Supposedly, people have grown tired of watching television in our extended and seemingly endless lockdown. Problem is, Covid-19 remains out there and the world still hasn’t opened up. So, we keep watching TV and that means it’s time for Season 8 of my Pandemic Watchlist.
Finding What’s Worth Watching
In my ongoing effort to find and recommend shows that have merit and are worth watching, I offer Version 8 of my Pandemic Watchlist. We often check out a show that has been recommended either online or by friends. Tastes vary, however, and we sometimes ditch them after one episode, or less. We couldn’t make it through the first episode of Schitt’s Creek, for example.
Sometimes we tune out but then given the show another try. Mind Hunter comes to mind. I first rejected it because of a violent scene in the opening episode but later discovered how wrong I was. The rest of the seasons are psychological and political as they dramatize how and why the FBI established their famous profiler’s section.
Multitasking with a Puzzle
We also keep a jigsaw puzzle going on the table and sometimes work on that while the TV is on. This provided a great way to follow all the political coverage of the last presidential election. You don’t have to watch a debate or a speech to get the meaning. You cannot, however, multi-task if you have to read subtitles.
Pandemic Watchlist: Season 8
In Season 8 of my regular Pandemic Watchlist, I offer shows and movies we have liked, grouped by genre. All links and synopses come from IMDB.
I Care A Lot
“A crooked legal guardian who drains the savings of her elderly wards meets her match when a woman she tries to swindle turns out to be more than she first appears.”
For anyone over the age of 60, this is a horror movie. The idea that a crooked guardian and a greedy doctor could get away with a scam like this targeting old people is chilling. I wasn’t sure I could watch it until Peter Dinklage shows up and everything changes. Then it gets to be wicked good fun. Highly recommended.
Action / Thriller
If you enjoyed John Krasinski in his two seasons as Jack Ryan, you will probably like Condor. It brings the fast pace and cuts of 24 to a story about espionage and betrayal. It’s a 2018 take on the seventies best-seller, “Six Days of the Condor” by James Grady. Put your running shoes on. Highly recommended.
History / Documentary Series
Age of Samurai: Battle for Japan (Netflix)
“An exploration of the warring kingdoms of feudal Japan when several powerful warlords fought to become absolute ruler.”
Anyone who is fascinated by 16th-century Japanese history and how the country was unified will find this semi-documentary fascinating. It has history, maps, wars, heroes, traitors, madmen and ruthless warlords. (And one very smart woman.)
A semi-documentary, it combines scholarly insight with dramatizations. Highly recommended. Warning: Many heads roll.
“Hockey is the last beacon of hope in Beartown and being responsible for it is a heavy burden. The day of the semi-final match is also the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil.”
Women’s History Month brings us the story of a young woman who is placed in an untenable situation that puts her in the middle of a conflict between the town’s need for a hockey win against justice. There’s no secret to who falls on which side but the conflict is riveting. In Swedish with subtitles. Recommended.
Call My Agent! [AKA Dix Pour Cent] (Netflix)
“French serial about the lives and jobs of people working at a talent agency.”
When you can’t travel, you watch shows that take place in other cities. Here, we have Paris and it surroundings as talent agents struggle to make a living, deal with temperamental actors, and keep their lives together. It’s very lightweight but funny. Recommended.
Recently, we have discovered a spate of new science fiction programs. This is not everyone’s cup of tea, so I will group them together by type of story.
The Accidental Spaceships
First, we have two shows that deal with the crash of an alien spaceship, a la Roswell. One takes it seriously while the other plays it for laughs. They both intrigue the viewer in their own way.
“Two agents from two different continents, and two different mindsets, must work together to investigate when wreckage from a destroyed alien spacecraft has mysterious effects on humankind.”
This show comes closer to the X-Files than anything else I have seen. There’s no paranormal stuff going on there, though. The government knows the alien ship has crashed but no one knows where all the pieces are or what the debris can actually do. Finding that out — and racing against private collectors — constitutes the mystery.
