Tag Archives: television

A Look at the First Episode of The Umbrella Academy

Hey 3.5 readers.

BQB here.

I just watched the first episode of Umbrella Academy.  If you’ve watched more, I’d thank you to not give away any spoilers.  I will eventually return to this fine blog to discuss the first season.

My initial impression is its great.  Before I saw it, I scoffed for a number of reasons.

  1. Anything with too many characters tends to be a mess.  There’s like 7 main characters here plus supporting characters.  Seems destined to be a pot of gumbo where everyone gets lost in the steam, but somehow, everyone gets their moment to shine.
  2. Movies about long established heroes are great.  Movies about new superheroes tend to stink.  I’ll give this show credit though.  It is based on a Dark Horse Comic so perhaps if newer heroes have a chance to percolate in comics first, then they’ll shine on the screen.
  3. It reminded me of Watchmen, which everyone said was genius but I thought stunk.  Again, a bunch of heroes you hadn’t heard of before, all thrown at us at once, each getting less than five minutes to show their power.  Somehow that was lame but this looks good.

The plot thus far is that in 1989, 40 (I think that’s the number) children were born immaculately on one day.  The mothers had not been pregnant previously.  The kids just popped out unexpectedly.

An eccentric, reclusive billionaire with a penchant for collecting exotic things adopts 7 of these kids.  He starts a school for superheroes in his house, training his new wards to use their powers.

His methods turn the kids into (mostly) powerful grownups.  Some have gone on to do great things.  Others flounder and fail.  All blame their problems on their father’s cold, uncaring aloofness.  The only source of love the children ever had was their father’s robot wife and monkey butler.

By the way, is there something wrong with me that I think it would be awesome to have a robot wife and monkey butler?  Thus far, there has been little explanation as to how the robot wife and monkey butler came to be but I’ll keep my fingers crossed for more on that in future episodes.  Ironically, in a series with 7 heroes, the robot wife and monkey butler pique my interest the most.

Not that the heroes are slouches.  Overall, the first episode was cinematic.  Lots of cool fights and special effects.  Cinematic quality.  Had this been laid out in a movie that I paid money to see, I would have walked away happy.

Netflix really upped their game here.  I’ll reserve judgment until I’ve watched the first season but so far, I am impressed and willing to watch more.

STATUS; Shelf-worthy.

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TV Review – Good Girls – Season 1 (2018)

Good girls gone so bad, it’s good.

BQB here with a review of NBC’s “Good Girls.”

If you read any of my drivel, 3.5 readers, then you know I despise network television.  Rarely, if ever, do I get drawn in by its formulaic hackery.

For the longest time, I felt that way about this show.  The ads made me roll my eyes.  A TV show about three women who knock over a grocery store doesn’t seem like the stuff of great television.  A bank, yes, but bank robbery has been done and maybe overdone on screens large and small, and seeing as how a supermarket stick-up, though awful, I’m sure, if you’ve ever survived one, isn’t exactly the caper of the century that could inspire multiple seasons.

So, I skipped it.  Then, the other day I saw it was on Netflix and gave it a try.  I was hooked and binged the whole thing in a matter of days.  Talk about an unexpected gem.

The plot?  Three suburban moms in Michigan, just outside of Detroit, are BFFs and coincidentally, all experience life ruining financial woes at the same exact time.  Retta, the comedienne of Parks and Recreation fame is Ruby, a waitress who can’t afford her ailing daughter’s medical bills.

Christina Hendricks, she of Joan on Mad Men fame, is Beth, a stay at home mom who has just learned that her dumb husband, Matthew Lillard of live-action Scooby Doo fame, has drained the family’s finances buying gifts for his hot, young secretary, putting the family home at risk of foreclosure.  Damn, that must have been some good pussy.  Even so, if you are married to Christina Hendricks and cheat, you are one greedy son of a bitch.

Rounding out the trio is Mae Whitman, she of a lot of stuff you may or may not have seen fame but regardless, her ship has finally come in fame, Beth’s younger sister, Annie, a single mom raising perpetually bullied daughter Sadie while requiring the expensive services of a lawyer to fight her ex-boyfriend in a custody battle.

