Like most of us, I’ve been watching a lot more TV during the pandemic than I have in years. Maybe ever. And no lie, a lot of it has been much better than I expected.
So, in a nod back to my “Average Matt” days of doing movie reviews for friends’ podcast, here’s a list of the new shows I’ve been watching and how I feel about them — the mostly good and the occasional bad.
(Note: I’m only talking about new shows I’ve started during these quarantine days. So shows like The Walking Dead and even The Mandalorian won’t be here because they pre-date the pandemic.)
Defending Jacob (Apple TV+)
This is by far the best show I’ve watched during the pandemic. It’s a great legal/psychological drama, but not so much a “thriller” like some of the other legal shows over the years. It moves slowly … very slowly at times. But I loved it.
Defending Jacob was eight episodes long, and from what I’ve read, that’s it. There’s no season two coming up or anything. Just those eight great episodes. It was good enough that I’ll go back and watch ’em all again someday.
The Morning Show (Apple TV+)
I’d heard less-than-stellar things about this show, so I was kinda hesitant to watch … but I’m really glad I did.
This one gets off to a slow start. The people who didn’t like it probably only watched the first 3-4 shows. It starts to get much better around episode 4/5. As I was telling a friend on Twitter earlier this summer, it almost feels like they changed writers or something because the second half of season one is way better than the first half.
I’m not a huge Jennifer Aniston fan, and in the first few episodes she seems out of place, but she really crushed it in the second half of the season. And Billy Crudup is amazing in his supporting actor role — totally deserving of the award nominations he got.
Mythic Quest (Apple TV+)
This is a comedy set in a video game company’s office. The company makes a super popular game called … you guessed it … Mythic Quest.
This one had some really funny moments and episodes, and some really good/funny characters. But it also had some duds, too. Overall, it’s not bad. When season two rolls around, I’ll check it out. But the show needs to go deeper on the characters — the best comedies (like Cheers, for example) explored the characters while also making you laugh.
For All Mankind (Apple TV+)
(Can you tell I spent a lot of time watching Apple TV+ this summer?)
This is one of those “alternate history” shows, where they tell the story around “what would’ve happened if X didn’t happen, but Y did?” It’s kinda like Man In The High Castle, which I loved, but it’s not dystopian like High Castle was.
The first episode of this one is a bit slow, but it gets really good after that. Sometimes it seems like the show tries too hard to be conscious of (or “woke” as some would say) and to fix the social injustices of the 1960s/1970s, but I think that’s a relevant part of the “what would’ve happened if…” question that the show raises.
Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)
I can’t believe I like this show. It’s running right now, and they’re like 4-5 episodes in to the first season.
There’s nothing original about the show. Ted Lasso is an American football coach who takes a job running a British football/soccer club, even though he knows nothing about the sport. The club just changed ownership in a divorce, and the previous owner’s wife is now in charge — and she wants the team to fail to embarrass her former husband. (That’s why she hired a know-nothing as coach.)
It all sounds so cliché, yet I can’t stop watching. Jason Sudeikis is really great as Ted, and the show is just starting to unpack some of the personal/character reasons why he’d leave a great job coaching football in the US for this other coaching job he knows nothing about. It has some funny moments, some touching moments, and you know exactly what’s going to happen in the end … but that’s not stopping me from watching.
Central Park (Apple TV+)
Finally, an Apple TV+ show I didn’t like. I really wanted to. I watched the first two episodes and started on the third, then decided it just wasn’t for me.
The Expanse (Amazon Prime)
Ugh. I so wanted to like this. Managed to stick through all of season one, but I think I bailed during or right after the first episode of season two. It just didn’t do anything for me, despite my best efforts to give it time to work.
High Score documentary (Netflix)
Just finished watching this last week. This is a 6-part documentary on the video game revolution of the 1970s/1980s and how it played out into the 1990s.
There’s obviously a lot of nostalgia here for me, because I grew up on video games — Atari, Commodore, Nintendo, even Apple games. And don’t get me started on how much $$ I spent at the mall arcade. (Or at the 7-11 on Trenton Rd., which was the closest place to find Defender and Missile Command).
The first two episodes really delivered on that nostalgia, but after that High Score was really hit and miss. The last episode was good, too, I guess. But in the middle … meh. Rather than six episodes, it probably should’ve been four.
The Last Dance documentary (ESPN)
Speaking of documentaries, this was fantastic and maybe the best thing I watched all year — but I’m listing it down here because, I don’t know, it feels different from all the scripted shows that I planned to write about.
So that’s it … my best and worst shows of the pandemic. I also managed to catch a few movies here and there. (Knives Out was great; Greyhound was meh.) And I need to find a way to catch up on one of my favorites, Yellowstone. That just finished season 3, but I never saw season 2 because Paramount Network wasn’t on YouTube TV when we dropped DirecTV a couple years ago.
What are your best/worst shows that you’ve seen during the pandemic??