I’ve watched “Peaky Blinders” more times than I can count and have tried watching numerous other shows but nothing is as good. It has everything: the best writing, acting, cinematography, music — and Cillian Murphy. Can anything match it? — Arlene
It sounds like you have a severe, wonderful case of having a favorite show. Our tastes are not one lifelong upward trajectory, where we constantly find “better” things. It’s completely possible that you will never love another show as much as you love “Peaky Blinders.” Based on my inbox, you would not be alone! But also, having a favorite show is not a bad thing. It’s energizing. It’s pleasurable. Your quest is complete.
Steer into the skid. Watch shows that have a similar vibe and use those similarities to reflect on the specifics of how much better your favorite show is than its closest brethren. One reason I like, for example, “Better Call Saul” so much is I know who else is in its weight class, and I know how many shows have had “I do things my way” kinds of protagonists and how often shows seem to forget little, but important, details. And every time another show does something stupid that “Saul” doesn’t, I feel a juicy thrill of superiority, like my horse won.
So, for period dramas with lots of male pouting and no sideburns, “Boardwalk Empire” (which is available to stream with an HBO or HBO Max subscription) covers some similar territory and has those luxe production values that can hide some, but not all, sins. If you don’t mind a much slower pace and love all the biological decrepitude of period shows, try “Taboo” (Hulu), which stars Tom Hardy, who created the show with his father, Chips, and Steven Knight, the creator of “Peaky.” I wonder if grand-scale historical dramas like “Vikings” (Hulu) or the flashier “Spartacus” (Starz, or see three of four seasons free on IMDb TV) might sharpen what feels special about “Peaky Blinders,” too.
Once you’re stocked up on genre context, go further afield. If you like the score to “Peaky,” I wonder if you’ll like the score from “Gentleman Jack,” which is based on a true story and is about a jazzy lesbian in Britain in the 1830s (on HBO). My favorite cinematography on TV right now is “Queen Sugar,” a present-day family drama set in rural Louisiana (Hulu). I think about the writing from “Lodge 49,” a gentle, dreamy drama about a fraternal order, and “David Makes Man,” an artful coming-of-age story, all the time because they have such distinctive voices. (“Lodge” is available on Hulu; Season 1 of “David” will be streaming on HBO Max starting July 16.)
Oh, and duh, try “Deadwood” (on HBO).
Can you recommend a show (maybe like “Friday Night Lights”?) for a teenage boy and his mom? As he has grown, we loved watching “Robin Hood” (surprisingly good), “Malcolm in the Middle” (also excellent) and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” and now we’re casting about. — Lindsay
It’s more like “The O.C.” than “Friday Night Lights,” but try “All American,” a high school football drama on the CW starring Taye Diggs. If you’ve watched a lot of teen shows, some of its ideas will be familiar to you, but presumably your son is just arriving at the genre. I dug “Cleverman,” an Australian superhero show based on Aboriginal mythology; it can be on the bleak side, but that doesn’t strike me as a vice (on Netflix). “Malcolm In the Middle” (on Hulu) makes me think you might like other quirky single-camera family comedies like “Everybody Hates Chris,” “Fresh Off the Boat” or “The Middle.”
I know we’re all tired of making our own fun during the quarantine, but this might be the time to make the selection process part of the shared activity itself and agree to try five minutes of 10 different shows (each pick five? each pick four and two chosen at random?) just to see what happens. You can even teach him what channel surfing used to mean.
My spouse and I have been watching “Killing Eve” and just finished the first season of “Queen Sono.” What other female assassin shows can we watch? — Kathleen, a Times Culture editor (and devoted reader)
If you wish “Killing Eve” (on BBC America) would cross pollinate with a really good episode of “The X-Files,” you will love “Orphan Black” (Amazon Prime Video), which is not strictly an assassin show but does include a central female assassin, and lots of chasing and violence and phone calls that end abruptly. I love the incongruous buoyancy of “Killing Eve,” and “Orphan” has some of that, too, like the crunch and intrigue of a pickle spear on a diner plate.
If you’re getting maxed out on genuine violence and want something lighter but still in a similar space, watch the cartoon series “Harley Quinn” (DC Universe), which is a clever satire of supervillainy but keeps that “do ‘bad guys’ overcome their guilt over doing evil things, or do they never experience the guilt at all, which is actually what makes them bad?” thread that many cat-and-mouse stories rely on. It’s bold and racy in all the fun ways.
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