135 Best TV Shows Similar to Breaking Bad
In the Know
Peacock’s claymation sitcom is at its best when it skips the satire for the strange, but “best” is grading on a curve.
To its credit, In The Know resists dropping the term “woke” to describe its characters. Unfortunately, in a fairly disastrous opener, that’s the only “those silly sensitive liberals” signifier it lets go past. The premiere’s big joke, one it repeats OFTEN, centers on the proper terminology for someone without a place to live. Because, of course, it's a goofy waste of time to worry about language. Only Zach Woods’ ever-increasing profane frustration at being corrected by Fabian (Caitlin Reilly) saves the bit. His voice performance as “NPR’s third most popular host” Lauren Caspian is just sly enough to make it unclear if his anger comes from his inability to remember the correct term, someone having the nerve to interrupt him, or the thought that someone in the office might be more progressive than him.
It isn’t that mocking blowhard radio hosts can’t be a rich comic vein. Just check out the original Frasier series, a show with a strangely intense cross-generational appeal that persists even over 19 years after the final episode aired. It’s centering that mockery on NPR, particularly an NPR that has more in common with a conservative’s fever dream of what the company is like rather than anything resembling reality, feels like a weak tea. Fortunately, things improve for In The Know as it quickly moves beyond what initially seems like an exercise in sticking it to those caricatures of public radio employees. Continue Reading →
Jodie Foster and Kali Reis shine as a pair of detectives investigating an increasingly surreal crime.
In Sara Gran’s Claire DeWitt mysteries, the title character is a brilliant, eccentric detective haunted by the unsolved disappearance of one of her closest friends. Her cases are vitally recognizable and beautifully surreal. When The Infinite Blacktop, the most recent entry in the series, was released in paperback, Gran held a giveaway, including a copy of the book and some fun feelies. On one of those, a pen, the following was printed: “Open your eyes and learn to see that truth lives in the ether.” In the course of thinking about Issa López (Tigers Are Not Afraid)’s excellent True Detective: Night Country, it’s a line that’s been on my mind.
It's the end of 2023. In Ennis, Alaska, the eccentric scientists of the Tsalal research station vanish just as the long polar night sets in. Ennis police chief Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) and detective-turned-trooper Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis) know that something is not right. Though bitterly estranged, the former partners share a drive to discover what happened at Tsalal and why. Their need to get to the truth only intensifies after the scientists are discovered in a ghastly, bizarre state—a collective corpsicle, all of them nude and visibly terrified. Continue Reading →
Jul i Blodfjell
When you’re done watching the usual stuff, consider one of these very bizarre attempts at holiday cheer.
When AMC released their holiday programming lineup this year, it seemed like an attempt at a joke: in addition to a handful of aging comedies that have nothing to do with Christmas (or any other holiday for that matter), like Uncle Buck and Caddyshack, the now-ubiquitous Elf was scheduled to air no less than sixteen times in thirty days, and that wasn’t counting the December 2nd “anniversary celebration” marathon. Second to Elf was National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, scheduled to air twelve times. Filling out the remaining time not occupied by Elf or National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation was woeful C-tier fare nobody enjoyed the first time around, like Christmas With the Kranks and Fred Claus.
In the era of streaming, finding Christmas entertainment now requires keeping track of who has the rights to show what special or movie at any given time. Gone are the days of CBS airing A Charlie Brown Christmas every year for decades: now it's under the sole domain of Apple TV+. Its former companion How the Grinch Stole Christmas is available only on Peacock, and all manner of Muppet-related programming is exclusive to Disney+. If the pickings aren’t slim, then they’re disbursed like so much reindeer feed across multiple platforms. Continue Reading →
GREGORY HORROR SHOW
A quick overview of the high highs and middling disappointments in horror this year.
