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.

TV Diary

The Path

The Path is a Hulu show about a cult that is I think supposed to be somewhat of a take off on Scientology, though not entirely the same. It stars Hugh Dancy as the new leader trying to take over the cult as the original founder is dying (or most people believe off writing the final parts of their bible). Michelle Monaghan plays a woman whose parents were part of the original founders and who grew up in the movement. Aaron Paul plays her husband who has begun to have doubts, which strains their marriage. I really enjoyed this show. It’s set in what I believe is the Hudson Valley area of New York and especially in much of the first season it is set in fall and has a beautiful fall feel to it that I was really digging just as it was starting to be fall here as I was watching. The characters are really well drawn and the show looks a lot into questions of what makes us believe things and why we hold onto them. I didn’t like the third and final season as much as the first two. It got really plotty with a bunch of side stuff that ultimately had no bearing on anything and spent way too much time with all that nonsense. It also retconned some things about the founding of the cult in order to introduce some new characters that I did not love as well as made some of the other characters, especially Aaron Paul’s character act in some ways I didn’t buy. Overall though I liked the show a lot and even though the third season was weaker than the first two I still enjoyed spending time with the characters. Whenever I finish a show where I really love the characters it takes me awhile to start something new because I’m not ready to let them go. It’s been a week and I still haven’t started binging a new show, so I know this is one that is still sitting with me.

Emily in Paris

People seem to be very mixed on whether they love this show or think it’s terrible. The answer to whether it’s good or terrible is yes. It is in fact a stupidly written show where the writers seemed to barely care enough to keep up with their plots (Emily says her Masters degree is in something different every time she’s asked), it’s entirely unrealistic with Emily somehow brilliantly saving the day in every episode, and it writes French people in a ridiculously stereotyped way. And yet it was beautiful to look at, it was nice to sort of know that everything was going to work out well every episode, and it was just stupid enough to be fun. Basically Lily Collins plays Emily an American who gets sent at the last minute to represent her company in the Paris marketing firm they just acquired after her boss, played by Kate Walsh who appears for like 30 seconds in the entire show, gets accidentally pregnant and decided not to go herself. (Seriously someone get Kate Walsh an actual show or bring her back to Grey’s. I always really liked Addison and she and Meredith can be besties now that Derek is gone.) Emily doesn’t speak a word of French and her boss in Paris hates her and is always trying to get rid of her. She also befriends her neighbor who she winds up in sort of a love triangle with as he already has a girlfriend who she becomes good friends with as well. So in short the show is dumb but also a pleasant distraction in these terrible times.

Watchmen

I have no experience with any previous Watchmen property like the graphic novel or the movie, so I came into this show cold. For most of the series that resulted in me having very little clue what was going on, which I really didn’t mind. In fact once they started tying things together in a way that actually helped explain what in the world had been happening in the first 3/4 of the show I thought it got worse and much less interesting. Regina King and Jean Smart were absolutely fantastic in this show. I liked it’s commentary on race and it felt like a very prescient show for 2020. Overall I enjoyed watching it, but I found the last few episodes a little bit of a letdown though the very end ties everything up nicely.

Song Exploder

Netflix turned the popular podcast Song Exploder, in which artists break down one of their songs and how they wrote it, into a tv show. I’m not entirely sure why. They only made four episodes and I don’t really think the visual aspects add much to what you get in the actual podcast. The episodes were still good and I will watch more if they make more, but ultimately I think the show is unnecessary. Just go listen to the podcast.

Lucifer

We’re about halfway through season 2 of Lucifer. I think they’re up to season 5 now. Lucifer as one might guess is the devil who has escaped hell and come to earth where he runs a night club and somehow winds up working as a consultant with the police. There’s a sort of will they or won’t they romance with his detective partner. He also has a therapist as he’s grappling with living as a human and developing human feelings. It’s an average but entertaining network show. It’s got your case of the week, but also ongoing storylines for the season which I always find a nice mix and something that seems to be rarer and rarer these days.

Travel Man

Travel Man is a British Show that is now on Hulu. It’s a travel show starring Richard Ayoade. He travels to some location for 48 hours with a rotating cast of fellow comedians. They usually go to some popular tourist location in the destination and then do a lot of non-standard things including often eating some kind of terrible local food. It’s quite amusing while also making me really want to travel and wondering if we’ll ever be able to do that again.

