As you may or may not know I watch a lot of TV. And I mean a lot. I’ve never understood those people who take pride in the fact they don’t own TVs (even though I don’t technically own one anymore, I watch everything on the computer) and I’ve grappled with the fact that sitting on a couch for eight hours at a time is neither healthy nor the most productive use of my time. Yet watching a good or even great or sometimes middling show (just for the hate watch factor) remains one of my favourite past times. I believe that television has the ability to tell stories in a way that no other medium can and I believe it’s where some of the greatest stories of our time have and are currently being told. I love a high art, slow boil drama and a trashy teen soap, I love dramedies and comedies that are just comedies (thanks Julie Klausner), I like true crime and overly produced reality competitions. Suffice to say, I like TV. And I know a bit about what goes into making it too, so I thought why not make a list of everything that I’m watching and offer some unsolicited, unwanted, purely subjective opinions…
Well, the year has gotten off to a swinging start and I’m just getting started here so what follows is going to be a spitfire, flash in the pan, bonus round of everything I’ve been watching so far in 2019. Here goes…
*May contain spoilers. You’ve been warned Jim!
You - Originally canned on Lifetime and then picked up as a Netflix original this show seems to have capitalised on its millennial approach to stalking via social media. Penn Badgley hitting back at his character’s stans for being into what… murdering creepers (?) was particularly entertaining. Sadly, more so than the actual show. Don’t get me wrong I was into it, it’s a cool concept, and I love a stalky, thriller, with twists and turns. You, however, suffered from some seriously slow, laborious pacing, an overuse of voice over and annoyingly insipid, unlikable characters. It’s a major failing that the stalker is insanely more likable than his victim, Guinevere, who we should all be rooting for but instead end up dragging for her terrible poetry (the red spatula thing!), let alone the whole pretending her Dad was dead to get out of some kind of period costume convention. Spoilt much? I truly wanted to like this show and for sure I was expecting some excellent twists and surprises down the track. Could Guinevere been stalking Joe the whole time? That would have been an excellent turn around. Sadly, there just wasn’t enough in this to keep me watching, which is a shame. I gave up about half way. I love a good twist but in this case I just didn’t care. Could whatsherface from The Haunting of Hill House, you know the bendy neck lady, having been cast in season 2 be enough to pull me back in? Now that would be a twist!
Sex Education - Once the premise kicked in about three quarters of the way through the first episode I was on board with this. Up until then and at other moments throughout the series this all felt a little too familiar. A little too cliche teen drama, a little too American tropey (which is only exacerbated by the weird UK/US hybrid fictional town that’s suppose to relieve a feeling of alienation in American viewers and that’s suppose to be located… somewhere in England). Yet, the idea of a teen sex therapist who’s really only figuring stuff out for himself is pretty clever. The writing is fun and sometimes actually quite funny. The cast is incredibly charming and unlike some other ‘teen’ ensembles there isn’t a bum note. In fact, I’d say other than the obvious Meave and Eric, there were some stand out performances from the supporting cast. That weird Alien girl, with the tentacle fingers, obsessed with getting laid for the first time? Pitch perfect. What a revelation! The treatment of the queer characters was particularly well handled. Not that it was doing anything new but it was all very competent and the friendship between straight Otis and defo not straight Eric was a highlight. I’m also a sucker for anything Hedwig adjacent so Episode 5 was really up my alley. Sex Ed isn’t doing anything that Big Mouth hasn’t already done and perfectly at that but it’s charming and the colour grade is outstanding. Oh, and if Gillian Anderson could just be in e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g that would be ok too.
Russian Doll - Finally! I haven’t been this excited about a show since Smash and let’s just say Russian Doll has a completely different trajectory and... well… less songs. Seriously, go watch Russian Doll. Natasha Lyonne, who I came to know in ‘But, I’m a Cheerleader’ and was pleasantly surprised every time she popped up in numerous small roles throughout the years, finally has a vehicle that feels like the exact right place she should be. It’s dark, it’s funny, it’s sad, and trippy, and thoughtful, and suddenly I’m Lady Gaga trying to think of too many adjectives. Not an ounce sentimental and yet weirdly life affirming this show about a woman who keeps dying and waking up at her own birthday party had me hooked waiting for those twists and revelations, had me laughing at every sardonic joke and honestly just hoping it would all be ok in the end. Lyonne is perfection and, um, can we just talk about Greta Lee for a second? Thanks. Comic genius, Greta Lee has popped up in supporting roles from High Maintenance to Girls and again she’s here and instantly the funniest person on screen. Eternally nonchalant, blindly confident, quietly judgmental - I can’t get enough. Neither have I had enough of this show. I watched in one sitting and I’m looking forward to rewatching. This is one of those shows where a second and third viewing will only reveal more and more with each pass. This is one that my friends are going get sick of me telling them to watch. I don’t know where it could go in a second series but I NEED MORE LIVES PLEASE THANK YOU! (Oh and side note: look out for the delectable way Natasha pronounces cock-a-roach, it gives me life!)
