Do you ever read Tufts Now’s summer and winter book recommendations and think, “These are so great, I wish there were some for movies and shows”?
Wish granted! From Tufts faculty, staff, and students, here are nearly 30 films, TV shows, podcasts, and musical albums to get you through the fall season.
You’ll find podcasts telling true tales of outrageous crimes (American Scandal) and the Puerto Rican experience (La Brega), and funny, quirky shows about getting by in New York City (Broad City) and the afterlife (The Good Place).
You’ll find real conversations about life’s tough truths (We Can Do Hard Things), a climate change cautionary tale with flame-wielding anime mutants (Promare), and an atmospheric, multigenerational story of survival set during the Japanese occupation of Korea (Pachinko, adapted from the novel into a miniseries).
Whether you’re looking for a laugh or a meditation on mortality, a visual stunner or a soundtrack to enliven your morning walk or afternoon chores, there’s something here for you. Sit back, relax, and enjoy your next favorite viewing / listening experience—and if you have other suggestions for our fall watchlists and playlists, let us know at [email protected], and we’ll post an update.
A Birder’s Guide to Everything. This wonderful coming-of-age film from 2013 centers on David, whose mother died a little more than a year previous and whose father is getting remarried the coming weekend. David’s mother was an ornithologist and imbued him from a young age with a love of birds. He’s now a geeky teenage birder—don’t call him a birdwatcher—and thinks he saw a duck long-thought to be extinct. He and two birding pals from high school, and an outsider girl named Ellen, take off in search of it, and end up learning more about life than birds. The acting is superb (Ben Kingsley is a supporting actor), the writing spot-on, and Kodi Smit-McPhee (who went on to nab an Academy Award nomination for his supporting role in Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog) embodies the awkwardness, anger, and hope of those teen years. It’s a touching movie, tinged with loss and redemption. —Taylor McNeil, senior news and audience engagement editor, University Communications and Marketing
Everything Everywhere All At Once. People have probably told you about this movie. It was the weirdest thing they’ve ever seen, but they also cried. You were probably like, “What? A family drama that’s also about the multiverse? I don’t understand.” Well, I’m here from an alternate reality with a message from another, wiser version of yourself: watch the movie. It stars Michelle Yeoh (who is reason enough to watch it) as Evelyn, a Chinese American mother struggling to keep the family laundromat afloat and take care of her sweet husband, Waymond, and college-age daughter, Joy. The movie neatly sets up the usual marital and mother-daughter tensions—and then blows everything up, as an all-powerful, nihilistic being, Jobu Tupaki, storms onto the scene, bent on destroying the entire multiverse. I’ll try not to spoil the best surprises, but suffice it to say, Evelyn turns out to be the only person who can save all of reality, which requires her to master the art of jumping universes and tapping into the skills of her alternate selves (including one who’s a famous martial artist, resulting in some awesome fight scenes). It also requires her to finally understand her husband, whom she has largely ignored and dismissed, and get through to her estranged daughter, which turns out to be harder than saving the world. This movie goes from odd to absurd to absolutely insane (think The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’s Infinite Improbability Drive), and you will at times find yourself sympathizing greatly with Evelyn, who spends a lot of energy just trying to keep her brain from exploding. But the payoff is one of the most spectacular demonstrations of the literal power of love that I’ve seen in a movie. And personally, my favorite scene is the one where it all suddenly stops, and there are no sounds and no people at all—nothing but a pair of rocks. (You’ll know it when you see it.) Everything Everywhere All At Once is still playing at Kendall Square Cinema, if you’re local. Check it out. The fate of the multiverse depends on it. —Monica Jimenez, senior content creator / editor, University Communications & Marketing
