Tag Archives: tv

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 – Escape at Dannemora (2018)

We’re all living in our own personal prison, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of Showtime’s “Escape at Dannemora.”

FYI – This TV show was based on real life events that were all over the news in the summer of 2015.  To that end, it’s hard to say there are SPOILERS ahead but there are, because even if you watched the stories, there’s still a lot in the show you may never heard of.

At any rate, if you haven’t watched this show yet and want to, I’d recommend looking away and coming back after you’ve seen it.  Otherwise, come on in.

Yes, 3.5 readers.  We’re all stuck in our own personal prison.  We all have our hopes, our dreams, our wants and our desires and yet, we also carry around with us our only personal set of bars comprised of our own circumstances and our own preconceived notions that keep us from attaining what we want.

That’s what I took away from this show and I must say, while I assumed it was going to be a piece of slapped together “ripped from the headlines” trash going into it, it really is a great work of storytelling and I hope it gets many awards.

The hard part of writing a story is that to retain the audience’s attention, the main characters must be presented as likable or at the very least, sympathetic.  Otherwise, it’s too easy for a viewer to say, “I hope that piece of shit rots” and change the channel.

How does one make these characters sympathetic?  After all, you’ve got two heinous killers who deserve every second of their sentence and then some and their illicit lover/accomplice, i.e. someone who was trusted to work with prison inmates and teach them how to sew in a tailor shop only to betray that trust by having sex with them and smuggling in their escape tools. Throw the book at them and call it a day.

Ironically, Ben Stiller, long known for his wacky, zany comedies, breaks out of his own comedy prison to provide a serious crime drama and excels, perhaps letting us know that his “Simple Jack” days are behind him and he now has his eyes on Oscar gold.

In a masterful use of “show don’t tell,” Stiller manages to find a little kernel of in this gruesome trio and ultimately the show becomes a morality tale about how dangerous and destructive it is to hope for outcomes that are far beyond your abilities to achieve them.

The best example comes early in the series when prison seamstress Joyce “Tilly” Mitchell (Patricia Arquette), a 51-year old wife and mother, gets dragged by her dopey husband and co-worker, Lyle (Eric Lange) on the worst date ever, a small town history museum in upstate New York.  As Tilly heads outside, she looks across to a bar, where a man with a flashy car is getting doted on by two hot, young babes.  Stiller doesn’t spell anything out.  The expression on Tilly’s face tells us everything.  She smiles.  She gets lost in her mind.  She wishes she was one of those hot young babes getting squired around town by a man with a lot of money.

Alas, Tilly’s frown turns upside down.  Darn it.  She remembers.  She’s not a hot young babe.  She never will be.  She’s a chubby 51-year old woman with a closet full of novelty sweatshirts and a small house and two dogs and a dumb husband and a set of bad teeth and bad hair and she has no money and well, the list goes on and on and on.

Ironic, isn’t it?  We constantly hear in the news about the struggles of men who believe that they are women or vice versa.  What about people who, on the inside, believe they are awesome despite an exterior that looks anything but?  Where’s the civil rights march for dumpy old ladies who truly believe they are worthy of being treated as a rich man’s latest conquest?

It’s a great scene and anyone interested in TV writing should study it.  Arquette’s facial expressions tell us more than any narrator could.  By the way, speaking of breaking out of our personal prisons, this is a role that is totally unlike anything I’ve ever seen Patricia Arquette in.

I’ve always thought Arquette was a decent enough actress but I’ve never been a huge fan because she tends to be one of those celebrities that gets extra political and also she tends to play school marmish characters.  To her credit, she’s long been a strong woman who plays strong women, but she breaks the mold here by playing a woman who is the very definition of weak, if not stupid and naïve.

Arquette gets uglied up and then some for the camera.  Make-up artists worked their magic to crap up her hair, skin and teeth but Arquette brings it home.  As Tilly, she has a look on her face of constant confusion, torn every which way.  You’ve heard of the man child that never grows up?  Tilly is the woman child, unable to accept her limits, her circumstances, her inability to realize that being arm candy for a rich stud is not in the cards for her and that perhaps she should try to make the best of it with her husband who may be a complete doofus but at least he’s a loyal and loving doofus.

