CVIndependent

Sun08182019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Bill Frost

Summer’s not even over, and you’re already broke? Don’t worry—your big payout from those billionaires’ tax cuts will be trickling down any day now; many people on both sides are saying it’ll be tremendous.

In the meantime, you need some free TV—and I mean, as Our Lord Frank Zappa once said, absolutely free. None of these paid-subscription Netflix/Hulu/Prime Video/etc. shows that Content Shifter usually pushes on you while receiving no financial kickbacks. (Seriously, where are the damn kickbacks?)

Enter Pluto TV. It’s free, and it’s fantastic—but beware: There are commercials. (Sorry, Frank.) It’s a “live” streaming service with hundreds of “channels,” available through an app on streaming devices and smart TVs, or directly via Pluto.tv. It even does on-demand!

Here are 11 Pluto TV channels worth checking out:

Funny AF (Channel 423): Remember now-dead subscription comedy streamer Seeso? Funny AF is kinda like that—especially now that it’s picked up the “lost” Seeso season of cult hit Bajillion Dollar Propertie$ (premieres Aug. 5). Pluto TV’s comedy block (channels 411-445) also includes constant content from The Onion, Fail Army, and Internet Gold, as well as a Cats 24/7 channel (meow).

Comedy Central (Channel 411): The real gem in Pluto TV’s comic cluster is the Comedy Central channel, which runs marathons of canceled network classics like Another Period, Drawn Together, Ugly Americans and others that stream nowhere else (except, well, at ComedyCentral.com). Comedy Central Stand-Up (415) is also loaded with rare sets from comics you forgot once stood up, like John Oliver.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 (Channel 385): I’ve been a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan for 20 years, and I still haven’t seen every episode; this 24/7 loop of 1989-99 originals is just what Dr. Z ordered. Sure, MST3K eps are scattered all over YouTube and elsewhere, but … convenience! Also: the MST3K channel runs alongside an offshoot RiffTrax channel (389), so there’s no end to the snarky shit-movie torment/joy.

Pluto TV Movies (Channel 54): It’s not all terrible flicks: The Pluto TV movie channels section (54-98) is like stumbling into the last VHS shop on earth. There are dramas, comedies, indies, thrillers, documentaries and more from the ’40s through the ’00s, with a quality-to-crap ratio that bests Netflix. The ’80s Rewind channel (88) is especially rad, with obscurities like Joysticks leading into bona-fide hits like Heathers.

Cheddar News (Channel 266): As cool as an around-the-clock news network about sharp cheese would be, this ain’t that. Cheddar News, along with companion net Cheddar Business, is smartly-reported news aimed at the under-35 set—the opposite of dinosaur cable news. But Pluto TV also has a CNN feed, as well as The Young Turks (ultra-lefty news) and NewsMax (to the right of the right of Fox News).

Impact Wrestling (Channel 515): Pro wrestling is America’s only true sport; everything else is just fakery and product placement. The Impact channel is a loop of neo-classic rasslin’ matches, and the sports arena of Pluto TV also has MMA channels, a surfing channel, a smattering of soccer and even a couple of legit sports networks (Fox Sports and Eleven Sports). It’s all replays, but so what? Go sports!

MTV Guy Code (Channel 314): Lamenting the lack of music on MTV is so 20 years ago—me, I miss the cartoons. The MTV Guy Code channel runs blocks of ’90s icons Beavis and Butt-head (sans music videos), as well as hilarious 2000s near-cartoon Rob and Big. Other MTV channels on Pluto TV play old episodes of MTV Cribs, Punk’d, Made, My Super Sweet 16 and, sadly, The Hills and Laguna Beach.

Cold Case Files (Channel 346): Before all the true-crime podcasts you misguidedly listen to instead of my television/drinking podcast (TV Tan, shameless plug) came along, there was true-crime TV—with visuals and everything! The Cold Case Files channel runs alongside other murder-iffic feeds like Unsolved Mysteries and Forensic Files; the whole block should be rechristened White Ladies + Wine.

Anime All Day (Channel 680): No, I don’t “get” anime—is it nightmares in cartoon form? Motion-sickness soap operas? Coder porn? Fuck if I know, but I do realize that a whole lotta people looovvveee their anime. Anime All Day is an eternal binge of shows like Bleach, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Log Horizon, Grave of the Fireflies, Death Note and other potential metal-album titles. Feel free to troll me on Reddit.

Conspiracy (Channel 571): A 24/7 feed dedicated to conspiracy theories only seems crazy until you notice that Pluto TV has dedicated entire channels to Dog the Bounty Hunter (353) and Wahlburgers (358). Though Conspiracy never touches the top two coverups of our time (Pink Floyd never landed on the dark side of the moon; 7-Eleven was an inside job), there’s still plenty here to ponder.

THC (Channel 591): No, it’s not The Homemaker Channel—THC is all about weed, all the time (or maybe it just seems like it ... what were we talking about?). This ceaseless stoner stream has the usual suspects (Cheech and Chong movies, cartoons, mucho Doug Benson) and a few surprises (like Dope State, a hilarious mockumentary about the pot-shop biz), and it’s all like … super-chill.

