The Hottest Screening Room In NYC Is Now Your Couch
With museums, movie theaters, Broadway shows, concert venues, and sports stadiums all closed in an attempt to stunt the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, the entertainment industry is facing some difficult decisions in the coming weeks. Already, tons of studios have begun postponing the release of their big tentpole movies, with the likes of No Time To Die moved until November, and Fast & Furious 9 delayed a whole year.
Some studios are poised to embrace streaming: Universal Pictures announced Monday that it would make movies that are currently in theatrical release available on-demand starting as early as Friday, including The Invisible Man, The Hunt and Emma. Others, like Disney, are not quite there yet—not when there's so much more money to be made post-crisis with blockbusters at movie theaters (although they were willing to bring Frozen 2 to Disney+ quicker than normal).
But with huge national chains like Regal Cinemas shutting down, one thing is very clear: we're all gonna be stuck in our apartments and homes for the foreseeable future, so we better start taking advantage of our bingewatching capabilities pronto.
First: Fast Company has a breakdown of how to try every major streaming platform for free if you aren't already a subscriber. And Decider has a guide to the most popular stream sharing apps if you want to be able to share with family and friends.
What We're Watching This Week
Now: what to watch??? Personally speaking, the last two weeks have raised my anxiety levels to Breaking Bad season four levels, so I have been seeking solace mostly in comedies, romcoms, animated shows, and classic films. As long as most of the city is under quarantine, we're going to publish one of these posts every week offering different viewing recommendations—at least partially based on what's playing in the background of my apartment. And we're starting with a pair of series involving America's favorite sport: baseball.
Are you feeling sad because sports have been cancelled? Are you especially sad that baseball season might not happen? And do you love the sound of poetically filthy language? Then I can't recommend Brockmire enough—the IFC comedy stars Hank Azaria as a washed up baseball announcer who is trying to make a comeback after an on-air meltdown. The first three seasons, which are all streaming on Hulu now, are a wonderful mix of inside baseball references, brilliantly inventive insults, and surprisingly touching storytelling which isn't afraid to shed locations and characters every season. It isn't the least bit sentimental, but it does turn into sincere look at alcoholism. And best of all, the fourth and final season premieres on Wednesday night, so you'll be able sync up with it soon enough. The final season may be the best of the entire series too, and perhaps the most unexpected final season of a comedy ever—without giving too much away, it ties into our present moment in a way that is eerily prescient, but more comforting than bleak.
Baseball: A Film By Ken Burns
If you're sad about baseball but maybe are looking for something a tad less profane, then you're in luck: Ken Burns announced that PBS is streaming his entire landmark 1994 docu-series Baseball for free now. It is as immersive as it is addictive, a window into America's history through the lens of its greatest sport. Go watch all 19 hours of the miniseries now, and learn why baseball still remains America's pastime.
On HBO: Avenue 5 & Curb Your Enthusiasm
Two recently-aired HBO series worth taking another look at: Avenue 5 and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Curb Your Enthusiasm is in the midst of a revitalized season—season nine, with its Fatwa! plot, made it seem like Larry David had lost his touch for relatable observational humor. It turns out it was just a matter of scope: whenever David keeps his comedic eye more grounded and focused on everyday annoyances—wobbly tables, seating positions, scone consistency—he still's got it. The whole "spite store" storyline has turned into one of the best ongoing plots in the show, and episode eight, "Elizabeth, Margaret and Larry," features an instant classic guest turn from Jon Hamm.
Avenue 5, Armando Iannucci's high-concept latest project, is a dark comedy set on an interplanetary cruise ship where things go very wrong very quickly. It actually may be more cynical than Veep (it's a little more on the wavelength of The Death Of Stalin), and a lot of people got turned off by the pilot, which spent far more time setting up the stakes than actually being funny. But around four or five episodes in, everything really started clicking and the tone finally made sense to me: this is a show about what happens when a bunch of spoiled, privileged people end up in a life-or-death scenario and all semblance of order begins to crumble. If you like your black humor extra black, you should definitely give it a try.
If you're looking for some brand new TV to pick up, there are a lot of new and returning shows either just out or about to come: after two years off-air, season three of Westworld premiered on Sunday night, adding Aaron Paul to an already excellent cast. Yes, the story still is far more complicated than it need be, but it is beautiful to watch, it's got a great sci-fi atmosphere, and who cares if it never quite makes any narrative sense.
Season two of My Brilliant Friend, based on Elena Ferrante's beloved books, came back on Monday, and it already appears to be an improvement on the first season.
David Simon's adaptation of Philip Roth's novel The Plot Against America also premiered this week; it's not an easy watch, but it is a masterful miniseries that is vital to today's political landscape.
Little Fires Everywhere also premiered this week, based on the hit 2017 novel by Celeste Ng, which is all about suburban malaise, as well as the class and racial dynamics in Shaker Heights, Ohio in the 1990s. It stars Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, and the first three episodes are out on Hulu now.
Also on Hulu now: the entire sci-fi series Devs, made by Ex-Machina and Annihilation's Alex Garland.
Check back next week for more streaming recommendations, including a deep dive into some beloved sitcoms. And listen to Ben Yakas discuss what to watch on WNYC's All of It with Alison Stewart: