This is embarrassing but I think 2023 has been a much better year for shows than movies so far. I know, I know, it's only April, but there have been so many bad movies and so many good streaming shows that it feels like there's an imbalance in the force. Even some of the newer podcasts this year have been gripping in ways that cinema hasn't really been in a while. I have a feeling "Beau is Afraid" (releasing April 14) will be the one that really turns the tide, but until then, here's the podcasts and shows I'm in love with right now.
In Pod We Trust
The only podcast that I've managed to listen to every episode of this year so far is "The Last of Us" podcast, made easier by the fact that you can actually listen to it on HBOMax after each episode of the show.
Hosted by Troy Baker (the voice of Joel in the games) and with showrunners Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann as guests for each episode, the podcast is a genuinely unmissable aspect of the series. Hearing Druckmann go into the initial concepts for the storytelling in the game versus how they approached the HBO series is absolutely fascinating and feels like a free masterclass in how to adapt art from one medium to another.
"Love, Janessa" is a seven-part podcast that goes into a catfishing scheme that used the image of a real porn star to lure men into losing thousands of dollars. Journalist Hannah Ajala not only seeks to get to the bottom of the scam, but also to track down the real woman behind the image, Janessa Brazil. Fans of "Dirty John" will really dig this one and, since all seven episodes are already available, you won't have to wait long to get to the end of the mystery.
Where to even begin? "The Last of Us" (HBOMax) finale was divisive to fans with gamers basically getting what they expected and newbies getting emotionally destroyed. It's amazing to me that what could have easily been just another zombie show managed to reinvent the genre by giving it the scientific explanation of the fungus cordyceps. There's a fungus among us.
Also finishing its inaugural season was the truly excellent "Poker Face," (Peacock) which answers the eternal question of what would "Columbo" be like if Natasha Lyonne was the star. Equal parts hilarious, clever and dark, "Poker Face" has such meticulously plotted mysteries that it has been tiding me over quite well as I await another "Knives Out" movie. I hope they make this show for years to come.
Season Two of "Yellowjackets" (Showtime) is only on its second episode, but is so far proving that they won't be having a sophomore slump. With Elijah Wood joining the cast and teaming up with Christina Ricci, it basically feels like this horror, mystery, riot girl, comedy hybrid is made just for me with its beautiful blend of macabre humor and heart. If you need convincing: the show is basically "Lost" if it starred a murderers' row of brilliant actresses and they started eating each other instead of dealing with polar bears.
I'm also only two episodes into the first season of "Rabbit Hole," (Paramount+) an espionage/mind f**k series starring Kiefer Sutherland, but I'm already hooked on the twists and turns they've been throwing at me. Sutherland plays a paranoid corporate spy who gets set up for some terrible stuff and has literally no clue why, what's happening or who to trust. This has the vibes of classic '70s conspiracy thrillers like "The Conversation" and "Marathon Man," so if that's your thing you shouldn't wait to get sucked in.
And I don't even have enough room to talk about how much fun Season Three of "The Mandalorian" (Disney+) is, or how disturbing and powerful Amazon's "Swarm" has been. The final seasons of "Succession" (HBOMax) and "Picard" (Paramount+) have been great so far and "Ted Lasso's" (AppleTV+) "possible" final season has been bittersweetly beautiful, to say the least. It's just too much.