Surprise: 2019 is halfway over. Another six months of your life have slipped by, and you were doing … what? Spending time with loved ones? Participating in humanitarian efforts? Pursuing higher education and enlightenment? Hey, no judgment here … hippies.

I know what you weren’t doing: watching enough TV. All that content isn’t going to consume itself—at least not until I launch my own premium streaming service, FrostyVision. For the low price of $6.66 a month, you’ll have access to the latest TV series and movies—but only for a week. Then, the shows self-delete forever, and a new batch appears for another seven days: Rinse, repeat, no more catch-up guilt. Just tell your friends, “Sorry, but Ozark is, like, gone—thanks, FrostyVision!”

In the meantime, here are seven of the best streaming series you’ve missed so far in 2019.

Doom Patrol (Season 1 on DC Universe): You’ll never to subscribe to the DC Universe streaming service. I get it—so I’m urging you to sign up for the seven-day free trial, binge Doom Patrol, and bail. This twisted tale of misfit “superheroes” is more talk than fight, more emotion than logic, and Robotman (Brendan Fraser) regularly asking, “What the fuck?!” for all of us. It’s welcome anarchy in corporate-comics times.

Fleabag (Seasons 1-2 on Prime Video): As “Fleabag,” show creator/star Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a horny, angsty, directionless Londoner who narrates her hilariously tragic mess of life directly to the camera, almost daring you to look away. Which is impossible—she’s as magnetic as she is luckless. Fleabag’s 12 brief episodes careen like an all-night bender, finally wrapping up perfectly (and hangover-free).

Russian Doll (Season 1 on Netflix): On the night of her 36th birthday, brassy New Yorker Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) dies, reappears at her party, dies again (differently), reappears, dies (differently again), reappears, etc. Despite the perpetual story reset, Russian Doll surprises at every turn, propelled by Lyonne’s dizzied-to-dogged performance, and the story’s subtle time-loop clues. It’s Happier Death Day.

Good Omens (Season 1 on Prime Video): The unlikely bromance between angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and demon Crowley (David Tennant) is interrupted by the coming of the Antichrist and Armageddon—rude. Good Omens is clever, breezy fun in the face of impending doom, not to mention Tennant’s most triumphantly ridiculous performance ever (sorry, Doctor Who). Bonus: Christian groups were appalled.

PEN15 (Season 1 on Hulu): Thirtysomething actresses Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle play their early-2000s selves alongside actual 13-year-olds so that we may all relive middle school … thanks? PEN15—yes, the title is the joke you think it is—is at first silly AF, then Erskine and Konkle blend into the characters, and the pain becomes as pronounced as the laughs. Anybody remember AOL Instant Messenger?

The Umbrella Academy (Season 1 on Netflix): If Doom Patrol is the absinthe-soaked, steam-punk cousin of Marvel’s mutant teams, then The Umbrella Academy is Wes Anderson’s X-Men. Seven super-powered kids born on the same day in 1989 are raised to be heroes at the Umbrella Academy … then they grow up and waaay apart. We’re-dysfunctional-but-hot histrionics aside, TUA is a cinematography nerd’s dream.

Weird City (Season 1 on YouTube Premium): Jordan Peele produced a star-heavy sci-fi anthology series before his Twilight Zone reboot—but no one saw it because, hey, YouTube Premium. Weird City divides society literally into Haves and Have Nots, spinning six comic, Black Mirror-lite yarns about the still-flawed class delineations and tech of “the future.” Best of all, Weird City has a gym called ShapeCult.

There was a time when nothing was available “on demand” unless you dragged your ass to Blockbuster Video—and then you had to settle for what wasn’t already rented out. I’m talking about the ’90s—the glorious age of grunge, G-funk and godawful TV action series.

“New content” rolled out over rabbit-ears TV in the summer. Local stations were flooded with low-budget syndicated action series every weekend, and few of them pass the smell test in 2019. If we’re currently in the Platinum Age of TV, the ’90s were Tin Foil, at best.

Here are nine ’90s action series worth a stream and a laugh—but good luck making it past the first episode of most. As with a six-pack of Zima, there’s no shame in tapping out after one.

V.I.P. (Season 1 on Sony Crackle): In 1998, Pamela Anderson’s V.I.P. satirized the inherent misogyny and T&A exploitation of previous action series—while also amping and camping up the T&A, because, Pamela Anderson. Vallery Irons Protection (V.I.P.) provides celebrity security and solid one-liners, and the pilot features future Breaking Bad award magnets Bryan Cranston and Dean Norris. Seriously.

Acapulco H.E.A.T. (Season 1-2 on Prime Video): It’s downhill from here, though: Acapulco H.E.A.T. (Hemisphere Emergency Action Team) could be the dumbest series ever created—and they made 48 episodes! The H.E.A.T. fights international terrorism while undercover as fashion models at an Acapulco resort hotel owned by … Fabio. How do you carry a gun in a bikini or banana hammock? Please stop thinking so hard.

