TV Diary

I have a lot of new tv I’ve been watching to talk about. This is what happens when you’re one of the last people living still mostly locked down during the pandemic and it’s cold outside so you can’t even have an outdoor social life. You watch lots and lots of tv. This is just part of it. I’ll back later this week with a post specifically about sit-coms.

The Sex Lives of College Girls

Mindy Kaling has found her real sweet spot in creating teenage rom-com tv shows first with Never Have I Ever and now Sex Lives of College Girls on HBOMax. The Mindy Project had its moments, but I quit watching it even before NBC canceled it and then it moved to Hulu. I never even bothered watching her series version of Four Weddings and a Funeral because the reviews were so bad. Now though she is creating some of my favorite tv shows. I loved The Sex Lives of College Girls so much. I’m so sad that I’m out of episodes to watch. It centers around four freshman roommates at the fictional Essex College in Vermont. Leighton is a legacy whose parents went to Essex and her older brother already attends. She is also a closeted lesbian. Bela is an Indian girl whose parents want her to become a doctor while she wants to pursue comedy and is determined to make it as a writer for the school’s renowned comedy magazine while also making up for what she feels is lost time in her lack of a social and sex life in high school. Whitney is on the soccer team and her mother is a Senator. She is also having an affair with the team’s assistant coach. Kimberly is a somewhat naive girl from the mid-West who doesn’t have much money unlike most of the people at Essex who is trying to navigate her way in this new world. She is the character who is the most cartoonish. Either I got used to it or they dialed it back some over the course of the show. I loved this show. I loved the characters. I loved the friendships and the relationships. It’s a perfect teen dramedy, and I cannot wait until there are more episodes.

Elite

The Netflix algorithm knows I love a good teen drama so at some point it recommended this Spanish show to me. I added it to my queue and after it sitting there for years I finally decided to watch it. I’m really glad I did because Netflix was right and I did love it. There are four seasons so far and Netflix assures me a fifth season is coming. It centers on an elite private school in Madrid where lots of rich and important people send their kids to school. No one should ever send their kids there though because every season is framed with some sort of murder or attempted murder. Basically if your kid goes there they’re either going to be murdered or become a murderer. I thought maybe after the sort of throughline of the first three seasons was done that in season four they would drop the framing where you start with whatever that season’s crime was with everyone being interviewed by the cops and the show filling in what happened up to that point over the season, but they did not. I wish they had because they never really needed it. I’m much more interested in the relationships between the characters than I ever was about who committed whatever crime we were focused on that season. The first three seasons are great. The fourth season I don’t think was as good. Half of the original characters left after season three including most of my favorites. I did not like any of the new characters they brought into replace them, the stories seemed even more ridiculous than normal, and the personalities of the characters that came back did not seem consistent with previous season. Made me feel like they got a bunch of new writers in season four. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed watching it and will definitely be watching season five whenever it comes out. If you like a good teen drama and aren’t opposed to subtitles I recommend it.

Maid

Maid is a Netflix show loosely based on Stephanie Land’s memoir of the same name. It stars Margaret Qualley as Alex a young mother who flees her abusive husband and winds up working as a maid to support herself and her pre-school age daughter. She is equally caught in trying to get help from her mother who has undiagnosed bipolar disorder and having to take care of her. Her mother is played by Andie McDowell, Qualley’s real life mother. This show is excellent, but it is also one of the hardest shows I think I have ever watched. I definitely could not watch more than one episode of this in a sitting. I felt the stress that this character was going through. It made me really sad because I know there are so many people who are actually living this life where they are just caught in impossible situation after impossible situation and all the systems that are supposedly there to help them are built such that it’s actually impossible to get help from them and even make things worse. It really highlights how broken the systems in the country are because we’re so worried about someone who we don’t think deserves something getting it. Because the show does not want to be complete misery porn it winds up ending on a positive note for the character, but there are far too many people who will never manage to navigate their way out of lives that are stacked against them at every turn.

As We See It

As We See It is the new Jason Katims show on Amazon Prime. You may know Katims from his previous shows Friday Night Lights and Parenthood. He featured some of his experiences as a parent of an autistic son in the character of Max Braverman on Parenthood. Now he extends that into his experiences parenting a child with autism who is now an adult themselves. It centers around three autistic adults in their 20s sharing an apartment and being cared for by an aide named Mandy. Jack is really smart but struggling to keep a job because of his lack of social skills and inflexibility. He is also faced with finding out that his father has what will probably be terminal cancer. This story also focuses on his father worrying about how to make sure Jack is going to be all right after he’s gone. Violet is a sex obsessed woman who just wants people to perceive her as normal and doesn’t realize that her overattachment to people even strangers is inappropriate and potentially dangerous. She is being cared for by her older brother Van since their parents died. Harrison is the least functioning of the three. He is practically agoraphobic and Mandy is working with him to get him to leave the apartment and gain skills so that he too might be able to support himself in some fashion one day. In true Jason Katims fashion it mixes complete heartbreak with small triumphs that warm the heart. It does not however gloss over the difficulties of all of the characters with the autistic characters just wanting to be understood for who they are and not always understanding why people view them as they do and their families struggling with the weight of helping their loved ones navigate an unforgiving world and the stresses that they themselves have to deal with.

Station Eleven

I read the book Station Eleven back in 2015 and did not re-read it prior to watching the series on HBO, so I didn’t remember enough about it to know how faithful it was or not to the source material. I gather from the things I’ve heard about it that there was quite a bit changed, but that everyone seemed to agree that the changes worked. So let’s go with that. I do know that I felt differently about the book than I did the tv show. I remember feeling like there was a lot of hope in the book that I did not necessarily feel in the tv show. Perhaps some of that is that I read the book prior to having ever lived through a pandemic myself, so I’m pretty sure my feelings about the tv show were colored by my own experiences. The pandemic in this show is way worse than COVID, killing something like 99% of the population. It was sort of interesting watching the end of this as the supply chain shortages caused by so many people getting sick from Omicron were starting to ramp up given this series shows how much worse it could have been with these characters living in a post-apocalyptic world in which pretty much all of the things we have come to rely on as a modern society like all kinds of technology cease to function because there aren’t enough people to keep them running. Weirdly my favorite parts of the series were the parts with Jeevan and young Kiersten struggling to survive right after the pandemic happened, which is something I usually hate and why I don’t tend to care for post-apocalyptic shows or books, and which I said in my review of the book that I was happy it didn’t spend a lot of time on. Ultimately I really did like this show, but based on how i remember feeling after reading the book I liked it better which is generally the case when it comes to book adaptations.

Good Sam

Good Sam stars Sophia Bush and Jason Isaacs. He’s a world renowned cardiologist who is very difficult to work with. Sam is his daughter who has been working under him but is planning on leaving the hospital for another job until he is shot and they ask her to fill in as the Chief of Cardiology. Now he’s back at his job and having to be supervised by her until the medical board signs off on his recovery and is very unhappy about being subordinate to anyone, especially his daughter. It’s sort of a mix between House and Grey’s Anatomy with a curmudgeonly but brilliant doctor at the center, a case of the week, and some soapy elements mixed together. It’s a decent network drama that’s more than just a straight procedural if you enjoy these kinds of shows.

Around the World in 80 Days

Masterpiece on PBS is currently airing this new adaptation of the Around the World in 80 Days starring David Tennant. It’s fine. I don’t love it. I’m usually doing something else like reading or messing around on the internet when my husband puts it on.

TV Diary

I have a lot of new tv I’ve been watching to talk about. This is what happens when you’re one of the last people living still mostly locked down during the pandemic and it’s cold outside so you can’t even have an outdoor social life. You watch lots and lots of tv. This is just part of it. I’ll back later this week with a post specifically about sit-coms.

The Sex Lives of College Girls

Mindy Kaling has found her real sweet spot in creating teenage rom-com tv shows first with Never Have I Ever and now Sex Lives of College Girls on HBOMax. The Mindy Project had its moments, but I quit watching it even before NBC canceled it and then it moved to Hulu. I never even bothered watching her series version of Four Weddings and a Funeral because the reviews were so bad. Now though she is creating some of my favorite tv shows. I loved The Sex Lives of College Girls so much. I’m so sad that I’m out of episodes to watch. It centers around four freshman roommates at the fictional Essex College in Vermont. Leighton is a legacy whose parents went to Essex and her older brother already attends. She is also a closeted lesbian. Bela is an Indian girl whose parents want her to become a doctor while she wants to pursue comedy and is determined to make it as a writer for the school’s renowned comedy magazine while also making up for what she feels is lost time in her lack of a social and sex life in high school. Whitney is on the soccer team and her mother is a Senator. She is also having an affair with the team’s assistant coach. Kimberly is a somewhat naive girl from the mid-West who doesn’t have much money unlike most of the people at Essex who is trying to navigate her way in this new world. She is the character who is the most cartoonish. Either I got used to it or they dialed it back some over the course of the show. I loved this show. I loved the characters. I loved the friendships and the relationships. It’s a perfect teen dramedy, and I cannot wait until there are more episodes.