Depressed over their financial woes, these women do what any suburban mom friends do.  They get together, talk out their troubles over wine and…oh yeah, they randomly decide to rob the grocery store that Annie slaves away at for minimum wage.

Amazingly, they get away with it, but that’s not the end.  Bizarrely, and perhaps the greatest of many plot holes in the show that you’ll have to ignore, the supermarket was holding onto cash belonging to a street gang, because, you know, that’s something that corporate chain stores do, apparently.

Sidenote: You’ll also have to ignore the fact that the only one who could have been in on helping the street gang hide their ill gotten loot is the store’s pervy, creepo manager, Boomer (David Hornsby), he of Rickety Cricket on Always Sunny fame.  At no time is it ever shown that he somehow helped the gang hide their loot.  He seems as surprised as anyone else so whoever the supermarket employee who was helping the gang stow their cash is either a mystery to be solved at a later date or more likely, a little tidbit that was left on the cutting room floor.  At any rate, Hornsby has long excelled at playing creepy weirdos, so kudos to him for landing a gig that lets me learn his name and not just “Hey, it’s Rickety Cricket!”

Long story short, the gang comes over the trio.  They will have to set aside their motherly schedules of PTA meetings and playdates to commit more crimes just to cover up their initial crime and to appease gang leader Rio (Manny Montana), who, ironically, gets the least amount of screen time, is the least developed character and yet, is one of the more interesting characters in the series.

Eventually, the bad mommas realize they are good at committing crimes and once they are on Rio’s good side, they become his witting accomplices, raking in the cold, hard cash they need to solve their problems.

In a twist that seems too good for network TV, Ruby’s husband, Stan, (Reno Wilson), is a cop who keeps coming home with tales of the scary street gang that is raking in the dough as of late.  One shudders to think that he and his wife might eventually find themselves at odds if Stan ever puts two and two together.

It’s fun.  It’s silly.  It strikes me as a sanitized for TV version of The Sopranos.  There are bad paths the show could go down but then it couldn’t be watched by the non-cable masses.

It seems obvious that the show runners steer clear of getting the ladies involved in drug running.  Instead, they get involved in stuff like counterfitting, money laundering, and botox thievery – all bad but nothing that will immediately lead to someone dying of a heroin overdose in a back alley…then again does it?  You get the impression that Rio and friends aren’t exactly selling cookies, so they must be running large quantities of something highly illegal that will get people killed but ultimately, a trio of suburban moms pushing horse on a street corner is not the stuff of wacky comedy gold, so that is avoided, obviously.

STATUS: Surprisingly shelf-worthy.  Come for the humor.  Stay for Hendricks’ copious sweater stuffers…which sadly, are never set free for the world to enjoy.  Maybe time to get this show transferred to HBO.

Bonus points for Netflix.  Without them, I likely would have never given this show a chance.  They do breathe new life into a lot of shows.

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TV Review – Russian Doll (2019)

Everlasting snark…day after day after day.

BQB here with a review of the Netflix series Russian Doll. (SPOILERS ABOUND)

I have to say it, 3.5 readers.  When I was a kid, there were a ton of TV shows and movies were single adults partied hard and lived fabulous, interesting, adventurous lives well into their forties.

Lies.  All lies, I say!  This lifestyle may work for a handful of ultra rich, ridiculously good looking people but for the rest of us normals, your best bet is to find someone you can stand being in the same room with before you hit 30, maybe 35 at the latest.

At first, from the opening scenes I thought this show was celebrating that lifestyle but in reality, it is far from it.  I’m not saying that 30 plus single people should be dumped on, I’m just saying there’s a certain point in time when you’re just too long in the tooth for the jet set crowd.

Natasha Lyonne’s Nadia has just turned 36 and her BFF, Maxine (Greta Lee) has thrown her a much undesired birthday party.  Now over 35, Nadia must come to terms with a fact that she has long been avoiding – she isn’t going to live forever.  She must find her happiness and yet, how does a misanthropic cynic who, with a dry wit and dark sense of humor, manages to openly mock everything and anything in life with great gusto find some sort of meaningful purpose in life?

