TV Show Thread

Mitchell thought there should be a separate thread for TV shows. I have no objections, so here it is. I’m going to re-post Mitchell’s comments on Veep.

(mitchell’s comments on Veep)

I’m still working on a review of the first three seasons of Veep, but I have to say that I saw the last few episodes of season three last night, and there’s a scene in episode 9 that had me laughing until I was in tears. I honestly can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard at an episode of television.

It reminded me, too, that with television, sometimes you have to stick with a series based on its potential. I’m pretty sure that if one were to watch only that episode (the twenty-seventh in the series), he or she wouldn’t find it nearly as funny. Something big and unexpected happens, and the characters’ responses are funny based mostly on our familiarity with each of them, something that takes many episodes to gain. And the acting is just so, so good.

Season one is pretty good, but it’s not great. Season two gets better, and season three gets progressively better, so that just about every episode is better than the one before. The final episode of season three is a slight let-down, but only because the final fifteen minutes of the previous episode are so good.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus won best actress (in a comedy) Emmys for each of the show’s first four seasons, but it wasn’t until this past season (the fourth) that it won more than that one (exception: Tony Hale wins the best actor in a supporting role in a comedy series in 2013, season two), this time taking five awards, two in the acting categories (Tony Hale winning his second). I don’t put a lot of weight on Emmy awards, except for the buzz they generate, but this bodes well. I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes next.

(edited to correct the season I just finished watching. it was season three, not two)

29 Responses to “TV Show Thread”


  1. Reid

    It reminded me, too, that with television, sometimes you have to stick with a series based on its potential.

    I would add that, like a novel, you have to give the show some time before really judging it.

    Something big and unexpected happens, and the characters’ responses are funny based mostly on our familiarity with each of them, something that takes several episodes to gain.

    This reminds me of comments from Grace, on one of the aspects she likes about TV.

    Person of Interest (First ten episodes or so of the first season)

    Larri really liked this, and thought I might, too, so I gave it a go. (Grace also really likes this series.) The series is about a former black Op who is recruited by a computer whiz who’s developed a program that can identify when a person who will be associated with a crime–either as a victim or perpetrator. The duo attempt to stop the crime before it happens.

    I stopped watching it, but it’s OK. I could start back up and might end up really liking it, but I somehow don’t have a lot enthusiasm to do so.

    One thing I wanted to mention. The series is more like traditional TV shows versus the newer types on cable TV (i.e., ones that are essentially really long movies), and the thing that stood out was how compressed each episode is. Things happen real fast in terms of plot and there is very little space for acting or character development. This is especially true when you compare the series to something like Homeland. One of the aspects of Homeland that stood out was the way the actors really had a chance to, well, act. Here, I’m thinking of pauses or moments of silence between two actors. Some of these acting moments are really good, and I think it has to do with the approach–and approach which can occur because the filmmakers have so much time and space. In a way, Homeland is a type of actor’s vehicle, a type of show that would attract really good actors.

    On the other hand, PoI has a more rapid-fire type of approach. There’s no languor for the actors in their scenes; it’s mostly plot-driven. Now, I do think the characters are developed over the course of episodes, but character development within scenes–via the acting–seems far more limited. Anyway, that’s not a big knock on the show. I could still really enjoy it.

  2. Mitchell

    Thanks for the new post.

    A couple of my Twitter friends are religious about PoI. It doesn’t look like my kind of thing, I can see why people like it.

  3. Reid

    Yeah, it doesn’t look like your type of show, although I generally assume that you don’t get real excited about action/cop type of shows/movies, and maybe that assumption is wrong.

  4. Reid

    The Man in the High Castle (season 1)

    This is based on the Phillip K. Dick novel of the same name. The novel is based on the premise that the Germans and Japanese defeated the Allies in WWII and split control over the U.S.–with Germany controlling the eastern half, while Japan controls the western side. As could be expected, an underground resistance group exists. Their plan revolves around a mysterious figure–the “man in the high castle”–who wants film reels.

