“What are you watching?” “Have you seen Tiger King?” “Have you taken a dive into any great documentaries?”
These are but a few of the questions I’ve been posed by friends (mostly via text message) while we’ve all been homebound, and self-isolating. And while regular readers know where I land on the subject of Tiger King, the answers to the other questions follow, herein.
So, for each of the seven series and three documentaries, I’ve included the trailer, my thoughts and insights, the services on which the program can be streamed (with links), what it’s about, which actors are featured, and the duration (and the number of episodes, where applicable). First up, the five I’ve already seen.
WHAT: Comedy series created by David Caspe (Happy Endings) and Jordan Cahan, and executive produced by the team of Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg (The Boys), Black Monday combines the building tension of a caper flick with the tight comedic writing of a sitcom. When combined with the cast members’ fantastic chemistry and the late ‘80s fashions and settings, the hilarity is palpable. I laugh out loud at least twice per episode.
WHO: Don Cheadle, Andrew Rannells, Paul Scheer, Regina King, Yassir Lester, Horatio Sanz, Casey Wilson, and Ken Marino
STATS: 60mins (10 episodes/season)
WHAT: Created by David Weil and executive produced by (among others) Jordan Peele (Key and Peele, Get Out, The Last O.G.) the action-packed drama series follows an ass-kicking group of New York-based Nazi hunters in 1977, who—upon learning that the American government had filled NASA with Nazi scientists, following WWII—are intent on finding their prey before the Nazis can bring about a Fourth Reich in the United States. Drawing on an over-the-top style reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino, and interspersed with trippy asides, the pathos-filled production is as captivating as Pacino’s Yiddish accent.
WHERE: Amazon Prime Video
WHO: Logan Lerman, Lena Olin, Saul Rubinek, Carol Kane, Josh Radnor, Greg Austin, Kate Mulvany, and Al Pacino
STATS: 60mins (10 episodes)
WHAT: Based on the graphic novel series of the same name by Greg Rucka with art by Matthew Southworth and Jason Greenwood, Stumptown was adapted for television by Jason Richman (Detroit 1-8-7, Bangkok Dangerous), and stars Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother, the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe) as Dex Parios, a Portland, OR-based bad-ass, caustically witty, sexually-fluid, down-on-her-luck private investigator who suffers from PTSD as a result of her four tours as a Marine in Afghanistan, during which she served in military intelligence. I’m halfway through the first season and am hoping it gets picked up for a second.
WHO: Cobie Smulders, Jake Johnson, Michael Ealy, Camryn Manheim, Tantoo Cardinal, Adrian Martinez, and Cole Sibus
STATS: 44mins (18 episodes)
WHAT: A documentary filmed decades before Bunny even considered dressing like a lady and prior to RuPaul ever sliding into his mother’s pumps, The Queen (1968) follows Jack Doroshow (aka Flawless Sabrina), the organizer and emcee of the Miss All-America Camp Beauty Contest, which featured Andy Warhol, Larry Rivers, and Terry Southern as judges. And while it’s Sabrina’s protégée, Harlow (Richard Finnochio) who wins the title and crown, it’s the epic read by the legendary Crystal LaBeija (founder of the House of LaBeija featured in Paris Is Burning) that makes this documentary immensely quotable and a necessary primer for anyone interested in gay culture. While I’ve seen it many times before, Kino Lorber's new 4K restoration from the original camera negative (2019) made it well worth seeing, again.
WHO: Jack Doroshow, Crystal LaBeija, and Richard Finnochio; with appearances by Andy Warhol, Jim Dine, Edie Sedgwick, Terry Southern, George Plimpton, Jackie Curtis, and Dorian Corey
The Valhalla Murders
WHAT: Inspired by a real case of abuse at an Icelandic boys’ reformatory in the late-‘70s, The Valhalla Murders is an eight-episode Icelandic mystery/crime drama/police procedural. The series follows Kata, a single-mother and lead detective with the Reykjavik Metropolitan Police (or Lögreglan) whose just been passed over for a promotion; and Arnar, a brooding profiler with the Norwegian Police Service, who’s hiding secrets of his own, and has been brought in to work with her to solve a series of brutal murders around Iceland. The two leads are great, together; and the dark subject matter and tone are offset by beautiful shots of Reykjavik’s sleek, low-slung architecture, and the bleak, snowy vistas.
WHO: Nina Dögg Filippusdóttir, Björn Thors, Bergur Ebbi, Sigurđur Skúlason, and Damon Younger
STATS: 50mins (8 episodes)
Continued in Part 2…
Get into it!