A Beginner’s Guide to a Grown Man’s Fantasy: “The Joys of Being a Couch Potato – Fall Edition”

by Justin Nearon

Nothing on November’s television schedule catching your eye? Not really a big sports fan? Forgotten how to read? Not to worry, I have something to help slog you through another dreary fall season. While you were outside frolicking amongst other half naked people during our balmiest summer in decades, inside there were some pretty good programs being broadcast on your boob tube.

Armed with a few trailers and the opinions of friends and critics that I respect, I’ve picked out four programs that I plan to binge watch over the next seven weeks while the November rains beat against my windows (Truth be told my Mom complained I was writing too much about sports, so I have decided to appeal to my core audience).

Sean Harris as Stephen Morton in SouthCliffe

SOUTHCLIFFE  (Click on titles to view trailers)

Original Channel: Channel 4 (UK)

Find it at: Netflix or Amazon

British television has an almost unhealthy fascination with grief and misery and this Channel Four series is chock full of both. Telling the story of a man (Sean Harris) who goes on a shooting rampage in his hometown is one thing, doing it in a non-linear fashion, that simultaneously shows the cause and effect of this heinous crime is another feat altogether.  Add that to the plethora of rich characters that tend to come out of any small town British drama, and you’re left with an award winning program.

It can be argued that Channel 4 and the BBC have oversaturated the market with these dark police procedurals, like Broadchurch, Luther or Happy Valley, but the fact that this is only an eight part miniseries, should make crawling back into that emotional hole of death and despair a little more bearable.

Maggie Gyllenhaal (right) as Nessa Stein in The Honourable Woman – BBC/Drama Republic

THE HONOURABLE WOMAN

Original Channel: BBC TWO

Find it at: Netflix or CBC

Did you like the idea of Homeland, only to be disappointed by the execution of the story?  Well, BBC Two’s The Honourable Woman might be everything that the aforementioned HBO show wasn’t.

To be fair, the first season of Homeland was fantastic, but unfortunately became victim of it’s own success.  It compromised the original script in an effort to keep it’s most popular character, Brody, alive through season one. As an eight part miniseries, The Honourable Woman won’t be shackled by the expectations of a second season, and can tell their story as it was originally intended.  The story being, a political spy thriller about a British woman trying to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace, while at the same time running her family’s arms business.

No-one does TV quite like the british and to pluck one of America’s better actresses, Maggie Gyllenhaal, to headline the production makes it even more intriguing.  “It’s about laying out aspects of the conflict, and asking the audience to think about it.” —Gyllenhaal

Ultimately, if this show scratches that Homeland itch, without actually having to sit through another episode of Homeland, then we are all winners.

The cast of “Survivor’s Remorse” – STARZ

SURVIVOR’S REMORSE

Original Channel: STARZ

Find it at: Still currently airing on STARZ

Lest you think I am a complete anglophile who likes to wallow in the misery of others, my next recommendation is an all american production that is as funny as some of my previous mentions are melancholy.

When Entourage closed up shop two years ago it left a big gap in the market that Survivor’s Remorse has finally filled. Following the life of a rising basketball star and his own entourage, this show is fresh, crisp, and has mastered the art of always leaving us wanting more—like only the best half hour programs can.

The show’s most endearing attribute is its ability to address serious subject matter while still making us laugh. With stories literally ripped out of the sports headlines, like racism and domestic violence, this show feels as current as anything else on television.

Clive Owen as Dr. John Thackery in “The Knick” – Cinemax

THE KNICK

Original Channel: CINEMAX

Find it at: CINEMAX

After that brief interlude of levity and happiness it is time to head back to the darkest recess of our minds, with the show I’m both eager and apprehensive to watch: The Knick.

Why the apprehension?  This is a story set around a cocaine addicted surgeon in a 1900 New York City hospital.  If you can imagine what surgery would have been like back then, devoid of  the knowledge and tools we possess today, one can see why some writers have called The Knick “the scariest show on television”.

On the flipside, the eagerness comes from a project so appealing that it lured Steven Soderbergh (“Ocean’s Eleven”, “Traffic”) out of retirement.  He not only directed and produced, but also shot and edited all ten episodes.  By all accounts the result has been something that is completely unique to anything on television today.  Throw in the great Clive Owen as your lead character, set against one of the most volatile times in New York City history (escalating racial tension) and you have must see TV.

Could I be completely wrong about the entertainment value of one if not all of these shows?  Quite possibly, but given the positive track record of everyone involved I’m not to worried about it.

Take off your rain boots, put on a comfy sweater and join me for a big ol’ cup of television.

Jesse Usher (left) and Ron Reacolee (right)  from “Survivor’s Remorse” – STARZ

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