What I'm Watchin' - March 2017 Edition
I often get so caught up in movies that I forget that is the *TV* & Movie Appreciation Forum! And while I will have some thoughts later on Kong: Skull Island, Logan, and Beauty & the Beast (which I'm seeing tomorrow), I thought I'd throw some notes out on all the shows I'm currently watching, not watching, or looking forward to.
And, uh, I kind of don't watch any Netflix shows (though I did sort of re-watch Stranger Things in the background last week). I still primarily just watch cable, FYI.
WHAT I'M WATCHING NOW:
BASKETS (FX) - Even if you hate Zach Galifainakis (not gonna spell check that), Louie Anderson is doing the best work of his life as his mom, Christine Baskets. He even won an Emmy for season 1. It's kind of an absurdist-type show, with tons of dry comedy, but I love it and season 2 has been great so far.
PLANET EARTH II (BBC) - Did you see when they strapped a camera onto the back of an eagle?!?!?! That was awesome. So are 5-10 other things per episode.
LAST MAN ON EARTH (Fox) - I don't know anyone else in my personal life who watches this show, and it shows up on my DVR very randomly (so I assume Fox doesn't care much about it or its schedule), but it's managed to stay fresh into season 3. Two episodes ago they basically refreshed the whole thing by introducing a new character played by Kristen Wiig, who had an entire episode centered around her living in a bunker with her dog. It was one of the best episodes of the whole show.
FACE OFF (SyFy) - One thing I don't love about this season, with the pairing of the people up in teams, is that every other week is just an immunity week, and there's not really any stakes to what they're doing. That, and I also hate that they brought Cig Neutron back. I don't like that desperate-for-attention-all-the-time lamewad. But the makeup they've been doing this season is on par as usual in terms of coolness. I also like watching how much Logan hates being teamed up with Adam.
WORKAHOLICS (Comedy Central) - I'm sure no one else here watches this, or has ever watched it, but I've seen every episode and the *series* finale is tonight, after 86 episodes and 7 seasons. It was a quality dumb comedy show to watch over the years. Some of their high concept episodes were really great.
LEGION (FX) - Now, I've only watched the first episode of this, and I will say that it took me three separate occasions to get through the 90 minute pilot, because it wasn't exactly drawing me in. Has anyone else continued watching this? Does it get a lot better? Or should I just delete it from my DVR? Keep in mind, I hate most comic book TV shows (but like comic book movies).
CRASHING (HBO) - I'm one episode behind, but I'm finding this show to be pretty amusing, but not really laugh-out-loud funny. I really like the concept though, and hope it gets better.
VICE (HBO) - I still have a whole bunch of these saved on my DVR, because every time I watch them I get a panic attack, but I watched the first ep from the new season, and it was actually an encouraging episode (for a change) about transgender people. I like when they do encouraging stuff or funny things, everything else always makes me feel like the world is going to end next week.
SNL (NBC) - This season started off pretty strong with the whole election coverage thing, but the last few episodes have been kind of "meh". The Octavia Spencer episode, in particular, was borderline awful. This show always has it's ups and downs, though. Of the new cast members, I like Mikey Day (who is 36? What?), and I don't really care for Melissa Villaseñor or her weird voice.
SHOWS I JUST FINISHED WATCHING:
TOP CHEF (Bravo) - This is the second season of this show I've watched (it just finished season 14), and it's pretty good, I guess. The person who won was the one who I didn't want to win, so that's always a bummer, but whatever. It's a totally watchable food reality show.
IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA (FXX) - This show just wrapped up its 12th (!) season, and it still never gets the credit it deserves. Definitely one of my all time favorite sitcoms in terms of rewatchability, and they actually managed to UP their game in the 12th season of the show. Ask anybody who watches this show; this past season was probably one of the best, which is nuts. How many other sitcoms are improving what they're doing in their 12th season?
JON GLASER LOVES GEAR (TruTV) - My friend turned me on to this show, which just wrapped its 1st season, about Jon Glaser (who you probably know best as Jeremy Jamm from Parks & Rec), playing an exaggerated version of himself who wrecks his personal life and looks like a jackass in an attempt to review sports gear. It's pretty funny, and a lot of the episodes go in weird directions that you don't expect them to and then never come back out of the rabbit hole. GGGEEEEEAAAAAARRRRRRRRR!
SHOWS I HAVE SAVED UP ON MY DVR BUT HAVEN'T WATCHED A SINGLE EPISODE YET:
I have been recording, or fully recorded seasons of Big Little Lies (HBO), Insecure (HBO), and Better Things (FX), and I have yet to muster up the enthusiasm to watch any of them. Anyone else seen these shows and recommend I actually start getting to them? Or have you watched them and they're boring and I should avoid them?
