One of the worst secondary effects of our ongoing pandemic isn't the lockdown itself, or the way it's exposed huge swaths of our population as gibbering morons, but how it's complicated the central quandary of our age: what are we going to watch tonight?
Twas ever so. And yet now, with millions of Americans stuck in their homes while streaming outlets replicate like parasites on Rick and Morty (only minus the pleasant memories), it's a question repeated ad infinitum across the country, and rarely answered to everyone's satisfaction, even if there's only one person involved.
Seriously, I spent 30 minutes last Saturday scrolling through HBOMax's Turner Classic Movies collection and ended up giving up and watching Repo Man again.
I was going to rank these "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," named after the Western that some of you may have heard of. However, when used for entertainment quality, "Bad" and "Ugly" are kind of redundant. At least, the latter is just a more pronounced version of the former.
Therefore, I'm replacing "Bad" with "Meh," denoting options which may not be top-tier, but are at least worth a look. And who knows? You may even find something you like.
The Baby-Sitters Club (Netflix)
The series keeps the alternating POV approach of Ann M. Martin's books, features a diverse cast tackling timely issues, and is one of the only things my daughters and I can agree on watching (they'll come around on Repo Man any day now).
The Beach House (Shudder)
I was going to say, "You think you've got it bad stuck at home, but at least your beach vacation wasn't interrupted by a biological apocalypse." Heh heh. Yeah.
The Old Guard (Netflix)
Sure, it's got Charlize Theron murdering Blackwater-clones, but director Gina Prince-Bythewood brings Greg Rucka's story about immortal do-gooders to life by fleshing out the characters beyond the usual superhero archetypes.
Also, you know, Charlize Theron.
Palm Springs (Hulu)
Groundhog Day rubs a lot of people the wrong way, but the twist to Max Barbakow's debut feature has newcomer Sarah (Cristin Milioti) joining the central figure Nyles (Andy Samberg), who's been in an infinite time loop reliving Sarah's sister's wedding day for ... a very long time.
Ramy Youssef brings a young Muslim-American's perspective to themes of cultural uncertainty and navigating relationship, providing an entrance for those of us unfamiliar with this world, but still capturing the universality of our experiences.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (Netflix)
Rachel McAdams is effervescent, and responsible for some of the film's best moments ("The elves went too far!"), but this can't decide if it wants to be a "Will Ferrell movie" or a movie with Will Ferrell in it. And it's too long to boot.
Hunters (Amazon Prime)
Has a killer cast, including Al Pacino, Carol Kane, and Josh Radnor(!) (that's good) playing largely ethnic stereotype characters (that's bad) who are hunting Nazis (that's good). Also plays fast and loose with actual history, which several Jewish groups fear might inadvertently aid Holocaust deniers.
Unsolved Mysteries (Netflix)
Hard to believe this show ever went off the air, given the glut of mysterious disappearances and murders out there. UFO episodes remain its Achilles heel, however.
Warrior Nun (Netflix)
We should be thankful that a series based on the Warrior Nun Areala comic from the '90s didn't go with that character's ... unfortunate costume. It's just too bad they replaced decolletage with exposition dumps in between fights with generic monsters.
Chrissy's Court (Quibi)
Chrissy Teigen is a delight to follow on Twitter. This doesn't seem to know what to do with her acerbic, no-bullshit approach, which could be taken as a metaphor for Quibi itself, I suppose.
Naming your protagonist "Tyler Rake" and then having him kill someone with an actual rake is, well, it's something.
If this had come out a month ago it would've been hailed as one of the greatest Dad Movies of all time. As it is, it's hard to imagine when this would've been released in theaters: August? February? Aren't we pretty well-stocked up on Tom Hanks WWII properties?
Space Force (Netflix)
I can't decide if this is bad because satire truly died when we elected a game show host with a bankruptcy fetish to the highest office in the land, or because something with this comic pedigree ought to feature an occasional laugh.
THE HONORABLE MENTION
Trigger Warning with Killer Mike (Netflix)
It's been out for about a year and a half, but this documentary series featuring the Run the Jewels rapper exploring alternative approaches to government, race relations, and education is still alarmingly topical.
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