(TV shows are in "quotes" and MOVIES are all-caps.)
"Normal People" (2020). I went into this 12-episode show blind because Sepinwall raved about it and I frequently agree with his TV opinions. And I'm glad I did because if you told me it's a contemplative, on-again/off-again love affair between two brilliant and beautiful Irish students over a few years, I'd...still fucking watch it because I'm a sucker for brogues. But to steal a line from Sade, this is no ordinary love.
Connell (Paul Mescal) and Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) are from different sides of the financial spectrum as shown by Connell's mother being the housekeeper under the employ of Marianne's mother. But that's actually how they end up coming to know, and fall for, each other. After the first ep or two I was like Homer Simpson, "Ok, so what's going on here? Are they the normal people? When do the 'normal people' get here?" but before I knew it, I was roped in. This isn't some cheesy "Dawson's Creek" shit, it runs through the full wash cycle of the feelings of first, reciprocal love and inevitable parting. (As opposed to the unrequited kind most deal with at that age. Or so I heard.) Ecstasy. Anguish. Depression. Butterflies. And unprecedented sexual chemistry. I can't remember the last show or movie where the sex scenes weren't perfunctory but actually this erotic. But what makes this show is the tremendous performances from the two leads. Mescal and Edgar-Jones are both brilliant. They often say more with a look or facial movement than any line of dialogue can do (as the excellent Rhea Seehorn has shown on her brilliant "Better Call Saul" run, acting is so much more than dialogue). The show does a terrific job of showing love and loss in all of its messiness. I have no idea if a second season is planned but if this is just a one-off, it was a hell of a job. (All eps are streaming on Hulu.)
WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT (1988). I hadn't seen WFRR in its entirety in probably 25 years. But scrolling through D+ looking for something to watch recently, I noticed this Bobby Zemeckis masterpiece that he made in between the first two BACK TO THE FUTURE movies so I popped it on. Yes, masterpiece. Combining live action with animation in a realistic way that audiences had never quite seen before, Zemeckis also added a post-WWII Hollywood-noir mystery that ostensibly was for children but more than earned its PG rating. It's hardly a stretch to say that adults were more entertained in 1988 cinemas than their rugrats were. Nominated for six Oscars, it won three as well as receiving a special achievement Oscar; it was such a complex process that WFRR had the longest credits sequence ever up until that time (more than 10 minutes).
The movie is anchored by the late Bob Hoskins, one of the most underrated actors of his generation (check him out in THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY). He plays toon-hating human detective Eddie Valiant tasked with finding out who, um, framed Roger Rabbit, a toon who stars in movies during the day and then goes back home to his bombshell wife Jessica in Toontown at night. Until Jessica's suspected side piece is offed by a falling safe and Roger's the main suspect. Christopher Lloyd, seen three years prior as the lovably bumbling Doc Brown, shows up here as the menacing and aptly named Judge Doom. Lloyd's versatility is on display and some of his later scenes will stay with you as much as Doc Brown does. Re-watching WFRR, I was reminded just how excellent of a movie it is and that it's only really a kids movie because of the cartoon characters present. Speaking of, keep your eyes peeled for cameos by some legendary ones. (Available on Disney+.)
"Derry Girls" (2018- ). Another show set in Éire but this one is much different than the one above. The easily bingeable "Derry Girls" is a sitcom-ish half-hour show set in the early '90s about the exploits of 16-year-old Erin (a bit of a drama queen), her spaceshot cousin Orla, fast and furious friend Michelle, worrywart pal Clare, and Michelle's English cousin James. The show is set against the backdrop of The Troubles---perhaps the most innocuous euphemism ever assigned to what was essentially a civil war. Which means every so often, the solemnity of war and its ripple effects show up to provide gravitas in between the wacky shit that the four girls and a guy find themselves in.
I hit play on a whim and found myself pretty entertained. Of the (Catholic) high school crew, Orla cracks me the fuck up. Of the adults, Ian McElhinney's cranky father-in-law Granda Joe and Tommy Tiernan's henpecked son-in-law Da Gerry provide some of the best repartees of the show, with Gerry forever fighting off the slings and arrows from Joe (the show might ring a bell with more than a few of you lads). But the funniest adult is Sister Michael. Siobhan McSweeney's cynical, seen-it-all, likely non-believer of a nun provides many chuckles whether she has a line to utter or not. The use of The Troubles as a plot device never feels exploitative and sometimes points out some of the more mundane shit and is able to wring a few laughs out of someting as inane as a street detour. (Available on Netflix.)
"Ramy" (2019- ). This is another show I just kind of stumbled upon and was glad as hell that I did. Actor/comedian/writer Ramy Youssef plays the title character in this show about a first-generation, 20-something Egyptian-American, the many conflicting options in his life, and how he navigates them in the face of nagging parents and peer pressure. This semi-autobiographical show's first seasons consists of 10 half-hour episodes and flies by pretty quick thanks to the funny, heartfelt storytelling about a first-gen Muslim trying to find his way in modern day America while in his 20s. His overbearing and still devout parents are always trying to fix a much-less devout Ramy up with a future wife and it often results in some hilarious scenes.
Anybody who has navigated or is still navigating their 20s (or even 30s) can relate to this show about a Millennial still trying to find out where exactly he belongs in this life and with who. I enjoyed the hell out of this one. Ramy's buddies, in particular, provide some of the shows best laughs. The last episode was a perfect set up for Season Two, which debuts on May 29th. Youssef won a Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy for his Season One efforts. (Available on Hulu.)