Weekend Binge Guide: February 2017

Have the weekend free? Going out is overrated! Binge-­watch one of these shows instead:

 

If you want to laugh:

 

One Day at a Time

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I'm not sure what surprised me more: the fact that of all the Norman Lear shows, this bland sitcom about a divorced mother and her two teenage daughters got the Netflix treatment, or the fact that it is good. Yes, it's a multi-cam family comedy that occasionally wades into cheesy territory, but it's refreshingly modern, quirky, and funny. The new One Day at a Time centers on a Cuban-American family led by a military veteran (a revelatory Justina Machado) raising her teen daughter and tween son with the help of her old-school, Cuban-born mother (EGOT winner Rita Moreno). Schneider's around, of course. As is that earworm of a theme song, which got a percussion-heavy makeover from Gloria Estefan. The series isn't afraid to tackle big issues, but it maintains a light, heart-warming quality, making it a wonderful television escape.

 

If you want to cry:

 

Call the Midwife

See all reviews for Call the Midwife

Based on the best-selling memoirs of Jennifer Worth, who died shortly before the first episode was broadcast, this series has found massive success in the U.K. and around the world. The first season follows a young Jenny in the late '50s as she adjusts to her new job at a nursing convent in London's crowded East End, where many of her patients are living in squalor and battling enemies both visible and invisible. Among the most memorable are a Spanish woman pregnant for the 25th time and a 15-year-old Irish girl forced into prostitution. Cheery! The patients' stories are often brutal and actress Jessica Raine, who practically glows onscreen as Jenny, sheds her share of tears. There are occasional laughs, many coming from Miranda Hart's Chummy, but the show's a serious tear-jerker.

 

If you want to scream:

 

Sweet/Vicious

See all reviews for Sweet/Vicious

MTV's scripted fare has matured in recent years, with shows like Awkward and Faking It balancing youthful bite with mature storytelling. Sweet/Vicious takes the network to the next level, finding a nuanced tone that's perfect for telling such a layered story. The series begins with sunny sorority girl Jules (Eliza Bennett) and weed-dealing hacker Ophelia (Taylor Dearden) teaming up to battle the on-campus sexual assault that is largely ignored by the administration. Both have their reasons for committing so fully to the cause. There are surprising comedic moments, mostly from Dearden (Bryan Cranston's daughter), and superhero-style action sequences, but the show really excels as an exploration of sexual assault and the culture it breeds. Watching terrible men (and a few women) get their asses kicked makes this sweetly cathartic TV.

 

If you want to think:

 

Rick Steves' Europe

See all reviews for Rick Steves' Europe

Perhaps now more than ever, it's important to look outward and seek a broader perspective. Travel is one of the keys to gaining a richer understanding of the world. Of course, not everyone can make it overseas — there are physical and financial obstacles. But good travel shows can be transformative, too. Rick Steves' long-running PBS series, a companion to his travel book and tour businesses, provides practical tips for visitors to Europe, but it also opens viewers' eyes to the different customs and concerns of people in other countries. Special episodes about Iran, Israel, and Palestine tackle weightier issues than the usual episode, which typically mixes a look back at a region's art with visits to contemporary hot spots. Steves is a gentle, likable guide who has the intelligence of Anthony Bourdain without the smug self-satisfaction.

 

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