recent TV

In lieu of sleeping, I watch television. I have opinions. In no particular order, here's some stuff I've watched recently:

  • Preacher: This is the best thing on TV right now, and is an amazingly faithful adaptation of the comics. I haven't read them in years, but I loved the shit out of them back in the day, and so far this is doing justice to all of the characters. Cassidy, especially, is spot on. The TV version of Tulip is much more interesting, too: in the show she's a person, but in the comic she was The Girlfriend. The first season seems to be building to Jesse giving The Sermon in the finale, and just about every episode ends with an "Oh shit, here it comes" feeling. I am loving this so much.

  • Mr. Robot: Season one was absolutely incredible in every particular. It's impossible to talk about my favorite parts without massive spoilers, but there's a bit where they do a cliché thing and you're thinking "Oh, you're not going to do the cliché thing are you?" and then there's an instrumental music cue that is the most perfect music cue of all time because in just a few seconds it says, "Not only are we doing the cliché thing but we know it and we know you know it and we are going all in on the cliché thing."

    Also: it is best to view Mr. Robot as a sequel to Pump Up the Volume in much the same way that Grosse Point Blank is a sequel to Say Anything (Lloyd Dobbler found that kickboxing didn't work out and joined the army) and that Don't Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23 is the prequel to Jessica Jones (back when Jessica and Patsy lived together before meeting Killgrave -- Jessica was way more fun and less uptight back then).

    Anyway, season two of Mr. Robot is not really impressing me yet. I hope they get their shit together.

  • The Magicians: It took me a few episodes to warm to this, because I have no time for Harry Potter (a series about how hard it is being the popular jock who's good at everything) and this series sounds like it's going to be "Hogwarts, The Graduate School Years", but it's not really that, and it gets pretty dark pretty fast, e.g., the "C. S. Lewis / Lewis Carroll was a pedophile" subplot. It feels much more "real world" than most shows about magic do, and the characters actually have recognizable personalities. This show is excellent.

  • The Expanse: This might be the best science fiction I've ever seen on TV. It's actually science fiction, not "a western in spaaaace" like so much that passes for it is. The world-building is amazingly complex, the politics seem sensible, it has good characterizations, and probably the best physics I've seen in a scifi TV or movie since 2001. The writers understand gravity and inertia if you can believe that. I know, right?

  • Stranger Things: I would like to thank everyone who has been raving about this show for being so vocal about it, and thereby letting me know that I should utterly disregard your opinion on everything, ever. This is the biggest piece of trash I've seen since... well, since the last piece of saccharine pabulum that Spielberg vomited onto the screen. It's a ham-handed Spielberg / Stephen King pastiche, and it's just as bad as the warmed over, Very Special Episode 80s crap it is imitating, but nostalgia is a hell of a drug, so the fact that it is doing a decent job of imitating barely-remembered crap passes for depth with a lot of people, I guess?

    This is a show that had Amnesia Psychic Girl actually say the line, "Friend? What is friend?"

    Someone actually wrote that down. Someone wrote that down and thought, "Yes! Nailed it!"

    There is a makeover montage. A god damned makeover montage.

    It's basically this:

  • Orphan Black: Still amazing. Watch this show! If you are even remotely considering watching Sense8, stop that, and watch this instead, because anything that was interesting in Sense8 was already covered by Orphan Black by season 3, and in a less stupid way, and using characters you actually give a shit about (most of whom are played by the same person, which I still can hardly believe).

  • Wynonna Earp: This show is pretty dumb, but it's fun-dumb in the way mid-series Supernatural was dumb (the period when they kind of just said "fuck it" to making any sense, but before they ran out of ideas). The first few episodes are kind of hard to take, mostly because the writers didn't seem to be in agreement over whether the little sister's character was supposed to be 16 or 25, but it picks up. There's a lot of shooting demons in the face, and it's the most "open carry" show I've ever seen. I wonder what part of Canada is standing in for Arizona here.

  • Fear the Walking Dead: This show exists solely to remind you that The Walking Dead could be so much worse. You will love this show if you watched The Walking Dead and said to yourself, "You know what this show was missing? All of the incuriosity, pointless secret-keeping and one-note unsympathetic non-characters that I came to expect from Lost." This show is the walking embodiment of, "Why did the character decide to do the thing? Because the plot demanded it." Fuck this show.