Sing On

Sing On is a karaoke game show on Netflix hosted by Titus Burgess. Contestants basically sing karaoke to songs and some machine measures how close they are to the original artists. The one with highest score automatically gets to stay and up until the final two rounds the contestants get to vote on which of the other people competing are voted out in that round either because they didn’t sing well enough to earn them money towards their final jackpot or they are worried they are too much competition. There are new contestants every episode so it’s a really easy show to throw on and not think much about if you’re looking for something like that to watch. Whenever a contestant gets kicked out they go stand on a balcony to sing along with the crowd. As they’re leaving Titus always asks them if they want to stay and sing on. Just once I want a contestant to throw down their mic and say absolutely not. They never do they. They always act really excited to stay.

Muppets Now

Muppets Now is the newest reboot of the Muppet Show that is on Disney+. It is sadly not good. It’s basically written as the Muppets producing sort of YouTube like series. Miss Piggy has a lifestyle show. The Swedish Chef has a cooking show. Bunson and Beaker have a science show. Pepe has a game show. Scooter is in charge of uploading everything and there’s always an issue with that. None of it is particularly funny and the way that it’s written leaves them all very segmented and not interacting at all. It’s only 6 episodes that are less than 30 minutes so if you’re a Muppets completist for some reason by all means, but otherwise don’t bother.

TV Diary

It’s time for yet another TV Diary because, you know, I’m watching a lot of tv these days. Luckily I’ve had a really good run of shows recently.

Teenage Bounty Hunters

I haven’t heard very many people talking about this show. I haven’t seen a single critic review it. It’s a shame because I LOVE this show. In some respects I feel like it shares a little bit of DNA with Schitt’s Creek in that it is kind of over the top and unrealistic in some ways, but also just has a whole lot of heart and wonderful relationships at the center of it. It’s sweet and funny and also fun. In some ways it feels perfectly made for me. I mean there was even a library database joke. Who is that for if not me?

Fraternal twin sisters Sterling and Blair are the titular teenage bounty hunters who accidentally wind up in the middle of a bounty hunter catching his skip during a car accident. They wind up helping catch him and in need of money to fix their father’s truck that they just wrecked they convince the bounty hunter to take them on as paid interns. Although the bounty hunting is part of each episode, it almost is beside the point. It is more about their relationships with their mentor, their parents, their significant others, and each other. If you watch one show on this list make it this one.

Harley Quinn

I had heard a lot of really great things about the animated show Harley Quinn, but I was never going to subscribe to DC Universe to watch it. Now that DC Universe has rebranded and shuffled off all their video content to HBO Max I was finally able to watch it. In this version of the story Harley and the Joker have just broken up and she winds up living with and becoming best friends with Poison Ivy who is trying to help her let go of the Joker and live her own life. She eventually gets a crew and is trying to take over Gotham City for herself. It is hilarious and also has a lot of good relationships in it. There is a lot of animated violence and gore and a decent amount of cursing. It waxes and wanes in episodes. The first episode is probably the worst on all counts. They really want to make sure you know this is not an animated show for kids of any age. I also highly recommend this show.

Ramy

Ramy stars Ramy Youssef as sort of an alternate reality version of himself in which he still lives at home with his parents and is still trying to figure out his life and his Muslim faith and how to use it to become a better person because he is a low level not great person. It’s a show I enjoyed when we were watching it, but was for some reason something I was never super excited to put on. Probably because there are a lot of things that Ramy does that are not great and meant to make you feel uncomfortable. There are episodes that focus on specific members of his family too and they are similarly as uncomfortable. There is focused on his mother in season 2 that I had to watch most of through my hands. It is a good show with a perspective that no other show has, but it’s not necessarily a fun watch even though I guess it’s supposed to be a comedy. It’s not my kind of comedy.

Taste the Nation

Taste the Nation is a sort of food travel show hosted by Padma Lakshmi. She digs into various types of cuisine and the history and culture surrounding it including a lot about immigration. It’s a really great show and it made me really want to be able to travel and eat in restaurants again. It will also make you very hungry.

Frayed

Frayed is a quick 6 episode series from Australia about a woman who fled her small town in Australia and moved to England without looking back until her husband dies and she discovers they are penniless. She winds up having to return back to Australia with her teenage kids to live with her mother and brother and confront other people from her past in the town none of which are too happy to see her again. I liked it well enough, but I really could have done without all the vomiting. I never, ever want to see tv or movie characters vomit and there was literally at least one person if not more that vomited in every episode of this show except one. So you know, if that also bothers you be forewarned. Also I’m not sure if there are going to be additional seasons of this show, but this one ended on something that seemed to come very out of left field.

