I realize HBO regularly cleans up during awards season, but the fact that none of the creators or cast of this deep, dark and consistently brilliant comedy has gotten an Emmy remains one of life’s great mysteries.
Set in the geriatric extended-care wing of a low-rent hospital, the series fearlessly and hilariously explores the furthest borders of both the workplace comedy and our many, and often absurd, attitudes toward the elderly and chronically ill.
Although midway through its third and final season, it is mercifully available in its entirety at HBO Go. Which means there is no reason, or excuse, to miss this masterclass in satire and ensemble performance. And I’m talking to you, Television Academy members.
HBO, Sundays, 10 p.m., and HBO Go
Owing more to Tony Soprano, Jane Tennison and “Orphan Black” than Iron Man, Black Widow and “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” “Jessica Jones” is Marvel’s first foray into prestige drama.
OK, occasionally the lead stops a car with her bare hands. But far more breathtaking is the show’s examination of recovery: How does a woman truly survive a sexually, emotionally and physically abusive relationship?
With big eyes, full mouth and the deadpan delivery of a 1940s movie star, star Krysten Ritter slides into the role of the hard-boiled private detective (crappy office, smart mouth, penchant for hard liquor) as easily as Jessica slides into her black leather jacket and jeans. She’s the quintessential tough girl with the heart of gold, prowling the mean streets of New York with an eye on a quick buck, but also the fallen sparrow.
Though apparently involved in the touchstone of the Marvel Universe, the Battle of New York, Jessica mostly put away her superpowers after she fell under the spell of the mind-controlling psychopath known as Kilgrave (David Tennant), a man who can make anyone do anything just by looking at them. After being forced to commit one depraved act too many, Jessica managed to break free.
Only now, Kilgrave is back, terrorizing others. Aiding Jessica in her fight against him is a wide array of equally interesting characters: Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor), Jessica’s BFF and foster sister; Jeryn Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss), the frosty district attorney for whom Jessica works; and “unbreakable” bartender Luke Cage (Mike Colter), who will soon be getting his own series.
“Jessica Jones” is a dark and twisty adventure tale with graphic-novel overtones, but it’s Jessica’s humanity that emerges as her true superpower.
“The Man in the High Castle”
There could not be a better time for Amazon to debut Frank Spotnitz’s serialized vision of “The Man in the High Castle.” As anger and fear sparked by the recent terrorist attacks in Paris cause many to weigh the value of democracy against the need for safety, here is a carefully crafted, admirably objective and chillingly prescient vision of American fascism.
In the long-awaited adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novel of the same name, “The Man in the High Castle” envisions a 1960s America after the Axis powers have won World War II. Or rather, after Germany and Japan have won World War II — Italy does not appear to have a presence in the former United States of America, now divided into the Greater Nazi Reich and the Japanese Pacific States, which are separated by a “Neutral Zone” that runs through Western states including Colorado and Wyoming.
Ridley Scott, who brought Dick’s “Blade Runner” to the big screen, serves as executive producer, which is instantly and abundantly clear. Like all good alternative universe stories, be they futuristic, post-apocalyptic or science fiction, “The Man in the High Castle” is initially more concerned with dramatic imagery than character introduction.
The mournfully sinister rendition of “Edelweiss” that accompanies the opening credits, the sight of the swastika emblazoned on the buildings in Times Square, the Japanese flag above San Francisco storefronts, the unavoidable military presence in both cities are all breathtaking in both the artistic and horrifying sense.
The story revolves around a disparate group of characters brought together by a set of banned film reels that depict (in actual historic footage) images of the Allies winning the war. Those would-be rebels are trying to get the films, called “The Grasshopper Lies Heavy,” to the mysterious man in the high castle; the forces of oppression are trying to confiscate and destroy them.
Whether the films are an attempt to inspire hope or proof of an alternate universe does not appear to be the point — it is the actions they spark that the series follows. Rebels, we learn once again, are not born but made, often in the most unlikely manner.
Amazon, any time.
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