Five Shows to Stream on PBS … Right Now 

The New York Times never stops writing articles about the best things to stream on Hulu or Disney+ or Netflix, or any other of the top-tier streaming apps, and we know why they do it, it’s a way of recycling their “content”, generating a new article that they don’t have to pay anyone for. If One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Thirteen Going on Thirty are both playing on HBO Max, stick the original review into their in-house content generator and ask for a paragraph summary, line it up with 48 others, and voila, you’ve got “The Fifty Best Films to Stream on Max Right Now.”

There are other apps, though, more obscure but  still worthy, and we’ll take a look. 

We’ll start with PBS. You may be surprised to learn that PBS is more than Call the Midwife and Antiques Roadshow, but the PBS app has a lot of wonders to discover.

If you are a person of a certain age, you probably had a relative or neighbor back in the 1970s who insisted that they “only watch PBS.” 

So here are a few things to stream on PBS, dedicated to that long-ago liar, who almost certainly watched more than just PBS, but who felt better and more intellectual than everyone else whenever they said it. 

Love, Inevitably

A deeply unpleasant chance encounter in Prague Airport between Candela, a Sevillian Flamenco dancer, and Massimo, an Italian businessman, sparks a cosmic connection that transcends time and space, and sets the stage for the weirdest romcom you’ve ever seen or heard of. They both hate each other, more than one would expect in a romcom, but it’s for good reason: they’re both awful, he more than she, and the first episode is a little hard to take. 

But upon returning home, each to probable financial ruin, they each suffer a similar delusion. 

Massimo begins to see visions of Candela, who harangues and bullies him at inopportune moments, while Candela receives visions of an equally pushy Massimo. Each, unaware of the other’s visions, try to live their lives as they suffer, and then gradually come to love, their strange hallucinations. 

Verónica Fernández and Marco Tiberi’s creation deftly navigates the thin line between reality and imagination, leaving us spellbound by the inexplicable forces that bind hearts across continents. Megan Montaner’s portrayal of Candela exudes vulnerability and fire, while Alessandro Tiberi’s Massimo grapples with duty and yearning. 

In real life, these two hate each other. In their visions, they are in love. Will they meet again? Will their real selves love each other, or hate each other? Will their visions meet and fall in love?

This series is so strange that, unlike most romcoms, its conclusion is in doubt till the very end, which won’t be revealed here. Love, Inevitably, like a strange dream, lingers.

Sanditon

The strangest Jane Austen adaptation yet. Since the author died while writing the novel on which this program is based, and she didn’t write much of it, the producers of this gorgeous looking miniseries seem to have concluded that they could do whatever they wanted with it, and they did. Racial politics! Same-sex sex! Nothing Jane Austen imagined, but somehow, somehow, we think she would entirely approve. 

This three-season show about a young woman from the countryside who visits a struggling seaside resort circa 1817, run by wealthy relations, was originally a limited series. It concluded with a beautiful, heart-wrenching and dramatically satisfying series finale, and that seemed to be that. 

But Austen fans were appalled! 

So a few years later, Sanditon came back for two more seasons, to give everyone the traditionally happy Jane Austen ending they expected. 

Rose Williams is adorable as the country cousin, unlucky (then lucky, then unlucky, then lucky, then unlucky, then lucky again) in love; Theo James is dashing as her one true love (in our opinion); and Kris Marshall is idiotic and astoundingly irritating as Tom Parker, the jerk who runs the Sanditon resort, badly. According to the PBS website, that was not the intention for Tom, but, really, you’ll love to hate him, he’s awful. 

Miss Scarlet and the Duke

A delightful period mystery series set in Victorian-era London. 

The show follows Eliza Scarlet (played by Kate Phillips), a headstrong, independent, astonishingly annoying and fallible young woman who inherits her late father’s detective agency. Facing societal norms and skepticism, Eliza teams up professionally (and one hopes, eventually, romantically) with curmudgeonly and equally annoying Detective Inspector William Wellington (the Duke, portrayed by Stuart Martin).

Cozy, not gritty, with sometimes predictable mystery plots, Miss Scarlet is buoyed by terrific chemistry between its two irritable leads (who demonstrate convincingly that the worst people can sometimes be absolutely meant for each other), a great period atmosphere and a terrific supporting cast.

