I need you to close Netflix. Well, not mid-show. But even though it is the biggest streaming service, and it offers a ton of content, it's not the end-all, be-all of streaming TV. And this is something I've remembered this past week, as I found myself utterly addicted to two new shows on streaming services that don't get enough attention: Peacock and Apple TV Plus.
As I recently explained, I just canceled my Netflix subscription Not to stick it to the man, or anything. I've accepted last year's price hike, and I'm currently OK with where things are with the current news about the Netflix password-sharing crackdown. It's not what I want to see happen, but I think I'll be fine.
And, no, I'm not doing it to say there's nothing good on Netflix (our lists of the best shows on Netflix and the best movies on Netflix proves otherwise). I did it because I realized I didn't need Netflix right now, and because I'd rather have an extra $20 in my pockets (there are too many interesting movies out right now).
While these are the only new shows that I absolutely love — HBO's The Last of Us doesn't need more attention — they are shows that I want to basically send out a beacon about. So, let's break down why I'm going to be annoying my friends and family with talk of Poker Face and Shrinking.
Poker Face review: A classic format for the prestige TV era
Peacock is a streaming service I have mixed feelings about. It has some great movies (Tár being the most recent addition), it's had some fantastic shows (We Are Lady Parts comes to mind) and it's a service I'm practically stuck with because I watch the WWE's predetermined theatrics.
But, its most recent piece of excellent TV — Paul T. Goldman — was not exactly for everyone. It was very weird and kinda goofy. Poker Face, though, is the kind of TV I think everyone and their parents can get into. That's because it feels like the last of a dying breed (in a good way), while also having all the charm of a buzzy series that should be trending.
Poker Face stars Natasha Lyonne as Charlie Cale, who we meet as a casino worker. It's a perfect line of work for her, because Cale has the preternatural ability to tell if someone's fibbing. Yes, she's the human lie detector. She's also a bit of an homage to classic TV gumshoe Columbo, as she's always trying to make counterfactual details fit. And, unfortunately, trouble seems to be stalking Cale — with bodies stacking up like the precipitation of a cloud following her.
And each episode of Poker Face finds Cale trying to to figure out what happened. She already knows who's lying, it's just a matter of getting them to fib so she can unpack the case. It's a perfect premise, as knowing someone is lying is a great plot device to keep a story moving. Also, Lyonne's gravelly voice and mix of friendliness and suspicion make her a great detective.
At the same time, Lyonne's thankfully not carrying this show on her own. A fantastic list of supporting actors show up (and one follows her from town to town), as Cale keeps finding herself in trouble's way.
In one town, Cheers vet John Ratzenberger is a likable garage owner. The next sees Chloë Sevigny and The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle in a band. Lil Rel Howery (Get Out, Vacation Friends) runs a BBQ restaurant and — most notably — Adrien Brody runs a casino thanks to the fact that his daddy gave him the position. Each of these guest actors does the best to steal scenes from Lyonne, who knows a thing or two about stealing scenes.
All the while, you're watching a show that is visually pleasing, to say the least. That's thanks to the fact that Poker Face's creator, writer and director is in fact Rian Johnson.
Yes, somehow, Peacock has a show featuring the star of one of the best Netflix shows (Russian Doll) and director of one of the best Netflix movies (Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery). And, yes, you get a mystery detective show from the Knives Out guy, which means each episode is its own little bit of a treat.
Except you shouldn't go in expecting a traditional mystery. The start of the episode, a cold-open about the people who cause the chaos that Charlie's investigating, often reveals whodunnit. So the entertainment lies in watching Charlie figure out what you already know.
Shrinking review: Apple TV's latest must-see
Sometimes, you see too many well-liked names on a marquee for a show or movie, and you blanch. Or at least I do after seeing Don't Look Up. But Apple TV Plus' Shrinking proves an exception to the rule. The series is written and executive produced by Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), Ted Lasso show runner Bill Lawrence and Roy Kent himself Brett Goldstein — oh, and Harrison Ford (who's rediscovered TV, between this and 1923) co-stars.
But, don't worry: it's not Ted Lasso 2.0. It has pretty powerful emotional beats, though. How could it not when Jimmy (Segel, who stars) is a therapist who's mourning of his wife has him so down that he's breaking the rules of his field by being way too honest and directly telling his patients what to do. Fortunately (for us, the audience), this rule breaking doesn't go too well. While one patient seems to be doing well, another doesn't — while one patient's partner is very upset by the advice Jimmy gave her.
The most interesting results of Jimmy's new found disregard for the rules come from Sean (Luke Tennie), a patient he's advising because colleague Gabby (Jessica Williams) is unavailable. Sean's dealing with trauma related to his recent military service, and Gabby's a bit shocked by Jimmy's advice for dealing with anger management. Jimmy and Sean, at least in the first two episodes, go through a ton together, and it all delivers a lot of emotion.
Meanwhile, Jimmy's having trouble trying to raise his daughter Alice (Lukita Maxwell) with help from his neighbor Liz (Christa Miller, practically a Bill Lawrence series regular). This is one of a few places where you might see the DNA of Ted Lasso, as well-meaning people make mistakes, and the community forming around them is trying to help.
If it sounds like I'm purposely vague about Shrinking, it's because I am. The first two episodes have some gut-punch moments that I was happy to not be ready for, and it's a series I'm probably going to binge via Apple TV Plus' screeners. Either way, it's the perfect show to watch while we wait for The Afterparty season 2 and Ted Lasso season 3 — and help deal with the recent Apple TV Plus price increase.
Outlook: Don't forget about Peacock and Apple TV Plus
Your mileage, when it comes to the best streaming services, may vary. You might be all about the return of Joe Goldberg in You season 4, headed to Netflix this month. You also may be incredibly down for Outer Banks season 3.
But if Netflix isn't soothing your needs at the moment, you should check these shows out. Poker Face is a treat for the mystery-of-the-week crowd, and Shrinking is ready to hit you in the feels.