Stream It Or Skip It: ‘James Veitch: Straight To VHS’ On HBO Max, A Prankster Who Scams The Scammers
Stream It Or Skip It: ‘The Roads Not Taken’ on Hulu, a Mournful Portrait of a Man in the Throes of Dementia
Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Queen and Slim’ on HBO Max, a Vital Road-Trip Epic About Race and Culture in America
Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Tesla’ on VOD, a Purposely Oddball Biopic Starring a Stiff Ethan Hawke
Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Class Action Park’ On HBO Max, A Wildly Entertaining Documentary About The World’s Most Dangerous Theme Park
Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Rising Phoenix’ on Netflix, an Uplifting Documentary About the History and Heroes of the Paralympics
Stream It Or Skip It: ‘1BR’ On Netflix, A Tense, Terrifying Indie Flick About An Apartment Too Good To Be True
Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Dark Forces’ On Netflix, A Mexican Horror Film That’s Not Very Scary And Pretty Confusing
Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Other Music’ On VOD, A Tribute To An East Village Record Store That Was A Home For Hardcore Music Geeks
Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Welcome To Chechnya’ On HBO, About Activists Who Help LGBTQ People Escape From Torture In Chechnya
Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Disclosure’ on Netflix, an Essential Documentary About Transgender Representation in TV and Film
‘Below Deck Med’: Chef Tom Checketts on Learning How To Throw a Tantrum From Gordon Ramsay
Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Million Dollar Beach House’ On Netflix, A Reality Series About Brotastic Realtors Selling Massive Hamptons Vacation Homes
Stream It or Skip It: ‘Teenage Bounty Hunters’ on Netflix, a Show That More Than Lives Up to Its Title
Wow. Now that’s a bold claim. The “best show you’ll watch on Netflix in 2020?!” Normally, I’d refrain from using the ambiguous adjective “best.” I’d go with a phrase like “most entertaining” or “most enjoyable.” But those terms don’t adequately express my feelings towards this show because, pardon the pun, Netflix’s Cobra Kai truly is the best around.
Two years after its YouTube premiere, we’re less than 24 hours away from Cobra Kai becoming a bona fide streaming sensation. Again. The critically-acclaimed Karate Kid revival debuts on Netflix tomorrow, and it’s not like the series is an under-the-radar hit. The pilot and the first episode of Season 2, both of which are streaming for free on YouTube, have 89 million and 86 million views, respectively. But as fans of Community, You, All American, and a slew of other shows will tell you, the Netflix bump is real and Cobra Kai is about to be the next beneficiary of this streaming phenomenon.
Cobra Kai is just about as close to television perfection as it gets. The first season currently boasts a 100% Tomatometer score on Rotten Tomatoes — and that’s with 44 critical ratings. You know a TV show has reached rarified air when 44 different critics can agree on anything. So what exactly makes Cobra Kai so damn entertaining? It begins and ends with heart. The creators of the series — Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg, and Josh Heald — possess an obvious affinity for The Karate Kid franchise. You don’t have to be a fan of the original films to enjoy Cobra Kai, but it definitely helps. The show is inclusive to newcomers while also paying homage to the source material by gifting the diehards with countless callbacks to The Karate Kid franchise.
Even if you have zero interest in watching two middle-aged men battle for the soul of youth karate in and around the San Fernando Valley area, Cobra Kai also has a genuine teen coming-of-age element that’s more engaging than anything The CW has to offer. The young actors, especially Xolo Maridueña as Johnny’s star pupil Miguel, imbue the series with the same relatable adolescent whimsy that made The Karate Kid an enduring cinematic classic.
There’s one final element that separates Cobra Kai from lesser shows: storytelling. Cobra Kai can spin a yarn that will knock, or I guess karate chop, your socks off. The central story follows the complex redemption arc of ’80s bad boy Johnny Lawrence. William Zabka delivers an Emmy-worthy performance as the vitriolic karate sensei who looks to revive the Cobra Kai dojo. For most shows, a redemption arc would be enough, but Cobra Kai is steeped in nuance. Johnny and his old rival Daniel LaRusso are painfully realistic, three-dimensional characters who vacillate between heroic and regrettable acts. The line between hero and villain is skewed as the series instead chooses to embrace the captivating ambiguity of the in-between.
Cobra Kai is a true joy to watch. It’ll make you laugh; it’ll make you cry; and it’ll make you think to yourself, Hmm, am I too old to take karate lessons? Watch it. I guarantee you’ll love it.
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