The (Very) Good, the (Not So) Bad and the (Downright) Ugly

Oscar winner Cate Blanchett stars in FX’s “Mrs. America” on Hulu. Credit: FX Network.

If the prospects of another month of shelter-in-place orders have you down, you can always turn to the television to pass the hours between Zoom happy hours and scrolling your Facebook or Twitter feed.

Here are three new limited series worth checking out:

Mrs. Americaon FX on Hulu

Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett takes a brilliant turn on the small screen as conservative organizer Phyllis Schlafly in Mrs. Americaon FX on Hulu. Set during the early 1970s as debate raged over the Equal Rights Amendment, Mrs. Americais a sincere and beautifully shot trip back to the days of smoke-filled rooms where dirty political deals were often negotiated.

Blanchett is joined by an A-list cast flawlessly portraying Schlaflys liberal foils, Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne), Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale) and Shirley Chisholm (Uzo Aduba). While Schlafly, who was surprisingly liberated herself, remains the central character, each episode focuses on the perspective of one of her feminist contemporaries.

This isnt a series to casually watch or even binge due to its detailed and contemplative nature. It will collect lots of awards later in the season for the amazing cast, design and set decoration and upbeat 70s score.

Hollywoodon Netflix

If Mrs. Americacomes across sometimes as a hazy acid trip, then Hollywood,the latest effort from Ryan Murphy for Netflix, is a crisp Technicolor dream.

Loosely based on the real-life story of Scotty Bowers, the pimp to the stars who worked out of a Tinseltown gas station, Hollywoodweaves together real (Rock Hudson, Henry Willson, Hedda Hopper) and fictional characters. An equally glitzy cast, including Darren Criss, Patti LuPone, Jim Parsons, Holland Taylor, Rob Reiner and Dylan McDermott, make more than mere cameos throughout the seven-episode serial.

All the employees and customers of the station are starry-eyed dreamers, seeking fame, fortune and just plain respect in a revisionist vision of 1940s Hollywood where a wealthy Jewish housewife can be a studio exec, casting is colorblind and homosexuals wield real power in the caste system. 

As politically correct and downright soapy as Murphys writing may get, the characters are still compelling. This is a fast-paced series you will want to and should binge, but dont expect thought-provoking themes.

Dragnificenton TLC

TLC has reworked last years special Drag Me Down the Aisleinto Dragnificent,a sort of Queer Eyefeaturing four drag queens coming to the rescue of homely, distraught or masculine women desperately in need of a makeover. TLC surprisingly snuck the premiere out with little fanfare, making the first two episodes available on-demand and broadcasting new episodes on Mondays beginning April 27.

The cast features an unlikely foursome of RuPauls Drag Racealums, each tasked with a special category of drag fabulousness: Alexis Michelle (makeup), BeBe Zahara Benet (events), Jujubee (fashion) and Thorgy Thor (music). 

The show, like its Bravo/Netflix inspiration, is fun for a few episodes but quickly runs out of gas. No matter how campy and talented the hostesses may be or horrific their subjects may be, the magic of drag somehow fades in the sunlight. Drag queens are truly creatures of the night (or at least a darkened theater) and these girls need to be in spotlights where their glitter and sequins can truly shine. But, it definitely beats reorganizing your closet or cleaning out the kitchen cupboard.