Tag Archives: TV Reviews

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.

Tagged , , , ,

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.

Tagged , ,

BQB’s Twilight Zone Reviews – S3, Ep. 25 – “The Fugitive”

tv-2213140__480

I did not like this episode at all.  It was stupid, weird, dumb…especially to the eyes of a person in 2018 but honestly, even though values were different back then, I’m not sure how this episode didn’t leave a few 1960s people scratching their heads either.

OK.  So here goes.  And SPOILER ALERT because I can’t complain about it unless I lay it all out there.

J. Pat O’Malley plays Ben, an elderly man who spends a suspiciously large amount of time playing with the neighborhood children.  That’s weird but OK, initially it’s like…fine, it was the 1960s and adults were more “adultier.”  Maybe adults were more trustworthy or maybe child abuse claims were swept under the rug more back in those days I don’t know, but it was a common staple of old black and white television shows to see old people just hanging out and having fun with little kids that just lived near them that they were not related to whatsoever and the impression wasn’t that these adults were pervs or anything but rather were just nice old people who were nice to kids.

SIDENOTE:  Please don’t let your kids hang out with random neighborhood adults.  Honestly, don’t trust people you know or are related to either.  You know what?  Just keep your kid next to you at all times.

Back to the review.  Ben has a special power -he can turn into any living thing.  He plays a space game with the kids where the kids pretend to be space travelers and he turns himself into a scary martian.

The old man’s best friend is eight year old Jenny and surely this sentence is creepy even by 1960s standards.  Oddly enough, Jenny’s aunt/guardian, played by Nancy Kulp of Miss Hathaway from “The Beverly Hillbillies” fame is portrayed as the villain, yelling at the little girl to stay away from the old man and yelling at the old man to stay away from the girl.  She’s portrayed as an evil battle-axe trying to keep two friends apart but you know, 2018 me is like, “The aunt is the voice of reason!  If that kid was my niece I’d tell that old bastard to stay away from the kid too!”

Moving on, there are a couple of mysterious dudes chasing after Ben.  He ditches them by turning into a mouse (which makes me think Michael Jackson might have been inspired here with his song about Ben the rat).

Blah, blah, blah – the ending.  The dudes are Ben’s subjects. Ben is the king of a faraway planet.  He didn’t want to be the king anymore so he ran.  The subjects like him and want to bring him back.

Ben and Jenny pull the old switcheroo  – they both turn into Jenny and so, the subjects must take both Jennies to the planet if they want the King.  I couldn’t help but think that it will be hard for the aunt to lose her niece, but I guess the writers felt she had to be punished for the crime of thinking that her eight year old niece shouldn’t be spending all her free time with a sixty something year old man.  Go figure.

The twist?  Rod Serling, as he was known to do, pops out of the woodwork holding a picture of a little boy.  Turns out that Ben was a little boy all along and…I guess…what…we’re supposed to think it’s ok that Ben and Jenny run away together?  I mean, you really need to suspend disbelief because Jenny is eight whereas we were told earlier that Ben is over 1,000 years old so I mean, come on, even if he’s a boy he’s like an adult in a boy’s body, unless boys live for a thousand years on that planet before they become adults and ugh…I just went cross eyed.

It’s weird.  It’s creepy.  It’s insane.  I have no idea if the writers intended this, maybe they were just lazy and wrote themselves out of a corner but I mean, yeah, there’s just no circumstance in which it’s cool for this kid to be running away with aliens…especially one that’s over 1,000, who has taken the form of an old human man.

I don’t know.  There were a lot of episodes and they all can’t be winners I suppose. This one was a big time stinkburger.

Tagged , ,

The Walking Dead – Season So Far

Hey 3.5 readers.

BQB here.  I don’t have time for an in-depth review, but wanted to know what you all think about this season of “The Walking Dead” thus far.

I think it is one of the better seasons, I especially love the recent tension with Eugene.  I will say though the show has a tough decision.  The goal seems to be to kill Negan, the worst, most dastardly villain the show has ever seen and yet, he’s also the most interesting character the show has seen in a long time.

What say you, 3.5?

