As usual, we started off the week by surveying the Polygon staff to see what people have been watching — whether they’re on top of the latest cultural controversy about a virally popular Netflix series, discovering an animated gem ahead of the latest season, or educating themselves in older genre classics.
And as usual, the answers range widely, as some people check out what’s new and popular on streaming services, and some return to past favorites. Here are some thoughts on what we’re enjoying watching right now, and what you might enjoy watching as well.
There’s so much news pumping through the feed, so many takes to read, so many reports to digest, so MUCH to understand about the world today, and yet ... my brain hungers for useless trivia. Yes, Alex, do tell which author appropriately named a sidekick character Passepartout because it means “goes everywhere.” I yearn to know. (It was Jules Verne in Around the World in Eighty Days.)
Jeopardy! has always held a special place in my heart, but the grind of life has made it all but impossible for me to tune into the nightly 7 p.m. airings in my local area. But January’s Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time tournament led me back to the show, and the release of episodes on Netflix, where I could cram them like I’m study from the AP U.S. History test I definitely forgot was tomorrow, turned me into a trivia marathoner. One episode of Jeopardy! in the evening is like kicking back with the crossword puzzle. Watching an entire College Tournament over two nights is like enjoying is like getting a Super Bowl in the middle of the week. There are heroes. There are villains. I am amped. I am alive. “Foreign Former Forts” for $800, Alex.
Unlike the clash of the titans during the GOAT tournament, the people playing in the available Netflix episodes are Normal Human Beings with finite knowledge and little play strategy. The games moves at a clip, but not fast enough to keep my wife and I from shouting answers and getting a bit competitive. The episodes come in at a cool 22 minutes, and the endings aren’t engineered to keep us watching past our bedtime. Jeopardy! is steady, and it’s something I didn’t know I needed so much right now. —Matt Patches
Jeopardy! Is streaming on Netflix.
And everything else we’re watching...
Whenever I need a pick-me-up I throw on Bob’s Burgers. Does the trick every time. Not only is it silly in a way that allows me to turn off my brain and just laugh for a bit, it’s also very sweet, which is rare in the world of Fox adult animation [*cough* Family Guy *cough*].
I’ve binged Bob’s Burgers on Hulu enough that I know most of seasons 1-7 by heart now, but this weekend I revisited some of the more recent episodes that I caught live but haven’t re-watched. One of those episodes was season 8’s “Something Old, Something New, Something Bob Caters for You.” As the title would suggest, Bob’s Burgers caters a wedding for a couple (guest stars Pete Holmes and Kulap Vilaysack) who had their first date at the restaurant. Predictably, things go wrong in outrageous and hilarious ways, but the song Bob sings while cooking burgers for the wedding legitimately made me cry.
Bob is having a bit of an existential crisis about his job, thinking that it’s stupid and trivial compared to, say, a medical career saving lives. Catering the wedding makes him feel like he’s a part of something important, and he sings a ballad about how he can “save their special day” through the power of burgers, which will in turn reaffirm his faith in his calling to make burgers. “Do I need this more than anything? I doooooo,” he croons. It’s beautiful.
Those moments are what I love most about Bob’s Burgers, especially when they’re juxtaposed with a bit about dead butterflies (they were supposed to fly out of boxes and surround the couple.) At its heart it’s a silly sweet show, with some absolute bangers on the soundtrack. Now I’m going to have that song stuck in my head all week. —Emily Heller
Bob’s Burgers is streaming on Hulu
The Great Pretender
I’m five episodes into The Great Pretender, the latest anime from Wit Studios (Attack on Titan, Vinland Saga). An alternate title would be Breaking Good. The show’s first block of episodes borrow liberally from the tale of a notorious budding drug kingpin, share that series’ knack for slowburn suspense, and cheekily name drop Walter White himself. But where Breaking Bad charted the descent of a bitter, vindictive egomaniac in the drab, lonely deserts of New Mexico, The Great Pretender sprints in the other direction. Its hero, Makoto Edamura, stumbles through similar seedy underbellies, forced at first to craft the perfect illicit drug, but his adventures take him across the globe, in crowded cities so full of life that they radiate supernatural colors. Edanmura is Walter White in reverse, a con artist trying to be better, constantly hobbled by family trauma, the shadow of incarceration, and the unquenchable desire to achieve greatness.
I second our review from D.M. Moore: “There are few shows that, regardless of a person’s predilections, I would suggest without a second thought. Great Pretender is now on that list.” —Chris Plante
The Great Pretender is streaming on Netflix.
