The fall television season is fast approaching, so I thought I would take a minute to catch you up on what I’ve been watching this summer. TV never sleeps anymore so it turns out that it was quite a bit. Most of these shows are things that either ran on actual TV this summer or dropped on Netflix, but there’s a few older shows that I binge watched that I’m including too.
Orange is the New Black
I’ve enjoyed Orange is the New Black since it debuted on Netflix. The third season fell a little flat, but I felt like it was back to its true form this past season. The story around the increased prison population and the new company running the prison changed up the storylines and gave the show a new focus. They even managed to make you feel sorry for Piper by the end of the season despite her being completely insufferable for most of it. I’m not sure I really liked how the season ended, but we’ll see where they take it in season five.
Last Chance U
Last Chance U is a six episode documentary following a season of the East Mississippi Community College Lions football team. EMCC is a junior college located in the small town of Scooba, Mississippi, but it has apparently become quite the JuCo football team by recruiting students who weren’t immediately eligible to play regular college football because of poor grades or who were suspended from their teams for grades or behavior and are trying to work their way back to an NCAA team. I had no idea junior college football was even a thing before watching this, but apparently like all other football it has become quite the business.
I don’t actually care that much about football, but just like with Friday Night Lights it doesn’t really matter. Of course you’re going to see some football played, but it’s really the story of the players, the team, their coach, and their academic advisor who will definitely remind you of Tami Taylor. The whole thing is kind of like real life Friday Night Lights. If like me you loved FNL, I highly recommend giving six hours of your time to this show.
Like every other breathing human on this planet I too fell in love with the Netflix show Stranger Things this summer. In case you somehow have yet to hear about this show, it’s set in 1983 and follows the adventures of a group of three boys and the mysterious girl they meet up with after one of their friends goes missing. Wynona Ryder plays the missing boy’s mother who has her own parallel storyline with the sheriff. There is definitely something sinister going on in their town and they’re all trying to figure out what it is. It is very reminiscent of a lot iconic 80s films like Stand By Me and ET among others. At only eight episodes it’s a perfect little chunk of TV to enjoy.
I very much enjoyed the first season of Mr. Robot last year, but probably we’re probably about halfway through this season and hell if I could tell you anything that’s going on. I’ve pretty much tuned out and am not paying attention to it anymore even though I’m sitting in the room when my husband watches it. I don’t have much more to say than that because well I’m not really watching it anymore. Sorry Mr. Robot, it’s not me, it’s you.
I had so many high hopes for this show because as you know I love music and this show follows a group of roadies and was created by Cameron Crowe. I am a long time lover of Cameron Crowe movies. Say Anything is still one of my favorites. Of course had I really thought about the last time Cameron Crowe made something that was actually decent and not just saved for me by the way he used music in it, I probably would have been more leary of this show. It is not a good show, but once again the music saved it. It’s even better in this because every episode in addition to the great soundtrack had a performance by a musical act including Lucius, The Head and the Heart, and Lindsay Buckingham. That part of the show was pure delight and was what kept me watching every week. The actual characters and plot the show, not so much. It doesn’t sound like Showtime is very bullish about renewing this and the season ended with what felt like a finale, so I’m okay if this was a one and done project.
The Get Down
The Get Down was the third of the three music related TV shows I was looking forward to premiering this year with Roadies and the even worse Vinyl. I didn’t even make it past the second episode of Vinyl it was so terrible. As I just indicated Roadies also fell mostly flat for me as an actual tv show, so I was hoping against hope that The Get Down would finally be one that I would like. It’s a Netflix show created by Baz Luhrmann about the advent of hip hop in the 1970s. The essentially movie length premiere episode was actually helmed by Baz Luhrmann with the rest of the episodes just created with his input. The premiere felt very Baz Luhrmanny for good and ill and then it calmed itself down a little after that though there were still many scenes throughout that had that grandiosity of scene that Luhrmann brings to his projects. It was amusing to see how tv critics were split on whether they preferred the premiere to the remaining episodes or vice versa.
What dropped on Netflix this summer was actually just the first half of the first season. There will be another 6 episodes to come later. This show is definitely not perfect, but it is by far the best of the three shows I mentioned and I’m definitely invested in seeing where it goes.
The Night Of
The Night Of is a long shelved project at HBO. It’s been in the works so long that James Gandolfini was attached to it. I don’t know why they finally decided to finish it up and trot it out this summer, but they did. I very much enjoyed the first episode and then sort of lost interest in it along the way. It had its moments, but I never felt like it lived up to what it had set up. The show revolves around Naz, a twenty-something boy who takes his father’s cab without permission to drive to a party, accidentally winds up picking up a fare in the form of a sort of manic pixie dream girl, does a lot of drugs with her, and then discovers her dead from 22 stab wounds when he wakes up from his drugged stupor. He winds up arrested for the crime, and the rest of the series follows him in the prison system and going through the trial process. His ambulance chaser of a lawyer is also a main character in the series and you see a lot about his life as well including a lot more about eczema than you probably ever wanted to see. If you think you’d be interested in a long form crime procedural you would probably enjoy this show.
