Tuesday, May 3, 2022

TV Stuff

See previous TV postings in reverse chronological order by hitting the "Television" label in the left margin. If you're lazy, just go here. Here's the most recent extensive retrospective rundown.

Severance (on AppleTV+) is a mindfuck series straight out of the kooky PBS dramas of the 70s (The Prisoner being the most obvious, but I particularly remember "Steambath", where the patrons of a grimy NYC steambath gradually realize they're in the afterlife and the Puerto Rican kid who handles the towels might be God).

It's very measured, teasing out its premise cagily, but when you see the series finale, you'll understand why. Eight episodes methodically coil a spring that releases in glorious catharsis in that finale, which has an unheard-of 9.8/10 rating on IMDB, rivaling the "International Asassin" episode of The Leftovers, my favorite single episode of TV (so great that I nearly can't handle it). FYI, my second favorite was this Doctor Who. The Severance finale would be a close #3.

Note: rewatch the finale. It's intended to be viewed twice.

Cockpit Casual (on YouTube) is great but impossible to describe. Sort of a chill aviation chowhounding travel show featuring the music of the pilot/creator's jazz guitarist father. Watch the 10 minute preview, and here are all the episodes.

I did not like Yellowstone. I did like 1883 (on Paramount+), a prequel from the same people. I might have enjoyed 1883 less if I'd seen Yellowstone first. Do with this info what you'd like. But if you're interested in luxuriously-shot western panoramas, fine acting (including Sam Elliott at his best), and a plot you don't need to follow real closely, bask in the untold millions it cost to produce this thing. The catch is you'll need to sign up for a month or two of Paramount+. But if you're not darting in and out of streaming services - a month here and a month there - you're not doing it right.

Better Call Saul (on AMC) is killing it this season.

Less recommended:

Pachinko (on Apple), a would-be sweeping inter-generational epic about Japanese mistreatment of Koreans, starts off good, but doesn't tie anything together, leaving a mess. Seems like most viewers, touched by the heavy-handed heart-wrenching victimhood, didn't mind, but I have a persistent need for things to make sense (in 20 years, that utterance will strike people's ears as evidently autistic).

Russian Doll gets great reviews, and I made it through season 1, but in season 2 all characters sound exactly like star/creator/writer Natasha Lyonne. Many puppets, one mouth. That familiar blunder of unchecked auteur excess drives me nuts. I am also not nearly as charmed by Natasha Lyonne's character as Natasha Lyonne appears to be. So many female show-runners strive (consciously or not) to be Mary Tyler Moore, offering series as proof-of-concept of their own delightfulness (most recently Better Things comes to mind). Moore did it transparently, and we fell in love with Mary Richards organically. But ever since, creators see it as a model to solicit adoration of their irresistible irrepressibility. They yearn to throw their hats in the air, freeze frame it, and turn the world on with her smile.

Raised by Wolves started off stiff and dry and, this last season, dissolved into a plume of useless sawdust.

Peacemaker is by far the best manic comic strip show. The quirks are extravagantly self-conscious (it's not only women making flagrant bids for quirk adoration), but there's some genuine brilliance. Yet the nutritional value was awfully low.

Righteous Gemstones is a very good and well-crafted show needlessly wrapped in stupendously dumb and gratuitous vulgarity. It's like The Wire with dick jokes; Succession with literal feces filling the screen. It's like they shot it, realized it was way too good, and had a roomful of semi-illiterate 14 year olds give it a polishing pass.

I can't forgive Station Eleven. One of my favorite things to ponder is post-apocalyptic flourishing. Outpouring of humanity and creativity under impediment. Rising to occasions and refocusing on fundamentals. Station Eleven treats the scenario with shallow actorly pretentiousness, like a project workshopped by the dramatics department at Topeka State University. So heavy-handed, so maddeningly untrue to its proposition. The world blows up and it's just like summer drama camp.

Maniac (on Netflix) was pretty good, but yet another self-consciously clever omnibus. An entire genre appears to have sprung out of Legion, which I loved, but which was too kooky for mainstream audiences. The pitch these days, I suppose, is "Like Legion, only a bit more grounded!" Which makes as much sense as "Like Salvador Dali, but a little less surreal." Just watch Legion! But don't expect it to make sense (yes, I'm a hypocrite, but so are all of you, suddenly developing antipathy to incoherence whenever stuff gets genuinely creative!).

Foundation (on Apple) was, alas, unbearable. It made Westworld look coherent.

On Deck:

New season of My Brilliant Friend
Slings and Arrows
Hawkeye on Disney+ (starring Tony Dalton from Better Call Saul)
Wolf Hall
Rake on Amazon
Un Village Francais
Travelers on Netflix

And, once I finally hook up Hulu: The Great, Dropout, and Difficult People.

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