TV Diary

Getting in one final TV Diary post before the end of the year, so that I’ve written about everything I’ve watched or started watching this year before I write my most memorable pop-culture post next week, not that (spoiler alert) any of these shows are showing up on it.

The Recruit

The Recruit is a new show on Netflix. We’re only a few episodes into it so far, but I’m very much enjoying it. I saw a lot of tv critics comparing it to the show USA used to produce like White Collar, Covert Affairs, and Burn Notice. I loved those shows and miss that sort of episodic tv that also had a good season long story arc you were following as well. I get the comparison, though this show is less episodic than those were. From what I’ve seen so far it’s got good action and some decent humor. I do find it a little ridiculous how his co-workers are out to get him from the second he starts the job, but overall it’s a light, fun show.

I Hate Christmas

I am also only halfway through the Netflix show I Hate Christmas, but I already know exactly what is going to happen because this Italian show is a remake of the Norwegian show Home For Christmas, which we watched the previous two Christmas seasons. I think this is the first time I have ever watched a foreign show that is a remake of another foreign show that I’ve previously watched. This version is set in Venice and pretty much has the same plot lines of a woman who makes up a boyfriend because she is tired of her family giving her a hard time about being single and now she has 25 days to find someone to bring home to Christmas. I really liked the original series, and I’m enjoying this one as well. The Norwegian show had two seasons, so I’ll be curious to see if this has another season next year.

So Help Me Todd

Skylar Astin plays a sort of screw-up who lost his PI license and now is trying to get it back while working for his mother played by Marcia Gay Harden at her law firm. He’s always trying to push the boundaries. It’s mostly a procedural. There’s a case of the week and not really any overarching plot aside from his relationship with his family and his ex who also works at the law firm. It’s unfortunate that he has better chemistry with the actress playing his sister than he does with the actress playing his ex who we are obviously supposed to be rooting to get back together. I have literally fallen asleep watching every single episode until the last one of 2022. I have enjoyed it well enough to go back and rewatch it the next day, but it’s also not something I’m going to be crying in cereal about if it doesn’t get another season.

Bluey

It’s me. Hi. I’m the middle aged woman with no children watching a TV show designed for pre-schoolers. I have heard any number of adults talk about how good this show is. Most of them had kids. Some tv critics who have extolled it have kids but none of the age who would have ever watched this show, so it obviously does appeal to adults. I can’t even exactly put my finger on why. It’s very simple animation. It does have heart to it. I think if I did actually have kids I would want to ban them from watching it for the simple fact that it has to create unrealistic expectations for kids about how their parents should just drop whatever they are doing to play with them at all times. The episodes are only 7 minutes long, so it’s a nice quick hit of sweetness.

Fresh Off the Boat

I’ve been watching Fresh Off the Boat on and off for much of this year. I’m just starting the final season. I’ve definitely slowed down in my watching the last couple of seasons. It’s not that it’s gotten bad as much as it’s just gotten rote. It feels like all the jokes and stories are just super repetitive at this point. I’ll finish it, but the early seasons are much better. I also liked the kids better when they were younger. It’s a pretty decent sit-com though.

Wednesday

I gather that Wednesday was a gigantic hit for Netflix and that lots of people really love it. I thought it was fine. I think Julia Ortega is very good in the role. I just didn’t get super into the show overall. I’m sure there will be additional seasons because it was so popular. I’ll probably keep watching it if there are.

Gadget Man

We previously watched and really liked the show Travel Man in which Richard Ayoade traveled to various countries accompanied by another comedian. I don’t think that show is available streaming in the United States anymore, and I’m not sure that we were even able to watch all of Richard Ayoade’s seasons of it. I gather it’s still being filmed with a new host, but again not available here so I don’t know how it is with the new host. Anyway, we recently discovered that some, but not all (and not even consecutively numbered seasons) of Ayoade’s show previous to Travel Man called Gadget Man are available on Amazon Prime. So we’ve been watching them. It’s definitely not as good as Travel Man, but it has some of the same-ish structure and sense of humor so it’s a quick sort of trifle of a show to watch when we want something less than a half hour.

Fleishman is in Trouble

I should probably wait to write about this show until I’ve seen the rest of the season or I guess even the episode that dropped today given how many critics put in on their favorite episode list before it even aired. Maybe it will completely the turn the show around for me to, and I’ll understand why everyone seems to be in love with it. That is except for the one critic who called it boring. That’s pretty much my assessment of it. I’m bored. I read the book. I really liked the book. I am completely and utterly bored with this adaptation of it. Even my annoyance at the characters doesn’t rise to enough of a level to overcome the boredom.