Tagged , , , ,

Glow – More In-Depth (After Watching Full Season) Review (2017)

Hey 3.5 readers.

So, I ate these episodes up like popcorn over the weekend and I have to say that yes, it’s worth watching.

I especially like the overall theme that this is a bunch of failures who are tired of failing and want a win.

Pretty much all of the women are failed actresses, babes who moved to LA seeking stardom but got crap instead.  GLOW is their last chance for TV notoriety.

Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron) is a B horror movie director, addicted to booze and coke.  GLOW is his last chance to do something that people might like, plus producer Sebastian has promised to fund his next movie, as no one else in Hollywood seems interested in doing so.

Sebastian aka “Bash” is a rich young man who has everything and access to a ton of his wealthy mother’s funds.  He could do anything but he has essentially taken all of the opportunities his mother could give him and squandered them.  He wants to be a big time Hollywood big shot and sees GLOW as his ability to buy his way into the big time.

Most of the girls have their own “I’m trying to make a comeback” story but the two main wrestling gals in particular are Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie) and Debbie Eagan (the amazing big breasted Betty Gilpin.)

SIDENOTE:  You get to see Brie’s boobs but Gilpin’s big ripe casaba melons are never unleashed.  What a ripoff.  Maybe Netflix can offer her some more dough to go topless in season 2.

Anyway, Ruth takes acting very seriously, going to all sorts of acting classes, appearing plays – she treats acting like any other job.  “You should hire me because I have the credentials.”  But no one is hiring her, and GLOW is her last shot at stardom.

And not to give it away, but Debbie’s husband, Mark (Rich Sommer) is a dick cheeseburger with extra buttwipe fries.  Seems lame because if Debbie were my wife, I’d worship her and those magnificent mammaries and do whatever she required of me to maintain her everlasting happiness.

But that’s me.  I feel bad for Sommer.  He’s been typecast as a dick.  He’s a dick in GLOW and he was a dick in “Mad Men.”  Mad Men was in the 1960s.  GLOW is in the 1980s.  Casting agents must be all like, “We need an actor to play a dick in a period piece!  Oh, I know!  Call Rich Sommer!”

Returning to the main point, yes, even Debbie seeks a comeback, becoming a pro-wrestler to get back some of the control she lost at home.

SPOILER ALERT:

I particularly enjoyed the USA vs. Russia i.e. Debbie as Liberty Bell vs. Ruth as Zoya the Destroyer.  People think of the Cold War as a 1950s/1960s thing but it was even happening in the 1980s, though Reagan and Gorbachev did a lot of work to cool it down by 1990.  Ironically, it seems to be heating up again today.

At times, the show also looks at past issues through present eyes.  All of the characters played by the girls are stereotypes.  One wrestler is a black woman called “Welfare Queen” who laughs at the audience about how they all have to work while she stays home and lives off their tax dollars.  She even pulls food stamps out of her bra and throws them at downed opponents.

Meanwhile, an Indian woman plays a Middle Eastern terrorist character, reminding people that terrorism (and related stereotypes) were alive in the 1980s.  9/11 had not happened yet, but as the show points out, terrorist airplane hijackings were constantly in the news.

Interesting to note though you do get to see the dark side of these stereotypes.  At times, the girls object, then they get roped into thinking it’s ok and will help them on the road to stardom, then they see how ugly and obnoxious the crowd gets, hating on the wrestlers because some in the crowd are too dumb to realize that characters like “Welfare Queen” and “Beirut” are real people underneath the costumes and are not the characters they are portraying.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  Come for Brie’s cheez-its.  Stay for (we can only hope) the great unleashing Gilpin’s sweater cannons in season two.  Let me know in advance if that’s going to happen, Netflix.  I want to take a day off just to watch.

 

Tagged , , , ,

TV Review – GLOW

Alison Brie’s boobs!  Alison Brie’s boobs!

“Community” fans rejoice!  “Annie’s boobs” are finally on screen!

BQB here with a review of the new Netflix comedy/drama “GLOW.”

There was a period of several years where I would watch Alison Brie play it straight as a young, suffering wife to a philandering scoundrel on “Mad Men” only to flip the channel and watch her play perky, nerdy overachiever Annie on “Community.”

