Tag Archives: Netflix

BINGE OR NO: Netflix’s GLOW

(Soon to be cross-posted on Agony Booth.com)

When I was a kid, my mother was a huge fan of soap operas. In the days before DVR, and before Netflix made binge-watching a “thing,” she would record an entire week’s worth of her favorite soap, Days of Our Lives, while she worked, so that she could spend her Saturdays catching up with all her fictional best friends and lovers and their increasingly wacky lives.

As a result, my father would often chide my mother, a career woman with a Masters degree, for her deep-abiding love for this evil-twin having, devil possessing, amnesia abusing, secret love child coveting, art form. Whenever he did so, my mother would wryly reply that my father’s ability to watch countless hours of WWF wrestling was pretty much precisely the same thing as her Days of Our Lives addiction. Wrestling, she claimed, was, after all, a soap opera geared toward men. This argument undoubtedly horrified my father, who would inevitably respond by turning up the volume on his wrestling match full blast, as if to say that no series that LOUD AND OBNOXIOUS could possibly be equivalent to a “ladies’ television show.” But deep down, I think he knew that my mother had a point.

This exact same epiphany is experienced by GLOW’s co-female lead Debbie Eagen, a former soap star, who must now try her hand at a role where your ability to “pretty cry” is not nearly as important as the depth which you could realistically portray the pain of having someone twice your size sit on your face.

Based on an actual television series of the same name that took to the airwaves for four seasons, during the years of 1986 through 1990 (many of the wrestling personas portrayed here are based on characters from the original series), Netflix’s GLOW is a ten half-hour episode long comedy set piece about the maybe (?) origins of women’s wrestling.

The REAL cast of GLOW

Leading this large and diverse cast of mostly female actresses is Allison Brie, as Ruth Wilder, a grown-up theater geek, and out-of-work actress, who is desperate to find an on-screen role where her character does more than bring a powerful male lead coffee, or tell him that his wife is on line 2.

That is, perhaps, one of the most interesting things about GLOW the series, the way in which it argues that women’s wrestling, as an art form, was actually pretty progressive, particularly for its time period, in the way in which it championed strong females, both as the heroes and the villains of its stories. Not such a big accomplishment, you say? Think about what a HUGE deal everyone made over the Wonder Woman movie actually featuring a female superhero, and how long that film took to make it to the big screen. And this is 2017, over thirty years after women’s wrestling premiered on TV!

In GLOW, Ruth is able to take on the role of her dreams, that of a female lead villain, who is strong, tough, takes no prisoners, and would sooner pour scalding hot coffee on a man’s head, than serve it to him black with two sugars. I mean, sure, women’s wrestling had its down sides too. Most of the “characters” on the show were thinly drawn, and often aggressively offensive, racial, and socio-cultural stereotypes: The Terrorist, The Welfare Queen, The Evil Communist, and an Asian Character named Fortune Cookie. Not to mention how the female wrestlers were often hooted at, degraded, and objectified by men, as they rolled around with one another in scantily clad outfits. Yet, arguably all those same downsides applied to men’s wrestling as well. So, there’s an odd sense of equal opportunity here, when it comes to poor taste.

Speaking of objectification, those men out there looking to revel in hot bodacious babes engaging in Sapphic aggressive dances with one another might be a bit disappointed with Netflix’s GLOW. With one or two exceptions, this is not a particularly glammed up bunch of ladies. 80’s fashions (which are showcased in all their neon-tinted, big-hair having, glory here) do NOBODY any favors, appearance wise, at least by modern-day beauty standards. Even Allison Brie, who in real life is quite beautiful, has her looks noticeably, and purposefully, toned down here. Her character Ruth wears little to no makeup throughout most of the series, and often prefers shapeless, oversized, outfits to more form-fitting attire.

In terms of characters, Brie’s Ruth, Betty Gilpin’s Debbie, and Marc Maron’s schlocky, but occasionally paternal, showrunner Sam take center stage here during most of the episodes. The rest of the cast serves largely as comedic support, their roles limited mainly to the stereotypical characters they play on the wrestling mat. As a fan of Jenji Kohan’s other Netflix Series Orange is the New Black, I found myself wanting to see more of many of these characters, and to learn what brought them to this unique job opportunity, possibly through the use of OINTB inspired flashbacks. There are no such flashbacks in GLOW.

Just as OINTB’s Season 1 story was largely about Piper and her complicated love-hate relationship with Alex, so too was GLOW’s Season 1 story predominately about Ruth and her friendship turned antagonistic relationship with Debbie. (I’d tell you why it turns antagonistic, but I’m afraid that would be a bit of a spoiler.) Perhaps, if the show gets picked up for a second season, GLOW, like OINTB, will branch out and feature more of the backstories of its intriguing and diverse ensemble cast.

As for the series itself, though it takes a little while to find its footing and humorous tone, GLOW is sudsy good fun, with just the right amount of 80’s camp, and a pro-feminist message thrown in for good measure. At a mere five-hour run time, GLOW is easy and painless to breeze through. The live-taping of the wrestling show featured in the final episode serves for an exciting and entertaining, colorful capstone to the series. And you will undoubtedly find yourself missing GLOW a bit when its over.