Legend of Korra/Avatar: The Last Airbender

I had always heard good things about Legend of Korra and Avatar: The Last Airbender, so now that they are both on Netflix I decided to check them out. I sort of did it backwards in that I started with Legend of Korra which is the spin-off series because I have been a long time listener of Janet Varney’s podcast the JV Club and she voices Korra so I have heard her talk about it a lot. I’m glad I did it that way because I don’t know that I ever would have gotten to Korra if I watched Avatar first. I know a lot of adults who love Avatar, but it seems squarely aimed at 10 year old kids. I could not get into at all. Korra felt way more adult to me even though I think she’s supposed to be a teenager when it starts. I really liked the first couple of seasons and then it went down hill for me in the final seasons. There was more relationship stuff in the first seasons than there was in subsequent seasons. I really didn’t care for the final season, which obviously had a lot of budget cuts that affected the show in ways you see all the time with live action shows, but I never would have considered in regards to animated shows before this. Most of the first season all the core team was split up and only one or two would appear during an episode and then there was an actual clip retrospective episode, which sit-coms used to do all the time but is not something I have seen done in a very long time. It was kind of odd. I’m glad I watched Korra, but I don’t think I’ll ever make it through Avatar.

Warrior Nun

This show is kind of crazy. I don’t even know how to describe it well, so I’m not going to try. You can go look up a summary if you want. I liked it more at the beginning when she was reveling in her ability to walk again and figuring out her new powers and what was going on and trying to decide if she was going to go fulfill this destiny than I was as the season went on. I definitely was only half paying attention to episodes towards the end of the season.

Lovecraft Country

I tried with this show, but it is not for me. I am just not a horror person. It doesn’t scare me. Most of the time I find it silly and I generally don’t like the plots surrounding it. I understand why people loved Get Out and like this for similar reasons, but I wasn’t into Get Out and was not into this show. I watched a couple episodes and then decided to give up. The fact that each episode seems to be it’s own thing only loosely connected to the other episodes did not help me get into it either.

Cursed

This is a retelling of the Arthurian legend from the perspective of the Lady in Lake before Arthur became king. I watched a few episodes and then told my husband he could go on without me. I did not care about anything that was happening and realized that I also want a little humor and or levity in my fantasy that this was just not providing. I don’t care about people just wandering in invented worlds and fighting over some thing. See why I also do not care about Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones.

TV Diary: Meh Edition

In my previous TV Diary post I promised I would have another post talking about recent shows I watched that I didn’t really care for. Some of these shows are decidedly not great while others were just not for me.

Stargirl

I debated whether I should put this show in this post or in the previous one, but since the other post had a lot more entries already I decided to write about it here. Stargirl is yet another CW superhero show. This is by far the hokiest of all the superhero shows I’ve ever watched. It centers around a teenage girl who discovers that her new step-dad is a former superhero and suspects that her own long missing father was superhero Starman, who was killed when she was a small kid. His former staff seems to want her to be it’s new master and now she’s training with her step-dad and some other outcast kids she recruited. It’s okay. I don’t love it. I find that I’m more interested in the non-superhero parts of the show, but there aren’t enough of those to sustain my interest. I’ve still been watching it while my husband has it on, but I’m not sure once we ever get more television back that I will keep watching.

Hollywood

I barely payed attention to this Netflix show created by Ryan Murphy about old Hollywood. I wasn’t really intersted in the story at all and I found it highly unrealistic that so many women and minorities were in positions of power in Hollywood. That’s not even true today.

Perry Mason

I never read any Perry Mason books nor watched the original series, so other than knowing Perry Mason was a lawyer I didn’t really know much about him. I gather that this show creates an entirely new backstory for Perry Mason and at least thus far is pretty much connected to the original properties in name only. In this version Perry Mason is a private detective. It’s a show that I can see some people enjoying, but I just don’t care about it. I’ve been in the room when my husband is on it, but I really couldn’t tell you what’s going on at this point.

You’ll Be Gone in the Dark

This is a documentary series on HBO based on the book of the same name by Michelle McNamara about her research into the Golden State Killer that eventually led to his arrest, unfortunately after her untimely passing. I’m not really big into true crime stuff. I didn’t read the book either. I can see this show appealing to people who did read the book or who are into true crime shows. This is just one that is not for me.

