(Netflix, Aug. 17, streaming anytime thereafter)
Matt Groening, 64, tells AARP that his new 10-episode animated fantasy-satire series about Princess Bean of Dreamland (Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson) fits right into his three-show career.
“Everything I do is an alternative to whatever the dominant culture is,” Groening says. “The Simpsons is about America. It turns a sitcom on its head. Futurama makes fun of the solemnity of science fiction. But within that crazy universe, we got to real emotion, relationships and struggles. And with Disenchantment, kidding the fantasy genre takes a few seconds to get exhausted — the fun part was creating characters that could live in any universe. They just happen to have fantasy powers.”
So despite Monty Python’ and The Holy Grail-like jokes about plagues, hangings and a cannibalistic Hansel and Gretel, Disenchantment is reality based. “I lean toward the negative because I think it’s funnier and more realistic. And it’s about the human heart. People divided against themselves, being their own worst enemies. That’s definitely at the core of Disenchantment.”
Disenchantment is total eye candy, but the jokes often don’t reach Groening’s sky-high standard. What makes it fun is its superb cast, good animation, glorious score (by Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh) and Monty Python's Flying Circus pace.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
(Netflix, streaming anytime)
Can’t wait for the forthcoming Downton Abbey movie? Watch four of its actors in this equally snug romantic drama by Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral), adapted from a hit novel. Downton’s adorable Lily James plays a London writer who in 1946 is invited to a spectacular isle off Normandy by a gorgeous pig farmer and Shakespeare fan who runs a book group (Michiel Huisman, Game of Thrones’ Daario). Downton’s Matthew Goode plays her editor; Penelope Wilton (Isobel Crawley to you) is the sad widow; and Jessica Brown Findlay (Lady Sybil), the local radical. Tom Courtenay is the dozing postman. Like Downton, the tale features historical details, a mystery to uncover and a romance we urgently want to see happen. The potato peel pie of the title turns out to taste worse than Sweeney Todd’s — but this show is comfort food.
Catch Up With
Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures Television
Better Call Saul
(AMC, Aug. 13, 9 p.m. ET)
TV’s best show for grownups (or anyone) returns, scarier and better than ever. This Breaking Bad prequel used to be mostly comic, but now lawyer Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk, 55) is turning evil — “breaking bad,” in the old Southern expression. Last season, he betrayed his big brother (Michael McKean), who betrayed him right back and then burned himself to death. So Jimmy goes to the dark side. Only his lover and law partner Kim (Rhea Seehorn, TV’s most exciting actor right now) keeps him sane — and she’s starting to lose it, too. As in the sequel (Breaking Bad), you know terrible things are coming for all, and where they’ll wind up, but you still can’t wait to see how it happens.
Jackson Lee Davis/AMC
(AMC, Aug. 13, 10 p.m. ET)
For a show that starts with a tragedy and is inspired by the paranoid fiction of Thomas Pynchon, Lodge 49 plays like an incredibly sweet, laid-back combination of The Big Lebowski and The X-Files. Wyatt Russell, who's as buoyantly affable as his parents, Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, plays a Dude-like surfer, Dud, whose VW Thing breaks down in front of a decaying Shriner-like lodge, the Lynx. The leader, a “Luminous Knight” named Ernie (Moneyball’s excellent Brent Jennings, 67), becomes his mentor in a secret society mixed up in ancient alchemical secrets.
Short on plot and long on atmosphere, eccentric characters and philosophizing (“The inguac-ification of the avocado is one of mankind’s great leaps”), and produced by the perversely brainy Paul Giamatti, it may be too slow and weird for you — or just right. It’s a show that says: The truth is out there — but maybe if we hang out by the beach, it’ll come to us.
James Fisher/Amazon Prime Video
Agatha Christie's Ordeal by Innocence
(Now on Amazon Prime Video)
Grownups love Agatha Christie adaptations, most of which are played light, or for laughs. But this three-hour miniseries was written by Sarah Phelps, who’s never seen a previous Christie mystery, and she makes it dark and addictively marvelous. Set with rich period detail in a Downton Abbey-like English estate in 1956, it’s about the conviction of a ne’er-do-well (Harry Potter stage star Anthony Boyle) for grabbing a decanter and cracking the skull of his posh mom, philanthropist Rachel Argyll (Anna Chancellor). But he didn’t do it!
Could it be snobbish, embittered, wheelchair user Philip (Downton Abbey’s Matthew Goode)?Rachel’s widower Leo (Love Actually’s Bill Nighy, 68)? Leo’s appalling secretary-turned-fiancee Gwenda (Alice Eve)? It’s tough — and fun — to guess whodunit in a family whose closets are all rattling with skeletons. The clockwork plot satisfies, and no Anglophile should miss this one.