Need some TV recs to start the new year off right? How about some earnest musings on physical media and the state of streaming? Well then, friend, you’re in the right place. Read on!
A little taste of what we’re watching (and what you should be, too!).
MYTHIC QUEST (Apple TV+)
Watch this if you have an hour and want to go back in time to both Montana and Africa. Many people will want to watch this for many reasons, and they aren’t wrong (as you should watch what you want), BUT for me… I am watching for Helen and Harrison. Period. The End. (…and I might be falling for Spencer Dutton too). Easy to catch up on, easy to watch if you’ve seen no other Yellowstone series.
– Caitlin McFarland (Co-Founder)
Watch this for a visual delight, a fairly easy binge, and straddling the line between YA and Adult. Tim Burton meets Jenna Ortega. Personal request for you to watch the high school dance sequence (Ep. 6) and be enthralled with how Jenna’s physicality embodies all you know (and didn’t know you knew) about Wednesday Addams.
– Caitlin McFarland (Co-Founder)
FLEISHMAN IS IN TROUBLE (FX on Hulu)
If you missed this 8-episode gem from journalist and author Taffy Brodesser-Akner (based on Akner’s novel) due to the holiday flurry, it’s worth a circle back. Fleishman knows exactly how to play to it’s perfectly-cast leads (Jesse Eisenberg, Lizzy Caplan, and Claire Danes) strenghts, while setting our obsession with “Main Character Energy” ablaze – to highly watchable, and often thoughtful, ends.
– Jenn Morgan (Director of Programming)
LONG LIVE THE BOXSET
A Dispatch from Physical Media Island
by jenn morgan, director of programming
Some years ago, TV shows would air upwards of 20 episodes per season (stay with me), and those seasons would be released on physical disc sets (a.k.a. “boxsets”), and instead of flipping from one streaming app to another on an endless loop until giving up and scrolling TikTok instead, one would simply purchase said boxset, and enjoy your favorite show one disc at a time.
Sure, it sounds a bit silly now that we allegedly have millions of hours of “content” (ugh) at our fingertips. But seeing a wave of series stripped from various platforms by way of tax write-offs and other cost-cutting measures over the last few months has reignited the conversation around physical media, preservation, and what we really “own” when we purchase something digitally, IF we even have the option to purchase it.
Anyhow — old habits die hard, etc etc, so I’ve taken this opportunity to return to my old habit of choice: buying my favorite shows on DVD and blu-ray.
One catch here is that the streaming boom has resulted in fewer and fewer shows receiving physical distribution over the last few years — and the recent hubbub has some creators pushing for DVD/blu releases to ensure that fans & future audiences will continue to have access, and that their art isn’t lost to the streaming ether. (I hope that push continues, and that we also bring back bonus features. Remember bonus features? They RULE.)
All of this to say — while some of your favorite shows may not be available to own physically, you might be surprised at what IS available at various retailers (Amazon, Best Buy, Target, and Walmart are your best bets to start, as well as second-handers like Half Price Books). If you’re not sure where to start, below are a few personal faves from my own shelves…
- The Haunting of Hill House (Extended Director’s Cut), Blu-ray – Mike Flanagan is a man who understands and respects not only the importance of physical media, but the joy of a good bonus feature. Both installments of his Haunting Netflix series (which I love deeply) are available on DVD and Blu-ray, and include a handful of extended episodes, director’s commentaries, & other fun goodies — but the Hill House set includes one of my *all time* favorite commentary tracks on episode 6, “Two Storms.” Each act of this stand-out episode is comprised of complex tracking shots ranging in length from 7-14 minutes, and Flanagan’s narration of the rehearsals, breakthroughs, and technical precision behind it is as tense and thrilling as the episode itself. A must watch/listen for anyone interested in the work that goes into making a truly phenomenal episode of TV.
- Halt and Catch Fire: Season 1 and Season 2 – Halt and Catch Fire consists of four, nearly-perfect, 10-episode seasons, but only the first two are available on DVD (Season 1 is also available on blu-ray). I’m crossing my fingers that one day we’ll get the complete set this show deserves — but for now, I recommend grabbing these first two seasons online (i.e. Amazon) and streaming the rest on AMC+!
- Broad City: The Complete Series – After my umpteenth viewing of A League of Their Own (renew it, Prime Video!) this summer, I – like so many LGBTQs with crushes on Abbi Jacobson, found myself returning to the original AJ text: Broad City. The series is currently available on Hulu, but Comedy Central originals tend to bounce around streaming platforms a little too often for my comfort, so I figured it was time to finally add this gem to the collection. A few of the earlier seasons are available separately on DVD, but the complete series is currently avail on Amazon for only $42 (a steal).
- Euphoria: The Complete Seasons One and Two (plus Special Episodes), DVD – It boggles the mind that Euphoria, one of TV’s most cinematic series, is not available on blu-ray (at least not from any legit retailers that I could find) — but the good news is that you can grab Seasons 1 and 2, plus the special Rue and Jules episodes, on DVD for around $25. (Find it here at your retailer of choice.)
I’ll say this: I love streamers. I subscribe to all of them. SO MANY of them. Streaming libraries are, in theory, the most accessible way to make as much TV as possible available to as many people as possible — but as the last few months have proven, the business of streaming can be massively unpredictable. Even creators don’t necessarily have ownership of their art in a tangible way.
So how do we keep TV alive? How do we keep it from disappearing off a server, or being stashed away on a hard drive in the basement of some office building? We may not be able to. Physical media isn’t a comprehensive solution to the problem of preserving art in a digital landscape, but it is one way to provide peace of mind (and hopefully back-end $$) to creatives, while ensuring access for ourselves and future audiences.
Personally? I think that rules.
When you just need a good book... about TV.
IN THE QUEUE
Because I just don’t understand and am super curious. Also, Giancarlo Esposito in anything.
– Caitlin McFarland, co-founder
THE ENGLISH (Prime Video)
Emily Blunt in a weird western? Sign me up.
– Caitlin McFarland, co-founder
BAD SISTERS (Apple TV+)
Sharon Horgan. Dark comedy. Murder mystery. I only have myself to blame for not getting to Bad Sisters in 2022, but it’s time to remedy that.
– jenn morgan, director of programming