Skip to main content

Sophie Willan as Alma in Alma's Not Normal.Courtesy of CBC Gem

The month of many weathers was also the month of many strange and heady distractions. During a month of much war coverage, never was dark and sometimes spiky comedy more necessary. There was a lot of that, thank heavens. Here, a list of the best and most memorable TV in March, and where to find it on streaming services now.

Alma’s Not Normal (streams on CBC Gem) is from Britain and the pilot of the six episodes won a BAFTA. You can see why – it’s unusually raw, vehemently rude but packed with a small group of characters whose backstories are bleak. Yet it can be blisteringly funny. Alma (Sophie Willan, also the creator) has no education or work experience. Her mom was a punk drug addict who neglected to send her to school. That mom, Lin (Siobhan Finneran), is now a toothless recovering junkie in a psychiatric hospital. What you’ve got is a cast of grotesques but the humour arises constantly. One to savour if you’re even vaguely familiar with the history of British humour.

Dept. of Distractions: Bonkers Brit comedy

Ronnie Rowe Jr., left, as Zeke and Aml Ameen, second right, as Junior and other cast members in a scene from CBC's The Porter.Shauna Townley /CBC via The Canadian Press

The Porter (streams on CBC Gem) is now six episodes into an eight-episode run. The promise of early episodes is delivered in all of them. The plot teems and seethes around Junior Massey (Aml Ameen) and Zeke Garrett (Ronnie Rowe Jr.), two guys, railway porters, going on different paths out of Black Montreal in the 1920s. Canadian railway porters did start one of the first Black labour unions in North America, but that’s merely the launching pad for an emotionally dense roller coaster. It’s also about the 1920s as an era of huge change; a jazz-age drama that captures the great, chaotic energy of the period.

CBC’s The Porter isn’t just a history lesson, it’s one sizzling series

Laurie Metcalf and William H. Macy in The Dropout.20th Television / Courtesy of Disney+

The Dropout (streams on Disney+) is a fictional treatment of Elizabeth Holmes who, as a student, created a machine that could quickly do blood tests, at any time or place, from a single drop of blood. Her company, Theranos, was valued at billions of dollars, but the technology never worked, no matter how many times she claimed it did. The story is well known, but given new heft here (six episodes of eight so far) with Amanda Seyfried superb as the baffling Elizabeth, a figure who’s smart, driven and hard working but delusional.

The Dropout is another sizzler about a scam artist

Toni Collette as Laura Oliver and Bella Heathcote as Andy Oliver in Pieces of Her.Courtesy Of Netflix

Pieces of Her (streams on Netflix) is a good, time-waster thriller with an outstanding performance in the main role. We meet Andy (Bella Heathcote), a woman staffing the 911 desk at a police station in small-town Georgia. She’s been back in town to take care of her mom, Laura (Toni Collette, ferocious), who is now doing fine. Andy meets Laura for lunch, where a man pulls a gun and starts shooting. Laura takes over, eliminating the gunman with ease. A video of the scene goes viral and, suddenly, Laura is all business, lying to the cops, laying low and telling Andy to just get out of town. An intriguing cat-and-mouse drama ensues.

Pieces of Her - what if your mom was a super-bad avenger?

The Thing About Pam stars Renée Zellweger.Courtesy of Global Television

The Thing About Pam (Global, streams on StackTV) stars Renée Zellweger as a monster and she brings vinegary exuberance to it. She’s playing the real Pamela Hupp, whom true-crime fans will know about. The subject of numerous Dateline shows and a podcast, Hupp is serving life in prison. The engine of this bizarre but oddly compelling six-part series (four available now) is her possible involvement in the murder of one Betsy Faria. Zellweger, aided by prosthetics, is all fake sincerity as Pam. She practically winks at the camera. This production is drenched in waspish camp, but it’s an uncanny portrayal of a seemingly mundane person who has extraordinarily evil energy.

Making fun of murderous women

Samuel L. Jackson in The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey.APPLE TV+

The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey (streams on AppleTV+) is beautifully done, and about Ptolemy (Samuel L. Jackson), an elderly man brooding on the old days, vulnerable and facing dementia: “I remember some things, but I can’t remember what day it is.” This is not a showy, go-for-broke performance. Jackson draws out the poignance of Ptolemy’s circumstance by deftly playing off the others actors, allowing them space, and pulling back from ostentation. Offered a chance at recovering memories, Ptolemy takes it.

The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey is an essential, thrilling drama about age and dementia

From left to right: Rosie Graham, Rose Williams and Crystal Clarke.James Pardon/Courtesy of PBS

Sanditon (streams on PBS Masterpiece via Amazon Prime Canada) might be called Bridgerton-with-better-dialogue, and wittier too. The second season of the Regency drama based on Jane Austen’s unfinished novel has charm but lacks the erotic charge of the first. (Season one, eight episodes. Season two, six episodes, three available now.) It’s still deliciously wicked about romance, money and pretension.

Sanditon is back, and is still a steamy but less sexed-up Jane Austen

Homeschooled explores the niche world of home education as mainstream and fringe teen experiences collide in a unique coming-of-age tale.Courtesy of CBC Gem

Homeschooled (streams on CBC Gem) is a daffy, low-budget series from writers/directors Karen Knox and Gwenlyn Cumyn. A mockumentary, it follows two homeschooled 16-year-olds, Farzanah (Eman Ayaz) and Greta (Veronika Slowikowska), as they make a documentary to explain – or more accurately, boast about – what home education is really like. In 10 episodes of 15 minutes each, the drollery goes from unhinged, to hilarious.

Plan your screen time with the weekly What to Watch newsletter. Sign up today.