Long story short,  Nadia dies.  Again and again and again.  Sometimes in scary ways.  Sometimes in hilarious ways.  To put a chill in your shorts, many of the deaths (falling down a flight of stairs, accidental electrocution, gas leak) are all things that could easily happen to any of us at any time if we aren’t careful.  When you think about it, it’s amazing that we all don’t croak again and again, what with our bodies being so fragile and all.

My early assessment was wrong.  This isn’t a show that glorifies the post 35 single life.  It doesn’t dump on it either.  Equal time is given to the fact that people who act like posers and social climbers after 35 are lame, but also, to the fact that not everyone finds love easily and sometimes love and/or happiness doesn’t come easily for everyone and that doesn’t make those people bad either.

This is Natasha Lyonne’s magnum opus, her Mona Lisa and her piece de resistance all wrapped up into one.  From the time she hit it big as Jessica, one of the funnier yet more street smart teens in 1999’s American Pie, audiences have gotten the sense that Natasha excels at playing jaded ball breakers whose fast talking, cynical facades mask deeper pain that few could handle, yet manage to joke about…all with a dose of Jewish guilt mixed in.

In recent years, her character on Orange is the New Black has cemented her status as this archetype and in Russian Doll, I get the impression, at least IMO, that Natasha is trying to say, “This is me.  This is who I am.  I’m troubled.  I carry around a lot of pain but I deal with it by tossing out a snappy one-liner that will kick you in the nuts.  You’ll get mad for a second until you realize that my assessment of you is correct and then you’ll laugh as you nurse your nuts back to health.  Oddly, you’ll find me so charming that you’ll come back for more, which is confusing, because I’m as cuddly as feral cat yet strangely, someone you can lean on, like a loyal puppy.  Although, I will bark at you.”

Was she trying to say all that?  I don’t know.  That’s what I got out of it anyway.

The repeated loop genre seems like it has been done to death, with Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day being, to the best of my knowledge, the first to tackle the idea of someone who has to repeat a day over and over.  Other films and shows have put their own spin on it.  Hell, this week, “Happy Death Day” releases the second in a series of films about a girl who gets murdered again and again only to wake up and get murdered again.

Creative?  Sure.  Overdone? Yes.

So why should you watch this addition to an overdone premise?  Well, it’s different.  Easy to say but it really is.

First, much of the series is devoted to the what of it all.  I.E. most of these films focus on something the looped character must do to make the loop stop.  This series spends a lot of time trying to figure out the why of it all…or better yet, the how of it all.  How the heck is this happening?  Nadia plays junior detective, investigating a number of theories – for example, maybe it’s spiritual energy in Maxine’s apartment caused by it being located on a former Yeshiva school, drawing her back to the same place at the same time after each untimely demise.  Hallucinations brought upon by a ketamine laced joint are another possibility.

Other theories are researched and personally, I’m torn as to whether or not the ending gives justice to the how of it.  I can see an argument for and against vis a vis whether it explained the how, but at any rate, the show does eventually make a shift from the how to the what, as in, what does Nadia need to do to make all this craziness stop?

The show is also different in that Nadia has a partner in crime.  While Nadia keeps returning to her birthday party, Alan (Charlie Barnett) gets it much worse.  He must continually return to the most unwanted of situations, reliving a scene where his girlfriend reveals that she has been cheating on him.

Eventually, Nadia and Alan meet and they must solve this mystery together.  Nadia might be cynical but at least she has somewhat of a can-do spirit.  Alan is deeply morose, ready to curl up in a corner and cry over the slightest of obstacles.  One’s a fighter and the other’s a sad sack.  Somehow they balance each other out and whether or not they resolve this never ending loop is a question I’ll let you answer when you watch it.

