Culture Club: When in doubt, go British

Welcome to The Growler’s Culture Club, where the editors share the best of what they’ve been listening to, reading, and watching. 

James Norton, Food Editor

“Giri / Haji”

No television show about a bloody international Yakuza war has any right to be this funny, this beautifully shot, and this stirringly human, but there you have it: “Giri / Haji” is a singular program, one that keeps its organized crime plot churning mercilessly forward even as it fills in the lives, fears, and mostly dashed hopes of its rag-tag core of characters. While the ambitiously complex plot gets a bit shaggy and surreal at points, the core cast keeps it together—the actors are winningly committed and play off one another like consummate pros. Watch: Netflix

“The Repair Shop”

It doesn’t get much more BBC than this—set at the Weald and Downland Museum (in Singleton, West Sussex, England) The Repair Shop follows an elite group of antique restorers as they painstakingly toil to return intricate clocks, shattered vases, beloved old teddy bears and more back to vintage good health. It’s the calculated antithesis to disposable culture, and it’s slow-paced, immensely feel-good exploration of the art of restoration headed up by an immensely likeable cast. If you’ve burned through The Great British Baking Show already, here’s your new fix. Watch: Netflix

John Garland, Deputy Editor

“Only Connect”

I’ll tell you how it gets more BBC than that: my current TV binge “Only Connect.” This trivia show takes pride in being intentionally difficult—as contestants are shown seemingly random clues and are forced to discover the obscure bonds between them. Some of the questions are so Eurocentric as to be impossible for the American viewer, but when you do answer a sequence before the competitors, you feel like Sherlock Holmes. It’s also interesting in how different it is than American game shows. There is no prize money involved, just dedicated teams of pub quizzers in a tournament to see who can solve the most fiendish trivia challenge imaginable while humbly saying it was just dumb luck and their opponents were really the smart ones. So. Very. British. Watch: YouTube

Lauren Sauer, Associate Editor

“High Maintenance”

Starting as a web show and now in its fourth season on HBO, this anthology series about a Brooklyn weed delivery man has some of the most inventive, unexpected TV writing I’ve experienced to date. The main character, a benevolent fixie-bike hipster known only as “The Guy,” merely serves as a thread between the complicated, diverse lives of his customers—who range from a recovering agoraphobe to a sign language interpreter to a producer for “This American Life”—many of whom we slowly discover are connected through more than just their shared cannabis dealer. In a city of millions, The Guy’s ability to treat the people he encounters with thoughtful compassion and empathy is a blessed reminder, especially in these dark times, that everyone has a story worthy of recognition. Where to watch: HBO

COLORS Studios

Through some Instagram magic, I came across COLORS Studios last year and I’ve been worshiping at its musical altar ever since. The Berlin-based studio does a stellar job of harnessing the power of new media and using it for good, plucking up-and-coming artists from every corner of the globe and placing them in a simple, monochromatic studio to perform stripped-down, beautiful music without distractions. If you’re looking for your next favorite artist, this is the place to watch. Watch: YouTube, Instagram

Brian Kaufenberg, Editor-in-Chief

“The Plot Against America” (Book and the HBO series)

While the coronavirus pandemic has commanded nearly all of our collective attention, Philip Roth’s novel “The Plot Against America” and the new HBO adaptation are cogent reminders of another pressing threat in American life: namely, the disturbing rise in anti-Semitic acts across the country. The story explores an alternative history in which Charles Lindbergh unseats Franklin Roosevelt for the presidency. At the center of the story is a Jewish-American family in New Jersey, whose lives are fractured as fascism and anti-Semitism take hold in America. Chilling in its realism, it is even more alarming and relevant in light of the fact that the U.S. saw a record number of anti-Semitic incidents in 2019. Watch: HBO