The intimacy of television can take us almost directly into the hearts and minds of characters, giving us, in the best instances, a sense of living their lives vicariously. Two of these lives, two extraordinary, wildly different young women, are worth exploring in the streaming world.
On the hip end of the spectrum is Hulu’s “High Fidelity” based on the 1995 Nick Hornby book of the same name. This is the same novel that inspired a 2000 movie starring John Cusack and Jack Black and an unsuccessful 2006 Broadway musical. As solid as the movie is (the Broadway show isn’t horrible, just not necessary), the new Hulu version captures the music-filled melancholy in a way that sometimes even improves on the book.
The primary reason is Zoë Kravitz, who stars as Rob (short for Robyn), the owner of Championship Vinyl, a cooler-than-cool Brooklyn record shop. Adaptors Veronica West and Sarah Kucserka’s decision to turn the main character into a woman brings a welcome new vibe to the story of Rob and her two friends/clerks spending their days re-writing their lives and their favorite music as various Top 5 lists.
Rob’s primary preoccupation is the great lost love of her life, Mac (Kingsley Ben-Adir). The story of exactly what happened between them and who messed up is spread out through the series’ 10 episodes, and that’s about it for plot. Rob, who faces down her 30th birthday in episode 9, tries to move on with her life when she meets nice guy Clyde (Jake Lacy), but she’s in an existentially bad place. No nice guy in Crown Heights could possibly survive her emotional hurricane.
If Rob’s love life is the show’s through-line, the heart of it is Rob’s crew at the record store. The invaluable Da’Vine Joy Randolph is Cherise, a woman of ambition, opinions and fierce loyalty who is not just going to obsess over and sell music but also make it herself. And David H. Holmes is Simon, a former lover of Rob’s who has since come out and is crafting his own Top 5 Worst Break-ups list (Simon gets a sterling stand-alone story in Episode 8 with a great defense-of-disco speech).
Just as the ultra-magnetic Kravitz has sizzling chemistry with Ben-Adir, she has a warm, realistic camaraderie with Randolph and Holmes, and though the series has some hiccups and lulls, whenever the central three are in the record store (with a front-and-center soundtrack curated, in part, by The Roots’ Questlove), this “Fidelity” is on a high.
From hipster Brooklyn to late-19th century Canada: Is there any possible way that yet another adaptation of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables” could be cool? The answer with Netflix’s three seasons of “Anne with an E” is a decided yes.
From the theme song by The Tragically Hip to the assortment of timely issues – racism, feminism, bullying – that may have been hinted at in the book but have definitely been brought to the fore by creator Moira Walley-Beckett, this is not your grandmother’s “Green Gables.”
Amybeth McNulty is a force of nature as Anne, an orphan who is mistakenly sent to Prince Edward Island’s Avonlea to help out an older brother and sister who are still trying to run the family farm. They had asked for a boy and instead got an incredibly bright, emotionally forthright chatterbox whose spirit has not been dimmed by the ongoing series of kicks life has continually offered her.
It’s easy to see that crusty Matthew and Marilla will take Anne to their hearts, and once they do, it’s all about Anne immersing herself in the Avonlea community, finding friends and making the establishment uncomfortable as narrow 19th-century minds are forced to expand into realms involving a gay kid, a black farmer from Trinidad and a schoolmistress who wears trousers.
There would be a definite after-school special quality to this “Anne” if it weren’t so energetically made and filled with such rich performances. There’s an unfortunate detour in Season 2 involving charlatans and a phony gold mine scheme, but things are righted by Season 3 as Anne turns 16, prepares for college and finally comes to terms with her crush on Gilbert Blythe (the Chalamet-ish Lucas Jade Zumann).
Ignore the ridiculous rom-com shenanigans at season’s end and brace yourself for the semi-happy ending. By all rights, there should be a whole new season about Anne and her friends as they conquer young adulthood, but three seasons is apparently all we get – at least until the Hulu re-boot when Anne is an orphaned weed dealer with tattoos and a heart as big as Brooklyn.