So, in the end, my mom was right.  Wrestling, and shows inspired by wrestling, are a bit like soap operas. Both are guilty pleasures, for sure. But if you look closely, you might just find a little bit of substance underneath those suds.

FINAL VERDICT: BINGE IT!

Leave a comment

Filed under glow, netflix

Binge or No: Netflix’s The Santa Clarita Diet

(Will be cross-posted at Agony Booth.com)

Zombies are the new vampires, that’s for sure. So, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood decided to make them more physically attractive, grant them spacious homes in Suburbia, and give them white-collar jobs. The Santa Clarita Diet is about as pro-zombie as a television series can get . . . minus the gag-inducing scenes filled with vomit, and the occasional image of a limb grossly detaching itself from the human body . . .

The ten-episode thrill-omedy, which premiered on Netflix February 3rd, stars Drew Barrymore as Sheila Hammond, a West Coast suburban realtor, whose recent infection with a zombie virus has given her a renewed zest for life, and a passion for eating men’s balls off . . . literally. (This isn’t your mother’s “Mmmm, Braiiiiiinnnnnnns” type zombie. Sheila is way less wasteful, when it comes to munching on parts of the male anatomy. Oddly enough, no females were harmed in the making of the first season of the series. Is that sexist?)

Early promotional spots for the series actually skirted the whole “Sheila is a zombie” issue entirely, and instead cleverly featured the cast touting the benefits of a “new diet” that offers its participants “tons of energy,” and “makes them look great.” Sheila, herself, is a testament to this, as Drew begins the series looking rather frumpy (and with something disturbingly weird going on with her eyebrows), then subtly becomes more glamorous with each passing episode . . . until the last two, but that’s another story.

In fact, if it weren’t for (1) Sheila’s new zombie-like dependence on her id making her increasingly impulsive, hungry, and reckless; and (2) the whole “murdering people is wrong, and disposing of bodies is hard work” thing, zombie-ism, at least as it’s portrayed in the series, would seem like a pretty workable lifestyle.

As for Sheila’s supporting cast, we have Timothy Olyphant playing waaaaaay against type as Joel Hammond, Sheila’s mild-mannered nebbish of a realtor husband, who’s supportive faux cheeriness, as the body count piles up, borders on frenzied and manic. Basically, this is the kind of role you’d see Matthew Broderick playing, if this series came out about ten-years earlier.

Rounding out the main cast are: Liv Hewson as Abby, Sheila’s and Joel’s rebellious daughter (who is way cooler about the fact that her mother occasionally murders the neighbors, and feasts on human flesh in her spare time, than I would be); Sklyer Gisondo, as Abby’s nerdy and way too-loyal friend / paranormal enthusiast, Eric, and Dan Palmer and Richard T. Jones, as Sheila’s and Joel’s feuding cop neighbors, Rick and Dan.

The Santa Clarita Diet also features Nathan Fillion in a cameo that’s either truly thankless, or patently hilarious, depending on how you view it.

As for the series itself, I think it takes a few episodes to find its footing. The show seems to struggle early on, at least in my opinion, to strike the appropriate balance between comedy and horror. For example, in one scene, you might see Sheila and Joel bathed in blood and guts, as they try to bury the gnarly organs of body that the former just devoured in the woods, without being discovered by the cops.

And then, in the scene immediately following that, Sheila will be depicted, clad in a garbage bag, chasing after, and unsuccessfully attempting to wrestle, a rooster, like she’s a character in a Looney Tunes cartoon?

The series also takes its sweet time in finding the unique voices of its characters, in ways that go beyond them just spouting cheesy zombie and murder puns to one another for 25-minutes. The writing for Sheila, in particular, suffers in the early episodes, as we are told that the realtor mom’s personality has changed drastically, since she was infected, but have to take the rest of the cast’s word for it, as she begins showing signs of infection within the first five minutes of the series.

I was actually planning to discontinue the show after the first two episodes, but soldiered on, and found myself completely hooked around episode four. Around that time, the writing for the series becomes tighter, the jokes funnier, and the main characters become more consistent and relatable in their personalities.

In particular, I found the acting of the teen characters on the show, Abby and Eric, very strong. Their story line adds a sort of sweetness, and a touch of realism to the series, that I think would be lacking otherwise.

Another important point to note, before you venture into The Santa Clarita Diet is that it’s pretty friggin gross. As in, don’t watch it while you are eating . . . EVER! Maybe you folks who just love watching The Walking Dead, and really dig body horror, will be totally cool with this. But I found my eyes averting the screen pretty much any time one of the characters projectile vomits (soooooooo much vomit on this show), or a painted toenail pops off and rolls under the coffee table, or Drew’s Sheila is seen slowly and messily gorging on an arm, while looking much like a baby eating her first spaghetti and meatballs dish. These kinds of scenes amount to roughly a quarter of each episode’s run time, so be warned.

As for trademark zombie lore and the series’ central mystery, i.e. how Sheila came to be infected with the zombie virus in the first place, there isn’t really much there, at least in the first season, which focuses more on the inconveniences and unintentional hilarity of suburban zombie living than any sort of complex rules and/ or zombie origin stories. The mythos that is presented is rather vague and superficial, though I suspect that aspect of the show will be built upon, should The Santa Clarita Diet be picked up for a second season. Still, this might annoy some of you paranormal enthusiasts out there, who tend to like a bit more world-building with your blood, guts and gore.

