COVID CHRONICLES 05/05/20
This part is the most fun for me because I got introduced to a bunch of new possibilities. To start, I received a number of reactions to my listing The Wire at the summit of my Pantheon. The main one was to recommend David Simon’s entire body of work as worth watching (Debbie F-S grew up in Baltimore, for example). So I thought I’d do an ode to David Simon before getting to other’s picks. Excerpted from Wikipedia:
David Judah Simon (born February 9, 1960) is an American author, journalist, and television writer and producer best known for his work on The Wire. He worked for the Baltimore Sun City Desk for twelve years (1982–95), wrote Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets (1991), and co-wrote The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood (1997) with Ed Burns. The former book was the basis for the NBC series Homicide: Life on the Street (1993–99), on which Simon served as a writer and producer. Simon adapted the latter book into the HBO mini-series The Corner (2000).
Homicide: Life on the Street
The publishers of Simon’s book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets were eager for a screen adaptation and submitted it to numerous directors but there was little interest. Simon suggested that they send the book to Baltimore native and film director Barry Levinson. Levinson’s assistant Gail Mutrux enjoyed the book and both she and Levinson became attached as producers. The project became the award-winning TV series Homicide: Life on the Street (1993–1999), on which Simon worked as a writer and producer.
Soon after Homicide concluded Simon co-wrote (with David Mills) and produced The Corner, based on the book he co-authored with Ed Burns, The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood, the true account of a West Baltimore community dominated by a heavy drug market. The six-hour TV miniseries for HBO received three Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries or a Movie, for Simon and Mills.
Simon was the creator, show runner, executive producer and head writer of the HBO drama series The Wire. Many of The Wire’s characters and incidents also came from Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. After the fourth season, Simon signed on to produce the fifth and final season of The Wire, which focused on the role of mass media in society.
Again he worked with Ed Burns on creating the show. Originally they set out to create a police drama loosely based on Burns’ experiences when working on protracted investigations of violent drug dealers using surveillance technology. During this time Burns had often faced frustration with the bureaucracy of the police department, which Simon equated with his own ordeals as a police reporter for The Baltimore Sun. Writing against the background of current events, including institutionalized corporate crime at Enron and institutional dysfunction in the Catholic Church, the show became “more of a treatise about institutions and individuals than a straight cop show.”
Simon and his writing staff were nominated for the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Dramatic Series at the February 2009 ceremony for their work on the fifth season. Simon and Burns collaborated to write the series finale “-30-” which received the show’s second Emmy nomination, again in the category Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series.
Simon produced and wrote Generation Kill for HBO with Ed Burns. They again worked with Nina Noble as a producer. The miniseries is an adaption of the non-fiction book of the same name. It relates the first 40 days of the 2003 invasion of Iraq as experienced by 1st Reconnaissance Battalion and their embedded reporter, Evan Wright. Simon and Burns worked with Wright in adapting his book into the series.
Simon collaborated with Eric Overmyer again on Treme, a project about musicians in post-Katrina New Orleans. Overmyer lives part-time in New Orleans, and Simon believed his experience would be valuable in navigating the “ornate oral tradition” of the city’s stories. Simon also consulted with New Orleans natives Donald Harrison Jr., Kermit Ruffins, and Davis Rogan while developing the series. The show focuses on a working-class neighborhood, and is smaller in scope than The Wire. The series premiered on April 11, 2010 on HBO and ran for four seasons.
Show Me a Hero
In 2014, HBO greenlit production for Simon’s next project, a six-hour miniseries co-written with William F. Zorzi and the episodes directed by Academy Award-winner Paul Haggis. The miniseries is an adaptation of the nonfiction book of the same name by Lisa Belkin and tells the story of Nick Wasicsko, the youngest big-city mayor in the nation who finds himself thrust into racial controversy when a federal court orders to build a small number of low-income housing units in the white neighborhoods of Yonkers, New York.
