Another month, another 30 days shuffling through hundreds of titles and trailers in search of content to carry you through a crisis (or two). Here is the latest brioux.tv pandemic picks:
Ramy (Netflix). I came late to the first season of this series, which stars stand-up comedian and Golden Globe award-winning actor Ramy Youssef. He plays a guy in his late twenties of Egyptian descent who grew up in New Jersey and is desperately trying to re-connect with his Muslim upbringing. That gets real in Season Two as two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali joins the cast as Ramy’s religious mentor, Sheikh Ali Malik. Ali raises the acting bar for everybody this season, and the story bar too, as practising Muslims clash with protestors and hatred and bigotry begins to boil over. Sound familiar? Canadian comic Dave Merheje is hilarious again this season as Ramy’s straight arrow doctor pal Ahmed. For me, this well-crafted series is right up there with After Life. The first three episodes of Season Two are available now at Hulu and Starz Canada.
Love Life (HBO Max/Crave). Anna Kendrick Stars as Darby Carter, a less introspective Carrie Bradshaw who seems a bit relationship insecure as she lurches towards 30. The rom-com tackles similar themes to Sex and the City, with Darby surrounded by other young women in various stages of romantic entanglements, but it is less sitcom-y and titilating. While the series drags in spots and is far from perfect, points to Kendrick for playing callow and adrift and not particularly sympathetic. Whether viewers will stick with Darby beyond the first three episodes I’ve watched is in question.
Laurel Canyon: A Place in Time (Crave; originally Epix): If the Buffalo Springfield song “For What its Worth” has been running through your head as it has mine lately, you need to watch this two-part docuseries. It covers some familiar turf: the Hippie heights of the Hollywood Hills in the mid- to late-’60s, a time when the music scene was indeed stardust and golden. It’s so familiar, in fact, I wasn’t sure if I’d seen this doc before, mainly because there have been a string of them lately covering Woodstock, Linda Ronstadt, Carol King and other music icons from the sixties (as well as the 2018 next generation doc “Echo in the Canyon”). Several Canadians are at the heart of this two-parter, including Neil Young, Denny Doherty and Joni Mitchell, but so are the Mamas and the Pappas, The Doors, Crosby, Stills & Nash and even loveable nudist Peter Tork and the rest of The Monkees. These were young artists who found record deals, fame and funky dwellings in the California valley region, along with sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. The story seems more relevant than ever 50 years later with America once again ripping apart at the seams. The miracle is that so many key players are still here to tell it, including David Crosby, Steven Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young.
CBS Sunday Morning (CBS). Yes, Karen, I like this show. It is made by, and for, people of the Woodstock era. Host Jane Pauley is your TV aunt, guiding you through an old fashioned TV magazine between ads for dentures, heart medications and other geriactic salves. Yes, Sunday Morning is the TV equivellant of golf’s senior’s tour, but these old pros are showing that a pandemic is just another challenge for folks who’ve lived through a lot. Every single week, something I’m really interested in is expertly showcased. Sure that includes a profile, again, of Graham Nash, but it was comforting to hear him a few weeks ago on the subject of COVID-19. There was similar solace recently from Jerry Seinfeld. What you also get from Sunday Morning is a comforting and relevant guide to better living. Recently the show has explored facemasks through the ages; the explosion in audio books and tips on throwing a virtual cocktail party. Not all the current correspondents are my favourites. I still miss Bill Geist and, further back, master critic John Leonard, but it was cool to see TCA colleague Daniel Fienberg on there recently. In short, Sunday Morning is a little acre of calm perspective to help you cut through the clutter of today’s noisy and crowded TV landscape. Sometimes, like Central Park, you need those glorious green spaces in the middle of all that concret chaos.
Lodge 49 (AMC). Here’s how my resident co-critic sees it: If your latest shipment of “edibles” just came in and you want to binge past the horrors of the nightly news, call up the full, two-season run of Lodge 49, now available on-demand. Stars Goldie and Kurt’s hockey playing lad Wyatt Russell, mad man of the north Kenneth Welsh and, in Season Two, Cheech Marrin, so, pretty Canada-adjacent for a surfer dude series. Plus, in a dark time of rapid disconnect, here’s a weird little show with a very positive messsage at its kooky core — stay connected, brothers. Amen to that.