Stop by sometime and discuss the ending with me.  Those who haven’t watched it yet, just avoid that discussion until you do.  I think it is a great ending, not what I expected and it is rather complicated.  The show trusts you to use your brain to figure it out and doesn’t spoon feed it to you, that’s for sure.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  Not sure I see it lasting more than one season.  It’s binge-worthy but I think to do a second season would be to spoil it.  Sometimes all a show needs to say can be summed up in one outing and this show is that.  Kudos to Lyonne for baring her soul for us Looky Lou’s to pick over and analyze, and for Netflix for letting her do it.  This isn’t the traditional kind of show that network TV would go for, and probably wouldn’t exist at any time other than this streaming golden age.  Also, to producer Amy Poehler.  She doesn’t star in this but by backing it, she steps out of her usual comfort zone of upbeat, silly comedy and into the world of dry, dark comedy.  Just don’t get sucked in too far, Amy.  The world still needs plenty of kindhearted Leslie Knopes, just as it needs Nadias to dump on them.

 

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SNL Skit – Millennial Millions

It’s been awhile since SNL had me doubled over laughing, but Aidy’s song had me in hysterics.  “Who are the boomers?  Oh, they had all the sex and they made all the music and they got all the jobs and they made all the money and they bought all the houses and now they’ll never die!”

They nailed each generation perfectly.  Like Keenan, I’m Gen X, so I’ve already given up and now I’m just sitting on the sidelines and watching the world burn:

 

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A Dramatic Reading of a Conversation I Had With My Cable Company (Embellished Version)

 

CUSTOMER SERVICE REP (CSR):  Hello, thank you for calling Big Ass Cable Company.  We’ve already told the NSA how much porn you watched today.  How may I help you?

BOOKSHELF Q. BATTLER: Hello, ma’am.  Bookshelf Q. Battler here.  I’d like to schedule an appointment to get a cable jack installed in my house.

CSR:  (typing sounds). OK, Mr. Battler.  I see here you just ordered an Awesome Box and it is on the way.  I’ll schedule your tech visit after your Awesome Box’s arrival.

BQB: Oh, ok.  Hey, listen, this might be confusing but I’ll try to explain.  You see, I just got a new TV for my BQB office.  I really shouldn’t have spent the money but, well, you can’t take it with you and I doubt I’m ever going to have a hot, big breasted blonde to spend the money on, so I figured I needed a brand new TV so I can see Ben Affleck’s hair plugs in high def whenever I watch “Reindeer Games” and relive my 1990s glory.  Anyway, I ordered an Awesome Box for this TV but your company made a mistake and sent me a Suck Box instead.

CSR: Uh huh.  I’m pretending to understand.

BQB: Well, at first I was irate, but then I just decided to re-order the Awesome Box and pray to Jesus that you get it right this time.  In the meantime, you’re in luck, because your company’s incompetence has born fruit.  I decided that at the low rate you’re offering the Suck Box, I can afford to attach it to a small TV in a room I rarely use.

CSR: OK.  One moment please.  Hold on…I’m processing this information.

BQB: Sorry, this has gotten so complicated.  You know, to simplify this, we don’t really need to be worrying about any boxes.  All I need is for a human being from your company to come to my BQB HQ and install a jack…

CSR: A jack?

BQB:  Am I using the right terminology?  An outlet?  It’s the plate in the wall that you would attach the cable to your cable box and then in turn, you’d attach the box to your television.

CSR: I see.  OK we can do that.  I’m going to cancel your order for an Awesome Box and just make the note that the technician can bring an Awesome Box for your appointment and…(typing sounds)…oh, sir, I’m sorry but my system won’t let me arrange for a technician to install your Awesome Box until it arrives.

BQB:  (breathes deeply and sighs for dramatic effect.)  I’m sorry, maybe I’m not explaining this well.

CSR: That’s ok.

BQB:  Why I am calling has nothing to do with any boxes.

CSR: OK.

BQB: The box situation is fine.  We can stop talking about the boxes and move on.

CSR: OK.

BQB: What I need is a cable outlet installed…

CSR: For your new Awesome Box?

BQB: (breathes loudly and sighs.) No.  Alright, let me try this again.  I got a new TV.

