With entertainment options since March pretty much limited to that which can be done at home, I’ve found myself watching a lot of streaming television this year. Here are six series I’ve particularly enjoyed, and six honorable mentions.
Dash & Lily: Like all good YA adaptations, the actors playing high school students are in their twenties and the events take place in a different reality from that in which most of us live. But if you put on your rom-com blinders, this Netflix offering can also be really sweet, plus the cast is diverse, the kids are smart, and the series offers a vicarious tour of fabulous NYC locations that is particularly welcome in a time when 1) most of us can’t travel there, 2) nearly every activity that involves being near other people is restricted or shut down entirely, and 3) even if there were no pandemic, we couldn’t begin to afford these adventures without our own trust fund.
The Haunting of Bly Manor: I don’t understand all the swooning over The Haunting of Hill House, but I quite enjoyed the second season in the Netflix “Haunting” series, based on two Henry James works, “The Turn of the Screw” and “The Romance of Certain Old Clothes.” This series is long on atmosphere (Thornewood Castle in Washington State stands in for Hinton Ampner, the English mansion which inspired “The Turn of the Screw”) and the most interesting characters are not the leads but the housekeeper (T’Nia Miller), gardener (Amelia Eve), and cook (Rahul Kohli).
Little Fires Everywhere: This adaptation of Celeste Ng’s novel gets at the heart of America’s denial of the importance of race and class in everyday life, with a lesser nod to how gender (particularly the inability to control one’s fertility) shapes women’s lives. This Hulu series also has a cast to die for, including Reese Witherspoon (at her most frightening), Kerry Washington, and Rosemary DeWitt.
The Queen’s Gambit: A stunning adaptation of Walter Tevis’ novel, starring Anya Taylor-Joy as a chess prodigy who thrives in a system designed to keep her down, and looks positively stunning doing so. This Netflix series sparked a boom of interest in chess (special bonus: word has it that the tournament chess portrayed is fairly realistic), and might just lead to a 1960s-inspired fashion boom as well.
Unorthodox: Based on Deborah Feldman’s 2012 autobiography, this Netflix series chronicles the struggles of a young Hasidic woman to break away from a world that isn’t right for her, and to find a new life in, of all places, Germany. The series adds melodramatic elements to goose the action, but the heart of the story remains solid, and Shira Haas is absolutely captivating as the central character, Esty Shapiro.
Wilmore: Back in the days when Jon Stewart was on The Daily Show, followed by The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, I preferred the latter to the former. Sadly, my opinion was not widely shared, and Wilmore’s show got cancelled. But he’s back now, on Peacock (a free service), dishing out the wisdom and interviewing an amazing range of guests, including Cori Bush, Mehdi Hasan, Megan Rapinoe, Kerry Washington, and Chris Redd.
Honorable Mention: Challenger: The Final Flight; Equal; Gentefied; Normal People; Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madame C.J. Walker; Warrior Nun. | Sarah Boslaugh