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The Best TV Show You're Not Watching (June 2022)

There's a glut of exceptional TV shows on the air right now. It seems like every company under the sun has gotten its own streaming service, and that's on top of all of the channels one can find on basic cable. As such, it's hard to keep up with every single great series that comes out. Naturally, virtually everyone keeps up with the big-name shows that have come out as of late, such as "Obi-Wan Kenobi" and "Ms. Marvel." But if one's willing to do a little digging, there's a treasure trove of greatness waiting to be found.

One such series can be found over on HBO and HBO Max. "Barry" recently ended its excellent 3rd season, while "Made for Love" was just canceled after its stellar two seasons. But if you need something to tide yourself over from all of that, HBO has something that might hit close to home for anyone familiar with the movie industry as we know it. The first two episodes have aired so far, with six more set to come out every Monday until July 25. And there are some very good reasons why this series deserves a place on your watchlist if you're looking for something new to check out. 

Irma Vep is a cinephile's dream

HBO's miniseries "Irma Vep" draws inspiration from the 1996 movie of the same name that was also written and directed by Olivier Assayas. It follows a disillusioned movie star who's hoping to reinvigorate her passion and career by starring as Irma Vep in a remake of "Les Vampires."

"Irma Vep" drips with an insider's knowledge of Hollywood and the machinations of getting anything made in this day and age. The show particularly finds itself fascinated with the onslaught of Marvel projects, making it even more apropos that the show's coming out at the same time as the studio's "Ms. Marvel." Mira Harberg (Alicia Vikander) has just starred in a massive blockbuster called "Doomsday," and she soon receives an offer to star in the upcoming sequel to "Silver Surfer." However, none of that truly interests her. Instead, she wants to work with a genuine auteur and film a remake of "Les Vampires."

It functions as a commentary on the current state of Hollywood. The only thing anyone ever wants to make is adaptations of pre-existing intellectual property. Even the project Mira so desperately wants to make is itself a remake, albeit one based on a far more obscure title. But that seems to be the only thing anyone wants to make these days. 

Assayas also offers viewers a glimpse into the ennui that plagues Hollywood actors. Mira is one of the most in-demand performers within the show's reality, yet whenever we see her, she's being carted away to hotel rooms and sets. The remake is being shot on location in Paris, France, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and yet we hardly see the city. All we see are the artifices of a world trying to contain Mira. 

Alicia Vikander proves she's a star

Alicia Vikander is a singular talent. She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her work in "The Danish Girl," and since that time, she's had quite the meteoric rise in Hollywood herself. Shortly after her Oscar win, she began appearing in more blockbuster fare, such as "Jason Bourne" and "Tomb Raider." But now she's returning to her more indie roots with "Irma Vep."

In the two episodes we've seen so far of "Irma Vep," Vikander embodies a listless A-lister who wants something more out of her career than just whatever will do well with the box office. One can almost see a parallel between Mira and Vikander as the latter had what's arguably her biggest box office draw to date with "Tomb Raider," only to follow it up with a slew of smaller projects, including "Blue Bayou," "The Green Knight," and, of course, "Irma Vep." 

Vikander's rise to superstardom helps ground the series, and even though we, as the viewer may know all of this is fictitious, it feels more real with Vikander's inclusion, almost as though we're seeing a real starlet figure out which direction she wants to take her career and all of the forces trying to get her to do something different. 

Critics adore the series

Given its proximity to Hollywood and the entertainment industry, it perhaps should come as no surprise to hear that the group of people talking about "Irma Vep" the most are critics. While the show may not have caught on yet with general audiences, critics have sung the show's praises, and it currently stands at a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes

Shirley Li of The Atlantic has this to say of the miniseries, "The new Irma Vep may seem to be built solely for cinephiles. But it's accessible and self-aware in how it giddily honors and skewers the modern entertainment industry." Meanwhile, Richard Roeper of The Chicago Sun-Times wrote, "It's all very clever and very much inside baseball, and there are times when it's almost exhausting keeping up with all the byzantine developments, but 'Irma Vep' is worth the effort for its many moments of inspired lunacy."

Even if you haven't seen the 1996 film, which you can watch on HBO Max, or don't have any real interest in the inner workings of the entertainment industry, most critics seem to be in agreement that it doesn't matter. At its core, it's a show about finding oneself when everyone else is saying to be someone different. At only two episodes so far, it's already one of the best shows to come out in 2022, and with six more episodes remaining, it's time to get in on the series now so that you don't have to play catch-up later.