Wash your hands and watch some great television…
It’s week two of the great Quarantine of 2020 so here are our picks for television series to watch while the lockdown goes on…
Listen. When I tell you that FarScape is the best science fiction series of all time I mean it. The show that inspired James Gunn’s take on the Guardians Of The Galaxy series it’s the story of John Crichton, scientist and astronaut who, on performing an experiment to start subspace travel for Earth, gets swallowed by a wormhole. To say more would be spoiling the series but things go nuts from there.
With special effects from The Jim Henson Company, that are still cutting edge, and puppetry which allows FarScape to do what so much of sci-fi in films and television fails at: giving us actual alien looking aliens, not people in rubber suits, this show is over 20 years old and yet has not aged.
Then there’s the acting and writing. The show hinges on two very simple ideas, the first being what if Kirk and Spock had a baby? Someone who had all of Kirk’s ability to zig when others expected him to zag and boundless empathy, while also having Spock’s purely scientific and logical mind? The other? What if you then took that person, threw them fully out of their comfort zone and into the deep end of an interplanetary jailbreak?
It’s an insane premise that should not work but it does and it is glorious. However it would not work if it weren’t for the casting of our core characters: John Crichton; Aeryn Sun; Pau Zotoh Zhaan; Ka D’Argo; Rygel; Chiana; Pilot and Bialar Crais (the underrated Lani Tapu doing double duty as two totally different characters) and Moya, the living ship upon which all of our main cast live. The unbelievable natural chemistry between this core group of actors is what allows the writing to really dig deep into things that no other show has managed to do, consistently, outside of very special episodes: fascism; rape; racism; fanaticsm and so much more and it does it while still having thrilling space battles, genuine romance and wonderful humor even in the darkest of times.
While not perfect, I, ET and Jeremiah Crichton are actually so bad that I didn’t even have to look them up to remember the names of the episodes, FarScape is damn close. It was doing badass female leads, fully rounded people that weren’t there for the male gaze, long before other shows got onboard. It was giving us LGBTQA leads from episode one, and no, not implied or told to us after the fact but right there in the text, onscreen. FarScape was and is revolutionary and frankly so many shows are still playing catch-up to what it made look easy.
This was a sci-fi world in which people are just that, people: some days they made the right choice. Some days they didn’t. Either way we always saw the fallout of those choices and that is why it’s one of my go-tos over and over.
The Good Place
As much as I love Parks and Rec, and I do, oh boy do I, The Good Place is the Michael Schur show that I can watch over and over. Like FarScape it’s based on a big idea: what is the afterlife actually like? Also, like FarScape, it takes this idea and grounds it with phenomenal writing and characters led by the absolutely outstanding Kristen Bell, William Jackson Harper and Ted Danson at his adorable best. Then there’s D’arcy Carden who does the absolute most as Janet, Manny Jacinto as the wonderfully daft Jason and newcomer Jameela Jamil – this was literally her first acting job ever – as grand dame Tahani. This is a show where not one line, one character, one background event is wasted. Smart, witty, filled with humor and so much heart overflowing with love for everyone The Good Place is the show that restores my faith in humanity. If we can create something like this there’s hope for us yet.
My favorite TV show of all time is The West Wing (Netflix). I have rewatched all seven seasons of this show from beginning to end every year. Aaron Sorkin’s version of the White House focuses on the people who work in the West Wing of the White House as opposed to focusing on The President. Besides the great writing and terrific acting, this interpretation of how the Federal government should and can work.
Undone Amazon Prime. Realistic animation meets a unique premise. This is probably the best four hours of television I’ve watched all year and I can’t say more without spoiling it.
In the previous piece I said the Star Wars films were my go-tos, well it’s not just movies that I love but also the various television series. Clone Wars is great, although so long I might pick specific episodes or story arcs. Rebels is fun as well and, especially for my kids, Resistance. Plus, I haven’t rewatched it enough to be bored, so throw The Mandalorian on there!
Then again, we’ll also bust out the Star Wars games (computer, video, and tabletop) and maybe even play with some toys. I can’t help it! I never grew out of it and neither will my kids.
I feel like DS9 is the forgotten Star Trek series, but it really is the best one. The first two seasons are a little slow and dry so feel free to skip around, but once we get to season four…this in my opinion this is as good as Star Trek gets. Avery Brooks (Benjamin Sisco), Terry Farrell (Dax), and Nana Visitor (Major Kira) all turn in consistently outstanding performances.
DS9 with its exploration of colonialism, war, and the flaws present in humanity, is one of the darker Star Trek shows. But that’s also what makes it so good. DS9 is available on Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime.
Adam Curtis is a British documentary director and he’s the best one living. I know that sounds like an exaggeration but it’s not. He’s done a better job explaining the current world we live in and how we got there than any other director. His most recent film Hypernormalisation explores how America has become a country where money rules over aspects of life, and where reality and truth are no longer important in political life. The Century of The Self explores how consumerism replaced participation in democracy and why Government and corporations believe this is necessary for a safe society. Pandora’s Box explores how science becomes tragically dangerous when controlled by political and economic forces.
With a masterful use of old footage and phenomenal interviews, plus some creative editing, Curtis’s documentaries are unique. Unfortunately none of his documentaries are available in the United States on the major streaming platforms as they we’re all created by the BBC. But there is this small relatively unknown app called You Tube, where a quick search makes them all available.
The West Wing: The idealistic ideal of what politics could be. Seasons 5 & 6 can be iffy but the Santos vs Vinick campaign in Season 7 allows the show to end on a high note. I watch this when I want to think we have hope for the future.
The Newsroom: Aaron Sorkin’s yang to the yin that is TWW. Idealism hardened by years of stupidity ascending to leadership. This show is where my head is more times than not.
The Office (US) / Parks & Rec: Two of the best comedies of the last 25 years. Smart, honest, empathetic, three dimensional.
The Wire: If Shakespeare lived today he would write The Wire. With all due respect to Breaking Bad, The Wire is the greatest show to ever grace a television screen and apparently the rest of the world is catching up if HBO’s stats for most watched series while in this quarantine are any indication.
These are just a few of our picks, what about you? Any shows we should check out? Let us know in the comments and follow us on Twitter and Instagram @pcuncovered!