  • Dark Matter: I call this "Amnesia Firefly". If you give your characters amnesia, they don't have to have personalities! If you keep giving them amnesia over and over again, you can keep rewriting the same episode! Avoid.

  • Killjoys: It's another Firefly ripoff, and it's not a whole lot better, but at least two of the characters have something approaching motivation. There seems to be some complex world-building in the background, but it's a slow reveal.

  • Powers: The first half of season one was pretty lousy, but it picked up (naked Eddie Izzard eating people! how can you not love that!), and season two is getting good. If you watched the first season of Heroes and wanted to throw things at the TV the whole time, this might be the show that you wished that was.

  • Penny Dreadful: Or, "The League of Extraordinarily Bloody Gentlemen". Season one was perfection. Season two was pretty good. Season three was a betrayal: just avoid it.

  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: I find this show hilarious. Apparently the people who do not find this show hilarious are people who did not find 30 Rock hilarious. So let that be your guide.

  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Ok, stay with me here. This is actually a musical. Like, a full-on, people stop talking and break into song and dance numbers three times an episode musical. How did this happen? How is this a thing that exists? How is this so funny? Because it's really funny. It's as if Kimmy Schmidt was produced by Bialystock and Bloom.

  • Black Sails: There is really a lot of excellent pirating in this show. Excellent pirating. Pirating and whoring and quite a lot of historically accurate pubic hair. The seasons tend to bog down and get a little talky in the middle, but they bookend it with some amazing naval battles. And even when it's talky, it's pretty great. Like this:

    Flint: That's not why you did it.

    Silver: Really? Would you like to tell me why I did it, then?

    Flint: Well, I wasn't there, but, I'd hazard the guess that you learned of what had happened, told him how fucking stupid he was, and in that moment, he gave you a look that amounted to something less than contrite. And in that moment, you felt it.

    Silver: Felt what?

    Flint: Darkness. Hate. Showing indifference to the authority that you sacrificed so much to acquire, disdain for refusing to acknowledge that his actions, had you not intervened, would have led to an outcome that he would have held you responsible for reversing. Pride. Questioning what kind of man you are if you don't seek retribution for the offense.

    Silver: So what are you saying? You saying I went too far with him?

    Flint: Maybe you went too far. Maybe you didn't go far enough. Maybe you did it just right. The point is that while you were doing it, you heard a voice telling you that disciplining him would prevent him from repeating the offense, a voice that sounded like reason, and there was reason to it, as the most compelling lies are comprised almost entirely of the truth. But that's what it does. Cloaks itself in whatever it must to move you to action. And the more you deny its presence, the more powerful it gets, and the more likely it is to consume you entirely without you ever even knowing it was there. Now, if you and I are to lead these men together, you must learn to know its presence well so that you may use it ... Rather than it use you.

    Also, it's a prequel to Treasure Island. You don't need to know anything about Treasure Island to follow it, but if you want to, I recommend the 1934 version.

  • Outlander: Our protagonist's problem is that she's just too smart and too good at everything, and too many people keep falling in love with her, so she keeps needing to be rescued by a brooding shirtless kilt. This is the most "Mary Sue" thing I have ever seen in my life. It's awful.

  • Lucifer: Speaking of Mary Sues, this show is basically identical to Castle: that is to say, "I don't give a shit about your stupid mismatched-buddy-cop police procedural -- oh, no chief, please don't partner me with the witty and charming outsider" -- but I watched it for a few episodes because that guy is kind of charming. But yeah, I gave up on it.

  • Ash vs Evil Dead: So, remember that scene, where Bruce Campbell is fighting his possessed hand and it keeps smashing plates over his head? If you want to see a series that is basically that scene over and over again, this is the series for you. (Note: I do, and so this is the series for me.)

  • Another Period: This is the actually-watchable version of Downton Abbey.

  • Outcast: How can you make exorcisms so boring?

  • 12 Monkeys: This is pretty lousy, and it's clear at this point that the writers have no plan at all, and are going to just keep palimpsesting over the plot as needed to keep it going. Bleh. But you have to admire what's-his-name's commitment to maintaining 5 days of stubble. It's a Miami Vice level of tonsorial devotion.

  • Blindspot, Gotham, The Strain: These shows are bullshit.

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