Much as I enjoy the movies, the standup comedy and the documentaries , what I enjoy most are the TV series , both American and foreign.
I seem to have missed out on a lot of shows during my working years. Two that I enjoyed recently are Lonesome Dove and Empire Falls. I always used to enjoy Westerns and bemoan the fact that they have fallen out of vogue ; Westerns are now few and far between. What a pleasure to see Lonesome Dove , the gritty and realistic picturisation of Larry McMurtry’s sweeping novel. Empire Falls too was a revelation . The title gave nothing away and didn’t mean anything to me , but the searing depiction of smalltown life in America was riveting. (I must go back and read the novel by Richard Russo). Another amazing series was the HBO series Rome , an epic of blood and sex but which brought home to me the glory and brutality of Ancient Rome as nothing else ever did . A big advantage of Netflix (and similar DVD rental companies) is that one doesn’t have to wait for a week between series episodes and this provides a sense of continuity. Some of the series on offer are too old to interest me ( Have Gun Will Travel, Bonanza , Gunsmoke etc) and others are too familiar ( Law and Order, CSI ) but there are still plenty that I look forward to ( Deadwood , Bordertown, 24, The Wire etc).
The foreign TV series are just as absorbing. Our cable line-up does not include BBC America so I never had access to any British TV except for that which aired on PBS. The Inspector Lynley series and Prime Suspect were okay but there are several other British series that I had never heard about. Right now, I am in the midst of watching a 19 part series Foyle’s War which may just possibly be the best I’ve ever watched. Set in WW-II England , it offers an enthralling mix of history and detection as it follows the exploits of Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle in the coastal town of Hastings. The depth of the characters , the intricate plotting and the terrific acting ( espescially Michael Kitchen as Foyle) make this a treat. Two other series I really enjoyed were The Ladies # 1 Detective Agency ( based on the wonderful novels by Alexander McCall Smith ) and Heat of the Sun set in the colonial Kenya of the 1930’s.
Because of our common language and our cultural similarities, it is no surprise that British TV is so appealing. What is surprising is to find K-Dramas or Korean TV so absorbing. My first experience with Korean TV was when we were visiting China a few years ago and the TV in our hotel room was airing a Korean series (Arirang) with English sub-titles. Since the other channels were Chinese ( without subtitles) and CNN, we plumped for Arirang and quickly got hooked. Our next experience ( on Netflix) was My Lovely Sam Soon, about a thirtyish ,slightly overweight pastry chef who has been dumped by her philandering boyfriend and takes up a temporary job at a hotel restaurant . The on-again off-again romance with her boss, the spoiled son of the restaurant owner, is most enjoyable for the excellent acting by the lead actress and the glimpses we get of Korean life and culture.Two other K-Dramas , Dae Jung Geum ( a historical drama) and Grand Chef ( about two sons , one adopted, locked in a struggle for succession in a family owned restaurant) appear promising.
One of the disappointments about Netflix is the poor selection of Japanese movies and TV. What it offers are some classics ( Kurosawa, Ozu et al) , samurai films, yakuza epics , anime and horror flics. I enjoy all of these ( not the horror flix)) but as a Japanophile , I’d have hoped for more contemporary hit shows and movies , the type I read about in the New York Times film reviews. I don’t understand why the Korean choices are so much more varied than the Japanese ones. Ultimately, as on -demand TV replaces mailed DVD’s I hope the choices are expanded and we get to see what people are watching on TV in even more countries . France, Latin America , Spain. Germany perhaps ?
One other annoyance is that the Korean series Grand Chef , Season 2 is available but not Grand Chef , Season 1. Is this strange or what ? It would be nice to watch them in sequence so I guess I’ll wait for Season I to become available.
Human nature being what it is I may one day become jaded and complain about the lack of anything to watch on Netflix, just as I became disillusioned with regular TV and Cable TV. However, given , the number of choices on Netflix, I don’t think it will be anytime soon.