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    The Joy of Binging

    By Jan Wahl–

    I have always been a big screen gal. Sitting in a movie theatre and letting a movie unspool is heaven to me. But we live at a time when my cinema Paradiso is often found on the small screen, even a computer. Enter the land of Netflix, HBO Max, Hulu, Apple TV, and all the others. Now, wherever I locate something to enjoy, I am there. For example:

    Bridgerton Series Two on Netflix! This series is produced by Shonda Rhimes, a television genius at work. This is part two of the story set in Regency, England. The upper classes are trying to find security through proper marriages, with scandal rearing its ugly head. Actually, the scandals are quite beautiful, with a sheet of society gossip destroying everyone in sight. In the first series we all fell in love with an actor named Regé-Jean Page portraying an incredibly sexy suitor. He’s not in season two, but we get the one tame one wild Sharma Sisters. The costumes, jewelry and sets also star, shining even on the small screen. The Queen alone (Golda Rosheuvel) deserves her own show. Bridgerton is now a worldwide hit, causing Netflix even higher numbers than usual.  Season three … here I come.    

    The British say “gobsmacked,” meaning that feeling I get when viewing the clothes and jewelry in Bridgerton. The Russians at one time yelled “huzzah” whenever they needed a joyful exclamation. It’s what I say when I watch one of the all-time outlandish historical comedy dramas The Great on Hulu. Elle Fanning stars as Catherine the Great, trying to get, and then hold on to, the Crown. Her doltish husband Peter (Nicholas Hoult) is thwarted at every turn by the brilliance and bravery of his wife. The royals have courtiers and officers willing to bend over backward (yes, that too) in order to keep either Catherine or Peter in power. It is rambunctious, dark, zany, profane. I cannot wait for season three.

    Monty Python: The Truth (HBO Max) is enlightening. We learn about how it all began, with each member having their own careers until heaven sent them to us in the form of this satirical, wonderful group. (My own favorite of the Pythons: “Every Sperm is Sacred” from The Meaning of Life and the Life of Brian.)  In this documentary, there are show and movie highlights as well as moments with other performers who were influenced by the comedy troupe. This documentary is from 2020, but there is another from 2009 from BBC2 titled Almost the Truth. It adds more surrealistic whimsey (thank you, Terry Gilliam) and it is a perfect companion to the new one. There is no such thing as too much Monty Python.

    There are problems with streaming as I write this. Some outlets are having huge issues with subscribers using each other’s numbers. There is also the question of competition: so many platforms with so much material. But since I am using my own subscriptions and love having so much to choose from, let us continue.

    There have been many celebrations of our national parks, including Ken Burns uncovering the history of them. This time it is former President Barack Obama narrating a gorgeous view of not only our parks, but also wild spaces all over the world. The five-part series on Netflix is called Our Great National Parks. From Kenya to Patagonia to Yellowstone and the Monterey Bay, we go on a beautifully curated journey. Aside from spectacular cinematography, we take a deep dive into ecosystems and preservation. I couldn’t help wishing it was on the big screen in a movie theatre, and perhaps someday it will be.

    I thought I’d seen it all with Julia Child. I was fortunate to work with her on television, loved her shows, and still find her on television in repeats and even a game show for cooks. But nothing is as good as the HBO Max series Julia. David Hyde Pierce, Sarah Lancashire, and Bebe Neuwirth star as we experience Julia getting her TV show on the air. Nobody wanted her; she paid for the original pilot herself in Boston. But then San Francisco came through and started her journey to syndication success. It’s a great story, told with humor and food. Binge-worthy!

    The competition is fierce among the streaming platforms, which is one reason why each is having trouble staying on top. If I were to pick two for my meager dollars, I would go with Netflix and HBO Max. More Netflix includes the fabulous Inventing Anna, Anatomy of a Scandal, The Andy Warhol Diaries, and The Kominsky Method. Or rewatch Halston or Hollywood

    HBO Max has the wonderful And Just Like That, the insane The Righteous Gemstones, and some good new flicks you might have missed in the theatres, such as West Side Story and Nightmare Alley. Apple TV comes through with Hacks and, of course, CODA. This list goes on! We’re fortunate to live at a time we have so many terrific options.                      

    Jan Wahl is a Hollywood historian, film critic on various broadcast outlets, and has her own YouTube channel series, “Jan Wahl Showbiz.” She has two Emmys and many awards for her longtime work on behalf of film buffs and the LGBTQ community. Contact her at

    Published on May 5, 2022