What to Watch: “Insecure” and “I Am Paul Walker”
Plus the first of seven Agatha Cristie adaptations for Amazon Prime.
Welcome to What to Watch, in which we cover the best shows, movies and series out right now, both on networks and streaming services.
Insecure Season 3 (HBO)
No show describes LA better, especially black, millennial LA. The show has become the latest female-driven drama, a modern SATC or Girls that finally acknowledges black people live in major cities. At this point, if you aren’t watching Insecure, you aren’t watching television. Penned by breakout writer, actor, and comedian Issa Rae, Insecure is the show you can’t miss. At the end of season two, Issa (Issa Rae) had moved in with her “friend,” Daniel (Y’Ian Noel). Although now they really are just friends while she tries to get over her ex Lawrence (Jay Ellis) and somehow get back into an apartment of her own (she works at a education nonprofit, times are tough!) The lack of care and change happening at this job has Issa wondering if maybe this last stable element of her life is due for an overhaul as well. Meanwhile, her best friend Molly (Yvonne Orji) is also stuck pondering the best move to take as a black woman trying to move up in her law firm.
The third season seems to emphasize that Issa still can’t kick her quiet demeanor to speak up for herself, but as she contemplates where she’s at in life after two seasons worth of punches, one gets the suspicion that she’ll find newfangled confidence when things finally start going her way. Molly is saddled with the same issues she’s had since season one, and there’s a good chance Lawrence won’t show up at all in season three. But Insecure has never tried to speak for all black people, and the honing in on Issa in season three makes it a season for major growth.
Ordeal By Innocence (Amazon Prime)
Ordeal of Innocence is The first adaptation in Amazon’s lengthy multi-show deal after winning the U.S. rights to Agatha Christie Productions. It is worth watching whether you’re a diehard Agatha Christie fan or not. The three-part series features a critical plot change from the original, meaning that beyond the excellent plotting Christie dramas are known for, you truly won’t know where this mystery will take you. For those of you who aren’t already familiar with one of Christie’s best works, Bill Nighy stars as Leo Argyll, whose one-of-five adopted children, Jack (Anthony Boyle), was found guilty of the murder of Jack’s mother and Leo’s wife Rachel (Anna Chancellor). In Ordeal a scientist named Dr. Calgary comes forth as Jack’s alibi, rendering Jack innocent and suggesting one of the other adopted children (or the housekeeper, because they’ve always got to be a red herring) actually killed Rachel. Bad luck Jack already died in prison, and Leo is set to marry his former secretary, setting up a perfect moment for chaos to ensue among a family where everyone seems to have a portrait of Dorian Gray locked away somewhere. These people are terrible, much more so than in Christie’s original.
Even if murder mysteries aren’t your thing, Christie stories are relentlessly inscrutable, not to mention the supreme acting of Nighy alongside a slate of delightfully accented actors we seldom get the chance to see here in the states. While the story has turned much darker than the original, leave what you know about Ordeal behind to enjoy one more miniseries of privileged communities with seriously fucked up secrets tearing each other to shreds (seriously, National Treasure, Feud, The Keepers, Alias Grace, Big Little Lies).
Ballers Season 4 (HBO)
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s moment is still happening: appeals for a presidential campaign, deep revelations on his mental health, and consistently starring in box office smashes. Some say Johnson is at his best when staring in improbably, sometimes funny action movies, but I would like to remind you of his breakout hit The Game Plan (2007) and point you to this underrated HBO show Ballers now in its fourth season.
I won’t torture you with a recap of The Game Plan, but both star ‘The Rock’ as an aging football player forced to put his big boy pants on. In Ballers Johnson plays a retired NFL player venturing into a career as a financial manager while trying to help his friends, some still in the NFL, some not, through their own career moves. Ballers is no game-changer, but if you liked Entourage or The League or still follow Mark Wahlberg, it’s worth a watch. It’d help to catch up on the first three seasons, but Ballers is also the sort of light-watching television that can coast on Johnson’s inimitable charisma alone, I don’t need to know what’s happening when watching the most agreeable man on Earth.
I Am Paul Walker (Paramount)
Nearly five years after the jarring death of Paul Walker, Paramount Networks is releasing I Am Paul Walker. The documentary leans heavily on interviews with friends and family who recount his adventurous spirit and through reflection give insight to his career choices. Walker was a ’90s it boy staring in Pleasantville, Varsity Blues, and She’s All That before joining the never-ending action franchise The Fast and the Furious. The documentary reveals the choices behind Walker’s career, painting him as a loving family man who never aspired for Oscar’s-level fame. He was a surfer. He dreamt of leaving Hollywood to work in parks service full-time. The documentary skips over more scandalous portions of his life such as his relationships with Jasmine Pilchard-Gosnell, although to be fair there’s not much about Walker’s life you could label “scandalous.” Overall Walker was one of the good guys, known for his aid after the 2010 Haiti Earthquake and support of family and costars alike. The doc also looks at Walker’s courage and sense of adventure as what gave him his career while ultimately killing him prematurely. Keep tissues close for this one folks.