I like to provide a healthy dose of pop culture content to break up the monotony of all-things-Navy SEAL and CIA. So, today, I have a rundown of five TV shows to watch right now, if you have not yet already tuned in.
1) Game of Thrones: House of the Dragon (HBO)
I went into this series, a Game of Thrones prequel focused on the dragon-riding Targaryen clan, with tempered expectations. Going off the mediocre reviews of George R.R. Martin’s source material for the show, I had prepared myself for either an underwhelming shell of the original or a mess of confused characters and a lackluster plot.
But I am happy to report that the show is pretty damn good. We get a tight and focused plot, and so far, interesting characters with both depth and satisfying complexities. Of course, this being GOT, we also get a healthy dose of violence, sex, incest, and intrigue, all of which serves the story well so far. And there are also dragons galore. This is no doubt one of the benefits of focusing on this particular family within the GOT universe, and probably played no small part in HBO’s decision to make a series out of it.
The series revolves around the dynastic struggle for power within the extended Targaryen family, and principally, around the Crown Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen. We do get the jumps in time that facilitate the movement of the plot, but these have so far been relatively seamless, and have served the story well. If you are looking for a fantasy adventure fix, dragons, dynastic intrigue, and sex and violence, then “House of the Dragon” won’t disappoint.
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2) The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (Amazon Prime TV)
Sticking firmly within the fantasy realm, Amazon Prime TV is hoping to ride The Lord of the Rings franchise to financial glory by offering a prequel of both The Hobbit and the LOTR trilogy of movies.
The show is based around the rise of Sauron and the coalition of elves, dwarves, and humans who will fight to save Middle Earth from the forces of Sauron, which include orcs and other baddies hellbent on bringing darkness and death.
While there is no sex anywhere to be found, much less graphic violence than in House of the Dragon, and the plot is far less imbued with intrigue and betrayal, The Rings of Power is nevertheless entertaining and beautifully presented. The cinematography is breathtaking throughout and the story has moved along at a very fast pace when compared to the original movie trilogy.
Do not expect the action to move at the same pace as GOT — this is still LOTR, after all — but settle in and enjoy the rich scenery, methodical plot, and commendable performances.
3) Welcome to Wrexham (FX)
Stepping back into reality, I have no idea why it took me so long to dive into FX’s series about the English 5th-tier soccer team, Wrexham AFC, and its pursuit of promotion into the higher tiers of English football. I am a huge soccer fan and also a big fan of both Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, who together bought the team and decided to chronicle their adventure on the FX television series.
I have only watched about half of the show’s first season so far. It is riveting television, delving deep into not only the team and the effort to rebuild and promote it but also into the people of Wrexham. This latter aspect is really where the series shines, as the viewer is made to understand early on what the team means to the small city in northeast Wales. We meet people from all walks of Wrexham life, from the team’s business management to the volunteers who work at the stadium to the dedicated fans who live and breathe Wrexham football club.
The showrunners do a masterful job of sprinkling McElhenney and Reynolds in throughout, while not relying on their star power to carry the day. In fact, the two are clearly secondary characters in the series, which consciously focuses on the people of Wrexham and the team itself. What could have been a vanity project and moneymaking charade is so clearly not those things for the two actors, and, so far, the real desire to make Wrexham succeed comes across throughout the life of the show. If you want plenty of soccer and heart, and to take a deep dive into one Welsh city, then Welcome to Wrexham is the show for you.
4 and 5) Andor and She-Hulk (both on Disney+)
Finally, saving two Star Wars and Marvel behemoths for last, I was fully prepared to yawn at both of these shows and complain about the over-saturation of the airwaves with all things Marvell and Jedi. Well, let me say that first off, there is not a single Jedi in sight in Andor, and She-Hulk is a breath of fresh air for the Marvel universe.
Whereas most of the newer Star Wars movies and shows suffer from a bit of heavy-handed joviality and lack of dramatic heft, Andor isn’t that. The show depicts a brothel, for example, in its first episode and it comes across with a grit and rough edge almost completely lacking in Disney’s iteration of Star Wars fare. It is as if The Mandalorian was sanded down, purposefully distressed like a pair of blue jeans, and sprinkled through with pathos (not to mention, devoid of any cuteness). Instead, we get a look inside a decaying empire, a nascent rebellion, and the paranoid existence of a handful of brave souls who dare to stand up to power.
She-Hulk meanwhile, has the benefit of two things going for it: Tatiana Maslany and some damn good humor. Maslany a wonderful actress who made her name in the outstanding Orphan Black series inhabits the lawyer-turned-Hulk title character with humor, wit, and enough self-deprecation to make the towering green barrister both likable and human. There are more jokes throughout than even your usual Marvel fare, and the show is a comedy more than an action-adventure (in a good way). Also, as an added bonus, we are promised more Daredevil at some point, and for that, I am down for sure.
So, there you have it. Five TV shows to watch. Settle in and enjoy!
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