CSR: OK.

BQB: The new TV is located in a position where there already is a cable jack in the wall.

CSR: Got it.

BQB: I ordered an Awesome Box to attach to this new TV via the already installed cable jack.

CSR: OK.

BQB: Your company, in error, sent me a Suck Box instead of the Awesome Box instead.

CSR: OK.

BQB: I don’t want a Suck Box for my Awesome TV.  I want an Awesome Box for my Awesome TV.  It’s in a room I spend a lot of time in.  Ergo, I want to be able to watch Nicki Minaj videos where every little droplet of sweat pours off her copious butt cheeks in high definition surround sound, an experience that the Suck Box just can’t offer.

CSR: OK.

BQB:  But, I have decided to reward your company’s stupidity.  You see, there is a smaller, suckier TV in a room I rarely use.  And, for the low rate you offer for the Suck Box, I figured I can attach the Suck Box to the Suck TV in the room I rarely use and I will rarely, ever watch this Suck TV with the Suck Box but I figure, you know, since you’re offering a cheap deal, it will be worth it whenever I have a family gathering and I can excuse myself from all the relatives and friends I despise.  I can tell them I have to go to the room I don’t use and hang up my company’s coats or some bullshit that sounds like I’m working hard on my hosting duties, but really I’m going to just going to pull up a bean bag chair and watch Suck TV on the Suck box.

CSR: OK.

BQB: And for this rare occasion, I don’t need the high performance Awesome Box.  I can get by with the low def for watching, I don’t know, the 11,000th episode of NCIS or whatever will be on while I’m hiding out from my guests next Thanksgiving, drowning my sorrows with cheap beer and wondering where I went so wrong and what can I do better next year so I’ll end up celebrating with people I actually like.

CSR: OK.

BQB: I don’t need much for my Suck TV.  I don’t need HD to watch Fox News and learn how Trump’s farts cure cancer, or when I watch CNN and learn how Trump’s farts cause cancer, or when I watch MSNBC and learn how Trump’s farts cause cancer and AIDs, or when I watch C-SPAN and get to see the raw footage of Trump’s farts and am left to determine on my own their potential curative properties or lack thereof in relation to cancer.

CSR: OK I think I understand.

BQB: To review, I’ve got the boxes I need.  Now, all I need is for a human being experienced in the installation of cable outlets to come to my house and install one.

CSR: Uh huh…. (typing sounds) …OK, sir, I’m sorry I’ve tried putting this into my system but I’m afraid I just can’t have the tech install your Awesome Box unless I cancel the delivery of the Awesome Box and…

(BQB covers the receiver.  Screams loudly out of fury and exhaustion.  Retreats to the fridge to eat half a cheesecake.  Returns to the phone.)

BQB: Ma’am, please, I’m trying here.  I really I am.  Listen, let me break this down.

CSR: Fuck you, mansplainer.

BQB: Pardon me?

CSR: Sorry, bad connection.

BQB: OK.  You work for a major cable company.  Your company is in the business of providing channels that come into TVs via cable installations.  My question is…

CSR: I understand your question, sir.

BQB: Do you?  Because it sounds like you’re telling me that your cable company cannot install a cable jack and to me, that’s like going to Dunkin Donuts and being told by the worker at the counter that they only have peanut butter celery sticks, or showing up at Starbucks and being told I’m a shithead for thinking that they would have coffee.

CSR: OK.

BQB: So, ok, drumroll, moment of truth here, please, just yes or no, can your cable company, which is in the business of providing cable, install a cable outlet in my house?

CSR: Sir, if you’d like to install your Awesome Box on your own, that’s fine, we’d just have to.

BQB: Am I being Punk’d?  Is Ashton Kutcher going to jump out of my closet and laugh at me?

CSR: I have no idea what that means.

BQB: I give up.  I’ll just assume you’re telling me that you can’t install a jack.

CSR: A what?