SHOWS I'VE ACTIVELY STOPPED WATCHING:
THE WALKING DEAD (AMC) - I stopped after I think the third episode of this current season (the super duper boring episode about the guy with the tiger), and I don't really miss it. There's so many lame characters on that show, and it takes forever for them to move the story along. I just gave up. Probably way later than most people did, but I have finally given up. Again, I don't miss it.
HELL'S KITCHEN (Fox) - I know this is trash TV, but I've watched every season up until this newest one. I switched over to Top Chef (above). It seems classier, and they actually do different stuff each season. I like watching food competitions, SO?
SHOWS I'M LOOKING FORWARD TO RETURNING VERY SOON:
BETTER CALL SAUL (AMC) - The first two seasons of Better Call Saul were better than the first two seasons of Breaking Bad. I'm pumped for season 3.
REVIEW (Comedy Central) - This is perhaps the darkest comedy show ever made (that's also really good), and the third and final season starts tomorrow. So excited. Highly recommend this. But you have to watch in order from the beginning or it won't be as good.
ANIMALS (HBO) - Another good dark comedy show. Season 1 was probably 70% good, so I'm hoping they can keep up the jokes in season 2.
FARGO (FX) - I really liked season 1. I really LOVED season 2. They always do a different story each season with different characters, so I don't know what to expect other than it will probably be awesome.
Other than that, I've just been playing a lot of the new Zelda in my free time. Is there a video game appreciation forum on the COW? (I kid)
I love this post for many reasons, not least of which is that brings TV back into the conversation, which I really need to try to do more often myself. I actually PREFER watching TV to movies....and other than the couple dozen that I see at the Palm Springs Film Festival, I watch more movies on TV too, which is a non-trivial consideration to me.
But TV really NEEDS revisiting on a regular basis. There were 455 **scripted** series on US TV (which of course includes Netflix, Amazon, et al) in 2016, and the number is expected to top 500 this year. Every major film festival (and many, if not most, minor ones) are including TV series now, because, yeah, at its best, TV is at LEAST as good as the best movies, and often better imo.
I have a lot of other specifics to reply to, but for now....
[Scott Roberts] "LEGION (FX) - ....Has anyone else continued watching this? Does it get a lot better? ...."
I think it DOES get better, but I also loved the first episode, so I don't know how much that's worth.
To me, it owes a lot more to Twin Peaks than X-Men, certainly stylistically. I think it has some of the boldest aesthetics on TV (FANTASTIC color grading), and strong editing choices that are really well rooted in the storytelling.
I really do adore this show.
[Scott Roberts] "FACE OFF (SyFy) - One thing I don't love about this season, with the pairing of the people up in teams, is that every other week is just an immunity week, and there's not really any stakes to what they're doing. That, and I also hate that they brought Cig Neutron back. I don't like that desperate-for-attention-all-the-time lamewad. But the makeup they've been doing this season is on par as usual in terms of coolness. I also like watching how much Logan hates being teamed up with Adam.
GREAT observation about Logan, who has spent the whole season with a "Who farted?" look on his face. I can't believe their terrible chemistry. The only worse chemistry was between the two women who FINALLY got booted last night...
...but my god, Emily is a force of nature. She's totally winning this. I'm absolutely floored by her skills.
I don't know why it took me so long to do this, but I finally looked up Michael Westmore's credits. The Westmore family founded the first studio makeup department back in 1917, his father did makeup for Gone With the Wind, his uncle created the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Michael's own credits include a BUNCH of iconic Star Trek characters (Data, all the 2nd-gen Klingons including Worf, the Ferengi, Odo, etc etc), and a ton of movies that you wouldn't expect -- including Raging Bull!
In fact, Westmore's work for Raging Bull was submitted for a special Oscar, and when the application was rejected, it led to the creation of the Best Makeup Oscar! Hard to believe it didn't exist before then. He won the Oscar in 1985 for Mask (the one with Cher and Eric Stoltz), and was nominated for 3 more.
But in keeping with the spirit of TV, Westmore was nominated for at least one Emmy (and often more than one) EVERY YEAR FROM 1984 to 2005!!! (Plus 76-79 before that.)
I'm skipping a bunch of other highlights (okay, one more: The Munsters!), but this show is completely legit, and a bunch of fun.
I've also just discovered that the show is very actively Twitter'd -- where Cig is weirdly chummy with McKenzie Westmore (gross), and where one of its most vocal fans is Patton Oswalt. His Face Off tweets are witty, insightful, and humane, which isn't what you'd expect to come from a show about makeup artists on Syfy, but that's kind of the point. He's right, and so are you and I. LOL It's good-natured, creative, energetic, and lots of fun. I wished everyone watched this.
