According to popular mythology, Thanksgiving is a time to debate immigration reform at the dinner table with relatives that lean to the right of Lou Dobbs. Or, if you’re like me, the dinner table is just another venue for you to defend your questionable career trajectory and uneventful love life. However, no matter what is discussed at the holiday dinner, one thing is certain, at some course over the holiday weekend, you and your family will run out of things to say to each other. Or, conversely, you will wish your family would run out of things to say to you and welcome any possible distraction to an endless Mobius strip of dialogue. Fortunately, streaming services like Hulu and Netflix were practically invented to fill the lull in a long weekend.
Hey, you paid your airfare, you ate your turkey, you endured an invasive interrogation as to why all of your friends from high school are on their second kid when you’re not even engaged. You’ve done your time and you’ve earned a good eight or 15 hours of solid, uninterrupted Netflix time. Here are a few streaming TV show to help fill a on what might feel like an interminable weekend with your loved ones.
Peep Show (Netflix)
Across the pond, British audiences are currently enjoying the ninth and final season of the critically adored comedy. The rest of us have to wait to see the new episodes featuring the self-loathing odd couple Jez (Robert Webb) and Mark (David Mitchell), but hey, there are eight seasons of the wry, cynical comedy just sitting on Netflix, waiting to be binge-watched.
For the uninitiated, the show comprises point-of-view shots between uptight loan manager Mark and his freeloading wannabe musician roommate Jez. The audience is also privy to the two characters’ unabashedly honest internal dialogue whenever they are locked in an awkward confrontation with any of their various dysfunctional love interests or friends, like, say, Jez’s mate, the Keith Richards-esque lovable dirtbag Super Hans.
The Guest (Netflix)
Right from the beginning, The Guest has the feel of a vintage John Carpenter film, down to the title card font.
Then there’s this opening shot which looks like it could have been cut from Halloween.
Given the late fall motif, it’s definitely a seasonally appropriate movie. It’s also a really fun thriller that marries the aforementioned horror sensibilities of Carpenter with the relentless action of a film like Terminator, with a formidable big bad played by a very cut post-Downton Abbey Dan Stevens. The 80s influence is driven home by a moody goth soundtrack populated with the likes of Sisters of Mercy, Love and Rockets, and Clan of Xymox.
Hannibal (Amazon Prime)
Hannibal is a show that, like Thanksgiving, celebrates food. Sure, the food artfully prepared by Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) is all composed of his murder victims, but damn if the cooking scenes weren’t beautifully shot. Plus, the presentation of dishes like braised lungs, osso bucco, and marzipan ortolans still manage to be appetizing despite the fact that they’re all made from human flesh.
It’s not like Hannibal ever lets the audience forget what his dinner guests are eating via his liberal use of double entendres or frequently telling people in casual conversation that he couldn’t wait to have them for dinner.
For three glorious seasons, showrunner Bryan Fuller got away with both some stunning feats of gore and homoeroticism on prime time network TV. Seriously, NBC Standards and Practices somehow approved a scene where Michael Pitt cuts off his own nose and feeds it to a dog. Plus, Fuller managed to reinvent a character that was already fully cemented in the popular imagination by an iconic performance. Unfortunately, no one actually watched the boundary-pushing show, so it died a quiet death after just three seasons. If you didn’t watch, thanks for getting my favorite show canceled. However, a long weekend is a perfect time to find out what you’ve been missing.
Fruitvale Station (Netflix)
On Thanksgiving, director and screenwriter Ryan Coogler and actor Michael B. Jordan’s collaboration Creed hits theaters. The duo managed to garner almost universal acclaim for a film that brought a fresh new approach to the long-running Rocky series.
However, anyone who can’t make it to the theater during the holiday weekend should check out Coogler and Jordan’s first collaboration Fruitvale Station. The filmed, based on the true story of Oscar Grant, an unarmed man gunned down by a cop in an Oakland BART station, wowed audiences at Cannes and racked up a slew of awards.
The film takes an intimate look at the last day of a young man’s life and follows the 22-year-old through all of his interactions while trying to get a jump on his New Year’s resolutions, and subsequently get his life together, throughout the course of the last day of 2008. Rounding out the cast is Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer.
People currently enjoying Scottish actor David Tennant menacing intensity on the Marvel series Jessica Jones should check out his turn as the gruff and haunted Detective Inspector Alec Hardy opposite the BAFTA-winning Olivia Coleman’s Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller.
Sure, a show about the investigation of a child murder isn’t exactly feel good material, but the acting is impeccable and England’s Dorset coast is a stunning and perfect backdrop for a tense crime drama set in a small, close-knit beach community. It’s great for anyone who found The Killing underwhelming.
The first season is damn near perfect from start to finish and was such a hit on the other side of the pond that Fox tried to recreate that magic with Gracepoint, the disastrous American remake. They failed. In fact, let’s never speak of Gracepoint again. Perhaps France will fair better with its planned adaptation Malaterra.
Difficult People (Hulu)
One way to take your mind off of the dysfunction of your own family is to distract yourself with the dysfunction of someone else’s. The dynamic between Real Housewives recapper/aspiring TV writer Julie Kessler (Julie Klausner) and her psychologist mom, played by the brilliant Andrea Martin fills that order.
Aside from Martin’s character, Kessler is paired with her best friend, the loud and brash Billy Epstein (Billy Eichner), a fellow struggling comedian who is equally neurotic, mean-spirited, and deeply insecure. The two are borderline psychopathic when it comes to their lack of regard for other people, but that translates into big laughs for anyone fortunate enough to not have to deal with this pair.
The show feels like the truest spiritual successor to Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Comeback. Unfortunately, there’s only one short season to binge, but another season was ordered for 2016.
The Omen (Netflix)
By now, we all know that Netflix adds and purges movies on a monthly basis. Next Tuesday is the start of a new month, which means that movies like Batman Begins and Silence of the Lambs will be given the boot, at least until they inevitably return a few months later. So, this looming deadline is a bit of a flawed excuse to avoid meaningful interaction with your relatives, but it’s an excuse nonetheless. You can be all “Hey Mom, I’d love to go Black Friday shopping with you, but the highly forgettable 2002 Christopher Nolan psychological thriller Insomnia is about to expire off of Netflix, so, ya know…”
One legitimately great movie leaving Netflix on December 1 is The Omen, the 1979 Richard Donner original, not the lackluster 2006 remake. Plus, it’s always a good idea to invoke the apocalyptic horror of the Book of Revelations right before the Christmas season hits high gear.
Choosing a horror movie is a bit of a strategic move to get some alone time as there’s a decapitation scene that could definitely clear a room. However, this bid for solitude could backfire as soon as that salt and pepper fox Gregory Peck shows up onscreen. Your mom, aunts, and grandma all loooove Gregory Peck. Hell, everyone loves Gregory Peck.