With the social media app formerly known as Twitter now a shell of its former self, horror fans have been forced to return to Facebook to continue such interminable debates as “What does or doesn’t qualify something as ‘horror’?” “What the hell is ‘elevated horror,’ anyway?” “Are remakes inherently bad?” “Have horror movies gotten too ‘woke’?” “Were we wrong for letting women make horror?”
In a year when both David Gordon Green and M. Night Shyamalan released new movies, the horror discourse was especially spicy, and that’s before we get to the really interesting stories, like the surprise viral success of Skinamarink, which, with the way time seems to be passing nowadays, feels like it was released five years ago. Both indie and mainstream horror made daring choices, not looking to appeal to as broad a range of audiences as possible, and treating the genre as a serious art form, as opposed to just a machine that prints money. But the biggest surprise came in October, with the release of Saw X, the tenth film in a seemingly unkillable franchise, which ended up being one of the best, most coherent entries in the entire series. Continue Reading →
The Prime series remains its big, fun, very violent self.
Jack Reacher (Alan Ritchson), the “has toothbrush, will travel” man, has returned to television and not a moment too soon. Reacher Season 2 is exactly the kind of low-commitment viewing one craves as the year ends and the holidays overtake everyone’s lives. While a large, jolly man busies himself filling many of our stockings, who better to enjoy than a large, angry man knocking bad guys out of their socks? Especially when, like this time, it’s personal!
Reacher and Neagly (Maria Sten, back from Season 1 and fully second on the callsheet this time, thankfully) first met when they were members of the 110, an investigative military police unit. As seen in flashback, the group is the last time Reacher had anything approaching a stable group of friends. In the present day, several team members have gone missing, suggesting that perhaps someone is targeting them. Reacher connects with Neagly and the two join up with the only other two 110 members they can find. O’Donnell (Shaun Sipos) is the unit clown and womanizer turned family man and inside the beltway fixer. Dixon (Serinda Swan) is a forensic accountant/warrior who shares an obvious but unconsummated crush with Reacher. Continue Reading →
The AppleTV+ spy series retains its humor but gives viewers its most tightly plotted effort yet.
Slow Horses Season 3 reiterates how the series differs from so many other TV shows. While critics frequently discuss film as a director’s medium, television tends to be more showrunner—and thus writer—driven. While Horses indeed derives many of its pleasures from the writers—the returning trio of Will Smith, Jonny Stockwood, and Mark Denton once again man the pens—each season’s unique tone owes to its single director.
James Hawes made the series’ debut season a workplace comedy where the occasional gun battle might break out. Season 2 darkened or ditched much of the comedy for a bleaker, higher action affair under the direction of Jeremy Lovering. In Slow Horses Season 3, Saul Metzstein doesn’t push the team back into the offices. If anything, Slough House appears even less than in Season 2. However, he does re-up some of the mismatched colleagues’ humor, particularly when it comes to the team’s most recent additions, gambling addict Marcus (Kadiff Kirwan) and drug addict Shirley (Aimee-Ffion Edwards). He also further deepens the emotional stakes with a light touch, adding depth to ever-growing complications. Continue Reading →
The crime drama returns to the Land of 10,000 Lakes and rediscovers its best storytelling self.
Throughout the six episodes of Fargo Season 5 screened for critics, the series isn’t exactly subtle. From opening the season with an on-screen graphic defining “Minnesota Nice” as neighbor attacks neighbor during a school board meeting to Sheriff Roy Tillman (Jon Hamm) staring up at a campaign billboard of himself, the show loudly states its theses at the viewer over and over.
However, it never feels like creator Noah Hawley has lost control of the storytelling. It’s methodically over-the-top. The audience is on a roller coaster, but they can feel the quality of the engineering keeping them on the tracks. In other hands, this approach can feel alienating or blunting. Fargo Season 5 benefits from meeting Hawley’s signature energy with a game cast and impressively insightful art direction. As a result, the series turns in its best offering since Season 2’s near-perfect effort. Continue Reading →
Scott Pilgrim Takes Off
The ScienceSaru-produced animated series rebuilds rather than retells Bryan Lee O'Malley's beloved comic.
