Itt doesn’t always pay to believe the hype, as the best new shows of August 2022 illustrate. With the exception of Netflix’s enchanting Sandman adaptation (more about that below), the month’s buzziest premieres didn’t do a whole lot for me. Game of Thrones Prequel House of the Dragon? It’s fine! Amazon’s A League of Their Own reboot? Although well-meaning, it is too drab. FX’s The patientThe psychological thriller “The Other Side” was produced by Domhnall and Steve Carell in collaboration with the writers-producers of It Americans? Beautifully performed, but the themes never seem to come together. Hulu’s Tyson docudrama Mike? Yikes.
There were plenty of other TV channels available, which is a good thing. Late summer calls for some light viewing, and I found that character-driven comedy and romance—plus a darkly funny crime drama about four sisters pushed to their limit by an obnoxious brother-in-law—hit the spot. More recommendations are available here. These are some of my top shows in the first half year.
Bad Sisters (Apple TV+)
They call him the Prick, and that’s putting it nicely. John Paul “JP” Williams (Claes Bang, fresh off The Northman() is an objectively awful person. He throws elbows at work, pokes at family members’ psychic wounds, spies on people for blackmail purposes. He’s racist, homophobic, virulently misogynistic—you name it, he hates it. “I think they dipped him in vinegar before they handed him over” at birth, his elderly mother muses. Grace, Grace’s wife is more affected by his acidic temperament than he.Sexual Education’s Anne-Marie Duff), a meek woman who absorbs constant physical and emotional abuse in the name of love. Mammy is his revolting nickname for her.
Lucky for Grace, she has four fiercely devoted—and seriously charming—Irish sisters who’d go to great lengths to liberate her. Even fantasize about him being killed. So, when JP perishes under bizarre circumstances and his death is nonetheless ruled an accident, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to wonder if they might secretly be responsible. Bad SistersThe new Apple TV+ Drama, “Blood,” is a hilarious, heartfelt, and poignant Apple TV+ comedy. Catastrophe Sharon Horgan is an alumnus who takes her time to recount what actually happened. [Read the full review.]
All I know About Love (Peacock)
I can’t believe I still have the capacity to be charmed by a show about young women seeking love and success in a big, glamorous city, but here we are. From Dolly Alderton’s memoir, the show was adapted and created by her. All I know About Love Follow 24-year-old Maggie, a romantic-obsessed party girl who dreams of being a writer. Birdy, her shy childhood friend, is great; and the two friends from university, Amara and Nell, as they try to become adulthood by moving into a London home share.
While the setup is generic, the show comes into its own through specifics grounded in Alderton’s real-life experiences. The year is 2012—as Groupon deals at bars, parents who marvel over the magic of Siri, and the low-stakes interpersonal drama of pre-Brexit, pre-COVID, pre-Trump youth underscore. Maggie falls for a painfully cool musician, Street (Connor Finch), and convinces herself she’s OK with their casual arrangement… until Birdy winds up on a date with Street’s square roommate Nathan (Ryan Bown) and their instant connection yields a sincere, committed relationship that robs Maggie of her constant companion. It’s all I want. All I Know spent more time fleshing out story lines for Maggie and Birdy’s roommates. Appleton & Powley, mutually loving friends, are irresistible. The escapist delights of 20-something living a decade ago makes for the perfect vacation from the harsh reality of 2022.
When refugees and undocumented immigrants appear on television, it’s usually in the context of a somber epic or crusading documentary. But Mohammed “Mo” Amer is a stand-up comedian whose Palestinian-refugee family fled to the U.S. from their adoptive home of Kuwait during the Gulf War, so it makes sense that his semi-autobiographical series Mo This article focuses on the daily realities and challenges of a refugee who has not been granted asylum for more than 20 years. While Amer’s alter ego Mo Najjar waits in Houston, along with his homesick mother Yusra (Farah Bsieso) and nebbishy younger brother Sameer (Omar Elba), he takes on the kind of gigs that are open to non-citizens: DJing at a strip club, selling fake Rolexes out of the trunk of his car, picking olives on a farm that reminds him of his childhood half a world away. There are culture clashes, not just between the Najjars and an American borderland that can be hostile to outsiders, but also between the family’s Islamic traditions and those of Mo’s Mexican-American Catholic girlfriend, Maria (Teresa Ruiz).
Fans of Hulu’s Ramy Amer, the show’s creator and star Ramy Yassef, will be familiar to viewers. Mo. A slice-of-life series focused on a particular variety of Muslim-American experience, it’s similar in tone to Youssef’s personal project—very funny except for when it’s sincerely, unapologetically dead serious. While Mo’s mourning of a father who stayed behind in the Middle East and his family’s yearning for a home to which they cannot return give the story emotional stakes, the humor that suffuses each episode is a reminder that refugees are, despite all they’ve endured in the name of survival, regular people.
The Sandman (Netflix)
The 10-episode Sandman Series is finally here, thanks to a 2019 agreement that brought the property onto Netflix. The deal was shepherded and managed by Neil Gaiman and David S. Goyer, executive producers.Foundation), and showrunner Allan Heinberg (Wonder Woman). The show is worth waiting for, even though it won’t please all segments of the vocal fandom who have spent years in anticipation. This is one of the most outstanding small-screen adaptations of comics. It has strong casting, great writing, and a thoughtful, digital-effects-oriented production design. [Read the full review.]
This Fool (Hulu)
It can be a dismissal, a joke, or a term of grudging endearment, but regardless of context, the phrase “this fool” always connotes a certain intimacy. It is the ideal title for this comedy about mismatched cousins. Julio Lopez, creator Chris Estrada, is 30 years old and is a stable, but directionless person. He lives in South Central L.A. with Maggie Ortiz, his ex-girlfriend. When his cousin Luis (Frankie Quinones), a bully Julio, is released from prison and moves in with him, his life becomes more complicated.
Estrada isn’t reinventing the genre with This FoolThis sitcom is a comedy about a couple that brings back the days before half-hours of dramedy. But the characters are great—assertive Maggie and Julio’s anti-Establishment boss, played by the wonderful Michael Imperioli, even more so than the two leads. Physical humor is spot on. And the show’s grounding in a neighborhood and a culture, with dialogue shifting fluidly between English and Spanish, keeps it from ever feeling like something we’ve seen before. I was hooked by episode 2, which has Luis trying to round up some old cohorts for a showdown with his pre-prison nemesis, only to find they’ve all sold out, died, gotten married, or acquired too many physical ailments to fight.
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