Mail..kimp? Serial, as the podcast that brought podcasts into the mainstream, needs no introduction. But here's one anyway. In Season 1, This American Life staffer Sarah Koenig dug into a Baltimore murder case from the 80s bringing her dulcet public radio tones to the true crime genre. In season 2, the first episode of which dropped last night, looks into the story of Bowe Bergdahl who walked off a US base in Afghanistan and was captured by the Taliban. Five years later when he was released, he was greeted with suspicion and accusations. The season will look into what happened during his captivity and since his release. Expect plot twists, quizzical expressions from Koenig and product placement.
Sticking with podcasts for a minute, I highly recommend No Such Thing AsA Fish, the weekly show that’s put together by the researchers from Stephen Fry’s QI (if you don’t know QI, it’s a British topical panel show centered around general knowledge. You’ll learn & laugh a lot). The show centers around three or four often-fascinating facts, and conversations emerge from there. It is a fun way to spend 40 minutes in the company of some very funny and very smart people, and you’ll come away with lots of dinner party material.
Anthology series are notoriously hard to pull off, as the lack of a story arc from season to season and different settings can often result in wildly fluctuating tonal shifts. It is a problem that has plagued franchises like American Horror Story, and more recently the extremely disappointing - and widely critically panned - second season of True Detective. Fargo however is a notable exception. The first season was heavily inspired by the 1996 Coen Brothers film, and the showrunners turned into a massively compelling mini-series. And in season 2, they've pulled off the highly unlikely feat of doing it again. The season is set decades before the first season and centered around the events in Sioux Falls (which gets mentioned a lot in the first season), and includes some very interesting thoughts on capitalism, Reagan, feminism and racism, all with a touch of the absurd. The season is one episode away from wrapping, so binge watchers can safely get into it now without having to wait too long between hits.
Veep (Season 4)
Transatlantic comedy doesn't always work, but when it does it is spectacular. Think 'The Office' in its first few seasons. Veep is another such show, created by the Armando Iannucci, the mind behind one of my favorite shows of all time, The Thick of It and its film spin-off In The Loop. Starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the show follows the hilarious relationship between US vice president Selina Meyer and her staff. I hadn't watched the show in a while, and caught 6 episodes of the fourth season on a flight from London to Beirut two days ago. Meyer is now President, and the show is as sharp as ever, the incompetence of everyone involved is painfully funny and the dialogue is some of the most quotable stuff out there today. Highly recommended.
South Park (Season 19)
South Park, like The Simpsons, is one of those shows that has kind of become a part of the ether. Omnipresent yet also oddly not of the Zeitgeist. But in its nineteenth season and about 265 episodes in, South Park remains one of the most biting satirical entities in pop culture. This season has featured an arc that focuses on political correctness and our current culture of permanent outrage. I highly advise giving it a watch, especially if you haven’t dipped your toe into some Parker and Stone in a while. There’s a great New York Times piece that highlights the season’s importance in unpacking some of the themes around hyper-correctness and what it’s doing to the culture, sketching a "unified theory of anger, inequality and disillusionment in 2015 America".