I also wished it was better. LOL It could be, and it wouldn't be hard, but that's a conversation for another day. The thing is, I love this show.
But yeah, I'm already ready for a non-all stars edition next season. Fresh blood, please. I'm also a little trepidatious about the finale challenges. Last time (horror shorts) was better than the time before (monster wedding), but neither were really any more entertaining than a regular episode...partly because the regular episodes are TERRIFIC.
[Scott Roberts] "SHOWS I'VE ACTIVELY STOPPED WATCHING:
THE WALKING DEAD (AMC)"
I only watch non-Negan episodes, and those have actually started getting really good again. Nothing with him is watchable to me, though, both because they're inevitably boring episodes (When Bad Parts Happen To Good Actors, Chapter 99), and because they're morally repugnant to me. I'm extremely judgemental by nature, but my general feeling is that good people don't put a character like that on TV. They don't even write him. It's making it harder for me to enjoy the show thinking that there's such fundamental rot in the showrunners' souls, but I still care about some of the characters, and I think the seeds for a really interesting show are being laid out.
But this one is on the hairy edge for sure.
MR. ROBOT. I loved Season 1, and the beginning of Season 2 was nutso, in a great way. Wow, they really did wipe the financial markets off the face of the earth. Cool! LOL But the whole "mental hospital" thing was....I don't want to say transparent, and maybe I SHOULD say that it's good storytelling that the big reveal was sort of tipped off along the way...but it felt like not much of a reveal. Kind of a sad trombone thing.
Even before The Big Reveal of Season 1, it was obvious that our narrator is pretty unreliable, but you know what would be bold? If he actually BECAME RELIABLE as a narrator. It's still a pretty f'd up world (pun intended), but I feel like they unreliable narrator thing is now tieing their hands. Especially unfortunate for a show this (otherwise) bold.
Bonus points to USA for giving Sam Esmail such free rein. More networks need to do this for more artists, certainly if the artists are this....I was going to say bold AGAIN, but let's say "ambitious". They're treating the form the way it should be treated. Like TV, and raising the level of what's possible for serialized storytelling.
And really, I guess the end of the world is kind of boring. LOL Maybe see also: The Walking Dead? Different apocalypses, but still.
New category: Shows I'm Not Sure Why I've Stopped Watching, But I Totally Have: Transparent and Mozart In The Jungle. I enjoyed the last seasons of both of them, but they left me exhausted. That's the closest I can get to a reason. It feels like too much work to go fetch them, knowing that I'll likely feel exhausted after watching.
I may come back when I feel less worn out, though. I enjoyed them when they weren't kicking my ass. But I may not. My ass doesn't need kicking.
Category I wish I had a single show to include: COMEDIES THAT ARE FUNNY, NOT MERELY AMUSING, BUT NOT STUPID, AND NOT DARK, UPSETTING, OR TRYING TO KICK MY ASS. Man, I used to love comedies. I can't remember the last time there was a comedy on the air that fit this bill. Maybe Friends?
[Tim Wilson] "I think it DOES get better, but I also loved the first episode, so I don't know how much that's worth."
I'll give it some more episodes, then! Plus I just saw a commercials for it yesterday and Jemaine Clement was in them, so I feel compelled to see what that's about as well. Love me some Clement.
[Tim Wilson] "where Cig is weirdly chummy with McKenzie Westmore (gross)"
Hahaha that got me good.
I also, maybe a couple of years ago, Googled/Wikipedia'd the Westmore makeup legacy during a Face Off commercial break, and I was like "WHOA", this family is intense about their makeup. Like you said, they date back a century in the entertainment business.
My wife and I always joke about how disappointed Michael probably is that McKenzie didn't follow in the family legacy, and the closest she got was hosting a show *about* makeup. We also like to note how much happier Michael is when he gets to go give his advice to the contestants and he doesn't have to take McKenzie in there with him. Those two seasons where they went in to give advice together; he seemed miserable.
Did you ever see that Jim Henson Creature Studio show they did on SyFy? Might have been like two years ago maybe? Maybe three? It was basically Face Off but on a much huger scale, and the prize was a job at Jim Henson Studios. It was awesome, and only happened one season, and even Neville Page was one of the judges. I agree that there are things that could make Face Off a little better, and I feel like that Jim Henson competition improved on a lot of things. But then, POOF, it was gone... Maybe it was because there was only one Jim Henson Studios job to be given?
[Tim Wilson] "MR. ROBOT. I loved Season 1, and the beginning of Season 2 was nutso, in a great way."
I have been dying to watch this show, but waiting for it to appear in an easily accessible format, i.e. Netflix. I'm not going to watch it on Comcast On Demand and have to use that awful clunky 2x fast forward through the commercials.
