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.
This TV Tuesday, from the ‘Definitely a Matter of Taste’ (DaMoT?) side of life, I thought I’d mention two TV shows that consistently make me laugh out loud a lot: Archer and Happy! (The exclamation mark is part of the title!)
These shows, especially the latter, aren’t for everyone, but they win big points with me for freshness, irreverence, and sheer creativity. Archer leans heavily towards clever pastiches, and Happy! is… well just kinda plain off-the-chain nuts. The only thing they share in common is they both have me in stitches.
Admittedly, in both cases, a few beers not only adds to the funny but is entirely appropriate and in-universe.
This TV Tuesday post was originally going to be another rant about WTF is going on with NCIS (I held off on because I didn’t want to kvetch on Christmas). But then I had a really interesting thought about my other favorite (broadcast) TV show, The Good Place.
There’s an old joke about the philosophy professor who says, “Every time I think I’ve had an original though, it turns out some damned ancient Greek thought of it first.” There’s a more serious version in Ecclesiastes: “There is nothing new under the sun.”
It turns out I’m not the first, by a long stretch, to notice how The Good Place echos and references The Wizard of Oz.
I wrote about the CBS show, Madam Secretary, back when it premiered. Interestingly, that post is among those people still sometimes read. In fact, it’s one of the older of my posts people still sometimes read. That post also talked about another CBS show, Scorpion, which (to my surprise) lasted four seasons, so I’m not entirely sure what the attraction is.
Madam Secretary, informally retitled Madam President for its sixth and last season, aired its final episode last Sunday, December 8th. And while nothing is perfect, and all runners stumble, in its six-year run, this show gets an unqualified Wow! rating from me.
I’m really going to miss it.
Maybe it’s expecting too much that a TV series remain in your heart for 17 seasons. I still enjoy The Simpsons (starting its 31st season) and South Park (starting its 23rd season), but both the cartoon format and the nature of those shows gives them a lot of latitude in exploring new ideas while remaining true to the show.
A drama, like NCIS, which I’ve rated as my favorite TV show for well over a decade, is more restricted. It’s harder for a drama to find new ground while remaining true to its nature. That can lead to stagnation, viewer fatigue, or, in some cases, “jumping the shark.”
Which is all to say I’m very disappointed in NCIS, season 17.
As I recall, I discovered Perry Mason, somewhere in the early-to-mid 1960s, when I was in grade school. I don’t recall if I first found the Erle Stanley Gardner books or the TV show starring Raymond Burr. I am sure one followed the other very quickly (probably why I don’t remember which was first). Either way, it started a love affair with courtroom drama that exists still today.
The most recent courtroom drama I’m aware of is The Good Wife (2009–2016), and I just finished re-watching that series on Hulu. There is a spin-off, The Good Fight, done by the same producers, and which has some of the supporting actors, but which is part of CBS’s streaming service, so it’s not really on my menu.
And then there’s an old show called The Practice (1997–2004)…