Now, it’s like she’s all grown up…and showing her boobs.

“GLOW” is the tale of the “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling,” the cheap and cheesy 1980s all female wrestling show, where scantily clad women would put on stupid costumes, speak in politically incorrect accents, make jokes that would totally not fly today, body slam the crap out of each other and do their best Hulk Hogan with boobs impression.

It’s the 1980s, so think big hair and yuppies galore as the flower children of the past are gone and money grubbing social climbers have taken their place.

Alison Brie stars as Ruth, a down and out actress who has moved from Omaha to LA.  She’s classically trained and has appeared in a number of plays, but can’t get a paying acting job to save her life and is facing all kinds of financial woes.

Enter GLOW – a new wrestling show directed by B-movie, super crappy horror film director Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron) who revels in showing how little he cares about this project and how deeply below him he deems it.  Maron puts his comic skills on display as he occasionally takes cocaine snorting breaks to ridicule the ladies, tell them how ugly, stupid and useless they are, etc.

When Ruth auditions, she too believes the show is beneath her but faced with either calling it quits on her dreams of fame or getting in the ring and rolling around with the gals, she chooses the latter and a star is born.

I have only watched the first episode thus far, but it caught my interest, so I will keep watching. While I am a fan of Jenji Kohan, this show seems to take a different turn from the snappy one liners of Weeds and Orange is the New Black.  The show features a darker, subtle, understated form of comedy and it’s more of a dramatic period piece than anything else.

I know from Mickey Rourke’s The Wrestler, professional wrestling isn’t all it is cracked out to be.  Sure, it may be “fake” but there’s a lot of physical activity going into those pratfalls and body slams.  It takes a toll on the body and the slightest mistake can leave a person badly injured.  I think that angle will be explored as we delve deeper into the show.

I never really watched “GLOW” as a kid.  I was aware of it but for whatever reason, never checked it out.  I was only a little kid during the 1980s and Hulk Hogan vs. the Iron Shiek captivated me.  I stuck with men’s wrestling all through high school, even in the Hulkster’s evil NWO days.  I was aware of women wrestlers and lady wrestlers would occasionally stop by to duke it out on men’s wrestling but overall, I guess GLOW was one of those things that escaped me.

But as long as it features Annie’s boobs I will keep watching.

What I liked about the first episode the most is it seems like it will be a show about losers who are tired of losing and fighting desperately to become winners.  We see Ruth living a life of absurdity as a budding actress, waiting in audition rooms filled with candidates all vying to play a secretary on a TV show with a five second line.  We see her paying the little money she has for acting lessons from a teacher who keeps falling asleep during her performance.

We see Sam on the tail end of his directing career, down and out, cast aside from making the movies he loved, directing a bunch of crazy women as they beat the crap out of each other.

Neither Sam or Ruth think GLOW is worthy of them…but they both see this as their last shot to do something worthwhile with their lives, so they are going to fight for it.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

TV Review – Mystery Science Theater: The Return (2017)

Lousy old time science fiction movies!  Snarky robots!

BQB here with a review of Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return.

Big time nostalgia factor for me here, 3.5 readers.  When the original MST3K film came out in the 1990s, my buddies and I watched it over and over again.  Oh, how we laughed and laughed.  We used to run around quoting lines like, “Science!  Men with screwdrivers!  Twisting things…and turning them!”

Ahh, you had to be sentient in the 1990s to get it.

Hmm…now I think I realize why I ended up as a lowly blog proprietor with only 3.5 readers.

Anyway, if you’ve never checked it out before, now’s your chance.  It’s back, this time with a series on Netflix.  Oh, Netflix.  Is there anything you won’t green light?

The premise is basically the same as the original.  A human is trapped in a space lair of some sort, forced by an evil villain to watch terrible old science-fiction movies for hours on end, supposedly as part of some study of how the brain operates while watching crappy movies.

The majority of the show is devoted to the human, Jonah Ray (Jonah Heston) and robot sidekicks Crow and Tom Servo, watching these horrendous films and busting on them with reckless abandon.  When you watch, you’ll see the film in your screen, with just three little shadows of the hecklers in the lower right hand side.