Renegade (Seasons 1-5 on Prime Video and Hulu): Framed for a murder he didn’t commit (as usual), ex-Army Ranger Reno Raines (Lorenzo Lamas) and his lush mullet hit the road on a Harley. He then skids into a gig as a bounty hunter in the “badlands” (as pronounced in the dad-rockin’ theme song) and five seasons of this shit. At least Renegade inspired Mac’s sweet leather duster on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

La Femme Nikita (Seasons 1-5 on YouTube): Critically acclaimed and Canadian-awarded 1997-2001 TV adaptation La Femme Nikita is a mostly action-free “action” series about assassins who operate out of an IKEA-furnished shadow government HQ. Nikita (Peta Wilson) stares through blonde bangs and emotes icily about “moral conflict,” and LFM eventually earns its hype through slow-slow-slow-burn arcs.

Queen of Swords (Season 1 on YouTube): Number nerds believe the first “0” year of a new decade actually belongs to the previous one—therefore Queen of Swords, which debuted in 2000, is part of the ’90s. If you think that’s a stretch, how about a copyright-baiting female Zorro? Star Tessie Santiago made it work. QoS balanced fizzy fun and swashbuckling sexiness, but missed the ’90s action boat. Triste.

The Crow: Stairway to Heaven (Season 1 on YouTube): The Crow (1994) was a meh film that worked better as an alt-grunge soundtrack vehicle. In 1998, Canada created a Crow TV series with a lesser music budget—that’s like poutine without the gravy, hosers. Star Marc Dacascos did what he could with dead rocker/avenging angel Eric Draven, but The Crow was already played out (as proven in three inexplicable movie sequels).

Relic Hunter (Seasons 1-3 on Roku Channel): Like a Raiders of the Lost Ark without the Spielberg cash, or a Tomb Raider without Angelina Jolie’s balloon lips, 1999’s Relic Hunter rides the international artifact-wrangler trope with minimal brain strain. Tia Carrere plays a prim university professor who’s ready to strip down to a tank top and cargo pants and track trinkets at a moment’s notice. RH is almost … educational?

Highlander: The Series (Seasons 1-6 on Prime Video, Hulu and Tubi): After two Highlander movies, Adrian Paul took on the role of immortal ponytail enthusiast Duncan MacLeod (“of the Clan MacLeod!”) in a TV series that lasted six seasons, 119 episodes, and countless mom-jeans jokes. Highlander: The Series bests the film franchise, thanks to deeper storylines and the absence of Christopher Lambert—there can be (wait for it) only one.

Sheena (Seasons 1-2 on Sony Crackle): Former Baywatch star Gena Lee Nolin was looking for smarter roles in the late ’90s—but instead, she wound up starring in Sheena. Sheena (Nolin) was orphaned in the jungle as a child, but now protects the African wilderness with salon-perfect hair and a hand towel passing as a battle dress. Oh, and she can turn invisible, or into an animal. Spoiler: Everyone is white.

Fictional “historical” characters are celebrated over several U.S. holidays—Christmas, Easter, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Presidents Day, etc. Meanwhile, the very real creators of life, moms, receive only one annual nod: Mother’s Day, this year taking place on Sunday, May 12.

Fortunately, there’s television, the great equalizer. TV is where moms get their proper due, much more so than in movies. (The best-ever film about “motherhood” is 1983’s Mr. Mom—let that patriarchal shit sink in.)

Here are seven streaming TV series that showcase wildly different mothers at their best, worst and straight-up weirdest. And no, forwarding this article to your mom’s Hotmail doesn’t count as a Mother’s Day gift.

Better Things (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): Is Pamela Adlon’s Better Things a comedy or a drama? Yes. Adlon herself simply says it’s an “incredible feelings show,” which fits like a fresh pair of Spanx. It’s also about motherhood; Better Things will make you laugh, cry and scream along with single mom Sam (Adlon) and her three daughters, the most complex kids on TV. Above all, Better Things is capital-A Art.

Workin’ Moms (Season 1 on Netflix): Like Schitt’s Creek and Letterkenny, dark-com Workin’ Moms is covertly Canadian. The struggles of these Toronto mothers (including It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Catherine Reitman, Workin’ Moms’ creator), unfortunately, are universal: post-partum depression, workplace sexism, inconvenient lactation and everything else men deny. Too real, but still funny.

Jane the Virgin (Seasons 1-4 on Netflix): In this gringo-ized 2014-2019 CW telenovela, engaged 23-year-old virgin Jane (Gina Rodriguez) is inadvertently inseminated with a sperm sample meant for another patient—and even worse, the sample is from her handsome boss crush! Jane the Virgin is ridiculous, fizzy fun that detours into The Feels seamlessly. Best of all, Christian groups lost their shit over Jane before it even aired.

Odd Mom Out (Seasons 1-3 on Vudu): Momzillas author Jill Kargman stars as a manically exaggerated version of herself in this 2015-2017 comedy about uber-rich Manhattan mothers—the smartest series Bravo ever produced. Naturally, Odd Mom Out was canceled to make room for more Real Housewives dreck, but at least Kargman and scene-stealing Abby Elliott cranked out 30 near-perfect episodes.

