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Bingeworthy Options: S, M, L, XL
March 19, 2020  | By David Hinckley  | 1 comment

We’ve all said it, the sentence that begins “If I only had time... ”

Well, now maybe we do. 

And even if there are a few other things we’d like to catch up on during our coronavirus interlude – like the book that’s been sitting there since 2018 – almost everyone has a few TV shows he or she has always meant to watch. 

So here, in no particular order, are a few suggestions. While serious TV fans have seen some, or most, of them, we all have a few shows where, well, we just ran out of time. 

Baseball. To help fans survive the bleak days and weeks before baseball and all other sports start to return, pbs.org is offering a free rescreening of Ken Burns’s multi-part documentary on the sport that, with all props to football and basketball, remains America’s finest. On pbs.org.  

Mad Men. TV critics are hard-wired to genuflect at the mere mention of the title, but don’t let that discourage you. Set in 1960s Madison Avenue, Mad Men has a great look and feel, not to mention some of TV’s best characters, starting with Jon Hamm’s Don Draper and Elisabeth Moss’s Peggy Olson. Netflix, Amazon, and elsewhere. 

Doc Martin. This British comedy has been running forever. It may be still running. That’s good, because it’s a delight, happily mining the droll and quirky rather than slapstick side of Brit comedy. The show revolves around Martin Clunes’ title character, the cranky but skilled and caring doctor in the small seaside village of Portwenn. The rest of the town is the best bunch of lovable neurotics this side of The Good Place. Acorn, Hulu, Amazon, and elsewhere. 

Friday Night Lights. Loosely adapted from a book about the religion that is high school football in Texas, the TV version created a great story of its own. The terrific cast, led by Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton, took an honest look at family, race, teenage life, and small-town America, with football as the backdrop that tied the characters together. Never a big ratings success, its five seasons were terrific television that hasn’t aged a day. Amazon, Hulu, and elsewhere. 

The West Wing. The best political show ever on television, and if you missed it the first time, seize the chance to see why. While it’s generally kind to the Democratic president played by Martin Sheen, it doesn’t  hesitate to dramatize the shortcomings of both parties. And no matter what side you’re on, you cannot miss “In Excelsis Deo,” season 1, episode 10, in which Richard Schiff’s Toby Zeigler honors the memory of a homeless Korean War veteran. Netflix, NBCU, and elsewhere. 

Justified. Timothy Olyphant shines as a renegade Southern lawman who finds that you can go home again, but when you do, you shouldn’t think you can relax. Based on Elmore Leonard novels, and it does them justice. Hulu, Amazon, and elsewhere. 

Boardwalk Empire. One of the great HBO dramas is based very loosely on the life of New Jersey crooked political figure Enoch Lewis "Nucky" Johnson, a big shot in Atlantic City during the Wild West years of Prohibition. Steve Buscemi plays the fictional Nucky Thompson, an antihero, but Buscemi makes him riveting, and he gets a lot of help from Kelly MacDonald as Nucky’s unlikely adversary turned love interest. HBO, Amazon, elsewhere. 

Call My Agent. A French drama with, yup, subtitles. Yes, it’s one of those “Oh, look a show about us” productions made by show biz about show biz, but the humor quickly becomes more universal. It’s set in an artist management agency, ensuring an endless supply of quirky drop-in stars. Netflix. 

Manhattan. This would be a short binge, since the WGN series was unfortunately terminated after just two seasons. They are first-rate, however, dramatizing the lives of the scientists and wives who worked on the top-secret Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb. Nor does that mean everyone thought the bomb was a good idea. A great ensemble cast that includes Rachel Brosnahan, the future Mrs. Maisel. (Binge her, too.) Amazon, Hulu, elsewhere. 

The Great British Baking Show. If you want to watch something that just plain makes you feel good, where the people are all nice to each other and the only tension involves oven timing, this is the ticket. It’s the most feel-good competition show imaginable and if that makes it pure escapism, well, when have we needed that more? PBS.org, Netflix, elsewhere.

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I LOVED Manhattan. It wasn't always easy to find, but I did manage to find both seasons. I was disappointed that they didn't continue it. Great performances.
Mar 20, 2020   |  Reply
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