The movies are awful, old, poorly thrown together, devoid of any kind of decent plot, and usually suffer from a combination of laziness and a lack of special effects technology, because, you know, they were made a long time ago.  Also, they’re often foreign.  At any rate, there’s a strong chance that but for MST3K, you would have never have even heard of any of these films, that’s how bad they are.

The movie is broken up with Jonah and his bot buddies in various segments, doing interesting, wacky things.  Noted Internet nerds Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt star as Kinga Forrester and TV’s Son of TV’s Frank (crazy name), the villains who are keeping Jonah and the bots captive.

The segments are produced with low quality, low budget effects, assumably to mock the films that are being watched, but more likely because the studio didn’t want to shell out the cash.

I can’t quite put my finger on it.  It may be that when I was younger, I had a less discerning sense of humor.  Or maybe the original movie was great and then other versions, i.e. the 1999 show, the web show, or this Netflix show, are just attempts to recreate the glory of one very awesome film.

Maybe the 1990s were just a happier time where people weren’t as jaded and thus they laughed easier.

Maybe the big joke behind the concept was original then, but now it’s sort of played out.

I’ve only watched part of the first episode, Reptilicus, thus far.  In this one, the boys heckle what is essentially the 1960’s Dutch version of Godzilla.  It’s about as 1960s as you can get, complete with male scientists being surprised that women might know anything about science.

Much to my surprise, Erin Gray, aka Kate Summers aka Ricky Schroeder’s step-mom on the 1980s sitcom Silver Spoons, has a cameo.  I know.  I am ashamed of myself for knowing who she was.  Still, for a broad in her late sixties, she looks pretty good.  I would watch shitty movies with her anytime.

Overall, it’s a fun distraction and something to put on when you want to be entertained but don’t want to expend a lot of brain power.  It’s also a fun exercise to see what movies used to be and how far along they have come.

Moreover, it’s a tribute to the olden days, a time when networks would actually try to keep you entertained between commercials.  Local TV stations would often run a movie, then have some kind of weird character introduce it and talk about it between the commercials.  I mean, so I’ve heard.  I’m not that frigging old.

At some point we learned that the movies should not suck of their own accord and that a host shouldn’t have to keep the movie interesting.

STATUS:  It’s fun.  One issue is that the movies are, you know, long movies, so the episodes often run like an hour and a half.  That’s a big time commitment but hey, in true Internet style, if you put it up there, someone will check it out.  3.5 someones in my case.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

TV Review – The Big Bang Theory

Nerds.  So many nerds.

BQB here with a review of CBS’ The Big Bang Theory.  SPOILERS ABOUND.

Now in it’s tenth (my God, time moves so fast) season, this show follows the shenanigans of Cal Tech scientists Leonard, Sheldon, Howard and Raj (Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar, respectively).

Oh, and all but Raj have significant others.  As of the tenth season, Leonard is married to hot next door neighbor babe/non-nerd struggling actress turned pharmaceutical rep Penny (Kaley Cuoco), Howard is married to short, sweet sounding yet gets angry often Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), and Sheldon is currently dating Amy (Mayim Bialik in her best role since Blossom.)  Alas, Raj remains single and strikes out with the ladies on a regular basis.

The one thing I notice when I talk to people about this show is that they either love it or hate it, but there’s little room for opinions that are in-between.  People who hate it feel this is a show that gives you a stereotypical view of a nerd, i.e. that all nerds are scientists and love comic books and so on.  My usual reply is, “Yeah.  Nerds are nerds and nerds do nerd things.”

In the show’s defense, it would be one thing if all the actors/actresses weren’t nerds in real life.  One thing I hate is the Hollywood version of a nerd, i.e. where they take a hunk or a babe and just whip a pair of glasses on him/her.  That’s essentially engaging in “nerd face” if you will.

I get the impression that all of the actors/actresses are nerds in real life, save Kaley Cuoco who is not a nerd and that is fine because she plays the hot neighbor girl that Leonard drools over.  Jim Parsons, in particular, strikes me as a super deluxe mega nerd, so much so that I’m not sure if his career as an actor would have ever taken off had he not landed the role of Dr. Sheldon Cooper.