I’m Sorry (Season 1 on Netflix): Andrea Savage’s all-about-me comedy doesn’t care to differentiate itself from other Comics Play Themselves half-hours—it’s all about the jokes. I’m Sorry, referring to mom/comedy writer “Andrea’s” tendency to say the most hilariously wrong things, is a white-wine spritzer of a sitcom: not too heavy, not too sweet, nice buzz. MVP: Bemused “husband” Tom Everett Scott.

Good Girls (Season 1 on Hulu and Netflix): Three straight-arrow suburban moms (Christina Hendricks, Retta and Mae Whitman) turn to robbery to pay the bills—and, more importantly, score some thrills. Soon, they’re in too deep (in every sense) with a local money launderer, and the crimes and bodies start piling up. Good Girls plays like Breaking Bad meets, well, Workin’ Moms, but the dead-solid cast sells it perfectly.

SMILF (Season 1 on Vudu): The “S” in SMILF stands for “Single”; you probably know the rest. Twentysomething mom Bridgette (Frankie Shaw) juggles parenting, an acting career and relationships in Los Angeles. Alongside the mom stuff, SMILF indulges in all kinds of raw sex and drugs (it’s a Showtime series, after all), but “Bridge” remains a fiercely devoted parent who’ll gladly discuss her vagina.

I’m a Spotify Premium subscriber, because I don’t want ads interrupting my stream of the 16 new Oh Sees albums released last week. Thanks to my exorbitant Coachella Valley Independent salary, it’s a small luxury I can easily afford. Please clap.

In March, Spotify added another perk to Premium membership: a free Hulu subscription. Sure, it’s the basic ad-supported version of Hulu, but so what? There’s plenty of cool shit on the streaming service, including every Seinfeld ever (spoiler—it doesn’t hold up) and mucho-buzzed-about originals like The Handmaid’s Tale (the feel-good hit of the Trumpy the Clown era).

Here are eight more lesser-hyped original Hulu series that you may or may not be aware of, so you can get the most out of your freebie sub. Also, after you spring for the Spotify Premium upgrade, give my band a listen—10 million more streams, and we’ll make enough in royalties to buy a case of PBR.

Shrill (Season 1 on Hulu): Saturday Night Live’s Aidy Bryant stars as Annie, an insecure, full-figured young woman toiling away at a Portland newspaper; the death of print is the least of her problems. Fed up with everyone trying to “fix” her, Annie decides to stop apologizing and just be herself—and the results are as human as they are funny. Shrill is short, sweet and one of the best comedies of 2019.

Hard Sun (Season 1 on Hulu): In British import Hard Sun, London detectives Hicks (Jim Sturgess) and Renko (Agyness Deyn) stumble upon government evidence that Earth will suffer a solar extinction event in five years—I know; I wish it were sooner, too. Despite the sci-fi twist, Hard Sun is a gritty Brit cop drama (it’s from Luther creator Neil Cross) that’s deeper than it seems. And waaay violent.

Future Man (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): An average janitor (Josh Hutcherson) who’s an above-average video-gamer is recruited by future warriors to save the world—turns out the game he just beat was a recruitment tool. (Rejoice, e-nerds.) Imagine Back to the Future if Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (the producers of Future Man) applied their sick, stoned imaginations to it, or Ready Player One if it didn’t suck.

Deadbeat (Seasons 1-3 on Hulu): Deadbeat (upper right) is an old, old, old-school Hulu original: It debuted all the way back on 2014! Tyler Labine stars as Pac, a slacker-slob medium who helps spirits move on … when he gets around to it. With the help of his drug-dealer Roofie (Brandon T. Jackson), Pac fucks with “fake” medium Camomile White (Cat Deeley); spooky hilarity ensues. Don’t think about it too hard.

Shut Eye (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): On the medium note: Charlie (Jeffrey Donovan) is a “fortune teller” conman desperate to escape Los Angeles’ gypsy mafia and start his own racket—but then his clairvoyant visions become real, inspiring him to give up the grifter life. Naturally, his mob boss (Isabella Rossellini) doesn’t see eye-to-third-eye with him. Odd that Shut Eye couldn’t predict its own cancellation. 

Difficult People (Seasons 1-3 on Hulu): What’s your tolerance level for Billy Eichner? You might reconsider after checking out Difficult People, wherein he and Julie Klausner play self-absorbed New Yorkers who hate everything and everyone but each other. The pair’s comic interplay sings like an off-Broadway production they’d adore, but wouldn’t cross town to see. DP MVP: James Urbaniak (The Venture Bros.).

The Hotwives (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): It seems impossible to parody The Real Housewives, the TV franchise that helps you understand an anti-American terrorist’s point of view. However! Hulu’s 2014-2015 series The Hotwives (of Orlando; later of Las Vegas) nailed it, thanks to a ridiculously funny cast (including Andrea Savage, Casey Wilson and Kristen Schaal), and a grand total of zero reality TV fucks given.

UnReal (Seasons 1-4 on Hulu): On the darker side of reality TV, UnReal (below) dramatizes the behind-the-scenes machinations of a Bachelor-style dating show, with only a few exaggerations (Drugs! Depression! Murder!) and one hard truth. (Reality shows are 110 percent bullshit). Showrunners Rachel (Shiri Appleby) and Quinn (Constance Zimmer) are as emotionally wrecked as they are ruthless, and UnReal is too real.