Promare. The first feature release for director Hiroyuki Imaishi and Studio Trigger, Promare is a high-octane anime film perfect for fans of Pacific Rim and Evangelion. Thirty years before the start of Promare, part of the human population developed a mutation called ‘Burnish,’ giving them the ability to wield the power of fire. In the wake of their appearance, a worldwide fire almost eliminated all of humanity, but the city of Promepolis rose from the ashes and thrived under its benevolent governor, Kray Foresight. Now a team of firefighters called the Burning Rescue combat the Burnish, among them the team’s most recent recruit and the film’s protagonist, Galo Thymos. But after a chance encounter with the leader of an insurgent Burnish group led by Lio Fotia, Galo sets out on a journey to find out the truth about the Burnish. Along the way, Galo begins to question everything he previously held to be true—both about himself and the world. Exploring themes of climate change and injustice amidst electrifying animation, upbeat pop music, and multicolored geometric flames, Promare is a visual marvel and an absolute must-see for anyone looking for a fun movie to watch. —Layla Noor Landrum, A24, engineering psychology major
Marcel the Shell With Shoes On is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It follows a small hermit crab shell who walks on two sneakers and peers around with a single googly eye. Much like the title of this mockumentary, filmed by a 30-something recently heartbroken Airbnb guest who befriends the besneakered mollusc, Marcel tells it like it is. His sometimes existential, often snarky, always incisive commentary on everything from the intelligence of dogs to the size of the world is the highlight of the film. Voiced and co-written by Jenny Slate, it plays like the most wholesomely subversive comedy routine you can imagine, against the breathtaking, almost alien beauty of an ordinary house and yard as experienced by a one-inch-tall calcium carbonate creature. Life is hard when accessing a wall-mounted shelf and when picking fruit requires the precise operation of elaborate Rube Goldberg devices, and the garage is so far from the bedroom—it’s basically a different country. Even more so when Marcel becomes an Internet celebrity overnight, opening the possibility of seeking his lost family—if he can work up the nerve to venture from his insular existence. In this Gabriel García Márquez-esque reality, a couple’s screaming fight can be a Richter-scale event that literally breaks the world, and a shell can shed tears too numerous to possibly have fit in his body. But even more powerful are the currents of love (embodied in Marcel’s garden-loving, bug-whispering grandmother) and poetry (listen for a full recitation of “Trees” by Philip Larkin as dust motes dance in a sunbeam)—and the ongoing, irreverently reverent exploration of what it means to be a shell (or a person) in the world. —Monica Jimenez, senior content creator / editor, University Communications & Marketing
Reprise. I saw the Norwegian film Reprise when it came out in 2006, and it turned me immediately into a fan of its director, Joachim Trier, even though it only was his first feature. Trier’s recent movie, The Worst Person in the World (2021), was nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign language film, and while it’s very good in its own right, I find myself still thinking about Reprise some 16 years later. Briefly, the film focuses on Phillip and Erik, two young men in their 20s; it quickly introduces them as friends with literary ambitions and traces the different trajectories in their careers and personal lives. The struggle to find one’s identity through art, and the costs that dedication to craft can impose, are the most obvious themes. The plot (such as it is) examines the pair’s relationships and incidents that conclude in both success and tragedy. What’s remarkable is how the film distills the story using a cinematic language of extraordinary wit and clarity. Its technique—involving leaps across time, as well as pairings of actual and imagined realities—becomes a representation of how we actually engage a world of bursting potential but also crippling uncertainty. Similarly, the movie shifts between different emotional registers with extraordinary agility; the mood turns from somber to funny on a dime, and the characters can be at turns sincere and self-important, to the point that minor characters pop in to remind us how a bit of mockery can help to get us out of our pretensions. In brief, the film is a deft rendering of how life presents us with a surplus of possibilities, and the hope and melancholy that arise in the rupture between what our imagination provides and what our actions foreclose. —Andrew Shiotani, director, Tufts International Center
