Tag Archives: tv shows

TV Review – Squid Game (2021)

I’m good at everything except the things I can’t do, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of this super creepy, uber violent yet oddly addictive pop cultural phenomenon.

In my mind, I view most Netflix TV show greenlight sessions as a chimpanzee in a suit tossing bundles of cash to any old drunk hobo who shuffles in off the street with a half-baked idea for a show. Thus, when I saw this in the line-up of my Netflix account about a month ago, my response was a solid hard pass. All I knew at the time was that it had dudes walking around dressed up like pink Playstation controllers and if that doesn’t sound like a show dreamed up by a hobo and greenlit by a chimp then what does?

Flash forward to this past weekend and SNL parodied it. That and some mumblings motivated me to give it a try and down the rabbit hole I went, instantly hooked.

First off, it’s a Korean produced show and the actors’ voices are dubbed over in English, sometimes to comedic effect. I’ve found some foreign language gems on Netflix – Donnie Yen’s Ip Man series or the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo made in Sweden. With those, I preferred to read the subtitles and listen to the actors speak in their language but here I think there’s so much going on that you don’t have time to read and you have to go with the English dub, even though sometimes the words don’t quite match up with the lips – not to mention there are cultural differences, differences in phrasing, word choice – sometimes things don’t quite translate but whatever. It’s good and I tip my hat to the voice over artists, especially whoever did the voice of the crazy eyed lady.

Moving on…the plot! As it turns out, life in Korea isn’t all that different than life in America. Everyone is in debt up to their eyeballs yet everyone still wants more, more, more. When a group of 456 people suffering from enough financial woes to choke a horse are transported to a remote island to compete in a series of kids’ games (the titular Squid Game being a Korean kids’ game, kind of like a combo of hopscotch and football is my best attempt at a description) with the chance to win a big cash prize (you can try to figure out the exchange rate between won and US dollars or just be lazy and assume it’s a lot like I did)…they think their prayers have been answered.

Ah, but nothing in life is that simple…or free. When the losers of a game of Red Light Green Light are shot dead, the competitors realize they have signed up for a far more dangerous experience than they bargained for. Deception, betrayal, intrigue and infighting breaks out amongst the players with everyone trying to cheat and connive their way to the top.

Sadly, the BLAM! of the guns packed by the video game themed guards looms large over the series like a sinister presence, as a simple mistake is all it takes for a contestant to be fed a heaping helping of hot lead. In the true show don’t tell style that all good writers must adhere to, the series never quite comes right out and says it, but the point is clear – life is like a game, and while a mistake, in most cases, won’t (thankfully) lead to a video game man in a pink coat blasting you in the face, said mistake could cause you to lose your house, spouse, kids, career, livelihood, money, friends, family and more. All it takes is one moment of bad judgement and boom, your broke, penniless, outcast and shunned and no, it’s nowhere near as bad as being shot by the pink dudes but there might be times when you find you have screwed up so bad that you might pray for the pink dudes to…no, wait, it’s never that bad, right? I mean, even if you’re a fully grown middle aged man living with your mother, it’s still not that bad, right? Right?

Enter Gi-Hun (Greg Chun) as the protagonist who holds it all together. Somehow, despite being the quintessential nice guy who always finishes last (one time he did something noble and his reward was to lose his wife, daughter, job and end up living with his mother who as mothers go is pretty nice but still, no self respecting single dude wants to live with his mother) will have to find a way to survive against contestants adept at cheating to get their way…another life point as unfortunately, rare is the person who goes through life without having to get their hands dirty, who doesn’t have to do something that leaves a bad taste in their mouth and those who don’t sometimes end up as noble yet poor and alone, wishing they’d done X dastardly deed back in the day so they could be rich now.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Not for the squeamish as it does put the U in ultraviolence, such that Stanley Kubrick’s droogs might even clutch their pearls at the scenes that lie within. Life is definitely cheap in this competition, the underlying argument seeming to be that life is treated rather cheaply in the real world as well. Heartbreaking, as it might dredge up your old memories of times when you had to put yourself over others and neither option felt totally kosher.