Back in my day, comic-book stories stayed on comic-book pages. Yes, there were Batman movies—the best still being 1997’s Batman and Robin, naysayers be damned—but superheroes were mostly relegated to print. A live-action Hulk could fucking not be done.

I’m still right on that one, but the rest of the Marvel, DC and other comic-brand universes are now inescapable on all the screens all the time. TV has been more prolific and creative with its adaptations—Netflix (Marvel) and The CW (DC) in particular. But you already know about those, so they won’t be covered here.

Instead, here are 10 comics-based TV series ranging from, “Hey, I’ve heard of that!” to “Huh?” status to stream while you’re waiting for Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, and Aquaman v. Magic Mike: Dawn of Thrust-Us.

Deadly Class (Season 1 on Syfy.com and Syfy app): Based on the same-named Image Comics series, Deadly Class is an ‘80s-set action-snarker about a secret academy that trains good-looking teens to kill elegantly—“Harry Potter Assassin School” will do. Deadly Class is smart enough to go toe-to-knife-tipped-toe with Syfy cousin The Magicians, but with a gonzo-goth edge all its own and a killer Reagan-era soundtrack.

Blade: The Series (Season 1 on CW Seed): The original 1998 Blade was the first “real” Marvel movie, effectively wiping away the foul/fowl aftertaste of ’80s bomb Howard the Duck. To replace vampire hunter Wesley Snipes, 2006’s Blade: The Series cast Onyx rapper Sticky Fingaz and cranked out 13 solid-to-superb episodes before cancelation by Spike TV. Netflix’s gritty Daredevil and Luke Cage owe this Blade.

Painkiller Jane (Season 1 on Hoopla, Tubi and Roku Channel; pictured upper right): A ‘90s Event/Icon Comics title that became a 2005 TV movie and a 2007 Syfy series, Painkiller Jane (Kristanna Loken) is The Punisher and Wolverine wrapped into an Instagram model. She’s a vigilante crime-fighter with brutal combat skills and an indestructible body (though Jane can still feel pain). A forgotten series that’s soon to be a Marvel flick starring Jessica Chastain.

Black Scorpion (Season 1 on Prime Video): Moving backward, ridiculous 2001 Syfy series Black Scorpion, which was preceded by a couple of equally ridiculous movies in the ‘90s, was a TV show that later became a less-ridiculous comic book. The series, starring Michelle Lintel as barely-leather-clad vigilante Black Scorpion, is ‘60s Batman camp crossed with softcore fetish porn—kinky superhero cosplayers, take note.

Preacher (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): A disillusioned drunk of a small-town Texas preacher (Dominic Cooper and his gravity-defying hair) suddenly has the power to bend people’s will—so he sets out to find God with his trigger-happy ex, Tulip (Ruth Negga), and Irish vampire bud Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) in tow. The Vertigo comic Preacher is fantastically, mind-fuckingly weird; TV Preacher doesn’t disappoint.

Lucifer (Seasons 1-3 on Netflix): Another hell-larious Vertigo import, Fox-to-Netflix series Lucifer follows the exploits of a “retired” Devil (Tom Ellis) opening a Los Angeles nightclub and helping local police solve crimes—it helps if you don’t think about it too hard. Despite its cop-show trappings, Lucifer mixes devilish comedy and heavy drama seamlessly, and Ellis plays the best Satan since South Park.

Mutant X (Seasons 1-3 on Roku Channel): A year after X-Men cracked the superhero code in 2000, Marvel and Canada produced a blatant rip-off, er, “unrelated property,” syndicated TV series Mutant X. Super-powered beings who look great in leather—what’s the deal with all the leather, anyway?—fight evil and search for fellow mutants while avoiding government capture and 20th Century Fox lawsuits.

The Gifted (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): A better, and more legal, TV take on X-Men arrived in 2017 with Fox’s The Gifted, which focuses on younger mutants struggling to control their powers and a normie society that’s determined to snuff them out. The Gifted only dabbles in action and flash, focusing more on characters like Polaris (Emma Dumont) who get little play in the X-Men screen universe.

Legion (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu) Showrunner Noah Hawley (Fargo, the TV version) took an already-surreal Marvel Comics X-Men series about the psychologically-damaged mutant son of Charles Xavier (Dan Stevens) and turned it into a Pink Floyd acid trip of a TV show. Yet somehow, it’s the most intimate and heartbreaking corner of X-World. Legion is the ultimate cure for superhero burnout.

Night Man (Seasons 1-2 on Roku Channel, pictured below): No, not the enemy of the Dayman from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia; this Night Man is a Malibu Comics character who got his own TV series that lasted for two stoopid years in the ‘90s. Jazz saxophonist Johnny Domino (Matt McColm) is struck by lightning and suddenly has the power to “hear” evil—like Daredevil, but with shitty musical taste. So bad it’s … still bad.

Did you miss Dryuary, the annual self-imposed month of abstaining from alcohol? Yeah, me too.

