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Thu12122019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Most review columns are dropping their “Best of 2019” lists right about now, thanks to a deadly combo of holiday resignation and critical narcissism.

On one hand, it’s almost Christmas, so who cares? On the other, critics absolutely must disseminate their invaluable hot takes to the masses, because how will The Sheep know what was good if they’re not told?! Screw the tree—people need to know about Parasite!

I’m not playing like that; there are too many shows to stream. Here are nine series from this fall alone you might have missed—so tune out the family, and catch up.

Succession (Seasons 1-2 on HBO Now): Forget Game of Thrones and The Sopranos—the most cutthroat family on HBO is Succession’s Roy clan. A black AF satire of wealth and passive-aggressive family dysfunction, Succession follows a vaguely demented patriarch (Brian Cox) dangling the keys to the empire before his damaged, power-hungry kids. It’s Arrested Development from the darkest timeline.

Mrs. Fletcher (Season 1 on HBO Now): Scene-stealing side-player Kathryn Hahn finally headlines her own show (well, her own seven-episode miniseries; six are out now, with the seventh coming Dec. 8). As Eve Fletcher, she’s a single mom who’s just sent her only son, Brendan (Jackson White), off to college—midlife crisis, come on down! Eve’s newly adrift life has its highs (lots of lesbian porn) and lows (heartbreaking loneliness), and Hahn embodies it all perfectly.

Harley Quinn (Season 1 on DC Universe): Margot Robbie may have nailed the role in Suicide Squad, but Kaley Cuoco’s Harley Quinn is funnier—and both R-rated and animated. This Harley is also so over The Joker (Alan Tudyk) and angling to join the Legion of Doom with help from Poison Ivy (Lake Bell). If DC’s live-action movies were as fun and profane as Harley Quinn … they’d still find a way to ruin them.

Pennyworth (Season 1 in Epix): “Does Batman’s butler have a back story?” is asked about as often as “How do I get Epix?” (read: never), but here’s the origin tale of a young Alfred Pennyworth (Jack Bannon), London spy. Kingsman comparisons aside, it’s a visually stunning series that presents a different Alfred (not yet omni-brilliant) and a very different Thomas and Martha Wayne (not yet dead).

Stumptown (Season 1 on Hulu): One of the few bright spots in a dismal fall 2019 TV-broadcast rollout, ABC’s Stumptown is essentially The Rockford Files wearing Jessica Jones’ leather jacket: A broke private investigator (Cobie Smulders) solves cases while dealing with intense past trauma. Stumptown is smart, funny, twisty and full of intriguing characters—and craft beer, because, Portland.

Lodge 49 (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): Weird, wonderful, and now canceled by AMC, Lodge 49 was like nothing else on TV—stick your neck out; get your head lopped off. Long Beach surf-bum Dud (Wyatt Russell) is existentially adrift after the death of his father, but finds a sense of belonging with a local fraternal lodge full of eccentric characters. Lodge 49 plays out like a dream, which it just may have been.

Castle Rock (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): You don’t have to be a Stephen King superfan to get into Castle Rock, but it sure as hell helps. In Castle Rock, Maine, characters from King’s literary multiverse collide, making for a creepy-if-slow Season 1. Season 2 raises the tension thanks to a jolting performance from Lizzy Caplan as unbalanced nurse Annie Wilkes (Misery). How about including The Running Man in Season 3?

Dollface (Season 1 on Hulu): Kat Dennings’ rom-com career was derailed by six seasons of CBS’ 2 Broke Girls and two Thor movies you’ve already forgotten; Dollface puts her back on track. When Jules (Dennings) gets dumped by her boyfriend, she has to win back the female friends she’s neglected. Dollface is fluffy, fantastical fun, and co-stars Brenda Song and Esther Povitsky own every scene.

Goliath (Seasons 1-3 on Prime Video): Goliath, created by TV lifer David E. Kelley, might look like a standard-issue L.A. legal drama on the surface, but there’s some bizarre shit going on underneath. Billy Bob Thornton is Billy McBride, a brilliant boozehound of a lawyer with a penchant for taking on wealthy corporate villains with over-the-top sex ’n’ drugs kinks. There’s something for law nerds and hedonists!

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Think you’re already oversubscribed to streaming TV services? Bend over, and grab your HDMI cables, because November has just dropped two more on you: Disney+ and Apple TV+.

Also, HBO Max, Peacock and Quibi are coming in 2020. But the Purge may happen first.

Back to Disney+ and Apple TV+: Disney+ costs $6.99 a month, while Apple TV+ goes for $4.99—are they worth it? Here are eight original series that may or may not sway you to subscribe to yet another new app.

High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (Disney+): Right below Twilight and Saw on the list of 2000s reboots no one asked for rests High School Musical, the 2006-08 series of Disney Channel movies (though I’m all in for a Twilight/Saw mashup). In mockumentary HSM:TM:TS, students meta-stage a production of the classic High School Musical. That sound in the distance is the universe imploding—catchy beat, no?

The Mandalorian (Disney+): If you’re among the nerd faction that’s completely on board with Disney owning all things Marvel, Star Wars and Fox Studios, I’m sure your benevolent corporate overlords will never screw you over. It’s fine, just fine. In the meantime, here’s The Mandalorian, about a bounty hunter somewhere in the Star Wars universe. Look, dust and droids! It’s fine, just fine.

