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Welcome back to FlixWorthy, your guide to Netflix streaming...and more. To help you navigate the new and notable streaming releases, each new installment of FlixWorthy will highlight new and/or notable releases on Netflix, but also on two other competitors who offer premium memberships to huge catalogues of content: Hulu (Hulu Plus) and Amazon Instant Video (Amazon Prime). We'll also include an a la carte pick from Amazon, iTunes, or elsewhere, for those of you who prefer to buy your shows by the episode/season instead of paying a membership fee. Here's what's FlixWorthy this week, kids.
A La Carte Pick: Breaking Bad
People like to throw around descriptors like "best show on television" pretty lightly, but when that phrase is applied to AMC's Breaking Bad, it also happens to be absolutely true. For four, going on five, seasons, we've watched as mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston) slipped deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness. Cranston absolutely earns every one of those Emmy wins and nominations, and the rest of the cast is nearly as impressive, most notably Aaron Paul as Walter's junkie partner, Jesse, and Anna Gun as Walter's long-suffering wife, Skylar.
If you've missed the Breaking Bad bandwagon up to this point, now's the time to dive in headfirst. The fifth season just premiered, so if you have the time to marathon through the earlier seasons, you should be able to catch up in time to watch most of this season live. And given how good last week's premiere was, the sooner you can catch up, the better. Amazon Instant Video has all four seasons available for $1.99 or $22.99 per season. (The show is also available on Netflix Instant Watch.) With Breaking Bad, creator Vince Gilligan has given us one of the most gripping, surprising, and addictive show in decades. Watch it.
Netflix Pic: The Chicago Code
Shawn Ryan has been responsible for some damn good television. After having broken in on shows such as Nash Bridges and Joss Whedon's Angel, Ryan has gone on to the brutal cop drama The Shield, the badass special forces show The Unit, and the underseen private-eye series Terriers. Sadly, The Chicago Code took after the latter show rather than the first two and only lasted one season on Fox. The show focuses on the conflict between police superintendent Teresa Colvin (Jennifer Beals) and a corrupt Alderman named Ronin Gibbons (Delroy Lindo). Colvin and her ex-partner, honest cop Jarek Wysocki (Jason Clarke), try to expose the city's rampant corruption and expose Gibbons' under-the-table dealings.
In many ways the show parallels Starz's excellent Boss, with both series featuring a monstrously corrupt public official at their center (and both are even set in Chicago). The Chicago Code probably would have benefitted from a pay-cable environment, both for the creative freedom it would have afforded, and because the cable networks seem to be a lot more willing to let shows develop and find their audience, even if they aren't monster hits right out of the gate. Sadly, we'll never get to see what Ryan's long-term game plan was for the show, but The Chicago Code remains a thoroughly watchable one-season wonder. (And while you're at it, check out Ryan's outstanding Terriers as well.)
Amazon Prime Pick: Downton Abbey
Talk about a phenomenon that came out of left field. Who would have expected that the next much-buzzed-about TV show would be a Masterpiece Theater series about rich British people and their servants? Created by Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey is set on the titular estate in North Yorkshire in the years before World War I. The series follows the wealthy Crawley family and their servants. After Lord Crawley's heir dies during the sinking of the Titanic, the next in line is a distant cousin, a lawyer named Matthew. He moves into the estate with his forward-thinking mother, who clashes with Lord Crawley's conservative mother. It's basically a soap opera, but the accents make it classy.
Julian Fellowes has written or co-written every episode of Downton Abbey so far, and he's got plenty of experience penning tales of the relationship between the haves and the have-nots who serve them. Fellowes' resume includes flicks like Godford Park and The Young Victoria. And, er, The Tourist, but everybody makes mistakes now and then. Amazon has the first two seasons of Downton Abbey available for free streaming for Amazon Prime members. Give your butler the day off and settle in for some quality time with the British aristocracy.
Hulu Pic: Spoilers with Kevin Smith
If you aren't a die-hard Kevin Smith fan, you might be wondering just what the hell he's been doing lately. After the release of Red State, and the associated debacles, Smith has been running pretty silent on the filmmaking front. He's supposedly still working on the hockey comedy Hit Somebody, but compared to how vocal he's been in the past, you'd think he's being held captive in a basement somewhere. That's only partially true. He's been holed up making podcasts. An entire podcast network, no less, and now that experimentation with non-traditional media has expanded onto Hulu with an exclusive series called Spoilers with Kevin Smith.
A weekly half-hour show, Smith describes Spoilers as an "anti-movie-review" show. Each week he takes a group of 40 people to see a current release, then they return to the "Jay & Silent Bob-atorium" and discuss the movie, with Smith moderating. The flicks up to bat so far were Show White & the Huntsman, Prometheus, Rock of Ages, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Magic Mike, and The Amazing Spider-Man. Smith also brings in one guest each week for an informal interview, and that line-up has so far included Carrie Fisher, Damon Lindelof, Robert Rodriguez, Jason Lee, Jon Favreau, and Stan Lee.