TV & Film Recommendations
Working in the television industry, people assume I watch a lot of tv. Well, I do. At least, I watch a lot of first episodes. it's what I call "Research and Development" aka "Mama's Homework"
TV Adult; Drama
Bodyguard (BBC & Netflix)
A limited series centered in the world of politics and terrorism, grounded in the complex relationship between a powerful woman and her bodyguard. Very sexy at times and very suspenseful. Didn't love the ending (thought it was a bit of a convenient wrap-up) but it's still a great ride.
TV Adult; Drama / Suspense
I won't kid you -- this is a dark, intense serialized crime show with violent set-ups and creepy crimes. Those, I usually don't have the stomach for. But oh, Idris Elba and Ruth Wilson! Their characters are so complex and compelling. It's a show (with only a handful of shows in the later seasons) that draws you in and won't let go. So well done but definitely a bit bleak.
TV Adult; Drama
House of Cards (Netflix)
This was my first binge ever. All 8 episodes in 36 hours. It was all I thought about for 2 days straight. But... that was before all the news about Kevin Spacey's behavior towards younger men came to light. Now, I struggle to recommend it. Why? It's hard for me to separate art from life. Even though there were so many actors who created the most riveting of characters (Robin Wright! Michael Kelly! Kate Mara!), I can't wholly encourage anyone to make time to live in this world.
TV Adult; Drama
The Crown (Netflix)
Huge fan of seasons 1 & 2. After watching season 1, I brought out my inner British royal, painted my fingernails red and bought a full-waisted skirt. It gave me a much greater understanding of the power of the monarchy and, when visiting London this past year, I experienced the city from a new perspective. Gotta love when a show both entertains AND teaches, no?
TV Adult/Teenager; Drama, Suspense & Comedy
Sneaky Pete (Amazon)
Season 1 = Wonderful treat. A con meets a con meets a quirky family with some con. Quick plotting, interesting characters, some edge (without being dark), and complex family elements. Fun to watch the cons and has heart without giving up its smarts. Great acting by an amazing cast. Season 1 felt so complete, I didn't want to come back for Season 2 (so I didn't).
FILM Adult / Teen; Action / Drama / Comedy
Baring the curse words (which there are several) and some shoot ups (which, in terms of violence, feel dated, in a good way), this movie was a hit with my 15 yr old daughter & 12 yr old son (who had heard it referenced often on their favorite, "Brooklyn Nine-Nine") Willis is charming, the special effects/violence/villains are classic '90s fare and it held up nicely for our family "Saturday Night Movie" selection. Sassy & clever, thus making it relevant & engaging for the sophisticated kid. Yes, there is a fair amount of cursing - but I'm okay with that. (My kids kinda found the cursing funny). The sequel? Not as strong. But we already knew that.
FILM Adult/Teen; Romance, Drama, Comedy
This one worked this year, when my daughter turned 15 yrs old ( I tried years ago but she couldn't get past the black & white format then). BUT, oh, how she loves Audrey now! After some encouraging preamble by me ("Don't judge it by its old-fashioned pacing and black & white look"), this was a huge hit. It's charming, romantic, funny and sophisticated (but without sex or sexuality). Kinda a rare blend these days. Great for girls who love to identify with strong & nice women -- and a fun rewatch for adults, too.
FILM Adult/Teenager; Action, Drama, Suspense
The Bourne Collection (Various)
We are slowly making our way through the Jason Bourne movie collections (in order: 1. The Bourne Identity, 2. The Bourne Supremacy, 3. The Bourne Ultimatum, 4. The Bourne Legacy, 5. Jason Bourne). They are great -- smart, plot-heavy, suspenseful with good action sequences and always featuring a smart, strong female character. Plus, they aren't overly violent. For my 12 year old, we occasionally paused the film, to make sure he was tracking the subtleties of the plot. The introduction of Jeremy Renner in the 4th movie keeps the series fresh.
TV Adult; Drama / Comedy
I Love Dick (Amazon)
So, this didn't make it past season 1 but wow, I think it's genius. Actually, Kathryn Hahn is genius She's so complex, broken, needy and strong -- all at once. For me, it's the story of a middle-aged woman trying to find herself -- and it's done with brutal honesty. The season's finale is one of the most frank, raw and heartbreaking hours of television, ever. To be a woman. It's a burden and a gift. Wow. And yes, Kevin Bacon's a delight, as always.
TV Adult/Teenager; Drama, Suspense, Thriller
Killing Eve (BBC & iTunes)
Wow! Worth the hype! Although there are violent killing scenes, they are not gratuitous or the making of a nightmare (two particulars I reject). They serve their purpose (to set up stakes, to infuse real tension and to delve further into an assassin's character). The strength of the show is its immensely rich, compelling, complex characters, the riveting details of the chase, the originality of its thriller attributes, the wonderful quirks of secondary characters and the moments of levity (through great dialogue and/or acting). The female characters, in particular, are refreshingly strong, grounded and realistic, which makes them easy to fall in love with. Even the assassin.
TV Adult/Teenager; Drama / Suspense / Horror
Stranger Things (Netflix)
This is one of those wonderful co-view opportunities for parents & kids/teenagers. Three seasons in, it's has a bit of a pattern but wow, it's wonderful. Suspenseful without igniting nightmares. Fun, sweet and pitching the strengths of friendship, heroism and doing the right thing. It's such a feel-good, kinda scary at times, fun show. How perfect is that?!
