Paul and Susan Watch TV

About ten years ago, Susan and I “cut the cable,” stopped renting DVDs and decided to watch TV entirely a-la-carte, over the Internet (connected to our TV.) Mostly, it’s been great – no late fees (I was terrible at that!), and we get to watch the movies we’re really interested in (though during the first year of COVID, it seems like we had already watched every movie worth watching.) We don’t get local channels and no real sports, but we’ve found a work-around when it really matters.

Along the way, we’ve watched some wonderful TV series. I thought we’d share a few of the more off the beaten path shows that we’ve loved, in case you want to try anything new (and yes, we also loved watching Game of Thrones, and Ted Lasso, but who hasn’t?). Here goes:

Acapulco (Apple+) – A totally cute series about a young man in Acapulco longing to work for a ritzy resort there in the 1980s.

Barry (HBO) – I still hear of people who haven’t watched this comedy of a hitman turned actor so am including it in the list. Bill Hader’s character tries, and fails, to leave a life of crime. Great supporting cast.

Catastrophe (Amazon) – Hilarious sit-com about an American businessman who has a one-night stand on a business trip in London. The cynical Irish women gets pregnant, and they try to make it work. hilarity ensues.

The Chef’s Table (Netflix) – Gorgeous, sumptuous doc-series about some of the best chefs in the world.

The Final Table (Netflix) – Funky but fascinating international cooking competition that feels genuine, fresh and super-high-pressure.

Fleabag (Amazon) – Sort of obvious, but one of the best TV series we’ve ever seen – dry, self-deprecating, brutal and spit-your-wine-out funny.

For All Mankind (Apple +) – Jaw dropping and riveting alternate history drama – what if the Russians got to the Moon first? How would NASA react? And the series finale? It had us balling! (side note … it took a couple episodes to get into this show … give it time)

Fortitude (Amazon) – Totally quirky cop draw set in frozen Scandinavia with Stanley Tucci, preserved Wooly Mammoths, a feeder, man-eating polar bears and deadly wasps – oh my!

Gentleman Jack (HBO) – Set in the year 1832 in Yorkshire, the series focuses on landowner and industrialist Anne Lister. The series is based on the collected diaries of Lister, which contained over four million words and were written largely in secret code, documenting a lifetime of lesbian relationships. Lister is a delight – fiercely funny and smart and she often breaks the fourth wall to let us in on her little jokes and observations.

Godless (Netflix) – Gritty Western starting Michele Dockery of Downton Abby fame. In a remote Western town, all of the men have died and the women must step up and dispense justice.

Good Omens (Amazon) – Based on the comic novel from Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. What if the prophesied second coming actually happened, but the babies were accidentally switched in the maternity ward. An angel and a demon pair up to try to keep the universe in balance.

The Great (Hulu) – One of the freshest things we’ve ever seen a semi-historic comedy/drama about the rise of Katherine the Great in Russia. Sex, self-flagellation, bears and mummies about in this totally ribald and weirdly diverse tale that has you cheering the good guys and the bad guys as well.

Landscapers (HBO) – Short based-on-actual-events mini series about a couple who killed her parents (or did they?) and then buried the bodies only to have them found ten years after the fact. Stunning acting performances!

Made for Love (HBO) – Quirky comedy about a stunted tech genius who wants to implant a mind-connecting device into his wife (after he already tracks and analyzes her orgasms.)

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon) – Another obvious one, but sumptuous sets, a real sense of the time (early 60s New York) and an ensemble cast that kicks it out of the park – plus Mrs. Maisel’s amazing stand up routines!

Mindhunter (Amazon) – A two-season gem chronicling the advent of serial killer profiling in police work – plus some downright creepy and fascinating serial killers as “consultants.”

One Day at a Time (Netflix) – This almost didn’t make the list. There is a “lesson” in every episode – dealing with racism, alcohol abuse, homophobia – but Rita Moreno is amazing in every scene.

The Orville (multiple) – Seth McFarlane’s hilarious and heartwarming ode to the original Star Trek – dorky, funny and compelling.

Our Flag Means Death (HBO) – The latest Taika Watiti project. Fun pirate romp that asks the question: what if the great pirates Bonnet and Blackbeard met and became besties? A truly hilarious bromance!

Peacemaker (HBO) – OMG – just watching the opening credits will make you smile! It’s the unlikely tale of the right-wing minor superhero Peacemaker and his band of operatives – the lowest rungs of the superhero pantheon, struggling with relevance, internal beliefs and aliens. Plus there’s Eagley, Peacemaker’s pet eagle who gives great hugs.

Reacher (Amazon Prime) – This Reacher embodies author Lee Child’s Jack Reacher (with none of that Tom Cruise nonsense.) After being wrongly accused of murder, Reacher helps police find the real killer(s). He is like a quirky, human superhero. Violent but a lot of fun.

Russian Doll (Netflix) – A crazy new take on Ground Hog Day, where a New York party girl must relive her last day on Earth over and over again.

Somebody Somewhere (HBO) – So subtle and powerful about an unmotivated woman who returns to her home in Kansas after her sister dies. Kind of a coming-of-age story about a middle-aged woman.

