Culture Crash 19-06: Missing Gems in the Deluge of ‘Peak TV’

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Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine what’s new and old in entertainment.

Vulture reported that 495 scripted television shows were broadcast and streamed for the first time in 2018. That’s up from the 216 series that aired less than a decade ago, back in 2010.

With such a boom in the sheer volume of the medium, thanks largely to the growth of streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video… it can be easy to lose track of everything you’ve been meaning to watch.

Case in point for me is the Showtime limited series, Escape at Dannemora. The show began airing just a few months back in November, but in TV time, that’s eons ago. Anyway, I meant to watch the show when it was coming out but forgot all about it until the show began hitting the awards circuit. Patricia Arquette specifically has won both a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Award for her turn in the series, and that was what finally reminded me to give the show a try.

Boy, am I glad I did. Escape at Dannemora is based on a real 2015 prison break in upstate New York and stars Paul Dano and Benicio del Toro as two prison inmates, and Patricia Arquette as a prison employee who becomes tangled up in their web. All seven episodes of the series were directed by Ben Stiller, but make no mistake: this show is a dramatic thriller, not a whimsical comedy. It’s really good and now streaming on Showtime’s various web apps.

But Escape at Dannemora isn’t the only shows I missed in the waterfall of TV content.

High on my to-watch list are AMC’s The Little Drummer Girl, based on the John le Carre novel of the same name and Netflix’s Bodyguard, which is a hugely successful political thriller that originally aired on BBC One. Of course, at some point I may need some comedic relief, in which case I’ll turn to, maybe Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel or Netflix’s American Vandal, two shows I’ve started but have not finished.

The reservoir of TV content is very, very deep. Sometimes, that can be daunting. And sometimes, that can mean stumbling back on something that dominated the zeitgeist for a few fleeting moments several months ago, and having a blast discovering those things for yourself.

I’m Evan Rook. 

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Culture Crash 19-01: Minding the Gap

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Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine what’s new and old in entertainment.

The year 2018 gave us a lot to love at the movies. Some of the highlights for me were Eighth Grade, Roma, A Quiet Place, and Blindspotting. Each of those films thrilled, entertained, and moved me. But to me, the best film of the year was Bing Liu’s incredibly personal documentary, Minding the Gap. It’s a film I saw back in August but it stuck with me more than anything I’ve seen in a long time.

Minding the Gap tells the story of Liu himself, and of his closest friends from his childhood in Rockford, Illinois. Each came from something of a broken home and turned to skateboarding and each other for an escape from their personal demons. What begins as a movie about kids skateboarding and hanging out becomes a searing look at childhood trauma, the bonds of friendship, and what effect our families can have on us, even as we age into adulthood.

Liu documents each of his subjects with the compassion of a true friend, but he’s not afraid to let his friends do and say bad things on camera, and allow the audience to judge their character for themselves. In a time when people like to make sweeping, grandiose statements about how our country got to this specific place politically, economically, and morally, Minding the Gap opts to focus instead on one specific group of friends– a group of kids who were beaten and neglected and ignored, and take a look at how and why they became the people they have become.

Minding the Gap is available in some theaters, but it’s available to watch everywhere on Hulu, and it’s worth the price of a month’s subscription on its own.

2018 was a rich year for cinema, but in my estimation, nothing topped Minding the Gap.

I’m Evan Rook. 

Stay in the loop! Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook! Subscribe and review on iTunes!

Culture Crash 18-10: Hulu’s Big Push

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For years, Netflix has been the top destination for streaming TV. The service dominates conversation and the culture, thanks in large part to hit shows like Stranger Things and Narcos.

But lately Hulu has been making more and more noise in the streaming space, and has the results to back it up. While Netflix has popularity, Hulu has accolades. Netflix’s blockbusters have never made much noise at awards shows and while they may be well-reviewed, the hype always seems to fade.

Hulu, on the other hand, is the exclusive owner of The Handmaid’s Tale, the drama that has swept every awards show in the past year and picked up rave reviews along the way. Now, Hulu has launched the ambitious show The Looming Tower, based on the non-fiction Puiltizer Prize-winning book of the same name by Lawrence Wright about the rise of Al Qaeda and the events leading up to 9/11 . And soon, Hulu will premier Castle Rock, their answer to Stranger Things that takes an episodic look at the Stephen King universe.

But the appeal of Hulu goes far beyond just their original series. Over the course of a few years, Hulu has amassed by far the best catalogue of older shows. This used to be Netflix’s bread-and-butter but over time, Netflix has lost shows and Hulu has gained them. Hulu now offers the ability to binge-watch game-changers of yesteryear like Seinfeld, Buffy the Vampie Slayer, Lost, ER, and many other primetime classics. Plus, Hulu is still the only streamer that has the option to watch current seasons of TV shows-like This is Us-as they air week-to-week.

It used to be that Netflix was the premiere choice for streaming TV. Now, though, things aren’t so simple. If you’re looking for a way to watch your old favorites and critically lauded current shows, the numbers suggest that Hulu’s may actually be your best option. But, take it from me, pay the extra $4 for the commercial-free plan. While paying extra money is a pain, Hulu’s so-called “limited commercials” plan is an even bigger one.

I’m Evan Rook.

Coming Up on Viewpoints Show 18-10

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Education For Students With Autism

The right to an education is guaranteed to all students by federal law. But experts and parents are now wondering if we’re doing enough to help students with autism reach their full potentials.

The Spanish Flu of 1918

We all know about the Bubonic Plague, but fewer of us know very much about the Spanish Flu. Author Susan Meissner’s new novel explores the illness, and she joins the show to discuss the disease itself, how it interacted with World War I, and the immense cost of the sickness.

Culture Crash: Hulu’s Big Push

For years, Netflix has been the top choice for TV streaming enthusiasts. But Hulu has slowly become a more well-rounded service with top-tier original titles and a huge back-log of TV classics.