BQB: (eats the other half of the cheesecake): Look, it’s fine.  It’s not you.  I blame the public school system.  I need a cable jack.  I’m not sure how it’s done. I think someone smarter than me crawls the fuck around in my attic and feeds a cable line down my wall and then cuts a hole with expert precision that, when all is said and done, will allow cable to appear on a television.

CSR: You could just plug your Awesome Box into the…

BQB: The Suck Box…Look, just…I….I’m sorry…I need to hang up now and crawl into a corner and curl up into the fetal position and question why my luck is so terrible.

CSR: OK.

BQB: Because seriously, whenever I look at Facebook, all my high school friends are playing golf and eating lobsters on yachts and jamming on guitars and strolling through Tuscany and I just know that whenever they call your company in need of a jack they just get a person who knows what to do…

CSR: Would you like to upgrade and get STARZ and CINEMAX for the low price of…

BQB: Goodbye.  To the fetal position I go.

 

 

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TV Review – House of Cards – Season 6

As they say in Gaffney, all good things come to an end.

BQB here with a review of “House of Cards.”

You know, 3.5 readers.  There ought to be a rule.  Call it “The Spacey Rule.”  If you’re an actor about to take a role in a compelling TV series that hinges on that role, you should not have allegations of pervery against you.

Spacey’s character, Francis Underwood, a ruthless, cunning politician who bargained, bribed, bought, cajoled, sweet talked, murdered, screwed (literally and figuratively) and worse, convinced many of his victims to do themselves in, was crucial to the series.

Indeed, Claire (Robin Wright Penn) was his partner-in-crime and before Spacey’s alleged pervery was made public, it looked like the show was heading toward an eventual showdown where the President and First Lady would duke it out.

Thus, the writers were boxed in with this last season.  No season without Francis was going to feel satisfying and yet, to not provide some kind of ending would be a letdown as well.

At the beginning of this final season, Claire is in the first 100 days of her presidency.  Diane Lane and Greg Kinnear play a brother/sister team of wealthy business moguls who apparently were bankrolling the Underwoods and expecting favors in return, though this is the first we’ve heard of them.

Francis is dead, ostensibly due to an overdose of prescription medication, though true accidents without someone at fault rarely, if ever, happen on this show, unless some sort of nefarious evildoer wants it to seem that way.

Claire has learned the art of underhanded politics from the master himself and now free of her husband, she wants to make one last series of weaselly doings to secure her power, push out her enemies and, one might assume, make the world a better place?

Her foil is Doug Stamper, Francis’ longtime henchman.  Claire wants to throw Francis’ reputation under the bus to save herself.  Doug wants to save Francis’ legacy.

Claire, the bro/sis team and Doug go all in on a battle royale and indeed, there is a victor but I won’t spoil it for you.

Suffice to say, imagine if you were invited to a fancy dinner at a friend’s house.  You were promised that if you work your way through five courses, each more tasty than the last, you’d eventually get to that final sixth course that would make your toes curl and your taste buds scream out in orgasmic delight.

Then, alas, your friend comes out and says, “Hey, I’m so sorry, my head chef just got fired due to allegations of pervery so I’m not able to serve you that sixth course you long waited for but hey, here is a tasty bag of Funions.”

Sure, you’ll eat the Funions.  You’ll enjoy the Funions but…you’ll always wish that head chef had kept it in his pants so he could have stuck around to make that final filet mignon.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  The writers made the best out of a bad situation and ultimately, Spacey is the one to blame but it’s hard not to think about how satisfying a final Francis-centric season would have been and sigh a sad, defeated sigh.

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Daily Discussion with BQB – Don’t Make a Breaking Bad Movie

I liked Breaking Bad but I don’t think they should continue it with a movie.

Oh, if you missed it, Bryan Cranston said in an interview that there would be a movie, or that he’d love to be in a movie or whatever.  Not sure exactly but it was hinted that there would be one.

I just think that series was wrapped up well and it is rare that happens, when all the threads pulled are tied up and viewers are left satisfied.  Let’s not spoil that.

Plus, what has it been, ten years since that show started?  Walter White would have to have the slowest moving cancer ever…on top of being shot in the finale.