How did Arquette master Tilly’s face and mannerisms?  Beats me.  She has this look like she just smelled a fart while sucking on a lemon.  She can go from utterly befuddled loser to cunning duplicitous backstabber and back again.  Occasionally throughout the series, she is confronted by her co-workers and husband who see reasons to be suspicious and she reacts in the classic mode of a child throwing a temper tantrum after being caught with her hand in the cookie jar.  It’s not my fault that I did something bad.  It’s your fault for catching me doing something bad.

Honestly, I can’t praise Arquette enough here.  She deserves an Emmy.  In fact, all of her co-stars do because they all seem to be breaking out of their traditional roles.

Benicio del Toro has built a career on playing strong, swarthy, stoic Hispanic men of little words.  At first, it seems like he’s cast to type as Richard Matt, the convicted killer who bosses and bullies her fellow prisoners around and turns them into his subordinate underlings with little more than an angry glare.

Like Tilly, Matt has a dream that is beyond his means.  He wants to be free.  He keeps closing his eyes and envisions himself riding on a horse on the countryside.  He keeps hoping this despite the fact that he’s stuck in a cell that’s a glorified closet.

SPOILER ALERT:  Does hope get these characters anywhere?  Nope.  Del Toro retains his stoic, ultra-macho façade for most of the series until the last episode, where the reality of being on the run from the law doesn’t match up with his dreams. He dreamed of being a cowboy on a horse.  He got walking all day and night through the forest, sleeping in ditches, drinking germ infested stream water that makes him puke and it all culminates in him cracking under pressure, drinking himself into a stupor until he chases away his accomplice who was practically carrying him.  The emotion and weakness is unusual for a del Toro character, but he does it well.

Even Paul Dano as convicted cop killer David Sweat goes against type.  He’s usually plays youthful, baby faced dimwits but here he plays well, a youthful, baby faced young man who is getting run through the ringer of prison’s school of hard knocks.  No doubt he deserves to be there, but each knock makes him tougher and harder, much more so than any previous Dano character.

Long story short, Matt is the con man that secures the illicit escape tools.  Dano is the brawn that stays up into the wee hours sneaking into a catwalk and cutting and breaking through various barriers until an outside manhole in a suburban neighborhood is found.  Meanwhile, Tilly is the dope who somehow believes that a life where she becomes the plaything of two dangerous criminals on the run in a lavish lifestyle on a Mexican beach is actually attainable and/or something that would work out and be fun to do.

Stiller plays with us throughout.  There’s a scene where Tilly brings a twenty dollar bill to a hardware store purchase cutting tools for her boy toys.  She looks at the receipt, sees the total is 21-something, looks at the impulse bag of chips that she’s already begun stuffing her face with, then shrugs her shoulders and uses a traceable credit car to buy the illegal contraband, showing us that a master criminal she is not.

He also pays attention to details in the setting.  The area surrounding the prison is presented as a real life Hoth, any icy American Siberia where it is bone chillingly cold throughout the year and people have to bundle up well into the summer.  Prisoners freeze their asses off.  Residents are stuck in their houses because it is oppressively cold to go out and do anything else.

On top of that, the soundtrack is a playlist of 2015’s top songs.  Tilly constantly listens to pop songs – Nicki Minaj, Meghan Trainor, Bruno Mars et. al, another sign she has a childish brain in an aging body.

Well, if I say much more I’ll give away the whole story but one more credit to Stiller.  He focuses most of the show on the planning of the escape itself, giving us the details of all the evil doings that happened, followed by an episode that begins with a long shot where Dano does a trial run through the long path he has cleared through the bowels of the prison.