The World According to Jeff Goldblum (Disney+): Actor Jeff Goldblum (Run Ronnie Run!) explains everyday items like ice cream, sneakers, tattoos, coffee, denim, RVs, barbecue, jewelry, swimming pools, cosmetics and video games as only he can. Prior to exploring these topics for The World, Goldblum reportedly did zero research to prepare for the episodes. I use the same approach here; totally works.

The Imagineering Story (Disney+): This is a six-hour documentary about Walt Disney’s 65-year-old Imagineering studio that doesn’t touch upon Walt’s purported Nazi sympathies and fascist tendencies at all. Not that it should, because it’s about the studio and the creators who worked there, not the frozen head in a secret vault who thought Adolph had a few good ideas. Allegedly. (Checks security cameras.)

The Morning Show (Apple TV+): Apple spent millions of dollars to lure beloved comedy stars Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell to streaming TV to headline … a preachy drama about media politics? Bring on the yucks! To be fair, The Morning Show works better than 80 percent of Aaron Sorkin’s similar The Newsroom, mostly by treating women as, stay with me here, humans.

See (Apple TV+): In a post-apocalyptic future … wait, don’t click away yet! A worldwide virus long ago wiped out half the population and rendered the other half blind—until a pair of sighted twins are born to tribal leader Baba Voss (Jason Momoa, Baywatch: Hawaii). Are they the Chosen Ones who’ll lead their people to a new homeland? Didn’t “See” that one coming! Ugh, I know …

For All Mankind (Apple TV+): What if Russia had reached the moon before the United States in the ’60s? Would Joe Rogan still be taking bong hits with moon-landing conspiracy theorists on three-hour podcasts? Probably. For All Mankind presents a science-y, alternate reality of an arguably better world—considering Ronald D. Moore’s previous work (Battlestar Galactica), things could have gone worse.

Dickinson (Apple TV+): Hailee Steinfeld (Between Two Ferns: The Movie) stars as poet Emily Dickinson in a coming-of-age dramedy that pits 19th-century societal constraints against modern millennial ‘tude. In other words, why the hell isn’t this on The CW? As she does in every role, Steinfeld delivers winningly as Dickinson, and you can’t argue with a series that casts Wiz Khalifa as Death.

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The original Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980) movies didn’t invent the “slasher” genre, but they did kick off a bloody wave of horror that ruled the ’80s. Which makes sense—have you seen archival photos of ’80s people? They needed some killing.

Since the entire month of October has been swallowed up by Halloween, Inc.™, Content Shifter is digging up some lesser-known ’80s slasher flicks. There’s a reason you’ve haven’t heard of most of these: They’re terrible AF. Some don’t even hit that “so bad it’s good” sweet spot—meeting a “13” quota isn’t easy, just sayin.’

Here are 13 ’80s slasher flicks to stream between the Halloween parties that nobody invites me to anymore. You dress up as Sexy Ben Shapiro one time

Slumber Party Massacre II (1987; Prime Video, Tubi, Shudder, YouTube): High-schooler Courtney (Crystal Bernard) takes her girl group on a weekend retreat, only to have band practice and brushes with lesbianism interrupted by the return of the Driller Killer! Even better, he’s been reincarnated as a singing rockabilly greaser with a sick drill guitar! Yes, it’s slasher flick with cool kills and musical numbers—sex and blood and rock ’n’ roll, baby!

New Year’s Evil (1980; Prime Video, YouTube): Speaking of rock ’n’ roll, early slasher New Year’s Evil features the most over-the-top metal theme song of the genre—suck it, Halloween. Blaze (Roz Kelly), host of a New Year’s Eve new-wave countdown TV show, receives a call from a mystery fan claiming he’ll kill a “naughty girl” in each time zone at midnight—with her being the last. Bonus: “punk” rockers galore.

Sleepaway Camp (1983; Prime Video, Tubi): Eight years after a Camp Arawak boating accident killed her father and sibling, teen Angela (Felissa Rose) is sent off to … Camp Arawak. This well-thought-out plan goes awry when campers and counselors start getting dead—is Angela the killer? The answer is obvious; Sleepaway Camp’s infamous twist ending is anything but. A fifth sequel is apparently coming.

Chopping Mall (1986; Prime Video, Tubi, Shudder, YouTube): With an impossibly fantastic title to live up to, Chopping Mall barely even tries—but at least there’s a spin on slashers: killer robots. A group of idiot 20-somethings break into a mall to spend the night (because … fun?), only to have the party crashed by boxy security Roombas set to berserker mode. Extra comedy points: Mary Waronov and Paul Bartel from Eating Raoul.

Death Spa (1989; Prime Video): Another tech-gone-evil slasher, Death Spa pits Spandex-wearing workout dopes against a haunted gym—as the pitch says, “You’ll sweat blood!” A bloodthirsty ghost infiltrates a health club’s computerized control system and starts killing gym rats with exercise machines, weight gear and overheated saunas. Death Spa is stoopid to the max, but it did introduce gym sushi (!).

Killer Workout (1987; Prime Video, YouTube): For some reason, the film distributor thought Killer Workout would sell better than the movie’s original title, Aerobicide—SAD! Buff boneheads are being murdered by a safety-pin-wielding psycho at an L.A. gym, so why not keep it open during the investigation? Also, safety pin? What it lacks in logic, Killer Workout makes up for in excessive T&A (not triceps and abs).

