The Last Dance
The 10-episode documentary miniseries is available to stream on espn.com or ESPN apps.
There’s much to learn in The Last Dance, the ESPN miniseries on Michael Jordan’s last season with the Chicago Bulls and his career leading up to that, thanks to behind-the-scenes footage and lengthy interviews with players, coaches, management, and everyone in-between, including Barack Obama.
The documentary has a laudatory view of Jordan, the greatest basketball player ever. But it also exposes some vices, such as his gambling and cigar-smoking, and how his ultra-competitiveness got him pegged as a bad teammate or worse.
There’s not enough about Jordan’s family and his coveted Air Jordan shoes. His parents’ stories are featured, especially the tragic murder of his father, but not his ex-wife, wife, or children. Air Jordans are brought up in one episode, but much is left undiscussed. People have been robbed and even killed for the sneakers, and Jordan has faced criticism for selling them at such high prices.
The series has a revealing take on Jordan’s six championships in two three-peats (three in a row) with the Bulls — that this record can be seen as a disappointment, because he might have won eight or more if he hadn’t tried to play professional baseball, and if management had brought him and the rest of the Bulls back after their second three-peat.
It’s beautiful to watch the highlights of Jordan’s game, which is truly art in motion. Despite its lapses, The Last Dance does a good job of showcasing his untouchable skill on the court, his insane competitiveness, and his difficulty dealing with godlike fame. —Ryan Fitzgerald
Season one (six episodes) is available to stream on HBO Max, Hulu, and elsewhere.
A Spanish-language series that aired last summer on HBO, Los Espookys was created by up-and-coming comedy writers Julio Torres and Ana Fabrega, and SNL veteran Fred Armisen. It isn’t necessarily aimed at a Spanish-language audience: the setting is only vaguely Latin American, and the humor is so dry and punchy that the subtitles work perfectly. The show follows a group of friends who start a business that provides horror-movie aesthetics for hire. They fake an exorcism, haunt a mansion, and simulate a sea monster, carrying out their assignments with a mix of bumbling inadequacy and campy brilliance. Armisen plays Uncle Tico, a gifted valet who can park two cars at once. The show is absurd, delightful, and uplifting. HBO renewed it for a second season, too, so there’s more to look forward to. —Will Powers
Never Have I Ever
Season one (10 episodes) is available to stream only on Netflix.
This new Netflix series created by Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher explores some familiar high school tropes: popularity hierarchies, house parties that go wrong, and the secretly sensitive cool kid. But it twists the lens a bit. For one, the heroine, Devi, is the daughter of immigrant parents who moved from India to Sherman Oaks in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley in 2001. In flashbacks, we see Devi’s father die of a heart attack as she plays a harp solo in a crowded auditorium. As she grapples with the angst of sophomore year, Devi also has to manage her grief, and the more she pretends to be over it, the more her father’s ghost surprises her in the tomato garden. John McEnroe provides the omniscient voice of Devi.
Never Have I Ever takes what’s popular about teenage comedies — the heartache and absurdity — and gives it dimension. Especially when it comes to family life. One character comes out to her robot as a rehearsal for telling Mom and Dad; another gets left at home by parents attending self-actualizing retreats. Watching Devi and her mother handle their loss is the needle in the heart. These characters are real — and unlikable at times — but ultimately a reminder to pay attention to shared struggle and give each other solace when we can. —Molly Newman
Three seasons, 10 episodes each, are available to stream on Netflix only.
This Netflix series from Peter Morgan (The Queen) dramatizes the life of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II from 1947, prior to the death of her father, King George VI, when she was a young, married princess, all the way to the current day. If you find the 93-year-old regent to be a bit boring and stiff-upper-lip-ish, The Crown will show you otherwise. It offers the very intimate view of Elizabeth’s life that she always seems to eschew.
In seasons one and two, she is played by the lovely Claire Foy, who radiates grace and vulnerability. Elizabeth’s husband, Prince Philip, is played by Matt Smith as a typically arrogant aristocrat. The tensions in their early marriage make for engaging twists. But the real heart of these early seasons lies in the young princess’s grief for her father and the freer life she had hoped to lead for much longer — and in her remarkable relationship with the aging and infirm Winston Churchill, played rather fabulously by John Lithgow. Both Elizabeth and Churchill fail to find a balance between that infamous British sense of duty and the need to create a private life worth living.
In season three, which aired last year, the recasting of a middle-aged Elizabeth with Oscar-winner Olivia Colman is startling at first. Colman so convincingly captures her shut-off stoicism and loneliness that viewers may have trouble reconnecting. But it’s ultimately moving and entertaining, and seasons four and five, already in the making, promise to reveal the queen as we know her today, and, we hope, the secret of her strength. —Susannah Elisabeth Fulcher
Avatar: The Last Airbender
Seasons one and two (20 episodes each) and season three (21 episodes) are available to stream on Netflix, and, for a fee, other outlets.
Watching Avatar: The Last Airbender, the animated Nickelodeon series that debuted in 2005, is like a nostalgic trip back to middle school.
The world of Avatar is divided into four nations — water, earth, air, and fire. Some people living in those nations have the ability to “bend” their natural element; others are mere mortals. People in the water nation, for example, might be able to control water movement and are called “waterbenders.”
Young Aang is the last living airbender. His job is to master bending of the other three elements and take down the mighty fire nation, which is totalitarian. Each episode furthers the journey of Aang; his flying bison, Appa; and his friends, Katara and Sokka; as they challenge the power of the fire nation. They run into plenty of obstacles along the way.
The bending is the coolest part about the show. If I had to choose, I think I would want to be a waterbender — especially on Cape Cod. —Ryan Fitzgerald