Then, just in case you had a little bit in you that said, “Wow!  Amazing that they managed to escape!” Stiller gives us the second to last episode where he reviews in detail the heinous crimes these men did, the lives they destroyed and ultimately reminds us that as remarkable as it is that these men managed to escape, they still deserve to rot in jail for they are examples of true evil.  I won’t get too far into it, but it is made clear that both men did despicable crimes that can’t be forgiven or explained away or written off as the byproduct of a bad upbringing or something.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.  Awards deserved for the cast and director all around.

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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 – The Conners (2018)

 

Roseanne epically shot herself in the foot.  There’s no doubt about it.  She had a major comeback only to throw it all away by making a stupid racist comment.

So I get why they cancelled her show…but I think it was stupid to bring it back without her.

Roseanne was that show and even without her, she’s still there.  All the characters do now is talk about her.  Who needs to watch a sad show that’s supposed to be a comedy even though the family is grieving about their dead mother?

I think they could have come up with something funnier.  Roseanne loses her mind and goes on a wild, cross-country crime spree.  Maybe Roseanne gets kicked out of Lanford for being a racist.  Maybe she posts a racist tweet.  Maybe offends the entire town for being racist and her family has to put up with her hiding in the basement from everyone who wants to rip her a new one.  Once in awhile, the family tosses some food down the basement and someone doing a Roseanne impression cackles.

I just think that she’s dead is so dark for a comedy.  I get that ABC and all the actors were riding on this comeback and Roseanne screwed it up so they should at least get another season but man, I don’t know…I just think they could have thought of a funnier explanation as to why Roseanne isn’t around anymore.

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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 – Paradise PD (2018)

My eyes!  What have I seen?  God, help me!

BQB here with a review of Netflix’s Paradise PD.

There’s a part of me that says the master print of this show should be burned, the ashes dissolved in acid, the remnants of whatever is left put into a rocket to be shot into the sun.  It’s that gross and I don’t know why, there’s just something about seeing cartoon animated disgustingness that makes me feel like my soul was warped upon seeing it.  There are scenes that haven’t left me feeling this weirded out since I saw Sausage Party, which, although I laughed at, I pledged I’d never see it ever again and to date, I never have.

On the other hand, I haven’t had such a good laugh in so long.  It’s hilarious – rapid fire jokes upon jokes upon jokes, jokes that are quick, jokes that you get right away, jokes that you get after you think about it after a minute.

Even better? It pulls no punches.  It takes no sides.  It whams, bams, and slams everyone and everything.  It is an equal opportunity offender to one and all.  If you haven’t been offended within the first five minutes, give it another five.  Don’t worry.  They will eventually get to something that offends you.

Ironically, that’s what unbiased comedy is.  When comedians savage one side, one group, one idea, then leave the opposite untouched, it’s biased.  We see that in comedy today when it comes to politics.  Comedians have their sacred political cows and they won’t touch certain topics with a ten foot pole.

Here, liberals and conservatives are parodied with equal vigor.  There’s a particularly funny episode that skewers the cable news channels – CNN, MSNBC and FOX, how they feature knee jerk commentators who skew things to fit their agenda.

I laughed.  I laughed.  I laughed some more.  Still, there’s something about seeing a cartoon penis that seems wrong, even in a cartoon that is intended by adults, and by the way, please, I don’t care if this is a cartoon, if you kid tries to watch this show, please do whatever it takes to stop them from watching it, even if you have to take an axe to the television.

The set up?  Kevin is a loser who ends up as a police officer under the command of his constantly angry police chief father, in the town of Paradise.  There’s the super fat Dusty, the disgusting Hobo Cop (a hobo turned cop), the walking poster for police brutality Gina, the elderly Hopson (owner of the cartoon penis the sight of which makes me want to power wash my eyeballs), the drug addled police dog Bullet and Fitz, the African American cop who, in one wacky episode, accidentally shoots himself in the penis and then gets arrested for committing police brutality against a black man, i.e. himself.

Part of me wants to apologize to Jesus for recommending this.  Part of me appreciates the good laughs it gave me as I watched it the past week.

The best description is that it is basically what you might imagine if Family Guy were able to take the freak outs that it does now but then crank it up to 1,000 with no holds barred.