Visiting Hours (1982; YouTube): On the flipside, a feminist journalist (Lee Grant) provokes a serial killer by simply presenting her position on a TV talk show—sorry for the ’80s, women. She survives his attack, but now he’s in her hospital to finish the job, and her boss (William Shatner, who must have had a boat payment to make) is no help whatsoever. Surprisingly tense, yet still overtly Canadian.

Night School (1981; Prime Video): Not to be confused with the 2018 Kevin Hart movie of the same name, this Night School featured the immortal tagline: “A is for apple, B is for bed, C is for coed, D is for dead, F is for failing to keep your head.” This serial killer is a decapitation aficionado, though the original title was Terror Eyes—also, there’s little schooling. At least it gave the world Rachel Ward.

Final Exam (1981; Prime Video, Tubi): College students are being slain on campus days before summer break, and the killer is a completely random psycho with no connections or back story. As long as jocks and cheerleaders are being taken out, cool. Final Exam is short on blood and boobs, but long on—WTF?—character development, meaning you get to know these coffin-stuffers. Yay?

The Nail Gun Massacre (1985; Prime Video): No title ambiguity here—nail on the head, literally. Six Texas construction workers who skated on a rape charge are murdered one-by-one by a mystery motorcycle man with a high-powered nail gun. Like a Home Depot RoboCop, he serves wisecracks with his vengeance and kills more than a few innocent bystanders. Actual tagline: “A very penetrating story.”

The Mutilator (1985; Prime Video): A group of horny college coeds hang out at a beachfront condo during fall break, only to be killed off in increasingly gruesome fashions: axes, pitchforks, boat motors, fishing gear, etc. The creative killer is Big Ed, the father of one of the coeds who never forgave his son for accidentally killing Mrs. Ed. It’s almost Shakespearean, this little Mutilator gem.

Girls Nite Out (1982; YouTube): A college-campus scavenger hunt turns bloody when a killer in a mascot bear costume starts slashing up students with serrated-knife “claws.” Even worse, he get the college radio DJ to help broadcast his murders—as if that gig wasn’t already humiliating enough. Girls Nite Out was originally titled The Scaremaker, but they really should have gone with TerrorBear.

Stripped to Kill (1987; Prime Video, Tubi): An LAPD detective (Kay Lenz) goes undercover at the Rock Bottom strip club to investigate a string of stripper murders. Never mind that Emmy-winning actress Lenz is pole dancing (badly) in a low-budget slasher—Stripped to Kill features the most bizarrely ludicrous killer reveal of any flick on this list. Even weirder: The strip club is owned by Norman Fell (Three’s Company).

Published in TV

For those of you who missed my TED Talk, “Passion, Perseverance and PBR: Don’t Let Your ‘Job’ Come Before Your Shows,” here’s the takeaway: There’s no shame in watching TV all summer.

Unless you’re an acclaimed TV reviewer like myself, there’s also no money in watching TV all summer. Should you quit your so-called “career” in order to keep up on Peak TV? That’s not for me to say … but my answer would be “Fuck yeah—tell your boss to take this job and place it firmly in a dark cavity!”

Now that you’re unemployed, here are nine killer series you missed this summer. Since they’re new and mostly only available on pay platforms, you might want to pick up a part-time gig. Hey, I don’t make the rules of capitalism.

On Becoming a God in Central Florida (Season 1 on Showtime): Kirsten Dunst’s wild and weird film career has always been leading up to a dark Showtime dramedy, and ’90s-set On Becoming a God in Central Florida doesn’t disappoint. Orlando everywoman Krystal (Dunst) is out to infiltrate and destroy the multilevel marketing company that fucked her over, and Dunst seethes rage and determination—hilariously, somehow.

The Righteous Gemstones (Season 1 on HBO Now): Following up Eastbound and Down and Vice Principals, Danny McBride’s latest HBO series takes on the easiest comedy target of all: televangelist megachurches. The Gemstone siblings (McBride, Edi Patterson and Adam Devine) live in the larger-than-life shadow of their famous father (John Goodman); they’re also complete idiots. God loves this show (he told me).

The Boys (Season 1 on Prime Video): Superheroes are managed, marketed and monetized by a megalomaniacal corporation—no, not Marvel/Disney. Not in this case, anyway: The Boys paints a dark world where “supes” are power-mad assholes indifferent to collateral damage, and the “Boys” (led by a deliciously profane Karl Urban) are going to end them. Rated MF for Motherfucking Violent.

Sherman’s Showcase (Season 1 on IFC): Like Spinal Tap meets Soul Train, Sherman’s Showcase is a parody retrospective about the greatest 40-year musical-variety TV series that never existed. Host Sherman (creator Bashir Salahuddin) doesn’t care for white people, political correctness or ever removing his shades indoors, and the musical guests (including a perfect Prince ringer named Charade) throw down.

NOS4A2 (Season 1 on Shudder): Horror sleeper NOS4A2 pits supernaturally-gifted teen girl Vic McQueen (Ashleigh Cummings) against immortal creeper Charlie Manx (Zachary Quinto), a quasi-vampire who feeds on children’s souls and then dumps them in Christmasland. (It’s not as cheery as it sounds.) Like Stranger Things without the ’80s cheese, NOS4A2 is smart, scary and just sentimental enough.

