Tune in to Great TV Tonight

Tune in to Great TV Tonight September 17, 2018

The Emmys air tonight, and here at “Good Letters” we’re gratified that our bloggers have written about some of this year’s nominees:

This Is Us. “Beginning its third season, the Emmy-nominated NBC drama devotes serious time to exploring the emotional complexities of relationships among adoptive and biological families,” writes Tania Runyan, who added to her family though open adoption. “This Is Us teaches us about protecting and parenting children, but it also teaches us about loving and understanding parents. Even adults need to be cared for, to see how important they are in this world, and to know that they are never forgotten.” Read the rest of her post here.

Stranger Things “recognizes the profound ways that we are estranged from home, enfolding the resultant nostalgia into the show’s every layer,” writes Nick Olson of the Netflix original drama. “Stranger Things combines these—nostalgia, horror, and science fiction—into a potent brew for us to binge until we are familiar again with what ails us.”

The Americans. Nick Olson first profiled the FX drama about Russian spies living in D.C. during the Cold War in 2017 writing, “Watching Season 5, I realized that The Americans intimates something fundamental to national identities through its particular marital scope: Crucial to a healthy body politic is a recognition of the blessed discoveries—and dangers—of our corporeality.” Nick covered the show again after it ended its six season run, concluding, “By the end of the last episode, it’s clear that The Americans is the sort of art that refines; that burns for its audience long after seeing.”

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel opens with newlywed Miriam (Midge) “poised to take on the world and capable of success in any endeavor she chooses,” writes Cathy Warner. “The journey of self-discovery Midge undertakes is one…where the wrestling occurs within the familiar terrain of home and family, where responsibilities and belonging are not abandoned in pure pursuit of dreams, but are absorbed into an expanding identity. Each episode examines the tension and increasing complexity in Miriam’s life as Jew, wife (or not), mother, daughter, sister, friend, working-woman, and comedian.”

The Good Place garnered a nomination for actor Ted Danson and impressed Bryan Bliss who writes, “The story is both fresh and unexpected, without preying on cheap emotionalism or ginning up constant plot twists…. I see characters who reject a binary view of heaven and hell, who consistently and faithfully seek out a need for redemption they can’t quite understand or explain. They choose to believe that the process of becoming better never ends. So they work and they struggle and they hope…Basically, it’s everything I’ve ever wanted from a television show.”

Our writers have also profiled some other shows great for streaming from your favorite platforms:

Black Mirror. Brad Fruhauff watched the “Crocodile” episode of Black Mirror, a British contemporary reworking of The Twilight Zone, “feeling as if writer/creator Charlie Brooker had gotten into my head and seen my nightmares…. For me, the episode has that noir structure where the protagonist is a basically good person who commits one minor, but crucial sin, and soon finds herself in over her head. We identify with the noir protagonist—not as a hero, exactly, but as someone like us, trying to do good, and once in a while seeing our way to getting or protecting something if we bend the rules just this one time.”

Rectify: “During its four seasons, Rectify was no stranger to critical praise,” writes Nick Olson of the series he ranks “alongside the usual exemplars of television’s ‘golden age’—The SopranosBreaking BadMad Men, and The Wire.” The plot: “As a teenager, Daniel Holden was convicted and placed on death row in Georgia for the rape and murder of his sixteen-year-old girlfriend, Hanna. New DNA evidence nineteen years later leads to a decision to vacate the judgment. Rectify begins with Daniel’s controversial release from prison.” Nick’s recommendation: “When it’s so easy for our time to be lost to fear and loathing, no other television show may be so worth our while.”

Breaking Bad captured the attention of Tania Runyan in 2015. “My hero is a middle-aged meth manufacturer, liar, thief and murderer, who convinces himself that his love for himself, his ‘growth, decay, and transformation’—the way he describes chemistry—is love for others,” she writes. “‘Hero” is probably the wrong word. But I can watch Walt for hours, live in the deepening crevices of his face, ride his emotions and lies. This is what humans are capable of.” “Breaking Bad’s Walter White Is My Shining Star.”

Breaking Bad is “the most spiritually rigorous show that I have ever seen,” wrote TV producer, writer, and former Good Letters blogger Bradford Winters in 2014. “Is there any other show in recent (or even distant) memory that so faithfully abides the principle of you reap what you sow?”

The Borgias: “It’s a defining move of realism: shading a character with multiple conflicting motives and qualities, some noble, some comic, some ghastly or criminal. And it may be an essential move to truly gain emotional and spiritual freedom from what I think of as the tyranny of the present, that is, the overwhelming feeling of the momentousness of now,” writes Brad Fruhauff of the Showtime series as he ponders how history will see our current era.

Impractical Jokers: “A slapstick reality show,” writes Tania Runyan, that “has also served as a healing balm…. Not since Breaking Bad has a show taught me so much about what it means to be human.

Deadwood: Tania Runyan finds her inner Calamity Jane in the “obscenity-shouting, hard drinking, cross-dressing woman ready to lay down her life for the forgotten ones” on the streets of South Dakota’s gold rush town.

The Lone Ranger: Part of the fun of watching the The Lone Ranger is simply its silliness: it’s my half-hour escape at the end of each day,” writes Peggy Rosenthal. But there’s something more…art shaping itself to a very human longing: the longing for a restoration where evil is indeed conquered by good.

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