What are we watching?

by Chris Bertram on April 17, 2020

As we are all (or most of us) shut behind our front doors for fear of the plague, and once we’re through with improving ourselves or home-schooling others, what are we watching? I’m always in need of a good recommendation, but happy to share too. At the moment the two drama series that are occupying me are Baron Noir and Babylon Berlin (both series 3 now). I’m guessing, possibly incorrectly, that Baron Noir will be the less familiar of the two to CT readers. It follows the career of socialist mayor Phillipe Rickwaert from the mayor’s job at Dunkerque to the highs and low of national power. Rickwaert is both a Machiavellian tactician (not above dirty tricks and electoral fraud), personally ambitious but also deeply attached to the historic socialist cause. One of the grittiest depictions of how the political sausages get made of recent times. You should start at the beginning with series 1, which is excellent, and persevere through series 2, which gets a bit flabby, since series 3 is again taut, well-plotted and acted. The France of Baron Noir is a parallel one that is just a tiny bit different (the eventual Macron figure is female and the Mélenchon character is vain and narcissistic). Really compelling stuff. Babylon Berlin, based on the novels by Volker Kutscher, is a Weimar era detective series in which our heroes Gunther Rath and Charlotte Ritter battle against dark forces. The plot is sometimes incomprehensible, but the depiction of 1920s Berlin is wonderful.



Declan Kenny 04.17.20 at 1:59 pm

Watching paint dry. Literally. I put off the home DIY decorating for as long as possible, but the virus has me beat. So I am currently waiting for white emulsion to dry so I can get another coat on.

Apart from that, Ozark. Telly for grown-ups.


Musicismath 04.17.20 at 2:37 pm

After literally years of me casually disparaging Marvel movies and anyone who watches them, my wife has been forcing me to actually, you know, sit down and watch them. All of them. In chronological order of release date. Since lockdown started, I’ve got all the way up to Endgame and have had to admit they’re generally well written and a lot of fun. (Well, except for the first Hulk and second Thor movies. And maybe Ant-Man and the Wasp.) Although I found the cultural and geo-politics of Black Panther deeply problematic, and not in a way I was expecting.

The Marvel catch-up project was initially sold to me in terms of “cultural literacy,” but it didn’t take long before I was actually, um, enjoying myself. I’m not sure what I thought these films were, but they’re not that.


Alan White 04.17.20 at 3:55 pm

Thank heavens Netflix still ships DVDs along with streaming. I strongly recommend Parasite, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Pain and Glory (Dolor y Gloria–knowing Spanish helps you from staring at too many subtitles) from recent viewing.

For retro enthusiasts like me, there is a channel dedicated to older shows: Heroes and Icons channel (yeah over-the-top name). It has all 5 Star Trek series shown in order of broadcast every weeknight for one. I saw the original series when I was a kid right through, but this allows me to catch up with the others which I missed while teaching. They also show old westerns in order as well–I’ve gone through Wanted: Dead or Alive already, and now working through Have Gun–Will Travel. FWIW


MPAVictoria 04.17.20 at 4:03 pm

Great idea Chris! I have been watching a bunch of stuff during this weird isolating time:
– Nailed It on Netflix – The premise here is 3 amateur bakers have to make some sort of ridiculously complicated cake based dessert in a ludicrously short amount of time. The show is hosted by a comedian and an actual baker who judge and provide commentary. While the premise sounds like something that could be mean spirited, everyone is super positive, cheerful and also funny. Highly recommended.
– How I Met Your Mother – Nothing super special here but it makes me laugh. If you enjoy 3 camera Sitcoms you will probably like this.
– American Horror Story – Kind of an interesting idea for a show. Every season is a unique, and separate, horror based story (For example Season One is a Haunted House and Season Two is set in an Asylum). The story only lasts one season and then next season the actors come back and play completely different characters in a different story. I enjoy it but it must be said the seasons usually start much better than they end.

I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy.


mary s 04.17.20 at 5:03 pm

Baron Noir sounds interesting — I guess it’s not on Netflix (maybe Amazon Prime — which I don’t have?). I loved the first two seasons of Babylon Berlin but I only got a little ways into the third season because it’s gotten a little too soapy.