Entering the New Year sober is an admirable, if misguided, practice. February, aka Sobruary (I am still workshopping a “sober” title), is a far better month in which to eschew the booze. For one, it’s shorter; secondly, it’s not as long. Don’t try and tell me that liquor affects cognition, you no-drinkin’ squares.

In that spirit (get it?!), here are eight series that deal with the concept of sobriety; stream them in February while sucking down shaky tumblers of club soda.

Flaked (Seasons 1-2 on Netflix): In underappreciated 2016-17 Netflix series Flaked, allegedly recovering alcoholic and Venice Beach knockabout Chip (Will Arnett) chugs wine from a “kombacha” jug, lies to his AA compatriots, and sleeps with clueless women half his age—but redemption is only a Pavement song away. Bonus: Flaked was apparently filmed entirely through an exquisite sunset Instagram filter.

Mom (Seasons 1-5 on Hulu): As much as TV critics hated Flaked, they love CBS sitcom Mom—probably because of the non-sociopathic characters … so predictable. Despite its hacky laugh-tracked setting, Mom (which stars Anna Faris and Allison Janney as a formerly estranged, newly sober daughter and mother) tackles dark material, addiction and beyond, consistently hilariously. It’s also dirty as fuck.

Loudermilk (Seasons 1-2 on DirecTV Now): Sam Loudermilk (Ron Livingston) is a former alcoholic and, even worse, former rock critic who’s prone to rants against modern culture and rumpled flannel shirts. He also runs a recovery group and lives with two sketchy ex-addicts (Will Sasso and Anja Savcic). Sounds like a downer, but Loudermilk is sneakily funny and smart, with dashes of heart and High Fidelity music nerdiness.

Maron (Seasons 1-4 on Netflix): Speaking of cranky, opinionated Gen-Xers with substance-abuse pasts, here’s Maron. Marc Maron’s 2013-16 series is an exaggerated version of his daily life as a comic, podcaster and sober societal pariah—kind of a West Coast Curb Your Enthusiasm … until the dark fourth and final season, that is, when “Marc” relapses spectacularly. Still, it’s easier to watch in retrospect than Louie.

Recovery Road (Season 1 on Freeform.com and Freeform app): At this point, you may be thinking “What’s with all the olds? Aren’t there any rehab shows about teens?” Here’s one for you, Braxxton: 2016’s Recovery Road, about vodka-swigging high-schooler Maddie (Jessica Sula) being forced to do 90 days in a sober-living facility. Sula is captivating, and Recovery Road’s writing mostly transcends the usual teen-soap angst. Yep, insta-cancelled.

Shameless (Seasons 1-8 on Netflix): In its early seasons, one of the funniest aspects of America’s Greatest TV Family was their comically casual alcoholism. (They’re Irish living on the south side of Chicago; it’s sorta-science.) It catches up to a few members of the Gallagher clan later as they bottom-out and attempt to clean up, making for some heartbreaking drama between the laughs. Shameless USA blows away the UK original—fight me.

Intervention (Seasons 1-10 on Hulu; Seasons 1-19 on AETV.com and A&E app): Sure, it’s exploitative as hell—how else could Intervention last nearly 20 seasons? Families confronting loved ones about their booze and drug problems is a natural fit for reality TV, but Intervention also covers addictions to food, gambling, plastic surgery, sex, video games and even exercise. A&E has an evil knack for producing, ahem, addictive reality shows; Intervention is the best/worst of them all.

Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew (Seasons 1-6 on Amazon and iTunes): At least seven subjects of 2008-12 reality series Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew are no longer abusing alcohol or drugs—because they’re dead, so … success? While Celebrity Rehab’s collective results are a mixed bag, the show did at least provide new insights into the recovery process. On the downside, it also extended the 15 fame minutes of Shifty Shellshock and Crazy Town. For shame, Dr. Drew.

Barack Obama was sworn in as president. King of Pop Michael Jackson passed away. The second-greatest film in cinematic history, Crank 2: High Voltage, was released. Now-decade-old 2009 was an auspicious AF year.

TV had a pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good 2009 as well. Here are nine iconic-to-obscure shows that debuted 10 years ago to stream while pondering what in the hell you’ve done with your life.

Parks and Recreation (Seasons 1-7 on Prime Video and Hulu): Community—which also premiered on NBC in 2009—may carry more cred with smug culture nerds, but Parks and Recreation is as warm and timeless as a Li’l Sebastian snuggie. Leslie Knope, Ron Swanson and the rest of Pawnee, Indiana’s finest created a bottomless pit of quotable memes over 125 perfect episodes, which are best enjoyed with a chilled tumbler of Snake Juice.

Archer (Seasons 1-8 on Hulu): There’s no tighter animation voice cast than that of Archer—though star H. Jon Benjamin’s other cartoon, Bob’s Burgers, is close. As international super-spy Sterling Archer, HJB has swaggered/drunkenly stumbled through the hilariously profane and shit-talking series with no lessons learned, except for maybe phrasing (wait, are we still doing that?). Better than Bond.