Outer Banks

I would say that this show is not for anyone, but Netflix just renewed it for a second season this week so I guess it is for some people. I thought this show was so bad that I didn’t even finish it. When I realized we were only halfway through I pulled the plug. There was no way I wanted to watch another five episodes of this show. It’s some sort of teen murder mystery thing set in the Outer Banks with the addition of the divide between people based on the working class people who live there and the second home summer people. I thought it had potential as a nice soapy, teen drama, but I did not find it interesting or engaging at all.

TV Diary Quarantine Edition

Never Have I Ever

Never Have I Ever is a cute rom-com teen show. Devi is high school girl who everyone thinks faked paralysis after she had hysterical paralysis following the death of her father. She is trying to move on with her life without really confronting her feelings about her father by chasing a crush she has on a popular boy at school and fighting with her nemesis and competition for top of the class. I really loved this show and it’s about much more than the teen romance stuff. It’s about family and friendship and culture and the show does not let Devi off for being a selfish jerk for significant portions of the show.

Newsradio

I never watched Newsradio when it was on in the 90s though I had a cultural consciousness of it to some degree. I definitely got wrong how some of the storylines play out. In my head the show had more a narrative arc like Friends did, but it really does put the situational in sit com as the stories mostly reset every episode. I assumed that the show spent seasons leading up to the relationship between Dave and Lisa, but it turns out they got together literally in the first episode of the show and for the most part anything related to their relationship occurred within the confines of single episodes rather than across seasons. I definitely didn’t like it as much as I like some other 90s sitcoms, but it was a fine distraction. I did not however like Jon Lovitz as the replacement for Phil Hartman after his tragic death.

Quiz

Quiz was a three episode mini-series about the scandal that rocked the British version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in which a husband and wife were prosecuted for cheating to win the million dollars. I was surprised that I had no recollection that it happened until watching the show and realizing that the news broke on September 11, 2001 so there were a few things I was paying a bit more attention to. I thought it was a great miniseries that felt just about the right length and I may have enjoyed the beginning episode that went into the development of the show itself more than I cared about the whole cheating part of it.

Looking for Alaska

I read the book Looking for Alaska and remember liking it well enough so I was interested in watching the show, especially since it was created by Josh Schwartz who has a history of using great music in shows. Ultimately though I think I am way over shows, books, movies, etc. about pretentious unrealistic teens at boarding school (or camp or college). It’s been awhile since I’ve consumed anything with that bent that I haven’t been annoyed by. I just didn’t care about these characters or any of the charades they were getting up to.

High Fidelity

I definitely watched the movie High Fidelity around the time that it originally came out, but I never rewatched it and didn’t have many memories of it. You would think that it would be a movie that I adored, but it never really was. It might have been the Jack Black of it all. It’s been so long I couldn’t tell you. I think I also read the Nicholas Hornsby book at some point, but again like two decades later I can’t really say how faithful this tv version is to either of the previous properties. The show does gender flip the lead with Zoe Kravitz playing Rob, John Cusack’s character from the movie. She is wonderful in the part. I loved, loved, loved this show. It basically combined all my favorite things. It’s got fantastic music. There are great romance stories and friendships. Plus it was really funny. I laughed out loud almost every episode and I rarely laugh out loud while watching tv. I cannot wait for more episodes of this show.

Sweet Magnolia

I gather Sweet Magnolia is based on a book or possibly series of books, but I’ve never read them. It follows three woman in a small town outside Charleston. One is a recently divorced mother of three whose husband cheated on her and got another woman pregnant. One is a chef, and the other is a lawyer. Lifelong friends they decide to go into business together and start a spa. It’s basically Hallmark Channel level of quality. It’s not really very good, but the level of fluff was about the speed I was looking for in the height of the COVID crisis.

America to Me

I had wanted to watch this docuseries following kids, teachers, and administrators at a diverse high school in suburban Chicago when it first aired on Starz, but I don’t have Starz and it never moved to any other streaming platform. In the recent rush by companies to make content they have related to race available for free, Starz made this available for free for a weekend. I jumped at the chance to finally watch it and since I have no plans these days watched all 10 episodes in two days. It’s so, so good. It really perfectly encapsulates so many issues with race and racism that our country faces. It should really be required watching. I wish Starz would make it available more widely since not too many people subscribe to Starz and who are like me and even if they’re interested are not wanting to pay to buy it episode by episode.