Elite

The Netflix algorithm knows I love a good teen drama so at some point it recommended this Spanish show to me. I added it to my queue and after it sitting there for years I finally decided to watch it. I’m really glad I did because Netflix was right and I did love it. There are four seasons so far and Netflix assures me a fifth season is coming. It centers on an elite private school in Madrid where lots of rich and important people send their kids to school. No one should ever send their kids there though because every season is framed with some sort of murder or attempted murder. Basically if your kid goes there they’re either going to be murdered or become a murderer. I thought maybe after the sort of throughline of the first three seasons was done that in season four they would drop the framing where you start with whatever that season’s crime was with everyone being interviewed by the cops and the show filling in what happened up to that point over the season, but they did not. I wish they had because they never really needed it. I’m much more interested in the relationships between the characters than I ever was about who committed whatever crime we were focused on that season. The first three seasons are great. The fourth season I don’t think was as good. Half of the original characters left after season three including most of my favorites. I did not like any of the new characters they brought into replace them, the stories seemed even more ridiculous than normal, and the personalities of the characters that came back did not seem consistent with previous season. Made me feel like they got a bunch of new writers in season four. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed watching it and will definitely be watching season five whenever it comes out. If you like a good teen drama and aren’t opposed to subtitles I recommend it.

Maid

Maid is a Netflix show loosely based on Stephanie Land’s memoir of the same name. It stars Margaret Qualley as Alex a young mother who flees her abusive husband and winds up working as a maid to support herself and her pre-school age daughter. She is equally caught in trying to get help from her mother who has undiagnosed bipolar disorder and having to take care of her. Her mother is played by Andie McDowell, Qualley’s real life mother. This show is excellent, but it is also one of the hardest shows I think I have ever watched. I definitely could not watch more than one episode of this in a sitting. I felt the stress that this character was going through. It made me really sad because I know there are so many people who are actually living this life where they are just caught in impossible situation after impossible situation and all the systems that are supposedly there to help them are built such that it’s actually impossible to get help from them and even make things worse. It really highlights how broken the systems in the country are because we’re so worried about someone who we don’t think deserves something getting it. Because the show does not want to be complete misery porn it winds up ending on a positive note for the character, but there are far too many people who will never manage to navigate their way out of lives that are stacked against them at every turn.

As We See It

As We See It is the new Jason Katims show on Amazon Prime. You may know Katims from his previous shows Friday Night Lights and Parenthood. He featured some of his experiences as a parent of an autistic son in the character of Max Braverman on Parenthood. Now he extends that into his experiences parenting a child with autism who is now an adult themselves. It centers around three autistic adults in their 20s sharing an apartment and being cared for by an aide named Mandy. Jack is really smart but struggling to keep a job because of his lack of social skills and inflexibility. He is also faced with finding out that his father has what will probably be terminal cancer. This story also focuses on his father worrying about how to make sure Jack is going to be all right after he’s gone. Violet is a sex obsessed woman who just wants people to perceive her as normal and doesn’t realize that her overattachment to people even strangers is inappropriate and potentially dangerous. She is being cared for by her older brother Van since their parents died. Harrison is the least functioning of the three. He is practically agoraphobic and Mandy is working with him to get him to leave the apartment and gain skills so that he too might be able to support himself in some fashion one day. In true Jason Katims fashion it mixes complete heartbreak with small triumphs that warm the heart. It does not however gloss over the difficulties of all of the characters with the autistic characters just wanting to be understood for who they are and not always understanding why people view them as they do and their families struggling with the weight of helping their loved ones navigate an unforgiving world and the stresses that they themselves have to deal with.

Station Eleven

I read the book Station Eleven back in 2015 and did not re-read it prior to watching the series on HBO, so I didn’t remember enough about it to know how faithful it was or not to the source material. I gather from the things I’ve heard about it that there was quite a bit changed, but that everyone seemed to agree that the changes worked. So let’s go with that. I do know that I felt differently about the book than I did the tv show. I remember feeling like there was a lot of hope in the book that I did not necessarily feel in the tv show. Perhaps some of that is that I read the book prior to having ever lived through a pandemic myself, so I’m pretty sure my feelings about the tv show were colored by my own experiences. The pandemic in this show is way worse than COVID, killing something like 99% of the population. It was sort of interesting watching the end of this as the supply chain shortages caused by so many people getting sick from Omicron were starting to ramp up given this series shows how much worse it could have been with these characters living in a post-apocalyptic world in which pretty much all of the things we have come to rely on as a modern society like all kinds of technology cease to function because there aren’t enough people to keep them running. Weirdly my favorite parts of the series were the parts with Jeevan and young Kiersten struggling to survive right after the pandemic happened, which is something I usually hate and why I don’t tend to care for post-apocalyptic shows or books, and which I said in my review of the book that I was happy it didn’t spend a lot of time on. Ultimately I really did like this show, but based on how i remember feeling after reading the book I liked it better which is generally the case when it comes to book adaptations.

Good Sam

Good Sam stars Sophia Bush and Jason Isaacs. He’s a world renowned cardiologist who is very difficult to work with. Sam is his daughter who has been working under him but is planning on leaving the hospital for another job until he is shot and they ask her to fill in as the Chief of Cardiology. Now he’s back at his job and having to be supervised by her until the medical board signs off on his recovery and is very unhappy about being subordinate to anyone, especially his daughter. It’s sort of a mix between House and Grey’s Anatomy with a curmudgeonly but brilliant doctor at the center, a case of the week, and some soapy elements mixed together. It’s a decent network drama that’s more than just a straight procedural if you enjoy these kinds of shows.

Around the World in 80 Days

Masterpiece on PBS is currently airing this new adaptation of the Around the World in 80 Days starring David Tennant. It’s fine. I don’t love it. I’m usually doing something else like reading or messing around on the internet when my husband puts it on.

TV Diary

Mare of Easttown

I finally got around to watching Mare of Easttown long before everyone else was done talking about it. I literally managed to avoid all spoilers about the show until I was literally a couple episodes away from the end and looked at some year end best of list and managed to find out who the actual killer was right before I would have watched it after avoiding finding anything out for months. It didn’t really matter though because who the killer was was the least interesting part of the show to me. It was just one of those really good, well lived in shows that just took you completely into the world and felt so realistic in both character and place that the lives of the people were much more fascinating to me than the actual murder plot. Spoiler alert for later this week, it’s definitely ending up as one of my favorite shows of the year.

The Real World: Homecoming

I very much still remember the summer the first season of The Real World aired on MTV the summer before I started high school. I loved it so much. First it was just the factor of like everyone else at that point I had never seen anything like it on TV. Second, at that age this was completely aspirational. I thought they were all so cool and I wanted to be those cool people living in New York when I was their age. I quit watching after third season and didn’t really care for the second season that much. There was something pure in this very first season of the show that could never be recreated because after that people knew what it was or made decisions to try and force it to be something they wanted or acted certain ways to get on the show that never made it the same. Watching this reunion was just a huge trip down memory lane and hugely nostalgic for me in a way that I loved. I wish all the Becky stuff hadn’t derailed things in a way that made more than half of the show about that. Overall though I think that they did an awesome job of integrating the footage from the original series with the footage from the reunion shoot and the music was perfect. I wanted to create a Spotify playlist of all the music featured in this reunion because it was a perfect mix of things I loved back then and things I love today. Happily for me the folks at MTV already created a Spotify playlist so I didn’t even have to do the work. If you enjoyed the original series I do definitely recommend watching this. I gather they are now into episodes for the reunion of season 2, which I don’t care enough to watch. There’s a small possibility I might watch season 3 if they ever do that, but I’m not sure I care to relive the Puck of it all.

The Great Pottery Throw Down

I had heard some podcast people talking about The Great Pottery Throw Down previously and how it has a lot of the same gentle rhythms as The Great British Baking Show if you’re looking for something to watch while that show is between seasons. One of my friends was also extolling it to me recently, so I’ve been binge watching it on my Christmas break. I don’t like it was much as GBBS because with GBBS I at least think I could make something like that or that sounds really delicious I should find a similar recipe to bake. This does indeed share a lot of the same DNA, but I have no illusions that I could make any of the things that they are making, and I just care less about pottery than I do food. However, it is as was alluded to a good show to watch if you do need something to fill in that hole in your life for awhile. It is nice that Keith, one of the judges, can get so emotional over pottery that he will sometimes cry. It feels more authentic than the Hollywood handshake has become on GBBS. It’s harder to fake that and half the time it’s more that he gets emotional about a potter really pushing themselves and gaining a bit of skill than it is over someone creating the perfect pot. It’s a nice gentle show, and I know we can all use more of those these days.

Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.

Doogie Kamealoha, M.D. is a reboot of the old Doogie Howser show. In this case the young teenage genius doctor is Lahela Kamealoha, a Hawaiian girl. Her mother is also a fellow doctor at her hospital. Her father sells shaved ice at a stand outside the hospital. She also has two younger brothers. It’s a sweet little show. Nothing groundbreaking, but a decently entertaining half hour to watch and definitely good as family show if you have kids. Also, since it’s set in Hawaii it has some really great scenery.

Saved by the Bell

I loved Saved by the Bell as a kid. I watched every version of it from the original Good Morning Miss Bliss, the Saved by the Bell that everyone thinks of when you say Saved by the Bell, Saved by the Bell: The College Years, and Saved by the Bell: The New Class. So of course I had to watch the reboot of the show on Peacock. Slater and Jessie are regulars on the show as the gym coach and guidance counselor. Zach and Kelly, whose son Mac is one of the kid regulars, show up occasionally. Zach is now the governor of California and as a result of some his bad education policies schools are shut down and kids from a poor neighborhood are now bussed to Bayside. Three of those kids the main characters of the show along with Jessie’s son and a third already at Bayside student rounding out the new gang. It was fine. There were some good things about it and some bad things about it. I haven’t rewatched OG Saved by the Bell in a long time so either I’m misremembering or my views on things have changed enough that the characters seem different to me, but Zach and Kelly seem worse than they were in the original show. Zach is pretty awful and Kelly seems way more vapid than she did in the original. Also there’s some stuff that Mac does that definitely seems right out of the Zach Morris playbook from the 90s, but does not play really well in 2021. I may or may not continue watching in the future. It will probably depend on if there’s something else on Peacock that makes me want to resubscribe once the third season of this show is available because I definitely wouldn’t resubscribe solely for this.

Pretty Smart

Pretty Smart is a super dumb sit-com on Netflix. I really don’t recommend that anyone else watch it because it is not good. It’s super campy but in an even worse way than some of the ridiculous family shows like Fuller House because it’s not really aimed at kids. About a woman who gets dumped by her fiance after moving across the country to be with him and winds up moving in with her estranged sister and her roommates, who are all really dumb while she is a recently graduated Ph.D. student. It was a show we would throw on at the end of the night right before bed. I literally slept through at least half of most of the episodes, and I never felt compelled to go back and rewatch the parts that I missed if that tells you anything. I do not expect that Netflix will be renewing this for a second season.

Baking It

It tried this baking show on Peacock with Andy Samberg and Maya Rudolph serving as hosts and a group of grandmas serving as the judges. I only made it through one episode. It was way too much schtick and not enough baking for my tastes. Maybe the balance got a little better after they were done introducing the show in the first episode and as episodes went by there were fewer contestants to focus on, but at least in the first episode it was like 50% schtick, 40% chatting with contestants, and 10% actual baking. That ratio was way off for me. If it ever got better I will never know because my 6 months of free Peacock are now up, and there is nothing on there at the moment that would make me actually want to pay for it.

TV Diary

For All Mankind

For All Mankind is my current entry for the best tv show you’re not watching. I don’t know why this show hasn’t gotten more traction. There have been two seasons on AppleTV+ and I have barely heard anyone talk about it. It’s an alternate history of the space race starting in the 1960s and leaving off in the 1980s in season 2. It looks like season 3 is going to jump ahead to the 90s. From the little I saw other people saying about the show it seems like people like season 2 better. I still really liked the second season, but I did like season 1 a little bit better. The show has lots of good storylines for women. There’s a good balance between character development and really good plot driven action. I don’t want to give anything away, but I will just say that it’s actually kind of a miracle that nothing like what happens towards the end of season 2 has actually ever happened in regards to the moon. If you have AppleTV+ and haven’t watched this show, go start now. If you don’t have AppleTV+, pay the five bucks for a month and treat yourself to this and Ted Lasso.

The Other Two

The Other Two started off as a show on Comedy Central, but it moved to HBOMax for season two. It stars Molly Shannon as the mother of three kids. Cary and Brooke are in their twenties and trying to make lives for themselves in New York. Their teenage brother Chase winds up becoming a famous singer because of YouTube and all of their lives start to revolve around him and his career. I resisted watching this show for a long time because everything I heard about it when it started made me think that it involved a lot of cringe comedy, which I cannot abide. I have to watch that kind of stuff through my fingers, so a whole show whose premise revolved around it did not appeal to me. I heard such good stuff about it when season two premiered that I finally decided to give it a chance. I feel like I was a bit misled on the cringe comedy thing. Cary and Brooke do a lot of dumb stuff trying to get ahead in their lives and their careers that usually backfires on them, but I wouldn’t actually label it as cringe comedy. I don’t think it has quite as much heart as Schitt’s Creek, but it is one of those shows where some people that on the surface seem kind of terrible grow and develop and actually make you like them.

Only Murders in the Building

People seemed to really love Only Murders in the Building, a Hulu show starring Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez. After a murder happens in the building that their three characters live in they band together to try and solve the murder through a true crime podcast. I liked it well enough, but I didn’t love it the way everyone else seemed to. I will say that the season finale featured some A+ physical comedy from Steve Martin. The episode that was focused on Sting potentially being the murderer was also fantastic.

The Chair

The Chair on Netflix stars Sandra Oh as the newly appointed chair of an English department at a small New England college. She winds up having to deal with all kinds of problems including older tenured faculty whose classes are no longer drawing students, her sort of boyfriend and fellow professor saying something offensive in a class that sends the college into an uproar, and a young adopted daughter who she has a difficult relationship with. Sandra Oh was great as always, and as someone who works in higher education there were definitely some things that rang true about this show.

Girls 5Eva

Girls 5Eva is a show on Peacock about a girl group that was famous in the 90s reuniting in present day after their song is sampled by a hit rapper. It stars Busy Phillips, Paula Pell, Sara Bareilles, and Renee Elise Goldsberry. We Are Lady Parts is the superior Peacock show about a ladies in a band, but Girls 5Eva was a decent comedy to watch if you happen to subscribe to Peacock or get it free somehow like we currently are. I don’t know that I would both resubscribing to Peacock just to watch this when season two comes out, but if we happen to be subscribed for some other reason I would watch it.

The Big Leap

The Big Leap is one of the few new network shows I’m watching this season. There weren’t a lot of them to begin with because of COVID, and I wasn’t super excited about most of them. It’s about the production of a reality show in which people a who live in the Detroit area and are down on their luck are cast in a production of Swan Lake. This show is really terrible, but also I love it. It is not good by any stretch of the imagination. Nothing about the actual show or the show within the show make any sense. It’s entirely ridiculous that so many of these randomly cast people wind up having past connections of some sort and that they all immediately fall in love with someone else on the show. The dance scenes are fun though, and it’s mindless entertainment that is entertaining even if it is objectively not good. Fox declined to pick it up for a second half of the season. Supposedly they’re saying that it was only ever intended to have 11 episodes, but 11 episodes is not a number of episodes that tv usually travels in so I’m dubious that is true. At any rate, I’m not holding my breath for a second season, and I don’t really care if there is one. If Fox had pulled the plug at any point during the season due to the low ratings I would not have been up in arms about it.

Ghosts

Ghosts is the one other network tv show I’ve stuck with this season. It’s a CBS comedy about a couple who inherit a big old house in the country, which it turns out is haunted by centuries worth of ghosts. After a freak accident she winds up being about to see the ghosts. The comedy comes from her being the only one who can interact with them and the fact that the ghosts are from all different time periods who don’t always understand each other’s references or what is happening the world today. Apparently it’s based on a British show that I have never watched. I might go back and watch it at some point as well.

Zero Chill

Speaking of terrible tv shows that I continued to watch, I submit to you Zero Chill, a British teen drama available on Netflix. It’s about a family who moves from Canada to England so that their son can join a prestigious hockey team. His twin sister, who is a figure skater, does not take the move well. The storylines in this show are kind of dumb and unbelievable, and the acting is super questionable. However it has really great music including a bunch of songs by the band Chvrches, who I love and am super sad that I will selling the concert ticket I have to see them in a few weeks because Covid cases are going up again instead of down and it seems like a poor decision to go stand cramped in a crowded concert venue with 6,000 other people.

