Fall TV is back! We watched the season premiere of The Voice last night and, for the first time in two seasons, there were people in the audience! The jury is still out on Ariana Grande as a coach but I digress. While we’re also looking forward to watching 911 and the new season of Survivor on network television, there are a few series and documentaries that we watched on a several different platforms: Netflix, HBO Max, Apple TV+, and Paramount+ (what is with all the plus signs?). As I wrote in July, the streaming services can get out of control https://lauralieff.com/another-steaming-service/ but it turns out each one has something we want to watch.
From Cradle to Stage – Based on the 2017 book From Cradle to Stage: Stories from the Mothers Who Rocked and Raised Rock Stars, written by Dave Grohl’s mother Virginia, this six-part series from Director Dave Grohl is exactly what I wanted it to be: a Behind the Music-style event where Dave and Virginia personally handle all the interviews and visit each musician’s home. Thanks to Paramount+, Dave and Virginia go all over the country to talk to the mothers and learn how their spawn (i.e. Miranda Lambert, Tom Morello, and Pharrell Williams) became the music icons they are today. So far I’ve watched the Lambert episode, which is 80 percent about her rise to fame and the part her mom played in her success, and 20 percent about the Grohl family. It’s no secret that Dave Grohl is one of my favorites and watching his relationship with his mom makes me smile.
The Good Fight – No question the most daring, topical, and subversive show I’ve seen maybe ever, The Good Fight has held its own so well over the past five years that it’s easy to forget that it is a spinoff of The Good Wife which ended in 2016. Season five, which finished in August, featured ten episodes of incredibly relevant and newsworthy topics that continue to be exciting and well-acted. Christine Baranski, Sarah Steele, Gary Cole, and Nyambi Nyambi steal the show and this season Mandy Patinkin (aka Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride) was equally captivating and insane. While this is definitely the type of show that doesn’t allow for missing any episodes (check them out on Paramount+), the fifth episode was the most memorable as we watch a key character’s memory triggered (while investigating another case) about his near-death experience in the hospital with Covid. It’s horrifying, pulls off being both hard to watch and hard to look away from, and a reminder that without our health we have nothing.
The Morning Show – On September 17 (four days ago) the highly-anticipated season two premiere aired on Apple TV+ and, as expected, it was explosive. Without giving too much away, I will say that we find Jennifer Aniston’s Alex Levy off the grid and Reese Witherspoon’s Bradley Jackson on air with blonde hair (yes that rhyme was on purpose). Billy Crudup’s Cory Ellison is his usual entertaining, nutjob self and things are definitely chaotic at UBA. Most of the episode takes place around New Year’s Eve 2019/2020 which is fascinating because, as we all know, Covid hadn’t hit yet. But don’t worry – there is plenty of foreshadowing and intensity which made me excited for episode two. Unlike Netflix, AppleTV+ doesn’t roll out an entire season at once so viewers will have to wait each Friday (like with network television) for the next episode. As expected, it will be worth the wait.
Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal – Although the documentary about the 2019 scandal (aka “the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice”) was released on Netflix in March, we finally got around to watching it over the weekend and it was interesting for multiple reasons. First of all, it’s not a traditional documentary because many scenes are acted out in addition to being discussed. My significant other thought that format was captivating and so did my cousin (who is also in the education field) but I found it distracting. Instead, I preferred the interviews that featured the actual humans involved in the scandal, the reporters who wrote about it, and the college counselors’ analysis about the broken college admissions system. Don’t get me wrong – the film is great – but I found the acted-out scenes a bit cheesy. In addition to the millions of dollars being casually spent on bribes and the sequential months a few participants spent in jail, the film’s main theme is upper class white privilege which is also a big theme in The White Lotus – see below. Although that topic is of course worth examining, and I’m sure people got satisfaction out of celebrities like Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin facing consequences for their actions, what I found more fascinating (and horrifying) was the footage of stressed out students as they wait to see whether or not they got accepted into the prestigious college of their choice. It’s also interesting when the college counselors point out that elite schools aren’t always what they are cracked up to be. In short, it’s no surprise that Operation Varsity Blues was one of the top ten most watched films on Netflix.
The White Lotus – What a strange examination of white privilege in America. The six-episode series takes place at a fictional resort in Hawaii called The White Lotus which is apparently the place that attracts the most unlikable people in America. Seriously these people are the worst but the HBO Max satire/drama/comedy (I guess?) features an impressive ensemble cast including Murray Bartlett, Connie Britton, Jennifer Coolidge, Jake Lacy, Natasha Rothwell, and Steve Zahn, among others. Somehow the show kept me wanting more (mostly because of the first scene of the first episode) even if the characters on the show are so difficult to watch and very little happens in each episode. The acting is great (especially Britton and Rothwell) and the analysis of how people treat those in the hospitality business is definitely on-point, but the content is extremely dark, very little redemption takes place, and the George of the Jungle music is just a little too much.