In short, if you are someone who: (1) likes a good laugh, and a unique take on an old reliable horror movie stable, (2) doesn’t mind lots of gross shots of vomit and disemboweled corpses, (3) doesn’t care too much about origin stories, and (4) is patient enough to get through a rough first few episodes, The Santa Clarita Diet might be the lifestyle change you are seeking. And by “lifestyle change” I mean “five hours seated on your couch watching a show on Netflix, while not eating.” (Did I mention before that you shouldn’t be eating while watching this show?)

Verdict: BINGE IT . . . with discretion.

 

3 Comments

Filed under netflix, The Santa Clarita Diet, tv series review, Uncategorized

Black Mirror Mini-Binge: A Beginner’s Guide To Entering The Void

Cross posted on Agony Booth.com

With a series title based on the black, yet translucent, and sometimes eerily sinister-looking, screen that stares back at you from your sleeping smart phone or tablet, the British-based television anthology Black Mirror has slowly (but surely) garnered cult status, since its UK debut back in 2011. Touted by many as a modern-day Twilight Zone for Technophobes, Black Mirror’s standalone, but thematically related, episodes sagely (and often savagely) tackle the inane nuances of modern day conveniences, while, at the same time, contemplating the various ways in which said conveniences could potentially lead to the catastrophic downfall of society as we know it. Needless to say, it’s not uncommon to finish watching an episode of Black Mirror, and feel just the slightest bit like slitting your own wrist, because the vision of the future it presents is so gosh darn bleak.


This is not to say that Black Mirror is a bad series. On the contrary, most of the time, it’s a pretty friggin awesome one. In fact, on numerous occasions, I’ve found myself utterly spellbound by a particular episode’s creative insightfulness, not to mention the sheer delicious terror it induced in me while watching. On just as many occasions, topics presented during the episode have sparked spirited, sometimes very angry, conversations among my friends regarding various forms of social media and modern technology and their inherent downsides.


And yet, Black Mirror is certainly not for everybody, nor is it appropriate for all occasions. As such, it’s not the kind of show for which I’d advocate binging all four seasons of the series (comprising just 13 episodes in total) in a single sitting. That would likely be way too intense, even for the toughest, most mentally stable, of television viewers among us.


No . . . Black Mirror is most definitely the kind of show best absorbed in moderation, much like fine wine, double fudge brownies, sex, and the Home Shopping Network (if viewed while feeling particularly insomniatic and thus vulnerable to cheap advertising ploys).


Fear not, television fanatics and eclectic cult series connoisseurs! I have a relatively risk-free solution to the Black Mirror Conundrum. For those planning to embark upon a steady diet of Black Mirror, I propose the following fail-safe Introductory Mini-Binge. It’s only three episodes long. Just enough to whet your appetite, and get you used to Black Mirror’s unique flavor, without immediately sending you into uber-depressive strait-jacket territory. Let’s explore, shall we?


Recommendation #1: The Entire History of You: Series 1, Episode 3


Sites like Facebook and Instagram, even the photo cache on your cell phone, have made millions of dollars by capitalizing on the rose-colored world of human nostalgia. Not too long ago, a trip down memory lane required flipping through the pages of a carefully cultivated photo album or heavily autographed yearbook, rewinding a lovingly shot, albeit slightly amateur, home video, or retrieving the plastic key that unlocks the childish scrawl adorning a long unopened diary.


Now, you’ve got Facebook creepily combining with music all your digital photos, in order to create a “Your Year in Review” montage. Anyone with an internet connection could probably find at least one of your baby pictures online, if they looked hard enough. And your own cell phone exists as a constant daily reminder of that ill-advised drunken selfie you and your friends took in the public restroom of a gross dive bar in Hell’s Kitchen at 3 a.m. that one hazy Saturday night.


In the Entire History of You, Black Mirror takes this unsettling-if-you-really-think-about-it concept one step further. It contemplates a computer chip in your brain that records everything you see and hear for purposes of instant (and, if you aren’t careful) obsessive repeat viewing. Anyone who has ever said or done something stupid, and then aggressively punished themselves for it, by replaying said stupid actions or words over and over again, ad nauseum, each time finding a new and improved reason for self-loathing, could probably imagine the egregious self-harm they could inflict upon themselves, if given the opportunity to actually re-watch in unfiltered HD-TV full color, their own darkest moments.

The reverse could be problematic too. I could imagine after a particularly shitty day, it would be rather tempting to get lost for days in the vortex of that awesome summer you had junior year of college, where every day was sun-filled, and every night was a party (or, at least it seemed that way at the time).
Picture a successful young professional, who gets home from a bad day at work to find a strange man in his house, who may, or may not, be schtupping his wife on the regular. You could imagine how dangerous this particular type of technology could be in the hands of such an emotionally volatile man, both for himself and those around him.


Yes, the view of future society painted by the Entire History of You is a pretty ugly one. But it’s one that will definitely make you think about the unspoken benefits of selective memory, forgetfulness, and plain old outright ignorance, specifically, the ways in which, those, seemingly negative qualities of human nature could, in some ways, save us all from our own ever-approaching insanity. (Fun Fact: Robert Downey Jr. actually optioned this episode for a full-length film . . . another solid reason to check it out, if the above hasn’t succeeded in swaying you.)


