As I write this, on April 16, it is snowing. I’m a New Englander, I still remember the April Fool’s storm, and I generally roll my eyes at Weather Drama. I mean, it rains, it snows, it sleets, it makes you sweat, it makes you shiver, get over it. That’s just life in the Green Mountain, Granite, Bay, Ocean, and Pine Tree States, right?
But still: It’s April 16, and my weather page tells me it will be 73 degrees on Tuesday, and it is snowing right now, and sticking. I have to admit, it is a little weird. So in case you’ve decided to cancel all the things you were planning to not do today and sit on the couch instead, here are a few TV suggestions for you.
“A Very English Scandal”: I love it when a true-crime story is adapted for TV with an eye toward historical context and character depth. Amazon’s three-parter about closeted British MP Jeremy Thorpe and his attempt to have an ex-lover murdered in the 1960s is a compelling story in its own right. But, as written by Russell T. Davies (“Doctor Who”) and directed by Stephen Frears (“The Queen”), it also brings in rich themes of political self-interest, homophobia, the cruelty of stiff upper lips, and the way justice tips toward class and money. Plus, Hugh Grant, as Thorpe, beautifully turns his charm into something nefarious, and Ben Whishaw is perfectly cracked as his victim. Amazon
“Modern Love”: While the eight half-hours of “Modern Love” have the sparkling feel of urban romantic comedy, they’re about the very many faces of love out there in the world — between lovers, yes, but also between friends, between people tossed together by circumstance, between a birth mother and the gay couple adopting her baby. The adaptation of The New York Times column of the same name was created by Irish writer-director John Carney of “Once” and “Sing Street,” and he brings just the right touch to almost every episode. OK, so there’s a bit of corniness here and there; the charm of the whole project makes its excesses tolerable, as does the swiftness of the storytelling. Amazon
“Alias Grace”: This is the other haunting Margaret Atwood adaptation, a miniseries written by Sarah Polley and directed by Mary Harron. Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” looks into a darkly imagined future, but this tale goes back to the 1800s for the true story of a young Irish immigrant jailed for double-murder. From the first episode, it’s riveting, with Grace (Sarah Gadon) recounting her Dickensian past to an American psychiatrist. As is wont to happen in therapy, Grace’s truth gets muddier and muddier before it gets clearer. A beautifully acted, carefully structured, and broody period piece — not typical of Netflix, but at this point the streamer seems to have a bit of everything under its umbrella. Netflix
“The Good Lord Bird”: This seven-episode adaptation of James McBride’s celebrated novel is a spirited, dramatic, and comic romp about the uphill battle of abolitionist John Brown, whose 1859 raid of the Harpers Ferry armory helped trigger the Civil War. Played with much theatricality by Ethan Hawke as a social irritant of the first order, he holds onto his love of this country and his commitment to equality even as he faces the gallows. Hawke is impressive, and so is Joshua Caleb Johnson, who plays a 9-year-old Black boy nicknamed Onion who is the show’s other, quieter hero. Brown thinks Onion, whom he has brought into his crew, is a girl, and Onion doesn’t argue with him, wearing dresses throughout and coping with all kinds of funny, and not so funny, code-switching. “The Good Lord Bird” is a treat, a wonderfully askew story about a loyal ally and his obsessive optimism. Showtime
“Call My Agent”: This light-hearted and witty French drama — there are four short seasons – is a full-on treat. It’s about a group of high-powered talent agents, specifically those in a Paris agency called ASK. In each episode, some real-life actor — from Juliette Binoche and Jean Dujardin to Isabelle Huppert and Sigourney Weaver — plays a comic version of his or her self, which is great fun; “The Larry Sanders Show” was a model of this kind of meta material. The agents do their best to pamper their stars, even when the stars are at their most prima-donna-ish. Mostly though, we follow the personal lives of the nine characters who work for ASK, as they deal with personal and professional challenges. Now get to it. Netflix
“Catastrophe”: What? You haven’t seen this four-season delight? Get to it. The outline of the comedy is nothing special: A lovably goofy American guy played by Rob Delaney has a fling in London with a feisty Irish woman played by Sharon Horgan, an unexpected baby ensues, and they try to raise the baby together despite being near-strangers. But the cast members — including Carrie Fisher and Ashley Jensen — are great, and the writing, by Delaney and Horgan, is too. The pair are one of TV comedy’s most believable couples, as they argue and make up and click in a charming but never cloying way. Work, parenting, sobriety, monogamy, sex — they’re all part of this surprisingly romantic story. Amazon
“Getting On”: This one didn’t quite catch on when it aired, perhaps because the physical and mental rigors of old age and the existential despair of navigating hospital bureaucracy are not generally considered comedic targets. But the series, a remake of a British sitcom, succeeded in sending up — and up and up — the goings-on in the geriatric ward of a struggling hospital. The humor was dry and the décor was gray, like “The Office,” and it wasn’t above poop jokes, either. The cast was all aces, led by Alex Borstein (yup, Susie from “Mrs. Maisel”), Laurie Metcalf, and Niecy Nash, and the special guests — Harry Dean Stanton, Jean Smart, June Squibb, Rita Moreno — always added a kick. I laugh out loud when I watch “Getting On,” as it treads shamelessly on tender ground. HBO