By the way, don’t we all know a Sheldon Cooper of sorts?  Perhaps not to such a Sheldony degree, but surely we all know someone who we wish would show more empathy, someone who is super smart when it comes to book learning but incredibly dumb when it comes to human interaction.  FYI if you don’t know anyone like that then you might be that person.

Further criticism might come from the fact that Leonard lusts after Penny rather than, say, a nerd girl in his league.  My reply is that a) in earlier seasons Leonard, finding it impossible to gain any ground with Penny, does give nerd girls a try and they treat him just as shabbily.  In my personal experience, sometimes when it comes to the dating world, nerds can be worse to fellow nerds than non-nerds and b) at times, the show has flipped the script and made it out as though Penny is the one at a disadvantage, i.e. having never gone to college yet dating a scientist with a doctorate.

Ultimately, there’s a give and take, back and forth between Leonard and Penny that’s fun to watch.  We male nerds tend to chase after hot non-nerd babes like dogs chase after cars.  In this show, Leonard basically shows us the hilarity that ensues when a nerd actually catches a hot babe, i.e. he’s that dog who catches the car and now needs to figure out what to do.

Throw in creepy weirdo Howard and perpetually single Raj and you’ve got a sitcom.

Count me in as one of the people who like the show.  Admittedly, I did not watch it for years, but only because for years it was up against the NBC Thursday mega block that featured The Office, Parks and Recreation, Thirty Rock and Community.

Once that block ended, I started binge watching Big Bang and now I’m all caught up.  And yes, there are nerds who have tried to tell me that Community was the better nerd show.  To that, I just wonder why the nerd shows just can’t get along.  The more nerd shows, the merrier.

I’m impressed by the show’s ability to make jokes about incredibly complicated scientific concepts.  Sheldon and Leonard will be working on an experiment and say something complicated yet funny.  I won’t understand the complications but oddly, I’ll still understand why the joke is funny.  There are also little things, like the way Sheldon rips on Howard for being an engineer.  I never knew scientists dumped on engineers.

Ironically, it is possible to be a geek and not a nerd.  Nerds are super smart and love comics and fantasy.  Geeks also love comics and fantasy, yet aren’t necessarily super smart.  That’s why I’d say Community was more of a geek show than a nerd show, but again, geeks and nerds must learn to love one another, largely because we’re so nerdy and geeky that no one cool will have us.

To the show’s credit, there’s even a geek.  Stuart (Kevin Sussman) regularly appears as the gang’s not that bright but super geeky pal/comic book store owner.

Also, the girlfriends make the show.  The early seasons, where Leonard, Howard, and Raj are single sad-sacks are a tad depressing.  Sheldon is single in those days too but he’s sort of beyond human emotion and doesn’t seem to notice or care.  While Penny is Leonard’s love interest from the beginning, things get funnier when Bernadette and Amy are brought into the mix.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.  My one complaint is I feel like it has been ages since Penny put Sheldon to sleep with a rousing ballad of “Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur..”

Tagged , , , , , , ,

TV Review – One Day at a Time (2017)

A single mom, two kids and a hot eighty-five year old reboot the Norman Lear classic sitcom, exclusively on Netflix.

BQB here with a review of One Day at a Time.

As a Gen X-er (I swear we exist), I have vague memories of the original One Day at a Time.  Single mom Bonnie Franklin balanced raising two daughters, a job and a friendship with a wacky landlord during a time when TV viewers were just starting to accept seeing divorced characters in lead roles on TV.

I recall the show being mildly interesting but it wasn’t, say Facts of Life or Family Ties or one of those 1980s shows that has been handed down through the ages.  It was one of those shows that you’d watch while you were waiting for one of those other big shows to watch.  I can’t remember much from it other than it introduced the world to Valerie Bertinelli.

The show’s been rebooted with a modern flair with a Cuban-American family.  Justina Machado stars as single mother/Afghanistan war veteran/nurse Penelope.  She juggles her day job, raising two kids, her “I’ve made a deal with the devil to keep looking this young” mother Rita Moreno and a friendship with wacky landlord Schneider, who has been given a hipster makeover for modern times.