Station Eleven (HBO) – A wonderful post-apocalyptic science fiction series based on the novel of the same name – about the importance and necessity of art when society falls apart. It veers from the book in many ways but is still compelling.

Sweet Tooth (Netflix) – Based on a comic book, Sweet Tooth follows Gus, a half-deer half-human child, who lives a sheltered life in the forest until he doesn’t and lots of people want him dead.

Teenage Bounty Hunters (Netflix) – Take a pair of sex-curious highly religious Texas high school girls and introduce them to a hardened bounty hunter (whose cover is a frozen yogurt shop), and you’ve got an unexpected fun ride.

The Terror (Amazon Prime) – Based on the historical events of Captain John Franklin’s ill-fated expedition to the Arctic in the 1840s, two Royal Navy ships become icebound in the Northwest Passage. This show blends horror and the supernatural and hilarity does NOT ensue.

Veep (HBO) – Another obvious one, but this is masterful TV at its best – cringe-worth and hard to watch and utterly hilarious. No one is a good person here – yet it feels so real…

What We Do in the Shadows (Amazon Prime) – A hilarious mockumentary based on the movie of the same name. A group of vampires have lived together in Staten Island for hundreds of years and struggle with the mundane such as paying rent, boredom, and roommate issues. “The Baron is Out” episode in season 1 is one for the books.

The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window (Netflix) – Quirky whodunnit sees an alcoholic, wine drinking, divorced mom (whose young child was killed in the most horrific, and yet somehow funny way) witnessing a murder in the window across the street.

Years and Years (HBO) – A fascinating drama covering decades of time across an expanded family as the world comes apart around them in the UK, including the rise of the crazy, right-wing Trump-like Emma Thompson who drives the world to the brink of extinction.

And since we are on the subject, here are some good ones that you probably have seen:

  • The Chair
  • Fargo
  • Happy Valley
  • True Detective
  • Chernobyl
  • The Americans
  • The Queen’s Gambit
  • The Deuce
  • Treme (until that stupid John Goodman plot line)
  • Santa Clarita Diet (Drew Barrymore as a zombie realtor)
  • Squid Game
  • The Witcher
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Oh man, do we love a gooey, salty and warm ham quiche for Sunday brunch! It’s so simple and feels very upscale. Serve the leftovers with a salad later in the week for an awesome lunch.

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Crusty No-Knead Bread

For carb lovers out there, the Holy Grail of bread is flavorful, toothy, crusty bread. Well, here’s your grail – a very simple and easy bread recipe that will change the way you think about baking. The two keys here are not getting the water too hot (it’ll kill the yeast) and remembering to whip up the dough the night before.

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Chicken Lettuce Wraps

This is a recipe that has so much potential for variation… of ingredients and wine! You’ll notice only the Kick Ass sauce has measurements. Put in more of what you love and less of what you don’t.

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Paul Watches Movies

It’s no mistake that I’ve always been a movie geek. Every Friday in high school we’d head down to the Pickwick Theatre for whatever was showing. When you could rent VHS movies, I became addicted, especially when I lived alone in downtown Chicago – it was my main form of escape. Now, Susan and I look forward to our Sunday matinee in front of our widescreen TV at home.

When done right, a movie is an experience like no other – it can affect you in so many ways, from the plotting to the acting to the writing to the beautiful images and incredible places it takes you.

As a cool little side note, my maternal grandfather started working at Kodak in Rochester, NY in 1910 when he was only 13 years old. He started out as a “sweeper boy” in the Kodak fire department. Everything he learned, he learned on the job and when he retired in the 1970s, he was designing and repairing the big commercial movie developing machines. So I guess movies are in my blood.

The list below reflects about thirty-plus years of serious movie watching, but all the movies aren’t serious – far from it. It doesn’t cover every movie I’ve loved, but rather the ones that have remained burned in my mind’s eye as something truly amazing to see.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester

Apocalypse Now (1979) *
Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall

Arrival (2016)
Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

Baby Driver (2017)
Ansel Elgort, Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm

The Big Sleep (1946)
Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall

Blade Runner (1982) *
Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young

The Blues Brothers (1980)
John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Cab Calloway

Bridesmaids (2011)
Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne

The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison

The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989)
Richard Bohringer, Michael Gambon, Helen Mirren

District 9 (2009)
Sharlto Copley, David James, Jason Cope

Django Unchained (2012)
Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden

Ex Machina (2014)
Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac

Fargo (1996)
William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi

Gladiator (2000)
Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric

The Godfather: Part II (1974)
Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall

Harold and Maude (1971)
Ruth Gordon, Bud Cort, Vivian Pickles

The Iron Giant (1999)
Eli Marienthal, Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Aniston

Iron Man (2008)
Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore

A Knight’s Tale (2001)
Heath Ledger, Mark Addy, Rufus Sewell

Léon: The Professional (1994)
Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, Natalie Portman

The Long Goodbye (1973)
Elliott Gould, Nina van Pallandt, Sterling Hayden

Lost in Translation (2003) *
Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) *
Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle

