As long as the city is on PAUSE, we're going to publish a guide every week offering different viewing recommendations. The first week, we recommended a few baseball-themed shows including Brockmire, along with some brand new series. We looked at some classic TV comedies that will have you singing odes to your night cheese (or just humming the Cheers theme song). Then we focused on some classic television dramas that are worth immersing yourself in. Last week, we recommend a pair of modern revisionist westerns, plus a propulsive new romcom. And this week, we look at two distinctly feminist new series and a few British comedies.
The biggest new release this week is FX on Hulu's Mrs. America (the first three episodes are now streaming on Hulu, with subsequent episodes coming once a week on Wednesdays), a miniseries about the legacy of the '70s feminist movement and the fight over the Equal Rights Amendment, which has some serious reflections of today's polarizing political landscape.
It's nominally centered around conservative anti-ERA reactionary Phyllis Schlafly, played by Cate Blanchett, but the show is filled with incredible performances of a range of '70s luminaries, including Uzo Aduba as Shirley Chisholm, the black congressional leader who became the first woman to run for president; Rose Byrne as Gloria Steinem; Tracey Ullman as author/activist Betty Friedan; and Margo Martindale as NY Congresswoman Bella Abzug. (Each of them get their own namesake episodes as well.)
Some have criticized the series for focusing on Schlafly and brushing over her racism, but as TIME's Judy Berman, who wrote a rave review of it, said, it's less about humanizing her than it is about "asking what happens when a Democratic movement with its own internal disagreements comes up against a big old fascist steamroller."
Netflix's new four-part miniseries Unorthodox is a heavy but immensely satisfying look into the insular ultra-Orthodox Satmar community, one that will linger with you for days afterwards. It's the story of 19-year-old Esty, played by Shira Haas, who escapes from her Williamsburg community to find a different life in Berlin. It's loosely based on Deborah Feldman's 2012 autobiography Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots—some of the storyline about her escape has been changed, but the details about the Satmars are exact and immersive, and made with such precision and detail that you'll be convinced you're really watching a Satmar community.
The story is told expressively through Esty's visual cues—while there's plenty of dialogue, she "speaks" in every scene with her physical presence and facial expressions, which convey a wide range of fear, puzzlement, rage, curiosity, amazement, compassion, and desire.
Haas, an Israeli actress, also appeared in another extraordinary, immersive series about the ultra-Orthodox, Shtisel, which is also streaming on Netflix. If you're looking for another intelligent and sensitive look at the that community, you'll be addicted quickly—it gives that world nuance and approached with empathy without ignoring any of the darker aspects.
Peep Show, Sex Education & Derry Girls
If you've worn yourself out rewatching the likes of Cheers, 30 Rock and Seinfeld and are looking for newer comedy series to dive into, here are a trilogy of semi-recent British comedies we heartily recommend. You can stream all nine seasons of cult fave Peep Show on Hulu and Amazon Prime; it was co-created by Jesse Armstrong, also one of the creators of Succession, which gives you an idea of just how smart and dark the show can be. But Peep Show has the added value of being piss-your-pants funny. In a lot of ways, it is the closest thing we have to a British Curb Your Enthusiasm, with the audience invited to see the viewpoint (literally—the cameras are often strapped to their heads) and hear narration from main characters Mark (David Mitchell) and Jez (Robert Webb), a.k.a. the "El Dude Brothers" (which, to be clear, is as pathetic a moniker as it sounds). It also includes tons of memorable side characters, most unforgettably Super Hans (Matt King), Alan Johnson (Paterson Joseph) and Sophie (Olivia Coleman).
If you prefer your comedy with a little less black humor, then I recommend you check out Sex Education, a sweetly raunchy show about unbelievably horny, sex-positive British teens, streaming on Netflix. Although it ostensibly takes place now, I would argue that it exists in a wonderful fantasy world where teens are mostly tolerant and accepting of each other and their sexual preferences, there is no racism, and everyone is recreating moments from John Hughes movies. Also, Gillian Anderson is sublime as a very progressive and stylish sex therapist.
And last but not least, Derry Girls is another sweet British comedy about teens. It's about a group of Catholic school girls (and one English cousin) growing up in Northern Ireland during the early '90s, coinciding with the end of The Troubles. It is frenetic and fast-paced, and you may need to put subtitles on to pick up on everything they're saying when you first start watching, but you'll quickly fall in love with teens and their exploits involving fake miracles, foreign exchange students, step aerobics and Take That concerts. (The secret start of the show may be Siobhán McSweeney as the sarcastic, living bullshit detector Sister Michael.)