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Jace Down/YouTube Red/Sony Pictures Television


Jace Down/YouTube Red/Sony Pictures Television

Television

Wax on, wax off ... again

Cobra Kai is a clever reboot winning over audiences

It’s a Cinderella story worthy of any cheesy sports movie. A few years ago, YouTube made a late, halfhearted attempt to enter the streaming game. Most of its scripted series were flops. But it gambled with a reboot of the 1984 film The Karate Kid with the original two stars (whom America had barely heard from in decades). The show became a sleeper hit and eventually landed a lucrative Netflix sale. 

Once Cobra Kai hit that platform, it officially became the most popular show in the United States. 

It would be hard to find another ’80s update that’s even half as clever. We catch up with Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), the high-school bully who inspired a thousand tousled-blond copycats, in middle age. He might’ve been the big man on campus at 17, but at 50 he spends his days in an alcoholic haze, zoning out on Reagan-era macho movies, trying to block out the fact that his nemesis, Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), now owns a successful car dealership. 

About as elegant and introspective as the heavy metal he blares from the subwoofers of his cherry Pontiac Firebird, Johnny couldn’t be a further cry from Mr. Miyagi. Yet when a nerdy immigrant teen moves into the run-down apartment next door, he starts to think he may still have something to offer and decides to resurrect Cobra Kai dojo. 

Living well may be the best revenge, but the Karate Kid isn’t content to let his opulent house, beautiful wife, and thriving business speak for themselves. When he gets wind of Johnny’s plans, he, too, decides to return to the ring. Then it’s on like Godzilla vs. King Kong.  

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Netflix


Netflix

Television

A maturing monarch in The Crown

The third season of Netflix’s drama depicts the royal family seeking its place and finding God

The third season of Netflix’s The Crown attempts the impossible: changing the entire cast viewers had grown to love from the first two seasons. At first it’s jolting to see Queen Elizabeth as depicted by Claire Foy transform into the more mature and dour Olivia Colman in a year of the show’s time. 

But the changes are necessary for a show depicting the more-than-six-decade reign of the British monarch. Elizabeth is no longer the 21-year-old woman hesitantly taking up the crown following the death of her father, King George VI. Now the middle-aged mother of four is confident in her role as she carefully threads the balance between duty and personal convictions.

The latest season, which premiered last November, looks at the queen’s relationship with Prime Minister Harold Wilson, the first leader from the opposition Labour Party she’s had to work with during her tenure. But much of the season focuses on others in the royal family struggling to find their place: her son and heir apparent, Prince Charles, as he comes of age in his unique position; her husband, Prince Philip, as he deals with his traumatic past and a midlife crisis; and her sister, Princess Margaret, as she searches for purpose while her marriage falls apart. 

Most fascinating is how the show tackles the topic of Christian faith, specifically through the character of Prince Philip. Earlier seasons showed Queen Elizabeth’s devout faith as she meets with a young Billy Graham and takes seriously her role as the head of the Church of England. Yet Philip described his faith as “dormant” when asked by his estranged mother, Princess Alice. Alice lived a difficult life: Despite being born in Windsor Castle, she was forced into exile, sent to an insane asylum where she underwent torturous treatments, and separated from her family before becoming a nun in Greece. When a coup led her to reunite with her son, she said her faith in God was what sustained her: “It’s everything.”

Later as Philip faces his midlife crisis, he scoffs at a clergy support group as “navel-gazing underachievers infecting one another with gaseous doom.” Instead he obsesses over the American astronauts who had just pushed the limits of human achievement by landing on the moon. After meeting the astronauts in person and finding them insipid and uninterested in the grander implications of what they had done, he admits to the priests the emptiness of unbelief. He asks them for help finding God. 

The show is flush with beautiful shots, opulent set pieces and costumes, powerful retelling of real-life events (with a touch of dramatic flourish), as well as a stellar cast: Tobias Menzies infuses Philip with both cockiness and pathos. Helena Bonham Carter is fantastic as the mercurial and attention-loving Margaret. The Crown is a delightful watch for commoners interested in the strange and surreal world of the royals.  

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Yan Turcotte/Sphere Media/CTV/NBC


Yan Turcotte/Sphere Media/CTV/NBC

Television

Transplant isn’t a typical ER drama

The main character’s strong moral center and a positive portrayal of a Christian doctor make the new series stand out—for now

Deftly skewering a shish kebab and cleaving a chicken are the first hints that one man is more than a short-order cook. When a truck slams through a restaurant’s plate-glass windows, the cook, despite his own wounds, starts performing triage on the injured. 

It’s an intense opening to Transplant, a new Canadian medical series on NBC. This series’ likable characters elevate it above other medical dramas, as does morality that—so far—grounds the central figure. That cook is actually a Syrian doctor, Bashir Hamed (Hamza Haq), who fled Syria with his 12-year-old sister.

The show quickly morphs to “Bash,” as he’s called, getting his dream job as a resident in a hospital emergency room. He’s brilliant, passionate, and unabashedly compassionate. 

Some of Canada’s social agendas emerge. Physicians welcome an addict for a needle exchange program. It’s hard to watch these scenes without yearning for the show’s sole Christian doctor to share the gospel.

That there even is a Christian doctor portrayed as competent, humorous, and a committed family man is startling. Also pleasantly surprising is hearing him happily share with a teen patient he’s advising that he’s had sex only with his wife. He reminds the boy, “Decisions have consequences.”

Most medical dramas wind up pushing hyper-liberal social and political agendas. Here’s hoping this one doesn’t get sick, too.

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