Marcella is a British crime show starring Anna Friel as the titular Marcella available on Netflix. At the beginning of the series it is obvious that Marcella has had some sort of breakdown that has caused her to leave her job with the police until a crime that is eerily reminiscent of cases she was working on occurs. The new case causes her to return to job, but the stresses of the case and her deteriorating home life may mean that she might be more involved in what’s happening than she realized. This was another decent sort of short crime story.
Game Show Reboots
This summer ABC has been airing reboots of Celebrity Family Feud, $100,000 Pyramid, and Match Game on Sunday nights. I don’t care about Family Feud that much and only ever watched one episode of that show, which reminded me that I didn’t need to keep watching it. I have been enjoying $100,000 Pyramid and Match Game though.
The original Pyramid shows hosted by Dick Clark are some of my all time favorite game shows. This version is better than some of the other reboots of the show, but it’s not as good. Michael Strahan is definitely no Dick Clark, although I do think he got better as the season went on. Mostly the problem with the show was the celebrities they had on. They were mostly terrible at playing the game. I’m like do they not vet these people at all to see if they can even manage to play the game halfway well. In pretty much every episode aside from the one with Yvette Nicole Brown and Zacharcy Levi at least one if not both of the celebrities were terrible. The show would have been much better if they had found some people who could actually play.
The Match Game reboot did mostly better on the celebrities, but it was the game itself that had some shortcomings. Alec Baldwin does a good job as the host and the rotating panel of celebrity contestants has mostly worked for me with some weeks being a bit better than others. The main issue is the questions. They written in such a way that either it’s almost impossible for the contestant and celebrities to get matching answers or one of the questions in the round is almost a gimme for matches and it makes it really unbalanced between the two contestants and guarantees one is going to win over the other. If they get some better question writers this would be an excellent reboot of this game show.
OJ: Made in America
If you had told me at the beginning of the year that I was going to spend so much time this year watching stuff about the OJ Simpson case I probably wouldn’t have believed you. After watching The People vs. OJ Simpson dramatized version of the OJ Simpson case you wouldn’t think I needed to watch a 5 part documentary about OJ Simpson, but you would be wrong. Had all the reviews of this not told me it was excellent and a nice complement to The People vs. OJ Simpson, I would not have watched it. It was indeed an excellent documentary that traced OJ’s entire life and placed it in the context of the world around him and the times he was living in.
I can’t keep track of what season The Fosters is on because it’s one of those ABC Family, I mean Freeform, shows that splits into summer and winter half seasons. I never know when a new actual season is starting. The show is about Stef and Lena who are raising Stef’s biological son plus their four other teenage foster/adopted children. The show is definitely not as good as it used to be and has sort of run out realistic story ideas so everything is becoming more outlandish, but there are still one or two episodes every season that are so good that I’m still watching.
The Jim Gaffigan Show
The Jim Gaffigan show was a somewhat autobiographical sitcom about Jim Gaffigan’s life living in a small New York apartment with his wife and five small kids as he pursues a career as a stand up comic. It was a pretty amusing show, but this season will be its last. Jim and his wife Jeannie who is the co-creator announced that they are walking away from the show because it was taking too much time away from their kids. I have no doubt they’ll be creating something else excellent in the future.
Halt and Catch Fire
I’m sort of getting a two-fer with Halt and Catch Fire because I spent the first part of the summer binge watching the first two seasons of this show and now the third season has just started. I did watch the first few episodes of this show when it first started but quickly bailed on it even though my husband kept watching. After the second season started I kept hearing critics say that it was a huge turnaround and that the show was vastly improved. I finally decided to give it another try this summer and catch up before the third season started. It was much better in season two and I’m enjoying season three so far as well. It’s about the early days of personal computers and the internet in the 80s. Now that the story is more focused on the female leads rather than one of the anti-hero male leads it’s much better.
My husband and I had watched one episode of The Fall years ago but for some reason never finished it. After really enjoying Archie Panjabi in The Good Wife and realizing she was in this, I decided to go back to it. Her part is fairly minor as the medical examiner. The show really focuses on Gillian Anderson as an outside investigator who is connecting a series of murders and stepping on toes of the local police as she attempts to find who is killing the women. Jamie Dornan plays the killer who you also follow as he completes his crimes while also living a mundane life as a family man. I enjoyed it and it wasn’t a huge time investment. It was nice to watch some short form shows this summer instead of investing in another 6 or 7 season series.