There’s some good TV out there right now, much of it streaming. Now when I come home instead of flicking betwixt two sub-par programs (Giant River Fish! Dwarves Having Dwarf Babies! Serial Killers’ Favorite Lunch Meats!) I now am delighted to snorf down something of quality. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of bad television out there. With good there is always bad. It just seems like the scales are tipped more in the favor of good for once. I’m going to run through everything I’ve watched recently. Before I get to TV series, I would like to recommend the episode of Nature, the show on PBS, that was on the Japanese snow monkeys. There is one path into the area, and I took this photo on that path:
In the documentary, you will see the same shot. Not similar kind-of-sort-of. Identical. It’s funny. Also, the episode spawned one of my favorite animated gifs of late called “Mmmmmmnope.”
Okay. TV show reviews.
1. House of Cards on Netflix. I’ve only seen the first season, but it’s very good. Really good. Like a dirty grimy West Wing. It’s beautifully filmed and it makes Washington D.C. look like a bizarre Wizard of Oz-type place. There’s intrigue and plotting plotting plotting, I find it totally engrossing. Robin Wright’s costumes are fierce every damn time. She is not a spring chicken (though she takes impeccable care of herself) but she manages to look amazing every time she’s on-screen. It’s nice to see the girl from The Princess Bride portraying the sexiest shark in town. My only problem with the show is the woman who plays the President’s Chief of Staff is supposed to be Cuban-American, but she’s clearly South Asian, like Indian or Pakistani, and she has a tinge of an accent from there. Seriously? This is America. We have a gazillion Latin people, I bet some of them are women and might be actors. We couldn’t hire one of them? It’s a little thing, but I find it sometimes takes me out of the action. Other than that, super-great show.
2. True Detective on HBO*. Oh my God. I’ve watched this series twice and I may watch it again just for kicks. It’s like a series of oil paintings in a row that take you on a journey. The main stars are Woody Harrelson and Matthew MacConaughey. My initial reaction was, “I had no idea those two stoners could act so well.” They are magnificent. I’ve never been on the MacConaughey train during all those rom-coms he starred in. I mean, I could see he was handsome, but I didn’t really care. Guess what? I care now. He done acted the hell out of his character. His character is GLOOMY. I mean, bad things have happened to him so he has every right, but still, wow, pessimist is an understatement. Here’s a disturbing thing I discovered: If you watch True Detective and Rust Cohle (MacConaughey’s character) goes into one of his down-in-the-dumps speeches, you should think, “What a looney-basket spouting crazy thoughts.” That is the correct response. That means you are healthy and well in the head. Here’s an example of one.
“I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution. We became too self-aware, nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself, we are creatures that should not exist by natural law. We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self; an accretion of sensory, experience and feeling, programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody, when in fact everybody is nobody. Maybe the honorable thing for our species to do is deny our programming, stop reproducing, walk hand in hand into extinction, one last midnight – brothers and sisters opting out of a raw deal.”
I not only understood everything Rust Cohle said in the entire series, I agreed with him. Entirely. Ohhhhh dear. That’s not good. I feel like that should be on a psych eval (“Do you understand and agree with everything Rust Cohle says?”) and if you say yes you don’t get to be a police officer or elementary school teacher or whatever.
Final thoughts: the baddie at the end is scary as hell and gets scarier the more times you watch him. Ugh, he is the mayor of Creepytown. The actor said he would go home and cry after shooting his scenes because he had to think like his character thinks and he didn’t want to. That’s a bad bad villain.
3. Sons of Anarchy on FX. Such high hopes for that. I know several people who like that show. I started watching it and I was totally into it. The actors are great, but either your show is based in reality or it’s not. I’ll explain. In the pilot episode of the show a preemie baby is born and is in the NICU. And then over the next six or seven episodes, like, thirty characters die. No joke. Seriously. Bodies droppin’ everywhere. At that point the lead actor says, “I’m excited to take my son home, he’s been in the hospital for a month.” So I am to understand that in the time period of a month in a not-especially populous area of California tens of people have died in violent ways, including an FBI investigator, and everything is running as usual? I don’t care how many cops you have on your payroll, someone somewhere is going to notice that. This is not the favelas of Brazil. Then the hardships keep coming at a rate that prevented me from suspending my disbelief any further, so in the middle of Season 3 I politely bowed out. This character gets blown up and this other character gets raped and this guy’s wife is shot and on and on every episode… Too much. I can’t no more.
4. Rick and Morty on Adult Swim (Cartoon Network). Weird. That show is weird. I really like it though. You remember back in the 90s before the internet there wasn’t a whole lot of weird television made available. You pretty much had Liquid TV on MTV and that’s it. I ate that kind of stuff up. I didn’t necessarily like all of it, but I loved that it was being made. One of the shows being made at that time was The Maxx. I adored that show. If you watch it now it seems kind of dated, but I had never seen anything like that. And I get that same feeling from Rick and Morty. It’s bizarre and fun and involves going to different planets and alternate dimensions. Here, watch the opening credits (the music is a clear homage / ripoff of Dr. Who):
The first season just ended, so when it (hopefully) shows up on streaming Netflix and you need some oddness in your life, check it out.
5. The League on FX. I don’t care about football, and I extra-super-duper don’t care about fantasy football. However, the cast of this show makes it a jolly good show. They are all immature dorks wearing adult-man suits (and one woman, but she’s kind of token) who are all professional stand-up comedians and actors in real life, so they improv their lines a great deal and it’s awesome. There’s a quick-wit quality you get from The League that I don’t think you get from a totally scripted show. And while many of the plot lines relate to football, many of the plot lines relate to personal events going on in the main character’s lives, so I can still follow along. I’ve watched all the seasons and I shall continue watching despite my complete ignorance of who’s a running back or wide receiver or kicker.
*Alternate title: Matthew MacConaughey Smokes All The Cigarettes In The World Ever.
Addendum – May 12th: I forgot to include Shameless and Oz. Shameless is on Showtime and it is crazy. I cannot figure out for the life of me how they got this show made. It’s about a family living in a poor neighborhood in Chicago and it… there are children on this show. Children. I have watched scenes where these children see a profoundly naked homeless man, their mother who has slit her wrists due to bi-polar disorder, drugs and sex and stealing and oh my God, how are these child actors dealing with this? From this description it sounds like the show is a debbie-downer but it is not. It mainly revolves around how all these people are keeping their head up and making their own lives through the hardships that come upon them, and the show’s damn funny. I highly recommend it but under no circumstances should you watch it with children or the elderly unless you want to explain things to them. Here’s the opening credits to give you an idea.
And here’s a brief overview with the cast.
Oz on HBO. This show is pushing twenty years old but I never saw it. Snorth recommended that I check it out and now I’m two seasons in. I do not want to go to prison. No no. Not that I wanted to before, but now, I totally do not want to go to prison. People are really really mean there. It’s a great show, kind of dated by today’s standards of television-making, but thoroughly engrossing. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much male nudity on a show. I really pleased by that, not because I have a penchant for male jingly-jangly, but we are constantly seeing ladybits on television nowadays and I like that this attempts to even that out a bit. And I like that they aren’t afraid to kill off some characters and introduce new ones. It keeps it feeling fresh.