September 19, 2020

More Reality Shows of Note on Netflix

How is Netflix getting me to consider programs I would not normally watch? When I open the app, a show trailer starts playing above the list of selections. The clips are engaging, upbeat and often pique my curiosity. How else to explain my current viewing selections: “Love On the Spectrum,” “Restaurants on the Edge” and “Sugar High.”

I have been a fan of “Sugar Rush,” a cooking competition using sweet ingredients. When I exhausted those episodes, Netflix automatically cued up a related show from the same producers, “Sugar High.” Stone-cold professionals compete to make sugar creations that delight the tastebuds and the eyes. Much like sculptors and glassblowers, the chefs skillfully fashion shapes using ingredients like sugar, isomalt and paper wafers. I would not have the heart to destroy these artistic creations by eating them, however.

“Restaurants on the Edge” is a bit sleepy in its pacing, but features scenic restaurants in different countries that need help with their menus, decor and promotion.

Three restaurant gurus arrive in the area and find local beverages, food stuffs and decorating ideas to refresh the dining establishment in question. The show tries to defy the adage that the better the view, the worse the food.

“Love on the Spectrum,” an Australian documentary series, introduced me to young people who are autistic and in search of what we all want: love and romance. Cian O’Clery, the series’ creator and director, films men and women as they openly discuss being “on the spectrum.” We watch them go on first dates and interact with their families. The show accomplishes something rare as we feel genuine empathy for young couples who have found love and for those still searching for romance. “Love On the Spectrum” finds the balance between documentary and reality show which impels you to keep watching. At just five episodes, the series leaves you wanting progress reports on all of these endearing people.

During these stressful times, Netflix has carried many serious scripted shows, but I am keeping my streaming subscription because they are offering fun, reasonably intelligent programs that emphasize food, fashion, art, travel and love.

Netflix Lured Me Back with Light Entertainment

After months of being a non-Netflix subscriber, I was lured back with the promise of new episodes of favorite shows.

Queer Eye has to be one of the most uplifting shows in TV Land right now. The rebooted series has breezed through four Seasons of 8 episodes each in U.S. states like Georgia, Kansas, Missouri and Illinois, with a one-episode season in Australia and a four episode run in Japan. For Season Five, the Queer Eye make-over team is in the Philadelphia, including one candidate from the Jersey Shore.

David Collins, producer of the original series which ran for five seasons from 2003 to 2007) has brilliantly adapted the concept for a new generation of viewers. As much as I liked the previous incarnation, the Netflix reboot has even more heart as the Fab Five tackle redos for men and women from all sorts of cultural backgrounds.

I love all five of these guys: Bobby Berk on design, Tan France on fashion, Jonathan Van Ness for grooming, but I especially love the emotional insight that Karamo Brown brings and the food love that Antoni Porowski evokes. This is my kind of show when I need the world to seem like a happier and safer place.

If you want something even more goofy and light, you might consider The Big Flower Fight. Netflix has taken the reality competition into the floral arena. Teams of two use flowers, grasses and evergreens, as well as man-made and organic elements, to create animals, dresses, thrones, mobiles and fairy tale scenes.

The Big Flower Fight has much in common with The Great British Baking Show which is amply represented on Netflix. Food, fashion and flower competitions are entertaining stress relievers and Netflix is providing lots of fun options.

Cara Cotton Gloves

I have been seeing discarded plastic medical gloves on sidewalks and in gutters. Wanting to come up with a hand-covering that is reusable and more organic, I purchased white cotton gloves in a package of 24. I use them once and then throw them in with the other white laundry items. Hot water, bleach and soap is purported to clean and sterilize them.

The gloves come in all different sizes and you don’t necessarily have to buy them in bulk, but if you have multiples, you are less tempted to reuse them after out-of-home use.

People may see your white-gloved hands and think you are a mime, but we just may start a current day fashion trend.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CIBQD7I?tag=duckduckgo-osx-20&linkCode=osi&th=1&psc=1

Making the Cut on Amazon Prime Video

Call me crazy but I love reality competition shows especially for food or fashion. Amazon Prime has entered the competitive fray with Making the Cut starring Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn whose previous fashion-centric progam, Project Runway, ran with them as hosts for 16 seasons on Bravo and Lifetime, respectively.

