Being entertained and staying across popular culture counts as productivity, right? Plus, we have a few of our own TV shows underway, so this is important research. With that said, here’s what the RIISE team are glued to their screens watching right now.
The Rehearsal (HBO, Binge)
Where do I begin with this bizarre show? This daring, ambitious and extremely weird reality-documentary series gives individuals the chance to act out daunting social situations before they actually happen. Riddled with his own debilitating social anxiety, comedian Nathan Fielder started the experiment to see if rehearsing and anticipating variables when facing a tough social situation or conversation might alleviate self-doubt and stress.
I was hooked after the first episode, in which a 50-year-old man, Kor, is consumed with dread at the thought of telling a judgemental friend that he lied about having a master’s degree in order to join their competitive trivia team. Fielder builds a full replica of the bar where the confession is due to take place, as well as hiring an actress to research and play Kor’s friend. This elaborate set-up seems totally ludicrous, but this conversation is high stakes for Kor, whose self-esteem and identity are wrapped up in what he considers his educational shortcomings.
After they run through multiple rehearsals – complete with flow charts to predict which way the conversation might go and the hilarious moment when they realise Kor’s approach is coming across as romantic interest – watching how the real confession unfolds and experiencing Kor’s struggle to relieve himself of this years-long burden is truly heart-warming, emotional and cathartic. And that’s just episode one!
There’s a lot going on with this series (and Fielder himself), and, although it’s funny in an absurd way and can be uncomfortable to watch, the show doesn’t mine cheap laughs from people’s discomfort. It’s an innovative, revealing and oddly compelling look at human behaviour. I’m obsessed.
The Bear (Disney+, Hulu)
Burnt. Boiling Point. The Chef Show. There have been plenty of kitchen dramas over the years, but I’m calling it now: Christopher Storer’s The Bear is the best yet. It’s one of the most talked-about TV shows of 2022, and, yes, it lives up to the hype. As someone who grew up in restaurants – in a literal sense, I was in the back room of my parents’ restaurant just a few weeks after I was born – I echo many of the tireless people working in hospitality that have watched The Bear. It perfectly captures the chaos and frenetic energy that come with operating a busy restaurant.
Though the internet has gone wild for Jeremy Allen White’s character Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto, it’s the stories of the characters that surround him that I loved the most. In particular, I looked forward to any appearance from comedian Ayo Edebiri’s young sous-chef character Sydney Adamu, and the doughnut-obsessed baker Marcus played by Lionel Boyce.
The highlight: a chaotic 20-minute episode that was shot in one take, which I rewatched as soon as the end credits rolled.
me at the bear season 2 casting call pic.twitter.com/jNP3fPwhfc
— wengel (@wengelll) July 14, 2022
You’ve heard of Stockholm syndrome – the condition in which hostages develop a psychological bond with their captors – but did you know Sweden’s first “celebrity gangster” inspired the term? Netflix’s new Swedish six-episode series Clark follows the story of charismatic criminal Clark Olofsson, played by Bill Skarsgård, who fools all of Sweden to fall in love with him – despite being involved in kidnapping, drug trafficking, bank heists and multiple escapes out of prison.
Directed by Jonas Åkerlund, the show is “based on truth and lies” and follows Olofsson from his birth until it crescendos to the true story of the bank heist of the Sveriges Kreditbanken, from which the condition Stockholm syndrome originated. The outrageous life of Olofsson and the show’s frenzied editing make it a captivating watch, without the commitment to a long season.
Abbott Elementary (Hulu, Apple TV+, Prime Video)
Looking after a baby, most of my entertainment is consumed in 10–40 minute blocks while trying to rock a wiggling infant to sleep. Honestly, I’ve been watching a huge amount of food YouTube, preparing for a far future life where I guess I’ll have time to try and make petit fours?
Although, when I do get a moment I’ve been really enjoying Abbott Elementary (finally). It’s peak wholesome, but still funny, content. Plus, I always appreciate short episodes you can basically still follow while wrangling a giggling bag of poop (AKA my beloved daughter).
What We Do in the Shadows (Binge, Hulu)
There’s a lot of indecision that goes on in our house when choosing something to watch – sometimes it’s a bit overwhelming! Right now I’m loving season four of What We Do in the Shadows, a comedy/satire about vampires living together and the trials and tribulations they put themselves and their ever-fatigued familiar, Guillermo, through.
The show was originally based on a mockumentary feature film of the same name written and directed by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement. It’s hilarious and the cast includes Matt Berry (of Toast of London fame) who has the best theatrical baritone voice in comedy. You should watch it if you like spooky humour.
Pachinko (Apple TV+)
I love shows that unfurl like Christmas wrapping, where half the fun is spent scrutinising details and crafting theories with friends over a meal. For that reason, I devoured Severance and Only Murders in the Building.
However, the show that’s currently living rent-free in my mind is Pachinko on Apple TV+. I really loved the Min Jin Lee novel but I must admit I was a little apprehensive when I first heard that it was going to be made into a show. I had no reason to be worried – the show is a triumph. It strays from the book in surprising ways without losing its spirit. In fact, Pachinko might just be some of the most visually stunning TV I’ve ever watched.
Severance (Apple TV+)
I’m only a few episodes into Severance and I’m already hooked. Creepy, darkly funny, brilliantly written and totally immersive, it’s damn good television. Directed by Ben Stiller, the show has received an insane 14 Emmy nominations. It bills itself as a sci-fi thriller, but it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. Imagine the most mind-bending episode of Black Mirror, and then times that by 100 and you’re getting pretty close.
The basic plot is this: a team of office workers sever their brains so that when they’re at work they don’t have any memories of their outside lives and when they’re not at work they have no recollection of all the suss stuff that goes on there. It stars Adam Scott (AKA Ben from Parks and Rec) who is perfect as depressed team leader Mark. But my favourite performance is delivered by Patricia Arquette who plays Mark’s softly spoken yet terrifying boss Harmony.
Put it on your binge list if you’re in the mood for an eerily relatable dystopian mystery that will also make you laugh.
House of the Dragon (Binge)
I am currently watching House of the Dragon on Binge. For those that haven’t heard of the series, it’s the prequel to Game of Thrones. Set about 200 years prior to the events of GOT, House of the Dragon focuses on the fall of the Targaryen dynasty.
I was admittedly apprehensive about watching it after the controversial ending to the GOT series. However, I have succumbed to the cinematic imagery and the series has not disappointed me. For anyone that enjoys watching fantasy, family dramas and power struggles, House of the Dragon ticks all the right boxes. Essentially, it’s Succession with dragons and violence.
As much as I’d like to keep the conversation about The Bear going, the other show that I recently flew through was Netflix’s Mo. You’ll recognise the show’s leading actor, Palestinian-American comedian Mohammed “Mo” Amer, if you’ve seen Ramy (or his stand-up special, also on Netflix).
Ramy is a semi-autobiographical show starring Ramy Youssef which explores the experiences of a first-generation American Muslim wrestling with his spirituality, identity and New Jersey community. Mo Amer played one of his friends in the show, and now he’s the lead of his own series which centres on the experiences of a Palestinian refugee living in Texas and trying to gain US citizenship.
Like Ramy, Mo is semi-autobiographical and depicts much of Mo Amer’s real story: his parents were forced to leave Palestine, resettled in Kuwait, fled the Gulf War as refugees in 1991 and struggled for nearly two decades with America’s asylum process.
It might not sound like it from this blurb, but Mo is sharp, funny and surprisingly sweet. And just like The Bear, I think it’s deserving of all the praise it’s been getting.