True Grit. This film, released in 2010, stands out to me as one of those ultra-cool movies. Set in 1870s Arkansas, the combination of the cast, characters, setting, story, and dialogue makes this movie one that I typically watch once a year. The story’s heroine is played by Hailee Steinfeld, who is brilliant and believable as the 14-year-old Mattie Ross who sets out on her own to avenge her father’s death by hunting down his killer, Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). Early in the film, Mattie haggles with a stock trader, sells back ponies that her father had purchased, and acquires a horse and his saddle at a very good price—an amazing feat, particularly because the trader had no intention initially of selling back anything. (I’m going to rewatch this before I purchase my next car.) The scene sets the stage for the adventures to come. You believe this young girl will in fact succeed in bringing Chany to justice. Mattie doesn’t go it alone, though. She hires Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges)—a skilled U.S. Marshal, albeit a tad notorious for his drinking and methods of capturing criminals—to help her. The two set off together into the wilderness to track Chany. Also, on the trail is Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, played by Matt Damon. The three cross paths from time to time during the chase, and it makes for some memorable comedic dialogue as the ranger and the marshal butt heads and exchange barbs. The casting of this film is spot on; even the narration of the older Mattie at the beginning and the end of the film perfectly bookends the retelling of the story. The tone of her voice and poignancy of her words always move me. Filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen are expert storytellers, and for me, True Grit underscores their genius. —Carole McFall, family engagement manager, Office of the Dean of Student Affairs, School of Arts and Sciences and School of Engineering
Wildhood. An initial description of Wildhood can read like a stew of indie film clichés. There’s a rural Canadian teenage runaway whose anger stems from his pain, a new love interest who takes him on a road trip of self-discovery, an abusive father, and a smart-aleck little brother. Made by another director, it could be the stuff of a hundred mediocre Sundance movies. Writer-director Bretten Hannam, however, is too smart, and too soulful, for that. In the hands of the two-spirit, non-binary Mi’kmaq filmmaker, the story of said teenage runaway, Lincoln (Phillip Lewitski), his search for the Native mother he thought dead, and his initially tentative connection with new friend and eventual love interest Pasmay (Joshua Odjick) remains grounded in its setting and characters. Hannam never loses focus on Lincoln’s journey, watching as the young man learns about his community from Pasmay and others (including a scene-stealing Michael Greyeyes as a pastry chef with a taste for chaos). The film’s highlight, however, is the breathtakingly tender queer romance between the openly two-spirit Pasmay and the questioning Lincoln. Lewitski and Odjick’s chemistry powers their slow-burn connection, and Hannam allows the actors deeply romantic moments—the waterfall-set culmination of their attraction is a stunner—while always remembering that Lincoln is a wounded teenage boy who can act out in ugly ways. Wildhood is a gorgeously shot, deeply moving story of love, self-knowledge, and community. It takes place in a community that is rarely in the spotlight, and is made by a filmmaker whose deep knowledge of that world informs every frame. It’s a remarkably self-assured debut from Hannam, and I for one can’t wait to see what they do next. —Alexandra Israel, event planner and marketing specialist, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences
Cimafunk. An exciting new voice in Latin music, Erik Alejandro Iglesias Rodríguez is known professionally as Cimafunk. (The artist takes his stage name taken from the word cimarrones, used to describe Africans who escaped enslavement by the Spanish in the 16th century.) He bangs out hard-driving Afro-Cuban funk that’s revolutionizing the Cuban music scene, with its bold mix of funk laced with Cuban and African rhythm. He also adds hip-hop flavors to his music, as in the song “Funk Aspiring,” which features funk legend George Clinton. On stage, his contagious dancing, energy, and a voice reminiscent of James Brown’s will keep you on moving for hours. His 2017 debut, Terapia, featured the hit “Me Voy,” which in turn led to tours that helped him spread his funk gospel across the world. On his 2021 release, El Alimento, he goes even further, mixing American funk, rap, and soul with the Caribbean sounds and his Afro-Cuban funk signature. On the same album he lands collaborations with legendary Cuban pianist Chucho Valdés and rapper Lupe Fiasco. (Cimafunk is currently touring the U.S. with El Alimento.) —Jandro Cisneros, multimedia producer, University Communications and Marketing
