What I’m Watching: Vacation Edition

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of What I’m Watching posts looking at what I’m currently viewing — or hoping to — via streaming or broadcast TV. I hope to write such pieces the first Sunday of every month. This one, however, is falling on a Monday.

Sunday was opening day in Major League Baseball, so, naturally, I took a vacation to celebrate not only my beloved Cubbies’ first game of their 2017 World Series title defense, but the entire first week.

Looking back, this is the third straight year I’ve taken such time away from work.

Some people take off birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions, but me? It’s mostly sports. And I do the same for my Minnesota Vikings and their opening week.

Now, to be fair, I have enough vacation days to take the week of my wedding anniversary, and, like my readers know, my wife and I celebrate with a little time away. Though this year, our special day falls on Thanksgiving. That should prove interesting.

But that’s a problem for future Jared and Megan because this week is all about the Cubs, and Sunday night did not disappoint.

The Northsiders took on the hated rival St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. While they fell into a 3-0 hole, the Cubbies made it interesting as catcher Willson Contreras tied the game with a three-run bomb in the top of the ninth inning.

Unfortunately, the Red Birds won the game in the bottom of the frame with a long single that drove in the winning run.

Oh well, we’ll get ’em Tuesday.

For some strange reason, baseball sets the schedules up in such a way that teams, who already have taken off a fair amount of time, play opening day, then take off the next.

Thankfully, though, there are plenty of shows I’m watching on streaming and regular broadcast TV that should fill in the Cub-less gaps.

Streaming

For example, Sunday, my wife and I started Netflix’s “The Crown,” the story of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and her rise to power, starting in the 1940s.

Granted, we’ve only watched the first episode, but we walked away impressed. I’m a sucker for period pieces, and I have a feeling I won’t be disappointed with the remainder of the first season.

Speaking of historical dramas I’ve been anticipating, I hope to start Amazon’s “The Man in the High Castle,” as well. I’ve heard such good things about the show, which supposes an alternate reality in which the Allies lost World War II.

I don’t know much else, save that it’s two seasons in. I hope I have enough time to catch both.

On the lighter side of streaming, I hope to finish Season 2 of Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” The show came highly recommended by a couple of friends.

Ellie Kemper, of “The Office” fame, plays the fantastically naive title character who, after being kidnapped by a crazy preacher, spends most of her life in a bunker with several other women, only to be saved years later. But then, she finds herself in New York City and prefers it to her native Indiana.

While Kemper is hilarious, Tituss Burgess’ Titus Andromedon is just as funny, if not more so.

Though it’s certainly not a Netflix original, I’m also plowing through “How I Met Your Mother” on the streaming service. This nine-season series will prove to be more of a long-term project, much like my forays into “The West Wing,” “Mad Men,” “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation.”

I caught the first few seasons of “HIMYM” when they premiered on CBS, but then lost touch, only to watch most of the final episodes and that horribly disappointing series finale.

I kinda want to see what happens in between.

TV

On the TV end of things, I particularly enjoy ABC’s “Designated Survivor,” with Kiefer Sutherland playing President Tom Kirkman, who attempts to put America back together after a bombing took down the Capitol in Washington during his predecessor’s state of the union address.

I’m a bit of a sucker for political dramas, too, it seems.

Enter CBS’ “Madam Secretary.” I liken it to the State Department’s version of “The West Wing,” with Tea Leone playing the title character, Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord. While it’s currently on its third season, you can catch up on Netflix.

I highly recommend it.

But it’s not all about politics.

The religious studies nerd in me is enjoying “Believer,” a new series on CNN featuring Reza Aslan, a noted religious scholar.

I’m drawn to this show, in particular, as Aslan was a professor of mine at the University of Iowa during my religious studies coursework.

I remember him as engaging, and he certainly held my attention during his Introduction to Islam lectures.

Of course, since then, he’s written books, appeared on many TV shows and now has this fascinating series.

After listening to his appearance on Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast, in addition to catching his Scientology episode, I’ve learned the show examines seemingly extreme or out-there religious sects and attempts to show viewers the followers aren’t so different from you and me. We’re all believers in one thing or another.

While I understand what he’s getting at — and bristle a bit at it — I simply appreciate how the show takes an honest look at cultures and faiths I otherwise couldn’t appreciate here in my corner of Iowa.

While I catch up on that series, there are other shows I enjoy, like CMT’s “Sun Records,” an historical drama — there I go again — that looks at the beginning of the record company and its ties to the Million Dollar Quartet through the eyes of company founder Sam Phillips, played by Chad Michael Murray, and the likes of Elvis Presley (Drake Milligan), Johnny Cash (Kevin Fonteyne), Jerry Lee Lewis (Christian Lees) and, to a lesser extent, Carl Perkins (Dustin Ingram). Billy Gardell also plays a mean Colonel Tom Parker, Presley’s manager.

Plus, there are the usual comedies, like “The Great Indoors,” “Kevin Can Wait” and the always-funny “The Big Bang Theory.”

A vacation well spent

Hopefully, all those shows and series will fill in the many gaps between Cubs games this week, as they take on the Cards Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon, only to take Thursday off — yet another one, they’re killing me — while they travel to Milwaukee for a three-game weekend series.

In any event, it’ll be a vacation well spent — on my couch.

Until next time, that’s what I’m watching.

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