If you are anything like me and you absolutely dread the brutal Chicago winter season that leaves you shivering under 1000 blankets on your couch, dreaming of the beautiful fall weather that left you all too soon, naturally you are going to turn to your TV for comfort and support. That’s right people don’t act like you are about to leave your house on a cold January evening when your snuggie is waiting patiently for your warm embrace and the corner spot on the couch is free for your taking. Besides, no one meets people in the winter, the cold is horrible for your complexion and sweaters don't do anybody justice. No worries, there’s nothing wrong with hibernating for a few months out of the year and what’s a better way to pass the time than a few hours of mind numbing Netflix binge-sessions. So here I prescribe to you the perfect solution for your Winter blues, your seasonal depression and your lonely heart: my recommended Top 3 Netflix original series to binge on.
#1 --The Get Down
Written and directed by Baz Luhrmann and a group of collaborators including Oscar-winner Catherine Martin, legendary MC Nas, Grandmaster Flash, play writer Stephen Adly Guirgis, and hip-hop historian Nelson George; The Get Down is a beautiful combination of music, art & culture, teenage-love, political drama and crime. The show is set in the South Bronx, NYC circa 1977 and is centered on the high-school student Ezekiel (Justice Smith), who is presumably the rap superstar performing at the 1996 Madison Square Garden concert featured at the beginning of each episode (Actor: Daveed Diggs lip-syncing to songs written by Executive producer Nas). For Ezekiel hip-hop does not yet exist because Disco was the glossy, new popular style of music in the late 1970’s and Zeke’s love interest Mylene (Herizen Guardiola) wants nothing more than to make it in the industry and hopefully become the next Donna Summer. Hoping to use his poetic talents and leadership skills to escape the bronx, Ezekiel navigates the musical world experimenting with a new technique used by popular DJ Grandmaster Flash (Mamoudou Athie) utilizing multiple turntables in order to repeat a continuous rhythm from other peoples records. At the same time Ezequiel gets caught up in a political campaign as he struggles to represent the ghettos youth in a time period of political and economic turmoil in New York City. The show does an excellent job of keeping the audience historically grounded with old, grainy documentary footage showing tragic visuals of buildings going up in flames, the crime and chaos-causing NYC blackout of ‘77 and the famous Ed Koch tough-on-crime campaign to be mayor (to name a few). Ultimately, The Get Down does an excellent job of showcasing hip-hop culture as it becomes more prevalent in the music scene and is shown through a charming group of kids played by an allstar cast as they graffiti, DJ, breakdance, and emcee their way to stardom.
#2 Masters of None
Produced by and starring as the lead role Aziz Ansari plays thirty-year-old Dev from New York City in his new series Masters of None. The premise of the show is based on Devs dating life and his career as an actor, although he finds himself best known for his Go-Gurt commercials. Overall, Masters of None discusses what it’s like to be a single, career-driven American living in a big city, but the show dives into many other themes including minority representation in the media and being a first generation American. Dev has a lot to say about the discrimination that exists in TV and media especially after he is asked to do “a fake Indian accent” during several auditions for a show, which he refuses to do. Unlike the completely outrageous, comically materialistic and immature character Tom Haverford from Parks and Rec Aziz has played in the past, Dev in Masters of none has such an endearing humility and good-guy nature he becomes an entirely relatable and loveable character. The show is emotional, honest, comical and progressive. I found myself laughing out loud one minute and introspective the next. All in all, this netflix original series does a great job at depicting modern life and the social issues we face in an increasingly technological world. For anyone who can't get enough of Aziz Ansari's comedic genius I strongly recommend you check out his stand up comedy performances on Netflix as well because they cover similar themes as seen in his show.
#3 Stranger Things
Stranger Things is supernatural fiction, thriller set in the 1980’s in a small town of Indiana. The first episode is centered around a group of kids Will (Noah Schnapp), Lucas (Caleb Mclaughlin), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), and Mike (finn wolfhard who all hang out and play dungeons and dragons. These kids are so nerdy and hilarious you easily fall in love with each character right away. One night, on their way home from an intense game, Will mysteriously “disappears” or is taken by a disturbing supernatural creature from an unknown world. Now with the whole town involved in the investigation and Will’s mom Joyce (Winona Ryder) and the gang of boys need to work together to help save Will. Luckily they find help along the way from a mysterious girl named eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) who possesses supernatural powers and can use “the force” and an unconventional police investigator Chief Hopper (David Harbour). As the investigation continues the group begins to unravel more and more mysteries, sketchy government experiments and unnerving supernatural forces. Although stranger things is the perfect thriller with all its twists and turns it also touches on the more sensitive themes of friendship, death/grief, young love and social isolation. The characters are extremely dynamic and you get to know each one to such a satisfying extent in only 8 episodes. The mysteries are fantastic and because the plot is so outlandish you can never predict where the show will take you next. Overall, I appreciate the fact that the show manages to balance horror and humor in such a perfect combination. At times any particular event can be horrible, sad and disturbing but you find yourself grinning and smiling along with the heros in all their childish glory. I finished all eight episodes in a single night and I can’t wait for season 2!
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