Forest Whitaker shines as Harlem gangster Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson in the second season of the 1960s-set crime drama “Godfather of Harlem.”
May is the time for high-ratings season finales. The 2021 TV season feels like a mishmash of video on demand premieres and series un-renewals due to on-again, off-again production changes and budget tightening due to the Coronavirus. The growing Covid-19 vaccination rollout pushes stay-at-home orders behind us. Even with more people heading to restaurants and cinemas, our Coronavirus TV and streaming habits will continue into the post-Covid-19 economy. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos reports over 175 million Prime members streamed movies and shows in the past year. One thing is sure. Smart TVs became the hubs in our homes, providing access to education, entertainment, health data, and remote work.
What I’m Watching:
Godfather of Harlem Season Two (Epix)
Chris Brancato and Paul Eckstein, the co-writers of “Godfather of Harlem,” bring operatic flourish and mob storytelling to their series about gangster Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson.
Brancato and Eckstein benefit from the outstanding performance of Forest Whitaker as the notorious Harlem gangster battling the Italian mob in 1960s New York City. Season two of Godfather of Harlem delivers the bloody mobster wars and pulp fiction fans expect from the Epix series. In the latest episodes, Johnson fights the Italian mob families to control the French Connection heroin trade. Giancarlo Esposito, playing Harlem Congressman Adam Clayton-Powell, and Vincent D’Onofrio as Italian mobster Vincent’ Chin’ Gigante, provide colorful supporting roles and contribute to the series’s over-the-top vibe. Veteran actors Paul Sorvino and Chazz Palminteri add gravitas as mob bosses dealing with Johnson. Forest Whitaker keeps the series on solid dramatic footing as Johnson. With each new installment, Johnson appears to be a character Whitaker is born to play.
What I’m Watching:
Couples Therapy Season Two (Showtime)
Are you feeling stressed and anxious? Are you looking for on-demand digital support? There are smartphone apps and mental health podcasts. There’s also Season Two of the Showtime documentary series “Couples Therapy.” Therapist Dr. Orna Guralnik meets weekly with three struggling couples, a Married, Orthodox Jewish couple with kids, an unmarried couple with toddlers, and a gay couple without kids. The Coronavirus pandemic becomes a brief subject in the story. Shelter-in-place policies force the couples to meet virtually. Like any documentary, some characters are more compelling than others. In “Couples Therapy” Season Two, the unmarried couple with young kids provides the show’s best drama. To the credit of the creative team at Edgeline Films, the producer of “Couples Therapy,” season two couples’ future happiness and health remain a compelling mystery.
What I’m Excited to Watch:
The Girlfriend Experience Season Three (STARZ)
Few series tackle relationships and sexuality with the emotion and intelligence of “The Girlfriend Experience,” the limited anthology series from executive producer Steven Soderbergh. In Season Three, writer and director Anja Marquardt (“She’s Lost Control”) shifts the story to London’s tech industry. Iris (Julia Goldani Tellis from “The Affair”), a neuroscience major, sources data and insights from her escort work to use at her tech job. Look for a stylish and unique take on desire and sex from Marquardt and Tellis.
The Girlfriend Experience returns for a third season on May 2, 2021, on STARZ.
Behind the Screens: HBO Max Orders “The Staircase” as eight-episode series.
Director/producer Antonio Campos (“Christine”) partners with producer/writer Maggie Cohn (“American Crime Story”) on a new version of the Michael Peterson story. Peterson is the novelist accused of murdering his wife at the North Carolina home in 2001. Colin Firth joins the Annapurna Television production as Peterson. Campos will direct six of the eight episodes of the series, an update on the various books and documentaries about the case.