By Bruce A. Smith
I’m heavy into spy thrillers, cerebral dramas, and comedies with redeeming social values. Some of these shows have been on my movie lists in the past, but they have updated seasons, or compelling dramatic reasons to watch again because of global climate change, Black Lives Matter, or other current issues.
In No Particular Order:
- Occupied: A Norwegian serial TV show that is utterly engrossing as it speculates on the near political future. Season 3 now playing. Watch 1-3. They’re all good and different.
- The Old Guard: An interesting action-thriller that is suitable for watching after a tough day. Charlize Theron kicks ass in all the right ways.
- The West Wing. An oldie but a goodie. Imagine Bill Clinton being able to keep his pants on.
- Madam Secretary: What power looks like when wielded by a thoughtful, compassionate, realistic woman. Top Notch all the way through. Seasons 1-6
- Intelligence: A Canadian serial, Seasons 1-3 that is a superb spy/cop show that tells the truth from all angles.
- The 4400: Another Canadian serial that is superb sci-fi, speculating on interdimensional travel to save a doomed race.
- The Travelers: A third Canadian gem that borrows some of the cast from the other shows above. Add time travel to the interdimensional potentials, this time to alter history to the betterment of Humanity.
- Comedians in Cars – Getting Coffee: Jerry Seinfeld interviews his comedic friends in fifteen-minute clips to talk about the business of making people laugh. A superb tutorial for teaching people how to be serious about their passions.
- My Next Guest Needs No Introduction – Dave Letterman: An uneven serial of one-hour long interviews. Some guests have got the juice for 60 minutes – like Barack Obama – but some do not.
- Dave Chappelle: Netflix broadcasts several of his recent specials. They are all winners. I absolutely love this guy – he makes me laugh all the time – but I especially revel in his truth telling.
- Wanda Sykes: When I want a change of pace from Chappelle, I switch to Wanda. You just can’t lose.
- Molly’s Game: A film based on a true story of a gal named Molly who started a private gambling club and ran afoul of the Big Boys. Articulate, powerful, insightful, and absolutely satisfying at every step – and she wins at the end. You’ll cheer and cry. I know I did.
- Spy: The true story of Israel’s top spy back in the 1960s. I could not believe that Sasha Cohen played the lead. He was fantastic. The story is top-notch.
- Turn: An uneven series on the spies who aided George Washington and the Continental Army during the Revolution. Very interesting take on the different personalities making history. Also, good to see the Brits in a different light.
- Longmire: Imagine a thoughtful detective story based upon an old-school cowboy sheriff dealing with rednecks, big-time gambling interests, and the nearby Indian Police from the Rez. A modern western that is balanced and nuanced.
- Queen’s Gambit: A superb six-part series that is being acclaimed by many. Engrossing story, and the acting is top-notch. Note: I would have loved a little more chess theory to explain the many moves the Wunderkind Gal makes to squash the Poo-Bahs of International Chess.
- The Two Popes: A fascinating true story that is well-told. Held my interest every step of the way.
- Spotlight: This movie won an Academy Award for Best Picture a few years past and Netflix still features it. It shows the dark side of priestly abuse, and the shining light of good journalists who care, are backed by a newspaper that has enough resources to pay the bills, and a Jewish Editor in Chief who kicks his reporters’ Catholic asses into gear.
- Mindhunters: An uneven series that is fascinating by turns and numbing in its details of why and how serial killers become who they become. Also, a superb look at the internal politics at work in the FBI. It ain’t pretty.
- The Highway Men: If Sgt Hank Voigt of TV’s Chicago PD fame was a cop in Texas in the 1930s, this is how he would have captured Bonnie and Clyde. Utterly realistic, truthful, and captivating even if many of the practices of the Texas Rangers are legally questionable. But what can not be disputed is the impact of dogged, thoughtful police work performed by competent, fearless men.
- Die Hard: Bruce Willis’ opening flick in his multi-faceted “Die Hard” series. This movie is my FAVORITE Christmas movie. Yippy-Ki-Yay… well, you know the rest.
- Body Guard: If Bruce Willis was British and went to a boarding school, this is how he might have turned out when he became a cop and started chasing terrorists. This serial telecast has several seasons at this point, and will probably have more as this show is a Big Hit in the UK, and that’s well-deserved.
- The Impossible: Is a based-on-true-incidents related to the Indonesian tsunami a few years back. Truthful and meaningful, and delivers a well-needed look at how the local Indonesians struggled valiantly to save the thousands of tourists affected by the catastrophe, along with endeavoring to save themselves.
- Frida: Another oldie but a goodie. The best acting job ever by Salma Hayek, portraying the Mexican artistic genius Frieda Kahlo.
- Defiance: A top-notch film showing the based-on-facts resistance of hundreds of Jewish refugees in eastern Poland at the end of WW II. Liev Schreiber delivers a superb portrayal of a leader who has a tough job to do with little to work with.
- The Twelfth Man: A gritty, based-on-facts of the unlikely survival of a British commando during a raid on a German military outpost in Norway. It’s as much a story of how the Norwegian Resistance deals with the fears of their own people as it is of how they out-foxed and out-lasted the Nazis. The film even shows how a herd of reindeer aided the Brit in reaching safety in Sweden.