March 31 2015 06:43 PM

Bust your brain with this bunch of cultural baubles



The original: There's an A&E show that's been on for a couple of weeks called The Returned. Skip it. Instead, watch Les Revenants, the French TV show it's based on. Watching The Returned would be like cracking open a bottle of Charles Shaw when there's a really lovely Côtes du Rhône sitting right next to it. Based on the 2004 French film, They Came Back, Les Revenants tells the story of a town in the French alps where the dead come back to life. But these aren't zombies—they're folks who return four years, 10 years, even 35 years later, looking just as they were and totally unaware of their own demise. What really makes the show sing is the way it's shot—the director opted to film only in the early morning and at the end of the day, during that blue-hued period that photographers call the "magic hour." That, plus the sparse, post-rock soundtrack by Mogwai—itself a work of art—give Les Revenants a sublime creepiness. The eight-episode first season is available on Netflix with the second season scheduled to air in the fall.

—Kelly Davis



Your little will like these: The so-called Great Screen Debate rages on. If you, too, have officially given in to the many whims of your digital-entertainment-loving children, here's a round-up of online kids' series that entertain, while also cramming a little education into those sponge-like brains. The Amazon original series Creative Galaxy features a cute green alien, Arty, who takes kids on art-filled adventures that teach them about various movements and genres like pointillism, mosaic and action paintings. The show hits hard with its pro-art rhetoric, which is awesome. Over on Hulu, their original series, Doozers, is as good as kid TV gets. Created by the cool cats over at The Jim Henson Company, the Fraggle Rock spin-off features a team of kids who solve problems by building things (if it's a future engineer you want, watch this show). And, finally, PBS Kids picked up the web series Plum Landing, which makes environmental science seem super cool.

—Kinsee Morlan


On lockdown: Not all podcasts are created equal. Some shows are cobbled together in the basements of rambling hosts who know as much about storytelling as your aunt who can't shut up about her new hybrid car. Then there are the elite shows, which have millions of listeners. Think Radiolab or Serial. One of the newest heavy hitters flexing its mastery of the craft is a podcast called Criminal. This dark, true-crime podcast clocks in at about 15 to 20 minutes an episode, regularly featuring amazingly bizarre stories of unfortunate souls trapped in an often-flawed criminal justice system. Telling these stories in vivid detail is a veteran team out of North Carolina Public Radio, including host Phoebe Judge, as well as co-creators Lauren Spohrer and Eric Mennel. A few months ago, the show moved into the top 10 on iTunes Media. It's now carried by podcast collective Radiotopia. And it's riveting.

—Joshua Emerson Smith


It's delivery: San Diegans are spoiled. Not only do we get weather that makes a goth kid sweat through his pleather pants year-round, we have some of the best food on the planet. The one drawback is that, unlike other major cities, not many places offer delivery. On rainy days, sick days or days where putting on pants is a nonstarter, good food delivered to your door can be a godsend. That's why Postmates is the lazy eater's best bud. The free app is the Uber of food delivery. You open it up on your smartphone, choose a restaurant, type in your order and then a Postmates driver in your area accepts the order. They then pick up your food and deliver it to you, all in under an hour. They'll even go to Trader Joe's! There's a delivery fee, service fee and you can (and should!) tip on top of that, so it can get a little pricey. Still, it's a nice treat. 

—Alex Zaragoza


You go, girl: Personally, I find those flavor-of-the-month mystery-thriller novels to be anything but mysterious or thrilling. You know the type; Gone Girl (the ending is tenuous) and Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was entirely too long). So I was skeptical about the newest Girl on the block, British novelist Paula Hawkins' debut, The Girl on the Train. It centers around Rachel, a divorced, rather pathetic alcoholic trying to solve the strange disappearance of a young woman she'd been observing during her train commute. While Rachel is certainly the protagonist, the book is sometimes narrated by two other women (the woman who has disappeared as well as the woman now married to Rachel's ex-husband), with all three recounting daily events from varying perspectives, leaving the reader with multiple trails of bread crumbs to follow. You'll likely have an idea of "whodunit" by the time the climax rolls around, so Hawkins throws in a few more shocking twists for good measure. I'd highly recommend reading it before the inevitable movie adaptation.

—Seth Combs


Is this mic on?: It's not so much that I liked The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, it's more that I was unable to look away. Each time the slick title sequence scrolled by, complete with its grossly appropriate Eels-penned theme song, I felt guilty for watching such a glossy exploitation of actual, tragic events. But that was nothing compared with my weekly need to find out what happened next. Did this calculating, cross-dressing real estate heir actually chop up his neighbor, make his wife disappear and shoot his best friend in cold blood? Well, if you were paying attention to American news outlets after the series finale aired two weeks ago, it appears that he did. Based on information revealed in Andrew Jarecki's 6-part HBO series, Durst was arrested the night before the finale ran. But many questions still remain, and it seems that Jarecki, and his crew, have become part of the plot. Watch these half-dozen episodes now, because the final chapter of this incredible story is just getting started.

—Scott McDonald