    In the novel, the storyline involving the resistance seems almost like a red herring–that is, the novel really isn’t action/suspense story. Instead, the novel feels almost like an literary equivalent of an artfilm. The TV series touches on this a little–dealing with Eastern religion and philosophy as well as themes that involve authenticity of antique objects. (I realize this sounds odd, but that’s how the book is). Mostly, the TV series builds off a more conventional storyline, involving mystery and suspense. Juliana Crain gets caught up in the resistance movement, through her sister. A love triangle is formed between a Nazi spy trying to infiltrate the resistance and Juliana’s artistic boyfriend, Frank. Overall, it’s just OK. It might get a lot of better if season two is a lot better.

    Daredevil (season 2)

    I’d probably recommend this to Joel, Marc and Penny. Not that they would love it, but I think they would like this. I also think Don would mildly like this. (I think he’d kinda like Foggy. Actually, I’m starting to like and care about him more than Matt.)

    **
    Season 1 revolved around the villain, Kingpin, who is sent to jail at the season. Season 2 introduces two new characters/storylines–one with the Punisher and the other with Elektra. (If I recall correctly, the series follows the Frank Miller storyline, although there are several changes.)

    ***
    Some general comments (with potential spoilers)

    • In my opinion, the strength of the series continues to revolve around three characters–Matt (not Daredevil), Foggy and Karen. I continue to like the trio and the crime/courtroom drama storylines are far more interesting than the storylines and action involving Daredevil. Really, I think it’s more of a crime/courtroom drama/soap opera more than a super hero story–and that’s not a bad thing;
    • Indeed, certain conditions of the super hero genre are getting in the way, limiting the potential of the series. Let me get more specific. Most superheroes are vigilantes, working outside the law. In real life, this would be highly problematic and the people that were vigilantes probably wouldn’t be so likable. Comic books can’t allow this. They have to make the heroes likable, and they do so in artificial ways, making the hero unrealistic. That wouldn’t be a problem in the typical comic book, perhaps, but it is a problem in a series that wants to be more realistic and gritty, which is what this series seems to be striving for.
    • Some specific examples of the problems I mentioned above. Daredevil makes a point of not taking lives. The reason is to preserve this good guy/likable aspect. In reality, I think taking lives, in self-defense or protecting others, would be justifiable. Law enforcement officers use deadly force, so why couldn’t DD?

      Additionally, I think there should be a lot more tension and psychological dissonance with the Matt Murdock character. He’s a committed lawyer, yet he’s also a vigilante. I feel like the moral and psychological problems this may cause are slept under the rug. Well, that’s not entirely true. The series, at times, seems to want to deal with these issues, but it can’t because it has to preserve a certain image of Matt/DD. If they could let that go, then I think the series would be more real and more interesting.

    • In a way, this series would be a perfect Scorsese vehicle. It involves Hell’s Kitchen–with Matt Murdock being both a committed Catholic and someone who loves New York City. The series is also going for a grittier, more violent and realistic take on super heroes. The series doesn’t come close to realizing it’s potential, in my view (including visually).
    • Having said all that, there are some entertaining moments, and I thought the series was pretty good in that respect.
  5. Mitchell

    I kind of gave up on Shark Tank because the show tends to be the same thing over time, but I’ve caught a few episodes lately, and it’s still interesting enough not to turn off if it happens to be on. Tonight’s episode had guest shark Chris Sacca, which I only mention because Don brought him up recently, and he’s been all over the media lately. He was a good addition.

  6. don

    I’ve seen Chris on before, but I’ve pretty much stop watching Shark Tank as well. I don’t watch too many shows religiously anyway. Cuban and Sacca got into it on one deal this past show (the only deal I saw actually) and ended up doing the deal together. Cuban is sort of the bully on the show in the sense that I read his net worth is more the other four panelists combined (no matter which “regular” panelists are on). I looked up Sacca’s net worth and it’s nowhere near Cuban’s. Dang I didn’t realize Cuban is that rich.

  7. Mitchell

    Sacca told Bill Simmons on his podcast last week, in complete seriousness, that Cuban is going to the President of the United States someday, perhaps in eight years.

