Dan and Eugene Levy’s sweet small-town series has only gotten better with age, trading in early episodes that offered only a few chuckles with recent seasons that provide not only belly laughs but also more than a few tears. The final season hasn’t yet landed on Netflix in the US, where the majority of its fans seem to find it, but those of us who caught it on PopTV can assure you: the Rose family’s happy ending is everything you want it to be. When season six opens, David (Dan Levy) and Patrick (Noah Reid) are planning their wedding, Alexis (Annie Murphy) is planning her Galapagos getaway, Moira (Catherine O’Hara) is contemplating her next career move, and Johnny (Eugene Levy) and Stevie (Emily Hampshire) are moving up in the motel business. It’s startling to see the Rose family on top after so many down-on-their-luck seasons, but more importantly, they’re rich in love with all pretense gone after years spent in the plain but goofy town of Schitt’s Creek. And while it’s hard to accept a world where we’ll never hear Alexis say “Ew, David!” or hear Moira mispronounce basic words again, six great seasons of Schitt’s Creek will still be there for us to revisit again and again. (Valerie Ettenhofer)
The Last Dance
As a young basketball fan growing up in Cleveland, few sports stories were as vivid to me growing up as the story of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. I was only 6-years-old when Michael Jordan hit “The Shot” over Craig Ehlo of the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1989, but my teen years were spent watching that single replay over-and-over again, another reminder of my hometown’s cosmically ridiculous luck with professional sports. Yet, despite the fact that he was a sports villain of my childhood, Michael Jordan remains endlessly fascinating. Throughout his professional basketball career, he carried with him a competitive spirit that is unmatched and, as this 10-part ESPN Films docuseries explores, often a lot to deal with for his teammates. For this project, Jordan himself provided unprecedented access and plenty of GIFable moments, the result of which is perhaps the most nuanced and honest portrayal of those mid-90s Bulls teams that we’ll ever get. Director Jason Hehir and his team do a wonderful job of editing it all together into a captivating piece of documentary entertainment, uncovering new footage, and asking some difficult questions of their subject. Like Jordan himself, it’s a show that delivers when it’s needed the most. Which still hurts this Cleveland kid’s heart a little bit, every time they show that replay. (Neil Miller)
The Plot Against America
An adaptation of the 2004 novel by Philip Roth, HBO’s miniseries The Plot Against America is a clear-eyed vision of what the United States might have looked like had a fascist won the 1941 presidential election. We follow the Levins, a middle-class Jewish family from Newark, New Jersey, as the rise of Nazism at home and abroad tests their kinship and threatens to tear them apart.
Even with a formidable ensemble including the likes of Winona Ryder and John Turturro, the youth are the heart of this story, especially ten-year-old Philip Levin (Azhy Robertson). As his childhood is disrupted by a transformative moment in history, Philip faces a terrible and challenging reality in which he can manage only a fragmented understanding of what’s going on. His parents, Herman and Bess (Morgan Spector and Zoe Kazan, both phenomenal), grapple with the unimaginable: that their American identities, indisputable to them, are now at risk of being picked apart, and that their impressionable son Sandy (Caleb Malis) will slip beyond their control. With its prescient account of life distorted by fascism, the series offers an alternate reality that looks disconcertingly familiar. (Jenna Benchetrit)
What We Do in the Shadows
“I now go by the name of Daytona, JACKIE Daytona,” is how the greatest joke of season two of What We Do In The Shadows begins. As Matt Berry’s Laszlo flees from paying back a debt to a powerful vampire named Jim (played by Mark Hamill), he finds himself better suited to a slower, country-style way of life in rural Pennsylvania as a bartender with a mysterious past and an innocent affection for women’s volleyball. It’s brilliantly unexpected, which is the perfect descriptor for what this show has done in such a short amount of time. It’s effectively built upon what Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clements’ movie created to become something that’s arguably even better than its progenitor. But what makes the show truly unique is vamp Familiar Guillermo de la Cruz (Harvey Guillén), who acts as both audience surrogate and budding slayer of the Buffy variety due to the season one reveal that he’s part of the Van Helsing bloodline. It’s such a clever direction to take both the character and the show, proving that no one else is making vampire storytelling feel as fresh as this. (Jacob Trussell)
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist
There have been TV shows before that blend narrative storytelling with musical interludes — from Cop Rock to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend — but this bright, colorful, funny, romantic gem from creator Austin Winsberg has declared itself as something truly special in just one season. It’s been renewed for a second, thankfully, but even if it hadn’t, these first twelve episodes would stand as a beautifully crafted rollercoaster of emotions. Dance sequences choreographed wonderfully by Mandy Moore (not that one) range from the intimate to the epic, and the supporting cast is aces with the likes of Peter Gallagher, Mary Steenburgen, Alex Newell, and Skylar Astin, but the beating heart at the center of it all is spectacular Jane Levy. She’s shown stellar TV chops before (seek out Suburgatory!) and has made a name in genre films, but here she gets to show the gamut of emotions with a character you root for despite her refusal to always be likable. She’s real in her behaviors, reactions, and feelings even as she’s faced with the unreal “gift” of hearing people’s inner thoughts in the form of musical numbers. (Rob Hunter)
For more, check out the rest of our Mid-Year Report.
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