The Last Five Years. The third and most recent time I watched this show live onstage, I walked out of the theater, put on my headphones, and walked home listening to the whole hour-long soundtrack again from beginning to end. That’s how much I love this 2001 musical by Jason Robert Brown, in which actress Cathy Hiatt and novelist Jamie Wellerstein take turns telling the story of their five-year relationship through back-to-back songs. Nothing that hasn’t been done before, right? Except Cathy starts the story at the end, heartbroken and wailing as much as singing, the moment after Jamie walks out the door—and Jamie starts at the beginning, home from his first date with Cathy, belting his delirious happiness at the top of his lungs. The story progresses forward from Jamie’s perspective and in reverse from Cathy’s, his gradual disillusionment contrasting with her growing excitement, creating intense dramatic tension as they revisit and try to make sense of the same events, perpetually out of sync. In addition to love and loss, the songs explore ambition, success, the creative process, auditioning, being Jewish, growing up in a small town, and living in Ohio, in jazzy bursts of high energy, hilarity, and impressive wordsmithing. But most memorable are the phrases sung at the beginning and repeated at the end, such as “someone like you” by Jamie and “nothing but you” by Cathy, which take on new, bittersweet meanings for us, the witnesses to their entire relationship—as well as the main musical theme, a sweet, nostalgic violin-and-piano waltz that bookends the show and closes out the wedding-day duet halfway through. This is a beautifully intimate and self-contained listening experience, which will leave you vibrating with small aftershocks and contemplating the vast time-space continuum that is a single human relationship. —Monica Jimenez, senior content creator / editor, University Communications & Marketing
Tell Me You Love Me. Demi Lovato’s sixth studio album, Tell Me You Love Me, reaches listeners’ souls and takes them on an emotional journey through the trials and tribulations of love, relationships, and feeling wanted. From catchy hits on the album like “Sorry Not Sorry” to sultry ballads like “Cry Baby” and “Only Forever,” there’s something for everyone. The 17-song album shines at showcasing Lovato’s vocal range, strategically used to make listeners feel a variety of emotions. At points, songs like the title track feel as though Lovato is asking for validation from a significant other. Other songs like “You Don’t Do It For Me Anymore” send a clear message about moving on. A sobering moment on the album comes in the penultimate track, “Smoke & Mirrors.” A simple piano and powerful voice dominate most of the song, but the pared-down production elevates the strong songwriting and impact of being blunt. What makes this album great isn’t whether the listener can relate, but that it feels so personal and intimate. —Wei Cai, senior marketing and communications specialist, Gordon Institute
American Scandal. Lindsay Graham is the host and has an amazing storytelling voice that keeps his audience engaged as he delivers a weekly podcast on scandals that have shaped America, from business and politics to sports and society. Graham looks at how corruption, deceit, and ambition bring down heroes, celebrities, politicians, and moguls. I’ve spent the past few months cooking dinner while listening to episodes on topics ranging from the DuPont chemical cover-up to the Pentagon Papers to Theranos. (Wondery) —Christina Petrigliano, director of outreach and engagement programs, Office of Alumni Engagement
Backlisted. With more than 165 episodes to date, Backlisted is a treasure trove for those who love old books—and new ones—with literary conversations that entertain as much as they enlighten. Hosts Andy Miller and John Mitchinson invite one or two authors to join them discussing a book each fortnight that’s from the proverbial backlist: books that made a mark in their day, but that are not so well known now. Scan the episode list to find an author you like, or one you wish you knew more about, and take a listen. These literary Brits are erudite and extremely well read, and often a hoot, too. For many of the semi-classics they cover, I realize after listening to an episode that I don’t need to read the book in question: I have absorbed it by osmosis. Others of course lead to book searches and new discoveries. My latest: Elizabeth Taylor (the author, not actress)—she’s better than Jane Austen, as guest Carmen Callil, founder of the Virago Press, puts it, and funny, too. (All major platforms) —Taylor McNeil, senior news and audience engagement editor, University Communications & Marketing
Hope Lies in Dreams. This limited series podcast—just 10 episodes—tells two stories. One is about Stan Crooke, who grew up in poverty in Indianapolis in the 1940s and 50s, but had both the smarts and drive to overcome his rough start in life. He went on to become a major pharma researcher and executive, and focused with true-believer determination on a technology called antisense, for developing RNA-targeted therapeutics. It’s also the story of how difficult it is to bring scientific ideas to fruition—in this case, fighting spinal muscular atrophy, a progressive disease that was almost always deadly to the children it struck. Host Brady Huggett tells the story with aplomb, keeping us personally invested in Stan and the children and their parents desperate for a cure. All major platforms. —Taylor McNeil, senior news and audience engagement editor, University Communications and Marketing