I’ve been rewatching Halt and Catch Fire and Community. And I really liked the first episode of Run (HBO). Oh, and also the HBO Ferrante adaptation — I thought I could do without it because I loved the novels so much but it turns out that I really need it.


nastywoman 04.17.20 at 6:15 pm

For sure Babylon –

– already seen – and so – to recover from too much ”Teutonische Shifts”
we HAD to do our own –
about the NEXT and first ”Female” US President –

even if it is a bit ”offensive”?


or too offensive? –
as my mom told me – it’s ”wrong” – in so many ways…


steven t johnson 04.17.20 at 8:07 pm

Typo alert: It’s Gereon Rath. Gereon is only a hero if anticommunism is your fundamental political value. I think strictly speaking the mystery plot per se makes sense. But since it is not the only concern of the series, it is not given enough attention to make it easy to follow, so that may be a pointless distinction. Babylon Berlin is a bit of a stealth musical. It is also in dialogue with things like Doctor Mabuse the Gambler (see this!) The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari , Pabst Diary of a Lost Girl and Pandora’s Box. Maybe even Metropolis, though that’s more of a stretch.

I suspect contemporary politics is making any season four too expensive. Also, by US standards it’s too sex positive aka depraved and antiwoman/Charlotte. I don’t know how the mystery novels finish, but this series is a tragedy.


J-D 04.18.20 at 1:27 am

Since you ask, before all this started I was (intermittently) watching short films on the ‘Omeleto’ channel on Youtube, and I’m still (intermittently) doing so. Some of them are not much good but some of them are excellent. The best I’ve seen so far: ‘Light My Fire’; ‘Furlong’; ‘Discipline’.


Matt 04.18.20 at 11:32 am

More than anything else, I’ve been watching (or, often, re-watching) Soviet comedies from the Mosfilm Youtube channel. That’s here: https://www.youtube.com/user/mosfilm

In many (but not all) cases you can get decent enough English subtitles via the “CC” feature on youtube. (In maybe 1/5 of the cases you’ll get garbage, though.) A particularly fun one is Kin-Dza-Dza!, an absurdist sci-fi comedy from the late 70s, full of famous Soviet actors. It’s a bit slow moving, but worth it. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYHv8eJrW2Y&list=PL1DCF8B380B2890BE&index=3


novakant 04.18.20 at 12:31 pm

I watched “The Leftovers” a few years ago, it’s very good and somewhat topical in these strange times:


Also relatively little know but very good is “The Affair”


Both are a bit melodramatic, in case you’re not into that kind of thing.

And then there’s of course “Better Call Saul” and “Ozark”, the latter really picks up in the season 3.

Also some UK based TV: “Patrick Melrose” – harrowing miniseries with Cumberbatch and “A Very British Scandal” with Hugh Grant by Stephen Frears.

Some recommended films I have watched recently:

The Wailing
Citizen K (Doc)
Never Look Away
Honey Land (Doc)
Eighth Grade
Three Identical Strangers (Doc)
The Wild Pear Tree


hix 04.18.20 at 10:32 pm

Actually watching at the moment:
-Motherland for Salem
The best one of those is Flack.

Series i gave up on recently:
-the plot against America
Most enjoable in that broad genere was for all Mankind, the man in the high castle is also more watchable

The ones i liked most more recently with no new ones comeing out atm:
-Pikard big budget SF and a decent story line so rare in that combination hurray.
-https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counterpart – great acting and great storyline, albeit no big budget visuals

Also, baby Yoda is a visual pleasure worth it on a big quality TV.

(i tend to cut the self improving short and don´t teach anyone anyway, so theres just too much time for tv series, or maybe this is jsut a self marketing problem, im learning English! )


hix 04.20.20 at 2:17 pm

How could i forget Westworld.


Cian O'Connor 04.20.20 at 2:29 pm

Berlin Babylon is great. I found the mystery plot fairly easy to follow, except for the bits that are supposed to be obscure (his brother) – but stylistically it’s wonderful.