This 2017 drama television series set in Times Square, New York focuses on the rise of the porn industry in the 1970s-80s. Created and written by Simon along with frequent collaborator George Pelecanos, the series pilot began shooting in October 2015. It was picked up to series in January 2016. It premiered on September 10, 2017 and is broadcast by the premium cable network HBO in the United States.
The Deuce tells the story of the legalization and ensuing rise of the porn industry in New York beginning in the 1970s and its ongoing rise through the mid-1980s. Themes explored include the rise of HIV, the violence of the drug epidemic and the resulting real estate booms and busts that coincided with the change.
The Plot Against America
An alternate American history told through the eyes of a working-class Jewish family in Newark, New Jersey, as they watch the political rise of Charles Lindbergh, an aviator-hero and xenophobic populist, who becomes president and turns the nation toward fascism, based on the novel by Philip Roth. The six-part miniseries premiered on March 16, 2020, on HBO.
You could do A LOT WORSE than have your entire list made up of David Simon shows.
Ok, now let’s turn to the rest of the recommendations. I’m going to start with my friend Bruce. He didn’t say this because he didn’t have to. But I should. Bruce’s top choice now and forever more would be Seinfeld on Hulu or in syndication. The man is an expert on every single episode. But rather than get him started on THAT, here’s Bruce on what he’s watching.
Better Call Saul Netflix (Also suggested by Lisa R)
After finishing Breaking Bad, time to move onto this one. Currently in Season 5.
This show is very well written and entertaining as to what the hell is going on! I just watched the most recent Season 2 episode and I’m completely perplexed. As with all these shows, watch from season one.
The Resident FOX
Absolutely incredible hospital show, with top notch acting. — just watched the season three finale. — mentions coronavirus before it ever showed up as this was filmed at least six months ago.
If you have not watched this, you have to. Kevin Costner is fantastic, and the first episode with the actress who plays Beth is one of the best performances I have ever seen. Do watch from season one, and I hear that season 3 is upcoming.
Animal Kingdom TNT
If you want to go on the wild side, watch this series. Ellen Barkin and the entire cast are fantastic: surfing and crime…
Like Animal Kingdom, a matriarchal crime family. Ted Danson and Jean Smart are incredible, and it also stars Jesse Plemons who started on Friday Night Lights and played the psycho in the later seasons of Breaking Bad, completely different character here. And then there is Bokeem Woodbine, who does play the psycho mob murderer in this one, and at one point, recites part of Jabberwocky, the nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll: brilliant character development.
The Night Manager AMC
Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddleston, who won an Emmy for his performance. International intrigue at its best, with fantastic writing, directing and cinematography. It’s like watching a movie over 6 episodes.
The rest of these suggestions and related comments are from Facebook and Twitter. I couldn’t highlight them all, but here’s a good selection of those that most intrigued me.
Black Mirror, Netflix (Suggested by Claude, seconded by Sid and Drew)
“British sci-fi anthology series exploring a twisted, high-tech near-future where humanity’s greatest innovations and darkest instincts collide.”
“There’s a different director, subject matter and actors for each episode. Think of it like, where might Facebook take us in 10 years? Or where could facial recognition or AI take us in 20? Topics like that. Each is like a short movie. Some dark, some funny. Eventually Netflix bought it and Americans took over. You’ll see the difference.”
“If you can watch only one episode of Black Mirror, I would recommend my favorite: “Nosedive” in Season 3. It is about likes/ratings on a social network going completely haywire. Hilarious …national and scary because the Chinese are putting in place a rating system of their citizens that seems inspired by Nosedive.” “Start with this one and then go back to the beginning of the series.”
A Place to Call Home ACORN TV (Suggested by Lisa VA, Paula, Lisa R)
Explores the ties that hold families together and the betrayals that can tear them apart in early 1950s Australia.