Quantum Leap

I never watched the original Quantum Leap. I was at the completely wrong age for it when it aired. We have been watching the reboot, but I’m mostly just sitting in the room while my husband watches it. I don’t really care about it at all as evidenced by the fact that I have never gone back and rewatched any of the episodes that I’ve fallen asleep during. I’ve never been super into procedurals. This does have some sort of overarching plotline, but it feels completely inconsequential because the show is over if Sam dies or they figure out how to make him quit leaping, so it has no stakes and I don’t care about it. I will probably eventually quit even bothering to be in the room if my husband wants to keep watching it.

New Music Friday: White Winter Hymnal by Jade Bird

It’s the time of year where new music slows to a trickle. Often I use these last few weeks of the year to follow up on songs that I liked during the year, but that I never wrote about. I don’t even have any of those songs that I feel compelled to write about. That is why I didn’t have a New Music Friday post last week. This week Jade Bird saved me by releasing a cover of Fleet Foxes’ “White Winter Hymnal”. It’s a pretty faithful cover, but it works really well with her voice. So here’s a new winter song for you.

TV Diary

It’s been way too long since I’ve written one of these posts as evidenced by some of the shows I’m going to be writing about. It feels like I watched She-Hulk ages ago. Better late than never I guess.

The Big Brunch

For some reason I wasn’t sold on this show after the first episode, but luckily I kept watching because after that I fell in love with it. It’s a delightful baking show with Dan Levy hosting and judging along with two other people. All the challenges surround having something to do with brunch in some themed way. The contestants are all competing to win $300,000 to further their business plans related to cooking, which are vastly different. You want them all to get the money, but it was especially hard to see the people who had visions for things that are really helping their communities lose. It has such good vibes all the way around.

Welcome to Wrexham

I feel like this documentary about Rob Mcelhenney and Ryan Reynolds buying the Wrexham football club is riding the coattails of people’s love for Ted Lasso, but I still found it enjoyable. I am not a sportsy person. I pretty much never watch actual sports, but I am a huge sucker for sports documentaries or scripted shows where I get to know a lot about the people and all that story is only briefly interrupted by only the most exciting or relevant parts of the actual sporsting matches. This show is perfect for that. Rob and Ryan are fun together and you’ll be cheering for the team and the people of Wrexham.

Mo

Mo is a Netflix show about a Palestinian refugee who has been living in Houston with his family as an undocumented immigrant for most of his life. His father died years ago, his adult brother is on the autism spectrum, his mother is still very religious and trying to keep Mo connected to his Muslim heritage, and he’s dating a Mexican Catholic woman against his mother’s wishes. It’s both a funny and heartbreaking show. It’s probably something that has flown under your radar, but I highly recommend watching it.

The Patient

I can’t really say that The Patient was an enjoyable watch because the subject matter is pretty bleak. It’s a well made show starring Steve Carell as a psychiatrist who is kidnapped by one of his patients who it turns out is a serial killer trying to cure himself. There are some interesting twists and turns, and I think it ended the only way it really could. So really good prestige television, yes. A delightful romp, no.

She-Hulk

For the most part I have been uninterested in the Marvel TV shows on Disney+ and have watched very few of them. My husband insisted that I at least try this one out. I found it to be a pretty fun show. It’s more sit-com than the other Marvel shows. I enjoy when Marvel stuff is more humorous than serious hence why the Thor movies are my favorite. I’m not mad I watched it, but overall it felt like a trifle, and I didn’t understand their use of Jameela Jamil’s character, who seemed set up to be a sort of big bad nemesis but then wasn’t really. Also, I had a very hard time with the CGI. The She-Hulk version of Jen was atrocious and it bugged me every time she was hulked out.

Reboot

Reboot is about the cast and writers of a popular 90s sitcom (think ABC TGIF type sitcoms) that is being rebooted. The original writer who is returning, but his daughter who has pitched the reboot as an edgier show is also there and they butt heads over the direction of the show and what’s funny. The original cast is back bringing their own baggage and past relationships with them. It was a pretty good show with an excellent cast. It wasn’t perfect, but I would definitely be happy to see another season.

Partner Track

This was a pretty terrible rom-com type show on Netflix about twentysomething lawyers who are trying to make partner at their terrible law firm while also getting involved romantically with one another. I could not tell any of the white bro male characters apart. I kind of hated all the characters and found it really dumb that the female lead was obsessed with the guy who she slept with once ages ago drunkenly at a wedding while the amazingly awesome boyfriend she has is supposed to be somehow the worst because he’s moving a little fast in their relationship when the other guy is the actual worst. I also did not care about nor could I really follow what was happening with all the law cases that were supposed to be part of the plot. There was a big bombshell at the end of the final episode, but Netflix has saved me from myself in wanting to see what happens next by canceling this show after one season.

