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.
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.
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.
With the distraction of the election, on top of the distraction of the pandemic, my note pile has started to accumulate again. I’m way behind on my “Fall Clearance” plan to either finally write the posts or throw away the notes. (The issues I’ve been having with my laptop’s WiFi incompetence haven’t helped.)
Between winter and social distancing, I’ve had plenty of time to catch up on reading. I’ve also been catching up on TV shows I wanted to either check out or re-watch. There have been some new shows I liked so much the first time that I wanted to see them again.
So for this TV-Tuesday I’m channel surfing over all those shows.
A week ago Sunday I stayed up late binging Solar Opposites. This Sunday I stayed up to 4:00 AM binging Upload, a new comedy from Greg Daniels (just released on Amazon Prime). In both cases, my intent was to check out just an episode or two, but in both cases I couldn’t stop watching.
Solar Opposites was more like a fun party I didn’t want to leave (I’m a night owl, anyway). Upload, likewise, was a delight I didn’t want to end, but I was also seriously sucked into a really good story. I am very much anticipating season two.
I don’t hand out Wow! ratings lightly, but Upload just might rate one.
Sunday I binged through all eight episodes of Solar Opposites, a new cartoon from Justin Roiland and Mike McMahan. It was originally created for Fox, but shelved. Now it’s on Hulu, released just last Friday (May 8).
Roiland is well known to Rick and Morty fans as, not only half the creative team (along with Dan Harmon), but as many of the voices, in particular both of the titular main characters. (Apparently considerable drinking and ad-libbing goes on during voice recording.) In Solar Opposites, Roiland restricts himself to just one main character.
If you like Rick and Morty, you’ll probably like Solar Opposites.
Sunday night I watched the last episodes of Will & Grace, a comedy that first premiered on NBC in 1998. It enjoyed eight seasons, ending in 2006. Then, eleven years later, in 2017, the original creators and actors rebooted it in what turned out to be a three season run. (Eleven year gap; eleven seasons total. Cute.)
The show was quite popular during its first six seasons, but experienced a pronounced drop in viewership during seasons seven and eight. The reboot did okay the first year, but wasn’t huge, and people lost interest by the second year.
If I’m honest, this third year I’ve kinda been waiting for the patient to die.
I’ve been noticing lately how much I don’t miss MSNBC. I was in the habit of catching Nicolle Wallace’s show every weekday at 3 PM (Central Time). She was one of the last on-air hosts I could stomach. (Chris Hayes is okay, and Rachel Maddow can be very good when I’m in the mood for that level of earnestness.)
But I’ve long thought Chris Matthews was a brilliant jackass in love with the sound of his own voice. And don’t get me started on Brian Williams, who, no, I do not forgive for besmirching journalism. He should retire and find other work.
But I thought Nicolle Wallace was okay.