Recommendation #2: Fifteen Million Merits, Series 1, Episode 2


For better or worse, reality television has become a mainstay of prime-time television viewing. And why the heck not? It’s cheap to produce. It’s mind numbingly addictive to watch. And it’s oddly refreshing in its emphasis on real, flawed, “average” individuals, competing for your attention, as opposed to the beautiful airbrushed heartthrobs and starlets of television yesteryear . . . the ones who seemed genetically pre-designed to make us all feel so gosh darn inadequate.


Fifteen Million Merits is a not-so-subtle commentary on reality television, as well as our society’s increasing reliance on using avatars and “virtual selves,” to carry out our own personal fantasies in a pixelated online world, without the “hassle” of having to getting out of our pajamas and actually leave our homes.


While the Entire History of You takes place in the not-so-distant future, inside a world that looks suspiciously like our own, Fifteen Million Merits contemplates a universe that’s a bit farther removed, and yet not entirely incomprehensible, especially in light of our society’s current trajectory toward an increased living out of our lives online.


In this alternate version of our world, men and women live entirely through their avatars, working and exercising compulsively, not to better themselves, but to buy shinier duds, and better opportunities for the computerized creatures designed to represent them the digital world.


Our main character in this story, Bing, has grown surprisingly complacent with this new unreal world. We watch him in the first few minutes of the episode, simply sleepwalking through the virtual annoyances of his daily life. But then, he meets Sybil from Downton Abbey, and promptly falls in love with her. (As men do!). After that, all bets are off.


Fifteen Million Merits is fascinating in its deft, and surprisingly believable, world building, excoriating in its commentary on modern media and its compulsive need to appeal to the lowest common denominator, and horrifying, when you recognize how close to real life the world painted in this episode happens to be. In short, it’s a can’t miss hour of television for any burgeoning viewer.

Recommendation #3: San Junipero, Series 3, Episode 4


Since my first two Black Mirror episode introductory picks were admittedly pretty darn dark, I figure it’s time to lighten things up a bit, with what may very well be Black Mirror’s most optimistic, heart-warming, surprisingly pro-technology, episodic feature to date. If the Entire History of You’s underlying purpose is to warn viewers of the dangers of nostalgia and living in the past, San Junipero exists as its idealistic counterpoint. This episode, which takes place, almost entirely in a glossy, almost-too-perfect, embodiment of 1980’s California, views both nostalgia and memory as a circuitous route toward eternal happiness, love, second chances, and, yes, immortality.


Shy, bookish Yorkie, a child of the 80’s, never had the chance to experience much in life. That is until she enters the virtual world of San Junipero, enters a dance club filled with strangers, and encounters the effervescent, free-spirited, Kelly, a wild child, who is hiding secrets of her own.


This surprisingly fun-filled, oddly “happy,” installment of the Black Mirror franchise has a little twist in it, one that I won’t spoil for you here, thought the more observant of you will likely catch on to it, within the episode’s first fifteen minutes. Suffice it to say, this episode has a heck of a lot more heart than most Black Mirror installments, and it’s certainly a good deal more optimistic. Yet, despite its deceptively simplistic, lighthearted, nature, San Junipero has a lot of intelligent things to say about the nature of mortality, love, relationships, and the legacies we create for ourselves and one another just by following our dreams and giving in to our own desires.

If Entire History of You and Fifteen Million Merits left you feeling super depressed and wary of the future of humanity, this third Black Mirror pick will ensure that you can wake up tomorrow, fully capable of getting out of bed, and maybe even put an extra spring in your step as you do it.

So, there you have it, my top three picks for a healthy introduction into the dangerously addictive world of the Black Mirror. Are you ready to dive into the void?

Leave a comment

Filed under black mirror, Uncategorized

Binge or No? – Netflix’s 3%

Cross-posted at Agony Booth.com

cover-image

Though it may have been ever-so-slightly overshadowed by a certain other Netflix series whose name may or may not rhyme with Shmilmore Shmirls, November 25th brought with it the debut of 3%, an eight-episode Brazilian series that may not be quite as innovative as it believes itself to be but that doesn’t make it any less engaging or timely.

Imagine a world where the economic elite build a wall to keep out the lower economic classes, and then take it one step further, by putting an entire island’s length between a small percentage of rich privileged folks, and the poor underprivileged masses who make up the societal majority. Crazy, right? Unfortunately, not in this day and age.

looking-over-masses

At first blush (and second, and third), 3% is a dystopian young adult fantasy, the likes of which you’ve seen before in countless successful novel trilogies and films. The premise is simple: at some point in the not-so-distant future, society alters itself in some way that it believes will increase the peace among the people. So, a group of young attractive folks of varied social backgrounds and dubious moral compositions, must compete with one another, to prove they are worthy of living in the upper echelons of this new society.

elimiinated

What’s refreshing (albeit, a bit frightening) about 3%’s view of future dystopian society, is that, unlike some of its predecessor’s visions (A society based on individuals’ possession of singular random personality traits? HUH? A society based on the fact that rich people, with terrible taste in clothing, get their kicks out of watching poor teenagers murder one another? WHAT?), this series’ premise actually seems fairly plausible.

you-deserve-it

In short, this is a future society based, at least ostensibly, solely on merit. Every year, all the 20 year olds in the poor part of the world (“the Inland”) compete with one another in a series of mental, physical, psychological, emotional, and team-building tests known as “the Process.” Those who score in the top three percent on those tests get to join the world of the elite on an island referred to as “the Offshore.”

