Hi friends! Well, I told you I watched A LOT of TV didn’t I? It’s been a week since, the last edition of ‘What are you watching?’ my regular breakdown of all the shows I’ve digested and managed to keep down, and I’ve been getting my money’s worth out of that Netflix login I borrowed from a friend. If you read the last one thanks and if you’re back well… we all make choices so... Please share and subscribe and happy watching!
*May contain spoilers. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, Karen!
Big Mouth Valentimes Day Special - So, I have to say I’m not a massive fan of these holiday specials which are quickly becoming a commonality amongst Netflix originals. They exist outside of the arc of a season and yet continue the character’s development, they’re a stand alone and yet impact the larger picture. Yes, a hole was left when streaming’s immediately and all at once model made a standard Christmas episode with a seasonal air date redundant but these out of season specials kind of erk me, maybe that’s the narrative purest in me. And yet! Yes, friends, there is a but and it’s a big but. Big Mouth successfully pulls off it’s Valentime’s (sic) special, seriously is there nothing this show can’t do!? I think this episode really speaks to the quality of Big Mouth. A stand alone episode which answers unresolved questions from the previous season while setting up development for the next? Done! A quality double-the-normal-running-length episode - usually a death sentence for a half hour animated comedy (see The Simpsons movie or Futurama’s ‘moooooovies’ for example)? Tick! No drop in quality or hastily manufactured holiday capers? Yes! It does it all. Big Mouth is always hilarious, heartfelt and quite special and this uh... special is no different. In fact unlike Bojack or Sabrina’s holiday one offs, Big Mouth’s has me salivating for the next season like crazy!
The Umbrella Academy - Remember a few years ago when every new show was a procedural cop drama with a supernatural twist? (This sounds far fetched but was a real thing: Beauty and the Beast, Sleepy Hollow, Grimm, that show about the woman who remembered everything. There were a lot of them. Even Supernatural was around the same time. It was a trend.) Well, this year seems to be the year of misfit superhero teams! Titans is back and it’s very own spin off Doom Patrol will feature a silly group of weirdos fighting crime and I guess their own personal demons. Uncannily, Umbrella Academy was released in the same week as Doom Patrol. The basic premise is pretty familiar a bunch of gifted kids are adopted by brilliant yet radical patriarch, raised in a boarding school environ and trained to fight crime. Sound familiar, Professor X? I can’t help but think this show, like many of its ragtag hero counterparts owes a lot to the X-Men but the thing that makes Umbrella Academy a winning addition to this cacophony of teams are the quirks and idiosyncrasies comic writer and My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way and collaborator Gabriel Ba have imbued into their world and which have been carried over into the show. The aesthetic is highly stylised, very ska, very mod, lots of skinny black ties, with a B-movie, creature feature vibe. Hello hairy! Mr. Pogo the chimpanzee is an Alfred the Butler type who brings real nuance and heart and is emblematic of the mix of silly comic book nonsense and real adult themes. This is not a comic book affair for kids as the heightened setting is matched by some serious violence (not in a try-hard gritty Batman V Superman way, in a way they seems tonally correct, a la Watchmen), introspection from the characters, truly damaged by their upbringing, and the stress of having powers or not as the case may be. There’s a great mix of human drama and fun effects, fights and humour here. It’s offbeat and kept me guessing up to a point. The big violin scored reveal was pretty clear from early on but enjoyable to watch develop nevertheless. Stand-out performances include Robert Sheenan (who’s breakout in Misfits kind of covers some eerily similar territory) at his least annoying, there’s some real trauma in there and unlike most everyone else he seems to be having fun, quite the recovery from that disastrous and disastrously dubbed performance in Mortal Engines (don’t watch it just take my word); also in a surprise turn as time travelling hitman Cha-Cha, Mary J Blige was most obliging. Speaking of X-Men, Ellen page is in this. She is perfectly fine and we love her for being a Queer champion. Has anyone asked her if she’s ok lately? Only quibble with UA is the sometimes tediously slow pacing, we get a little bogged down in characters being mopey or too passive, things could tick along a little faster, or like, you can just check your phone during the less interesting moments, I guess. Overall though there’s some really fun imagery (octopus ghost boy anyone?), a great soundtrack (actually I should make more of the soundtrack, it’s rad), some innovative fight scenes, strong performances across the board and a new spin on an oft told story. Let’s hope the inevitable sequel is more X-Men 2 and less Fantastic Four reboot. Check it out!
