The Bullet List #13: Pop Culture Recommendations for The Week Ahead / by Nasri Atallah


Based on John Lanchester's  eponymous novel, this three-part BBC mini-series from the makers of Broadchurch is a masterful look at early 21st century London. The story — ostensibly about a series of mysterious postcards the residents of Pepys Road start receiving — takes on a lot: from gentrification and rising property prices, to the state of contemporary art, to issues around Islamaphobia, to upper middle class performance anxiety, to the expansion of the working classes with arrivals from Zimbabwe, Poland and Hungary. It's a lot of narrative to shove into one street in South London suburbia, but it works somehow. Toby Jones is masterful as a vile banker falling apart at the seams, as is Gemma Jones as Petunia Howe, one of the streets sole surviving residents from the financially modest 60s. 


Staying with themes of financial excess, Showtime's Billions is a treat.  In an age of prestige television where every show is positioning itself as worthy of some sort of deeper analysis, this show is gloriously soapy and revels in that soapiness. My friend Karim Safieddine (founder of video on demand platform Cinemoz) was the first to bring this to my attention, pointing out rightly that this is a show that has no aspirations to enter the canon or become a staple of high-brow popular culture. It just wants to entertain the hell out of you. Damien Lewis is very Damien Lewis-y as slimey hedge fund 9-11-profiteer Bobby Axelrod.  His nememis Chuck Rhoades is played gleefully by Paul Giamatti chewing up the scenery.  

American Crime Story: The People vs OJ Simpson

Anyone who was alive and had access to a TV in 1994 remembers everything about the OJ Simpson trial. It was such an all-American story involving murder, Los Angeles, a fallen NFL hero, a Ford Bronco, televised courtroom hearings, and a tense racial narrative. Two decades later, the case is the subject of an anthology series on FX. The casting choices feel odd initially. Travolta's eyebrows are distracting, Cuba Gooding Jr seems to be overacting as OJ, and David Schwimmer plays a perpetually-confused Robert Kardashian. Everyone looks a bit familiar and not familiar at all, so there's an uncanny valley quality to the first episode. But as you go along, that kind of blends into the background and you're left with a well-told story that is revisited with an attention to contemporary context in the aftermath of Fergusson. The celebrity culture stuff is occasionally on the nose (such as with Kardashian's lunchtime chat with his daughters Kim and Khloe — yes, the ones you're thinking of) but overall it's an engrossing courtroom drama.  

Big Black Delta

Big Black Delta is the solo project of Mellowdrone vocalist/bassist Jonathan Bates. Bates launched the project in 2010 after becoming frustrated with the logistics of a band. His self-titled debut album, Big Black Delta was released on his own label and inspired by the Blade Runner and Solaris soundtracks apparently.