By now, many of you are up to your eyebrows in long hauls Breaking Bad or Orange Is the New Black. Here are some other intriguing, mostly shorter possibilities.
Messiah The contemporary “coming” of a man who might possibly be The Messiah as experienced by a skeptical FBI agent, an angry Israeli intelligence officer, a poor Palestinian refugee, and the family of small town Texas priest who’s lost his faith. Presented with Arabic subtitles and in English, the tale begins when a street evangelist preaches on the streets of Damascus. A peaceful presence, he also uses apocalyptic phrases like “history has ended.” Instances of what may be miracles provoke global coverage hugely swelling a following.
Al-Mesih is arrested for the first time when he leads followers 40 miles across the desert to the border of the Golan Heights. The leader escapes, appearing in various cities, eventually including Washington, D.C., where the government finally agrees to meet. Some believe, some attempt to use him for their own ends, others (at least three governments) are determined to stop the polarizing figure (at any cost). Politics feel completely plausible. Characters are psychologically well drawn, deftly inhabited by an international cast. Compelling. Mendi Dehbi, Tomer Sisley, Michelle Monaghan, John Ortiz, Melinda Page Hamilton. Streaming on Netflix.
Living With Yourself A black comedy about cloning with no sci-fi/futuristic trappings. Everyman Miles Elliott (Paul Rudd) has a pretty wife, Kate (Aisling Bea), with whom he’s trying to conceive and a good job at an advertising agency. In his apparently meaningless forties, he’s having a meltdown. This is probably the only “why” in an otherwise appealingly credible story (assuming the premise). Without knowing anything about the procedure, Miles forks over his life savings for what he thinks is a renewal – by machine. Something goes wildly amiss and he returns home (marvelous scene) to find a better version of himself.
Miles II takes over at the office to great success, while Miles I grows increasingly slovenly and tries to finish a novel. In fact, the new man is funnier, more creative, warmer, better liked than the original. While #1 grows resentful, #2 falls in love with Kate and the life he might have. Each man tries to eliminate the other. The show is clever, written with dry wit. Streaming on Netflix.
Happy Valley A British crime drama with the ubiquitous (always welcome) Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood, Police Sergeant in West Yorkshire, England. Grappling with her daughter’s suicide while raising a grandchild with her sister Clare (Siobhan Finneran), she learns that the man who brutally raped and impregnated Becky is let out of prison. Young women begin to be abducted, abused and murdered. More than the original perpetrator are involved. Catherine is out for vengeance as much as justice. Happy Valley is gritty, often viscerally painful, incisively written and acted. The beautiful James Norton of Grantchester fame shows he’s in no way a one trick pony enacting a sociopath who will make your skin crawl. Streaming on Netflix.
Top photo: Michelle Monaghan in The Messiah (Photo courtesy of Netflix)