I even liked how the tests involved in “the Process” actually required some intelligence, leadership, and cooperative thinking, and weren’t just about people beating the crap out of one another . . .

building-blocks

This is not to say that I think the fictional society created in 3% is a good idea. In fact, the series takes great pains to show you that it is not. Specifically, like any form of society premised upon separating the haves from the have-nots, it breeds corruption among those in power. It also seems to reward those most capable of deception, manipulation, and, at times, out-right violence, at the expense of those individuals who are honest and more docile.

do-anything

And, of course, like many series involving a dystopian society, this one includes a rebellious faction, hell-bent on overthrowing the current status quo, in exchange something “better.” In the 3%, these folks are referred to as “the Cause.”

But unlike some of the more simplistic dystopian stories, 3% is a bit less black-and-white in how it views its society. In fact, the arguable main villain of the story, Ezequiel, the person responsible for creating and running the process whereby the 3% are ultimately selected, is easily the most complex, multi-faceted, and interesting character in the series. Likewise, the members of “the Cause,” the would- be heroes of a tale like this, are shown to have some dubious, less than noble, motivations of their own, for doing the things they do.

covered-up

Character is something the 3% offers in abundance. There are some juicy intriguing characters here, ones that don’t fall into the pat stereotypes that tend to pervade this particular genre. The episodes are structured in the now-familiar format made popular by the TV series, Lost. Namely, each character (at least the important ones) get their own “centric” episode, which flashes back to key moments of their past, before whisking them back to the present in the Process, thereby illuminating how their experiences in the former, dictate or inform their actions in the latter.

climbing

To keep you entertained and guessing, the series also offers some clever twists along the way. Some of which you will guess quite easily, early on, even before the characters do. Others may genuinely surprise you.

One of the things I enjoyed, particularly about the earlier episodes of the series was the fact that, since I didn’t know any of these actors and I wasn’t reading a book about them told from a first-person perspective, I was never entirely sure which participants in the Process would be eliminated in a particular episode. In fact, more than once, a character I thought would be important to the story suffered an early elimination and became a complete non-entity.

elite

I would be remiss not to mention that the actors in 3% speak in Brazilian Portuguese. So, if that’s not your first language, some adjustments will have to be made before beginning the series on Netflix. A number of dubbing options, including English, are available. But the message boards are informing me that the English dubbing kind of sucks. Therefore, I recommend watching 3% as I did, in its native tongue, with your chosen language as subtitles. I promise it won’t detract from your viewing pleasure.

Another caveat: Given the heavy amount of exposition generally required for the world-building of dystopian series’ like this one, I found the first episode of 3% to be a bit slow-moving, and some of the dialogue involved in it to be unnatural, at best, and clichéd, at worst. If you feel as I did after watching episode 1, I recommend trying episode 2, anyway. It gets better.

surprise

In Summation: The 3% offers up many of the structural, thematic, and narrative devices you’ve come to expect from dystopian young adult stories. However, it’s use of a plausible premise that will have you and your friends debating the merits of a sociological oligarchy based on merit, complex characters, and clever plotting overrides some of its more clichéd aspects for an entertaining and intelligent viewing experience . . . provided you’ve selected the proper subtitle settings prior to viewing.

FINAL ANSWER: BINGE IT!

Leave a comment

Filed under #3, netflix, Uncategorized

Binge or No?: Netflix’s Original Series: Easy

(The following post will eventually be cross-posted at Agony Booth.com.  Please check out all the cool movie reviews and TV recaps they have there!)

Easy

Given the company’s recent decision to shift their business model away from previously-released films, and toward more original programming, I suspect we will be seeing a lot more “television series” like Easy on Netflix, in the near future. The show itself — an eight-episode compilation of VERY loosely related stories, each involving some aspect of sex and romantic relationships in the 21st century — struck me more as a slyly disguised abbreviated pilot season for the entertainment platform, than an actual comprehensive Season 1 of an ongoing television series.

easy-again

Each episode features an attractive, more or less likeable, cast of B minus / C+ list Hollywood actors going about the sexy business of their respective upper middle-class lives. Orlando Bloom, New Girl’s Jake Johnson, and Dave Franco are probably the most recognizable faces you will see in Easy, which should give you an idea of the level of “star power” you will find here. Though there are definitely other faces and voices you will recognize. In fact, I think most of the fun of Easy is trying to pinpoint the failed television series or supporting role in a romantic comedy that has caused you to remember the visage of a particular Easy cast mate.

easy-series-2

That being said, you’ve got to imagine that the good folks at Netflix created Easy under the assumption that one or more of the episodes would receive a more favorable review by critics than the others, and that cast and storyline can get its own show. (One cast of characters finds themselves at the forefront of two episodes in the series, while the rest of the work-a-day schlubs only get one a-piece). And hey, if none of the episodes end up being well-reviewed, well there is always the option for an Easy: Season 2, with an entirely different cast and story lines.

easy-series-3

As for the individual episodes themselves, I found most of them, if not particularly memorable, at least pleasant and inoffensive enough (except for one episode, in particular, which featured, WAY too much female body hair for my liking. But I think that’s just a matter of personal preference. Maybe y’all really like looking at body hair, while sitting on your couch eating your Saturday morning cereal breakfast!) I certainly didn’t despise any of the characters featured in Easy. And there definitely wasn’t an episode of the series I watched, where I found myself saying, “Wow, this is so awful. I have to turn this off.”