La Brega. As a born-and-raised Puerto Rican living in the United States, I’ve spent more hours than I can count talking to friends—and, if they’ll listen, to strangers—about the place I still consider home. But now I can just tell them to listen to one of the New York Times’ 10 best podcasts of 2021: La Brega. Created by WNYC and Futuro Studios, La Brega is aptly subtitled “Stories of the Puerto Rican Experience.” Each of its eight episodes, released in both English and Spanish, tackles a different tale. Some are deadly serious, like the inadequate reconstruction after Hurricane María, or the decades-long, FBI-led persecution of pro-independence Puerto Ricans. Others are comparatively lighter fare, like Puerto Rico’s historic basketball victory over the Dream Team in the 2004 Olympics, or the time a San Juan mayor flew in fresh snow so kids on a tropical island could have a white Christmas. These stories, which at first glance appear disconnected, all serve as windows into the intricacies, idiosyncrasies, and often indignities of life in what’s essentially a U.S. colony. They coalesce into a definition of the show’s titular concept, la brega, which defies exact translation but means something like struggling or hustling: succeeding (or at least getting by) despite conditions that conspire to make it harder than it should be. For Puerto Ricans, La Brega deftly captures some of the inscrutable aspects of our experience that we often struggle to explain, or even to understand ourselves. For Americans, it’s a uniquely accessible way to learn about a place that’s usually out of sight, out of mind, even as the U.S. continues to hold near limitless political power—and, therefore, responsibility—over its people. With a second season in production, now’s the time to listen! (Apple Podcasts and NPR) —Alberto Medina, communications team lead, Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement
The Rest Is History. British historians Tom Holland and Dominic Sandbrook take on the world in this wide-ranging podcast. Holland is an expert in the ancient world—think Greeks, Romans, and Persians—while Sandbrook focuses on more contemporary history. They charge through all sorts of topics—the American Civil War, Alexander the Great, the Norse sagas, Watergate, the Seven Years’ War, the fall of the Soviet Union, and various top 10s, such as the Top 10 Eunuchs and the Top 10 Mistresses in history. Not every episode will appeal, but many do, and I never fail to learn something new when listening, all the while being entirely diverted from some tedious chore like washing dishes or prep cooking. (All major platforms) —Taylor McNeil, senior news and audience engagement editor, University Communications and Marketing
We Can Do Hard Things. Glennon Doyle, Abby Wambach (Glennon’s wife), and Amanda Doyle (Glennon’s sister) host a podcast where they talk honestly about the hard things in life. They often invite various other authors, activists, actors, professionals, and interesting people to join their conversations, and occasionally the exchange is just with the three of them, which is wonderful too. As Glennon writes in the podcast description, “Life is freaking hard. We are all doing hard things every day—we experience love and loss; we forge and end friendships; battle addiction, illness, and loneliness; care for children and parents; struggle in our jobs, our marriages, our divorces; we try to set and hold boundaries – and we fight for equality, purpose, joy, and peace right in the midst of all the hard.” Glennon is the author of the book Untamed (a wonderful book, if you haven’t already read it!) and a funny, real, human, captivating storyteller. I often listen to the podcast to start my day and find myself smiling, laughing out loud, and nodding along to conversations and stories about parenting, being brave (with Brené Brown), forgiving, showing up, regretting choices, aging, and a range of other topics presented in a funny, genuine, relatable way. (Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Audacy) —Christina Petrigliano, director of outreach and engagement programs, Office of Alumni Engagement
