Screen diversions: no reading required

Are you excited to wake up every morning and hear the news? Do you believe all is right with the world, everything is on track, and we are all one big happy family?

[Rhetorical questions.]

As an antidote, I thought I’d share some entertainment. No politics, musing about the world of book publishing, or existential crises. Just five shows* I’ve enjoyed recently.

Of course, many have messages or ideas about the world woven into their stories. But the truth buried in fiction often moves us more—and makes us think more deeply—than the reality in front of our noses.

Happy viewing.

*We can’t really call them “TV” shows any more, because they’re often not viewed on TVs.

High times with Kathy Bates

Disjointed” is billed as a “workplace comedy.” Part of the comedy is that the workplace is a pot dispensary. Netflix must have had this waiting in the wings since California voted in 2016 to legalize marijuana. I happened to watch parts 1 and 2 in early January, 2018 just after the law took effect.

This show might be a little over the top for some (the animated sequences are pretty trippy and probably look even better when you’re watching in a, shall we say, altered state) but it has a great heart. And with Kathy Bates as the star, it’s hard to go wrong, although I was surprised to see the number of thumbs-downs on the YouTube views.

Look into your future

I first heard about “Black Mirror” when I heard its creator, Charlie Brooker, interviewed a couple of years ago. It sounded exactly like something I’d enjoy: dark, near-future, dystopian. It’s an anthology series, so episodes aren’t connected, but each is a pretty stark commentary on the state of the world. It’s probably the least escapist of all the shows listed here. If you haven’t yet seen it, I would suggest NOT starting with the first episode of Season 1, unless you have a very strong stomach. This Netflix ad for the series is a little cerebral but probably gives a better idea of the show than some of the trailers. And I thought was fun to have Michael Kelly from “House of Cards” intoning about “Black Mirror.”

Look into a slightly different future

Another dark, futuristic show, Mr. Robot stars Rami Malek as a computer security engineer turned hacker, complete with government conspiracy and paranoia. Maybe a bit too close to reality, but entertaining nonetheless.

A funny, dysfunctional family

On the surface, the family in “Transparent,” whose father comes out as transgender in his seventies, and whose three adult children do some gender-bending of their own, seems not to have much in common with the nuclear families that formed the cultural touchstone of our media consumption starting in the 1950s. But keen writing makes these characters accessible to a wide range of viewers.

More funny dysfunction

Catastrophe” is just your typical boy-meets-girl comedy… if by typical you mean that an accidental pregnancy leads to love and more between an American man and an Irish woman living in London. As with the other comedies I enjoy, there’s a great balance of humor and poignancy.

A teachable moment for novelists

White Collar” is a crime drama that has a lot to teach aspiring writers about making their characters care deeply about something… and striving through seven seasons to get it. If you want a tutorial in how to intertwine character and plot, you could do a lot worse than follow the exploits of the white collar criminal played by Matt Bomer and the FBI agent (Tim DeKay) who recruits him to help solve crimes.

What worlds do you escape into when this one becomes too much?  And what do your escapes teach you about dealing with reality? 


11 thoughts on “Screen diversions: no reading required

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  1. Hello! I’m four months behind! For escape I like Sci Fi (currently The Expanse and West World), and can I admit this? I’ve watched all of Game of Thrones. The trick is to take a bathroom break while the gross things happen. Fights last about ten minutes, long enough to walk around, get a drink. For humor: Frankie and Grace, Silicon Valley. Thanks for the recommendations. Things haven’t improved in four months, so we’ll need distractions.


    1. Frankie and Grace is great for humor. I’ve got West World in the queue after Homeland. Which hits a bit too close to home, no pun intended, but is really well done and pretty gripping.


  2. I love going somewhere where things work out and i can laugh. Right now I’m watching H2O about mermaids. It’s cute and fun and gives me a break from things.


  3. I’ve watched most of the Black Mirror episodes except for some in the latest season. Normally I don’t watch that type of show, but my 17-year-old son insisted on it. 😄 I watched a season of Mr. Robot–not sure why I stopped–and I watched White Collar to the end.

    My go-to for laughs is Life in Pieces (of which season one is on Netflix; otherwise it’s a CBS show) and Grace and Frankie on Netflix. They give me great escape. I loved Mindhunter too, but that’s dark and heavy. And I’m currently watching the sixth season of Homeland. I love that show.


  4. Thank you for the recommendations. I am just getting over the flu so watching a lot of shows and needed some new ones. I just watched Black Mirror – some of the episodes are so good and thought-provoking!


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