Squid Game

Hi it’s me the person that watched Squid Game and didn’t like it. I do not really understand why everyone was so obsessed with this show. I just didn’t care about any of the characters enough to worry about who was going to be killed, and it was patently obvious that the person who one was going to win. Pretty much it was easy to know who was going to be the next character that they spent any time on who was going to get killed. There was one good episode in my opinion and that was the marble episode. I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t watched, but if you have then you probably know why I liked that one the best.

The Wonder Years

I tried the new remake of The Wonder Years based on a Black family in the 60s. In theory it’s a really good idea, but it’s just not a show I’m that interested in. I never watched the original regularly either. This one has the same beats, and it just doesn’t draw me in. I’m sure people who liked the original one would like this version too.

Ordinary Joe

Ordinary Joe was one of the few network tv shows I tried. I quit it after two episodes. It stars James Wolk in a sort of Sliding Doors type story in which he winds up with three different versions of his life that you’re watching based on a decision he made in college. I wasn’t super invested in what was happening to him in any of the timelines and I just couldn’t see where the show was going to go. Like am I just supposed to watch him living three separate but sort of related lives for multiple seasons? Maybe some larger picture came into play in subsequent episodes after I quit watching, but I’ll never know.

TV Diary

Schmigadoon

Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key play a couple who are questioning their relationship when they wind up stuck in a town called Schmigadoon in which everyone acts as if they are in an old time musical with all the tropes and bursting into songs reminiscent of that era of musicals like Brigadoon, Oklahoma, the Music Man, etc. I thought it was quite enjoyable, but I can imagine it’s really only something that people who are already into musical theatre would like. I’m not sure that they’re going to do any more episodes, but they did leave the ending ambiguous enough that they could do something more if they want to. I would love to see them do another season and tackle the 80s/90s eras of musicals with stuff like Les Mis, Phantom, Cats, Miss Saigon, etc. as those are the musicals I came up with and that made me fall in love with musical theatre even though their synthy spectacle doesn’t do so much for me anymore. It’s certainly musical theatre of a time with many shows that people still find beloved.

Punky Brewster (The Reboot)

They did a reboot of Punky Brewster on Peacock. Punky is now a newly single mom recently divorced from Freddie Prinze, Jr.’s character. There was still a good kind of will they are or won’t they get back together kind of romance going on there. They have three kids of their own and then Punky winds up fostering another young girl who reminds her a lot of herself as a child. Cherry is still around as her best friend who is now running Fenster Hall, the group home that Punky cycles in and out of a few times during the original run. I really like this show, so I’m super bummed that they already canceled it after only one season. I thought it was better than the Full House reboot though it obviously was still living in the same lane as that show. It’s a bummer that there won’t be any more episodes, but I still think it’s worth a watch.

Punky Brewster (OG Version)

Peacock annoyingly doesn’t let you turn off autoplay, so that new episodes of something don’t immediately start when you finish the previous episode. Thus when I was done watching the Punky reboot it immediately started playing the first episode of the original run of the show. I kept watching because I was kind of curious what it was like after all this time. Punky Brewster was not actually a show I watched a lot of as a child. I saw an episode here or there and definitely knew about the show just as a pop culture reference, but I’m guessing I had not seen most of the episodes in the original show. It gets goofier as time goes on, especially in the fourth and final season, but the first couple seasons are actually really something. They tackle some really tough stuff and don’t shy away from the trauma that Punky would have felt being abandoned by her parents (something she’s still tackling in the reboot too). There are a lot of episodes with her worrying that Henry will abandon her too for various reasons as well as some episodes that tackle the issues of a much older man acting as a foster parent for young child that do lead her to be taken away from him for awhile. It’s some tough stuff, and I was surprised by how serious some of the storylines were in an 80s sit-com aimed at children.

Kevin Can F*** Himself

Annie Murphy stars as a put upon wife from a stereotypical sit-com like Everybody Loves Raymond. In the scenes where she’s with her husband Kevin the show is written and directed like one of those sit-coms with the same exact look and feel you get from those types of shows. However, in scenes where she is not with Kevin it is a much darker show in which she has realized how much she hates her life and her husband and starts to plot to kill him. Sometimes I think the premise is better in concept than it is in practice. I could do with less of the sit-com parts. I don’t think you need quite as much of them to get the point across as there actually are. Overall I like the show though and am looking forward to see where they take it in season 2.

This is Pop

This is Pop is a Netflix documentary show about music type things. It kind of weirdly starts out with an episode about Boys II Men, which was only weird because all the other episodes are a little bit more topical rather than about a specific group. It wasn’t bad I just thought it was odd that they led off with an episode that I felt fell outside of the mold of most of the other episodes. They also have ones on auto-tune, music festivals, Swedish pop and Max Martin, country pop music, Britpop, the Brill Building, and protest music. For a music lover like me it was quite an enjoyable little series and something you can certainly dip in and out of if you’re only interested in some of the topics.

Lupin

Everyone was raving about the French thriller Lupin earlier in the year. We just recently got around to watching it and I am quite enjoying it. We still have a couple episodes to go, so I’m not sure what happens all the way to where it leaves off after episode 10 yet. I am finding it a little bit harder to sympathize with Assane the more people he hurts along the way trying to avenge his father. It’s still a fun and engaging show though and I can see why everyone was so excited about it.

SurrealEstate

SurrealEstate is a Syfy show that is better than it has any right to be. Tim Rozon (who you may know as Mutt on Schitt’s Creek or Doc on Wynonna Earp) stars as the owner of a real estate agency that specializes in selling haunted houses by determining what is haunting them and getting rid of it. Sarah Levy (who you may know as Twyla from Schitt’s Creek) stars as a new realtor who just joined the agency after being kicked out of her old job after an affair with the boss went bad. She’s sort of the audience surrogate who doesn’t know anything about this world and has to have everything explained to her. She’s not necessarily a skeptic, but she has a lot to learn and doesn’t always agree with their playbook and often tries to do her own thing. I quite enjoy it. I think the season on Syfy is probably close to being over and since I don’t think most people reading this don’t have cable anyway just search it out whenever it eventually winds up on some streaming service.

Reservation Dogs

Reservation Dogs is Hulu show about a group of four teenage kids living on a reservation in Oklahoma who are trying to find ways to earn enough money to get out. It follows the misadventures they get up to in that quest as well as other issues they’re dealing with in their lives. We’re still only part way through the season, but I’m definitely enjoying it so far. It’s funny but also not dumbed down for a white audience. They don’t explain all the references for people who don’t know what they might be talking about because it’s not their lived experience. Even if you might not know the exact meaning there are enough context clues that you can at least pick up on that there are meanings to some things.

Rutherford Falls

It’s interesting that I can’t really think of a single tv show that is focused on Native Americans and even more actually stars Native American actors and yet this year has brought us two of them. Rutherford Falls is the more sitcommy of the two shows and also the one that is not as good. Mike Schur is one of the creators and his shows often take a season to really find themselves. This show on Peacock does feel like it has some good potential, but the first season most felt like it was figuring out exactly what it wanted to be.

White Lotus

People seemed to love the show White Lotus on HBO. I was not particularly one of them. It did have some moments, but overall I don’t enjoy watching horrible people be horrible. There really weren’t any redeeming characters on this show and even when there were small moments of comeuppance for some of them it didn’t feel great either and they will still able to use their wealth and privilege to go back about their lives even if all that wealth and privilege wasn’t really making them happy either. I never watched Enlightened, which is another HBO show by Mike White that people loved and this show is not making me inclined to do so.

TV Diary

It’s time once again for my thoughts on some of the new shows I’ve been watching.

Cruel Summer

This was a sort of fun little summer show on Freeform and Hulu. I’m not sure I liked it as much as everyone else seemed to as it sort of became the cult hit of the summer, but it kept me engaged enough. The premise is that each episode takes place on the same day during three different years: 1993, 1994, and 1995. I’m not going to lie I initially decided to keep watching the show because it starts on the 15th birthday of the one of characters who is exactly 3 days older than I am and also in high school in Texas in the mid-90s as I was. Kate is a popular girl who disappears during the first year. Jeanette is a socially awkward girl who wants to get in with the popular kids and manages to do so while Kate is gone, but then Kate returns and accuses Jeanette of knowing where she was being held hostage and not reporting it. Jeanette then becomes a pariah in the town. You bounce back and forth across the timelines trying to figure out what happened to Kate when she was kidnapped and whether or not Jeanette actually did know about it. I didn’t love the twist ending because I didn’t think it was as twisty as they thought it was, but it was decently entertaining if you can get past the horrible wigs and lighting they use to help distinguish the timelines. I will say I was never confused about what year we were in, but ooph that stuff was bad. Also I literally couldn’t tell any of the white guys in this show apart. I could never figure out which one was the boyfriend, which one was the brother, and which was another friend without the context clues of the scene. It’s been renewed for a second season. It will be interesting to see where it goes since the central mystery has been resolved.

