Given that this Netflix breakout-limited series is such an in-your-face commentary on the dangers of unchecked powers and influence, it’s hard to even call it horror. Yes, there is blood, death, suspense and a really cool looking monster. But wrapped up in this seven-episode series by creator Mike Flanagan is an endless scourge of the viewer – remember, religious fanaticism can be used for sinister agendas!
We understand it.
But aside from the forced social commentary, Flanagan – fresh off the successes of The Haunting of Hill House (2018) and Chasing Bly Manor (2020) — delivers a beautifully shot, moody world set in a struggling fishing village on Crockett Island, about an hour from the mainland. It is a disturbing and, with a population of less than 200, isolating environment.
After a mysterious priest named Father Paul (Hamish Linklater) suddenly arrives to lead the city’s struggling Catholic Church, strange “miracles” happen that breathe new life into the city. But it doesn’t take long to realize that these are not acts of God. The island soon witnesses a sinister plan for control – fervently carried out by local Catholic Karen (Samantha Sloyan) – that culminates in an almost complete destruction of the city and its people after a cannibalistic massacre.
But not all is lost. Along the way, we get deeply empathetic performances from Zach Gilford, or Friday night lights fame, and Kate Siegel, whose characters literally embark on a journey of redemption as their world burns.
Despite some nasty plot holes and unanswered questions – one of which could lead to a second season – don’t turn on Midnight Mass for a show about a monster. It turns out Crockett Island already had about 120 of them. —Jason Wells
Where to watch: Netflix
Only murders in the building
I love Martin Short and I love Steve Martin and tolerate Selena Gomez, which means this Hulu series about a trio of Manhattan neighbors who try to solve a murder in their building and simultaneously launch a podcast about it is endearing cute and funny. Created by Steve Martin, Dan Fogelman and John Hoffman, the show revolves around a former TV actor named Charles (Martin) and his neighbors: the extravagant but penniless theater director Oliver Putnam (Martin Short) and the mysterious Mabel (Gomez). They live in the Arconia, a Tony building with famous residents like Sting. When a young Japanese-American man named Tim Kono is found dead, the trio, who meet at a nearby restaurant when the building’s fire alarm goes off, discover that they are all fans of the same true crime podcast. everything is not okay in Oklahomadecide to take matters into their own hands. The writing is sharp (with just the right amount of millennial versus Boomer jokes) and there are lots of fun cameos. But the real charm lies in watching two comic masters (and Gomez) seem to be having the time of their lives. —Tomi Obaro
Where to watch: hulu
The problem with Jon Stewart
It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Jon Stewart. The man who expanded the role of comedic news analysis ended his iconic run as host of The daily show in late 2015, a year before Trump was elected. A lot has changed in the intervening years. For a, Last week tonight, hosted by former Stewart protégé John Oliver, took the baton and ran with it, aspiring to the same cloak of damning analysis and clear moral assessment of the week’s issues. Then came other spin-offs, all from the daily show School of Political Comedy: Larry Wilmore’s The Nightly Show in 2015, Samantha Bee’s Full frontal in 2016 and 2018 Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj.
Any return for Stewart would have to do with him returning to a TV landscape where his students have outdone him. He can’t really get away with doing the same thing again. And so he doesn’t. This month Stewart returned with a new show, The problem with Jon Stewart. It’s a biweekly show where each episode focuses on a single issue, and it offers meaningful adaptations to the expected Stewart format.
The problem begins as you would imagine a Stewart show to begin: with a monologue laced with jokes. But about a third of the way through the pilot, it turns around: Instead of Stewart announcing from the mountaintop, he invites people firsthand affected by the issue he’s addressing. Their reports are touching and at times Stewart himself looks on in tears. But it doesn’t stop there – Stewart takes it one step further and enters an arena he had long avoided: the accountability interview. For years, Stewart reminded the public that he is not a journalist, but rather a comedian who asks questions. In The problem, he reluctantly steps into the shoes of a journalist, publicly counting on a role he’d been given but reluctantly embraced. It works great and offers insight into what the next phase of Stewart’s career could look like. —Elamin Abdelmahmoud
Where to watch: Apple TV+
I really didn’t know what to expect when I pressed play Domestic help last weekend the new Netflix drama series starring Margaret Qualley. In it, Qualley plays Alex, a single mother who, after leaving her emotionally abusive boyfriend, experiences the pitfalls of trying to survive alone. Based on the New York Times bestselling memoir by author Stephanie Land, Domestic help is an unwavering view of poverty – from the ridiculous red tape one has to go through to get help from government programs to the condescension of those with more money. The 10-episode series is compelling and honest. It also addresses family trauma, including mental illness and domestic violence. While there are heavy themes, the show has moments of levity to balance the gloom. Qualley puts on a stellar performance alongside Andie MacDowell, the star’s real-life mom. Unsurprisingly, the two performers have a natural chemistry that comes across on screen. And Anika Noni Rose, who plays a wealthy lawyer, gives a beautifully devastating performance as Regina. Rose fluctuates seamlessly between steel-hard and cold and vulnerable and also hilariously funny. Her monologue in episode 4 is without a doubt one of the best television performances of the year. So if you’re looking for a great show that satisfies just about every level, check it out Domestic help. You will not be disappointed. —Michael Blackmon
Where to watch: Netflix
When a friend told me she was watching a show on Comedy Central about the two older siblings of a tween pop star, it sounded appealingly random. And The other TWO, now in its second season on HBO Max, is one of the funniest pop culture commentary shows since Julie Klausner’s difficult people.
Like that dark comedy, which focused on the absurdity of Klausner and Billy Eichner’s jokes as aspiring actors in the making, Two takes advantage of the humiliations of Dubek siblings Cary (Drew Tarver) and Brooke (Helene Yorke) as they struggle on the lower levels of entertainment, while their young brother gains viral fame as the Bieber-esque star Chase Dreams.
However, it is Cary who really anchors the show’s themes. The writing is refreshingly specific in its parodies of both gay culture and straight-eyed sentimentality. From the commercialization of gay melodrama (Chase does a song about the gay brother) to intergenerational gay dating to the Instagay economy, anything goes. The new season continues to have some increasingly wacky twists and turns, from mom Pat (played by Molly Shannon) becoming a highly regarded Rachel Ray-esque talk show host, to a Hillsong subplot, to Bachelor Nation craziness. But the show doesn’t shy away from some serious family drama, either. For those looking for witty writing with an old-fashioned sitcom-esque appeal, The other TWO will fill a niche you may not even know you missed. —Alessa Dominguez
Where to watch: HBO Max