Netflix went from a simple post-season streaming service to something closer to a standalone network when it started producing original programming - and some pretty great original programming at that. Sure, we Canadians get the proverbial shaft when it comes to unhindered access to past seasons of our favourite shows, but we get all the same original programming as our U.S. counterparts. (But they have Trump, so let's not be too upset with the drawbacks of cultural separation between the borders.)
So far Netflix doesn't follow the traditional season premiere calendar as the regular networks whose series generally start in either September or as mid-season drop-ins come January. Netflix staggers the release dates of each series, which thank god for because otherwise we'd all be bleary eyed and facing disciplinary action at work from missing meetings due to all night binge-watching.
Here are some highlights from the Netflix line up for the coming year:
Fourth installment available March 4th, 2016
The political drama starring the smarmy, scheming, amazing Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood and the incredible Robin Wright (I still think of her as "Jenny,") as his wife, Claire. He is now President Underwood, which, although unsavoury, still can't be as bad as maybe the real-life Trump will be. At any rate, the writers have lots of fodder given today's current political shit show, errr...climate.
House of Cards is finally back for season four in just a few weeks - March 4th, to be precise. That's just in time for some serious March Break binge watching, so make sure you get the kids into a day camp this year.
Second installment available April 15, 2016
The Emmy-nominated show is back! Netlflix describes Kimmy Schmidt thusly:
"After living in a cult for fifteen years, Kimmy decides to reclaim her life and start over in New York City. Armed with just a backpack, light-up sneakers, and a couple of way-past-due library books, she’s ready to take on a world she didn’t even think existed anymore."
Substitute "New York City" for "Southern Ontario" and basically you've just described my marriage. April can't come soon enough and that's not my winter-hatred coming through. Ellie Kemper makes even the worst seem not just okay, but super-happy-fun-ball, and her enthusiasm is pretty infectious. If you haven't watched before, hit the first season hard - you've got about 12 weeks to catch up.
Second installment available May 6, 2016
Here are the four primary reasons to watch this intelligent and funny show: Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen, and Sam Waterston. Sheen and Waterston play Robert and Sol, law firm partners, who, in the 70s decide to now also become sexy-time-romantic partners. Great! you say, Well done for living your authentic life! Well, yes. But two people who maybe don't see it quite the same are Frankie and Grace, their wives, who aren't exactly fans of one another. Now thrown together in a situation they weren't expecting, the two women forge a difficult - and hysterical - friendship despite their polar opposite personalities.
If you watch at night, do so on the couch because your laughing is going to wake the snore monster beside you.
Fourth installment available June 17, 2016
Remember how we all went bananas when this show first came out? I remember watching the trailer for he first episode and thinking, "Yeah. I dunno. Lady jail?" but OITNB has gone from first-time streaming provider experiment to bona fide hit. People love they way the episodes are available in bulk because waiting a week for another episode to air is so 2009. But now the inmates are back for a fourth go-round and most of your favourites are here.
Season three left some viewers a bit unsatisfied and please, if you're listening Netflix powers-that-be, can someone on this show be happy for more than five freaking minutes this season?
Second installment available March 18, 2016
Netflix knows what sells and hot guys fighting crime in gritty urban centres while wearing leather is really very nice. MOAR PLEASE.
Wish granted, Netflix says:
The Netflix original series Marvel’s Daredevil returns with the highly anticipated second season of its epic live-action adventure series (season 1 of Marvel’s Daredevil is now streaming). About the show: Blinded as a young boy but imbued with extraordinary senses, Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) fights against injustice by day as a lawyer, and by night as the superhero “Daredevil” in modern day Hell's Kitchen, New York City.
Bonus: The soundtrack is incredible and it suits the gritty, hard bass line of the metropolis-at-night backdrop perfectly.
Show of hands: who here counts Grease as one of their all-time favourite movies? It's probably one of the best movie interpretations of a Broadway musical and although it's set in the 1950s, this story has staying power and cross-generational appeal with its central message of "Want a boyfriend? Get some tight pants." It's a timeless message, really.
