Getting Covid, as you very well may know, sucks. But since my symptoms were on the more mild side of things, it was also very similar to having a flu. Which, you guessed it, meant yours truly spent a lot of the time resting on the couch watching TV.
So, that means I finally had the time to catch up on some of my favorite shows and one very great show I’d been meaning to give a solid chance to. Unsurprisingly, most of these shows were on HBO Max, which is our pick for the best streaming service.
And I was a little surprised by how much of some of those shows I had to watch. In my busied and distracted state, I started to forget that the last weeks have seen HBO Max drop at least one (if not two) episodes of some of its best shows every Thursday (and it had three of these shows at the same time).
But these shows are still just fantastic, whether you have Covid or not.
Our Flag Means Death (HBO Max)
Our Flag Means Death had been on my radar for quite some time. And how could it not? It features the always-great Taika Waititi as Blackbeard. That sentence alone is enough to get me to hit play.
Except, you know, when I did that, I found that episode 1 didn’t have Waititi. Instead, it focused on Stede Bonnet (played by Rhys Darby), a fancy English aristocrat who dreams of a pirates life so much that he abandons his family. The first episode isn’t bad by any stretch, but I just didn’t click with Stede as a character at first. This was before I had Covid.
So, when I was stuck on the couch trying to figure out what to watch, I thought it would be the perfect time to board Our Flag Means Death for another shot across the bow. And before I knew it, Blackbeard (who calls himself Edward) was on board and he and Stede were hitting it off nearly instantly.
Our Flag Means Death is so great, though, not just for Waititi and Darby’s chemistry, but the truly fantastic ensemble. Oluwande (Samson Kayo) is my favorite of the crew, as he’s a calm and caring teddy bear of a man who really wants the best for everyone. He’s also one of the few people on that boat who knows how to keep a level head. And when Oluwande makes a connection with Jim (Vico Ortiz), I was rooting for them hard.
When I was trying to find a show that would perfectly suit my exhaustion, I (mostly) wanted something that had low stakes. Something amusing that would make me feel things, but wouldn’t be too confusing. Our Flag Means Death hit that note perfectly, and now I can’t wait for news about Our Flag Means Death season 2 (HBO Max better renew it).
Hacks (HBO Max)
As I previously ranted, HBO Max’s Hacks is a show I couldn’t stop watching. The series, which stars Jean Smart as legendary Las Vegas comedian Deborah Vance, had a first season that had both a strong voice and an even stronger ensemble. Not only is Smart fantastic as a comedian who’s being pushed out of her slots (not the casino slots, but her performance gigs) for younger fare.
Her manager Jimmy (Paul W. Downs), though, has a solution: work with Ava (Hannah Einbinder), a promising comedy writer whose career was torpedoed by her own tweets. Ava and Deborah don’t get along at all, as a generational divide bigger than a Vegas casino stands in between them. Eventually, Ava and Deborah worked well together in season 1, as they got to know each other. But the season ended with Ava making a crucial mistake — telling the wrong people all the meanest things about her boss.
Season 2 begins with Ava trying to solve that problem, and I won’t spoil how it goes, but there’s a sequence of events that leaves everyone frustrated.
All the while, you’ve got a supporting cast full of their own dilemmas. Marcus (Carl Clemons-Hopkins), Deborah’s chief operating officer, is addicted to work and doesn’t have time for a relationship. Manager Jimmy? He’s got the assistant from hell in Kayla (Megan Stalter). And then, you’ve got Kaitlin Olson from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia playing Deborah’s daughter “DJ” (Deborah Jr.).
And lucky for me, Hacks season 2 was waiting for me when I got knocked down. Much like Our Flag Means Death, I watched Hacks because I wanted something with low stakes. It made me laugh and feel, as I rooted for Ava and Deborah to figure their issues out. Four episodes of Hacks season 2 have been released, and I only haven’t watched episode 4 because of the next show on this list.
Made For Love (HBO Max)
The word “farce” is thrown around a bit too much, and while I don’t think it strictly applies to this dark comedy that feels part-Black Mirror, one of my favorite things about Made For Love is how silly it is. The series, which just finished its second season, focuses on Hazel Green (Cristin Milioti), a woman who was tricked into having a chip implanted into her head by her husband, tech magnate Billy Gogol (Billy Magnussen).
While the character work is very good in Made For Love — especially when it comes to Hazel’s father Herbert (Ray Romano in a total chance of pace) who is “dating” a sex doll named Diane.
Season 2 of Made For Love was an utter charmer for me on the sofa because of the big techy twist they take. Watching at least half of the season (if not more), I was amazed by the new conceit Made For Love Introduced, which seemed to merge AI and metaverse ideas into one bonkers plot device.
But I put everything off last night, though, when I realized the season 2 finale was airing. I don’t want to spoil what happens with Hazel and her father in the final episodes, but I was emotionally glued to the series in a way I didn’t expect. And just like with Our Flag Means Death, I’m seriously hoping we get another season. The Made For Love season 2 finale ended on such a weird note that I can’t help but want more.
The other shows that kept my attention
Apple TV Plus’ new series The Essex Serpent is basically an excuse for me to watch Claire Danes and Tom Hiddleston, two actors who I’d gladly pay to read quarterly financial reports. It focuses on a widower from London (Danes) who is exploring reports of a beast attacking people in a small town. The local vicar (Hiddleston) actually tries to help, and they get along.
I’ve always been caught up on HBO Max’s Barry season 3, but I continue to be impressed by how the series surprises. A tech support call about a detonation device may have given me my biggest laugh during the last week.
HBO Max’s The Flight Attendant season 2 may have felt a little too-weird at times, but the comedy/mystery series found its footing in episode 6, “Brothers & Sisters.”
Apple TV Plus’ Shining Girls is a mysterious drama about trauma, as Elizabeth Moss plays a woman hunting down a serial killer who attacked her and left her reality in a constantly shifting state. It definitely shouldn’t be the kind of show you watch when you’re trying to relax. That said? Moss’ performance is constantly engaging and anchors the series for me.
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