The Strop Weekly Roundup

4 Streaming Shows We’re Binge-Watching Right Now

This week: Why streaming "Star Trek" is an entirely different viewing experience, plus 3 other shows on our minds.

The Strop is a place to whet your appetite for damn good stories. Check back every Friday for our latest recommendations. 

1. The Crown (Netflix)


After years of raising a few eyebrows from friends about having never watched Netflix’s The Crown and how I was missing out on such a “great show,” I finally caved to a good old binge session to see what the fuss was about. While historical fiction isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, this is one show that is worth giving a shot because the writing does one thing that I haven’t seen others in the genre do: It does not write in awe of the subjects. The show doesn’t feel like it needs to present these people on a pedestal — rather, the writers work to bring humanity to the characters and do not shy away from their flaws. As a viewer, I loved watching Prince Phillip moan like a child about being second-best to his wife, or Princess Margaret act like a drunken rebellious teenager because she also felt like a second fiddle to her sister and couldn’t marry for happiness. They weren’t characters I could sympathize with, but the writing made them and their arcs feel authentic. This is a refreshing break away from the “likable” historical hero. The show excels at balancing accuracy and strong fiction that lacks in other historical flicks. If the excellent writing alone isn’t enough to catch your eye, the cast is enthralling, the costumes are gorgeous, and the sets are brilliantly captured. This is a show where the small details pay off. – Cassandra Wagner

2. Star Trek (Hulu)


To me, Star Trek is the perfect example of the way that streaming has changed my viewing habits. I watched The Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise in bite-sized installments, and they were a staple of my weekly viewing as a child: TOG and TNG in syndication, one or two episodes a day always available somewhere, and the others large-feature, once-a-week events. Watched that way, I’ve often thought of these shows as a general mishmash of quality, and tend to think of each show in their entirety as defined by what I think are their best episodes (for instance: TNG is defined by “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” “The Best of Both Worlds,” “All Good Things,” and the episode with Scotty; DS9 by the Dominion War Saga; Voyager by “The Year of Hell,” “Deadlock,” “Timeless,” and “Scorpion,” and honestly a lot more than I remembered at first glance). But in a streaming world, I’ve found myself existing only in those good or great episodes, skipping the weaker episodes entirely, and have found a fascinating difference in the show itself: pared down from the hundreds of episodes to perhaps 20 or 30 per show, I’ve discovered a deeper respect for each individual series as a series, and at the same time have less interest in the individual characters (because I’m not seeing all of the character moments that were sprinkled into those less-“worthwhile” episodes) that had previously been the thing I used as my argument for Star Trek being the best sci-fi ever created. So, in the world of streaming, Star Trek is harder sci-fi than it ever was before, and also somehow less human than it’s always been? Interesting that that’s exactly what Discovery and the movies have been reaching toward as well. – Brandon Williams

3. Fleabag (Amazon Prime)


Alternately, a show built for the streaming world, I watched both seasons of Fleabag in a single sitting, and have watched it multiple times since. Quick, snappy, and constantly upping the ante allow for an unending viewing experience that rewards the viewer for letting the credits roll right into another episode, with a character complicated enough that we can constantly recontextualize her. She’s aware of the fact that she’s telling a story, and indeed is telling that story to us for a clear reason, and the throughline of the story is about that telling and what matters and what should and shouldn’t be seen. In that way, I kept finding myself comparing it to Mr. Robot, which is an essay for another day, I think. Except that here, because of our role as viewer and Fleabag’s interaction with us, we are brought along like we’re in on the joke, which we see from the titular character’s constant asides to us and also through the occasional breaking of that tether. This closeness is created both by allowing us in, but also by the speed of events and the rapid-fire patter of humor and conversation and interaction, so that when that tether is acknowledged in all the various ways that this show does, the viewers are pulled into the story deeper each time, until that final choice is made. – Brandon Williams

4. Russian Doll (2019)


Ooh, let’s piss some people off. Another show built for the streaming world, I’m not entirely sure there’s a better example of what streaming allows for a viewing experience. In the moment, I devoured this show and loved it, and then I started thinking about it for like two days. I realized that it relied so heavily on immersion to hide the nonsensical nature of its own conceit (and its absolute refusal to deal with the two basic conflicts of why now and why these people) that the show basically propped itself up with an intentional quick-motion viewing experience to keep any actual questions at bay, and then I forgot about it entirely, as has the entire rest of culture based on the complete lack of conversation about this show after about two weeks. This feels like the definition of good-not-great streaming content, to me: absolute absorption in the moment, above all else. Will I watch season two? Yes. Have I already forgotten what happened in season one? Also yes. – Brandon Williams