The League (Seasons 1-7 on Hulu): Fantasy football leagues are monumentally stoopid—and addictively bonding. The League illustrated this over seven hysterical seasons, following a group of pals who’ll stop at nothing to win The Shiva, the league’s trophy. Sportsball knowledge isn’t required; The League is all about pranks, one-upsmanship and brazenly un-PC insult tsunamis. Could not be made in 2019.

Dollhouse (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): An underground company rents out the services of persona-imprinted “Dolls” whose brains are wiped clean after every escort/mission … or are they? Creator Joss Whedon and star Eliza Dushku never quite found a clear path for Dollhouse, but it’s fun to watch them sell complex identity sci-fi on TV nearly a decade before Westworld. Somebody give Dushku a new show now.

Eastbound and Down (Seasons 1-4 on HBO Go): Washout former Major League Baseball pitcher Kenny Powers (Danny McBride) plots a comeback on the diamond—rules, logic and fashion be damned. Eastbound and Down rides on the glorious mullet of Kenny Fucking Powers (full name), whose narcissistic journey back to glory is as quasi-inspiring as it is profanely funny. Could the roots of #MAGA be traced to E&D?

Nurse Jackie (Seasons 1-7 on Netflix): During the heyday of the male antihero (think Breaking Bad, Californication, Rescue Me, etc.), ex-Sopranos star Edie Falco came out of nowhere as a pill-popping, adulterating, morally ambiguous New York City nurse spinning more sketchy webs than Tony Soprano. It’s a tense drama, but Nurse Jackie also delivers laughs (thanks to breakout co-star Merritt Wever).

Hung (Seasons 1-3 on Prime Video and HBO Go): Down-and-out high-school basketball coach Ray (Thomas Jane) needs a second job—and fortunately, what he lacks in luck (his ex-wife is Anne Heche; ’nuff said), he makes up for in dick. Soon, well-endowed male escort Ray, and his pimpstress Tanya (Jane Adams), are in business, and Hung turns out to be a surprisingly heartwarming comedy—with mucho banging, or course.

United States of Tara (Seasons 1-3 on Hulu): Writer Diablo Cody (Juno, Jennifer’s Body) took a swing at TV with 2009 Showtime dramedy United States of Tara, starring international treasure Toni Collette. Tara (Collette) is a suburban mom with dissociative identity disorder, a condition that leaves her randomly switching between four wildly different personalities. One of the kids: future Captain Marvel Brie Larson.

Party Down (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): It’s a cult favorite today, but comedy Party Down, about a group of nobody L.A. actors and writers (including Lizzy Caplan, Adam Scott and Jane Lynch) working for a catering biz, was an initial fail. Starz, the “Is Pepsi OK?” of cable, canceled Party Down after 20 episodes, but it holds up far better today than its polar Hollywood opposite, Entourage. Seriously—fuck Entourage.

Who doesn’t like Christmas?

OK, let me rephrase that: Who doesn’t like Christmas as experienced with a steady, carefully, legally (in California) maintained buzz throughout the final weeks of the year? Your mumbled approval is noted.

Christmas TV shows and movies are an industry unto themselves; what other holiday has so much content churned out in its name? Until the inevitable establishment of Handsome White Jesus Day under decree of President Pence (so, spring-ish), Christmas is the King of All Media.

Here are eight oddities in a holly-jolly ocean of Christmas programming to stream over the next few weeks of jingle hell:

Happy! (Season 1 on Syfy.com and Syfy app): Based on the Image comic, Happy! follows ex-cop-turned-alcoholic-assassin Nick Sax (Christopher Meloni) and Happy (voiced by Patton Oswalt), a blue cartoon unicorn who needs his help rescuing a little girl kidnapped by … Santa Claus. Violence, insanity and a gonzo-command performance from Meloni ensue.

Christmas Evil (Movie on Tubi): While 1974’s Black Christmas is the original holiday horror flick, 1980’s Christmas Evil took the Kringle carnage to a whole other cult level. A beleaguered toy factory worker (Brandon Maggart—Fiona Apple’s dad!) has a psychotic break, dons a Santa suit and starts slashing all the way. Anointed by John Waters as “the greatest Christmas movie ever,” so there.

Santa Claus (Movie on YouTube): In this 1959 Mexican import (which you’ve probably seen heckled on Mystery Science Theater 3000), Santa Claus lives in a space castle with wizards and gods, lording over a child-labor toy sweatshop. Then he has to save Christmas by battling Satan, who’s had enough of Santa’s shit. Santa Claus is tequila-spiked nightmare nog—watch with the kids!

The Hebrew Hammer (Movie on Amazon Prime and Tubi): The Hebrew Hammer (Adam Goldberg, pictured below), who defends the local Jewish community while dressed like a Hassidic pimp, faces his nastiest villain: Damian, the evil son of Santa Claus, who’s out to destroy Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, leaving only Christmas. Upon release in 2003, The Hebrew Hammer promoted holiday unity by offending Jews and Christians equally.

A Snow Globe Christmas (Movie on Amazon Prime and Tubi): Alicia Witt stars as a single, workaholic TV exec who produces holiday movies (how meta) who just doesn’t believe, you guys! When she’s knocked unconscious by a snow globe, she wakes up in the idyllic snow-globe town with a husband, kids and, natch, a guardian angel. Will she go back to her manless/childless TV-exec life? Did she … produce this movie?

