Beyond ‘Fleabag’: What Else Will Quench That Quirky Thirst?08/01/2019
I’ve watched “Fleabag” Season 2 so many times now that it’s getting obsessive. Any recommendations to fill the “Fleabag”-size hole in my life? Ideally something funny, smart and just the right amount of sad. — Katie
I’m in the minority here for also loving Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s other comedy, “Crashing” (available on Netflix, not to be confused with the HBO show of the same name). It’s less intense and less poetic, but it’s more raw, chaotic and sitcom-y. Into it!
If you want something more youthful, try “My Mad Fat Diary,” a British coming-of-age show set in the ’90s (on Hulu). Think “My So-Called Life,” but with more trauma — balanced with humor, fear not — self-loathing and sex talk. A little more mature than that is “Please Like Me,” a gentle Australian comedy that isn’t as searing as “Fleabag” but has some of that “Oh, hm, parents can let you down” energy and some of the “Oh, hm, people are trying” realizations. It’s much warmer and happier, but it’s as curious about human frailty. (That’s on Hulu, too.)
For something more adult, you might like the intimacy of “One Mississippi,” the auteur comedy from Tig Notaro (on Amazon). It has “Fleabag”-level quirk, poignancy and grief.
I have noticed that I have a psychological block around watching the final episode of a TV show. I have one episode left of multiple shows that I really love, and I want to watch the finales, but I can never bring myself to do it. Is this a thing? Does it mean something about me? How can I watch the last episode of “The L Word”? — Ariel
I don’t know if this is a thing, but I’ve done it too. I’ve never watched the series finale of “Pushing Daisies,” one of my true love favorites. If I’ve never seen the last episode, then the show is not truly over for me; it’s like a little denial relic, consecrating a stupid but tender section of my heart. I’m saving it, and when the day comes that I really need it, I’ll know.
Here’s what it means about you: It means you have vivid emotional reactions to art and entertainment, and that’s something to treasure about yourself, not something to change.
The only danger here is being spoiled, but at this point I don’t think it’s a major concern, partially because “The L Word” isn’t really plot-oriented and also because it’s kind of a terrible finale. There’s an “L Word” sequel coming out this fall; turn your heart and energy toward the new. If you ever need this finale, it’ll be there.
Anything like “Chernobyl”? Dark, consequential, dramatic. (Sci-fi is O.K. as long as it has internal logic.) — Richard
If you want another substantive, devastating mini-series, start with “When They See Us” (on Netflix), a four-part scripted drama based on the wrongful convictions of the so-called Central Park Five. “Consequential” is a great way to describe it.
If you want to stay Soviet-adjacent, “The Americans,” about two Russian spies posing as a married American couple, is about as dark and dramatic as TV comes these days. (All six seasons are on Amazon.) Its vicious precision is particularly rewarding for fans of internal logic, so if you like carefully constructed shows with long memories, you will love this.
Finally, if you want people with British accents who are suffering under strange and brutal systems, try “Criminal Justice” (available on Hulu), which has two unrelated five-episode seasons. Sad and bleak! The American remake, “The Night Of,” was not as good, and the stories are significantly different, so even if you didn’t love that you might still be into this.
Is “The Handmaid’s Tale” worth it? All the slow motion and girl glowering and pseudo slavery. It’s hard to take. — Tatsha
My wife and I have been sticking with “The Handmaid’s Tale” lo these many months. The profundity, the acting, and the direction — all unassailable, I think. But it’s so freaking grim! Even “King Lear” has some comic relief. So here’s my question: Can the loyal watcher expect some leavening ? — Ron
The grimness does not abate at all, and the show’s entire sense of humor is now “ironic music choices” — a construct that is dated at best. Get show divorced ASAP. I dragged myself through this season in the hopes of something changing, but there’s nothing here anymore. Nothing about Gilead makes any sense. If it’s such a brutal regime, how is June still alive? (If it’s set on planet earth, how is Aunt Lydia still alive?) Just from a masonry perspective, how was the Washington Monument turned into a cross, and how did that happen in, what, two years? I liked the first half of Season 1, but this is a show that has completely lost its way.
What are some of the non-mainstream streaming subscriptions that you like and subscribe to? — Monroe
This will completely depend on what you’re into. If you are a PBS obsessive, you might get a lot out of Thirteen Passport ($5 per month), which has tons of NOVA episodes and “Antiques Roadshow” and “American Masters,” and more obscure shows like “Colonial House” and “Frontier House,” which are like historical re-enactment meeting reality TV. Fans of European TV shows will probably like Acorn ($5.99 per month) and MHz Choice ($7.99 per month), especially if they like crime dramas. If you love anime, then you probably only care about Crunchyroll (some free shows, or $7.99 per month for premium). Are any of those worth it? Your budget, your business.
If you only want free options, there are tons of those, too. If you like teen shows, CW Seed has a solid selection. If you don’t mind terrible UI and getting only a few seasons at a time, Sony Crackle has classics such as “Barney Miller,” ’90s faves like “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose,” and forgotten 2000s shows such as “Huff” in its library. Speaking of libraries, depending on your public library, you might have access to a few different streaming options. Avail yourself of this, if at all possible.
Are you looking for your next great TV love? (Or reckoning with your latest show divorce?) Send in your questions to [email protected] Questions are edited for length and clarity.
Margaret Lyons is a television critic. She previously spent five years as a writer and TV columnist for Vulture.com. She helped launch Time Out Chicago and later wrote for Entertainment Weekly, among other publications. @margeincharge
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