Late in the final volume of Bryan Lee O'Malley's 2004-2010 comic series Scott Pilgrim (Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour), once the action's done and the hateful Gideon Graves has been slain, protagonists Scott Pilgrim and Ramona Flowers take a moment to process everything. Defeating Gideon meant facing not only the vicious misogynist swordsman but also their respective character flaws (It's telling that one of Scott's key moments is his realizing just how alike he and Gideon are, and by gaining that understanding, he affirms that, yeah, Gideon has so got to die).
There are a few candidates for Scott's actual finest hour in Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour. His after-action conversation/reconciliation/renewal with Ramona is my pick. Bryan Lee O'Malley/Oni Press.
As Ramona says, change is one of life's constants, which applies to Scott Pilgrim's ventures into new mediums. Edgar Wright's thoroughly enjoyable movie shifted around characters and reworked some of Scott's flaws. The colorful, impeccably soundtracked, hair-tearingly difficult Ubisoft-produced video game ramped up the goofy save for one particularly pointed ending. And now, with the Netflix animated series Scott Pilgrim Takes Off, creator O'Malley—joined by co-writer and co-showrunner BenDavid Grabinski and animation studio ScienceSaru (with episode director Abel Góngora) have changed things up yet again. Rather than retell Scott Pilgrim as it's been since 2004 (a story already told, with riffs, as a comic, movie, and video game), the creative team opts for something more radical. It's a work as much in conversation with the Scott Pilgrim that came before as an adaptation. Continue Reading →
Night owls and insomniacs will tell you it's special being awake while most of your family, friends, and community slumber. How sometimes weightless and creative you can feel when everyone else strives for that healthy rest. They’ll also often tell you how lonely and frustrating it can be. Wandering your home or the world outside all alone because their bodies’ circadian rhythm actually makes sense. Continue Reading →
In 1983, a group of crooks broke into a vault at the Heathrow International Trading Estate in London, patrolled by Brink’s Mat security conglomeration. The Brinks company was already famous for a famous robbery, one that was carried out in the '50s in the North End in Boston, an incident that turned into a charmingly strange movie by William Friedkin in 1978. Continue Reading →
The Morning Show
Aaron Sorkin learned the hard way that no one takes TV as seriously as TV people. When he followed up his critically acclaimed The West Wing, a show about the inner workings of the White House, with Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip he discovered that you can’t treat everything with the gravity of a cabinet meeting and the wit of a theater major who gets straight Bs. His backstage drama about a fake sketch show pleased no one. When he tried to course correct with The Newsroom he tried to portray the American news media out to be brave warriors for the cause of truth. Both shows have lived rich second lives as meme generators about what Andrew Sarris would call "strained seriousness." Continue Reading →
Who Is Erin Carter?
In Who is Erin Carter? ’s precipitating event, the titular character (Evin Ahmad)—a British ex-pat living in Spain and trying to make a living as a substitute teacher—must fight a masked gunman during a grocery store robbery. At stake is the life of nearly blind daughter Harper (Indica Watson), who cowers unseen under a display of oranges. Continue Reading →
Survival of the Thickest
In 1995, way back last century, I went shopping for a dress to wear to my cousin’s wedding. Accompanied by my mother, it soon became apparent to us both that I, both a big and tall girl, wouldn’t be able to buy a dress in the Juniors section. My options eventually whittled down to one adult black velvet dress that, while the saleswoman assured us was totally chic for weddings, nevertheless showcased to the world that I could not fit into a fun or stylish dress for someone my age and that’s rough. It’s very rough. Continue Reading →
Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan
Generally speaking, we avoid personalizing our reviews at The Spool. This isn’t the early 2000s. No one needs to know about my journey to my couch to watch Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Season 4. That said, please allow me a brief personal indulgence that I promise will prove illustrious. In an effort to get ahead of deadlines, I watched the season’s six episodes in a day with a plan to write the review the next day. However, by the time I sat down to write that review about 26 hours later, I realized I had to watch the whole thing again. In a day’s time, I had forgotten too much to write a review in good faith. Continue Reading →
Walt Disney Animation Studios: Short Circuit Experimental Films
This year's first program of Chicago Critics Film Festival shorts focus on the dark side of family, community & living with mental illness.