It has all of the sitcom cheesiness: canned laughter, silly jokes, formulaic plots and so on.  The family faces millennial problems that Bonnie Franklin couldn’t have dreamed of, i.e. daughter Isabella refuses to have a quinceanara because she thinks it is an outdated, misogynistic ritual, for example.

At any rate, the show is a good example of a reboot done right.  It takes a show that was popular back in the day but didn’t really develop a long lasting, post-run fan base, capitalizes on the name and the plot formula, yet makes it fresh and new.

And besides, Schneider was a hipster before hipsters even existed.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.

Tagged , , , ,

TV Review – Last Man Standing (2011-Present)

If you were alive in the 1990s, chances are you, at least one time in your life, turned on your TV to watch Tim Allen grunt like a gorilla as he played with power tools.

Home Improvement was born out of Allen’s stand-up schtick in which he poked fun at men who begin playing with power tools only to feel surges of testosterone that cause them to regress into primates.  The schtick evolved into a show in which Tim would work on his home improvement television show by day then be a father at night.

I’m very late to the Last Man Standing party, mainly because I believe that by and large, the sitcom formula, though not technically dead, is certainly on life support.  Cheesy jokes, holding back on swears, formulaic plots, cookie cutter characters – all out the window ever since cable TV started producing their own television shows.

However, I noticed it was on Netflix the other day and feeling nostalgic for my youth in which Tim “the Tool Man” Taylor was one of celebrity father figures my TV offered me, I checked out and yeah, I have to admit, as cheesy as it is, it offered me an occasional laugh or two.

Allen has recycled his gorilla grunting tool man schtick into the form of Mike Baxter, an executive of sorts at “Outdoor Man,” a large Bass Pro Shop/Cabella’s type sporting goods store.

By day, Mike sells crossbows, knives, and hunting equipment, complaining about how unmanly men have got all the while.  By night, he reconciles his macho tendencies with the fact that he is outnumbered in his own home by his wife (Nancy Travis) and three daughters with no one but his infant grandson Boyd to turn to.  At times, he finds allies in the form of his hard ass boss Ed (Hector Elizondo) and his daughter’s boyfriend Kyle.

Gorilla grunts have been traded in for complaints about millennial hipsterism.  Baxter is sort of a less offensive Archie Bunker-esque character, unabashedly unapologetic with his conservative views yet twist his arm enough and he might try to see everything from the millennial hipster’s point of view.

An episode in the first season sums up the character.  When his company’s baseball team is forced to go co-ed (let females play), Mike is torn between his belief that men should be allowed to have their own time when they can grunt, snort, burp, drink beer and tell dirty jokes without worrying about offending women.

Co-ed sports are lose-lose for men as Baxter explains that if a man beats a woman at baseball he’s considered a bully, but if he loses to a woman he’s considered an embarrassment.

On the other hand, as a father of three girls, he dislikes the idea that someone might tell his daughters they can’t do something.  Ultimately, he recruits his most tomboyish daughter for a spot on the team and she crushes all the dudes.

Mike, who rants regularly on in videos on his store’s website, sums up a feeling that a lot of men think but few are willing to say out loud, “I want a world where women can do everything a man can do…and just don’t want to.”

Tim Taylor has grown up and morphed into Mike and Mike, like many of us modern men, suffer from an identity crisis.  Women have no idea what they want us to be anymore and we’re just as equally clueless.

But one thing’s for sure – we men need crossbows, and beer, and hunting equipment, and on occasion, the ability to burp and drink beer and tell obscene jokes without being judged by the women folk.

We’re just too evolved now to tell the womenfolk that they can’t join in on the outdoor crossbow hunting trips, but they’d better start burping and drinking beer and telling obscene jokes if they want to keep up.

File under – “Women Have the Right to Act Like Men Now…But Why Would They Want To?”

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  Available on Netflix. Good show for when you need something not too complicated to watch for twenty minutes before you fall asleep.

Tagged , , , , ,