Borgen. Do you still find yourself longing for the presidency of Jed Bartlet? If you get the reference—and you do hunger for a portrayal of a national leader who’s fallible but deeply inspiring—check out Borgen. It’s the Danish political drama that follows the career and family life of the first woman to become prime minister of Denmark. The show’s brutal honesty about the life of a PM will make you ask yourself (repeatedly) why anyone ever seeks public office. But the lead, Sidse Babett Knudsen, will help to restore your faith in politics, and you will cheer her on. Plus, watching the “Americanization” of the Danish political media over the decade of the arc of the show gives U.S. viewers an unusual lens through which to look at what has happened to political coverage in our own country. (Netflix; four seasons, with the caveat that the review above applies to seasons 1-3, as things take a very different turn in season 4…) —Dave Nuscher, executive director, content and planning, University Communications and Marketing
Broad City. Abbi and Ilana are my best friends. Or at least I like to think they would be if I existed in their quirky, NYC-based, antics-driven world. From working odd jobs, to getting bedbugs, navigating relationships, and inventing phone wigs (10/10 would buy one)—Abbi and Ilana take you on an often relatable and absolutely always hilarious journey of the lives of two women in their 20s living in New York. Though they find themselves in unpredictable situations, their strong friendship anchors them together through the whirlwind of discovering who they are and just downright having fun. This is a perfect, lighthearted binge for when you want an easy laugh (though be prepared to hear a lot of “YAS QUEEN.”) (Multiple platforms) —Jennifer Reilly, communications specialist, Office of Sustainability
The Crown. In the wake of the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, it seems fitting that I recommend one of my favorite Netflix series, The Crown. A drama series that launched in November 2016, it has four seasons and is inspired by true events chronicling the life of Queen Elizabeth II. Although the show is based on real life, you’ll learn things about the royal family that you didn’t know. The portrayals of the royal family (as well as the people surrounding them) at various life stages are riveting. As the story unfolds, you see how events in Elizabeth’s life test her strength and ability to deal with the role, highlighting the challenges of being a woman, wife, mother, daughter, sister and, ultimately, the queen. The queen is the job, the job is the crown, and the crown always wins and takes precedence over all else. It’s not 100 percent historically accurate, but the cinematography and acting are superb—my only real disappointment was the replacement of some actors and actresses partway through the series. I fell in love with them from the start and I hated to see them go! If you liked Downton Abbey, you’ll be captivated by The Crown; if you are like me, you won’t want to stop watching! Rumor has it that a fifth and sixth season are in the making, although filming has temporarily halted out of respect as the queen is laid to rest. If you’re still not sure it’s worth the watch, check out the trailer! (Netflix) —Christine Fitzgerald, manager, service marketing and communications, Tufts Technology Services
For All Mankind. On Apple TV+, shows like Ted Lasso and Severance are getting all the attention, but this excellent show is flying under the radar. For All Mankind is a science-fiction drama that shows what would have happened if the Soviet Union had landed on the moon before the United States. Over the course of three seasons so far, the show’s alternate history has dramatized the ripple effects over decades of the Soviet achievement. The result is a fascinating look at the impacts on politics, feminism, space exploration, LGBTQ rights, and more. In addition to the broader themes, the show follows the interpersonal and professional drama surrounding the ensemble cast as they navigate their way through both NASA and outer space. Scenes of the crew troubleshooting unexpected problems in space have been some of the most suspenseful and gripping television that I have seen in a while. Like space itself, For All Mankind is quietly powerful and awe-inspiring. (Apple TV+) —Melissa Lee, student communications specialist, Office of the Dean of Student Affairs, School of Arts and Sciences and School of Engineering
The Good Place. This smart comedy ran 2016-2020 for four short seasons and is the most clever show I’ve seen in many years. Here’s the premise: Eleanor (Kristen Bell) is welcomed to her first day in the afterlife in what’s known as the Good Place by Michael (Ted Danson), a Good Place architect. All is well, except that Eleanor knows she really doesn’t belong there: she’s a self-described Arizona trashbag. She wants to stay, though, and soon is studying on the sly with Chidi, who was a professor of moral philosophy in his lifetime. The topic of their lessons: how to be a good person. Needless to say, complications ensue. Here’s the thing: you really don’t want any spoilers, so if you don’t know the show, don’t read anything about it. Instead, head to wherever you get your Netflix and start watching season one now. And if you love it as much as I did, after watching season two, you’ll want to get the backstories on each episode on The Good Place podcast. (Multiple platforms) —Taylor McNeil, senior news and audience engagement editor, University Communications & Marketing