Veronica Mars (Season 4 on Hulu); After three TV seasons (2004-2007) and Kickstarter movie (2014), there didn’t seem to be a need for more Veronica Mars—but damned if creator Rob Thomas and star Kristen Bell don’t keep bringing it. SoCal private investigator Veronica (Bell) specializes in uncovering grand conspiracies (and cracking wise); this one just might get her dead. Oh, and Patton Oswalt!

Good Omens (Season 1 on Prime Video): Angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and demon Crowley (David Tennant) are unlikely BFFs caught in the celestial crossfire when the arrival of the Antichrist and Armageddon inconveniences their earthbound bromance. Good Omens is more about friendship and fizzy banter than blasphemy, but the Jesus crispies still hated it—the best endorsement of all.

The Loudest Voice (Season 1 on Showtime): On the feel-bad flipside, there’s The Loudest Voice, the reality-based drama that explains the ’Merican entrenchment of Fox News and graphically details the misogynistic scumbaggery of its architect, Roger Ailes (a barely recognizable Russell Crowe). The bullshit cannon of cable news still entrances the deplorables, sadly; you can’t fix stupid, but you can understand it.

Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus (Movie on Netflix): Invader Zim, a 2001-2002 cartoon about a diminutive alien hell-bent on enslaving the Earth, remains one of the most bizarre and beloved series Nickelodeon ever produced. Even more unlikely than Zim airing in the first place was a revival, but here we are—obey the fist! Enter the Florpus delivers dementedly, and the last 15 minutes are the best drugs you’ll take all year.

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Summer’s not even over, and you’re already broke? Don’t worry—your big payout from those billionaires’ tax cuts will be trickling down any day now; many people on both sides are saying it’ll be tremendous.

In the meantime, you need some free TV—and I mean, as Our Lord Frank Zappa once said, absolutely free. None of these paid-subscription Netflix/Hulu/Prime Video/etc. shows that Content Shifter usually pushes on you while receiving no financial kickbacks. (Seriously, where are the damn kickbacks?)

Enter Pluto TV. It’s free, and it’s fantastic—but beware: There are commercials. (Sorry, Frank.) It’s a “live” streaming service with hundreds of “channels,” available through an app on streaming devices and smart TVs, or directly via Pluto.tv. It even does on-demand!

Here are 11 Pluto TV channels worth checking out:

Funny AF (Channel 423): Remember now-dead subscription comedy streamer Seeso? Funny AF is kinda like that—especially now that it’s picked up the “lost” Seeso season of cult hit Bajillion Dollar Propertie$ (premieres Aug. 5). Pluto TV’s comedy block (channels 411-445) also includes constant content from The Onion, Fail Army, and Internet Gold, as well as a Cats 24/7 channel (meow).

Comedy Central (Channel 411): The real gem in Pluto TV’s comic cluster is the Comedy Central channel, which runs marathons of canceled network classics like Another Period, Drawn Together, Ugly Americans and others that stream nowhere else (except, well, at ComedyCentral.com). Comedy Central Stand-Up (415) is also loaded with rare sets from comics you forgot once stood up, like John Oliver.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 (Channel 385): I’ve been a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan for 20 years, and I still haven’t seen every episode; this 24/7 loop of 1989-99 originals is just what Dr. Z ordered. Sure, MST3K eps are scattered all over YouTube and elsewhere, but … convenience! Also: the MST3K channel runs alongside an offshoot RiffTrax channel (389), so there’s no end to the snarky shit-movie torment/joy.

Pluto TV Movies (Channel 54): It’s not all terrible flicks: The Pluto TV movie channels section (54-98) is like stumbling into the last VHS shop on earth. There are dramas, comedies, indies, thrillers, documentaries and more from the ’40s through the ’00s, with a quality-to-crap ratio that bests Netflix. The ’80s Rewind channel (88) is especially rad, with obscurities like Joysticks leading into bona-fide hits like Heathers.

Cheddar News (Channel 266): As cool as an around-the-clock news network about sharp cheese would be, this ain’t that. Cheddar News, along with companion net Cheddar Business, is smartly-reported news aimed at the under-35 set—the opposite of dinosaur cable news. But Pluto TV also has a CNN feed, as well as The Young Turks (ultra-lefty news) and NewsMax (to the right of the right of Fox News).

Impact Wrestling (Channel 515): Pro wrestling is America’s only true sport; everything else is just fakery and product placement. The Impact channel is a loop of neo-classic rasslin’ matches, and the sports arena of Pluto TV also has MMA channels, a surfing channel, a smattering of soccer and even a couple of legit sports networks (Fox Sports and Eleven Sports). It’s all replays, but so what? Go sports!

MTV Guy Code (Channel 314): Lamenting the lack of music on MTV is so 20 years ago—me, I miss the cartoons. The MTV Guy Code channel runs blocks of ’90s icons Beavis and Butt-head (sans music videos), as well as hilarious 2000s near-cartoon Rob and Big. Other MTV channels on Pluto TV play old episodes of MTV Cribs, Punk’d, Made, My Super Sweet 16 and, sadly, The Hills and Laguna Beach.

Cold Case Files (Channel 346): Before all the true-crime podcasts you misguidedly listen to instead of my television/drinking podcast (TV Tan, shameless plug) came along, there was true-crime TV—with visuals and everything! The Cold Case Files channel runs alongside other murder-iffic feeds like Unsolved Mysteries and Forensic Files; the whole block should be rechristened White Ladies + Wine.