Multiple people from various parts of my life have been urging me to watch “the volleyball anime” for months now, so a few weeks ago, I finally decided to start it. And folks, it was rough. Those first few episodes introduce the central characters, enthusiastic spiker HInata and arrogant setter Kageyama, and boy, do they start out with incredibly overwhelming and somewhat unlikeable personalities. I was reluctant to continue.
But as the cast expanded over the next few episodes, the rest of the team balanced out Hinata and Kageyama — and they also realize that they’re acting like total idiots and need to work together. The team is full of various personalities, from capable captain Daichi, hot-headed Tanaka, and aloof (and really freakin’ tall!) Tsukishima. Their big personalities bounce off each other, making for some fun banter and inter-team conflict. For those clueless to the sport (aka me), Daichi patiently explains the positions and rules to the team’s also clueless coach. I now know more about volleyball than I ever thought I’d want to.
It was this weekend where I finally reached the groove of episodes where I thought to myself “Wow, I need to watch the next one,” as the cast rounds out and the stakes heighten. I’m a sucker for unlikely teammates coming together despite their differences and mantras about how everyone on one side of the net is an ally are a surefire way to make me soft. But I wasn’t expecting just how excited I’d get for the sport itself, how the tosses and serves and receives got my heart a-poundin’! Let’s go Karasuno High, let’s go! —Petrana Radulovic
Haikyu!! is streaming on Netflix.
Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure
I began my weekend convalescing on the couch — only to be joined late on Saturday by my seven-year-old after she badly skinned a knee. So, with half of the family injured and the other half recovering from the first week of remote learning, I decided it was time for cartoons.
I’ve been a fan of Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure ever since I caught a few episodes on the Disney Channel in 2017. The art style is quite different from Tangled itself, which was very glossy and refined. The animated series relies on a colored-pencil look with lots of texture, and it works well even in character close-ups. There are also lots of great outfits that my girls desperately want to add to their dress-up bin or riff on for next year’s Renaissance festival circuit. But, what grabbed me the most was its ongoing episodic storyline.
The best season by far is season 2, which sees the gang take on all kinds of side quests and adventures. Season three definitely meanders, tossing in several macguffins to paper over vaguely comprehensible plot holes. But, in the end, it really puts a nice bow on things. The final three-episode arc of that third season — when combined with the short film Tangled: Before Ever After — is the equivalent of a sequel to the original movie. Throw in the fact that original voice actors Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi come along for the ride, it’s one of the most ambitious and comprehensive Disney cartoon series available on Disney Plus. —Charlie Hall
Tangled: Before Ever After and Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure (also known as Tangled: The Series) is streaming on Disney Plus.
7 Days in Hell and Tour de Pharmacy
Over the weekend, I revisited the two sports mockumentaries that Jake Szymanski and Murray Miller made for HBO. They’re just as funny as I remember them to be, though I’d forgotten about just how much male full-frontal nudity (real and computer-generated) was in each.
Both mockumentaries center on real events (Wimbledon and the Tour de France, respectively), and star a cadre of famous faces as a bunch of fictional athletes, including Andy Samberg (who stars in both films), Kit Harington, Orlando Bloom, John Cena, and Daveed Diggs. There are also cameos from real-world figures as themselves, such as David Copperfield, Serena Williams, J. J. Abrams, and an infamous cyclist whose cameo is too good to spoil here.
They’re both just over 40 minutes long, and pitch-perfect parodies of how self-serious such documentaries can sometimes be. —Karen Han
7 Days in Hell and Tour de Pharmacy are streaming on HBO Max.
MY HORROR JOURNEY CONTINUES! In case you missed it, Polygon’s own Petrana Radulovic and I are going on unintentionally simultaneous quests to get to know the horror genre better. Last weekend she watched Candyman (which is leaving Netflix on Aug. 30, get it!), and this weekend we both watched The Witch. As Tasha Robison has pointed out, The Witch was sold as conventional horror — I first saw the trailer before Crimson Peak, another artsy, horror-adjacent movie that suffered in its marketing.
The Witch is the story of a beleaguered Puritan family trying to make homesteading happen, and in precisely the wrong location. First the baby Samuel disappears, and then more children are afflicted, at first gradually, and then all at once. Teenaged Thomasin is increasingly blamed for the family’s catastrophes. When she turns her frustration on her father and calls out his own hypocritical behavior, he takes it as the devil speaking through her. Frustrating!! Yet plausible!!!
Visually, it rules, and is well worth a watch, even if you’re a weenie who is worried about intrusive night thoughts. While it has its moments of violence and intense imagery, I found it far less spooky than the trailers indicated. —Simone de Rochefort
The Witch is streaming on Netflix.