“Back to Life”: I fell in love with this little, precisely observed portrait of a woman recently released from prison, which is from some of the executive producers of “Fleabag.” A fast but meaningful watch at only six half-hour episodes, it follows an anguished — and yet touchingly buoyant — 36-year-old woman who has just been released after serving 18 years in prison. Miri (played by co-writer Daisy Haggard, who was the sourpuss head of comedy on “Episodes”) is trying to restart her life, but her family and neighbors have a hard time letting her do so. It’s like a light version of the more meditative “Rectify,” with some wonderful humor from Geraldine James as Miri’s pent-up mum and a masterfully gradual unraveling of Miri’s original crime. The series was just renewed, and I’ll be first in line when it returns. Showtime
“Mr Inbetween”: Yet another tale of a hitman with a heart, this comic drama has no right to be as good and as affecting as it is. Writer and star Scott Ryan is a revelation as Ray, who is as laconic and laid back as TV’s other fixer named Ray, Ray Donovan. He murders and beats up his targets with a cool street efficiency. But he’s otherwise quite sympathetic, caring for his 8-year-old daughter and his ailing brother with loyalty. How does Mr Inbetween (there is no period) deal with finding himself in between two moral worlds, as he begins to tire of his business dealings? How do we reconcile his character? The episodes of this moody Aussie import are a half-hour each, but they have weight. FX on Hulu
“The Knick”: It always surprises me when I’m talking to someone who hasn’t even heard of this show, which was made by Steven Soderbergh and starred Clive Owen. Perhaps the fact that the 1900-set series ran on Cinemax held it back from more widespread embrace; perhaps it was too convincingly bloody for a hospital drama. Unlike most period pieces, “The Knick” did not prettify the past. Owen’s drug-addicted surgeon worked in the primitive operating theaters of the time, when doctors reach up elbows-deep into their patients without gloves. He and his colleagues dealt with — and, in some cases, promoted — racism and class distinctions, amid romantic tensions. As the hospital’s only black doctor, Andre Holland was remarkable. Good news: A reboot or sequel series may be on the way. HBO Max
“Years and Years”: I’ve mentioned this six-part miniseries to many people, most of whom haven’t heard about it. But when I explain it — a fleshed-out “Black Mirror” story, a haunting look at the biofeedback between individuals and global politics, an operatic rush forward through the next 15 years of history — I generally get blank stares. I now believe “Years and Years” is hard to reduce to an elevator pitch because it is so original. It’s dystopian, with Emma Thompson as an abrasive businesswoman running for political office, blood tests that predict life expectancy, climate-change disasters, and breath scans that are required for border crossings. It’s an anxiety dream come to life. But it’s also the warm story of the Lyons family of Manchester, England, with Anne Reid as the spiky, loving grandmother of four complicated siblings. The human side of the show — which is from Russell T. Davies of “Dr. Who” and “Queer as Folk” — elevates it from creepy to heartbreaking. As society becomes more coldly robotic, you wonder as you watch, perhaps something warm inside us will survive. HBO Max
“What We Do in the Shadows”: Few shows right now make me smile more than this gothic vampire comedy, as it finds subversive humor in the banal days (by which I mean nights) of its three undead Staten Island housemates. Season two was far from a letdown, as the perfectly cast Matt Berry, Natasia Demetriou, and Kayvan Novak continued to make me laugh out loud. Their blood suckers are a little bitter, a little bored, and, for such ancient beings, very, very stupid. Berry was particularly good in the episode about his character Laszlo’s alter ego, Jackie Daytona, a half-hour featuring Mark Hamill that’s destined to become a classic. Mark Proksch also entertained as the energy vampire living in the basement of the mansion, who feeds from people by boring them into a stupor — something this show could never be guilty of. FX on Hulu
“Shrill” on Hulu is a great look into the coming of age of Aidy Bryant’s Annie, who constantly deals with other people’s judgment of her weight.
“The Bisexual” on Hulu is one of my favorite unknown comedies. It’s a fresh twist on the coming-out story, as a lesbian named Leila (played by writer-director Desiree Akhavan) realizes she is bisexual, much to the chagrin of her long-term partner.
“Feel Good” on Netflix is Canadian comic Mae Martin’s semi-autobiographical story of her history as an addict and being involved with a “straight” woman. Big added plus in this smart six-episode tale: Lisa Kudrow as Mae’s mother.
“Gentleman Jack” on HBO is about an open, gender-fluid lesbian in 1830s England, featuring a powerhouse performance by Suranne Jones.
“Howards End” on Amazon and Starz is a four-part adaption of the E.M. Forster novel by Kenneth Lonergan of “Manchester by the Sea.” It’s holds up nicely in comparison to the Merchant-Ivory gem, with more time to tease out the themes of liberal guilt, class divides, and compromises in love.