Anime All Day (Channel 680): No, I don’t “get” anime—is it nightmares in cartoon form? Motion-sickness soap operas? Coder porn? Fuck if I know, but I do realize that a whole lotta people looovvveee their anime. Anime All Day is an eternal binge of shows like Bleach, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Log Horizon, Grave of the Fireflies, Death Note and other potential metal-album titles. Feel free to troll me on Reddit.

Conspiracy (Channel 571): A 24/7 feed dedicated to conspiracy theories only seems crazy until you notice that Pluto TV has dedicated entire channels to Dog the Bounty Hunter (353) and Wahlburgers (358). Though Conspiracy never touches the top two coverups of our time (Pink Floyd never landed on the dark side of the moon; 7-Eleven was an inside job), there’s still plenty here to ponder.

THC (Channel 591): No, it’s not The Homemaker Channel—THC is all about weed, all the time (or maybe it just seems like it ... what were we talking about?). This ceaseless stoner stream has the usual suspects (Cheech and Chong movies, cartoons, mucho Doug Benson) and a few surprises (like Dope State, a hilarious mockumentary about the pot-shop biz), and it’s all like … super-chill.

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Surprise: 2019 is halfway over. Another six months of your life have slipped by, and you were doing … what? Spending time with loved ones? Participating in humanitarian efforts? Pursuing higher education and enlightenment? Hey, no judgment here … hippies.

I know what you weren’t doing: watching enough TV. All that content isn’t going to consume itself—at least not until I launch my own premium streaming service, FrostyVision. For the low price of $6.66 a month, you’ll have access to the latest TV series and movies—but only for a week. Then, the shows self-delete forever, and a new batch appears for another seven days: Rinse, repeat, no more catch-up guilt. Just tell your friends, “Sorry, but Ozark is, like, gone—thanks, FrostyVision!”

In the meantime, here are seven of the best streaming series you’ve missed so far in 2019.

Doom Patrol (Season 1 on DC Universe): You’ll never to subscribe to the DC Universe streaming service. I get it—so I’m urging you to sign up for the seven-day free trial, binge Doom Patrol, and bail. This twisted tale of misfit “superheroes” is more talk than fight, more emotion than logic, and Robotman (Brendan Fraser) regularly asking, “What the fuck?!” for all of us. It’s welcome anarchy in corporate-comics times.

Fleabag (Seasons 1-2 on Prime Video): As “Fleabag,” show creator/star Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a horny, angsty, directionless Londoner who narrates her hilariously tragic mess of life directly to the camera, almost daring you to look away. Which is impossible—she’s as magnetic as she is luckless. Fleabag’s 12 brief episodes careen like an all-night bender, finally wrapping up perfectly (and hangover-free).

Russian Doll (Season 1 on Netflix): On the night of her 36th birthday, brassy New Yorker Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) dies, reappears at her party, dies again (differently), reappears, dies (differently again), reappears, etc. Despite the perpetual story reset, Russian Doll surprises at every turn, propelled by Lyonne’s dizzied-to-dogged performance, and the story’s subtle time-loop clues. It’s Happier Death Day.

Good Omens (Season 1 on Prime Video): The unlikely bromance between angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and demon Crowley (David Tennant) is interrupted by the coming of the Antichrist and Armageddon—rude. Good Omens is clever, breezy fun in the face of impending doom, not to mention Tennant’s most triumphantly ridiculous performance ever (sorry, Doctor Who). Bonus: Christian groups were appalled.

PEN15 (Season 1 on Hulu): Thirtysomething actresses Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle play their early-2000s selves alongside actual 13-year-olds so that we may all relive middle school … thanks? PEN15—yes, the title is the joke you think it is—is at first silly AF, then Erskine and Konkle blend into the characters, and the pain becomes as pronounced as the laughs. Anybody remember AOL Instant Messenger?

The Umbrella Academy (Season 1 on Netflix): If Doom Patrol is the absinthe-soaked, steam-punk cousin of Marvel’s mutant teams, then The Umbrella Academy is Wes Anderson’s X-Men. Seven super-powered kids born on the same day in 1989 are raised to be heroes at the Umbrella Academy … then they grow up and waaay apart. We’re-dysfunctional-but-hot histrionics aside, TUA is a cinematography nerd’s dream.

Weird City (Season 1 on YouTube Premium): Jordan Peele produced a star-heavy sci-fi anthology series before his Twilight Zone reboot—but no one saw it because, hey, YouTube Premium. Weird City divides society literally into Haves and Have Nots, spinning six comic, Black Mirror-lite yarns about the still-flawed class delineations and tech of “the future.” Best of all, Weird City has a gym called ShapeCult.

Published in TV

There was a time when nothing was available “on demand” unless you dragged your ass to Blockbuster Video—and then you had to settle for what wasn’t already rented out. I’m talking about the ’90s—the glorious age of grunge, G-funk and godawful TV action series.

“New content” rolled out over rabbit-ears TV in the summer. Local stations were flooded with low-budget syndicated action series every weekend, and few of them pass the smell test in 2019. If we’re currently in the Platinum Age of TV, the ’90s were Tin Foil, at best.

Here are nine ’90s action series worth a stream and a laugh—but good luck making it past the first episode of most. As with a six-pack of Zima, there’s no shame in tapping out after one.