“Lots of subplots”
“A guilty Pleasure”
“I liked [it] in the beginning, well-developed story lines, believable characters, but found the intensity too much for me, perhaps too real.”
Peaky Blinders (Suggested by Ned, Lisa R)
A notorious gang in 1919 Birmingham, England, is led by the fierce Tommy Shelby, a crime boss set on moving up in the world no matter the cost.
“If you don’t mind violence and gore”
“May need subtitles.”
Babylon Berlin Netfix (Suggested by Ned and Melinda)
A Soviet freight train’s hijacking leads a haunted cop and a poor typist to uncover a political conspiracy amid the vice and glamour of 1929 Berlin.
The Expanse Amazon (Suggested by Bill, Mark)
The disappearance of rich-girl-turned-political-activist amidst political tension between Earth, Mars and the Belt
Tiger King Netflix (Suggested by Jim, Ken)
A zoo owner spirals out of control amid a cast of eccentric characters in this true murder-for-hire story from the underworld of big cat breeding.
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries ACORN TV (Suggested by Lisa VA, Debbie FS)
Set in 1920s Melbourne, the series follows the glamorous lady detective as she goes about her work with a pistol close at hand and, more often than not, a male admirer even closer.
“Fun and stylish”
Ozark HBO (Suggested by Andy, Peter)
A financial adviser drags his family from Chicago to the Missouri Ozarks, where he must launder $500 million in five years to appease a drug boss.
“Jason Bateman and Laura Linney are reason enough to watch.”
True Detective HBO (Suggested by Mark, Wynn and Lisa)
A searing series of troubled cops and the investigations that drive them to the edge. Each season features a new cast and a new case.
“Watch Seasons 1 and 3. You can skip 2.”
Masters of Sex (Suggested by Lisa R, Kim)
Follows the story of real-life pioneers of the science of human sexuality, William Masters and Virginia Johnson.
- Nice companion to Mad Men (same era).
The Kominsky Method (Suggested by Marsha and Kim)
Acting coach Sandy Kominsky and best friend Norman Newlander (Alan Arkin and Michael Douglas) keep each other laughing as they navigate the ups and downs of getting older.
Russian Doll Netflix (Suggested by Kirsten)
Nadia keeps dying and reliving her 36th birthday party. She’s trapped in a surreal time loop — and staring down the barrel of her own mortality.
“Very creative, dark, and meticulously scripted. It’s not an easy watch, but very entertaining and visually compelling, and ultimately joyful.”
Fleabag (Suggested by Colson)
Window into the mind of a dry-witted, sexual, angry, grief-riddled woman, as she hurls herself at modern living in London.
Hunters (Suggested by Mark)
Inspired by true events, follows a diverse band of Nazi Hunters in 1977 New York City who discover that hundreds of escaped Nazis are living in America.
What We Do in the Shadows (Suggested by Peter)
Documents the nightly exploits of vampire roommates as they navigate the modern world of Staten Island with the help of their human familiar, Guillermo.
- Last Dance, The Last Kingdom (Vikings vs. Saxons.), Doc Martin (curmudgeonly doctor in rural Cornwall.) Light-hearted and charming, I’m a big fan of Call the Midwife, but it might be a female thing; my husband hates it. (Lisa R)
- Afterlife, Zero Zero Zero, Justified, Dexter (Colson)
- The Americans, My Brilliant Friend (Judith)
- Atypical (Ken)
- Big Little Lies (Paula)
- Criminal Minds, Rick and Morty, Person of Interest. (Peter)
- The Crown; Cable Girls; Anne with an E; Self Made. (Marsha)
- Foyle’s War (Kristin)
- Goliath w/Billy Bob Thornton (Diana)
- Star Trek Series — particularly Next Generation, Voyager, Deep Space 9 and Stargate with stronger female roles.(Lisa VR)
- Messiah, Dracula, Extraction, Triple Frontier on Netflix. Jack Ryan on Amazon, The Outsider on HBO. (Mark)