Although the two show formats seem similar, Gunn and Klum have upped the ante with international designer contestants who have already achieved some career recognition meaning there is less emotional drama and more professionalism. The winner receives a million dollars and a marketing deal with Amazon. High incentive for these talented competitors.

The premiere season takes place in New York, Paris and Tokyo adding a glamorous travel aspect. The judges include model and British Vogue fashion consultant Naomi Campbell and Nicole Richie, creator of fashion brand, House of Harlow. Getting to know the judges as well as the contestants is part of the fun; Campbell is brutally honest and Richie is surprisingly articulate. The real stars are Klum and Gunn who have little comic interludes that would be annoying if the two weren’t so damn cute.

Project Runway has continued back on Bravo with new hosts and judges for Seasons 17 and 18, but for my money, Making the Cut on Amazon is indeed a cut above the competition.

The Making the Cut Amazon page allows you to buy winning looks from the show, or purchase items from Tim’s Closet Staples, Heidi Klum Intimates, or judges companies, House of Harlow and Altuzara. More proof that Amazon is taking over the world.

Making the Cut Amazon page

Riviera TV Series on Sundance Now

When the mood is somber in your home and abroad, what better way to disperse the blues than to watch some escapist soap opera fare? Riviera, set in, you guessed it, southern France and Monaco is definitely eye candy.

The show has quite a pedigree. Neil Jordan, the director of such notable films as Mona Lisa and The Crying Game, has created and co-written Riviera with high brow British author, John Banville. Jordan has since disavowed any connection to the series with the addition of sex scenes and writing changes that he did not sanction. That somehow ups the trash factor allure.

The cast features Julia Stiles as recent widow, Georgina Clios whose husband, billionaire and art collector Constantine Clios is mysteriously blown up on a yacht in episode one. Anthony LaPaglia plays the shady mogul in flash backs, with Lena Olin dramatically entering the scene as his first wife. The most surprising cast member is Will Arnett in a semi-serious role as Georgina’s uncle.

The plot is littered with screwed up children, rich and dangerous friends, racehorses, scary strong men, corporate skullduggery and art fraud.

I can see why Jordan has divorced himself from this project. Murder, mental illness, kidnapping, and surprise parentage are soap opera staples thrown into this improbable potpourri. Still, the cinematography, the homes, the clothing and the very bad behavior is strangely compelling. Just what the doctor ordered when stuck at home without a Monet on the wall or a bottle of Dom Perignon in the wine cave.

I watch Sundance Now as an added channel on my Amazon Prime Video account.

My Goodbye to Netflix

I have been a long-time subscriber of Netflix, all the way back when their business was predominantly mailing DVDs to one’s home. In 2010, they added streaming to their business model, which has exploded into 148 million streaming subscriptions by the end of 2019.

Sad to say, I have put my membership on hold while I explore other competitive services such as CBS All Access, Starz, Showtime and Sundance Now. I will eventually give newcomers AppleTV+ and Disney+ a look-see, too.

In a last hurrah, I enjoyed four shows before pausing my membership.

The Great British Baking Show is my favorite way to unwind from politics and the cares of the day. Netflix has a large catalogue of GBBS versions, 7 Collections (seasons), Master classes and holiday shows. Could Netflix look into carrying spin-offs of this show from Canada, the United States and Australia?

Project Runway has been on my radar since its inception in 2004. Netflix has done a pretty good job of creating their version of the successful fashion competition with Next In Fashion. Tan France, the fashion consultant from the newer Queer Eye show, makes for a great host along with Alexa Chung. The format is similar to PR but the contestants now have a fabric store on the set. To be honest, I miss Tim Gunn taking the designers to Mood NYC to purchase fabric and hang out with mascot, Swatch.

The Witcher was a hate-watch streaming series for me, but watch it I did with the handsome Henry Cavill, period settings and costumes dressing up the fantastical plots. Would I watch a Season Two down the road? Mayhaps.

Goop Lab features Gwyneth Paltrow and employees of the hugely successful life-style brand Goop. The six episode season explores alternative health, beauty and well-being services like cold exposure, psychedelics and energetic healing. This may be a series that is more attractive to women, but men could learn a lot about alternative therapies, and women in general.

Aside from the aforementioned shows, many of the recent Netflix original programs just have not been to my taste. They have not lost me for good, but I will have to be wooed back with a mix of both creative Netflix productions and popular programming from outside sources. Are you listening Netflix?