We're heading into warmer weather, but June-uary still has the chance to drive Vancouverites indoors for a spell or two, so we decided to update our start of COVID editor's list on the best things to watch that you may not have heard of (no one is schilling the admittedly very good Mare of Easttown here). And while this isn't one of our popular drafts, we've become quite competitive on everything we do now, so feel free to shout out your pick for the greatest culture vulture among us.
For starters, terrible name. Martin Scorsese already made an Oscar-nominated film called Gangs of New York so at first blush the name is puzzling: are they related? Is it a sequel? No, there's no connection, although we'll chalk the confusion up to this being a British production, albeit one you can watch on AMC, where it's currently the only show that's not zombie related. You'll recognize a few faces in the cast: professional Irishman Colm Meaney plays family patriarch Finn Wallace, Game of Thrones' Michelle Fairley, last seen very much not enjoying the Red Wedding, plays his wife Marian and Joe Cole of Skins and Peaky Blinders plays their ambitious and ruthless son Sean.
The story tracks the ruthless hunt for an assassin within London's organized crime world (I can't tell who gets whacked) and cleverly juxtaposes the gritty underworld with the high finance of property development. It's clever and compelling but fair warning—it's pretty violent. Episode 6 is already being talked about as a TV heir to the legendary shoot out in Heat, so high praise.
Watch if you like: The Wire.
—Food editor Neal McLennan
It wasn't that long ago that I would refer to Cristin Milioti as "the mom from How I Met Your Mother" (sorry for the incredibly underwhelming spoiler). But these days she is very much Cristin Milioti. After a great turn in Palm Springs (which I've also recommended on this very website), Milioti brings the heat to another sci-fi adjacent tale (this one available on Amazon Prime) as a woman on the run from her obsessive tech mogul husband aptly named Byron Gogol (and played with creepy perfection by Billy Magnussen). You see, ol' Gogol has plans to plant microchips in both their heads to meld their minds. The takes on modern technology and relationships alter between horrifying and hilarious. And Ray Romano does his Bryan Cranston goofy-sitcom-dad-to-twisted-drama-dad turn as Milioti's father, who just happens to be in a very committed relationship with a sex doll.
I'll go out on a limb here and say at least one of the two male leads gets nominated for an Emmy. I'm not going to do that with Milioti because it's not much of a prediction; it's a virtual certainty.
Watch if you like: Mr. Robot
—Associate editor Nathan Caddell
Bingeing seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race has been one of my comfort activities during COVID—I think many competition shows are hard to re-watch (that is, if you can even get through them once) as knowing the winner tends to spoil the experience. That’s not the case with Drag Race at all: there is so much to take in from the gowns to the show-womanship to the confessionals, it’s like an I Spy of entertainment. Every time you look again, there’s more.
And talk about cultural relevance—RPDR is mainstream to the point that original fans complain about it. If you haven’t taken a moment to be totally thunderstruck by the queens’ sheer talent, start now.
Nothing compares to experiencing the show in real time, so I’m so pumped for All Stars 6 to premiere on June 24. You’re not going to find a reality show out there that asks more from their competitors (sewing, singing, dancing, lip-synching, occasional emotional warfare) and All Stars contestants are all queens from past seasons—it’s the best of the best. I’ve already watched the “Meet the Queens” teaser episode, and I feel like it’s Jan’s to lose. She’s standing in the foreground on the right side of the image above. Though keep in mind I’ve watched 18 seasons of Drag Race and successfully predicted the winner three times, so I wouldn’t put money on that.
Watch if you like: Charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent
—Assistant editor Alyssa Hirose
To be honest, when I first started seeing trailers for Girls5Eva, I'd kind of written it off. Terrible name, I mistakenly thought, and also, it's aired on the W Network, which has almost entirely been taken over by year-round Hallmark movies. (If there's no Christmas tree in it, I'm not watching it, okay? Is it a crime to be nostalgic for the days when it ran The Wedding Planner a dozen times a week?)
But I'm also a sucker for anything with a song and dance in it (I weep that Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist appears to be dead in the water), and I know Sara Bareilles can genuinely sing so... I programmed my DVR. And holy crap do I thank past Anicka for (semi-) withholding judgement.
Girls5Eva follows four former girl-group stars from the ’90s band Girls5Eva ("Gonna be famous 5eva/'Cause 4ever's too short"), and it's both a tribute to, and hilarious send-up of the era. Bareilles is terrific as the lead/straightwoman, Renée Elise Goldsberry has a killer set of pipes and incredible comic timing, and Busy Philipps and Paula Pell honestly have me cracking up every few minutes. There are great cameos—Stephen Colbert as a Swedish pop-song writer, Andrew Rannells as Phillips' boy-band husband—and smart, ridiculous one-liners that I quickly rewind to watch them delivered twice. It's perfection.
Watch if you like: The Spice Girls
—editorial director Anicka Quin
Ziwe Fumudoh’s favourite thing to tell her guests is how iconic they are, so it feels a little repetitive to call this fearless, razor-sharp comedy queen the “I” word but really, nothing else will do. Her new eponymous Showtime show mixes mischievously poignant interview sessions with bracing sketches and original songs, as the creator-writer-producer-consultant-musical-director superstar gets gleefully blunt with her guests on her all-pink-everything set.
Dressed in a pink lapelled suit, she casually asks Fran Lebowitz, “Which do you hate more: racism or slow walkers?” In a game-show segment called “Woke Wars” she pits competitors against each other to name all of their Black friends. She's happy to pull a bunch of women named Karen into a focus group and casually convince them all to get temporary "Karen Power" tattoos. Though her fashion choices are aggressively feminine and her cadence sweeter still, her setups cut deep into issues of race, feminism, power and beauty. It’s uncomfortable, it’s hilarious. Please watch so The One True Icon gets a season two.
Watch if you like: Between Two Ferns, Broad City
—Stacey McLachlan, editor at large