Hacks

Hacks on HBOMax stars Jean Smart as a big name comic with a long running Vegas gig, Deborah Vance, who is starting to get pushed aside for younger and more subversive talent. Hannah is a television writer who basically gets canceled for some Twitter joke, but everyone seems to agree has a lot of talent. The agent that represents both of them and who is struggling with how to deal with both of their currently tanking careers convinces Hannah to move to Vegas and work with Deborah to bring a newer sensibility to her comedy. They are both unlikeable in various ways, but you also want to root for them. They eventually develop a grudging relationship and respect for each other. It’s a really good show. Jean Smart is really at the apex of her career in this role and should definitely win the Emmy she was just nominated for.

We Are Lady Parts

We Are Lady Parts is a Peacock show about five Muslim women who form a punk band. Amina is the lead character who is a somewhat socially awkward woman who loves playing the guitar but gets performance anxiety so bad that it makes her vomit. She is also a devout Muslim woman who trying to find a husband. It’s a really great show that shows lots of facets of Muslim women and has some fun rom-com elements. I was very sad when we finished the sixth episode and I realized it was the last one. Stupid Brits and their stupid short seasons.

Mythic Quest

We just finished watching the two seasons of the AppleTV+ show Mythic Quest, which is a workplace comedy surrounding people who work at a video game design company. I wasn’t sure about it at first, but it definitely grew on me. It also likes to play with it’s format and sometimes have episodes that don’t even involve the main characters at all. The characters can be a bit cartoonish, but they also grow as people so there’s a bit of a balance there. I will say that this show hands down had the absolute best “Zoom” quarantine episode created when filming still couldn’t take place in person. It used the format perfectly and I still get shivers thinking about the last couple of scenes. The show is almost worth watching just to watch that episode.

The Morning Show

The Morning Show is also on AppleTV+. It was their flagship show when launching the service. It stars Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Steve Carrell. I have no idea how I got the misconception about what this show was about in my head given the amount of press that it got when it came out, but for some reason I totally thought it was a 30 minute sit-com about people who worked on a morning show. Not so much. It’s actually an hour long drama about people who work on a morning show. At least I got that last part right. It’s in the title, so you know I’m super on top of things. Steve Carrell and Jennifer Aniston are long time hosts of the show when he loses his job after his sexual behavior on set comes to light as part of the #metoo movement. It’s very much a take off of the real life scandal involving Matt Lauer. Reese Witherspoon is the reporter who winds up replacing him and who decides to try and dig deeper into who knew and how much was covered up. I’m a little annoyed that the last shot of the season was of Steve Carrell, but that’s really neither here nor there. I enjoyed it for the most part and will watch the second season when it comes out, though I’ll be interested to see where it goes from here given how things sort of wrapped up in way on the first season.

Starstruck

Starstruck is a quick six episode rom com type series on HBOMax. Jessie is sort of a screw up who doesn’t really have her life together who winds up hooking up with Tom on New Year’s Eve not realizing he’s a famous actor until the morning after. I didn’t love this show as much as I was expecting or apparently as much as everyone else based on what I’ve seen people say about it. There was some cute banter between the characters, but ultimately I didn’t necessarily think they should be together. The show is not a straightforward they meet and then their relationship progresses from there with various barriers. Instead it feels like it very much starts and stops with each episode being set in a new season over the course of a year, so they basically keep running into each other and then having that connection end badly so they part ways until they run into each other again. I’m like yeah every time you meet it is terrible so why does this show want to make me think you should be in an actual relationship with each other? There is going to be a second season and I will probably watch it, but this definitely didn’t hit me the way it did a lot of other people.

30 Rock

I never watched 30 Rock when it was on, but for some reason finally decided to take the plunge and watch all of it on Hulu recently. I know people still love this show and quote it all the time, but coming at it fresh in 2021 it felt very cringey and out of touch particularly in regard to race based jokes of which there were a lot. I know Hulu even pulled a few episodes that had blackface in them, so I didn’t even see the worst of it. I obviously enjoyed it enough to watch it all, but I definitely didn’t love it and in some ways don’t exactly feel good about having watched it.

High on the Hog

High on the Hog is a four episode mini-series on Netflix about the history of the African-American influence on food based on the book of the same name. Stephen Satterfield travels to various places around America and Africa to explore African-American food culture and it’s influence on American cuisine. If you enjoyed Taste the Nation or Somebody Feed Phil this show should be right up your alley.

Young Royals

Young Royals is a Swedish show tv show available on Netflix. It’s about Prince Wilhelm who after a scandal is shipped off to a boarding school he avoided attending in the first place. Now he’s told he needs to be on the straight and narrow, but he finds himself falling for a local kid named Simon. Their relationship would certainly go against royal protocol. This was an enjoyable teen drama type show. It is in Swedish with English subtitles so you can’t be adverse to reading your television if you want to watch it.

Lodge 49

I don’t even really know how to describe Lodge 49. Dudley is sort of a surfer dude bum type guy who has just been sort of lost since the death of his father and the loss of their pool cleaning business. His sister works a dead end job at a Hootersesque restaurant. He gets involved with a local lodge that has sort a Masons type vibe. There’s a lot of crazy stuff that happens that I can’t really describe. The show definitely had some Twin Peaks vibes to me because of the weirdness. It was okay. I’m not sure that I’d super recommend it.

The Underground Railroad

Unlike the rest of the world I didn’t really like Colson Whitehead’s book that this show on Amazon Prime is based off of, so I’m not sure why I thought I might like the tv show. I did not. It’s ten episodes. I made it through five and when my husband went to put on the sixth and I realized we were only halfway through I was like I really don’t want to watch this anymore. It’s sort of a fantastical story about slavery in that the underground railroad is an actual railroad. You follow a slave named Cora as she tries to escape slavery and the slave catcher that is determined to catch and return her to slavery. It’s sort of a disjointed story, which is one of the things that made it hard to connect to as well as just the depressing subject matter. I will say that episode one is worth a watch though. It really has the single most harrowing and horrific scene about the evils of slavery that I have ever seen. I heard a lot of chatter about a scene in that first episode and I knew it was what everyone had been talking about as soon as I got to it. Nothing else that I watched lived up to that scene and I feel like having seen that was enough.

Sex/Life

I did not even make it all the way through the first episode of this Netflix show starring Sarah Shahi as an unfulfilled housewife who dreams about the more exciting sex she had with some ex. This show is essentially soft core porn with the terrible acting and storylines to go along with it. Since this show has been talked about a lot and has been sitting in Netflix’s top 10 since it came out, I guess there are plenty of people that are into that. I am not one of them. I at least need some decent acting and story lines to go along with my explicit sex scenes.

TV Diary

Ted Lasso

I don’t think anyone at this point needs me to tell them that they need to watch Ted Lasso, but if you are one of the last people on earth to still have not watched Ted Lasso and haven’t had a million other people to tell you to watch Ted Lasso let me be the one to tell you to watch Ted Lasso. It’s an AppleTV+ show. If you don’t currently have a subscription it’s worth paying for one month to watch it and then canceling because at this point there isn’t much else of interest there, at least to me. I got it free for a year with my new phone. Anyway Ted Lasso is about a super optimistic and happy American football coach who is hired to coach an English soccer team by the former club owner’s ex-wife who is trying to drive it into the ground to spite him. Ted knows next to nothing about soccer, but he does know about people and he’s determined to turn the team around even if that doesn’t mean breaking their losing streak. It’s a wonderful feel good show and everyone who has been telling you to watch it is completely right.

It’s a Sin

It’s a Sin is a five part limited series created by Russell T. Davies on HBOMax about the early days of the AIDS crisis in England. It follows a group of roommates and friends whose lives are touched by AIDS. Although there is obviously a lot of really sad stuff and horrible stuff that happens in a story surrounding that crisis the show is not a complete downer. There is also a lot of joy in watching the friends together and getting to see some of them living their lives in a way they never thought they would be able to.

Last Chance U: Basketball

I very much enjoyed the original version of the Last Chance U series, which focused on junior college football. They have now ended that series and have revived it focusing on junior college basketball. This season focuses on the East LA Huskies. It’s just as good as the football version. This season had the added suspense of wondering whether COVID was going to cut their season short or whether they would be able to finish it out. I won’t spoil it for you.