Dating Around - I have to admit I watched this out of curiosity and was equally parts irritated and enthralled. Seriously, this show was giving me some outrageous social anxiety. It’s like watching strangers try to hold a conversation over and over again and is seriously stressful. Depending on who’s date we’re on this anxiety is quelled somewhat and after a bit of ice breaking most of the conversations ease up a bit. I guess my biggest take away from this was that straight guys are the worst? Sorry but other than Luke, the guy in the first episode, who just seems painfully dull, the other straight guys in this show are downright awful. Maybe it just speaks to the kind of guys who want to date on TV but abrasive Sarah was absolutely right to walk out of her date with that douche and I think my favourite moment of the whole thing was Gurki taking herself out shopping instead of going on a second date with any of the five abominations she was set up with. Unsurprisingly, I enjoyed the episode with the gays, the most. Maybe because I felt more comfortable around them but also they just seemed like more fun dates. Maybe gays are better at dating, or having interactions with randoms but I had a good time on most of those dates. Maybe it’s our need to live up to some kind of quippy ideal that they all seemed to have some banter or maybe it’s a more relaxed attitude to talking about sex. The older couples were sweet although I defo though Leonard would end up with someone else. Dating Around takes what would be an old school, tacky dating show with a dryly funny voice over and talking heads interviews and updates it for a millenial, Netflix orientated audience to the point where I felt like this was a life inspo, Queer Eye, advice type show although with no discernable inspiration to take away. Never leave the house? Maybe. I’d say watch this if you don’t mind feeling insanely awkward in your own house and maybe you have some washing up to do at the same time. Side note: were the episodes ordered by privileged status? Straight white man, straight woman, gay guy, the elderly, abrasive straight woman and finally black lesbian... Oh and while we're going for one of each where's the trans representation?
Board City - The girls are back for one final season! I always forget about Broad City until it’s back and then I remember just how much I love watching Abby and Ilana and I get all the happies. Full disclosure I’ve only watched the first two episodes in the fifth season of Broad City but from what I’ve seen this show continues to be hilarious, while simultaneously playing with form and taking us through a rolicking New York adventure. The first episode is told almost entirely through Insta Stories, an innovative convention and one I’m kind of surprised hasn’t been done before but these girls are by far the best suited to do it. This episode in particular captures the show’s ability to comment on millennial culture while also revelling in it and also sets up what seems like it will be a recurring theme for their final season. Abby and Ilana are growing up, growing beyond the hijink riddled twenties in which we’ve watched them struggle. It’s a hopeful mission statement for a final series, and an apt one considering the show's creator’s own realities have moved so far beyond where they were when the show began. How do you continue to write a show which was originally steeped so much in your own experience when your experiences have diverged from those of your character’s? Wow, deep. I guess you just make it up or move on to new projects and Abby and Ilana will be doing both for sure. They’ve said in interviews that after five years of watching these women struggle through their twenties this season really is asking a question: why? Why is the millennial experience so coupled with a financial, societal struggle? Yes, their misadventures have been hilarious but why weren’t they less expected? A fitting way to bring Broad City to a close while also retroactively adding hefty undertones to the whole show. I may forget between seasons but I'll never forget once there are no more on the way. I’m going to miss them!
A couple of follow ups from last time... Schist's Creek did humanise it's main protagonists but they developed in a such a nice way and the show remained so hilarious that I didn't mind and even began to really route for the Rose's. David finding love brought me to tears... It's become one of my favourite things and I only wish there was more. The Other Two is getting more consistently funny and whacky and I'm going to be sticking with/championing this show, I want more!
Finally, did you go and watch all of Difficult People? No? Then what are you doing reading this trash?! Go and watch Difficult People!