March 28, 2020

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?

CBS All Access with Picard, The Good Fight and Evil

The Good Fight, an exclusive streaming spin-off series from The Good Wife was what got me to sign up for CBS All Access initially, but the catalogue has much more programming that might be of interest.

Initiated as a streaming service October 2014, CBS All Access has original programming, day later availability of CBS network broadcasts and vintage tv series like Twin Peaks, Cheers, CSI:Miami, Frasier, Taxi, Happy Days, I Love Lucy, Perry Mason and even Gunsmoke.

This is trekkie central for those who like the various versions of Star Trek since its debut in the 1960s. Being a Kate Mulgrew fan, I am currently watching Star Trek: Voyager. But then again, I could choose from Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Short Treks, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Enterprise, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine or even Star Trek: The Animated Series. Patrick Stewart has signed on to reprise his role as starship commander Jean-Luc Picard in the 8th Star Trek series, Picard which premiered on CBS All Access in January 2020.

You can even bounce between old series and their new versions like Hawaii Five-O or MacGyver.

Current well-reviewed comedies include Young Sheldon, The Unicorn and Mom. Alas, the entire series of The Big Bang Theory is not available on CBS All Access.

I do have two “guilty pleasure” dramatic series on the CBS streaming service, the cancelled Salvation and Evil, a fantasy created by Michelle King and Robert King who gave us The Good Wife and The Good Fight. Hey, I can’t live by PBS alone.

The streaming world is a huge smorgasbord and for now, I am sampling the fare at CBS All Access. For simplicity’s sake, I added the channel to my Amazon Prime Video package. As famed CBS newscaster Walter Cronkite used to say, “And that’s the way it is.”

https://www.cbs.com/all-access/

Curb Your Enthusiasm on HBO

Call it comedy heresy but I never really got into the television series, Seinfeld when it was on network tv from 1989 to 1998. When I read that co-creator Larry David had a new sitcom, I avoided even checking out one episode, assuming that the humor would be similarly lost on me.

A friend recently suggested I give a chance to Curb Your Enthusiasm, now in its tenth season on HBO. Quelle surprise! Episode 1, Season 1 had me roaring with laughter. Subsequent episodes in Season 1 provided me with at least one belly laugh per show. I must admit that I have been lured into the comedic realm of Larry David.

Playing a version of himself, David displays rapier wit, blurts ill-advised comments and holds firm on quirky habits and rules that get him into layer upon layer of trouble. He’s a misanthrope, but a lovable, funny one.

The series is reminiscent of the Jackie Gleason Show in that David has an “Alice,” a patient, smart, eye-rolling wife, Cheryl David, played by comedic actress Cheryl Hines.

Hines’ early work with the Groundlings, an LA improvisational group, has served her well. Surprisingly, much of the brilliant dialogue on Curb Your Enthusiasm is improvised. As a side note, Hines was introduced to her current husband, Robert Kennedy Jr. by co-star David.

Running characters like Hines, Richard Lewis as himself, or Jeff Garlin playing David’s agent, Jeff Greene give an ensemble feel to the show. Guest stars Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, Jason Alexander and Julia Louis Dreyfus making cameo appearances add to the fun.

You just may want to catch Curb Your Enthusiasm on HBO if you, like me, were initially immune to its charms. One season down. Nine to go. I wonder how many much-needed laughs that will be?

The Outsider on HBO

The Outsider series currently streaming on HBO joins countless other Stephen King books that have been adapted for movies or television.

Episode one sets the scary tone for this murder mystery that also features some of King’s trademark supernatural creepiness. A seemingly normal man is accused of brutally killing a little boy. Further investigation uncovers similar cases across the country.

Stand-out performers are Ben Mendelsohn as grieving detective Ralph Anderson and Cynthia Erivo as oddball private investigator Holly Gibney. Mendelsohn is Australian and Erivo English but you’d never know it from their believable American accents.

Other notable actors are Justin Bateman (also a producer of the series), Mare Winningham and Julianne Nicholson.

Kudos go to show creator Richard Price for taking viewers on a macabre journey to discover who is killing children and their families. You might not want to watch The Outsider alone.

The Vertical Line on MHZ – Italian tv series

MHZ Choice, the tv streaming service, continues to introduce me to European television programs that I can’t find other places. The Vertical Line, an 8 episode dramedy from Italy is the freshest series I have seen in quite a while.

The cancer ward of an Italian public hospital seems like an unlikely place for a television show meant as entertainment, but each brief episode packs a punch of deep emotional truths and yes, comedy.

The main character, Luigi, played by the expressive-eyed Valerio Mastrandrea, is a devoted fortyish husband and father of a young child with a baby on the way. He tragically finds out he has a cancerous tumor that must be surgically removed.

He becomes part of an oncology ward where he encounters quirky patients, blasé doctors, aggressive nurses and med-techs and a morose hospital chaplain.

The show is semi-autobiographical in that the creator, Mattia Torre passed away on July 2019 at the age of 47 after experiences with the Italian medical establishment. As his tv swan song, Torre depicts joy and humor in The Vertical Line, as well as sadness in this excellent limited-run series.

If you want something completely different from American medical shows, check out The Vertical Line currently streaming on MHZ Choice. As a reminder, you can add MHZ Choice to your Amazon Prime Video package or sign up for the stand-alone app. It is worth every penny of the monthly $7.99 or $89.99 for the year.

https://watch.mhzchoice.com/

The Embassy: Spanish tv series on MHZ

MHZ, the tv streaming site which now bills itself as the Euro TV Place, has just added its first Spanish tv series, The Embassy. Ripped from today’s headlines, we are introduced to the new Spanish ambassador sent to Bangkok, Thailand. He discovers a vicious nest of corruption in his new office.

The crooked staff push back by sending his wife doctored photos showing him with a female employee. They hire someone to plant drugs in his daughter’s purse causing her to be arrested and sent to prison. They also frame him for corruption and generally make his life miserable.

This is a dramatic soap opera, so we watch with glee as his attractive wife has a one night stand with a younger man who turns out to be her daughter’s boyfriend. The brother of the main bad guy also falls in love with the ambassador’s daughter.

Political intrigue, greed, emotional deception and murder all play a part in this very entertaining 11 part series. The final episode is a little too melodramatic for my taste, but the series is a fun ride nonetheless.

After reading more about our current foreign policy, The Embassy does not seem so outlandish!

Link to the tv show: https://watch.mhzchoice.com/the-embassy