Country Comfort

This show stars Katherine McPhee has a down on her luck country singer who was just dumped by her boyfriend and kicked out of their band. Her car breaks down in front of Eddie Cibrian’s house where he is raising his five kids alone after the death of his wife. She is mistaken for the new nanny and eventually decides to keep the job while trying to make it as a country singer. This commonly used tv trope of mistaken identity drives me crazy because like where is the actual nanny? This show is pretty terrible and yet I watched the entire thing. The writing is about on par with Full House, but it’s even worse because everyone is talking in these horribly fake country accents. I’m sure it would be enjoyable family viewing for people with late elementary age kids. I watched all of Fuller House and all of this, so don’t get me wrong I’m not above it, but objectively it is not good. I would still watch another season of it.

Painting with John

Painting with John is an HBOMax series that stars John Lurie as he paints water color pictures and tells stories from his life. It got a lot of critical acclaim, but I didn’t get super into it. My favorite part of the whole thing was just listening to the sounds of the night time wildlife on the tropical island where he lives in the background as he painted in some scenes. I found that kind of relaxing, but otherwise I didn’t much care.

Firefly Lane

I should have listened to every single critic that told me not to watch this show. Everyone warned me, but I didn’t listen. Don’t make my mistake. This show is terrible full stop, but the episodes are written in such a way that the last little bit of each one makes you think you need to keep watching to find out what happens. Don’t fall for it. There is nothing good about this show. It bounces back and forth in time throughout decades in the lives of best friends Kate and Tully from when they meet as teenagers to the present. The stuff that takes place in the 2009ish time frame was the most interesting to me and is really the storyline that kept me watching. I hated every time it bounced back to the teenage timeline which I found to be the least interesting and I also mostly hated the part in the 80s as well. The wigs and glasses in all those scenes were the worst and super distracting. Not to mention that the show bounced around so much during every episode it was impossible to get into anything because as soon as you started to get into what was happening you zoomed to a different part of the story. Then to rub salt in the wound after I wasted 10 hours of my life on this show it didn’t even reveal the mystery that teased throughout the whole series. I was so mad. Actually I’m still mad even thinking about it. Since it’s based on a book I looked up what happened in the book, which is what I should have just done after watching the first episode anyway instead of suffering through 9 more hours only to still not even be told what happened. Knowing what the big reveal is makes the whole thing seem like even more of a waste of my time even if they had decided not to drag it out into a second season that I certainly will not be watching.

TV Diary

Years and Years

Years and Years is a 6 episode show on HBOMax created by Russell T. Davies. It takes place in the near future in Britain. It starts in the final days of Donald Trump’s presidency and moves through the next decade, but in this reality he did win a second term so the starting point is actually 2024 not 2020. Even still we watched this show with only a few days left in Trump’s term and it was kind of surreal. The show centers around the lives of the members of one family as the world and more specifically Britain moves into a sort of surreal future filled with horrors and more authoritarian, populist leaders who gain their power by taking advantage of the terrible things that happen like a nuclear crisis, financial crisis, refugee crisis, climate crisis and technology further integrating itself into our lives. Even though it sounds like it would be an unpleasant watch I really liked it a lot. Despite a sprawling cast of characters who you only get to know in 6 episodes, I felt a connection to them and cared about what was happening to the family. They were all mostly a little one note, but their relationships to each other were well written and I thought they served the story really well. I loved the show up until about the last 20 minutes. I really did not care for how they chose to end the show, but I still think the rest of it is worth watching.

All Creatures Great and Small

I had heard of the previous versions of All Creatures Great and Small in the original books by James Herriot and the earlier adaptation of them into a tv show, but I have never watched or read them. As this show started airing I kept seeing all the tv critics I follow talking about how pleasant it was to watch and what a balm it was in these terrible times. They were not wrong. You get to watch vets treating animals in the beautiful English countryside. The stakes are very low. It is just a nice little show to give your tired mind some rest.

My Life is Murder

My Life is Murder is an Australian procedural detective show starring Lucy Lawless. I’m not generally one for procedurals because I like to have character development in my shows and some sort of overarching storyline. This show is almost purely episodic with Lucy Lawless playing, Alexa, a former police detective who quit the force after her fellow police detective husband was killed. (I do not understand why in 2020 anyone would name their character Alexa. I even looked up what the Amazon Echo is called in Australia in case it was something other than Alexa. It is not.) In true procedural fashion we only get the tiniest bit of information about the characters beyond the crime they’re solving in that particular episode. A former colleague continues to bring her cases on the side that the police department is having no luck solving, so she helps solve them along with a tech investigator who still works in the department. Even though I normally don’t care much for procedurals I found this to be a pleasant diversion that again just gave my brain a break. The show is available on AcornTV, but if you have on interest in subscribing to AcornTV I will tell you a secret that you probably do not know. You can probably get it through your public library. A lot of public libraries subscribe to service called Hoopla that provides access to e-books, audiobooks, tv shows, movies, and music. The tv selection is not great, but they do have some of the British and Australian shows you can only get through AcornTV. My Life is Murder is one of the shows that is available.

Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries

Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries is another Australian tv show that we watched through Hoopla at the public library. Many people were obsessed with Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, which was a great show. This is a sequel featuring Peregrine Fisher, Phyrne’s niece. It takes place in the 1970s, so there’s now a lot of great 70s fashion instead of the fantastic 1920s fashion of the original show. It’s not as good as the original show in my opinion, but good enough that if you liked Miss Fisher’s you’ll probably like Ms. Fisher’s too.

Miranda/Call Me Cat

Miranda is a British show about a socially awkward woman in her 30s who quits her job and opens a joke shop whose mother is horrified that she is still single. Call Me Cat is the American remake that just started airing this season starring Mayim Bialik as a socially awkward woman in her 30s who quits her job and opens a cat cafe and whose mother is horrified that she is still single. Miranda is available on Hulu and we have been watching it simultaneously with Call Me Cat. There have been a few storylines that have been exactly the same, but mostly Call Me Cat is a less good take off of the original. Being a British show there are only 3 seasons and 15 episodes of Miranda. I’ll be sad when we’re done with those because I really like it and find it to be far superior to Call Me Cat in pretty much every way. In particular I think her mother is much better written than the version of her mother played by Swoosie Kurtz in Call Me Cat. I do think Call Me Cat is getting slightly better. I thought it was objectively terrible in the beginning, but for some reason kept watching it. I still don’t think it’s good, but at least maybe not as bad. I apparently am going to keep watching it no matter what. But really if you want to do yourself a favor just watch Miranda and skip Call Me Cat.

Mr. Mayor

Mr. Mayor is the new show created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock starring Ted Danson as a somewhat clueless rich businessman who becomes mayor of Los Angeles. It also stars Holly Hunter and Bobby Moynihan. It’s fine. I laugh occasionally. It’s not great. Some of it is a little tone deaf and cringey. If it were another time and there was more new tv than there is thanks to COVID I probably would not still be watching it.

Industry

Industry is an HBOMax show set in the financial world in 1980s Britain. I only made it a few episodes in before I quit. I did not care about these characters or their partying or their corruption and their financial deals. I did not care for it all.

TV Diary

In and Of Itself

I usually don’t write about movies in these posts. This is more of a special than a movie as it’s a recording of the off-Broadway production In and Of Itself. I wanted it as part of the DocNYC Film Festival a couple months ago, but it drops on Hulu this week, and I highly encourage everyone to watch it. It’s hard to describe what it’s about. It’s a one man show featuring Derek DelGaudio. It’s sort of a magic show, but not really. There is some magic involved, but it’s so much more than that. It really gets very deep in ways you would not expect and it left me thinking about a lot of things. I’m also still entirely flummoxed about how he could have done the part with the letters. Even though I don’t know the exact mechanics of how he did the other magic things I have a good enough of an idea of how they could be done that I just accepted them, but I still have no idea how in the world he could pull of the part with the letters. The whole thing is extremely moving and I think the fact that you get to see compilations of some parts with the audience over a number of shows makes it even more profound. This is well worth your time.

The Cost of Winning

The Cost of Winning is an HBO documentary show following football players at St. Francis Academy, a private high school in Baltimore. It’s in an extremely poor part of town and many of the students who attend come from very difficult backgrounds, but their goal is to get all of them into college. However, because they recruit kids to the football team from all over the country and have have an excellent team none of the other local high schools will play against them. Thus they have no conference and play a national schedule sending these kids all over the country to play high school football. Being from Baltimore I had an extra interest in this show, but I think anyone would like it especially if you like shows like Cheer or Last Chance U.

The Flight Attendant

I read the book by Chris Bohjalian that this show is based on and it was one of my least favorite of his books, so I wasn’t sure how I was going to like this show. I think they did a really good job of adapting it and perhaps even making me more interested in the tv show than I was the book. I’m always leery of shows that extend beyond their source material as a lot of them don’t do it well, but I think the way they set things up for a second season may be okay. I guess we will see.