My Dinner with Andre (1981)
Wallace Shawn, Andre Gregory

O Lucky Man! (1973) *
Malcolm McDowell, Ralph Richardson, Rachel Roberts

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Ivana Baquero, Ariadna Gil, Sergi López

The Princess Bride (1987)
Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Robin Wright

Pulp Fiction (1994)
John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson

Rogue One (2016)
Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk

Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton

Snowpiercer (2013)
Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton

Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Alfred Molina

Stop Making Sense (1984)
Talking Heads

Streets of Fire (1984)
Michael Paré, Diane Lane, Rick Moranis

The Thin Man (1934)
William Powell, Myrna Loy, Maureen O’Sullivan

True Stories (1986)
David Byrne, John Goodman

Unforgiven (1992)
Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman

Whiplash (2014)
Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist

Wonder Woman (2017)
Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright

Young Frankenstein (1974)
Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman

Zombieland (2009)
Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson

* – Movies about which I have said “Wow, this is the best movie I’ve ever seen!” at one time.

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Paul Reads Words

Reading is one of my great pleasures in life. I take time, every day if possible, to read, even if it’s only just a few minutes. It’s relaxing, expands my mind and my library of experiences and provides a much-needed challenge to my ideas and values.

Way back when, I took a course in speed reading – but really it was just about speed-skimming and not very satisfying at all. I read pretty slowly, but slow and steady wins the race.

Below is an ever-incomplete, always-updated list of fiction and non-fiction that has made a difference in my life. Give a few titles a try! Many thanks to Jess Bybee for requesting this and forcing me to organize this resource and get it posted!


7th Sigma
Steven Gould

Age of Madness Series (trilogy)
Joe Abercrombie

American Gods
Neil Gaiman

The Armageddon Rag
George R.R. Martin

Company of Liars
Karen Maitland

Constellation Games
Leonard Richardson

Crooked Little Vein
Warren Ellis

Dandelion Wine
Ray Bradbury

The Doomsday Book
Connie Willis

The Drowned Cities
Paolo Bacigalupi

Easy in the Islands
Bob Shacochis

Farewell, I’m Bound to Leave You: Stories
Fred Chappell

Feed (Newsflesh Trilogoy)
Mira Grant

Peter Stenson

The First Law Series (trilogy)
Joe Abercrombie

Freaky Deaky
Elmore Leonard

Gold Bug Variations
Richard Powers

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett

Greasy Lake and Other Stories
T. Coraghessan Boyle

I Am One of You Forever
Fred Chappell

Invisible Cities
Italo Calvino

William S. Burroughs

Kitchens of the Great Midwest
J. Ryan Stradal

The Lady in the Lake
Raymond Chandler

The Last Good Kiss
James Crumly

Liberation: Being the Adventures of the Slick Six After the Collapse of the United States of America
Brian Francis Slattery

Liminal States
Zach Parsons

Little Brother
Cory Doctorow

The Long Goodbye
Raymond Chandler

The Milkweed Triptych
Ian Trellis

Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology
Bruce Sterling (editor)

Neuromancer trilogy
William Gibson

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Neil Gaiman

On Stranger Tides
Tim Powers

Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus
Orson Scott Card

The Peripheral
William Gibson

Playing For Keeps
Mur Lafferty

Ready Player One
Ernest Cline

River of Gods
Ian McDonald

Sandman Slim novels
Richard Kadrey

Paolo Bacigalupi

The Simple Art of Murder
Raymond Chandler

Speaker for the Dead (need to read Ender’s Game first)
Orson Scott Card

Songs of Fire and Ice
George R.R. Martin

Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance
Richard Powers

Time and Again
Jack Finney

The Twenty Year Death
Ariel Winter

Too Like the Lightning
Ada Palmer

Under the Poppy
Kathe Koja

The Windup Girl
Paolo Bacigalupi


Architecture: Form, Space, Order
Francis Chin

American Terroir: Savoring the Flavors of Our Woods, Waters, and Fields
Rowan Jacobsen

Before the Lights Go Out: Conquering the Energy Crisis Before It Conquers Us
Maggie Koerth-Baker

Brain Rules
John Medina

Caught in the Middle: America’s Heartland in the Age of Globalism
Richard C. Longworth

The Devil in the White City
Erik Larson

The Education of Henry Adams
Henry Adams

The Elegant Universe
Brian Greene

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Hunter S. Thompson

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman
James Gleick

Getting Things Done
David Allen

The Hero with a Thousand Faces
Joseph Campbell

How Music Works
David Byrne

The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood
James Gleick

It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens
Dana Boyd

Justinian’s Flea
William Rosen

Kitchen Confidential
Anthony Bourdain

Keith Richards

The Omnivore’s Dilemma
Michael Pollan

Parallel Worlds
Michio Kaku

Reality is Broken
Jane McGonigal

Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work
Matthew Crawford

Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman
Richard Feynman

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
Doris Kearns Goodwin

Theodore Roosevelt biography trilogy
Edmund Morris

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
Malcolm Gladwell

Understanding Comics
Scott McCloud

The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?
Jared Diamond

Dave Eggers

If you are interested, like I am, in game development, writing and psychology, here is the great “Game Designer’s Bookshelf” list from the Game Designer’s Workshop:

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