Blockbuster

I was excited when they announced this sitcom about people working in the last Blockbuster. It’s unfortunate that it is 100% terrible, and I cannot recommend that you watch a single second of it. I cannot in any way defend the fact that we watched all 10 episodes. It is not funny in any way. The characters are all ridiculous caricatures of people, but not in any way that is good. I’m somehow supposed to believe that Melissa Fumero, Randall Park, and J.B. Smoove all went to high school together despite the fact that none of them are remotely close in age to each other and it clearly shows. There’s no chemistry between Randall Park and Melissa Fumero, so I did not care a whit about their forced will they or won’t they relationship. Don’t be dumb like me. Don’t watch this show.

New Music Friday: Lonely Nights by Cecilia Castleman

I almost forgot to post a song today because with the Thanksgiving holiday I have no idea what day it is anymore. Luckily I had this song waiting in the wings when I remembered. I don’t actually remember where I came across this song recently, but I liked it enough to add it to my 2022 playlist. Looking it up for this post I see it’s not actually all that new. Even thought I only heard it for the first time in the last few weeks, it apparently was released as a single back in June. I can’t find much about the singer other than that she is 21 and set to release her first album, which this song is off of, in 2023. I’ll look forward to hearing the rest of it, since I am enjoying “Lonely Nights”.

New Music Friday: Lavendar Haze by Taylor Swift

As I suggested in my New Music Friday post last week, I do have some thoughts on the new Taylor Swift album. I have said in this space many times before that for the most part Taylor Swift is not for me. I do not know what it is about her voice in the way that she sings in most songs that grates on me. I can’t really put my finger on it, but there’s something I do not like about it going all the way back to her early country days. I respect her as an artist. She’s obviously insanely savvy in creating a fan base and working within while also subverting the business music establishment. So more power to her, but I just don’t particularly care to listen to most of her songs.

I have listened to Midnights all the way through. There are a handful of songs that I like, but they’re all the ones that don’t sound like Taylor’s normal voice and in some ways remind me of other artists and songs. I like “Anti-Hero”, which is good since it’s the single out there right now. It’s catchy and Taylor’s voice is either synthesized enough or has her singing in a high enough register that it subverts the quality in her voice that bugs me. “Vigilante Shit” is giving off real Billie Eilish vibes to me. I’m going to focus on the song “Lavendar Haze” because it demonstrates perfectly all the things I’m talking about.

Her voice in “Lavendar Haze” is lowered enough in most of it that for most of the song it doesn’t trip whatever is in my brain that turns me off from Taylor’s voice, though there are a few times that happens. This song immediately reminded me of other songs that I like in various places. At the 40 second mark where she starts singing “I’ve been under scrutiny” immediately reminded me of Halsey’s “I Am Not a Woman, I’m a God” and directly leads into a drum fill that sounds exactly like the one used in “Fallingwater by Maggie Rogers. For someone who loves music so much, I have no music talent and cannot process things likes beats and chords. So they might both be using the same drum fill coming from the same drum machine, or it might be entirely different but just sounding similar to me. I cannot say. Then the tenor of her voice in starting at the 52 second mark is at least to me reminiscent of part of another Maggie Rogers’ song, “Alaska”. But then at the 58 second mark, we get to the Taylor voice that irks me in the line, “I’m damned if I do give a damn what people say”. This song is barely tolerable to me. Her voice is edging on that sound for most of the song, but only sometimes fully tips over into it, whereas “Anti-Hero” avoids it altogether. So this is all to say that Taylor Swift still mostly not for me, but there’s a couple songs on Midnights I can add to few other Taylor Swift songs I actually like. I’m happy for all the Taylor fans out there who are eating every second of this album up though.

New Music Friday: Swan Upon Leda by Hozier

I had been planning on writing about this new Hozier song this week figuring that no one needed me to tell them about the new Taylor Swift album and I don’t particularly care for Taylor Swift. Then I heard a song off the album this morning that I had some thoughts about so I considered switching it up, but I actually don’t have much time to write this morning. So I’m sticking with the Hozier song that I don’t have much to say about other than hey it’s a new song by Hozier obviously based off the myth of Leda and the swan. Maybe I’ll write about Taylor Swift at some other point. Here’s the Hozier song for you.