Bridgerton

Although I love Grey’s Anatomy I have never thought any other Shonda Rhimes property was as good. Private Practice was okay. I quit Scandal after two seasons. I’ve only seen a couple of episodes of Station 19 but couldn’t get into it. I’ve never tried How to Get Away with Murder but suspected it might run into the same issues I had with Scandal. So I was willing to give Bridgerton a chance, but wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about it. Basically it turns out that it’s Gossip Girl set in Regency England. I never read any of the romance novels it is based on so I don’t know how it compares to those, but it was fine. It was entertaining enough that I finished it in one weekend, but I also can’t say that I’m over the moon about it and dying to watch more episodes. I’ll continue with it when it comes back for another season, but I can’t say I’m super in love with it.

City So Real

A five part documentary series on Hulu about the most recent mayoral race in Chicago. I suspect it was only meant to be 4 parts originally following the race to it’s conclusion but then COVID-19 and all the Black Lives Matter marches happened and I suspect they tacked on an additional episode to look at how Lori Lightfoot, who won the race, was handling these issues. It all felt very familiar. In many cases if they had replaced the word Chicago with Baltimore it could have been about Baltimore instead. There’s also some really insane things that are part of the Chicago mayoral race that seem like a huge waste of everyone’s time and money. It’s a really great processy documentary that also highlights the issues that facing all big cities.

I May Destroy You

This show written by and starring Michaela Coel that is somewhat based on her own experiences after being drugged and raped was pretty much at the top of every best of tv list in 2020. That was not my experience with it. I struggled with the main character. I of course don’t think she should have been raped, but she seemed pretty terrible both before and after it happened. Also, there were multiple episodes that were pretty much nothing but watching people be drunk and high, which I find extremely boring. I’m not sure exactly what everyone else saw in this show, but I can definitely say it was not one of my top shows of 2020.

We Are Who We Are

Another show that got some critical acclaim that did nothing for me. It was created and directed by Luca Guadagnino who also directed Call Me By Your Name, which I liked. This show follows American teenagers living on an Army base in Italy. Fraser, the lead character, is possibly the worst teenager that has ever been in a tv show. This is also another show that spends longs stretches of time just watching teenagers get drunk and high. As mentioned above this is not something I find the least bit interesting. I don’t think there’s meant to be another season of this show, but if there is I won’t be watching it.

My Most Memorable Pop Culture of 2020

It’s that time of year again where I share my favorite things I experienced in pop culture over the past year. As a reminder these are not necessarily things that came out during 2020 though many of them are. They are however things I enjoyed for the first time this year. This year is a little bit different because some of my standard categories I didn’t really have a choice in thanks to the pandemic. It wasn’t a matter what my favorite thing was. It was a matter of did I even get to do any of these things this year. Although I am sad that I didn’t get to do a lot in the way of seeing things like concerts and theater, which are what I love to do more than anything else in the world, there was thankfully lots of excellent pop culture to keep me entertained while I’ve been stuck at home for most of the year. Let’s get to it.

Movie I Saw in a Theater

This was an easy pick because I saw exactly one movie in a theater in 2020. At least I enjoyed the film, though I doubt it would be sitting in this spot had I seen other movies over the course of the year. It was Birds of Prey, the Harley Quinn movie starring Margot Robbie. Who knew I was going to be enjoying so much Harley Quinn this year, since I also loved the Harley Quinn animated tv series now available on HBOMax. I actually appreciated the smallness of this movie. While I mostly enjoy a lot of comic book superhero movies I hate when they are too what I call smashy smashy where you have long 20-30 minute CGI fight scenes of characters just smashing on things and each other. They bore me to tears. There was none of that in this movie. The fight scenes were at close range and a lot of fun. It wasn’t a perfect movie, but I found a lot to like about it and am not sad that it gets to be the lone movie I saw in a theater this year.

Movie I Watched at Home

I probably watched more movies at home this year than I normally do because I couldn’t see movies in theaters. I normally prefer to see movies in the theater as I have a hard time concentrating on them for that long at home without getting distracted by other things. I think my favorites though were two documentaries about collecting, The Booksellers and Vinyl Nation. As you might guess The Booksellers were about rare book dealers and collectors while Vinyl Nation was about record stores and record collectors. I am not a collector. I guess I don’t have that kind of personality, but I enjoyed seeing the worlds of these people who are super into collecting their books and vinyl records. Despite being a librarian and avid reader I have no interest in collecting books. I borrow most of the books I read and am happy to send books back out into the world for others to enjoy. I rarely reread books so I don’t see the point of having shelves full of them. I do often wish I was the kind of person who was into vinyl collecting though. Music is obviously something I consume over and over again and the idea of having a collection of records that I look through, select from, and then sit down and listen to appeals to me. In reality though the record player we have is not even out on the floor and the two vinyl albums I own were WXPN pledge drive gifts. Realistically I am never going to be that person, but I enjoyed living in the world of the people who are for a little while.

Fiction Book

Without actually meaning to or seeking them out I feel like I read a number of books having to do with various wars or people living under the constant threat of violence. Although it is to some degree an entirely different thing I also felt like there were a lot of parallels to our current state living through a pandemic with lots of death, living in a constant state of fear, and not knowing if or when it’s ever going to end. The best of these books and the one that is the best fiction book I read all year is Apeirogon by Colum McCann. I am just going to share my review on Goodreads because I don’t think I have anything better to say about the book than that.

“An apeirogon is a figure with an infinite number of sides and that is actually the perfect title for this book. I don’t even know how to describe it. At its basest level it is a fictionalized story of the real men Palestinian, Bassam Aramin and Israeli, Rami Elhanan both of whom lost their daughters to violence but who come together to try and fight for peace in the Middle East. It also includes non-fiction passages at the heart of the book written by both men. The story if you can really call it that moves and folds back and around itself while weaving in other facts and histories all written in short vignettes ranging from a mere sentence to several pages. It’s masterfully written and creative in a way that compares to no other book I can think of save for maybe Lincoln in the Bardo, which I more admired for what the author did than I actually enjoyed reading it. Here I think everything comes together perfectly. It’s definitely not a book for anyone who needs their books to have a straight narrative story, but this is beautifully written and full of so much meaning that it is a true masterpiece.”

Non-Fiction Book

I have two books that qualify for my favorite non-fiction book of the year. Bottle of Lies: The Inside Story of thee Generic Drug Boom by Katherine Eban was the first book I read in 2020 and even then I said this is probably going to be one of my favorite books of the year. I was not wrong about that. It’s the informative and horrifying true story about how generic drugs are made and why there can be so many issues with them. This has made me question everything when it comes to the medications I take.

The second book, which was no surprise, was Caste: The Origins of our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson. I was very much looking forward to this book as I loved Wilkerson’s previous masterpiece The Warmth of Other Suns. Caste looks at how the United States really operates on a caste system based on race. She delves into the history and the effects on people and our country. She offers the best explanation I’ve seen as to why it’s important for us to actually address this issue and do what we need to do to repair rather than trying to pretend it doesn’t exist or say it’s not our problem because we’re not the ones who caused it. If you read one of the three books I’ve mentioned here make it this one.

TV Show

I have a few tv shows I want to mention that were the highlights of a year in which I watched a LOT of television and that’s saying something given how much I watched before this. I already alluded to Harley Quinn in the movie section. It’s a fun adults only show that I was sad when I ran out of episodes of.

The first show I watched in 2020 was Schitt’s Creek. I binge watched it over my winter break last year. I had not watched it for a long time thinking it was not something I would enjoy. I was never into all the Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara movies and I generally don’t like shows where people are just awful so on the face of it this show was just not for me. But I had heard so many people talk about how much they loved it that I decided to give it a chance. I’m so glad I did because it is such a delightful show full of so much heart. It is a little rough going in the first half of season one where it felt more like what I was expecting, but eventually the show grows and the characters grow and it’s something that brings me so much joy. If you haven’t watched this show yet please do yourself a favor and do it.

My second favorite show of the year has sadly already met an untimely death after only one season. Thanks Netflix. It’s Teenage Bounty Hunters. I love this show so much! Talk about a show with so much heart. In some ways it shares a lot of DNA with Schitt’s Creek in that it is a ridiculous over the top story with characters that are somewhat caricatures but who have such heart that you just fall in love with them. Everyone I have convinced to watch this show has loved it and I know the many other people I’ve been telling to watch it but who have been resisting my efforts (you know who you are) would love it too. I saw it on a lot of year end best of television lists too. I wish Netflix had let it stick around and grow an audience because get why based on the name and description it wasn’t something people jumped right into when Netflix put it out, but it’s definitely a show that would have grown an audience through word of mouth if it had only been given time. Even though it does end on a bit of a cliffhanger I still highly recommend treating yourself to the one season of this show that we were gifted.