If anything, part of me wishes some of the episodes were MORE controversial. I didn’t particularly feel like Easy had anything new and groundbreaking to say about sex and romance in the 21st century. In fact, in a post- Sex and the City age, I feel like most sex-related topics, including many of the topics covered in this series, have become part of the television mainstream.

easy-series-4

So what sex topics are covered in Easy? You may be wondering. Well, in one episode, a forty-something husband and father struggles with the fact that his wife has recently become the breadwinner in the family, and that makes him feel sexually emasculated. In another, a lesbian couple tries to navigate a budding sexual relationship, despite the fact that the two lovers have vastly different recreational interests. In a third episode, a happily married couple attempts to spice up their relationship, by using a Tinder-type dating app to find themselves a companion for experimentation with menage a trois. In a fourth tale, a middle-aged graphic novelist famed for detailing his sexual escapades in his works is nonplussed, when his most recent, millennial, lover documents her rendezvous with him in a slightly more modern, and definitely more invasive, form of media. In still a fifth story, one half of a Spanish couple –who speak mainly in subtitles throughout the episode– (GASP!) has an extramarital affair with an old flame.

easy-series-6

These are all topics that, had they been featured in a television series, say ten, or maybe even five years ago, may have seemed taboo, or at least titillating, but now, come across as commonplace, at best, and a bit ho-hum, at worst.

Ironically, probably the best story of the bunch, which also happens to be the one featured twice in the series, is also the most chaste, sexually speaking. It’s the one about two brothers, one straight-laced, the other a stoner, who decide to open a bootleg bar and brewery together, much to the dismay of the more conservative brother’s very pregnant wife.

Easy

Easy

In sum, while I wouldn’t recommend you drop everything this instant, and binge-watch Easy in its entirety (I’m sure you have much more exciting things to do with your Saturday nights, like laundry or toilet bowl cleaning, for example.), it may be worth a try, if for no other reason than to brush up on your character actor recognition skills, and to try and predict which of the eight of the episodes is destined to become Netflix’s next original series . . .

4 Comments

Filed under Easy, Uncategorized

Fangirls Fall Guide to 2016: Television Edition

(Cross posted at Imaginary Men.Net)

In Amy H. Johnson’s honest, funny and inspiring debut memoir “The Fangirl Files: True Tales and Tips from the Fandom Frontlines,” she embraces fangirling, not just a hobby, but as a way of life.  Whether it’s a favorite band, a beloved book series, an admired actor, or an adored television show, fangirling is a way we define ourselves.  We fangirl both to stand out from a crowd, and to connect with an entire world of people who share similar interests, in ways we never dreamed possible even a decade ago.  Through Fangirling, Amy, like many of us, found solace and comfort, excitement and adventure, independence and self-reliance and a loving extended network of like-minded, who can turn to, not just to discuss the latest Killers album, but to share in all the ups and downs life has to offer.

IG fangirlfiles.comThroughout “The Fangirl Files” Amy details her life from childhood, through adolescence into adulthood, using the various fandoms with which she associated as milestones along her thrilling journey. And this, of course, may lead you to wonder, what is Amy fangirling about now, in the Fall of 2016?

With the help of her fellow Fangirl friend (Me, Julie, naturally), Amy will share with us the things that get her all excited and fangirly right now.

I’ll play as well, because, why not? I’m a Fangirl too, after all.

Coming up we’ll discuss a few of our favorite things in 2016 from a wide variety of pop culture topics including television, movies, music, apps, podcasts, columns, and books. And you can weigh in on whether you agree with us, think we are totally nuts, or have your own recommendations. Because that’s what true fangirling is about, after all . . . . sharing our passion, expanding our horizons, and bonding over the things we all love. Also, let’s be honest, it’s about the cute boys . . . because who doesn’t love those?

Amy’s TV Picks

What I’m watching:

I have been binging on season four of The Americans. Perhaps “binging” isn’t the right word as sometimes an episode is so stressful it takes me days before I feel emotionally ready to watch the next one! I often wonder why this show has never had the same sort of pop culture fixation as other “prestige dramas” like Mad Men or Breaking Bad. It is also filled with conflicted anti-heroes and heroines and is intense, brilliant, suspenseful, heartbreaking and superbly acted (if you ever thought, “Awww, Felicity Porter is so adorable!” Keri Russell will kick the living sh*t out of your memory of her previous incarnation). Plot lines are artfully woven through multiple seasons so things that happened two seasons ago come back to haunt the characters. Under the layers of spy intrigue and danger is the story of a family trying to stay together through the mundane tasks of every day life, and the high stakes secret world of espionage. And it always bears repeating, “POOR MARTHA!” Watch it: Amazon, iTunes.

