The eight best shows to watch on Netflix and Amazon in March
‘Jessica Jones’, ‘Love’ and ‘UnReal’ return, ‘The Looming Tower’ debuts
Unreal: Amazon Prime’s sharp reality-show satire returns for a third season
Amazon Prime, March 1st
With everyone ensconced in a fort made of Brennan’s sliced pans, it might be a good time to start bingeing on the previous two seasons of this sharp reality-show satire.
Constructed around a dating game, The Everlasting (based on the US series The Bachelor), UnReal explores the lives of the people who are attracted to the idea of reality TV rather than the concept of finding true love. From the devious contestants who see the show as their gilded parachute to success and fame to the producers and programme makers who hatch manipulative plans and engineer conflict to keep the show spicy, it’s the naked, ugly truth concealed beneath the impeccably made-up mask of lies and deceit that constitutes all the best “reality” telly.
The third series sees Rachel, the fragile executive producer (Shiri Appleby), being sucked back into her old life as a new season of The Everlasting begins with a female dater (known as the “suitoress”) taking centre stage.
Be warned, though: UnReal is not just an irreverent askew glance at the mechanics of reality TV and show business – this is not 30 Rock – but also a cruel, often brutal and violent look at how women are exploited in the television industry, used by both sexes to sate capitalistic greed and the devastatingly hollow allure of fame.
The Looming Tower
Amazon Prime, March 1st
For those concerned about the sometimes scrappy output of streaming services comes a classically constructed prestige drama to iron out all those creases. The Looming Tower is a weekly miniseries based on the Pulitzer-winning book by Lawrence Wright, which tracked the beginnings of al-Qaeda, the rise of the cult of Osama bin Laden to the collapse of the twin towers on that bright September morning in 2001.
The intricate drama is a roll-call of gold-standard quality. The Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney, whose credits include Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief and Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, is executive producer, and Dan Futterman (Capote, Foxcatcher) is the showrunner. With an ensemble cast that features Jeff Daniels, Alec Baldwin, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg and Tahar Rahim, it’s an award-baiting tour de force.
Unafraid to shy away from controversial theories and arguments with its questioning of the US government and criticism of the rivalry between the CIA and FBI, it’s a story of impending doom told from a viewpoint that regards the seemingly inevitable tragedy as potentially avoidable.
Netflix, March 2nd
This docudrama follows the teen inmates of Madison Juvenile Correctional Facility, in Indiana. An unflinching look at these lost girls on the cusp of womanhood, who have fallen through the cracks of society after struggling with chaotic home lives and issues of abuse, drug addiction and homelessness, it shows the tumultuous nature of prison life but also how its school and dedicated teaching staff foster a sense of stability. At the prison school their own needs and issues take precedence, giving the young woman hope for a better future.
Netflix, March 6th
More superheroes seem to be bounding around our screens than there are normal folk for them to save. So Black Lightning may seem like another story to add to the ever-burgeoning genre, but this DC invention has subtle political and social themes that elevate it above its smashy-smashy counterparts.
Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) has hung up his superhero’s latex leggings to focus on being a schoolteacher, to give his family a stabler, safer life. His return to the world of capes and cover-ups is prompted by an act of police brutality as the force of the fictional Freetown uses the presence of the One Hundred, a criminal gang, to persecute innocent young black men.
Pierce’s Black Lighting is an older and calmer superhero, a reluctant saviour attempting to reconcile his anger and resentment with his mission to protect local families. With the series’ fun and intriguing supporting cast of characters, Black Lightning has a surprising warmth and depth that could make him the triumphant swashbuckler who will weather the superhero storms.
Netflix, March 8th
March is the month of the alternative superhero on Netflix, it would seem, as the second season of Marvel’s Jessica Jones arrives. Krysten Ritter’s depiction of the haunted, hard-drinking tough-girl PI-cum-superhero won her acclaim from critics and audiences alike.
The show was a gut punch for some audiences, delving into womancentric topics not usually explored in the fantastical realm, such as rape, abortion, domestic abuse and PTSD, with Jessica suffering cruelly at the hands of her tormentor, Kilgrave (David Tennant), as she attempted to leave her past behind.
This series features more revelations about Jessica’s past but is also a broader look at those in her orbit, those who try to get to know her and those who want to harm her. Being released on International Women’s Day, and with every episode directed by a woman, season two is a pained love letter to the extraordinary women who try to fight the menacing masculinity in their lives.
Netflix, March 9th
Love may not be dead, but it’s definitely over after this third and final series of Judd Apatow’s spiky romcom. The journey of the mismatched couple Gus (Paul Rust) and Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) is coming to a close after a roller coaster of mood swings, doubts, lust and yearning that often veered from the razor’s edge of realism to the over-the-top ridiculousness of a standard sitcom.
Now, with Mickey apparently wanting a real, adult relationship, this season will see the pair navigate the same messy emotional assault course they’ve previously trekked, but this time the stakes are higher, as their feelings have grown and solidified like an aggressive fungus on a forgotten yogurt at the back of the fridge.
Netflix, March 12th
After recent expensive failures such as Bright and Mute, the streaming service will be hoping that Alex Garland’s nightmarish sci-fi wonder can reverse its bout of blockbuster bleakness.
An ambitious, mind-melting thriller that follows a biologist, Lena (Natalie Portman), as she and a team of industrious, adventuring women doctors, linguistics and paramedics (including Tessa Thompson and Jennifer Jason Leigh) who go on an expedition into a dangerous realm known as the Shimmer to try to find her lost husband (Oscar Isaac) in the environmental disaster zone. Ambitious, beautiful and bold with its concentration on the feminine and the theme of the revenge of the natural world – there are parallels to the mother of all sci-fi horrors, Alien – Annihilation is the heart of darkness that just might pump some fresh blood into Netflix’s cinematic efforts.
Take Your Pills
Netflix, March 16th
A documentary about the use and abuse of prescription drugs such as Adderall, which are taken by a cross section of young people, from athletes and students to creatives trying to compete in the ultracompetitive modern world. It asks what’s driving this trend and where it will all end.