Television: Teacher! Mother! Secret Lover!

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During this elongated shut-in season, advice on good television shows has become as valuable as stock tips, or insights into the best public elementary schools to send a rising kindergartener.  

Recycling past favorites is one strategy.  Re-watching decades-old The Simpsons episodes – the title of this article comes from “Treehouse of Horror V” – is a fine palette cleanser before, during, or after any stay-at-home activity. If you’re sufficiently bored, over the age of 50, feeling nostalgic, and in need of a politically-correct group to laugh at, cozying up to The Beverly Hillbillies, which aired its finale in 1971, could be just the ticket. Bookend that with newcomer Ramy – a Portnoy’s Complaint-style sitcom featuring a Muslim instead of a Jew. 

Better yet are these fine series:

Criminal Minds.  With 15 seasons on offer, this procedural provides the ease of near-mindless spectating as a parade of wicked humans are ultimately laid low by a squad of Federal Bureau of Investigation profilers. It’s reliable comfort food, if you take comfort in believing that loner-style evil is afoot, but will always be tripped up by reliable, eccentric, fundamentally flawed, lovable G-Wo/Men (Netflix).

Murder on Middle Beach.  Madison Hamburg’s quest to solve his mother’s murder while discovering who she really was is made especially watchable by the young filmmaker’s steadily increasing skills with his craft. You’ll end up rooting for Hamburg as a son, member of an oddball family, and talented documentarian (HBO).

Rick and Morty.  The cartoon adventures of a couple of wild and crazy guys in space. Featuring awesome animation, richly complex sciency storylines, and laugh-out-loud humor, this series is like a delicious chicken mole. If the chicken lived on the planet Gargantua and ate explosive neon worms that, once through the digestive system, turned into multi-headed peacocks. Which Rick then ate. With a delicious mole. “The Old Man and the Seat” is a strangely touching ode to friendship, and the need for privacy while pooping (Hulu).

Tarantula. This animated series follows Echo Johnson, a tattoo artist at the Tierra Chula Resident Hotel, known as the Tarantula, located in Los Palicios, California. Like The Office, the show’s magic is in creating a posse of credible characters, mostly amiable losers, each with a compelling backstory, that forge wobbly relationships with one another. It’s only one season, which is a bit of a bittersweet bummer, a feeling fully in keeping with Tarantula’s tone (Hulu).

Valley of Tears.  Though not as flavorful as Fauda, this Israeli series ably captures the tension and terror caused by the unexpected though completely predictable 1973 Yom Kippur War. It follows a group of soldiers – and one aging hipster dad – as they stumble through and eventually largely triumph over Syrian forces. A dash of Sephardic-Ashkenazi conflict is thrown in, which helps humanize both sides of the battling forces.  A must watch in Hebrew with subtitles, as the dubbing is atrocious (HBO Max).

The Wilds. Nine teenage girls – a veritable jury of peers – trapped on a desert island, each with a powerful past lurking just below their generally acne-free skin.  To paraphrase one of them, the drama isn’t so much what happens on the island – though there’s plenty of that – as the baggage the girls bring to it. A strong cast of newbies and keenly crafted portrayal of authentic issues facing girls on the cusp of becoming women overcome the cringy plot device in which the entire enterprise is wrapped (Amazon Prime).