theamericans

What I can’t wait to watch:

I’m excited about season three of The Affair. This one is another under-the-radar show that critics and awarding bodies like but is also not part of the “Peak TV” conversation. I think that may be because it can contain some soap opera-y elements although I don’t think that detracts at all from the performances or really deep emotional places it goes to. It is another doozy of a show in terms of stressing me out but this one also makes me cry a lot because at the heart of it is the understanding that relationships­—with spouses, lovers, friends, parents, even enemies—are complex and often overwhelming. The first season featured the POV of the two characters having the affair Alison and Noah. Season two added the views of the spouses they cheated on, Cole and Helen. As we follow the frequently conflicting interpretations of what happened in each relationship, there’s also a central mystery unfolding known as, “Who Killed Scotty Lockhart.” Let me tell you, last season’s finale was a true Gasp-Out-Loud-What-Just-Happened-Holy-Sh*t! Kind of TV moment that made me miss a time when everyone watched TV shows at the same time so we could discuss them right afterwards. Of course the entire reason I even began watching this show was because of my Ultimate TV Boyfriend Joshua Jackson (Pacey 4eva!) who even got his own chapter in my book The Fangirl Files! Watch it: Showtime, November 20th.

If you’d rather laugh:

Try Billy on the Street (Hulu), Parks and Recreation (Hulu, Netflix) or my latest binge, Very British Problems (Netflix).

Julie’s TV Picks

Stranger Things (Netflix)

stranger-things

Admittedly, I was a bit late to the party on this one, if only because I thought it would be too scary for my wimpy, fraidy cat, ass. (Also because I’d heard the ending involved a full-sized slug coming out of somebody’s mouth, which pretty much describes every nightmare I’ve had from the age of six until forever.) If you’re an eighties kid, you’ll love the overload of nostalgia you will inevitably feel for a simpler time, when “fun” for kids involved just riding bikes around town or playing an intense round of Dungeons and Dragons, two activities that involve NO TECHNOLOGY AT ALL. Not to mention the fact that the film is jammed packed with pop culture references from the time: movies (E.T., It, Nightmare on Elm Street), music (Hazy Shade of Winter, Waiting for a Girl Like You); even school supplies (Teen Heroine Nancy owned and promptly displayed her very own Trapper Keeper during the series).

Even those who don’t exactly remember the eighties will still find plenty to love in this super fun series that is filled with action adventure, mystery, humor, horror, plucky characters you will root for, and cheesy special effects that will make you giggle. But most of all, I think Stranger Things is about the enduring nature of childhood friendship. Because when you are eleven years old your best friends are your whole wide world. It’s a feeling you never quite get back, after you inevitably grow into the self-absorption of your teenage years . . . Watch it: Now on Netflix

stranger-things-2

The Night Of (HBO)

Based on the British series Criminal Justice, this HBO crime procedural / mystery follows Naz, a well-behaved, dutiful Pakistani college student, who gets invited to a party, meets a hot girl, has the best sex of his life, and then proceeds to have the WORST SIX MONTHS EVER! Though its Naz’s plight and the mystery of Who Killed Andrea, that will draw you into the series, you’ll stay for the harrowing portrait of our criminal justice system, and the pressure it puts on everyone from beat cops, to detectives, to district attorneys to judges to arrive at a conviction for violent crimes, even if it means ignoring exculpatory evidence, not to mention the picture it paints of our prison system. The Rikers Island of The Night Of makes the Litchfield of Orange is the New Black look like a trip to the mall.

night-of

Also there’s a really cute cat in the series. And I’m just a sucker for really cute cats… Watch it: HBO On Demand

night-of-2

This is Us (NBC)

this-is-us

A husband whose wife is about to give birth to triplets; a Hollywood heartthrob experiencing malaise over the trajectory of his career; an overweight woman struggling to take back control over her life in a society that often obsesses over appearances; a successful businessman who has just reconnected with the biological dad who abandoned him at a fire station 36 years earlier. These are four very different people, with vastly different stories; people who seem to have nothing in common with one another but the date of birth that they share . . . OR DO THEY?

From the first moment of the pilot, this series instantly had me hooked with its cast of likeable, not to mention super attractive characters, their relatable stories, and the unexpected twists the writers seem to enjoy slipping into the end of every episode. And touching . . . man is this show touching. Bring your hankies folks, because if you are in the right mood when you are watching this, you will be happy crying all over the damn place! Watch it: Tuesday nights on NBC.

Stay tuned for Part 2: Movies!

