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 18-01: The Chi

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Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine american culture. What’s new and old in books, film, and entertainment.

Screenwriter and actress Lena Waithe won an Emmy last year for her work on Aziz Ansari’s Master of None. This year,  she’s branching out with a show she created called The Chi. The Chi will be set on Chicago’s South Side, the epicenter of the violence crisis happening in the nation’s third biggest city.

Waithe is a Chicago native herself, as her co-producer, the rapper Common. it’s clear they want to shine on a light on some of the real atrocities happening in Chicago, but they also have a palpable love for their hometown. The show is filmed in a way that manages to showcase the bright colors and beautiful street art of Chicago while still displaying the problems that have deep roots in the city.

The show centers on a group of young adults living in Chicago. The opening scene follows a boy on a bike riding around to the energetic music of Chance the Rapper. He cruises around the streets, bargaining for a discounted pop at the local convenience store, and having a pretty carefree day until he comes upon a dead body laying on the street. He checks for a pulse and when the cops come around, he’s in handcuffs before he can even explain what he was doing there.

Though only one episode has been released, The Chi looks to be a promising show with an impressive cast taking on subject matter that is timely and heartbreaking.

The Chi airs Sunday nights on Showtime, starting tonight, January 7. the first episode is available to stream on Showtime’s website or in the Showtime app.     

I’m Evan Rook.