Last time on TV Tuesday, I ran out of time to write about a collection of sitcoms I’ve been watching that are all produced by, sometimes written or directed by, and in one case even starring: Kenya Barris.
His first creation, the family sitcom Black-ish, is probably the most well-known. That show has a spin-off, Grown-ish, as well as a prequel, Mixed-ish. He also has a family sitcom on Netflix, #blackAF, in which he stars as a fictional version of himself.
I really like these shows, in part because they’re pretty good — fun and funny with good characters — but also because I think it’s so important for us white folks to sometimes just STFU and listen to Black voices. Most of these shows make deliberate attempts to reach out and share something important.
This has the potential to be short since it doesn’t feel that I have that much to say, but I did want to record a few thoughts. I have neither rant nor rave — just some heavy disappointment in one case. In the other case, for me, it’s more a sense of, “Well, what did you expect from a time-travel movie? Time travel is utterly absurd and inherently contradictory.”
The post’s title may have clued you in. This post is about Tenet (2020), the most recent Christopher Nolan movie, plus the most recent effort by his brother, Jonathan Nolan (and wife Lisa Joy), Westworld, season three (also 2020). I’m a little late to the party seeing both of these, but I was so disappointed in season two of Westworld, that I didn’t much care about season three (and nothing I heard encouraged me).
Last night (and into this morning) I binged on all that Nolan.
For me, one of the challenges of writing a blog post is coming up with a title. A scan of my Index shows I like short and punchy (with a dash of clever if I can manage it), and I’m not above using puns (in fact, quite love them). I wanted to call this Channel Surfing, but I’ve already used that title. (In retrospect, I should have called that one TV Triple. If only I’d known.)
Earlier this year I read a lot (see: this, this, this, or this). Lately I’m watching more TV, trying to whittle away at various watch lists. (For a retired guy, I have a lot of TODO lists. Lists on multiple ebook platforms, lists on multiple video streaming sites, household lists, personal lists,… I even have a list of local breweries to try.)
Here’s a list of what I’ve been watching lately. And a cutaway about cutaways.
During the last two weeks I re-watched Cowboy Bebop, an award-winning Japanese science fiction anime classic created in 1998. In contrast with a lot of anime, the show is so adult in its themes that only 12 of the 26 episodes were aired when it premiered on TV Tokyo in 1998. The full series wasn’t aired in Japan until the following year on Wowow, a private, premium satellite network.
In 2001 it was the first anime title ever broadcast on Adult Swim, so it was the first experience many Americans had with Japanese anime. Since then, because of its visuals, music, and themes, it has earned international acclaim, both with critics and audiences.
It’s a definite must-see for any fan of anime or science fiction.
Holy Hercules! I have a new standard for awful storytelling. My memory is mercifully short, but last night I suffered through the worst adaptation of a good novel that I can remember. As a story, it was utter trash, but as an adaptation of the Agatha Christie novel, The ABC Murders, I need stronger words than “appalling abomination” or “total travesty” (“grim perversion” is a good start). It was breathtaking in how it managed to corrupt every single aspect of the novel.
From start to finish, it was the diametric opposite of the original and a revolting cruel mockery of Christie’s beloved Hercule Poirot. The writing, the directing, the cinematography, the casting, the sets — each hawked a giant loogy in the face of source material.
Even casting John Malkovich as Poirot was a misstep.
Nurses are awesome!
For most of my life I’ve claimed I’m not someone who gets bored. I have too many interests to ever be bored in the usual sense, and there is always new territory to explore. I love trying new restaurants, new authors, and new TV shows.
The Yin to that Yang are the beloved favorites I visit again and again. There are eateries I frequent and authors I re-read. In part because there are menus to explore (and which change) and words and ideas that take repetition to fully understand and appreciate.
But I tend not to re-watch TV shows except in some special cases.
Last Sci-Fi Saturday I savaged Sabrina, which remains a new low to me in dumb TV. This time I have a much more mixed review. I’ve been working my way through Black Lightning (available on Netflix). It’s a superhero show, so it’s fantasy and suffers all the problems and weakness that go with that.
On the other hand, it’s about a Black superhero (three, actually), and the landscape has been sadly and notably deficient in people of color as superheroes. There is also that Black Lightning obviously has a bigger budget, much better acting, and a far stronger sense of authenticity.
That said,… I’m sorry, but superhero stories are just super lame.
I watched the first season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Netflix) with mixed reactions. It had just enough to keep me watching, but I didn’t think much of the writing. It has the same problem as a lot of modern fantasy — random, irrational, downright dumb (and in this case very unoriginal) world building.
The latter season tipped the scales entirely to an Ugh! rating for me. Television shows are rarely known for their intelligence, but this one has given me a new standard of worst-ever.
To be clear here, ‘I come, not to praise Sabrina, but to bury it.’
Going back quite some time, my posts about CBS’s NCIS, or its spin-offs, all express disappointment. I gave up on the spin-offs long ago, but their parent show (itself actually a spin-off of JAG, another show I loved) has retained a favored spot in my heart despite my growing disappointment with it.
That I let three episodes accumulate before I got around to watching says something about my disengagement. That I liked the two episodes of Bull more than any of the three NCIS episodes says even more.
What I’m trying to figure out now is how much of this is me and how much is the show. Some of both, for sure.
While broadcast TV seems more and more of a wasteland to me, I decided to check out a new show on NBC, Mr. Mayor. I’ve been re-watching The Good Place (again; such a good show), and I’ve long been a fan of Ted Danson’s work. When I saw he was in a new comedy I figured it was worth checking out.
I think I’ve mentioned I like to approach new work as uninformed about it as possible (I actively avoid trailers and reviews of things I haven’t seen). So when the first episode began and I saw it was another series from Tina Fey and Robert Carlock (who brought us 30 Rock), my interest skyrocketed.
On the other hand, so did my expectations.