Inventing Anna. I love getting recommendations for series to watch. Some of the recommendations I get are from what I call “serial recommenders”—people who have suggested shows previously that I enjoyed. I find their recommendations are much more accurate than the AI-generated ones. Which is why I tried Inventing Anna, when one of my serial recommenders suggested it. It’s a weird and quirky Netflix miniseries starring Julia Garner, who is well known for her role of Ruth in Ozark and brings a very different look and accent to her character, Anna Delvey. The fact that the series is based on a real story enhances the sense of enjoyment: someone really did this? and got away with it for a while? The settings go from prison to nightclubs to palatial Manhattan apartments; the clothing from prison scrubs to Chanel and Prada. The show has many characters besides Anna and Vivian—the journalist who is investigating Anna—my favorite being the Greek chorus of writers banished to the corner of the newsroom. The most intriguing side of Inventing Anna: the questions the show raised about what is real and what is fake. Don’t we all invent versions of ourselves, complete with the clothes, hair, and makeup to add plausibility? (Netflix) —Lisa Gualtieri, associate professor, Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine
Little House on the Prairie. This family-friendly drama series featuring the life of the Ingalls family on their Walnut Grove, Minn. farm in the 1870s-90s initially aired in 1974 and ran until 1983. Its stars include Michael Landon, Melissa Gilbert, Karen Grassle, and Melissa Sue Anderson. However, all the actors contribute to episodes that inspire viewers and provide insightful and meaningful lessons. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books inspired the show and its focus on family values, life experiences, and community-building. In one episode, the oldest daughter, Mary (Anderson), loses her eyesight. The trauma, turmoil, and frustration that Mary and the Ingallses experience remind viewers of the unpredictable circumstances we face in life. Yet Mary must find her way through the darkness to a place of light. With love and humility, her family and teachers at a school for the blind help Mary release self-pity and resolve to overcome life’s circumstances and discover her place in the world, fulfilling her dream to become a teacher and share her experience with other blind students. The many instances of division and dysfunction today can be discouraging; it is refreshing to see a sense of community and to be reminded by this nurturing family about the importance of compassion, trust, and unity, despite all obstacles. So, need a pick-me-up? Catch a re-run (or two) and sit back, relax, laugh, or cry. Let your imagination flow and let something old inspire you to something new. (Reruns available on UpTV and the Hallmark Channel) —Vivian Stephens-Hicks, MBS program manager and assistant professor of medical education, Tufts University School of Medicine
Modern Love. I like to think I’m a realistic romantic. I wouldn’t paint myself into a Jane Austen book, but I can get lost in the archives of the New York Times’ “Modern Love.” So when Amazon Prime announced it would stream a rom-com anthology series on its video platform, featuring a-list actors and directing by John Carney (“Once,” “Sing Street,” “Begin Again”) I took the bait. “Modern Love” helped get me through the rough days of the pandemic, by reminding me that like heartbreak, lockdowns and quarantines, too, would pass. Tina Fey and John Slattery’s episode about the trials of love as marriages age, Minnie Driver’s connection to a car after the untimely death of her young husband, and many more can be watched in a binge session or spaced out as needed to remind us of the ways love forces us to evolve, even in the most uncertain times. —Emily Wright, senior content creator / editor, University Communications & Marketing
Only Murders in the Building. This is a clever and witty murder mystery series starring Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez—an all-star cast who play three distinctive characters who bond over their love for murder podcasts. The series centers around an Upper West Side apartment complex called the Arconia, where Charles-Haden Savage (Martin), Oliver Putnam (Short), and Mabel Mora (Gomez) live. Their bond grows as they decide to create a podcast of their own about the mysterious death of their neighbor. With a slightly less sarcastic tone than Knives Out, the series follows their own investigation. As every clue is uncovered, you can’t help but fall in love with each character (and the trio as a whole). Even though each character carries their own secrets, they somehow develop an unlikely friendship that helps them dig through the past and present to solve the mystery. If you are looking for a fresh, entertaining, and addictive series, Only Murders in the Building is for you. With two seasons already released and a third on the way, happy bingeing! (Hulu) —Rebecca Ping, director of emergency management, Tufts University
