Back in May, I reported that I was fed up with television and was giving up the habit. Well, I did it. Sort of. I did jettison my cable so that I only have the super bargain basement basic cable just in case I need to know what’s going on locally, but other than that I just do not bother.
I get the vast majority of my television from Hulu and Netflix and YouTube and the handful of series I watch on the Web. Google’s somewhat-clunky-but-still-revolutionary Chromecast has eased the transition significantly, I have to say. Here are a few things that have grabbed me lately:
EMMERDALE — American dramatic serials only wish they were in the same league as this powerhouse from ITV in the U.K. Airing six times a week (twice on Thursdays), Emmerdale is a half-hour drama about the most interesting village in Yorkshire. Fires, floods, famine, good-guys-gone-bad, bad-guys-gone-good, lesbians with children, snarky old people, elder-abusing ex-priests — you can find them all having a pint down the Woolpack. If I don’t watch, I start to twitch. Nowt better, as they say in the Dales. (Tonight, an evil bastard is going to burn down Moira Barton’s farm and this time it has nothing to do with her taking up with village shady character Cain Dingle. Oh, it’s a cracker, this one!)
PRAMFACE — This smart and funny offering from BBC3 tells the story of Jamie and Laura. He’s a 16-year-old who has his first sexual experience at an end-of-term party with a very drunk 18-year-old on her way to university. And, of course, she gets pregnant and decides to keep the baby. From that hackneyed premise, comes a simply lovely, hilarious comedy about class, about age, about finding your own path, and about listening to others. The first two series — 13 total episodes — are on Hulu. A third series has been shot and set to air in the U.K. in 2014. Highly recommended.
WHITES — Alan Davies stars as Roland White, a chef who is both pompous and potentially past it. Darren Boyd is his ever-suffering sous chef. Set in the kitchen of a restaurant at a posh English country hotel, this BBC offering feels a bit like an update of the Lenny Henry classic Chef! crossed with Ireland’s Raw. The Beeb only produced one season. It’s on Hulu. It’s quite sweet.
REV. — Tom Hollander plays the titular reverend in this delightful BBC2 sitcom.You know Hollander from, well, every period costume drama produced in the U.K. in the last 20 years it seems. He also plays Hugo Weaving’s lover, Darren, in Bedrooms and Hallways, my entry in the most overlooked comedy of the 1990s competition. Smart and human, this is not your ordinary vicar-out-of-step-with-the-world sort of comedy. It addresses many of the struggles of modern life. It also won the 2011 BAFTA for best comedy. Two seasons are out. A third is to be released in 2014. BTW – watch for Simon McBurney’s fantastic turn as the Archdeacon. Brilliant.
THE INBETWEENERS — Laugh-out-loud funny and often raunchy comedy about a group of teenage boys getting up to what teenage boys get up to — mostly having to do with sex and drinking. But, God, is it funny. I thought I was going to have a stroke, I laughed so hard. American audiences with no knowledge of the English educational system may find terms like “A levels” and “GCSEs” and “Sixth Form College” and “revising” completely and utterly baffling. It might help you to peruse Wikipedia for a minute. For the education references; not for the sex jokes. Well, a working knowledge of “slapper” and “up the duff” and “bell end” would help, I suppose! On Hulu.
HE’S WITH ME — Web series written by and starring Jason Cicci about a friendship between a gay man and a straight man and their close circle of friends. It spirals out from that premise in some interesting ways. By and large, it’s worth a look, though there is one episode in the middle of the first series (I don’t remember which, sorry) that I thought was a total clinker, but, I liked the characters enough to pick it back up. I’m not sure that it didn’t stray a bit from its intended trajectory, but I won’t fault it too much for that. I really liked the way Cicci (and director Sebastian La Cause) buttoned up the first season. Surprise standout: Ryan Duncan as Benny Costa. You can’t help but love him! Available on YouTube.
MISS FISHER’S MURDER MYSTERIES — Fabulous flapper Phyrne Fisher is at the wheel of her Hispano-Suiza as she careens around 1928 Melbourne searching for clues to solve the latest case dropped in her lap. With the help of her companion and maid, Dot, cabbies Bert and Cec, her able houseman Mr. Butler, and to the consternation of Detective-Inspector Jack Robinson, who harbors a bit of a crush on the freewheeling Miss Fisher, who helps herself to lovers and clues, as well as a “gasper” or two, Miss Fisher is to the 1920s as Mad Men is to the 1960s: costume and set and properties design to die for. Essie Davis is sensational in the title role, but I have a soft spot for Hugo Johnstone-Burt as unsure young constable Hugh Collins. The ABC series (Australian Broadcasting Company, that is) is just wrapping series two Down Under, but the first series is on Netflix. Watch it. (Based on Kerry Greenwood’s Hon. Phryne Fisher novels.)
P.S. — Congratulations to HUSBANDS on two Writers Guild Awards for “I Do Over,” parts one and two, which aired on CW Seed.
Also kudos to EASTSIDERS on nominations for an International Press Academy Satellite award. The Kickstarter-backed series aired on LogoTV.com.