January was a splendid start to the year on TV. From finales to new arrivals, from comedy to thrilling drama, to documentaries, it was a cornucopia. Here’s a list of the best.
As We See It (streams Amazon Prime Video) – an absolute peach of a show. Based on an Israeli series, it’s best called a “dramedy” about three twentysomething roommates who are on the autism spectrum. The three actors identify as being on the spectrum and all three are deft at both the humour and the emotionally wrenching circumstances of their fictional lives here. Sosie Bacon is excellent as their support worker, Mandy. Uproarious, poignant and pointed.
Wolf Like Me (streams Amazon Prime Video) – a huge hit with many readers, its unexpected emotional richness is a delight. Set in Australia, widower and dad Gary (Josh Gad) meets Mary (Isla Fisher), who is both kooky and mysterious. She runs away a lot, especially at sunset. But her bond with both Gary and his daughter Emma is very real. It’s a six-episode love story you won’t believe you have fallen for.
Search Party (streams Crave) – the fifth and final season will seem disjointed if you don’t watch from the first season. It marches to its own rhythms and the four central characters are dumb but their frivolous preoccupations become a series of existential crises. The writing is exceptional, the humour sometimes grimly surreal.
Yellowjackets (streams Crave) – sensationally good, fearless, utterly compelling and unique. The virtuosity required to pull it off is itself extraordinary. It tells two stories, in the past and in the present, and injects livid humour into a dark tale of brutality, survival and, maybe, derangement. In 1996, a plane carrying a high-school women’s soccer team crashes in a far-north wilderness and brutal things happen then, and to survivors in the present.
Son of a Critch (CBC Gem) – CBC’s first big comedy hit in some time, based on Mark Critch’s memoir about growing up in Newfoundland and Labrador. The 22 Minutes guy plays his dad, Mike, a radio reporter, and little Mark (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) is, as the slogan says, “11 going on 70.” Wacky, with heart and a charmingly bizarre turn by Malcolm McDowell as the grandad.
Aziz Ansari: Nightclub Comedian (streams Netflix) – 30 minutes of flinty humour that touches on the mess we are all in. Few belly laughs but instructive about how hard it is to be funny right now.
In from the Cold (streams Netflix) – a bonkers but enjoyable espionage-thriller series, eight episodes, and broadly done. Seemingly ordinary mom Jenny (Margarita Levieva) happens to have a past as a lethal Russian spy.
The Afterparty (streams AppleTV+) – a murder mystery, but a comedy series, and a very funny one. In the three episodes so far (more coming weekly), a fine ensemble of comic actors splendidly brings the sheer weirdness alive with gusto.
Somebody Somewhere (streams Crave) – quiet, powerful, a muted observational series about someone who finds herself an outsider. It might easily be off your radar, but shouldn’t be. Fortysomething Sam (Bridget Everett) returned to her hometown to take care of her sister. Now her sister has died and Sam is drifting, aimless and more than a little lonely. Not a lot happens but how she survives and grows is the point. Gentle, dry humour, little dramatic plot and it’s impressively affecting. Three episodes of seven available.
Fanny: The Right to Rock (streams Crave) – a terrific, eye-opening doc and an amendment to misconceptions about the history of rock ‘n’ roll. It’s the story of Fanny, the all-women hard rock group, a cult favourite in the 1970s. Adored by David Bowie and other legends, they seemed to disappear from history. Bobbi Jo Hart’s film provides a treasure trove of detail on the band’s strange story, their lives, loves and triumphs.
The Gig Is Up (streams CBC Gem) – a riveting, disturbing look at the gig economy here and on three other continents. While these gig jobs are a lifeline for some, they are a perilous development. As one observer says in it, for many workers, soon, “the Middle Ages will look like paradise.” A don’t-miss doc.
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