Schitt’s Creek - Yes, I know! I’m severely late to the party. Not even fashionably. As Alexis said outside a barn ‘there’s nothing fashionable about this.’ But holy cow I love this show. I’ve just binged the first season and it’s pitch perfect. My only quibble is that these monstrous caricatures are getting humanised a little quickly and I kind of just want them to stay monsters, but we’ll see where the next three seasons take us. I can’t wait to find out. Honestly, why haven’t more people been praising this work of genius other than Twitter gays obsessed with Catherine O’Hara and her crazy strong wig game? We should all be wandering the streets screaming at people to go home and watch, it’s what this show deserves. Maybe then it wouldn’t have taken me so long to join the party. Thank you for coming to my ted talk.
The Fix - So Netflix has rather cleverly lifted the British panel show format and presented it in an appealing sheepskin for an American audience and I have to say I don’t mind. It’s mindless fun, that you can either listen to or have on in the back ground and it harks back to a time when you’d just watch whatever was on from lack of choice. But seriously this show is funny and features a fantastic selection of guest panellists I know mostly from listening to podcasts.
RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 4 - Hallelo, gurl! She’s back on form after a messy All Stars 3 and a kinda dull season 10. A strong crop of queens are competing for a spot in the hall of fame and this time they’re playing the game. The bitterness of the queens seeking rudemption in season 3 really created a weird energy which is thankfully absent this time around. A recent elimination which took out the clear front runner (bye Manilla :( ) proved shocking and yet instead of being bitter, like I was at that entire jury of queer peers, I’m kind of rooting for Naomi now… Yas, queen, play the game, bitch! Yas! All this excitement makes it so much easier to block out Ru’s sometimes questionable Baby Boomer politics and faux wisdom and everyone’s favourite gay old time is enjoyable once again. What privilege!
The Other Two - We’re only two episodes into this new offering about a pair of struggling older siblings whose 14 year old younger brother suddenly becomes Beiber level famous and so far it’s… good. No really, I like it, the characters/actors are great, funny, charming, likable, the concept is genius, the scripts are tight. This should be right up my alley and well… I just wish I was laughing more. As Trinity the Tuck said ‘where are the jokes!?’ To be fair, we’re only two episodes in and even 30 Rock took a season to find it’s groove so I’ll give it time, it’s not like The Other Two isn’t insanely promising. So, yes, I recommend. Get in on the ground floor and hopefully this show will sky rocket up at least 30 stories.
Titans - Lol, so yes, I actually spent some time watching this and it was… ok. The effects were good and some of the ideas, plotting, sidetracks were interesting. It was just really easy to jump on my phone a lot of the time. Titans takes itself pretty seriously for a show with cheap, neon coloured wigs, schlocky superheros and a steampunk Brendon Fraiser (a far cry from his George of the Jungle heyday, this cameo happens in an episode which only appears to function as a set up for the most-likely doomed upcoming Doom Patrol series). Anna Diop was a stand out as Starfire, balancing out Tegan Croft’s painfully reticent Raven. Brandon Thwaites looks too boyish to play the gruff, haunted ex-super hero turned cop named Dick (yah) and I just couldn’t help but wish they’d lent into the twink factor at play here. Nightwing is a pretty massive gay icon in the comic world and this all felt a little straight to me, C+.
Kimmy Schmidt - Well, it’s all over. I can’t shake the feeling this would have been a more satisfying ending had the last season not been split into two six episode mini-seasons. But here we are and the last six entries in Kimmy’s hand coloured book of adventures were sensational. Funny in a way the show hadn’t been since maybe the first season. And somehow even though these characters are kind of despicable it was so heartwarming to see things turning out well for them it brought actual tears to my eyes. Kimmy Schmidt hasn’t occupied the kind of pop culture real estate akin to say Parks and Rec since it’s first season and yet I’m sad to see it go. Especially since surprise gem Great News aka 30 Rock-lite has been cancelled after only two amusing seasons. More of this kind of comedy please. And someone get Andrea Martin back on my screen… oh never mind I’ll just re-watch Difficult People again. So long Kimmy, it’s been a blast, now let’s go ride that roller coaster!
Well, that was a lot. But it was also a lot of my life that I dedicate to sitting and not furthering my career prospects, so I guess we all made sacrifices. I’m sure I’ve nipped into some other bits this year: the Fyre Festival documentary (just the netflix one), Violet Buzzsaw, Boy Erased, but I just wanted to start out talking about TV series, so there you go.
I should mention I also watched the second season of Friends From College as I’d heard it was an improvement on the dire first season and well… there’s only so much Billy Eichner can do for a show and only so much time I can spend talking about it. That’s it, times up.
As the year goes by I’ll continue spouting my ill-informed opinions to anyone who’s listening so please stay tuned and hopefully I’ll be somewhat consistent with this b-b-blog so I’ll be able to spend a bit more time on each show and not shove so many into one post, like marshmallows into my mouth. It’s been a pretty strong start to the year and I have high hopes for the future and if all else fails there will always be three seasons of Difficult People to go back to… no really, go watch Difficult People.
Ciao for now, brown cow, stunning!