Baron Noir looks great. Thanks for that. The more non-English stuff the better. I’ve heard good things about Gomorrah/Suburra. Black Spot is fun if you like naturalistic sort of horror (French show set in the moutains, with a strong sense of place and character).

Counterpart is a nice Sci-Fi show (alternate universes) that’s a lot of fun. Dark also isn’t bad as a time travel thing, though not as smart as it thinks it is.

Also would assume everyone has seen Spiral (old French cop show), Les Revenants (the returned – skip season 2) and Under the Lake – but those are all worth seeing.


Barry 04.20.20 at 5:37 pm

MPA Victoria:

“– How I Met Your Mother – Nothing super special here but it makes me laugh. If you enjoy 3 camera Sitcoms you will probably like this.”

If you haven’t seen this and ‘The Big Bang Theory’ (TBBT) now’s the time. I loved both, and they sustained good entertainment through a long lifetime.

For TBBT, if you don’t like the first few episodes, skip season 1 entirely. My girlfriend is a programmer, so the crude depiction of clueless techie geeks and a tech-clueless woman really p*ssed her off, since she has to live in that world. I skipped her to Season 2, and it worked well.


Doug K 04.20.20 at 7:24 pm

Babylon Berlin sounds good, will have to find it somewhere.

Konosuba !
which is apparently shorthand for, God’s blessing on this wonderful world.
Silly anime, but we’re all otaku now..

Jackie Chan movies, a sort of competence pr0n I guess, but funnier and less cruel than the Bond fantasies. The Foreigner has Pierce Brosnan chewing on the scenery as an old IRA man, a convincing performance.

All the Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane TV shows on utube.. Harriet Walter as Vane is very good. Also on utube apparently, all of the Sharpe’s Rifles series with Sean Bean. I don’t much care for the novels, but Sean is probably worth watching.


Cian 04.20.20 at 9:29 pm

Actually one of my kids introduced me to anime and it’s been kind of interesting…

Also catching up on SE Asian action films (Indonesia, Philipines), horror films (Japan, Korea, Indonesia), Takishi Miike and the miracle of 2000s S. Korean movie making. Mostly pretty low brow stuff, but entertaining low brow.


Neville Morley 04.21.20 at 7:10 pm

My wife has decided that Babylon Berlin looks too anstrengend, so DVDs of the first two series are still sitting unopened on the shelf. I am a fan of the books, so at some point will be very interested to see how they’ve adapted them. In the meantime, working steadily through Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which is making up very nicely for the fact that we’re now word-perfect on Community.


christian_h 04.21.20 at 8:14 pm

The Marvellous Mrs Maisel, on Amazon Prime, is great – a show about a young New York Jewish woman in the late fifties who decides to become a stand-up comic in the Lenny Bruce style, after her husband cheats on her.

Watched the first season of a Norwegian take on the superhero coming of age genre called “Ragnarok” (yes it has gods and giants … in a small town high school).

Re-watching stuff, too. If for some reason you’ve never seen Justified, one’s the time.


Faustusnotes 04.22.20 at 12:15 am

Lockdown in Japan is not very serious so many people have still been leaving the house. I’ve been at home mostly but two months ago I dislocated my kneecap and a week ago I had knee reconstruction surgery so I’ve been doing a bit of commuting to the hospital for check ups (their pre admission processes are pretty strict). Before hospital I was watching Marco Polo, sadly only two seasons and produced by Weinstein but very good. It suffers ~ as all modern American stories do – from having the main (white) actor be the most boring person in the cast but Benedict Wong is awesome as kublai khan.

In hospital I hoped to use the time to prepare a campaign book for my next rpg campaign, but since the surgery was way nastier than I realized I have had a lot of time staring into space, and also found the time to watch half of the dark crystal Netflix series, where I was pleased to see Wong again, as a skekses. Sadly the show is preposterous so I gave up. I have also watched most of the innocence files, which is incredible and very tough going. I am halfway through tiger king but can only watch when my partner visits (she doesn’t want to miss the madness).

I was going to watch kingdom but somehow the mix of zombies and Middle Ages holds me back. Or maybe being alone in a dark hospital room being dragged down by tramadol is not the time for that kind of show…

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