Holly’s Holiday (Movie on Hulu and Tubi): A big-city advertising exec (Claire Coffee) develops a strange attraction to a holiday window mannequin; when she’s knocked unconscious by a falling icicle, her psychosis redlines, and the handsome dummy comes to her as a real, if personality-free, dude. It’s an only-slightly-creepy Christmas miracle! Executive ladies: Please wear helmets around the holidays.

’R Xmas (Movie on YouTube and iTunes): Drea de Matteo and Ice-T have spent years on TV (she on The Sopranos; he on Law and Order: SVU), but both shined in Abel Ferrara’s 2001 crime flick ’R Xmas. Matteo plays the ballsy wife of a heroin dealer held for ransom by Ice-T’s thugs; she has to make the money drop and get her kid a sold-out doll by Christmas. It’s like Jingle All the Way, with smack.

Santa With Muscles (Movie on YouTube): While hiding out from the cops in a mall Santa suit (just go with it), a millionaire bodybuilder (Hulk Hogan) hits his head and wakes up believing he really is Claus. Meanwhile, an evil scientist (Ed Begley Jr.) plots to shut down an orphanage in order to grab magic crystals (yep). Spoiler: Santamania saves the day. You’re intrigued … admit it.

Admit it: You’re dreading the same old home-for-the-holidays family Thanksgiving dinner with the same old question, “How’s your job going?” To which you’ll have to mumble the same old answer between bites of turkey and slugs of Wild Turkey discretely hidden in a Coke Zero can: “You mean my soul-sucking 9-to-eternity corporate Power-Pointed hellscape? Fan-damn-tastic, you MAGA-hatted motherfuckers!”

Now … imagine how cool it would be if you could reply with, “Actually, I’ve embarked upon an exciting new career path as a contract assassin—as you can clearly tell by my white tuxedo and Bentley parked out front. Pass the cranberry sauce?”

Movies tend to paint the life of a hitman as glamorous; TV … not so much. Here are seven killer-for-hire series to stream over turkey sandwiches and 101-proof sodas:

Barry (Season 1 on HBO Now): Ex-Saturday Night Live square peg Bill Hader struck dramedy gold in the 2018 debut season of Barry, wherein he plays a skilled-but-disillusioned hitman who discovers his “calling” to be an actor while infiltrating a middling improv-comedy troupe. (Aren’t they all?) Barry’s sweetly-absurd-to-brutally-bloody shifts are masterful, as is Hader’s performance.

Killing Eve (Season 1 on Amazon and iTunes): Like Hader, longtime ensemble player Sandra Oh blew away all dramatic preconceptions in 2018’s Killing Eve. As brilliant MI5 agent Eve, she’s left alone to pursue her “crazy” theory that a European serial assassin is a woman, and soon develops a mutual obsession with daft fashionista executioner Villanelle (Jodie Comer). Smart, twisty and utterly unexpected.

Mr. Inbetween (Season 1 on FX Now): It’s a good year for assassins: Australian import Mr. Inbetween premiered quietly in late September 2018, starring unlikely leading man (and show creator) Scott Ryan as blue-collar killer Ray Shoesmith. He’s a blunt object of a man who does dirty deeds for shady characters, like a trailer-park Ray Donovan—but he’s also a sympathetic family man. A short, but addictive, series.

The Americans (Seasons 1-6 on Amazon Prime): Maybe you’ve heard of this one: Russian spies Elizabeth and Philip Jennings (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys) are embedded in 1980s Washington D.C., posing as a married couple by day and pulling off hits (and a dazzling array of wigs) by night. The Americans gets deeper and darker from there, and its 2013-18 run cemented its rep as one of TV’s greats. Sound familiar now?

Nikita (Seasons 1-4 on Netflix): The CW’s 2010-13 Nikita was different from ’90s cable series La Femme Nikita in that it wasn’t a broody slog, and even more unlike the various Nikita movies in that it didn’t suck. Junkie-turned-assassin Nikita is hell-bent on destroying Division, the shadow government agency that made her, and star Maggie Q sells the action and the pathos with smoldering ferocity.

Good Behavior (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): Grifter Letty Raines (Michelle Dockery, miles from Downton Abbey) is fresh out of prison and low on prospects when she hooks up with a hottie hitman (Juan Diego Botto) who'll obviously derail her already-shaky plans for getting straight. Good Behavior is a Southern-fried crime noir that doesn’t always play out as expected, and Dockery and Botto are a magnetic Bonnie and Clyde.

Cleaners (Seasons 1-2 on Sony Crackle): Obscure 2013-14 series Cleaners takes ’90s Quentin Tarantino rip-off films, says “hold my vodka-soda,” and vacuum-packs every QT cliché into a tight, sexploitation-lite series. Hitwomen Veronica (Emmanuelle Chriqui) and Roxie (Emily Osment) are crossed by their boss (Gina Gershon); gunplay, squealing tires and snark ensue. No over-thinking allowed.

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