The films in the first program of shorts at this year’s Chicago Critics Film Festival all concern those mythic American values of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” And they do this in both content and form. Though these films never exceed twenty minutes, they are unbounded examples of the human imagination.
We open on the “happy family” of Nicole Daddona and Adam Wilder’s deliciously unsettling The Mundanes. This surreal nostalgic PSA about the ideal American family is a delightful work of surreal suspense. What begins as a richly designed comment on the facelessness of the perfect family in the white nostalgic imagination soon amps up into an amusing work of comedy horror. Unspeakable delights feed the happiness of the Happy Family. You can bet ambrosia salad won’t be the most unappetizing thing on this 50s-inspired tablescape. The Mundanes serves up a sensational visual style and keen directorial perspective on a silver platter with a healthy helping of disturbing social commentary on the side. Continue Reading →
Ghosts of Beirut
Throughout the near-240 minutes of Showtime’s Ghosts of Beirut, the four-part espionage thriller introduces dozens of characters scattered across the Middle East. CIA agents, Mossad operatives, and various members of the Islamic Jihad Organization all get time within these four hours of television. Creators Avi Issacharoff and Lior Raz attempt to give all perspectives in this story, including that of terrorist Imad Mughniyeh, the central figure of this story, and so, the series consistently remains too limited. Continue Reading →
The Muppets Mayhem
It’s hard to do something genuinely awful with The Muppets. Yes, it's true, even if The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz certainly gave that a try. These pop culture icons are so innately endearing in their personalities and so fully realized as glorious puppets that figures like Kermit the Frog or Gonzo feel extremely real. Whether they’re shilling for coffee, reciting the words of Charles Dickens, or realizing that life truly is a filet of fish, The Muppets are irresistible. Continue Reading →
City on Fire
As an act of nostalgia, City on Fire has plenty to offer anyone who lived or spent lots of time in New York City in the summer of 2003. The new series, created by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, evokes the era matter-of-factly. Besides nailing the look of early 21st Century Manhattan, it captures the sense of a city in transition. The groundwork for the gentrification that swept across Manhattan and Brooklyn had just been activated. Mayor Bloomberg was taking what Giuliani had begun and pushing it farther and faster than “America’s Mayor” ever managed. And while the series eventually stomps the theme into the ground, the tendency to wonder if every adverse event was evidence of terrorism was very alive. Continue Reading →
Class of '09
Welcome to the future. America is “the safest country on Earth,” as FBI Agent Tayo Michaels (Brian Tyree Henry) assures us. And it is all thanks to a program that is one part Minority Report, one part that computer Lucius Fox gets all bent out of shape about in The Dark Knight. It started as a sort of interrogation tool, but it has blossomed into a prediction machine that lets the FBI anticipate criminal activities. Comic book fans, think Force Works. Law enforcement has gotten “proactive.” Continue Reading →
Fatal Attraction is an interesting study of how a controversial movie’s takeaway message can completely change, largely because audiences have changed. It’s a stylish, well-crafted film that spawned dozens of lesser imitations, and comes off as totally different when viewed from a 21st-century perspective. The carefully delineated roles of “hero” and “villain” are something murkier: we now understand that protagonist Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) isn’t entirely clear with Alex Forrest (Glenn Close) that their torrid fling is just that, a no-strings-attached encounter that means nothing to him. We see that Alex is done dirty with a script that depicts her as a one-note monster who must be defeated in the name of preserving the nuclear family. When even the YouTube commentariat largely agrees that Dan leads Alex on, you know the tide of public opinion has turned. Continue Reading →