(Note to our Readers: We only have subscriptions to Netflix and Amazon.

If you have seen something noteworthy on Hulu, etc., we would appreciate your review.)

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Encore! (Disney--after watching Hamilton, we decided to keep the subscription for another month.) Encore! is an American reality  television series hosted and executive produced by Kristen Bell. The series takes a look back on those halcyon high school days through the perspective of adulthood and maturity. It does that by rounding up groups of ex-theater kids putting them back on stage for an encore performance of the musicals they performed in school. Encore! stages a high school reunion under the spotlight, recruiting the leading actors to reprise the parts they played in their high school musical, anywhere from 12 to 45 years ago. The series devotes just one hour-long episode to each group of alumni and their production, and they have to re-learn and perform in just five days. As anyone who’s ever mounted a large-scale musical production can tell you, that’s a brutal timeline. The insanity of trying to mount a stage show in less than a week can make for some peak reality TV dramatics. The director offers the former students an opportunity to get back in touch with their teenage passions, and that’s where emotions surface and, sometimes, tears flow. Fortunately, Encore! brings in big-name Broadway and Off-Broadway professionals to help them out, including directors, musical directors, choreographers, and an ensemble of pro actors to fill out the chorus. Gary and I enjoyed every one of the encore performances we’ve watched so far, and we recommend it, especially for anyone who has musical theatre in their background.

 

Happyish: (Showtime Anytime) It's a generational clash when 40-something ad exec Thom Payne (Steve Coogan) gets a new wunderkind boss, who is in his mid-20s. When his boss starts using words like digital, social and viral, Thom realizes he may need to rebrand himself to compete in a technology-driven world. His pursuit of happiness is going well to this point -- he has a beautiful house in the woods, a loving wife (Kathryn Hahn), a young son and a roster of big-name clients. His immediate supervisor, 50-something Jonathan (Bradley Whitford), has begun to embrace the changing environment and encourages Thom to do the same. Otherwise, Thom may be stuck being just "happyish" for the rest of his life. This series aired in 2015 and there isn’t a second season. Critics didn’t care for the show, but audiences liked it. The critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes is: Happyish comes off as shrill and self-satisfied, despite the efforts of its talented cast. (I know what they mean.)If you are at all sensitive to bad language, you probably won’t like the series, but if you have no problem with the F word used to distraction, you might enjoy the show.

 

Lenox Hill (Netflix) The critics on Rotten Tomatoes gave this series 100% and audiences gave it 99%, so we had to give it a look. It’s a reality docuseries and details the lives of four doctors as they navigate the highs and lows of working at Lenox Hill Hospital. The series was filmed from April 2018 to November 2019 at the hospital located on East 77th Street, in Manhattan's Upper East Side neighborhood. Two of the doctors work in Neurosurgery and one woks work in Obstetrics and one in the ER. Lenox Hill Hospital has been designated one of America's 100 Best Hospitals for providing the highest quality of care and consistently achieving superior clinical outcomes across the majority of common inpatient conditions and procedures. It is the only hospital in New York City to receive the honor in 2018. There are eight episodes in the series and we find them fascinating.

 

Nurse Jackie: (Netflix) I became obsessed with watching the exploits of Jackie (Edie Falco) a drug-addicted nurse. She struggles to find a balance between the demands of her frenetic job in the ER at a New York City hospital and her personal life. Jackie is married with two children and having an affair with Eddie, the pharmacist, who supplies her with drugs in exchange for sex. Falco is superb in the role, and Merritt Weaver is a perfect foil as Zoey, a relentlessly cheery nurse who works with Jackie and looks up to her, not knowing that Jackie is a drug addict.

Penny Dreadful City of Angles: (Showtime Anytime) When a grisly murder shocks Los Angeles in 1938, Detective Tiago Vega (Daniel Zovatto) and his partner Lewis Michener (Nathan Lane) become embroiled in an epic story that reflects the troubled history of the city. Set in 1938, there is trouble between the Mexican community and the government. A roadway is planned that goes right through where the Mexicans live and work. They protest the building of the roadway, and the protest turns ugly. Four policemen are killed, and many Mexicans are dead and injured. As in Perry Mason, there’s a mega church headed by a Sister Molly that is very loosely based on Aimee Semple Mcpherson. Natalie Dormer plays the charismatic demoness, Magda. sister of Santa Muerte, Angel of Holy Death. None of the characters can see her as Magda, but she also plays three other persons, Alex, Elsa, and Rio. They are all evil in ordinary ways.

            The show is rooted in the idea of history repeating itself, and events in the real world have made this story very timely. John Logan, the creator of the show, was asked about how the show speaks to where America is right now. Here is his answer: “… It’s eerie and disturbing how much the narratives that we dramatize reflect the world we live in, because as you know, our last two episodes feature a person of color being lynched by the police force and a peaceful march that turns into a race riot. And those trends have always been part of America. The ideas of xenophobia and racism and homophobia and anti-Semitism have not gone away. We’ve been able to paper over them for a while, but that’s becoming increasingly unacceptable and impossible. So I’m gratified that the show is speaking to this moment now because,…I’ve always felt that though this show was set in 1938, if it’s not about 2020 then it’s failed. And right now it is singularly about the moment we’re living in. (from and online article by MJ Esports and Entertainment, June 29, 2020) 

 

Perry Mason: (HBO) This introduces a very different Perry Mason from Raymond Burr, the one we knew in the 1950s. It is still based on the novels and short stories by Erle Stanley Gardner, but bears little resemblance to the Perry Mason who solved cases by a confession in the courtroom. Matthew Rhys (The Americans) plays a private detective who works for a lawyer by the name of E.B. Johnson, played by John Lithgow. There is a Della Street, but she works for Johnson and not Mason. Divorced and dishonorably discharged from the Army, Perry Mason is broke and living in a farm in the middle of an airfield. He has one suit, a tie with mustard on it, and five o’clock shadow, before it’s popular. It’s 1931 in Los Angeles. While the rest of the country struggles through the Great Depression, LA is booming! Oil! Talking Pictures! Evangelical Fervor! The case is a child kidnapping gone very, very wrong, and, while Perry Mason is not a lawyer, he is relentless in his pursuit of the truth. Sister Alice, played by Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black), and her megachurch figures prominently in the case. Sister Alice is based on Aimee Semple Mcpherson a Pentecostal evangelist and media celebrity in the 1920s and 1930s. McPherson pioneered the use of modern media in religious services, using radio to draw on the growing appeal of popular entertainment and incorporating stage techniques into her weekly sermons at Angelus Temple, an early megachurch. By the end of the series, Mason has become a lawyer. He does win his case in the courtroom, but by a mistrial, not a confession.

 

Special (Netflix): Actor-writer Ryan O'Connell stars in this semi-autobiographical series based on his memoir. He plays Ryan, a gay man with a mild case of cerebral palsy who decides to do away with his identity as an accident victim and go after the life that he wants. After years of dead-end internships, blogging in his pajamas and mainly communicating through text, Ryan figures out how to take his life from bleak to chic as he gets ready to start limping toward adulthood. O'Connell serves as an executive producer on the comedy series, along with The Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons. The episodes are short and we like it so far. Rotten Tomatoes critics like it too: They give it 96% and audiences give it a slightly lower 83%. The episodes are very short--15 minutes usually.

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