Finally, I’ll just say this. It’s been two long years since Game of Thrones ended and since then, I’ve felt like a stranger in a strange land when it comes to TV. There just hasn’t been anything with the same chutzpah or level of storytelling, that trail of breadcrumbs that lures you in and rewards you by tying up all of those pesky loose threads.

So ultimately, that’s what I’m saying. A bunch of plucky Koreans in track suits playing kids’ games to the death somehow adds up to the best TV show since Game of Freaking Thrones…at least in this humble blogger’s opinion.

But do think twice before watching if you are squeamish.

SIDENOTE #1 – I have to give props to this show for not only allowing the hero to be played by a man in his late 40s, but to actually come right out and say that Gi-Hun is 47. His childhood friend/competitor Sang-Woo is also in his late 40s. The ages of the competitors run from early 20s to 40s and one very old man but I assume this is a cultural difference between America and Korea. In an American reboot of the show, Gi-Hun’s character would be like, a worldly 21-year old who somehow has seen it all and done it all and is very wise despite being twenty-freaking one. (Honestly, in my own personal experience, I’ve found that life sends the equivalent of the pink coated video game guards to blast you in the face the second you hit 30, 35 tops. Had I known this when I was 21, I would have pushed myself much, much harder but unfortunately, I was dumber than a box of rocks when I was 21…not like all the super wise all knowing 21 year olds on TV today.

All I’m saying is kudos to Korea for supporting a show where a 47 year old character isn’t treated like a useless piece of trash ready for the dumpster. I mean, his family, friends and potential employers still treat him like that, but competition wise he hangs in on those games with the best of them.

SIDENOTE #2 – Often when a show or movie takes off overseas, it is treated to an American reboot, often with disastrous results. Ironically, Netflix is one of the chief perpetrators of such reboots. Since the show has become popular in its own right, I doubt you’ll see an Americanized reboot. I’m not dumping on American movies/shows but it’s just…sometimes something is good in part because of the world in which it is created and it was interesting to learn about Korean life as I watched the show.

SIDENOTE #3 – If I’m reading the figures in other reports right, it cost $21.4 million to produce but raked in 900 million for Netflix. Mmmm boy that’s a good return on investment!

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Daily Discussion with BQB – Roseanne Destroys Her Show with a Tweet

Sigh, 3.5 readers.

If you ever wanted a lesson in how to ruin your career and/or lifetime legacy in less than 24 hours, today was the day.

I was really enjoying the “Roseanne” reboot.  I enjoyed the show as a kid and to see it back again was like seeing long lost friends come home.  Roseanne and Dan, Becky, Darlene and DJ, their kids, Aunt Jackie, all the extended friends and family that would stop by.

There have been so many attempts at rebooting old shows that have fallen flat (IMO) but this one was a winner.  I think Roseanne had cemented herself as the comeback kid and probably could have kept her show going for several years.

Alas, imagine my sadness when I heard the news that Roseanne referred to former Obama advisor (not sure of her official title) Valerie Jarrett as “Muslim Brotherhood and Planet of the Apes have a baby.”

Oh God, Roseanne.  Why?  Why???  So wrong on so many levels.

Roseanne has a history of writing controversial tweets but this was one that couldn’t be ignored.  Aside from sadness that this thought was in her mind and that’s bad enough, but that she didn’t have any kind of self restraint to hold herself back.  How she thought she could post that and still have a show by the end of the day is mind boggling.

I feel bad for the cast members.  Goodman has been the most successful over the years, though Laurie Metcalf was recently nominated for an Academy Award.  Sara Gilbert was (is?) on a View-esque talk show.  That girl who plays Becky and Michael Fishman (DJ), this was probably their big break so to see it go for them is sad.

So, a lesson learned, 3.5 readers.  First, if you are thinking such thoughts, cleanse your mind and your soul.  Second, develop a filter, an internal control that keeps you from releasing unfiltered thoughts into the atmosphere.

This is so ridiculous that there is a part of me that wonders if Roseanne did this on purpose….maybe she didn’t want to do the show anymore and wanted to go out with a bang.    I don’t think she did. She lost too much money.   I think she just rattled off a tweet without thinking but then again, she’s been in show business so long that it amazes me she didn’t realize this was a career killing tweet.

What say you, 3.5?

 

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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.

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