📺 What to Watch #3

'Friends' Alternatives, what's new and what's expiring, and a rant.

From agoodmovietowatch.com, this is Bilal.

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Happy Friday!

Sometimes it’s just too tempting to rewatch Friends.

A couple of nights ago I stayed up until 3 a.m. watching episodes I had already seen countless times. I love that sweet formula of a simple narrative and familiar characters that can be tapped into anytime. As everyone says, it’s also nice to turn off our brains for 20 minutes at a time.

I decided for this week’s issue that I would look for alternatives to the old sitcom classic. This is my quest to find the best simple movie and show with a comparable narrative mix that I had never heard of, preferably with a little more substance than Friends.

What I found were countless similar productions, most are not worth your time. But eventually, the pursuit led me to find something I didn’t expect.

Pride was the discovery of the week.



It’s 1984 and miners in England are on strike against Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s plans to close pits. Their cause has unlikely appeal for Mark Ashton, a human rights activists who decides to take a group of people who had joined an early Gay Pride parade in London to rural England to show support for the (often socially-conservative) miners.

You can see how things might go wrong, but in this case they didn’t. This heartwarming tale is based on a true story. An easy, funny, and relevant movie about the bond that oppression brings to the oppressed. Super earnest, too.📰 The Washington Post saidPride leaves the viewer in the satisfied throes of all of those emotions: happy and sad, buoyed and chastened, and wondering, finally, what the world might look like if solidarity really could be forever.”

📺 on Amazon Prime; 🍅 rating: 92%


Chewing Gum

A hilarious British sitcom about 24-year-old Tracey Gorden, a shop assistant living in a housing estate in London with unusual friends and an even more unusual family.

A bit messed up by a very religious upbringing, she navigates adulthood and trying to untangle herself from the unexciting life her neighbourhood offers (mainly by trying to lose her virginity).

Michaela Coel wrote and created the show and plays Tracey. Her expressive facial expressions and fantastic ability to convey her character make for an incredibly original show. Taking originality as a factor, this is possibly the best sitcom on Netflix right now.

📰  The Guardian praised the series for being “full of delicately observed moments.”

“Given that Michaela Coel's incredible timing, warmth and gift for physical comedy basically make her, in my eyes, the second coming of Lucille Ball, I feel she could carry it off whatever.”

📺 on Netflix everywhere; 🍅 rating: 100% (for seasons 1 and 2, seriously)

Readers’ picks

The 🎖 goes to Sunshine Cleaning, a comedy-drama that was added to Netflix recently. Its star-packed cast includes Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, and Alan Arkin.

On Amazon Prime, The Handmaiden gets the 🎖. It’s an amazing Korean movie, nothing short of a masterpiece. (I’m totally not biased because I lived there.) Try google “The Handmaiden Academy Awards.” You’ll find countless posts, including by yours truly, that argue that this movie has gotten far less recognition than it deserves.

New titles worth your time

  • On Netflix: we’re excited about the miniseries Maniac with Jonah Hill and Emma Stone. We can’t vouch for it because we haven’t seen it yet, but it has some promising elements. It’s directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, the man behind True Detective (Season 1, of course), Beasts of no Nation, Sin Nombre, etc. It’s out tomorrow.

  • On Amazon Prime: P.T. Anderson’s There Will Be Blood has been made available. It’s not the only classic going up, as on the other of the spectrum, What's Eating Gilbert Grape has also been made available. Junior Leonardo DiCaprio, junior Johnny Depp, what else can one ask for.

Great titles that will soon expire

  • Quick reminder: The Imitation Game, with Benedict Cumberbatch playing Alan Touring, is expiring Sept. 28 (in the U.S.).

  • On Amazon Prime: A farewell to some major classical films: American Psycho, Babel, Gone with the Wind, The Graduate, Mulholland Drive, V for Vendetta, Witness, and Angel Heart will all leave us on Sept. 30.

The weekly update

The big event this week was the Emmy Awards. Netflix tied with HBO for wins this year, for the first time ever. Reading about this “history-making” moment, I just had one thought: what did Netflix make this year that was really good?

The winners are: The Crown, Black Mirror, Seven Seconds (one of our favorites this year, review on the website), Godless, and Kid Gorgeous. That’s it, nothing exceptional. One question though, dear Emmy jurors, how could you miss Queer Eye?

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The weekly rant

How does a movie end up ranked as one of the five most popular in the world without it being a big-budget mainstream movie or being actually good? Algorithms. In the world of politics, we’re worried about news of Russian meddling and debate Facebook privacy policies and all that.

But we should also really worry about how it has twisted our cultural lives and what we consume as entertainment. Technology has done quite a few good things, like freeing us from CDs/DVDs, giving us streaming and helping us reduce our carbon footprint with newsletter subscriptions (ruh roh).

But it is also behind some terrible, terrible developments. Take the unfathomable popularity of Sierra Burgess is a Loser, for example. The story-line is not only ridiculous and formulaic, it’s cringe-worthy and actually veers on being offensive countless times.

I would never tell you about it, but the fact that this movie is currently in the top five most popular movies in the world (according to IMDb’s visitor stats) is just sad. All of this is because Netflix is putting it at the frontpage of a.) everyone aged 18 and under, b.) everyone who watched To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, and c.) everyone who isn’t part of target groups a. and b., because fuck it, why not?

That’s it for this week.

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The next edition will be in your inbox on Friday, Sept. 28.

Until then,