I also fell in love with the show Wynonna Earp this year. It’s not a show I had ever really heard anyone talk about aside from one guest on a podcast I listen to. Apparently her love of the show was enough to get me to check it out and I’m glad I finally did. I tell people if they were Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans than this show is probably for them. It’s got a strong female lead, actually lots of strong female characters, love stories, and supernatural fun. I can’t wait for the second half of the most recent season to air hopefully sometime soon.

TV Episode

I have two episodes to talk about in this category. First Season 4, Episode 8 of Insecure, “Lowkey Happy”. This is one of those pay off episodes that I love from long running tv shows. Season 4 was mostly about Issa and Molly’s friendship and was an excellent season looking at the fading of friendship, but this episode was about Issa and her ex-boyfriend Lawrence. They reconnect over a long night spent together that reminds me of the Before movies. It was lovely and romantic and something that only could have happened with these characters and their relationship being developed over seasons.

Second is Schitt’s Creek Season 4, Episode 9, “The Olive Branch”. This is actually another payoff episode in that earlier in the season Patrick sings an acoustic version of the song “The Best” by Tina Turner to David during an event at their store that David both hates and loves. Then as a romantic makeup gesture after a fight in a later episode David does a dance to the song for Patrick. It’s so wonderful. It’s, no pun intended, the best scene from the entire show and is one of the videos I keep in my arsenal to rewatch when I need something to make me happy. Sadly it seems like the videos on YouTube of just that scene have all been pulled down. So you’ll just have to go watch the show to see it.

Album

I had far too many albums I loved this year to talk about in this post, so I refer you to the separate post I did recently on my favorite albums of 2020.

Song

My favorite song of 2020 was Janelle Monae’s “Turntables”. It’s an amazing empowerment anthem that has kept me going through some pretty dark times in this year.

Also have to give a special mention to the song “It’s Still Alright” by Nathaniel Rateliff. It was the first song I added to my 2020 playlist and it’s a song I came back to a lot. Although the song is about substance abuse and the death of Rateliff’s long time producer Richard Swift, the soothing tones of the song and the lyrics of the chorus repeatedly telling us “and it’s still alright” were a continued gentle reminder in this year full of so much pain and sorrow that there are brighter days ahead.

I will also give a shout out to the following songs that I also loved and listened to a lot this year. “Dreamsicle” by Jason Isbell, “Strangers” by Mt. Joy, “circle the drain” by Soccer Mommy, and “Lockdown on Date Night Tuesday” by Ondara. You can also check out my 2020 playlist on Spotify, which contains all the songs I heard this year that I liked enough to want to listen to again.

Concert

Unlike most years when I would have dozens of concerts to choose from in this spot, this year I only had two. The final concert I went to in 2020 before everything fell apart was Trampled by Turtles at Baltimore Soundstage. It was a fun show and one I would have cherished all the more had I known it was the last show I was going to see for who knows how long.

The concert that was ultimately my favorite and probably would have been in contention for that even if I had gotten to see everything I already had tickets to in 2020 was traveling to Nashville to meet up with a friend to see Brandi Carlile at the Ryman Auditorium. One of my favorite artists in a fantastic, historical venue with a friend and fellow music lover. Who could ask for more? If I was only going to get to see two concerts in 2020 I can’t complain that this was one of them.

Online Concert

I’m adding in this new category this year because in lieu of getting to go out and see actual shows I watched a lot of artists perform online this year. Hopefully it’s one that I will only need to use this year because I want nothing more for 2021 than to be able to see live music again. There many, many online shows I watched from artists playing on Instagram and YouTube from their houses for free, shows I paid for with artists playing in their houses or shows I paid for with artists performing in actual venues with no audience. None of it fulfills the same experience as going to an actual live show and sharing the musical experience with a crowd.

The two things that I’m going to talk about here are things that are/were some of the least produced online music experiences but because of the way they are/were done brought at least a little of that communal experience you get from live music. When the pandemic first started Amanda Shires did 30 straight days of shows from her barn, which she called I So Lounging. Most of them also featured her husband Jason Isbell as well as Seth and Kelly Plemmons who were living with them at the time when we thought this would all be over in a few weeks. Seth is a member of her band and Kelly worked on the behind the scenes stuff. It was something that really kept me going those first weeks of lockdown when everything was so new and raw. It was wonderful to hear them play and just laugh and cry together and there was a little community in the YouTube comments for the shows. Although they were up on YouTube for a long time, sadly it seems like they’ve pulled all the videos down now.

The other online shows that I have loved have also been because of their regularity and the fact that they feel a little bit more intimate and personal. Almost every Thursday night since the pandemic started Amos Lee has been going live on Instagram on Thursday nights at 7:30. He hasn’t even been collecting tips. I’m not sure how he’s keeping himself going with no touring income. He’s done a couple of fundraisers for various organizations so whenever he does that I make sure to donate to whatever his chosen cause is. I’ve turned Thursday nights into a little bit of date night surrounding these concerts. We get take out and then I make my husband play a board game or card game with me while we listen to Amos Lee play. He’s even saved a lot of them to his IGTV so you can go back and watch if you want.

Broadway Theatre Production

Even though I had tickets to several shows later in the year I did not get to see any Broadway shows in 2020. My Company tickets were refunded. Who knows when or if that show will ever open. Our Music Man tickets were rescheduled twice and we’re now set to see the show in February of 2022. We thought it was hilarious when we were buying tickets for November 2020 in August of 2019. Little did we know.

Baltimore Theatre Production

I did get to see one show in Baltimore this year before everything shut down. It was Richard & Jane & Dick & Sally at Baltimore Center Stage. Unlike with the one movie I saw I can’t say that this was a show I super enjoyed. Sadly I’m not sure that the new artistic director and I see eye to eye on theatre. After loving almost every show I saw there for many years as a season ticket subscriber, this past season I didn’t really like much of anything. I think most of it was chosen in the interim before she actually started so I’m hoping that I’m wrong and that when the finally do get back to being able to have actual shows there that she selects shows that are more to my liking.

Online Theatre Production

Like with concerts I saw some online theatre productions this year as well. Some were previously taped performances that were released from archives. Some were weird Zoom like things (though not actually on Zoom). And some were live productions in front of no audience. I watched several shows put on at the Old Vic in London that were produced live with no audience. It lead to me watching theatre at some very odd times given the time difference. I think my favorite was Three Kings starring Andrew Scott, who you may know as Hot Priest from Fleabag. Sometimes one person shows where it’s just one long monologue can lose my interest, but I thought he did an excellent job and the story he was telling kept me engaged.

Podcast

I think I’ve mentioned Make Me Smart to some degree in this space every year since it has existed and that is not going to change this year. This year they expanded from their once a week on Tuesday episode to transitioning to a daily podcast after the pandemic started. They still do what they call the big show on Tuesdays, which is usually around a half hour or so. Then the other days they do short 15 minute episodes most of those they each bring a news story and something that makes them happy to talk about. They started naming the episodes at some point: Make Me Smart Mondays, Big Show Tuesdays, Whatta Ya Want to Know Wednesdays (in which they ditch the normal daily show format and spend the whole episode answering listener questions), Hollowed Out Shell Thursdays (because by that point in the week we all feel like hollowed out shells), and Economics on Tap Fridays (their weekly happy hour episode where they would have a drink and would often live tape over YouTube so people could see them and join in in the comments). It’s the first podcast I put on every time there’s a new episode in my feed. It helps me going and I’m so happy they expanded to 5 days a week.

Staying in with Emily and Kumail was a short lived podcast produced by Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani that they put out at the beginning of the pandemic when we were all in lockdown. They basically just talked about their lives and the things they were enjoying and experiencing. Although she is no longer practicing Emily is a trained therapist so she had a lot of great insights to offer about what we were all experiencing and how we were experiencing them. She also is immunocompromised and at high risk for COVID so they were being extremely careful just like my husband and I have been. So it was nice to get their perspective on that as well. It’s not something that would probably make sense to listen to now if you didn’t listen to it when it was first on, but it was super helpful for me in processing everything that was happening and all the feelings I was having at the beginning of the pandemic. I get why it’s not something they kept up, but I do think it would be kind of nice to have a check in episode every once in awhile.

Podcast Episode

My favorite podcast episode of the year was the Song Exploder episode in which Semisonic broke down their song “Closing Time”. I’m not going to give anything away. You should just go listen to the episode. I will only say this, that song has way more meaning behind it than you think and I will never hear it the same way ever again.