought this show was going to be more like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel in the sense that there's the personal storylines, but also really funny stand up. In Maisel, the bits Midge performs on stage are a huge (and fantastic) part of the show. With Hacks, it's much more about Deborah's personal life and her struggle to step away from the stage.
Something tells me that this show appeals more to an older generation. I think I wasn't the right demographic to really love this.
6. Formula 1: Drive to Survive (Netflix) - I am not a person who cares about racing. I don't know anything about the sport and I never thought I would watch a show like this. I've heard Dax Shepard rave about this series many times on his podcast, Armchair Expert, but I just cast it aside as something he obviously loves because he's a car enthusiast.
Well, last week, Doree Shafrir, the co-host of the podcast Forever35, start gushing about this show. I couldn't believe it! A woman who typically shares my same tastes was advocating for watching this? Color me intrigued.
After streaming the very first episode is clear to me what the appeal is. Much like QB1: Beyond the Lights and Cheer, this show is also not really about the sport itself. It's about the personalities, the drama, and the high stakes.
In Formula 1, there are only ten professional teams. Each team has two drivers. That means there are only 20 spots in the entire world. Think about how many athletes get to play in the NBA, NFL or MLB. In this sport, there are only 20 seats. These men become huge, international celebrities.
Two things I found especially fascinating: no matter how well you are driving, if another driver crashes or they make contact with your car, it can be all over. In seconds. Also, only one member of the racing team is allowed to communicate with the driver while he is on the track. It's amazing to see what gets relayed, and how they try to pump them up or calm them down based on the situation. They are like real-time therapists for these young men flying down the track at insane speeds.
There are three seasons, each with 10 episodes. Each episode is around 40 minutes.
Before I wrap my thoughts here, I have to share one fun fact: the team principal for Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, Christian Horner, is married to Geri Halliwell (a.k.a. Ginger Spice!!). I freaked when I saw her on camera.
There you have it! This week's streaming suggestions.
I am wishing all of you a happy, healthy and safe new year.
*Images courtesy of Unsplash, TIME, Variety, IndieWire, TV Insider, Deadline and Formula1.com.