  8. Reid

    Criticker gave Band of Brothers a probable rating of 80+ for me, so I was curious about this. Since I’m reading a book that touches on WWII, I had more motivation to see this. I watched the first three episodes. It’s just OK. I could easily stop watching at this point.

  9. Reid

    I watched most of Amazon’s All or Nothing, which is a basically a documentary TV series on the Arizona Cardinals 2015 season. I dislike the Cardinals, so I’m not really very interested in watching this, but I sort of like Bruce Arians, and I was interested in watching how he handles the team (how he speaks to them in meetings and on the sidelines, including his reactions to plays). It’s interesting in that respect, and I think the show is fairly well done.

  10. Reid

    Freaks and Greeks

    Someone raved about this, so I checked out the first episode. It was pretty good.

    Stranger Things

    I’d recommend this to Mitchell, Grace, and Penny. I’d also recommend this to Chris, Joel and probably Jill as well.

    **
    I believe this was the movie JJ Abrams wanted to make when he made Super 8–or at least I think this is better film for what he was trying to do; namely, make a tribute to Spielberg, particularly his early 80’s period. Actually, this eight episode series also pays homage to John Carpenter (in the film score) and even Stephen King (c.f. Dreamcatcher).

    The takes place in a small Indiana town. A boy, who is a part of a group of teenagers who love roll-playing games goes missing. I sort of hesitate to say more, as I’m not sure I could say more without giving too much away.

    I did wonder about whether this was a horror film. Personally, I’d say there is more suspense than horror, and most horror fans would probably find the latter very tame.

    I’m only on episode 6, but it’s been entertaining. So far I’d give this a 72/100.

  11. mitchell

    I haven’t had much time for television in this new fall season. Heck, I don’t even know much about what’s out there. But I did catch a little bit of buzz here and there about a few shows, so here are some thoughts.

    Atlanta on FX
    This has been the buzziest show of them all, and what a show. Donald Glover created it and writes most of it, and stars as a young man in Atlanta, a Princeton dropout who’s trying to make it as a hip-hop manager. It’s unique not only in Glover’s stated purpose, to show us what it’s like to be black in America, but in its creative approach to what you can do in a half hour television comedy. It’s only a ten-episode season (which FX has renewed for a second) and they’re already on episode 8, so try to see it in order if you can. If you see it from 6 onward, you won’t have any idea what’s going on, although it will still be entertaining and interesting.

    The Good Place on NBC
    Kristen Bell plays a woman who dies and goes to “heaven,” which the residents of heaven call “The Good Place.” In this version, only the best of the best make the cut. Like, Florence Nightingale was close, but didn’t make it. And “every U.S. president except Lincoln” didn’t make it. Everything in the Good Place is arranged for its residents’ personal preferences, but Bell’s character realizes she’s the beneficiary of a case of mistaken identity. She’s really not supposed to be there. But rather than tell anyone, she convinces her soulmate, a former ethics professor, to help her become worthy of the Good Place. The show is super clever and really funny. Bell and Ted Danson are great, and the other actors are good too.

    Better Things on FX
    This show was developed by its star, Pamela Adlon, and Louis C.K. They worked on Louie together, and C.K. wrote a lot of this, but he’s not in it. Adlon is a single mom raising three daughters, which is normal sitcom stuff, but this show has the same vibe and realness that Louie had. I’m only two episodes in, but I really like it. It’s not a show to watch with the kids, though.

  12. Mitchell

    I don’t want to say much about it, but if you’re looking for something compelling, check out at least the first half of the first episode of HBO’s Westworld. Then let’s talk about it. They’re up to episode 4 now (airing this Sunday, I think), but I haven’t seen 2 or 3 yet. Part of the compulsion will come from discovering it on your own, so don’t read too much about it before you give it a shot.

  13. Reid

    Sounds interesting, but is there a way to see this if I don’t have HBO?

  14. Mitchell

    There’s the HBO Go subscription. Other than that, not legally.

  15. Mitchell

    Atlanta and Better Things closed out their first seasons last week.

