5 shows that strive to teach us more
Sometimes I demand more of my shows than just entertainment or great cinematography or acting. Sometimes I want to learn about random things, like a strange bombing case in Pennsylvania involving a scavenger hunt and a plot to rob a bank. Or if Hello Kitty is, in fact, a cat. Or why people feel the need to freak out when a woman says she doesn't want children. (All credit to Michelle Wolf on that one.)
Anyways, the following shows are jam-packed with information and interviews with all sorts of people, from toy inventors to alleged killers and comedians.
- Explained. This series does exactly what its title suggests. It explains complex theories and structures, like monogamy, and breaks them down so that anyone (even yours truly) can understand the basics. Each 20-minute show focuses on a subject and interviews top researchers and experts in the field. Explore the colourful world of K-Pop or learn more about designer DNA.
- Toys That Made Us (Season 2). The second season of this short series revisits one of my childhood favourites, Hello Kitty. She struggled to make it to the top, especially in North America, but ended up as the most popular Sanrio character. She's deeply embedded in our pop culture now, and is a symbol of Kawaii culture. Another childhood throwback: Transformers. Watching clips of the commercials again really proves that television can make anything look fun.
- The Break with Michelle Wolf. I'm hooked after the first episode. This weekly Netflix series is a mix of standup, skits and hot takes on culture, news and everything in between. Wolf mocks Amazon's Alexa with a product that makes customers feed it cold cuts at its beck and call. (Confused? Good.) And then she tackles gender stereotypes with a hilarious parody of a movie trailer featuring a strong female lead. If the first episode is any indication of how the rest of the season will go, count me in for the ride, shrill voice and all!
- Evil Genius. The limited series centres around a case known as the pizza robbery bombing. The show features interviews with one of the women accused of (and serving time for) the death of a man named Brian Wells. It narrates the story of the bombing and the events leading up to it through video footage from police and interviews with family members, and recordings. It's alleged that Wells, a pizza delivery man, was forced to wear a bomb around his neck and rob a bank by a group of people, so the woman could get money to order a hit on her own father. The series leaves me with that kind of empty/angry feeling I had at the end of Making a Murderer, because all the loose ends are left untied. But seeing as life is never wrapped up with a pretty little bow, I accept the series for what it is, and found it quite interesting at times.
- My Next Guest. There are moments when the dad jokes by David Letterman made me cringe, but the veteran television host's new show gives us access to some of the coolest people, like Malala Yousafzai or Tina Fey. The episodes feature an interview, as well as skits and scenes of Letterman going out into the world and making bad dad jokes. If you can tolerate that, then the series is worth it. Guests dive into topics they might not normally discuss. For example, George Clooney talks about his wife (who is way cooler than him), as well as his foray into the tequila industry. Malala Yousafzai talks about life before she was attacked, her recovery and attending Oxford University. She was my favourite interview so far, with witty replies to Letterman that I didn't see coming. Another favourite? Don't miss the interview with Jay-Z.