V.I.P. (Season 1 on Sony Crackle): In 1998, Pamela Anderson’s V.I.P. satirized the inherent misogyny and T&A exploitation of previous action series—while also amping and camping up the T&A, because, Pamela Anderson. Vallery Irons Protection (V.I.P.) provides celebrity security and solid one-liners, and the pilot features future Breaking Bad award magnets Bryan Cranston and Dean Norris. Seriously.

Acapulco H.E.A.T. (Season 1-2 on Prime Video): It’s downhill from here, though: Acapulco H.E.A.T. (Hemisphere Emergency Action Team) could be the dumbest series ever created—and they made 48 episodes! The H.E.A.T. fights international terrorism while undercover as fashion models at an Acapulco resort hotel owned by … Fabio. How do you carry a gun in a bikini or banana hammock? Please stop thinking so hard.

Renegade (Seasons 1-5 on Prime Video and Hulu): Framed for a murder he didn’t commit (as usual), ex-Army Ranger Reno Raines (Lorenzo Lamas) and his lush mullet hit the road on a Harley. He then skids into a gig as a bounty hunter in the “badlands” (as pronounced in the dad-rockin’ theme song) and five seasons of this shit. At least Renegade inspired Mac’s sweet leather duster on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

La Femme Nikita (Seasons 1-5 on YouTube): Critically acclaimed and Canadian-awarded 1997-2001 TV adaptation La Femme Nikita is a mostly action-free “action” series about assassins who operate out of an IKEA-furnished shadow government HQ. Nikita (Peta Wilson) stares through blonde bangs and emotes icily about “moral conflict,” and LFM eventually earns its hype through slow-slow-slow-burn arcs.

Queen of Swords (Season 1 on YouTube): Number nerds believe the first “0” year of a new decade actually belongs to the previous one—therefore Queen of Swords, which debuted in 2000, is part of the ’90s. If you think that’s a stretch, how about a copyright-baiting female Zorro? Star Tessie Santiago made it work. QoS balanced fizzy fun and swashbuckling sexiness, but missed the ’90s action boat. Triste.

The Crow: Stairway to Heaven (Season 1 on YouTube): The Crow (1994) was a meh film that worked better as an alt-grunge soundtrack vehicle. In 1998, Canada created a Crow TV series with a lesser music budget—that’s like poutine without the gravy, hosers. Star Marc Dacascos did what he could with dead rocker/avenging angel Eric Draven, but The Crow was already played out (as proven in three inexplicable movie sequels).

Relic Hunter (Seasons 1-3 on Roku Channel): Like a Raiders of the Lost Ark without the Spielberg cash, or a Tomb Raider without Angelina Jolie’s balloon lips, 1999’s Relic Hunter rides the international artifact-wrangler trope with minimal brain strain. Tia Carrere plays a prim university professor who’s ready to strip down to a tank top and cargo pants and track trinkets at a moment’s notice. RH is almost … educational?

Highlander: The Series (Seasons 1-6 on Prime Video, Hulu and Tubi): After two Highlander movies, Adrian Paul took on the role of immortal ponytail enthusiast Duncan MacLeod (“of the Clan MacLeod!”) in a TV series that lasted six seasons, 119 episodes, and countless mom-jeans jokes. Highlander: The Series bests the film franchise, thanks to deeper storylines and the absence of Christopher Lambert—there can be (wait for it) only one.

Sheena (Seasons 1-2 on Sony Crackle): Former Baywatch star Gena Lee Nolin was looking for smarter roles in the late ’90s—but instead, she wound up starring in Sheena. Sheena (Nolin) was orphaned in the jungle as a child, but now protects the African wilderness with salon-perfect hair and a hand towel passing as a battle dress. Oh, and she can turn invisible, or into an animal. Spoiler: Everyone is white.

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Fictional “historical” characters are celebrated over several U.S. holidays—Christmas, Easter, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Presidents Day, etc. Meanwhile, the very real creators of life, moms, receive only one annual nod: Mother’s Day, this year taking place on Sunday, May 12.

Fortunately, there’s television, the great equalizer. TV is where moms get their proper due, much more so than in movies. (The best-ever film about “motherhood” is 1983’s Mr. Mom—let that patriarchal shit sink in.)

Here are seven streaming TV series that showcase wildly different mothers at their best, worst and straight-up weirdest. And no, forwarding this article to your mom’s Hotmail doesn’t count as a Mother’s Day gift.

Better Things (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): Is Pamela Adlon’s Better Things a comedy or a drama? Yes. Adlon herself simply says it’s an “incredible feelings show,” which fits like a fresh pair of Spanx. It’s also about motherhood; Better Things will make you laugh, cry and scream along with single mom Sam (Adlon) and her three daughters, the most complex kids on TV. Above all, Better Things is capital-A Art.

Workin’ Moms (Season 1 on Netflix): Like Schitt’s Creek and Letterkenny, dark-com Workin’ Moms is covertly Canadian. The struggles of these Toronto mothers (including It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Catherine Reitman, Workin’ Moms’ creator), unfortunately, are universal: post-partum depression, workplace sexism, inconvenient lactation and everything else men deny. Too real, but still funny.

Jane the Virgin (Seasons 1-4 on Netflix): In this gringo-ized 2014-2019 CW telenovela, engaged 23-year-old virgin Jane (Gina Rodriguez) is inadvertently inseminated with a sperm sample meant for another patient—and even worse, the sample is from her handsome boss crush! Jane the Virgin is ridiculous, fizzy fun that detours into The Feels seamlessly. Best of all, Christian groups lost their shit over Jane before it even aired.

