If it sounds like Good Trouble might be a bit of an issues burger with the lot, well it’s certainly that.
High on the list as the second season gets underway are mental illness and the question of changing one’s pronouns should one find one’s self to be gender non-conforming. But in that Good Trouble is of a piece with the The Fosters, which also took a thoughtful, compassionate approach to social issues while keeping the drama character-driven. But how to keep all those characters crammed as closely together as humanly possible?
Good Trouble has Callie and Mariana sharing a bedroom in a shared-accommodation building whose less-desirable features include a communal kitchen and communal unisex bathroom. In terms of privacy it makes Melrose Place look like Cast Away, and indeed a desert island might start to look a whole lot better once you realise everyone’s going to see who’s leaving your bedroom at all hours of day and night (there are no en suites here, remember!).
But then you’d have to give up that stunning swimming pool on the balcony with all its hunky bisexual artists with all their rippling abs and shampoo-ad hair. What do you expect a girl and her sister to do? Besides, on a desert island you’d never have the chance to get involved with Black Lives Matter, or find out what happens to building manager Alice (Sherry Cola), whose immigrant parents are OK with her being gay but want her to stay in the closet to the extended family.
The hugely likeable Mitchell continues to grow as a perceptive, multi-faceted actor whose best work is yet to come.
Ramy is a good deal more than the millennial sex-and-ethnicity comedy it often looks like. Season two finds porn-addicted American Muslim Ramy (Ramy Youssef) trying to fill the hole inside him with spirituality. He meets a tower of moral rectitude in the form of Sufi imam Malik (the ever-imposing Mahershala Ali) but the path to enlightenment is going to take some dark detours.
Well-drawn supporting characters with sharp tongues help lighten the mood, and Hiam Abbass (Succession) is hilarious as Ramy’s daggy mother.
Can’t go to pub trivia but can’t be bothered rummaging through cupboards looking for Trivial Pursuit? You can still impress your whole household with your superior general knowledge by making them sit down on the couch and yell answers at Jeopardy! with you. With host Alex Trebek still lashed to the mast it’s the most timelessly daggy of quiz shows, but the questions aren’t just dusty old American history. Even knowing a bit about George Clooney films or young adult fiction will get you in the money.
Unlikely Animal Friends
Get ready for a cuteness overload as all sorts of animals become best buds with very different species. The star of the first episode is an Australian shepherd named Blakely, who works as a stand-in parent for orphaned and abandoned animals at the Cincinnati Zoo. Having already nurtured and socialised wallabies and an ocelot for reintroduction to their own species, he has a new challenge in a big and boisterous baby Himalayan gnu. Elsewhere, images of elephants injured by landmines might be jarring for some.
The Valhalla Murders
Iceland sees just a couple of murders a year on average, so when ghoulish back-to-back killings in Reykjavik raise the possibility of a serial killer being on the loose it’s a shock to everyone. Luckily for the locals, seasoned detective Kata (Nina Dogg Filippusdóttir) looks like the kind of copper who can get a result. Happily for the viewer, Iceland seems to share its Nordic neighbours’ gift for memorable modern noir.
The Valhalla Murders is enthralling stuff, the contrasting grit and gleam of the interiors and exteriors – and even of the actors themselves – weaving a visual spell of its own. But series creator Thordur Palsson knows how to set a fuse for a slow burn.
It’s not long before police find a link to an abusive boys’ home that closed decades earlier, but getting to the truth will take eight episodes. In the meantime, Kata has to contend with a disturbing family matter and outside help in the form of a close-lipped Norwegian detective (Bjorn Thors) who has mysterious local connections. Gutsy performances and judicious rationing of the scenery make for terrific viewing.
The Great Courses
What’s better than trying to edumacate yourself by watching dodgy YouTube videos? Taking in a great free lecture series created by real American academics specially for The Great Courses.
If you’re to pick, completely at random, the topic of the Black Death, you’ll find a series of 24 half-hour lectures by Purdue professor Dorsey Armstrong, looking at the pandemic from every angle, beginning with the digestive systems of fleas. Even the first lecture providing a broad snapshot of 14th-century Europe is fascinating.
*Stan is owned by Nine, the owner of this masthead.