Pachinko. I recently binged this series, which is based on Min Jin Lee’s 2017 best-selling novel of the same name. Pachinko is something special—a historical drama with grit. Powerfully tragic yet beautifully told, this epic drama takes place across Korea, Japan, and the U.S., centered on four generations of a Korean Japanese immigrants during the turbulent Japanese colonial rule. The parallel movement of the threads of the stories between the past and present is graceful and honest, with phenomenal acting and gorgeous cinematography. This is a must-see opportunity to get up close to history that remains relevant today. (Apple TV+) —Helena Han, assistant director of business operations, Office of the Vice Provost of Research
Queen Sugar. Created and executive-produced by Ava DuVernay, with Oprah Winfrey serving as an executive producer, Queen Sugar centers on the Bordelon siblings: Ralph Angel, Nova, and Charley. The series began in 2016, with the final season airing this fall. Since the first episode, this bold, brave show has reflected family discourse and healing. It has tackled many topics such as racism, abuse, discrimination on various levels, and immigration issues, all while maintaining realism in how these matters resolve. This provocative, heartfelt series advocates for Black and brown people, the LGBTQ+ community, and those who suffer from housing and food insecurity. I can never tell if I am going to rejoice, cry, or feel fueled by the issues presented in the episodes; however, it is a ride I am willing to take to experience the far-reaching plots and amazing characters! I rarely watch television, but I look forward to watching Queen Sugar, as it reminds me that family is not always perfect—but when it centers on love, it is perfectly imperfect. (OWN) —Yolanda L. Smith, executive director of public safety and chief of police
Severance. The COVID-19 pandemic reinvigorated a conversation around work/life balance. Severance explores just that using a Black Mirror-esque approach. Lumon Industries, a mysterious large technology corporation, has developed a medical procedure called severance, which separates one’s work and non-work life and memories. The show centers on four Lumon employees, including one played by Adam Scott from Parks and Recreation, who undergo the procedure—and what was a good idea on the surface turns out to be an utter nightmare. Severance shines a dystopian light on the inhumane ways in which employees can be viewed and treated as companies work to maximize productivity and profits. It deserves all 14 Emmy nominations it received; if you watch, you’ll see exactly what I mean. (Apple TV+) —Tiffany House, associate director for diversity and inclusion education, health sciences campuses, Office of the Provost
WandaVision. I know, you hate Marvel. It’s flat and formulaic with migraine-inducing special effects and it’s ruining the big screen and creeping onto the small screen. And yes, WandaVision is literally the names of two Marvel superheroes (and worse, Avengers) mashed together without so much as a pause for breath in between. And not even two of the good ones. Wanda: mind control and telekinetic abilities, shoots red magic out of her hands (see also: Scarlet Witch). Vision: formerly Iron Man’s AI version of Alfred the butler, now kind of a levitating android? Who cares, it’s Paul Bettany. But! These nine half-hour episodes are fundamentally different from the three-hour Marvel behemoths you may have suffered through in theaters. Think Twilight Zone meets Pleasantville. The show begins in the black-and-white world of a classic 1960s sitcom, with a happily married couple and hilarious hijinks—but it soon becomes clear that something strange is going on, something the laugh track can’t quite cover up. The discordant note grows louder as we progress into the era of color TV and breaking the fourth wall, with newcomers and neighborhood disruptions straining the couple’s relationship and their ability to suspend disbelief. The whole thing eventually explodes into an airborne superhero battle against a magical stormy sky (sorry, it is Marvel), but keep an eye on the more interesting fight—the one between illusion and reality, self-protection and love, grief and truth. And then go rewatch Avengers: Infinity War and Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. I swear this series makes them better. (Disney+) —Monica Jimenez, senior content creator / editor, University Communications & Marketing