    Atlanta went out super, super strong. It was almost poetry. The episode of The Watch (the Ringer podcast with Andy Greenwald and Chris Ryan) that went up shortly after featured an interview with Nick Grad, the FX president of original programming, and they talked a lot about how a show like Atlanta gets its shot. I was pleased that Grad spoke about Louie and how that sorta paved the way for auteur-type television, because it was clear to me after just three episodes that Donald Glover had a freedom to create similar to Louis C.K.’s agreement.

    The conversation is great, and my second-favorite takeaway is how Glover called Atlanta a “show about a feeling” when he had his conversations with the network, before it was greenlit. This is sorta what I thought of the first season of Fargo as well, which is also an FX show.

    Better Things went out a bit more loudly, but almost with the same idea as Atlanta. I like Atlanta better, but I’m going to have more difficulty waiting a whole year for more of Better Things, which has so far given me my favorite moment in television this year.

    ——

    Westworld goes to its seventh episode (of ten) this weekend; I’ve seen five so far. I still want to watch it, but if I don’t find some emotional resonance by the end of episode six, I’m only watching it to see what happens; it will not be must-see for me. I can understand the appeal of a show that just wants you to try to figure out what’s going on, but I need characters to root for, and I still don’t have that.

    ——

    I’m also two episodes in on Stranger Things. I am somewhere between liking it and loving it so far.

  16. Reid

    Can you briefly describe what Atlanta and Better Things are about, while also giving me a flavor about the nature of the shows?

  17. Mitchell

    Do you mean more than I describe here? I was trying to be careful, but if you want more, repeat your request and I’ll elaborate, and maybe I’ll find a few clips.

  18. Reid

    I think that’s good enough. Thanks.

  19. Reid

    I watched two episodes (out of eight) of Goliath, an Amazon series. It’s a about washed up lawyer (Bill Bob Thornton) who has an opportunity to go against the big law firm that kicked him to the curb, a law firm he helped found. Goliath refers to this big law firm, and this courtroom drama basically follows a David-vs.-Goliath narrative. Think of a variation of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Rainmaker, with the lead from The Verdict. If that appeals to you, then you’ll probably be interested in this. I’m only two episodes in, though, so I don’t know how good it will be. So far, it’s very entertaining, though.

  20. Reid

    Goliath (2016)
    71/100

    Not exceptional, but a solid courtroom drama. I’d recommend it to Joel and probably Penny. I would say most other idiots would find this entertaining.

  21. Mitchell

    The Grammys broadcasts have suffered in the past two years from taking themselves far, far too seriously. While I approve of decreasing the number of awards presented live during the telecast in favor of a greater emphasis on live performances, the show has tried to highlight themes of social conscience. In general, it’s not a bad idea, but Queen Latifah conducting a supposedly legal mass same-sex wedding while Ryan Lewis and Macklemore sing that awful “Same Love” song was cheesy beyond cheesy.

    I can’t remember what last year’s super-seriousness was, but it was almost as bad.

    This year, the theme seemed to be paying tribute to the great pop musicians who died this past year. Adele sang a tribute to George Michael; Demi Lovato, Tori Kelly, Andra Day, and Little Big Town did a Bee Gees tribute; Bruno Mars (with help from Morris Day and the Time) did a great performance of “Let’s Go Crazy,” with Mars dressed as Prince and playing that white phallic guitar Apollonia gave Prince in the Purple Rain movie. I’m not a Mars fan, but that was a good performance.

    There was too much Beyonce and Adele love all evening, but whatever.

    Metallica did a performance with Lady Gaga that would have been pretty good if James Hetfield’s mic had worked. Het was pretty pissed when the performance was over, and I don’t blame him. There were a few super-noticeable tech glitches throughout the show, but that was the worst of them.

    When Adele did her George Michael performance, something went wrong, and Adele said “F***,” and then stopped the song and asked for a redo. She earnestly said something about how much she loves Michael, and how “George deserves better.” So they restarted. I thought Hetfield should have done the same thing and said, “If Adele gets a do-over, Metallica gets a do-over, motherf***ers!”

    Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised at how credibly Lady Gaga did with the Metallica song. I was less surprised at how sexy she was doing it.

    The other hightlight for me was A Tribe Called Quest with Busta Rhymes doing an angry medley, with Rhymes repeatedly calling out “President Agent Orange.” That’s how social conscience should be done at the Grammys.

    This wasn’t in the broadcast, but one of my favorite of the young neo-bluegrass performers, Sarah Jarosz, took home two Grammys Saturday, one for Best American Roots Performance (the song “House of Mercy”) and one for Best Folk Album (the album Undercurrent). She hasn’t really been bluegrassy since her first album, but her recent stuff is still excellent.

    It’s probably worth checking out the Mars and The Time performances on YouTube if they’re there, and they probably are. The Time did a medley of “Jungle Love” and “The Bird,” complete with Jerome holding up the mirror.

  22. don

    Stranger Things

    I finished the first season (the only season so far) of Stranger Things. I think it was hyped too much, so it was sort of a letdown. I like the characters, which probably would make me watch the upcoming seasons, but the storyline and ending of season one was sort of trite and not that thrilling.

  23. Mitchell

    I’m still putting my review of the whole season together, but I think the story is the second thing to like about it. The first thing is the way it shouts out movies of the 80s. There are little moments that pay homage to Stand by Me, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Goonies, and lots of other great moments of the viewing of our youth.

    I thought of this and was going to make one, but I did a search and found that someone beat me to it:

    That’s reason enough to like it right there. 🙂

  24. don

    Mitchell,

    Yeah I totally agree with what you wrote, except that from what I remember Sloane was way hotter than Nancy Wheeler. But I was younger when Sloane was “hot”.

    I should clarify a bit. So the guys I heard that were hyping the show, were really hyping the terror and drama, and from those aspects, I assumed the originality of it, which is why the show may be a letdown for me. The story is not original nor is the drama of it. But I really like the nostalgia of it taking place in the early eighties, which is what you were saying. I really like the “Stand By Me”, “ET” feel of it as well.

  25. Mitchell

    Oh yeah. Sloane was way hotter, but then she was off the charts hot. It would have been tough to match that.

    I’m looking forward to season 2. It took me a while to warm up to the young stars in season 1, which was a bit of a speed bump for me, but now that I’m down with them, I may even enjoy season 2 better.

  26. Reid

    Iron Fist

    I think there is at least one element that would interest Mitchell. I have no idea how much he would like this, though. I’m guessing, many would just say this was OK, at best.

    **
    Martial arts-based superhero. After being reported dead for fifteen years, Danny Rand returns to New York, after having been raised by Shaolin-type monks. Think Kwai Chang Kane, with the ability to focus his chi into his fist, creating a kind of “power fist.” (Hence, the name “Iron fist.”)

    The story involves a return to the company his father started with the partner. That partner’s adult children, both of whom grew up with Danny, are now running the company. Part of the story involves the Hand, an evil ninja group, that appears in the Daredevil series.

    “Objectively” I’d say this is the worst of the Netflix’s Marvel adaptations. I got a negative vibe from the comments from reviewers, and I can totally understand this. I’ll go into more details in the next section.

    ***
    Several comments:

    1. The casting isn’t very good in my view, particularly, the acting of the male and female leads are weak. (I really disliked the casting and acting for one of the villains as well.)

    2. Ironically, though, the two leads kept my interest in the series, mainly because interracial couples will do that for me. The female lead is also a mixed-race character (Japanese-Chinese), which also appealed to me.

    3. The storyline and subplot gets a bit weird and convoluted, especially with the Harold Meachum character. (The actors who played his children were more interesting, better actors, than the leads, I think.)

  27. Reid

    Defenders

    Probably the worst super hero movie/series I’ve seen, at least off the top of my head. I’m not really motivated to explain why, though.

  28. Mitchell

    It’s getting slammed by everyone. Or am I getting it confused with Inhumans?

  29. Reid

    I’m not sure, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if everyone is slamming The Defenders. I thought Iron Fist was not very good, but this is worse.

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