[Tim Wilson] "Category I wish I had a single show to include: COMEDIES THAT ARE FUNNY, NOT MERELY AMUSING, BUT NOT STUPID, AND NOT DARK, UPSETTING, OR TRYING TO KICK MY ASS. Man, I used to love comedies. I can't remember the last time there was a comedy on the air that fit this bill. Maybe Friends?"
I don't think I can help you there, haha. All the comedies I watch are pretty dark. I think maybe the last easy-going, funny comedy that wasn't really all that dark that I liked was... Community...? Possibly...?
[Scott Roberts] "Neville Page was one of the judges."
I didn't see that! I'll have to take a look.
He's a remarkable dude himself. Among the movies for which he helmed creature design: Avatar (!!!), Watchmen, The Lion The Witch & The Wardrobe, the 2 Abrams Star Trek pictures, Cloverfield, plus concept design for such VERY highly designed pictures as The Minority Report and Prometheus...plus Falling Skies on TV.
(The last season felt unfortunately rushed, but everything before then was absolutely top notch sci-fi TV.)
Ve Neil has won 3 Oscars (Beetlejuice, Mrs Doubtfire, Ed Wood) and SHOULD have won for Edward Scissorhands, and COULD have won for any of the Pirates of the Caribbean pictures (she's done all of them), the first two Hunger Games pictures, etc. Eight Oscar noms in all, plus a couple of Emmys, including a Daytime Emmy for Pee-Wee's Playhouse!
Glenn Hetrick as the "least accomplished" guy "only" has Emmys for his work on Buffy The Vampire Slayer, X-Files, and Babylon 5. LOL
No kidding, by far the most accomplished panel of judges on a competition show I've ever seen. Their closeup evaluations of the work is my favorite part of the show. I learn something new from them every time.
I LOVE THIS SHOW.
[Scott Roberts] "I have been dying to watch this show, but waiting for it to appear in an easily accessible format, i.e. Netflix."
I'm glad that my disappointment in how the 2nd went hasn't put you off this goal. Season 1 is flawless, and on the whole, I think it's not just good TV, but important work. Esmail is really doing something special. I wish him and the show the best.
[Scott Roberts] "I think maybe the last easy-going, funny comedy that wasn't really all that dark that I liked was... Community...? Possibly...?"
That's about as close as I could get, but I stopped watching because Chevy Chase was persuasive playing an abhorrent character. LOL omg, what a hateful prick. I LOVE the idea of a crotchety geezer in a community college class, but nothing about him was funny. I tried coming back after he left, but I never found the groove.
I'd also moved onto Brooklyn Nine Nine by then, which I think was better, but now that I think about it, have to add to my list of show's I've dropped. One minor character got WAY out of balance, then they gave him a bizarre kid, threw in another bizarre character who pushed the show from quirky to unnecessarily surreal -- what a mess. A shame, too. Superlative work on that show that even at its worst, I found better than 40 Rock.
Still, I find too many of these single camera comedies feel the same. They want to be "clever" instead of funny, like laughing out loud is something bad. I do get the IDEA of doing a comedy that's not for laughs. That's cool. Go for it. Or laughter from discomfort, or comedy mixed with darker stuff. My all-time favorite night of TV, CBS Saturday night, 1973-1974, had MASH at 8:30/7:30 Central (my home timezone at the time) and was one of the first massive hits with a single-camera not-just-for-laughs comedy. Genius stuff. Barney Miller was even MORE genius in some ways for pulling off that feat multicam-style in front of a live audience, a feat yet to be equalled in the 40 years since.
But to the extent that I agree that we're in another golden age of TV drama, I feel like we're a long way from the last golden age of TV comedy. All the moreso since "the best" comedies are in way whatsoever even attempting to be the funniest comedies. I really do think that Friends might have been the last to try to keep the comedy pedal to the metal and manage to be great.
Maybe Frasier too? It went off a week later and had started a season earlier (both ended in May 2004, after 10 and 11 seasons, respectively), but for sure in 2004, I felt like Friends was the better show.
Still, you could even argue that both shows were holdovers from the 90s golden age that also included Seinfeld (which remarkably managed to merge ALL these kinds of comedy)...but throw in Friday nights on ABC, all the great stuff on Fox, the great wave of mainstream comedies of color (Martin, Fresh Prince, Family Matters, etc etc), Mad About You, Moesha, Blossom, the best years of Roseanne, on and on and on. The 90s had it going on, and it carried into the early oughts...then, really, not much in the past decade-plus for my money.....
I'm willing to believe that intentionally laugh out loud funny comedies are out there and I'm just missing them....but I'm definitely missing them.
More soon about what else I AM watching. I'm actually enjoying TV a ton right now...and felt like Sunday's episode of The Walking Dead (which I just got around to watching last night) was a series highlight, too!