It has been well over a year since I wrote a post for Multimedia Monday and much has changed with respect to our choices for viewing media. The Lioness and I have altered our viewing habits through the use of a ROKU box and an Apple TV device and as a result, we haven’t watched a movie on DVD in over two years.
Cable television, once our primary source of entertainment, provides an ever-shrinking option for capturing our attention. These days we stream our content from Netflix or Amazon Prime. The streaming services have raised the bar with the introduction of their big-budget original programming shows.
In 2013 Netflix scored a one-two punch when it released House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. The trials and tribulations of Frank and Claire Underwood [Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright] are the fodder for season after season of political intrigue and marital stress in HOC. Likewise, OITNB gives us an ensemble cast of characters, led by Piper Chapman [Taylor Schilling], and brings to life situations faced by women in prison and the people in charge of keeping them there.
We didn’t start watching Amazon Prime until 2014 and were immediately hooked by the series, Bosch, based on Michael Connelly’s crime novels featuring detective Harry Bosch. The show is fast-paced, well-written, and as mysterious as any of Mr. Connelly’s books. Credit must also go to Titus Welliver for his excellent portrayal of the main character. He brings a strong sense of humanity to someone whose job is to deal with the worst of society on a daily basis.
In January of 2015 The Man in the High Castle (TMITHC) premiered and, in my estimation, it took original programming to an entirely new level. Based on Phillip K. Dick’s 1962 novel of the same name, TMITHC turns history upside down. The series is set in 1962 and we see a world where Japan and Germany were the victors in World War Two.
Japan rules the former western United States, now called the Pacific States of America, reaching from the Pacific Ocean to the Rocky Mountains. Germany rules the eastern United States, extending from the Atlantic Ocean to the eastern Rocky Mountains. The Rocky Mountains serve as a neutral buffer zone, where anything goes as long as it stays within its boundaries.
Strange as that may be, it gets even weirder. President Roosevelt is dead—the victim of an assassin’s bullet—and Hitler is alive but impaired by the effects of advanced syphilis. Throw in transcontinental passenger rocket-plane flights and some mysterious newsreels that surface and show the historical record that WE grew up with and you’ve got yourself a new-fashioned cliffhanger.
We are in a truly Golden Age of Home Entertainment. Long running series like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy and Game of Thrones—to name a few—seemed to thrive on the success of each other. As one series broke new ground in story-telling, another picked up where they left off and raised the bar even higher.
“Unlike Quentin Tarantino, who blew up Hitler in his film Inglourious Basterds, I know what happened in history and I can’t change it.”
That brings me to my latest Netflix streaming discovery, Babylon Berlin. Based on the first of six—and ultimately nine—novels by Volker Kutscher, Babylon Berlin is the first German TV series where viewers can emotionally experience the story of the political developments leading from the Weimar Republic to the spread of National Socialism.
The main character is Gereon Rath, a young police inspector from Cologne who is sent to Berlin to solve a criminal case involving the Berlin Mafia. Through him we get a glimpse behind the scenes of the “Roaring Twenties” in the 1929 city of Berlin, where radical change is in the air. Poverty, in the form of a growing mass of unemployed citizens and idle war veterans, is displayed in sharp contrast to the excesses of a rich ruling class.
The Moka Efti nightclub is emblematic of what money and privilege can provide and it is the melting pot into which the story elements are blended together. Oddly enough, it did not have to be invented for this series because it is based on the real club which was located in central Berlin.
Thanks to a $40 million budget, this series has legs. The first two seasons are on Netflix and work is ongoing for future episodes.
We are not fluent in the German language and that did not take anything away from our viewing enjoyment. Netflix allows its viewers to activate English audio/English sub-titles. We did both and it made for a very pleasant experience with respect to a potential language barrier.