SINGAPORE: Too many TV shows, too many choices. It’s a first-world problem and one of the great injustices of the modern world.
We TV addicts are bombarded with new shows, returning shows, broadcast shows, cable shows, streaming shows, independent shows, one-off shows, long-running shows and so much more.
How do you prioritize what to watch next after you (miraculously) get through a great new series? We’re here to point you in the right direction, unearthing the hidden gems. Because really, there’s a lot out there beyond Game Of Thrones, Modern Family and C.L.I.F.
WHAT: A South Korean drama series about an enigmatic eatery that opens at midnight till 7am and is run by a chef called the Master, who will whip up any dish his quirky patrons ask for.
It is a remake of 'Shinya Shokudo', a subtle 2009 Japanese drama that ran for three seasons, which in turn was the TV spin-off of the 2006 manga series of the same name by Yaro Abe. Last year, it made the leap to the silver screen with Japanese director Joji Matsuoka at the helm.
WHY: It’s understated. It’s gentle. And just like the slightly run-down restaurant it is set in, tucked away and unwillingly to call attention to itself like its glitzier bigger K-drama cousins, Midnight Diner really doesn’t look like much at first glance.
But when you do notice it, it’s right there, waiting for audiences to stumble in and discover its treasures. A tasteful drama that offers food for thought on social issues, life in general and the slow-burning melancholy of the down and out living on the fringes of urban society, this is one for those in need of late-night company and a light human touch.
With identifiable characters bringing their familiar life stories to the counter, spiced up by scenes of delectable meals being made, served and consumed, this is comfort food for the TV-watching soul.
WHAT: A Singaporean comedy centering round two well-meaning but meddling condominium security guards Bob and Zack.
Sometimes helpful, sometimes hapless, their nutty antics in dealing with crazy and colourful tenants and their own personal problems make for a series of amusing misadventures.
WHY: Because it’s written by the Noose’s Suhaimi Yusof, who also directs and stars in it.
Because it’s executive produced by entertainment veteran Khairudin Samsudin who also plays the other half of the funny duo.
Because it showcases award-winning actress Siti Khalijah Zainal’s obvious talent for comedy.
Because it boasts cameos from local artistes like Irene Ang, Chua Enlai, Pat Mok and Bobby Tonelli.
Because it’s a series that is totally Made in Singapore.
And if all that isn’t enough, it’s laugh-out-loud funny, even if your grasp of Malay isn’t up to much. Grab a friend who can translate and enjoy a knee-slapping time together.
WHAT: Created by the writing and directing team of brothers Matt and Ross Duffer, the eight-episode science-fiction-horror-thriller series is set in a small town in Indiana in 1983 and follows the story about a missing boy and a telekinetic girl who helps his friends in their search for him.
WHY: It’s, simply put, the Goonies meets E.T. meets Stand By Me. A love-letter homage to 1980s horror and thriller movies, Stranger Things hits all the right nostalgic buttons with zealous tributes to Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter and Stephen King.
Then it levels up by having Winona Ryder and Matthew Modine act alongside kid actors like next-big-thing Millie Bobby Brown (who plays Eleven) and scene-stealing Gaten Matarazzo (who plays Dustin).
The episodes get progressively better with the show’s ability to pique our curiosity in other-worldliness combined with the extraordinary allure of its near-constant sense of threat.
You’ll have the goosebump-worthy soundtrack on repeat, spend all your time coming up with your own theories, followed by finding other fans to debate the mysteries with.
Hey, you’ll most likely end up dressing like the characters.
Yes, Stranger Things is so good that you’ll be hooked, addicted and snared. To the point that you’ll probably excommunicate all friends and colleagues who are yet to binge watch it.
THE NIGHT OF
WHAT: Written by Richard Price (crime novelist and writer on The Wire) and Steven Zaillian (screenwriter for Schindler's List and American Gangster), this mini-series centres around Nasir "Naz" Khan, a 23-year-old Pakistani-American college student who encounters a mystifying young woman while driving his father’s borrowed yellow cab on his way to a party.
The two spend a boozy, drug-filled night together and Naz wakes up to find the girl brutally murdered in her bedroom.
WHY: This is one show that is dark, exciting and unafraid to explore everything and anything thorny and uncomfortable, from prejudice, race and urban life to moral qualms and corrupt justice systems. It grabs you right from the beginning and never lets go.
The pilot was ordered back in 2012 as a remake of the BBC series Criminal Justice and was originally set to star James Gandolfini as the underdog lawyer, Jack Stone, until his death in 2013.
In stepped John Turturro, who gives a performance so real and nuanced, it’s borderline brilliant.
Together with the meticulous plotting, the quietly magnificent performance of lead Riz Ahmed and the build-up of tension all held together by the show’s inescapable momentum of an oncoming train, this is possibly the best show on television this year.
MAKING A MURDERER
WHAT: Making a Murderer is a documentary that recounts the trials of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey, two working-class Americans accused of the murder of 23-year-old photographer Teresa Halbach.
Having spent 18 years in prison for an initial first crime he did not commit, Avery is exonerated based on new DNA evidence. However, shortly after his release, he becomes the prime suspect in Halbach's murder, and Avery is put through the ringer once again by law enforcement figures that seem to have it out for him.
WHY: True crime stories are so hot right now, evidenced by Emmy-winning American Crime Story: The People v O.J, Simpson and the immense popular of podcast Serial.
But Making a Murderer is probably the hottest of them all, given how the filmmakers patiently and tenaciously documented this story over an entire decade. Over its 10 episodes journey, we excruciatingly get exposed to the failings of a real life American justice system in blood-boiling detail.
What follows is an anger-inducing sequence of events that involve forced confessions, unconvincing (and possibly planted) evidence, dodgy lawyers and a complete presumption of guilt from almost everyone involved.
Compelling, infuriating and tragic, we guarantee you won't be able to stop watching Making a Murderer once you've started