across the streaming-verse

The Best of Streaming: What Should You Watch on Netflix, Hulu, and Other Sites

It’s wild and wooly out there in the world of streaming video. As movies and TV shows become increasingly accessible through a variety of services, it has also become increasingly difficult to keep track of what is available where, what is expiring when, and what is actually worth watching. So every Friday, Vulture will have a list of recommendations of movies and TV shows that are new to Netflix (as well as Hulu; Amazon, On Demand; and other streaming sites), those that are expiring, and those that you should watch just because.

The Prisoner
The star of this show, Patrick McGoohan, was considered early on for the role of 007. And if he had been the first James Bond instead of Sean Connery, then we never would have needed a Daniel Craig or Timothy Dalton, because the franchise would have started out dark instead of quippy. There’s an intensity to McGoohan that cannot be shaken or stirred — a mental toughness that served him well in Danger Man, the early-sixties TV show in which he played a secret agent, and especially well in The Prisoner, one of those shows that ranks high up on every list of cult TV classics. It’s a cult classic because it only ran seventeen episodes (it was meant to and the story wraps up), and it’s a cult classic because it’s effing crazy.

The story: Following his attempt to resign from the British secret service, an agent wakes up on a mysterious island called the Village, from which there appears to be no escape. No one has any names (our hero is Number Six). Every episode involves an attempt to get Number Six to reveal why he quit, an attempt to break his will. It’s at times surreal (there’s a giant white balloon named Rover that will harm anyone who tries to leave the Village), cheesy, and psychedelic, as fits its 1967 time frame. I first discovered it as a young teen when I came across a marathon on the original Sci-Fi Channel that was hosted by author Harlan Ellison. The theme song — one of the coolest ever, to this day — remains stuck in my mind. And if you don’t find yourself saying, “Be seeing you,” to your friends after watching the first few episodes, I’d be surprised. (Available on Crackle.)

Top of the Lake
There is this situation — maybe you can relate, maybe you can’t. I have cable, and I have a DVR. I’ve been told that this seven-hour Jane Campion–directed miniseries starring Peggy Olson from Mad Men is really good. Great even, according to our TV critic, Matt Zoller Seitz. So, I figure I have to watch it. Have to. Holly Hunter’s in it — I love hearing Holly Hunter talk, so course I’m going to watch Top of the Lake. But my DVR is so full. I have all of these hour-long dramas to catch up on. I have Doctor Zhivago on there, and I promised my wife we’d watch it together. I have The Magnificent Ambersons on there from four years ago, and I don’t plan on ever deleting it. So all I want to do is get rid of Top of the Lake from my DVR. Nothing against Jane Campion, but my system’s stuffed.

Thankfully, now I can delete that sucker, because all seven hours are streaming on Netflix. I can choose to watch the rest of this beautifully shot mystery about a young girl who becomes mysteriously pregnant in a small New Zealand community at my leisure. I’ll delete it from my DVR and stream it, and you should, too. (Available on Netflix.)

Wonder Women: The Untold Story of American Superheroines
This is a column where I recommend things, but sometimes I discover interesting things because they’ve been recommended to me. Like this hour-long documentary that you can watch on PBS’s website. I hadn’t heard of it until I read a piece by Linda Holmes over at NPR’s pop-culture website, Monkey See. It’s vibrant and wonderfully informative — detailing the invention of Wonder Woman and the effect she has had on an American pop-culture landscape that lacks powerful females. Parents, watch it with your daughters. Better yet, watch it with your sons — it can’t hurt to teach them early on that women are more than the victims and eye candy they see in so many comic books and movies. (Available on through June 14.)

Best of Netflix Streaming: Top of the Lake