Sunday, April 15, 2018

Four TV Series

Rick and Morty (Adult Swim) is more of a religious experience for me than just some TV show, but the new season's not coming for a long, long time (console yourself with the Pocket Morty game and/or Rick and Morty comics). Here are some other recos, for the meanwhile, for TV worth your time at a moment when there's so much entertainment out there:

Atlanta (FX) actually may be as good as Rick and Morty, though it's a wildly different show. I watched back when no one did, and wondered why they didn't, and I watch it now that everyone loves it, and still don't understand why they don't love it even more. Rigorously disciplined, unpredictably surreal, ridiculously nuanced, subtle, and honest comedy about the black experience in Atlanta, though you don't need to be black to enjoy it. The protagonist is a hip hop artist, but you don't need to like hip hop (he's a pot dealer, too, and, sorry, but you really do need to be a pot dealer). This series is so good it creates an obligation to review you. How much subtlety can you appreciate? How wide can you open your perspective? How flexibly can you stretch your expectations and assumptions? Above all, how much dense, luscious quality are you able to absorb? This show respects its audience's intelligence as much as Rick and Morty does, and it's more insightful than I'm able to insightfully appreciate. Whoever and whatever you are, it's got you beat. Resistance is futile.

Legion (FX) is the only comics-based (but live-action) series I watch, but it's totally different from the rest of the genre. This is an experimental, batshit-crazy, sizzlingly creative show about the razor's edge between the insane and the extraordinary. I normally don't like showy indulgence, and I generally need stuff to make sense, yet this show is 100% indulgent and non-linear and I absolutely don't mind. I drop everything and let it process me, and that's not my usual groove. It's only possible via immeasurable workmanship and brilliance. Watch on the best quality display you can.

Trust (FX), a limited series on the Getty kidnapping directed by the great Danny Boyle, is sort of in the mode of HBO's "The Young Pope", which I loved but wouldn't recommend to absolutely everyone (please give it a try; you'll know quickly if it's for you, and I think it's truly brilliant). It presents a richly absorbing slice of an unfamiliar life with gorgeous technicals, inspired acting, and just enough loopy surprises to keep you properly entertained. I'm a big fan of Donald Sutherland, who plays Getty.

Barry (HBO) is about a hit man who decides to go into acting, the sort of broad set-up you'd expect a SNL alum (Bill Hader) to make his shticky vehicle, but it's way deeper and better than that. What if the creator/star of some shticky vehicle just absolutely poured himself into the task, giving it thoughtful, deep polish and making it all meticulously truthful? Not everyone got the memo; Henry Winkler unsurprisingly adds 80's sitcom-style broad overacting, and, despite palpable spit and polish a few labels still show. This isn't a breathtaking work of art ala Atlanta, but it's pretty terrific.

I guess I'm an "FX man", whatever that even means...

Quick notes:

I've finally got around to Narcos (Netflix). Good immersive entertainment, but the heavy-handed narration (in every single episode) is a drag, and there's nothing real deep about it.

I just binge-watched Halt and Catch Fire (AMC), and I get why people love it, and don't regret the time spent, but will I grab you by your collar and scream in your face you until you agree to watch? Nyuh.

I will, however, collar-grab you over The Leftovers (HBO), which has finished. Absolutely sublime, and every season blows away the one before (and it started great)!

The Americans (FX), one of my favorites, is still terrific in its final season, though it's built such lofty expectations for itself that fans whine about any less-than-sublime moments. On my must-binge all-time list, it's just after Breaking Bad. Poor Martha!

The Expanse (Syfy) is just starting up again. If you hate sci-fi, this won't convert you, but if you're the least bit open-minded, this is worth it. Note that it gets better after the first season (but you must watch all; it's very plotty).

I'm just starting to watch the new series Killing Eve (BBC America) and The Chi (Showtime). No opinions yet. I'll also be watching season 2 of Westworld (HBO)...skeptically. I'm still actually watching Homeland (Showtime), purely for mindless entertainment (which it still provides), and also to enjoy a refreshing drink every time Claire Danes' chin trembles.

I can't wait for Better Call Saul (AMC) to start up again.

As always, I highly recommend reading Alan Sepinwall's recap/review after each episode. Here's his abbreviated index, or just google an episode title plus Sepinwall.

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