Moving on to the Version 7 of my regular Pandemic Watchlist, I’m happy to report that more new and enjoyable shows have emerged in the past few weeks. Enough new material has been released to keep us all entertained as we continue our never-ending lockdown. It pulls us out of ourselves and our homes when we can’t go out much physically, and reminds us what life was like in the Before Time.
In case you think I spend all day watching television — I don’t. Other than news, I only watch in the evenings. By the time night falls, I have put in a full day of exercise, creative writing and editing, cooking, and reading. By 7:00 or 8:00 pm, I’m ready to sit down and get out of my house and my head with a few well-chosen TV shows. If you plan ahead, which I do, it’s possible to pack a lot into a short time. I’m happy to share.
Without further ado, here is Version 7 of my Pandemic Watchlist with the shows I recommend, the ones we tried and passed on, and what I’m looking forward to in the near future. Descriptions come from and inks go to IMDB.
Version 7: Thumbs Up
“Wealth, lust, and betrayal set against the backdrop of Regency-era England, seen through the eyes of the powerful Bridgerton family.”
My husband, no fan of period dramas, put this on because he thought I would enjoy it. He watched every episode with me and liked it a lot. Produced by Shonda Rhimes from books by Julia Quinn, this series takes a whole different approach to Regency romance. Because Queen Charlotte was black, which for which there is some historical support, she opened the door to people of color in British society of the 18th century. (Queen Charlotte was married to King George III.)
Thus, the series has a multi-racial cast and a completely integrated society, including and especially the aristocracy. The sets are impressive, the costumes gorgeous, the cast accomplished, and the story intriguing.
That story involves the coming of age of a young woman from naïve debutante to experienced newlywed and, because this is Netflix, there is a certain amount of nudity. It’s tastefully done so those who don’t like this sort of thing needn’t avert their eyes.
Highly recommended. Also, I nominate costume designer Ellen Mirojnick for an Academy Award.
“Follows events when the emerging nouveau riche, including the Trenchard family, rub shoulders with London’s established upper classes and when secrets from the past threaten to emerge.”
When you have finished with Bridgerton’s eight episodes and want more English history, visit Belgravia in the 19th century. The series will remind you of Downtown Abbey because it was written by Julian Fellowes from his book of the same name.
The plot is more complex and less predictable than Bridgerton’s with twists and turns that involve both the upstairs residents and downstairs staff. These servants bear no resemblance to those at Downton Abbey, however. They have their own best interests at heart and aren’t above betraying their “masters” for money. Delicious.
A World of Calm (HBO Max)
“A totally new type of television experience that combines mesmeric imagery with narration by A-list stars. The soothing imagery and tranquil narration will provide audiences of all ages a respite from the stress and chaos of everyday life right now.”
Has the pandemic stressed you out? Did the election and the Capitol riot make you crazy? Do you need serenity in your life? Just turn on A World of Calm and spend a half hour with this visual and aural meditation. Each episode deals with a different subject, from glassmaking to noodles, with a top narrator. De-stress and calm down with beautiful cinematography and soothing narration. It’s especially helpful to watch right before bed.
The Stand (CBS All Access)
“After the world is in ruins, due to a man-made plague, a battle of Biblical proportions ensues between the survivors.”
This most-recent version of Stephen King’s classic novel appeared at a most appropriate time. Plague-ridden as we are, The Stand has acquired a real-world fascination. While Covid-19 doesn’t have the same mortality rate as the fictional Captain Tripps, we still find ourselves in a changed world, living unanticipated lives, and fighting demons both mental and physical. This series has a better cast than the original and I find it gripping.
The Flight Attendant (HBO Max)
“A reckless flight attendant with an alcoholism problem, wakes up in the wrong hotel, in the wrong bed, with a dead man – and no idea what happened. When questioned by FBI agents and still unable to piece the night together, she begins to wonder if she could be the killer.”
Although the protagonist in this series is the kind of woman I really don’t like, I found myself intrigued but her predicament and wondering what I would have done. I can assure you it would not have been what she did. Television has taught me too much about crime and forensics—for better or worse.
If you can suspend your disbelief for a while, the wackiness diminishes somewhat and the series turns into something enjoyable. The “flashbacks” are also handled in a creative way and the ending provided a nice surprise.
Miss Sherlock (HBO)
“Inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic literary characters, the series follows Dr. Wato-san Tachibana and Sara Shelly “Sherlock” Futaba, an eccentric police consultant who uses deduction to solve strange cases in modern-day Japan.”
Yet another version of the Sherlock Holmes franchise, this one has a female Japanese Sherlock working in 21st century Tokyo. With a clever premise, interesting “cases,” and intriguing characters, Miss Sherlock entertains. If you can handle Japanese dialog with English subtitles, you might enjoy it.
Big Sky (ABC)
“Private detectives Cassie Dewell (Kylie Bunbury) and Cody Hoyt (Ryan Phillippe) join forces with his estranged wife and ex-cop, Jenny Hoyt (Katheryn Winnick), to search for two sisters who have been kidnapped by a truck driver on a remote highway in Montana. But when they discover that these are not the only girls who have disappeared in the area, they must race against the clock to stop the killer before another woman is taken.”
I don’t usually watch “kill the woman” mysteries but I have read all of C.J. Box’s novels and particularly enjoyed the Highway Series, which is the source of this show. ABC changed al lot of things about the characters and the plot, things that threw me out of the story at first. We did get involved in it though and then—dun, dun, dun, DUH—it disappeared. With only six episodes in the first season, Big Sky went away and left the viewer hanging. No fair.
“Inspired by the adventures of Arsène Lupin, gentleman thief Assane Diop sets out to avenge his father for an injustice inflicted by a wealthy family.”
I am still waiting to be engrossed by this series. The fault likes partly in the fact that I have been distracted by current events during the first two episodes. Also, I dislike dubbed dialog. I would rather watch this in French with English subtitles and get the original voices of the actors. Dubbed dialog often hits my ear as flat and unpersuasive.
Any series that starts in the Louvre gets my attention, though. And who doesn’t love a fast and clever thief who outthinks the slow-moving cops? Still the jury is out on this one. It may get better or not, no predicting.
Version 7: Thumbs Down
The Midnight Sky (Movie)
“This post-apocalyptic tale follows Augustine, a lonely scientist in the Arctic, as he races to stop Sully and her fellow astronauts from returning home to a mysterious global catastrophe.”
This is what happens when science fiction goes all artsy-fartsy. It gets obscure, depressive, introspective, and quiet. Because of this, George Clooney gives a tour-de-force performance for no good reason and leaves you feeling hopeless.
While completely watchable, this movie made me feel manipulated and strained my credulity. Whenever screenwriters have a character survive a disaster that should, by all rights, have killed him, I check out. And I have read enough books on survival to know that falling through the Arctic ice without any means of warming up afterward is a recipe for hypothermia.
The Watch (AMC+)
“Based on the characters from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, A group of misfit cops rise up from decades of helplessness to save their corrupt city from catastrophe.”
Because this show combines science fiction and fantasy, I should have loved it. We didn’t make it through the first episode. Enough said.
Somehow, Hollywood has figured out how to keep shows in production. I scan lists from sources ranging from the New York Times to IMDB on a regular basis to see what we might like. A new season of Snowpiercer starts on Monday, I also have a list full of possibles.
Some we might like, some we won’t. “Like” can be iffy though. My husband liked Bridgerton but won’t watch Belgravia. He didn’t think he would enjoy The Crown but did. Go figure.
If you enjoyed Version 7, catch up with the Thumbs Up / Thumbs Down recommendations on these previous watchlists.