Instant Picks of the Week 8/25/17
Gone are the days of scrolling mindlessly through your queue! No longer will you have to sift through the vastness of what’s coming to the instant viewing wastelands this month! Whether you’re looking for a stellar film or an exciting new show to binge, Instant Picks of the Week brings you the hottest releases in film and television on instant viewing platforms that we know you’ll love, or at the very least not despise.
DEAR WHITE PEOPLE (Netflix)
Netflix’s DEAR WHITE PEOPLE is a spinoff of Justin Simien’s 2014 satirical film of the same name. This time around, Simien serves as executive producer and writes and directs three of the 10 episodes. The series brings back the core characters of the film, and introduces quite a few new ones as well. It essentially picks up where the film left off, in the aftermath of a hideously insensitive blackface party on campus. This time, however, there is more time to explore the lives of every character and their relationships with each other. I would be lying if I said I didn’t frequently snap my fingers in agreement at this show, poetry reading style. As a black woman who has spent most of her life in predominantly white areas, I can say that this show captures the many facets of being black in the 21st century. Hell, Simien and I attended the same college, so do with that what you will. The ability to delve into uncomfortable territory is the show’s greatest strength, particularly in the way it tackles the tricky means of survival as a black person in America. Should you keep your mouth shut when someone makes a racist comment or should you speak out? Should you play up or tone down your blackness depending on who you’re speaking to? Keep the peace or disturb the peace? Ultimately it doesn’t try to show what the world should be like, but shows the world as it is. It reminds us that talking about race is ugly, and messy, and makes people of all colors uncomfortable. It’s a never ending question that doesn’t have an answer yet. Do you work the system or do you tear it down? Are you overreacting or “underreacting”? Getting hit in the face with these questions over and over again is both infuriating and exciting. And that is good TV. You can read the full review here. [Nadia Hayford]
THE GOOD PLACE (Netflix)
THE GOOD PLACE is the new single-camera comedy from PARKS AND RECREATION co-creator Michael Schur. It’s a “big mystery” show, but also a situational comedy. It’s got a “likably” unlikeable protagonist in Kristen Bell’s con artist Eleanor and a big weird world to explore. It’s messy and sort of all over the place, but it’s proven to be one of NBC’s scant calling cards. The Good Place in THE GOOD PLACE is a sort of secular afterlife: a utopian world divided into a variety of “neighborhoods,” in which only the best of the best from life on Earth are allowed to frolic and eat frozen yogurt. Each person who makes it to The Good Place is partnered with a “soulmate” who they live with for eternity in a house and lifestyle perfectly matching their life on Earth. Eleanor awakens in a room and is mistaken by Michael (Ted Danson), the architect of The Good Place, to be a just defense attorney who got innocent people off death row, all while helping Ukrainian orphans. As Eleanor reveals to her “soulmate” Chidi Anagoyne, (William Jackson Harper) she actually isn’t that nice or good, she’s just a saleswoman from Arizona. This conflict and dichotomy forms the basis of the show. Chidi, a professor of ethics and moral philosophy in his past life, tries to teach Eleanor how to be a good person, while Eleanor tries to figure out why she was sent to The Good Place in the first place. It’s simple, but because of the complex nature of the world, allows for a lot of variety and a ton of comedic premises. In these uncertain times, major networks want safe bets, bankable premises that can support at least 22 episodes and several seasons. THE GOOD PLACE is not that. If not for the track record of its creator or stars, it would not be the kind of a show that gets picked up for a full season. But that’s why it’s worth supporting. You can read the full review here. [Ian Campbell]