7 Comments

Filed under Fall Fangirl Guide 2016, television, Uncategorized

BINGE OR NO: Degrassi: Next Class Season 1 – Review (May Contain Mild Spoilers)

degrassi next class

The Little Canadian Show that Never Grew Up made its premiere appearance this weekend (starting January 15th) in its new home (Netflix), with ten highly binge-able half hour long episodes. The episodes were all conveniently titled using hashtags to make them seem “all cool” and “millennial-approved” and stuff. Because, really, who wouldn’t want to watch something called #ThisCouldBeUsButYouPlayin and #SinceWeBeinHonest?

reaction shot

 

As the Proverbial Peter Pan of Television Shows, this little gem has been around in various iterations, since some time in the early eighties. (That’s a REALLY long time to be in high school!) As such, its seen a whole lot of cast members come and go, some of whom (well, mostly just Drake) went on to become major household names.

baby drake

call me on the cel

Admittedly, I’ve been a bit of a fairweather fan of Degrassi, which makes sense, seeing as I’m no longer exactly (cough, cough) part of its target age group. I was all about the show during the early “Paige, Spinner, Jimmy, Emma, Manny” years, but found myself watching a bit less diligently as time went on. This was so much the case, in fact, that when I readied myself to watch the new Degrassi: Next Class, I was surprised at how few of the current castmates I actually recognized from previous viewings.

dancing tiny

Like this guy . . . I had no clue who he was before I started watching.

Fortunately (though I’m sure it helps to have seen previous episodes, to provide context and understand inside jokes), Degrassi: Next Class functions pretty well as a standalone series. The characters’ personalities, their various relationships to one another, and their basic backstories, are pretty easy to pick up within the first episode or two. (Though I did often find myself consistently confused as to which characters were in which grade.) The rest of the gaps, you can fill in fairly easily, by paying a visit to your local Degrassi Wikia.

hug friends

I’m only a little ashamed to admit that I completed the entire season in a single weekend. And you know what? I really enjoyed the darn thing!

need girl talk

All the things I loved about “old school” Degrassi (the humor, the drama, the friendships, the cute little high school romances, the surprisingly sensitive tackling of current teen issues) were all there. But the series also had a new modern spin to it. Throughout the episodes, there was a pervasive undercurrent of online activity in all its various forms: texting, vid chatting, gaming, tweeting, cyber stalking. I found this to be a pretty accurate reflection of today’s world, in which most of our lives and relationships, particularly those of teenagers and young adults, are carried out online and through social media.

headline

headline 2

headline 3

headline 4

This fairly recent change to our society really impacts the way in which we all interact with one another. It also tends to lead to some pretty humiliating hijinks, the likes of which Jane Austen never could have predicted.

never talk no emojis

Issues addressed during this season included, to name a few: new feminism, cyber bullying and stalking, drug addiction, mental illness, masturbation, sexual consent, homosexuality and bicuriousity, depression, panic attacks, school shootings, STDs, and battling with terminal illnesses.

your keychain

keychain buz

Another thing I enjoyed about the new series was the wide array of characters. No matter who you are or were in high school, there’s going to be someone on this series with whom you could relate.

three some

Stand out performances for me this season, included Eric Osborne as Miles Hollingsworth, the guy who, at least on the surface, seems to have everything, tons of money, good looks, and the kind of superficial popularity most of people dream of in high school. However, as with most characters, Miles’ inner demons, anxiety, and the unrealistic expectations placed on him by his family and himself begin to take a toll on him in a major way throughout the season.

moody miles

This gives the Osborne the chance to show some real vulnerability, and unravel in a way that seems raw and real. It also makes the character’s journey intriguing and immersive. So, by the end of the season, when Miles is able to turn around and help someone else in need, the emotional gravity of his scenes with that character feel particularly well earned.

favorite son

For Olivia Scriven’s Maya Matlin, the shy band geek turned feminist rockstar, the issues she copes with this season are more external. As anyone who has ever published their work online can tell you, not everyone is going to like what you do, or agree with your message. And standing behind the safety of a telephone or laptop screen makes it a heck of a lot easier for those people to tell you exactly what they think of you, without fear of repercussion. It also makes it easier for those same people to find out personal details about your life that wouldn’t have been accessible ten, even five, years ago.

fingering blow mind

If you have ever felt unsafe or targeted, while you go about your daily life, for whatever reason, you can relate to the trauma and transformation Maya undergoes throughout the season. And Scriven does a nice job of portraying that unique mixture of fear and frustration.

reading

The third big stand out performance of the season, for me, was Spencer Macpherson, as the young Hunter Hollingsworth, an introverted gamer with a hair-trigger temper, who seems to teeter on the fine line between reserved dejection and uncontrollable anger, throughout the entire ten-episode season.

friends suck

 

 

It’s the kind of character, which, if put in the wrong hands, could seem at best, unbelievable, and, at worst, a cartoon villain. But Macpherson handles the role with a surprising sensitivity and finesse, offering the character of Hunter some complex and interesting layers that might not be successfully conveyed if the character were played by a lesser actor.

tearing up

But lest you think Degrassi: Next Class is all doom and gloom, there are a lot of laughs to be had throughout the season as well . . .

crying frank

not so bleak

. . . like, for example: an entire episode about masturbation, a classic sitcom-worthy misunderstanding involving online medical diagnoses, an important warning of the dangers of stuffing things down your pants to make your ass look larger, and a very special, highly meta, visit with the dad from Gilmore Girls.

dont know

holding my

In short, if you like teen dramas, with humor, heart, solid character development, and lots of talk about butts, junk and vibrators, Degrassi: Next Class is right up your alley. If not, stick to the shows about really old people . . . you know, the ones over 20 . . .

held back a grade

(This article has been cross posted at Happy Nice Time People.)

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Degrassi: The Next Generation, Uncategorized