Odd Mom Out (Seasons 1-3 on Vudu): Momzillas author Jill Kargman stars as a manically exaggerated version of herself in this 2015-2017 comedy about uber-rich Manhattan mothers—the smartest series Bravo ever produced. Naturally, Odd Mom Out was canceled to make room for more Real Housewives dreck, but at least Kargman and scene-stealing Abby Elliott cranked out 30 near-perfect episodes.

I’m Sorry (Season 1 on Netflix): Andrea Savage’s all-about-me comedy doesn’t care to differentiate itself from other Comics Play Themselves half-hours—it’s all about the jokes. I’m Sorry, referring to mom/comedy writer “Andrea’s” tendency to say the most hilariously wrong things, is a white-wine spritzer of a sitcom: not too heavy, not too sweet, nice buzz. MVP: Bemused “husband” Tom Everett Scott.

Good Girls (Season 1 on Hulu and Netflix): Three straight-arrow suburban moms (Christina Hendricks, Retta and Mae Whitman) turn to robbery to pay the bills—and, more importantly, score some thrills. Soon, they’re in too deep (in every sense) with a local money launderer, and the crimes and bodies start piling up. Good Girls plays like Breaking Bad meets, well, Workin’ Moms, but the dead-solid cast sells it perfectly.

SMILF (Season 1 on Vudu): The “S” in SMILF stands for “Single”; you probably know the rest. Twentysomething mom Bridgette (Frankie Shaw) juggles parenting, an acting career and relationships in Los Angeles. Alongside the mom stuff, SMILF indulges in all kinds of raw sex and drugs (it’s a Showtime series, after all), but “Bridge” remains a fiercely devoted parent who’ll gladly discuss her vagina.

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I’m a Spotify Premium subscriber, because I don’t want ads interrupting my stream of the 16 new Oh Sees albums released last week. Thanks to my exorbitant Coachella Valley Independent salary, it’s a small luxury I can easily afford. Please clap.

In March, Spotify added another perk to Premium membership: a free Hulu subscription. Sure, it’s the basic ad-supported version of Hulu, but so what? There’s plenty of cool shit on the streaming service, including every Seinfeld ever (spoiler—it doesn’t hold up) and mucho-buzzed-about originals like The Handmaid’s Tale (the feel-good hit of the Trumpy the Clown era).

Here are eight more lesser-hyped original Hulu series that you may or may not be aware of, so you can get the most out of your freebie sub. Also, after you spring for the Spotify Premium upgrade, give my band a listen—10 million more streams, and we’ll make enough in royalties to buy a case of PBR.

Shrill (Season 1 on Hulu): Saturday Night Live’s Aidy Bryant stars as Annie, an insecure, full-figured young woman toiling away at a Portland newspaper; the death of print is the least of her problems. Fed up with everyone trying to “fix” her, Annie decides to stop apologizing and just be herself—and the results are as human as they are funny. Shrill is short, sweet and one of the best comedies of 2019.

Hard Sun (Season 1 on Hulu): In British import Hard Sun, London detectives Hicks (Jim Sturgess) and Renko (Agyness Deyn) stumble upon government evidence that Earth will suffer a solar extinction event in five years—I know; I wish it were sooner, too. Despite the sci-fi twist, Hard Sun is a gritty Brit cop drama (it’s from Luther creator Neil Cross) that’s deeper than it seems. And waaay violent.

Future Man (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): An average janitor (Josh Hutcherson) who’s an above-average video-gamer is recruited by future warriors to save the world—turns out the game he just beat was a recruitment tool. (Rejoice, e-nerds.) Imagine Back to the Future if Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (the producers of Future Man) applied their sick, stoned imaginations to it, or Ready Player One if it didn’t suck.

Deadbeat (Seasons 1-3 on Hulu): Deadbeat (upper right) is an old, old, old-school Hulu original: It debuted all the way back on 2014! Tyler Labine stars as Pac, a slacker-slob medium who helps spirits move on … when he gets around to it. With the help of his drug-dealer Roofie (Brandon T. Jackson), Pac fucks with “fake” medium Camomile White (Cat Deeley); spooky hilarity ensues. Don’t think about it too hard.

Shut Eye (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): On the medium note: Charlie (Jeffrey Donovan) is a “fortune teller” conman desperate to escape Los Angeles’ gypsy mafia and start his own racket—but then his clairvoyant visions become real, inspiring him to give up the grifter life. Naturally, his mob boss (Isabella Rossellini) doesn’t see eye-to-third-eye with him. Odd that Shut Eye couldn’t predict its own cancellation. 

Difficult People (Seasons 1-3 on Hulu): What’s your tolerance level for Billy Eichner? You might reconsider after checking out Difficult People, wherein he and Julie Klausner play self-absorbed New Yorkers who hate everything and everyone but each other. The pair’s comic interplay sings like an off-Broadway production they’d adore, but wouldn’t cross town to see. DP MVP: James Urbaniak (The Venture Bros.).

The Hotwives (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): It seems impossible to parody The Real Housewives, the TV franchise that helps you understand an anti-American terrorist’s point of view. However! Hulu’s 2014-2015 series The Hotwives (of Orlando; later of Las Vegas) nailed it, thanks to a ridiculously funny cast (including Andrea Savage, Casey Wilson and Kristen Schaal), and a grand total of zero reality TV fucks given.