It’s addictive viewing, a bona fide PBS hit, and when you’ve finished Season 4 in two quick days of binge viewing, you’ll Google it constantly till Season 5 premieres. 

Evolution Earth

Shane Campbell-Staton, the evolutionary biologist, narrates this mind-blowing show, which documents ways in which animals are evolving, sometimes in just one generation, to adapt to threats such as climate change and invasive species. 

Hawaiian crickets learn to purr rather than chirrup, to fool the invasive parasitic flies that would otherwise wipe them out; a type of lizard known as a silver key anole grows longer limbs, the better to hold onto trees and survive the harsher typhoons brought by changing weather patterns. 

In some cases, the program highlights smart animals figuring things out, such as marine mammals seeking out new feeding territory or new hunting strategies. In other cases, as with the crickets and lizards, something like frenetic natural selection seems to be going on at a pace faster than anyone previously thought possible. 

Campbell-Staton is a wry, amusing commentor, and he’s nearly as fascinated by the quirky scientists who work with these animals as he is with the quirky animals themselves. 

A hugely educational endeavor that is also immensely entertaining. 

Funny Woman

This is an engaging and often downright hilarious show about Barbara Parker, a rising female comedy star in 1960s England; it’s based on a more straightforward Nick Hornby novel entitled Funny Girl, but they changed the name because, well, you know. 

In fact-based or fictious dramatizations about the lives of hilarious comedians, the problem is usually in finding an actor who can handle the drama but also morph into an onscreen funny-bones (think Nicole Kidman as a humorless Lucille Ball), but Gemma Arterton, as Barbara, is perfect, hilarious and winning, just a natural comedian. 

Former handsome-man Rupert Everett is hilariously disgusting as her repulsive manager (does he really look like that now, or is it makeup?), and — no spoilers — a “certain young man” is appropriately moody and interesting as Barbara’s unsurprising surprise love interest, whom you will see coming many episodes before she does. Oh my goodness, will they kiss?  

You will notice this: the frame speed is too high! It diminishes what is otherwise a great period atmosphere; and in some scenes, Arterton is superimposed into archival 1960s footage that runs at a lower frame speed, and it looks fake. In an otherwise flawless production, this is distractingly weird. 

Back in the day, a bestselling book would be turned into a movie or miniseries, but not today. Someone in upper management has decided that Hornby’s tidy and compact novel warrants multiple seasons, and so Funny Woman ends on a cliff-hanger. 

Happily, it’s been renewed. 

Otherwords

Did you know that linguistics is fascinating? And hilarious? And that it explains just about everything about everything — culture, history, politics? 

In the hands of Dr. Erica Brozovsky, linguistics is all of the above. 

Did you know that Dr. Seuss created the word “nerd”, that Chaucer created the word “twitter,” that Milton created the word “pandemonium,” and that Shakespeare didn’t create as many words as he’s been given credit for?  (The Bard was more of player-with than an inventor-of.)

While seventy-five percent of English words come from other languages, she tells us, and we add a thousand more every year, “there are still gaps in the lexicon,” foreign words that we need in English. Like trepverter and treppenwitz, the Yiddish and German words to describe thinking of the perfect witty retort or snappy comeback hours after the fact. Or akihi,  the Hawaiian word for when “you ask someone for directions and say, ‘yup, got it, thanks’ and get one block away and then immediately forget what they said.” 

Her enthusiasm and amusement and wit as she relates the factoids is infectious, but there is frequently a serious social point about today’s hot buttons that she wants you to absorb, and she isn’t afraid to step into the fray.

 “There is a glaring misconception that [African-American English] is a wrong or deficient version of what people call  Mainstream American English or Standardized American English,” she tells us in one episode, “but that isn’t the case at all, and when it comes to English, views about ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are often forms of social prejudice.”  It’s a distinct dialect, she concludes, with its own rules and elegance. 

 “I’m here to tell you,” she declares in another episode, “that the singular ‘they’ … one of the big fusses about pronouns these days … is nothing new. The Oxford English Dictionary traces it all the way back to 1375.” 

Otherwords, a production of PBS’s Digital Studios, is also available on YouTube, and it’s addictively bingeable. The first two episodes of Season 4 are up now! 

^^^

Content by Oblivioni. Image: Screenshot from Otherwords.

Stay in the Know

Sign up for our newsletter.

Email List Subscribe Form