Honestly, there should be some holds barred.  It’s funny, but I hope this doesn’t mean we’re moving toward a future where all cartoons meant for adults end up this disgusting.

I can’t give it a shelf-worthy rating.  I also can’t not give it one.  See it if you want to laugh and laugh heartily.  Don’t see it if you are easily offended, feint of heart, or if you just believe in common standards of decency…which I do, so why I watched this I don’t know.

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Daily Discussion with BQB – Should Ruby Rose Play Batwoman?

Hey 3.5 readers.

Sigh.  Another ginned up social media controversy.

First, tweeters were angry that Jack Whitehall was cast as a gay character in Disney’s upcoming Jungle Cruise because he isn’t gay.

Now tweeters are mad about the idea of Ruby Rose being cast as Batwoman because she isn’t gay enough.

Whitehall is a straight fan and like yours truly, is a fan of snootch.

Ruby Rose is bi, so to borrow a line from that famous commercial – “Sometimes she feels like having some nuts….and sometimes she doesn’t.”

Crickets.

First, I’d argue that women looking to be empowered shouldn’t look to female superhero sidekicks, which is what Supergirl and Batwoman, formerly Batgirl, are.  Female versions of popular superheroes have always been cash grabs, ways for comic book companies to make more money by rehashing a popular character.  “Oh, you like Batman?  Well, what if Batman has a vag.”

Think about it.  How many Batgirl or Batwoman fans do you know?  The most popular female superheroes stand out on there own, i.e. Wonder Woman.  And no, no one has ever yearned to see a Wonder Man.

Second, I get why they wanted to changed Batgirl’s name to Batwoman, but I preferred Batgirl’s backstory.  Batgirl was Commissioner Gordon’s daughter and a librarian who dons a batsuit to fight crime.  Seems like a way to appeal to book nerds.

Batwoman is a policewoman by day and caped crimefighter by night.  Cool idea but seems redundant.  Seems like she could just work free overtime and leave the mask at home since she has the badge already.

Also, Batwoman is gay which is an interesting development and I, for one, support her right to fight crime and penis.

Crickets.

Third and most importantly, I wonder if people have ever heard of the concept of “acting.”  Yes, acting – that old art form where people get up and pretend to be people that they aren’t.

Have we retired that concept now?  Does every actor have to be exactly what a character is?  Ruby Rose likes vags and peens but she can’t play a woman who only likes vags?  Seems silly.

If we’re going that route, then fire Adam Driver because he can’t really use the Force to make objects fly around the room.  Fire Hugh Jackman because he really isn’t the Wolverine and steel claws don’t pop out of his knuckles in real life.  Fire Robert Downey Jr. because he doesn’t own an actual iron suit that he can use to fly and shoot missiles out of his hands.

I get some of the point.  There are gay actors and actresses who feel discriminated against and for all I know, they are.

However, sometimes moviemakers are privy to the ideas they have in mind and sometimes we don’t see the method to their madness until their work hits the big screen.

Examples?  The public at first widely rejected the idea of Heath Ledger as the Joker.  He was a serious, almost stuck up dramatic actor and surely a comedian was needed to play the clown prince of crime.  However, he had a vision of the Joker in mind and the people who cast him were aware of that and when the movie came out he was the best Joker ever.

People didn’t like the idea of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine either.  He was a Broadway show tune singer.  Surely, he was too happy go lucky to play such an angry man…but he nailed it.

How did a serious man play a funny man?  How did a happy man play an angry man?

ACTING!

In other words, I don’t think, at least in the case of Jungle Cruise and Batwoman, that studio execs are actively trying to discriminate against gay actors.  I think they have a vision of the role and have put in some work behind the scenes to see what certain actors or actresses can do and perhaps know more than we do about how those actors and actresses can fit that vision.

Neil Patrick Harris is gay.  He played one of the greatest womanizers of all time on “How I Met Your Mother.”  Acting, people.  It’s all about acting.

Discuss.

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