Love, Victor

I never read the book that it was based on, but I liked the movie Love, Simon so I was looking forward to this show. Love, Victor is spinoff of the movie with the title character texting with Simon as he has heard tale of Simon’s own coming out love story as he himself is trying to figure out is sexuality under less ideal circumstances than Simon had. This show was originally slated to be a Disney+ show before they punted it to Hulu. It definitely has a vibe of being aimed more towards the pre-teen set as a result. I didn’t connect with this show as much as I did the movie. I didn’t care about the drama surrounding Victor’s parents’ marriage. Even though based on the opening lines this was supposed to be the story of someone who was less supported in the coming out process to address some of the criticisms lobbed at Love, Simon ultimately it kind of felt the same way. I think I’d rather watch a show about Mia, the girl that Victor dates for much of the first season.

TV Diary

Twenties

Twenties is the newest show created by Lena Waithe on BET. She doesn’t actually star in this particular show though, which I didn’t realize before watching it. It follows a group of black women navigating their twenties in Hollywood. It’s very stylized with lots of nods to old Hollywood. The characters were great. I liked the relationships and found it quite amusing. I really enjoyed the show and very much look forward to new episodes at some future date whenever TV can actually go back into production.

I Am Not Okay with This

I Am Not Okay with This is a short series on Netflix. It shares the same DNA with The End of the F***ing World, as they are both based on graphic novels by the same author and produced by the same creators. I didn’t care for this nearly as much as The End of the F***ing World. It just seemed like a poor imitation to me. I think the only reason I even finished it was because it was really short both in episode length and count and it came out at a time that there was a lull in other television.

The Sinner

It’s obviously no secret that I am tv lover and watch way too much of it, so I have no idea how this USA show got to three seasons without me even knowing it existed. The only reason I even heard about it in season three was because Matt Bomer starred in it, and I love me some Matt Bomer. As best as I can tell the seasons sort of stand alone with separate storylines connected by Bill Pullman as the detective investigating whatever happens that season. Matt Bomer’s character is very messed up in this show and winds up pulling Bill Pullman’s character down with him. It was an okay show, but I didn’t like it enough to bother going back and watching the first two seasons and I won’t be watching any future seasons either.

Feel Good

Feel Good is a Netflix show following comic Mae who is recently sober and her girlfriend George who is still hiding their relationship from her family and friends. I liked this show while I was actually watching the episodes, but for some reason it just kept falling out of my head when I wasn’t watching it. I kept having to remind myself what it was every time I saw it in my Netflix list and it’s not something I’ve thought a whole lot about since I finished it, but if there’s another season I would watch it.

Unorthodox

I did not read the book this very limited Netflix series is based on. When we started watching the show I didn’t realize it was only 4 episodes and then felt like I wanted to know what happened to the characters so I looked it up and it turns out the show is only very loosely based on the story. Pretty much in concept only with an Orthodox Jewish woman in Brooklyn fleeing her marriage. That’s pretty much where the stories diverge completely. It’s worth watching though.

The Baker and Beauty

Daniel Garcia helps run his family’s Cuban bakery. After publicly turning down his girlfriend’s proposal in a video that goes viral he winds up running into supermodel Noa Hamilton and getting drawn into her orbit and throwing all their lives into disarray. This was some mindless summer entertainment that was perfect for keeping my mind off of COVID-19. It’s based off an Israeli show. I don’t know if the title is literal translation of the Israeli title, but it bugs me that the show is not called Beauty and the Baker like it should be. I did also hear someone say it should have been called Beauty and the Yeast, but that’s probably taking it a bit too far.

Messiah

Messiah is a Netflix show about a mysterious man who appears first in the Middle East and then the United States. Some people say he’s a new messiah and others believe he is a con man. The show ends on what could be considered a cliffhanger, but could also serve as a satisfying although somewhat ambiguous ending since Netflix cancelled the show after one season.

Cybill

If you don’t recall the show Cybil it was a sitcom from back in the 90s starring Cybill Shepherd and was the first acting role that Christine Baranski had as more than a guest star. Cybill is a C-list actress doing guest star roles, commercials, and bad movies. Baranski plays Maryann her best friend, a rich divorcee who spends much of her time plotting revenge against her cheating ex-husband. It’s a goofy show and something I only saw a few episodes of when it originally aired because the humor was too adult for me at the time and I didn’t really get it. Now as an adult I get it, and it was kind of a mindless fun show to watch on Amazon Prime.