BULLHEAD CITY — Widespread hysteria about Netflix’s “Tiger King” has been surpassed only by that of COVID-19 and toilet paper.

Hatched from YouTube videos and a reality show by Joe Exotic — the self-described “gay gun-carrying redneck with a mullet” — the show is as disturbing as it is overindulgent. It’s the type of self-important feature wherein co-conspirators claim there’s nothing sexier than a tiger.

The late Roger Ebert’s website wildly overpraises “Tiger King” so much that I wonder if the Chicago film critic’s replacement has a financial stake in the production. Perhaps the series’ popularity stems from the fact a zoo tiger has been diagnosed with the coronavirus. In any case, the series’ inexplicable appeal is beyond me, where it shall remain.

Sticking with Netflix, my latest preferences include a self-aware amusing but stale sitcom and a somewhat shallow drama that’s a cut above Hallmark Channel movies:


The brainchild of Dan Harmon that debuted a decade ago on NBC before appearing on Hulu years later, “Community” recently took up residence on Netflix.

Based on its creator’s real-life experiences in college, this series takes place in a fictional Colorado town and spotlights more actors over age 30 than actual college-aged ones. The likes of Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Alison Brie, Ken Jeong and never-say-die Chevy Chase wouldn’t normally be living on a college campus — but clearly, artistic license has its perks.

The show’s teleplays thrive on self-aware parody and pop-culture hooks that succeed more often than failing. Without question, a few segments bomb and call for the fast-forward button on your remote. (For example: Chase’s mid-’70s character hallucinating during the Mexican “Halloween” party episode left something to be desired — namely something less tacky and juvenile.) Without question, there are laughs to be had, though “Community” too frequently relies on attractive ladies to hold our attention when its wisecracks don’t work.

And how’s this for a prescient coincidence? In episode 8 of the first season — we’re talking 10 years ago — a doctor tells a patient that she needs to be “quarantined” and her friend must stay at a “safe distance.” Who says life doesn’t imitate art?

“Virgin River”

Don’t let its name fool you: This Hallmark-esque or Lifetime-style production doesn’t involve chastity or sacrificing young girls. 

The title’s body of water refers to a site in northern California, where a forlorn nurse and mid-wife (Alexandra Breckenridge) has fled to escape her Los Angeles life that culminated in a devastating marriage and stillborn child. After the heroine meets her new boss, a stubborn doctor (Tim Matheson of “Animal House”), and then a love interest who’s a rugged bartender (New Zealand actor Martin Henderson), viewers can’t escape conflicts that wouldn’t be amiss on a soap opera.

Despite some clichéd scenes and implausible aspects — such as the elicit clan comprising “underground” pot growers in a forest — “Virgin River” proves addictive. I began watching skeptically with a puck-sized chip on each shoulder, only to continue tagging along to the next episode, perhaps more out of laziness than profound interest. 

Although the producers depend too much on chronic flashbacks, there’s no denying the genuine tension and palpable chemistry among its wholly professional cast of players. Netflix has extended the series for a 2nd season, whenever they can sidestep COVID-19 and reunite on the set.

I shall wrap up by recommending a pair of older pictures — modern-day “classics” albeit less than 25 years old — that are back in circulation: 

“The Family Stone” remains in the proverbial category of guilty pleasure, the sort of distraction you re-watch in spite of itself. With a star-studded cast that results in too many chiefs and not enough Indians, the movie boasts enough golden moments to endure over time. No doubt it strays into slapstick while allowing Sarah Jessica Parker to whine incessantly, but veterans Diane Keaton and Craig T. Nelson steer clear of the syrup. For sincere poignancy, nothing tops Rachel McAdams’ silent reaction upon viewing the black-and-white photo of her pregnant, now-dying mother.

“As Good As It Gets” likely has been enjoyed by every American born before 1995 and remains unforgettable. This romantic-comedy lives up to its title.

Watching the incomparable Jack Nicholson — as a famous author suffering from OCD — mining for comic gold with heartbreaking Helen Hunt is time well spent. It’s lengthy and tilts toward predictability, but the tender moments and one-liners are impeccably delivered, thus irresistible.

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