TV Adult; Soap / Drama / Comedy
Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce (Netflix)
I was hooked on season 1. It's a soap focused around divorced mothers in Los Angeles. The pilot is a bit snarky but overall, season 1 (& 2) struck a nicer tone (without giving up the edginess of the series). Lisa Edelstein is delightful -- and her character was, for me, the best thing about the show. At times, the show was a bit "too L.A." (and that's from a girl living in L.A.). Don't these women ever just wear jeans and sneakers? (They are thin, well-groomed and always fashionably dressed at school drop-off). But watching the first two seasons is kinda like eating a box of Oreos -- too good to not indulge late night, even if you don't admit it to anyone in the morning.
TV Family/Teenager; Comedy
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Hulu)
My kids discovered this sitcom last year and quickly made their way through the old seasons. Now, they wait with bated breath for new episodes. It's a smart, witty, sassy, tell-it-like-it-is comedy that constantly sends the message of the importance of 1) teamwork, 2) doing the right thing, 3) working hard, and 4) good always (in the end) beats out bad. It has real diversity, real acceptance of real people and talks a lot of trash at times - but its core values are in community, friendship and doing the right thing. How great is that?!? (It also has a lot of 80s' references - hence, my kids interest in "Die Hard" - a favorite of the main character in Brooklyn Nine-Nine.)
FILM Adult / Teen; Romance, Drama, Comedy
Devil Wears Prada
This is PERFECT for girls 13 - 40+. A classic, really. Anne Hathaway is delightful, Meryl Streep is amazing and the whole movie provides just the right amount of smart, eye-candy to keep a savvy, thoughtful girl happy. It's the best way to indulge in the pretty world of fashion without losing your sense of what's really important in this world. It's a great girl sleepover movie or a treat for a Mom/Daughter video night.
FILM Adult/Teen; Romance, Drama, Comedy
Crazy Rich Asians
So, my teenage kids loved this movie. Funny, right? I think there's something to the big glitzy show of wealth that just made this a fun movie to watch together. It's got a touch of romance, a lot of beautiful people, some caddy-ness, humor and exotic locations. Some say they enjoyed the book but this is very pretty to see.
FILM Family; Comedy
The Apple Dumpling Gang
My kids, when they were younger (approximately 8 - 10 years old) loved this movie. We discovered it at the video store on Spring Break in Sun Valley. It's good, ole' fashioned Disney fare -- and they loved both the slapstick comedy of Don Knotts and the heartfelt family drama of some orphans needing some parents. Surprisingly, It really holds up.
FILM Adult; Drama
The English Patient
Real simple -- if you haven't seen this movie and/or you saw this movie but think, "Yeah, it's fine," then you and I will never be true friends. This is my all-time favorite movie. It's a big, sweeping, passion-grabbing, angst-filled, WWII-based, tragic love story set in Italy and Africa. I mean, Hello?!? Too many levels of genius, beauty and tears to even warrant a review. 6 stars out of 5. No, make that 7 stars.
TV Adult; Comedy-Drama
Back to Life (Showtime)
This is a short, 6-episode, 30 minute each series on Showtime based around a 36 year old woman returning to her home town after an 18-year stint in prison. It's really smart and poignant -- and despite the seemingly depressing nature of the show, it's VERY upbeat and optimistic. It's 3 hours total... and you'll finish feeling better about things. Yes, bad things happen. But the best of us are resilient and ultimately, bounce back.
FILM Adult/Teenager; Action / Suspense
This is Marvel at its feel-good, cooler-than-a-cat best. I could take-or-leave many of the comic book adaptations but this one, I thoroughly enjoyed. Your teen has probably already seen this - but as the younger set comes of age, this is a great one to watch together.
TV Adult; Drama, Comedy
Season 2 is simply delicious. You'll fall in love with Fleabag (and Phoebe Waller Bridge). It's honest, heartwarming, heartbreaking, fun and raw. Season 1, on the other hand, starts off a bit raunchy and isn't for the feint-of-heart (i.e Grandma will not get it). They can be watched out-of-season order, I think. But Season 2 is a must, must watch.
TV Family; Action / Suspense / Drama
Lost In Space (Netflix)
Great show for 12+ crowd, boys and girls. Strong family stories, fun science/engineering problems to solve, playful sarcasm, sweet moments of youth, nice juggle of incorporating teenager & adult issues. Feels grounded and realistic, doesn't sugar-coat complex emotions and family dynamics, yet has optimistic tone. And great female leads. The genius scientist who always figures out the solution? The mom.
TV Adult; Drama / Suspense
The Handmaid's Tale (Hulu)
Season 1 = amazing. Scary, cautionary, intriguing, smart. Feels like a requirement for any woman living in today's world who thinks, "Are we making progress? Doesn't seem like we're making progress!?" Strong writing, stronger acting, beautiful filming. Season 2 = bit of a let-down (bleak, slow and, at times, the narrative didn't ring true to the characters). Will hold out for Season 3. But, Season 1 is worth it on its own.
TV Adult; Drama / Legal
Season 1 was a surprising find for me. It was a smart, interesting, unexpected serialized legal thriller. Billy Bob and his supporting cast of characters are uniquely-drawn and ever-compelling, especially since they all operate in the grey areas of life. Season 2 and 3 are rumored to be good, too -- although I wasn't necessarily needing to come back. Each season presents a stand-alone case.
TV Kids; Animated Children's Series, Comedy
Dragons: Riders of Berk (Amazon)
For kids 9+. Loosely inspired by the characters in the children's book series, "How to Train A Dragon" (which my kids both read and loved), this is a favorite action/comedy series, even now. The series (as well as the books and the feature films) are based in a rich fantasy world of Vikings and dragons -- and the characters are unique, flawed and heroic. It's beautifully animated and has a nice level of sophistication in how they deal with the kids' "issues" of loss, betrayal, new love, competition, etc. It's savvy storytelling without being mean-spirited.