Two cops are parked outside a warehouse, awaiting an impending drug raid, but nothing really happens. That’s where Stan’s original series No Activity begins (well, in the newly released second season they’re parked outside the house of a couple who’ve gone missing), and where it stays; not for nothing (geddit?) has the series been compared to Seinfeld, as the show is hilarious in its deadpan mundanity. As the occupants of Car 72, Patrick Brammall and Darren Gilshenan are sublime, and across the two series they’re joined by a rotation of other ‘couples’ --the officers in dispatch, the crims, the missing couple, and a pair of kidnappers-- none of whom get much done, but all of whom create comedy gold together.
If your idea of a good time travel show is one that leans more towards the bodice-ripping, heaving-bosom end of the spectrum than the 1.21-gigawatts end, Outlander may be just what the doctor ordered. Based on the novels of the same name by Diana Gabaldon, the show concerns the adventures of Claire Randall, a nurse who is transported back in time from 1945 to the wilds of Scotland in 1743. Separated from her present-day fiance, she teams up with the kilt-wearing Scot, Jamie, and sparks and soft-focus love scenes fly. This is no mere Mills & Boon redux, though, as Claire brings a modern sensibility to the world of the Jacobite risings and is not prepared to simply lie back and think of England.
Cameron Crowe’s first foray into series television wasn’t entirely a success, but there’s something gentle and reassuring about Roadies, the chronicling of a crew of lighting technicians, riggers, sound mixers and other backstage types as they tour with the Staton-House Band, a Maroon 5/Mumford & Sons-esque arena rock group. With guest appearances each episode by a variety of noted musicians (all of whom are SHB’s support act at each given gig), and some moments of genuinely felt emotion, Roadies is exactly what you’d get if you stretched out Almost Famous to make it last longer than two hours.
Now into its fourth season, Josh Thomas’ alternately tender and bristly Please Like Me is a surprise worldwide hit and shows no sign of outstaying its welcome. The show continues to provide one of the most nuanced and sensitive portrayals of mental illness in TV history, from Josh’s Mum’s struggle with bipolar to Arnold’s anxiety, as well as a matter-of-fact, even mundane, approach to queer issues. Please Like Me also features one of the greatest dogs currently on television in John, Thomas’ real-life pet and the breakout star of the series.
The more obvious technophobic social commentary of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror may well have been perfectly skewered by The-Toast --“What if phones, but too much?”-- but that hasn’t stopped us being glued to it over the course of three seasons. Its latest was made for Netflix and reflects the first two seasons’ popularity Stateside, as the previously UK-centric cast has expanded to include American cast and stories. A “Twilight Zone for the 21st century”, Black Mirror is mind-bending and thought-provoking - and even, in the case of series 3 episode “San Junipero”, heartwarming.
If you’re the sort of person who likes to have a cheeky dessert or seven while watching The Bachelor or Beauty & The Geek, you’ll love UnREAL. Surprising viewers worldwide when it premiered on America’s Lifetime channel (typically the realm of daggy soaps and dreary reality series), the show is a behind the scenes look at the drama and ethical quandaries that unfold off-camera on a popular Bachelor-style dating show, Everlasting. Finally giving Shiri Appleby the starring role she deserves, UnREAL is addictive viewing for anyone who’s ever wondered just how much editing goes into those heartfelt declarations of love.
Micro-budget mumblecore master Joe Swanberg makes the jump to the small screen with Easy, an interlinked series of vignettes --excuse me, “anthology series”-- about the business of love and lovin’. Swanberg’s largely improvised material works better with some cast members than others, but Easy has a loose, sexy charm. (The best episode, “Vegan Cinderella”, is one of those rare queer love stories on the small screen that doesn’t end tragically, and is a sweet delight to watch.) The incredible cast includes Hannibal Buress, Dave Franco, Elizabeth Reaser, Orlando Bloom, Emily Ratajkowski and Malin Akerman among many, many others.
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