Netflix Offers Bingeworthy Shows


There are few more indicative signs that online TV services have arrived than series that match most anything offered by the networks and cable channels. Two original series from Netflix that I recently semi-binge watched – Bloodline and Narco – stand out as worthy shows I heartily recommend.

The tagline for Bloodline is “We’re not bad people, but we did a bad thing.” The dramatic crime thriller is set in the Florida Keys on the luscious island of Islamorada (where I’ve visited and was wowed), which gives the show a most visually appealing milieu that contrasts with the story that unfolds.

Its plot reminds me of the detective stories of author Ross MacDonald in which family history and dysfunctions bubble up to the surface to shatter seemingly picture perfect situations. The story centers on the Rayburn family, whose home is a lovely seaside inn built and run by parents Robert and Sally. Son John is a deputy sheriff, daughter Meg is a lawyer, and youngest son Kevin runs a marina. When the oldest and black sheep son Danny returns, things begin to unravel.

The series had a first-class cast. Kyle Chandler, who carved out a memorable character as Coach Eric Taylor on Friday Night Lights, plays lawman Robert Rayburn, who also narrates the tale. The Rayburn parents are veteran actors Sissy Spacek and Sam Shepard. Australlian Ben Mendelsohn generates dramatic heat as errant son Danny. And in secondary roles are such noted thespians as Chloë Sevigny, Beau Bridges and John Lequizamo.

The show’s first season is powered by growing tension stoked by Danny Rayburn’s homecoming and involvement with a drug smuggling ring, along with the revelation of a family secret from the past, and winds up with a shocking act (not to verge too close to a spoiler). Season two is suffused with reverberations from the act, more revelations, and how it all starts to fracture the lives of everyone involved. It ends with one of the most nail-biting cliffhangers I can ever recall in a series.

A third season is already slated for next year. I for one can’t wait.

We already know what happens in Narcos, which dramatizes the story of notorious Colombian cocaine smuggler Pablo Escobar and his Medellin Cartel, plus two DEA agents stationed in Bogota trying to bring his multi-billion dollar enterprise down. But that doesn’t in any way reduce the drama of this deftly-told story. Known as a “Robin Hood” for his substantial contribution to improving the lives of the poor in his hometown of Medellin, Escobar oversteps by entering politics, which along with his many murders of politicians, police, associates and others, leads to his downfall.

A co-production of Netflix and the Spanish-language network Telemundo, Narcos is a rare bird among American TV series in that it’s bilingual – both in Spanish (with subtitles) and English. As well, it’s unusual for its focus on a South American nation. It’s series TV opening up to the rest of the Western Hemisphere.

Most impressive is Brazilian actor Wagner Moura’s portrayal of Escobar. He skillfully manages to make a criminal if not monster into a still likable and charming character.

The series tackles what was an American cocaine epidemic during Escobar’s reign as the possibly wealthiest drug lord ever from the mid-1970s to his death in 1973 from a largely Colombian perspective. Its almost documentarian style brings recent history to life in a gripping fashion. With its second season debuting this fall, Narcos is don’t-miss TV.

Populist Picks

Documentary Film: Meet the Hitlers – A fascinating and by turns sometimes humorous, disturbing and insightful film that examines how people live with having the surname Hitler by family, being related to the evil madman German dictator or, sadly, being given the name by a twisted parent.

CD: Charlie Faye & The Fayettes – Like the girl-group sound of the 1960s? Austin, TX-based singer and songwriter Faye recruits two other notable local talents (Betty Soo and Akina Adderley) to charmingly revive the style.

Documentary Film: Trinidad – The western Colorado town of this doc’s title is the world capital of sex change operations. This look at the town and its transsexual surgeon who performs the procedures and patients that undergo it offers an intriguing and non-judgmental look at what’s currently a hot button cultural issues from many dimensions.

Rob Patterson is a music and entertainment writer in Austin, Texas. Email

From The Progressive Populist, December 15, 2016

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