What to watch at home this week? Which is the best series to watch? What about the movies to watch this weekend? Which are the best TV shows to binge? NOW STREAMING makes your search simpler.
What: The Marvelous Mrs Maisel (Season 2)
Where: Amazon Prime Video
Who: The comedy drama set in New York of the 1950s that swept the Emmys in September is back with 10 more episodes in its second season. Amy Sherman-Palladino, who became the first woman ever to win both the writing and directing trophies that evening at the Microsoft Theatre, writes and directs four of the new episodes, while her husband Daniel writes and directs three. Rachel Brosnahan brings the "marvelous" back in Mrs Maisel with Alex Borstein cutting down a bit on her tough ways as Susie. You'll also see a lot more of Midge's parents, Abe and Rose, played by the brilliant Tony Shalhoub and the beautiful Marin Hinkle.
Why: The second season is always the litmus test for a hit show. Whether it has the legs for a longer run or whether it was just meant to be a one binge wonder. Well, the good news is that The Marvelous Mrs Maisel actually shines brighter in the new season! To be honest, in the first season, after the terrific pilot, the show took its own sweet time to really get going. No such loafing around this time, with the plot moving as briskly as Sherman-Palladino's memorable dialogues. And it moves in directions difficult to anticipate.
Like the entire Paris section, which is clearly one of the highlights of the new season. Rose is there, because "I'm alone in New York but here in Paris I have art"! When Abe and Midge realise she's gone for good, they join her there for what is initially an awkward phase but soon thaws out into the most romantic companionship for Mr and Mrs Weissman, replete with Rodin Museum, crusty baguettes and a dog named Simone.
Things cool down between Midge and Joel (Michael Zegen) too but there is a small problem, the problem which will be the main hook for the season. Joel can't have Midge back as long as she is Mrs Maisel on stage. And Mrs Maisel on stage, of course, is the piece de resistance of the show. It's in those wild, charged sessions on stage, from a club in central Paris to a pub in midtown New York to the tour she'd take later in the season, that both the series and its title character come into their own, playing up the feminist theme of the show with emphatic elan.
Whee: The Marvelous Mrs Maisel is still the best looking show on the small screen with immaculate production design and the soundtrack keeps getting better with every episode, teeming with songs by Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong and Barbra Streisand.
What: The Final Table
Who: For fans of cooking competition on TV, this new Netflix original, hosted by Andrew Knowlton (restaurant editor at Bon Appetit magazine), ticks a lot of boxes. Made by former MasterChef producers, this is perhaps closest to MasterChef Australia: The Professionals, where established chefs fight it out over several rounds of intense cooking. The prize here? To be able to sit on the same table as the nine celebrity chefs who appear as judges in the nine episodes leading up to the final. Those nine judges hail from nine different countries which are the themes of the nine preliminary rounds. A format too complicated? Perhaps.
Participating in teams of two, some of the contestants on The Final Table are already Michelin-starred chefs who have their own restaurants in different parts of the world. So clearly these guys have more to lose than to win on this show, making the contest all the more intense. The only Indian contestant on the show is Amninder Sandhu, executive chef of Arth in Mumbai, while the celebrity Indian judge is Chef Vineet Bhatia, who was the first Indian chef to win a Michelin star back in 2001.
Why: With The Final Table, the attempt here is to do a cross between MasterChef and Chef's Table, blending the competitiveness of the first with the artistry of the second. Most of the cooking is highly inventive with some contestant giving a Japanese twist to paella to someone going all molecular on English breakfast. There is evidently a lot of effort that has gone in to create a chemistry between the two partners in every team and some of the bonding comes off as honest and warm. The best bits of every episode, though, come in the last segment when the celebrity judge appears. Each one of them is quite a personality and brings that much-needed edge to the proceedings. Case in point: Mexican chef extraordinaire Enrique Olvera.
Why Not: It's no Masterchef Australia and as much as you want to root for certain teams, the emotions do not run that high or that real. Also, the wow factor in the food is often missing, mostly due to the choice of the theme dishes. Tacos or feijoadas can only look that exciting on screen.
Whee: For the India episode, the three guests include actor R. Madhavan, host and comedian Hasan Minhaj and food critic Rashmi Uday Singh. They have all the contestants make butter chicken but because Maddy is vegetarian, most of the teams make their own customised version without chicken. Football fans will dig the UK and Italy episodes where Gary Lineker and Alessandro Del Piero appear as guests.
What: Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa
Who: British funnyman Steve Coogan, perhaps best known in this part of the world for his role alongside Judi Dench in Philomena, brings his famous radio and TV character Alan Partridge to the movies with this action comedy based entirely in Norwich. In fact, almost entirely in one radio station, where Alan is a jockey on the early morning show. When the radio station is bought over by a multinational conglomerate and sacks the oldest employee Pat (Colm Meaney), the latter crashes the office party and takes everyone hostage. It is up to Alan then to go in and save the day. Directed by Declan Lowney from a script co-written by Coogan, the film also stars Felicity Montagu (Bridget Jones's Diary) as Alan's personal assistant and Monica Dolan (Appropriate Adult) as Alan's crush in office.
Why: Coogan can have you rolling on the floor laughing with just his facial gesticulations. Add his accented chatter to the mix and it's difficult to sit still watching Alpha Papa. Alan Partridge, in many ways, is what made Coogan such a funny force in the UK and to give a big screen life to that character after more than two decades must have been a dream come true. And man, does he live up to it, playing this egotistical and narcissistic but well-meaning dimwit like he was born Partridge.
The setpieces are hilarious especially the pants getting stuck in the window scene and the climax at the pier ("Oh hello Mr Seagull, have you come to take my spirit away?") but what really takes the cake, albeit the whole bakery, are the lines Partridge delivers on his radio show. "Which is the worst monger? Fish, iron, rumour or war? Pretty clear, that one." "Never, never criticise Muslims! Only Christians. And Jews, a little bit."
What: The Sound of Music
Who: It's been 53 years since The Sound of Music was released in theatres. Adapted from the musical by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, which premiered on stage in 1959, the film was directed by Robert Wise, who had earlier adapted another famous musical for the screen, The West Side Story. Nun Maria, played by Julie Andrews, is the heart of The Sound of Music experience for audiences of all ages. As the new governess for the von Trapp family, Maria has to use every bit of her skill and patience to convert seven unruly children. Love and music are her greatest weapons and eventually she would reach out to the cold and bitter widower father Captain Georg, who is also trying to tackle the rise of Nazism in 1938 Austria.
Why: The film's leading man, Christopher Plummer, may have called it "The Sound of Mucus" – alright, it is a tad too candy-coated – but there's an inimitable heart-warming quality about the film which has made The Sound of Music a timeless cinematic wonder. Right from that unforgettable opening shot where the camera sweeps over the gorgeous Austrian Alps to reveal the joyous nun from Salzburg at one with nature. Besides the sparkling performances from Andrews and Plummer, the songs make The Sound of Music. "My Favourite Things", "You Are Sixteen Going On Seventeen", "Climb Ev'ry Mountain", "Edelweiss", "Do-Re-Mi"… no wonder the film was marketed as: "The Happiest Sound in All The World".
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