Oh shut up you’ve had five years to see it.

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TV Review – Kidding (2018)

Do you ever think the people you cheer you up on TV might be the saddest of all?

BQB here with a review of “Kidding.”

I’m not sure what to make of this show.  It seems like I should be laughing but instead, I feel like crying.  I’m an adult, so I rarely, if ever, cry, but you know what I mean.

Jim Carrey returns to TV in this series about an icon of children’s television whose life has run off the rails.

To his fans, he’s Mr. Pickles, a Mr. Rogers-esque storyteller who lives in a world of make-believe, surrounded by puppet friends.  He’s a multi-millionaire dollar industry who has inspired books, toys, and merchandise and keeps PBS afloat.

Outside of TV, he’s Jeff Piccirillo and here’s the rub of the show.  His family thinks he should be a normal guy who sins and swears in his personal life but Mr. Pickles isn’t an act.  Jeff is Mr. Pickles 24/7 and he displays the highest levels of courtesy and kindness to everyone, even his family who constantly dumps on him.

A year has passed since one of his two twin sons has died in a car accident.  His wife, Jill (Judy Greer) is so saddened by the loss that she can’t stomach Jeff’s nice guy persona anymore.  His surviving son, Will (Cole Allen) can’t take it either.

And thus, a great contrast is struck.  Millions of fans cheer for Mr. Pickles, sending constant thank you letters detailing how he has changed their lives for the better with his inspiring words of wisdom.

But the kindness that makes him universally loved by the world makes him despised at home.  When he tries to talk to Will about the grieving process, the boy calls his old man a pussy.  When he learns his wife is sleeping with another man, he, to her disappointment, doesn’t get mad but instead bakes her a pie and asks to discuss it in a polite, civilized manner.

Back at the studio, Mr. Pickles is a family business. His sister, Deirdre (Catherine Keener) is the show’s head puppeteer with problems of her own.  Her arc sort of mirrors Jeff’s.  While she doesn’t have that happy persona, she loves her job but isn’t happy with her home life.

Meanwhile, veteran dramatic actor Frank Langella steals the show as Jeff’s father, Sebastian.  “Seb” is cold, calculating, and cares only about the bottom line.

Jeff wants to test some limits on the show.  He wants to process his grief in the only way he knows how, by bringing his feelings onto the show.  He wants to do a show that teaches kids about how to deal with the death of a loved one, but Seb won’t agree, arguing that parents will just change the channel and Mr. Pickles’ bottom line will go bust.

When you watch the trailer, you might think that this show is just a parody of Mr. Rogers.  It is but then again, it isn’t.  Perhaps Mr. Rogers benefitted from the fact that he lived during a time when morals and values were upheld.  They weren’t followed by everyone but they weren’t openly mocked and scorned by public figures either.  People at least paid lip service to the idea of being a good doobie.

On the other hand, Mr. Pickles lives in a time when being kind is confused with weakness and being nice gets you called a pussy.

As a viewer, you end up wondering who is right.  Jeff processes his grief by being there for his family, even though they hate his guts.  He takes their abuse and comes back for more, being more concerned about his well-being than his dignity.  Most men insulted by their wives and kids too many times would just walk away but Jeff hangs in there.

Is Jill right for looking for solace in a new fling?  Is young Will right for smoking pot with a new group of dopey kids?  These bad behaviors are typical of people whose lives were destroyed and yet, these behaviors also get them nowhere.

Jeff is unusually, bizarrely kind and you begin to wonder if he is abnormal in his graciousness, or perhaps he’s the only sane one in a world full of cynical, miserable crazies.  Everyone is drinking and swearing and debasing themselves, descending into meaningless misery, despair and hedonism, lashing out at everyone.

Thus, maybe Jeff is the only one who is smart enough to walk a higher path.  He most likely is doing the right thing, though in his personal life, it gets him nowhere.

The crux of the show seems to be making us wait to see if Jeff will have a full on breakdown.  Will he grab his wife and give her a vigorous banging?  Will he tell his kid to shut the eff up and get off drugs?  Will he tell his father that on the show, it’s his way or the highway?

