I've spent a lot of time on the couch these past couple of weeks. Between battling the flu and waiting for all the snow we've received recently to melt, going outside has been the last thing that I want to do. I've got to pass the time somehow, and lately, there've been a few TV shows that have been getting me through.
Babylon Berlin is my newest obsession, and, if I'm being honest, this post largely came about because I wanted to write about it but figured that I might as well throw in a few other recommendations in case it wasn't everyone's speed.
New to Netflix, Babylon Berlin is set in Berlin (of course), 1929. It was the golden era of the Weimar Republic, but the show explores the tensions straining Germany society at the time - the clashes between the government and various paramilitary factions, including Communists, monarchists, and the nascent Nazis; political corruption and police brutality; and the fallout from The War to End All Wars, WWI. In the center of this heady brew are Gereon Rath, a shell-shocked vet newly transferred to Berlin with a closetful of skeletons, and Charlotte Ritter, an impoverished but determined young woman who will use every tool at her disposal to survive and thrive.
It's one of the most expensive German TV shows ever produced, and it looks it - the costumes and set designs are impeccable, and it's worth watching for the visuals alone. It's also beautifully written and acted as well, though, with plenty of twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat. I watched all 16 episodes currently available in less than a week, and I've already got my fingers crossed for another season.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
I've been meaning to write about The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel for a while now. I watched the pilot episode months ago (Amazon makes them available before the series airs, presumably to gauge audience interest), and I'd been eagerly awaiting the fully series since. Midge Maisel is a charming, beautiful, perfectly polished wife and mother living on the Upper East Side of the Manhattan in the early 1950s. Her life is perfect - that is, until her husband abruptly leaves her for his secretary. A drunk, pissed off Midge ends up onstage at the club where her erstwhile husband tried his hand at stand-up, and when her rambling monologue leaves the crowd in stitches, she finds herself embarking on a career in comedy.
Amy Sherman-Palladino, the creator, is best known for her show Gilmore Girls, which I could never really get into. However, something about this _particular_ motor-mouthed brunette really works for me. Midge can be a frustrating character, and sometimes the show spends a bit more time than I would like on sub-plots which do not involve her burgeoning career, but the show at its best is sparklingly funny and charming. And I haven't even mentioned the eye candy! If you like the mid-century aesthetic (and, if you're reading this blog, it's a good bet that you do), you will literally drool over the gorgeous costumes and interiors. I'd actually cooled a bit on 1950s styles recently, but this show is making me thirsty for The New Look all over again.
On the other end of the spectrum from Babylon Berlin is Father Brown. I can't seem to find Poirot to stream anywhere anymore, so this has become my go to murder mystery series.
Set in the charming English village of Kembleford in the early 1950s, the titular Father Brown is a kindly and compassionate priest with a nose for mysteries. I don't want to oversell it - I watch an episode before bed most nights because it's soothingly formulaic, so don't expect any Twin Peaks style thrills. It's charming, though, and Father Brown is a hard character not to like, even for a non-religious person like me. Their approach to vintage style is also pleasantly accessible, running heavily towards Freddies of Pinewood and Collectif.
I recently started rewatching Agent Carter, and I'd sort of forgotten just how good this show is. For those who need a refresher, Peggy Carter is the strong, intelligent, beautiful agent who works with Steve Rogers (aka, Captain America) in Captain America - The First Avenger. Following Steve's apparent death at the end of the movie, Peggy, now an agent for the Strategic Scientific Reserve (the SSR, a precursor to S.H.I.E.L.D.), languishes as her competence and abilities are overlooked by her male colleagues. One of the few men to give her her due is Howard Stark (father to Iron Man Tony Stark), who recruits her as a double agent to help clear his name when the SSR believes he's gone rogue.
Peggy Carter's looks have become rather iconic with certain vintage loving nerds, and rightly so - her gorgeous late 40s outfits, perfect red lips, and pin-curled hair exude a polished femininity that plenty of women would love to emulate. However, Peggy herself is just iconic. Whip-smart, cool-headed, and perfectly capable of kicking ass and taking names, she chafes under a sexist system that ignores her accomplishments just because she's a woman. The show really takes pains to show how damaging that system is, not just to Peggy, but to the other women who inhabit this world. I would have loved to have gotten several more seasons of this show so that I could have seen her get the respect that she has always deserved, but as it stands, we have two excellent seasons of her impeccable style and wit to enjoy.
Does anyone else tend to binge watch their TV? What are your favorite shows to get you through the cold winter months?