Mare of Easttown (HBO, 8 episodes):
MoE is easily the best limited TV series in recent years, IMHO. I say “limited,” but I hope there’s a season 2. Certainly there’s plenty of unexplored territory and enough new possibilities to sustain many more episodes should HBO and Kate Winslet decide to pursue it.
MoE is a murder/crime mystery and character study set in a semi-fictional white-collar town outside Philadelphia. The setting is gritty, real,
and deep. The character, Mare, is one of the better female law enforcement characters of all time, be it movie or TV. If you are looking for comparison shows, Broadchurch and Prime Suspect (first seasons) come to mind.
If you haven’t seen the series yet, you should do so pronto before the internet gives away key spoilers. This is one of those shows where you really don’t want to know the ending. It makes the story so much more engaging and enjoyable to follow Detective Mare around, sorting through clues and piecing together what really happened.
So, what makes MoE such a great show? Four things: a great main character; a ripping good murder mystery; a terrific script; and last, but not least, an outstanding cast who really put it all on the line for this show. Kate Winslet, of course, is outstanding, but lots of kudos to her co-stars, particularly Julianne Nicholson, Angourie Rice, and Joe Tippett.
If you’re wondering whether the show lives up to all the internet buzz it’s getting, it does. You don’t want to miss this one.
Panic (Amazon, 10 episodes):
I read the book when it first came out and my review of the book pegged it as so-so. I had the same reaction to the series.
The fundamental premise of the story is that a group of high school seniors in a very small Texas town play this game called Panic. The winner gets a big pot of money and with it a ticket out of Backwater, USA. We find out later that this small town game attracts big bettors, who place some hefty bets on who will win. The series is full of drama, betrayal, heartbreak, romance, and some thrills and chills. The acting struck me as fairly good and the script seemed above average. Production values were also solid.
All in all, the show was well done and modestly entertaining with mysteries and questions that kept me engaged until the end.
The biggest issue with the show is its fundamental premise of the game. It’s a little too contrived and hard to buy into on almost every level. However, if you force yourself to swallow your disbelief and just accept it, then the characters and plot are engaging enough to warrant streaming. But, if you’re one of those people who gets distracted by gaping implausibilities, then this show might not be for you.
Pet peeve: Shows with high school main characters played by actors who are way too old to play teenagers. Happens a lot and certainly does here: e.g., Ray Nicholson is 29, Jessica Sula is 27, Mike Faist is 29. That said, while Olivia Welch is 23, she looked fine in the role.
Footnote: Nice to see Moira Kelly again. She was solid