Or maybe he’ll flip out in some other unexpected way.  Will Mr. Pickles fly off the handle and do something awful that blows up the pickles world altogether?

If it’s a comedy, it’s a dark one.  You laugh at things you feel you shouldn’t and me, personally, I do root for Mr. Pickles.  There’s a part of me that wants to tell him to just start giving shit back to the people who are shitting on him but then there’s another part of me that thinks Jeff will score a victory by being nice to the bitter end.  His family will ultimately destroy him if he does, but at least he will have been right.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

 

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TV Review – Orange is the New Black – Season 6 Review (Spoilers Abound)

Hey 3.5 readers.

I don’t have time to give this season the in-depth review it deserves, so I’ll try to break it down quickly.

I felt the first couple seasons were an interesting look into prison life.  Hollywood tends to really ham up prison portrayals –  i.e. that classic scene where the main character enters the joint for the first time and the prisoners throw rain garbage and flaming pieces of whatever down upon him out of their cells.

While I’m sure violence is an ever present threat in prisons (and is portrayed a lot on this show) the show gave an aspect that other shows about the clink rarely showed, i.e., that it’s all one great big glorified high school for adults, complete with social cliques, winners, losers, a great big fishbowl where everyone is in everyone else’s business and the slightest bit of gossip can wreak all kinds of havoc.

I felt in later seasons, the show started to jump the shark as the more outrageous the shenanigans got.  At times, some of the tomfoolery seemed unlikely and increasingly far fetched.

But this last season really brought the series home.

Here, the OITNB girls, or a segment of them anyway, end up in the “max” prison, following a riot that goes bad.  Alas, they find themselves as pawns in the neverending war between two geriatric sisters with a longstanding grudge that has existed since the 1980s.

Lots of emotion, sadness, all sorts of bad things happen.

If the showrunners wanted to, they could probably end the series here.  Piper goes home and assumedly, like the real Piper she was based on, will write a book about her time in the can.

Vause looks like she will atone for her sin of putting Piper in prison in the first place – then again, maybe not as it looks like the boss she had to swear allegiance to in order to get Piper off the hook is no longer around.

Taystee goes down for a crime she didn’t commit but is the poster child for how the system swallows poor young African Americans up.

Black Cindy will forever want to do the right thing, be unable to do the right thing, but always feel guilty for not doing the right thing.

I could go on and on, there are so many characters that I dont think it’s possible for all of their storylines to be resolved (other than most of them will be in the slammer for a long time) I think overall, this season finale brought home a lot of stuff for the main members of the ensemble.

I’ve read that there will be a season 7.  I assume this will be where Piper the ex-inmate becomes Piper the author.  Perhaps the writers will figure out a way to get Taystee out of the fix she is in.

At times, the show goes overboard and over the top.  Sometimes I think it is too liberal as many of the women are portrayed as poor little birds who couldn’t help but be there.  Many of the back stories show people who started out somewhat ok, then just made one bad choice and ended up in jail.  Flaca, for example, sold colored pieces of paper, told kids it was acid to make a buck, only to be charged when a classmate was dumb enough to believe he was tripping when he wasn’t and kill himself.

But then at other times, the show will get real…sometimes too real…the backstory scene where we learn what the 1980s bitties did to get locked up is too scary for words.

Guards are often portrayed as roid addled, power tripping losers but then we also see how they suffer behind the scenes too.

The show could end here and be a rare show that ties up all the ends but it sounds like it has at least another season left.  The writers will have to keep towing that difficult to balance light between humor and abject horror, never going too far into one side or the other.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

 

 

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More Insight on the Buffy Reboot

Hey 3.5 readers.  So, Monica Owusu-Breen, the showrunner who is in charge of the new Buffy reboot, had this to say on Twitter:

“So maybe, it could be time to meet a new Slayer…”

If that means, a whole new Slayer with a different name and different friends, then that’s awesome.

If you’re saying a new version of the same Buffy character, then stop toying with me.

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