UnReal (Seasons 1-4 on Hulu): On the darker side of reality TV, UnReal (below) dramatizes the behind-the-scenes machinations of a Bachelor-style dating show, with only a few exaggerations (Drugs! Depression! Murder!) and one hard truth. (Reality shows are 110 percent bullshit). Showrunners Rachel (Shiri Appleby) and Quinn (Constance Zimmer) are as emotionally wrecked as they are ruthless, and UnReal is too real.

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Back in my day, comic-book stories stayed on comic-book pages. Yes, there were Batman movies—the best still being 1997’s Batman and Robin, naysayers be damned—but superheroes were mostly relegated to print. A live-action Hulk could fucking not be done.

I’m still right on that one, but the rest of the Marvel, DC and other comic-brand universes are now inescapable on all the screens all the time. TV has been more prolific and creative with its adaptations—Netflix (Marvel) and The CW (DC) in particular. But you already know about those, so they won’t be covered here.

Instead, here are 10 comics-based TV series ranging from, “Hey, I’ve heard of that!” to “Huh?” status to stream while you’re waiting for Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, and Aquaman v. Magic Mike: Dawn of Thrust-Us.

Deadly Class (Season 1 on Syfy.com and Syfy app): Based on the same-named Image Comics series, Deadly Class is an ‘80s-set action-snarker about a secret academy that trains good-looking teens to kill elegantly—“Harry Potter Assassin School” will do. Deadly Class is smart enough to go toe-to-knife-tipped-toe with Syfy cousin The Magicians, but with a gonzo-goth edge all its own and a killer Reagan-era soundtrack.

Blade: The Series (Season 1 on CW Seed): The original 1998 Blade was the first “real” Marvel movie, effectively wiping away the foul/fowl aftertaste of ’80s bomb Howard the Duck. To replace vampire hunter Wesley Snipes, 2006’s Blade: The Series cast Onyx rapper Sticky Fingaz and cranked out 13 solid-to-superb episodes before cancelation by Spike TV. Netflix’s gritty Daredevil and Luke Cage owe this Blade.

Painkiller Jane (Season 1 on Hoopla, Tubi and Roku Channel; pictured upper right): A ‘90s Event/Icon Comics title that became a 2005 TV movie and a 2007 Syfy series, Painkiller Jane (Kristanna Loken) is The Punisher and Wolverine wrapped into an Instagram model. She’s a vigilante crime-fighter with brutal combat skills and an indestructible body (though Jane can still feel pain). A forgotten series that’s soon to be a Marvel flick starring Jessica Chastain.

Black Scorpion (Season 1 on Prime Video): Moving backward, ridiculous 2001 Syfy series Black Scorpion, which was preceded by a couple of equally ridiculous movies in the ‘90s, was a TV show that later became a less-ridiculous comic book. The series, starring Michelle Lintel as barely-leather-clad vigilante Black Scorpion, is ‘60s Batman camp crossed with softcore fetish porn—kinky superhero cosplayers, take note.

Preacher (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): A disillusioned drunk of a small-town Texas preacher (Dominic Cooper and his gravity-defying hair) suddenly has the power to bend people’s will—so he sets out to find God with his trigger-happy ex, Tulip (Ruth Negga), and Irish vampire bud Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) in tow. The Vertigo comic Preacher is fantastically, mind-fuckingly weird; TV Preacher doesn’t disappoint.

Lucifer (Seasons 1-3 on Netflix): Another hell-larious Vertigo import, Fox-to-Netflix series Lucifer follows the exploits of a “retired” Devil (Tom Ellis) opening a Los Angeles nightclub and helping local police solve crimes—it helps if you don’t think about it too hard. Despite its cop-show trappings, Lucifer mixes devilish comedy and heavy drama seamlessly, and Ellis plays the best Satan since South Park.

Mutant X (Seasons 1-3 on Roku Channel): A year after X-Men cracked the superhero code in 2000, Marvel and Canada produced a blatant rip-off, er, “unrelated property,” syndicated TV series Mutant X. Super-powered beings who look great in leather—what’s the deal with all the leather, anyway?—fight evil and search for fellow mutants while avoiding government capture and 20th Century Fox lawsuits.

The Gifted (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): A better, and more legal, TV take on X-Men arrived in 2017 with Fox’s The Gifted, which focuses on younger mutants struggling to control their powers and a normie society that’s determined to snuff them out. The Gifted only dabbles in action and flash, focusing more on characters like Polaris (Emma Dumont) who get little play in the X-Men screen universe.

Legion (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu) Showrunner Noah Hawley (Fargo, the TV version) took an already-surreal Marvel Comics X-Men series about the psychologically-damaged mutant son of Charles Xavier (Dan Stevens) and turned it into a Pink Floyd acid trip of a TV show. Yet somehow, it’s the most intimate and heartbreaking corner of X-World. Legion is the ultimate cure for superhero burnout.

Night Man (Seasons 1-2 on Roku Channel, pictured below): No, not the enemy of the Dayman from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia; this Night Man is a Malibu Comics character who got his own TV series that lasted for two stoopid years in the ‘90s. Jazz saxophonist Johnny Domino (Matt McColm) is struck by lightning and suddenly has the power to “hear” evil—like Daredevil, but with shitty musical taste. So bad it’s … still bad.

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