Resident Alien (Amazon Prime)
“It follows a crash-landed alien named Harry who takes on the identity of a small-town Colorado doctor and slowly begins to wrestle with the moral dilemma of his secret mission on Earth.”
This show is alternately amusing and annoying but, then, my wackiness tolerance is notoriously thin. Here, Alan Tudyk proves that his face is really made of rubber, given its multiple and fluid expressions. I watch it periodically.
We also have two shows about post-holocaust dystopian communities, one high tech in the cold and one low tech in a warmer climate.
Snowpiercer (TNT and Amazon Prime)
“Seven years after the world has become a frozen wasteland, the remnants of humanity inhabit a perpetually-moving train that circles the globe, where class warfare, social injustice and the politics of survival play out.”
This is one of those rare instances where the second season improves on the first. Season One re-spun Director Bong Joon Ho’s movie of the same name into a series that focused on his obsession with class warfare. This season deals with the problem of how to keep a democracy when the people would prefer a tyrant. It also fulfills my wish for more outside-the-train scenes and an explanation of what powers that perpetual-motion engine. Highly recommended—but start with Season One.
Tribes of Europa (Netflix)
“2074. In the wake of a mysterious global disaster, war rages between the Tribes that have emerged from the wreckage of Europe. Three siblings from the peaceful Origine tribe are separated and forced to forge their own paths.”
And you thought Brexit was tough. This series is filmed in Croatia and the Czech Republic, which seem to have multiple locations that stand in for a demolished society pretty well. You won’t find anything like King’s Landing in this series. It starts slow and, I thought, somewhat predictable but picks up speed and interest as it goes. The series finale left me wanting more and I’m hoping for a second season. Recommended.
Alien Invasion and Time Travel
What would science fiction be without alien invasion stories? We love them, especially if they include human beings of all sorts coming together to defeat the bug-eyed monsters or a hero arising to reclaim our world for humanity. Well, not always.
War of the Worlds (Fox and Amazon Prime)
“Set in contemporary France, this Anglo-French reimagining of H. G. Wells’ classic in the style of Walking Dead follows pockets of survivors forced to team up after an apocalyptic extra-terrestrial strike.”
This TV series is totally unlike the book by H.G. Wells and the subsequent movies. There are no towering Tripods blasting humanity with devastating rays. In this series, the aliens have a much more low-key and effective weapon (also cheaper to film) that takes out 99.9% of humanity in one fell swoop. A cadre of robot dogs with built in weapons of wicked accuracy hunts the rest. The pace is slow and revelations come from eyedroppers, not firehoses, but it is effective and frightening nonetheless with a vibe that makes you feel like you’re there.
It’s in English and French with subtitles. If you like alien invasions stories, check this one out. Recommended but don’t watch it before you got to sleep.
Sisyphus: The Myth (Netflix)
“An unfathomable incident introduces a genius engineer to dangerous secrets of the world, and to a woman from the future who’s come looking for him.”
What if you would invent a machine that will bring nuclear war down on your country and someone came back from the future to prevent you from creating it? While this is hardly a unique trope in science fiction, this Korean series treats it pretty well. We go back and forth between the pre- and post-nuclear worlds as we try to figure out which are the bad guys who want to kill Han Tae Sul and which are the good guys who want to save him. But is saving him the right thing to do?
In Korean with subtitles. Recommended.
Coming Up in 2021
From what I have seen online, a lot of interesting shows will arrive in March, April and May. That’s a good thing because the world is still not out of the woods with Covid-19. And this year I can add Red Sox baseball to the mix. Now, that will go well with a jigsaw puzzle.
If you enjoyed Season 8 of my Pandemic Watchlist, catch up with the Thumbs Up / Thumbs Down recommendations for more shows on these previous watchlists.
- Pandemic Watchlist: Version 7
- Pandemic Watchlist: Version 6
- Pandemic Watchlist: Episode 5
- Pandemic Watchlist #4: International Edition
- Pandemic Watchlist: Version 3
- The Pandemic Watchlist: Part 2
- The Pandemic Diary: TV Watchlist