New Music Friday: Ships in the Harbor by Tommy Prine

Tommy Prine is John Prine’s son. About a month ago he released the song “Ships in the Harbor”, which is about endings and very much about the death of his father from COVID during the early days of the pandemic. John Prine’s birthday was earlier this week, so it feels only fitting that this song is my New Music Friday selection this week. Honestly it was on my docket for today before I even realized John Prine’s birthday was this week, but that made it seem all the more kismet. It’s an absolutely beautiful song. Tommy Prine is certainly carrying on his father’s mantle. I look forward to hearing more from him.

New Music Friday: The Story (cover) by Japanese Breakfast

You always have to love when an artist that you love covers a song by another artist you love. We’ll somewhat ignore the fact that it only exists because it was commissioned by North Face for an ad campaign. “The Story” used to be Brandi Carlile’s biggest song and the one that people knew if they had any clue who I was talking about. Most often because of it’s use in conjunction with Grey’s Anatomy. Now I feel like Brandi Carlile lives in this weird liminal space where she’s gotten way more popular than she was when I first got into her. I get fewer blank looks when I mention her, but there are still a lot of people who have no clue who she is. Case in point, the first comment on this YouTube video from someone saying they have to go look up Brandi Carlile because they’ve never heard of her. Now I have no clue what might be the song people associate with her.

Anyway “The Story” is still an absolutely fantastic song. Michelle Zauner aka Japanese Breakfast does a fine job doing a fairly straightforward cover it. Brandi brings a rawness to the original version that is not present in this one that is a little more smooth. I do like it and wish as multiple people have said in the YouTube comments that they would make it available on Spotify.

New Music Friday: Homesick by The Lone Bellow

“Homesick” is the third single released off The Lone Bellow’s forthcoming album, Lovesongs for Losers. I’ve enjoyed the first two singles as well but just never got around to writing about them. I finally felt compelled to write about a song from this album this week not actually because of the song itself but because of the video Zachary Williams from The Lone Bellow posted on Instagram describing his inspiration for writing the song.

On the face of it the song is about his family and his childhood and memories of those times in his life. Had I not listened to him say more, that’s what I would have taken away from it and not really thought about any of the lyrics in any deeper way. However, he shared that the genesis of the song was actually the death of John Prine from COVID early in the pandemic. He didn’t know John Prine well. Prine was of course a musical influence. They had met and sung together a few times, but they didn’t have any kind of real meaningful relationship. Nevertheless John Prine’s death hit him hard, and as he was lying in bed that night not sleeping the line, “If you’re homesick, it’s your heart telling your mind that you love somebody”, went through his head. He got up out of bed and began thinking about those early childhood memories and combined all of it into the song “Homesick”.

All that background on the song made it hit differently with me especially in light of the loss of a beautiful soul this week. A few hours prior to hearing this song and his description of it for the first time I found out that Paula, the woman who had been the worship leader at my church had passed away. It wasn’t unexpected as I had known she was very sick, but news like that is never easy. Like with Zachary Williams and John Prine, I can’t say that I had any kind of close relationship with her. We occasionally chatted at church events or parties that we were both at, but I would not claim that we were friends. She was a weekly fixture in my life though, leading our worship services every Sunday with her amazing voice. Truly a gift from God.

That line about homesickness and knowing the background of where it came from made me start thinking about it in a different way. Normally I think of homesickness being about a place and perhaps also the people in that place, but not necessarily about actually missing specific situations or people, especially once they’re gone. Now I actually feel like it’s the perfect word to describe what I’m feeling. I don’t feel that immense sense of grief or loss because I didn’t have that kind of relationship with Paula that would cause that, but I do feel sadness and a longing for the experience of seeing her and hearing her sing that I know I will never have again. I never would have used the word homesick previously, but now I can’t think of a better word. So I’m dedicating this song to Paula and looking forward to one day beyond this earth when I can hear her sing again.

New Music Friday: Runner by Alex G

I’ve been enjoying the song “Runner” by Alex G for months now, but the album it’s on, God Save the Animals, was released today so it’s back to qualifying as new music. Alex G is an artist from Philadelphia. I gather that he has been around for at least a decade now, but this song and this album is the first I can recall hearing about him. Apparently the animal theme often runs throughout his albums and this one also layers in religion as well. There are a lot of really deep reviews of this album out there. I don’t generally interrogate my music as intricately as these songs apparently seem to warrant based on the reviews. I just happen to like the way this song sounds. I haven’t listened to the full album yet, but I will probably check it out even though I gather it might not all be musically to my taste.