Clearly the franchise still has a place in the current pop culture zeitgeist because Grease is now coming to TV, and it's coming live, and it's coming soon! So power down the Netflix connection, and fire up the popcorn machine! (Or crack a bottle of gin, whatever; choose your poison.) Close the laptop and hand the iPad to the toddler and make sure you paid the cable bill because regular old-timey appointment television is where it's at right now - or at least until February.
They nailed the look, I'll give them that.
Grease Live will air live (duh) Sunday, January 31st on FOX, a network normally reserved for great cartoons and terrible news broadcasts. But hold not ye grudges jaded viewers, as FOX is set to redeem themselves for one night marked with special live musical performances by Julianne Hough (Sandy), Vanessa Hudgens (Rizzo), Carly Rae Jepsen (Frenchie), and YAY! -a black Marty, played by the amazing Keke Palmer. Palmer can s-i-n-g, and frankly, I would have liked to see her as Sandy.
The behind-the-scenes clips look promising, but as with any live musical number, there are bound to be some hiccups. (Remember the live Peter Pan? Oh dear god, please FOX, don't let Grease Live be this year's Peter Pan. Think more this past December's live version of The Wiz on NBC. That one was good. Again: less Pan, More Wiz.)
At least there are no high-flying numbers to coordinate on live camera, although truthfully, the prospect of watching a mid-air collision while trying to hold a high C would have added to the drama factor. Oh! But wait! There's the flying car scene at the end, and I swear ta gawd if they flake out on what is one of the best ending scenes in a movie ever, I will be sending some strongly worded tweets to the suits at FOX.
No matter what happens, Grease Live will be set on several stages and sets, including outdoors, so despite weather challenges, the show must continue.
Alan Rickman has died at 69 - young, really - dead from cancer, leaving this earth "surrounded by family and friends," which, if you must go, is the way to exit, I suppose.
Rickman had a stage and film career spanning decades, including turns in perennial favourites like Die Hard and Love, Actually. He's performed in everything from Shakespeare to historical drama (Rasputin, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Sense and Sensibility) but it is for his perfect turn as the (very) flawed hero Professor Severus Snape in Harry Potter that his loss is felt hard by this particular household. Snape has been a catalyst for conversations about love and duty, obligation, good and evil, cruelty for greater good, even debate about buttons on pant cuffs. He brought "pause-the-show-we-need-to-talk-about-this-scene-right-now" to movie night, something formerly punishable by banishment from the family room.
Rickman brought Snape to life I would argue moreso than any other actor as any other character in the entire Harry Potter series, and considering the complicated layers of so many of the characters, this was a feat to be commended. There's a scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows where Snape is new Headmaster of Hogwarts, having killed the previous tenant of the position. Harry returns to commence battle with Snape, a man he believes to have killed Dumbledore meaninglessly. The school staff turn and support Harry, and Snape must maintain his secret role as cruel master to preserve Harry's safety. Professor McGonagall raises her wand at Snape and he hesitates - slightly, but he hesitates. That's it. That's it right there. It's Snape in a moment and suddenly we understand. Rickman reveals a huge hidden part of the series narrative with only his eyes, only a look, but in an instant he allows us to see both Snape's past and his future, and we just get it.
In 2011, Rickman wrote a goodbye of sorts to Harry Potter fans:
"I have just returned from the dubbing studio where I spoke into a microphone as Severus Snape for absolutely the last time. On the screen were some flashback shots of Daniel, Emma, and Rupert from ten years ago. They were 12. I have also recently returned from New York, and while I was there, I saw Daniel singing and dancing (brilliantly) on Broadway. A lifetime seems to have passed in minutes.
Three children have become adults since a phone call with Jo Rowling, containing one small clue, persuaded me that there was more to Snape than an unchanging costume, and that even though only three of the books were out at that time, she held the entire massive but delicate narrative in the surest of hands.
It is an ancient need to be told in stories. But the story needs a great storyteller. Thanks for all of it, Jo."
The letter in Empire magazine was Rickman's goodbye to Professor Severus Snape, the "bravest man" Harry knew.
And now we say goodbye to Alan Rickman.
Image Source: Flickr, Warner Bros.