In an age where “binge watching” is common parlance, my television habit still stands out like the gnarliest drifter at Alcoholics Anonymous. I get to watch a lot of TV. Get yourself a multi-monitor set up and you can, too. I’m in the middle of an Oz rewatch, I just finished The Sopranos again, which I’ve done once a year for basically forever, and I’m readying a long-form, one-episode-per-sitting rewatch of The Wire for this spring. That’s the holy trinity of HBO’s entrance into the Golden Age of Television in less than six months. Never have children.
Those are just my idle hands! I still keep up with what’s in season for watercooler zeitgeist purposes. Here’s what I watched, what I didn’t, and what I’m going to be watching. Spoilers after the jump.
Sundays Are for HBO’s “Comedy” Triple Threat: Divorce / Crashing / High Maintenance
Divorce is currently my favorite half-hour show to invest absolutely nothing into, enjoy approximately four chuckles, furrow my brow in vague concern twice, and then forget I watched it. Sentient geometric flesh golem Sarah Jessica Parker plays your own real mom who just divorced your best friend in third grade’s father, played by Thomas Hayden Church, whom you might remember as half the duo from Sideways that should’ve switched to bourbon twenty minutes into that bullshit trip to Napa. They have two vapid, eye-rolling sarcasm machines for children and date people substantially younger than them with varying success. Peripherally, there’s a criminally underused Dean Winters playing a divorce attorney that is sleeping with a friend of the family, New York art society people (gross) and the writers elected that in season two, we’ll be doubling down on Molly Shannon as a sexually frustrated lush. This is something that frankly works for me on a level that makes me re-contextualize Superstar in ways I’m not totally comfortable with. Thomas Hayden Church’s line delivery reminds me of an old neighbor that almost convinced me to go live on a sail boat when I was on the tail-end of an eight month bender a few years back and that’s Not Good. Altogether, the show is a little rich for my taste: Thomas Hayden Church flips houses, a detestable profession, and nonchalantly gives his ex-wife a check for $75,000, which is endorsed to Molly Shannon to repay an initial investment into an art gallery, interpreted poorly, and is flushed down the toilet of a dive bar. Treating a check for almost 2.5 times the yearly salary of most people like a prole with a cocaine twenty takes my ability to relate away. 6/10 good try, probably see you next year, although I’ve heard cancellation rumors which would be kind of a shame. Molly Shannon elevates everything she’s in, her end-of-season jail visitation room meltdown was one for the ages.
If I wasn’t so sure Pete Holmes could do that weird older brother move where they put their knees on your elbows and dangle loogie spit over your face, I’d commit to mugging him. I’ve kind of had it with Crashing and shows explicitly about comedians and doing comedy altogether. Last year’s I’m Dying Up Here was a maudlin piece of shit in a bad wig (compare the costuming to the superb work in The Deuce) and Louis “Wait, Yes Means No?” CK has been momentarily disgraced after turning Pig Newton into a Woody Allen tribute band. How many times can we explore “telling jokes to drunk people is hard because there sure are a lot of people that would like to do that for a living” and through how many eras? If I hear another hardscrabble follow your dreams speech I’m turning to fucking crime.
This year, Pete lives in a garage and unknowingly jerks off to his ex-wife getting banged out by a cartoon version of one of my old roommates and as an open-mic comedian is still pulling down hangs and spots on the couch from A-List titans like Bill Burr (who is “living his best life” in a newsboy hat…?) and Artie Lange (who Judd Apatow and Anthony Cumia at this point have to realize are just financially enabling a man’s slow suicide) despite almost everyone around him finding Pete irritating. He dates a lady alt-comic and works at a Cold Stone Creamery. The lady alt-comic had the best material of anyone on the entire show thus far, but they break up after they had to roast each other in a roast battle, which is my least favorite trend in stand-up comedy since the mid-aughts fad of dying of a drug overdose. Pete’s earnest traipsing around what should feel like a seedier, more damaged crowd of people just isn’t what I want to see, but I’ll freely admit that if they’re going to keep making these shows, I’d watch one about Eddie, the Doug Stanhope character from Louie that probably convinced Robin Williams to kill himself, regularly fucked a stuffed animal on the road, and washed down a lethal dosage of pills with a handle of vodka because everything is bullshit. You know, a real comic. 7/10 but every time TJ Miller opens his mouth I never want to smoke pot again.
Speaking of never smoking pot again, I didn’t watch the second season of High Maintenance after feeling like the first season was pretty good. Maybe it’s because I live in Colorado, but the novelty of “check out these vignettes of ALL THESE DIVERSE PEOPLE that all buy weed from this bushy altruist on a bike” is kind of lost on me. Everybody smokes weed, guys. It’s about as useful as getting angry about taxes, but I’m just so over New York as a filming location, especially post-9/11 broken windows policing New York. It’s Disneyland now. All three of these shows are set in New York and literally the most dangerous thing I’ve seen is some sketchy traffic weaving on the weed man’s ten-speed. I was there last May and felt safer wandering the Village lost and shitfaced than I did in the AirBnB getting yelled at about it later. Enough with this “I’m so in love with this city” nonsense. Why? Anyone interesting can’t afford to live there and it’s just chain stores and “small business” boutique sideprojects for the wives of hedge fund managers now. 0/10 but I’ll get around to it if in the third season, the weed man moves to Tulsa, OK and gets into a turf war with the local Bloods set. Nobody tell me if this year’s finale is actually him being beheaded on Long Island by teenage MS-13 members.
Stranger Things 2: Strangier
Stranger Things is good but also a barometer that I’m getting old. By the end of season 2, I just want these kids to be able to go to school and play D&D. The second outing loses some of its moxie by not being the new definition of a sleeper hit like its debut suite, but the new characters work and everyone feels integrated into a continuing story. The internet REALLY hated the episode where Eleven goes to hang out with a psionic punk rock lady and her band of revenge killers in a rape van, but I really liked it as a fun change of pace. I’m not sure how long the show is going to work if the climax is always “and then Eleven used powers to win the boss fight but this time her nose bled super hard.” Once again, the heart of the show is that the child actors don’t suck and have great chemistry together. The real-life dating speculations, “‘shipping”, and general objectification of the kids on social media is SUPER fucking icky and has a similar effect on me as a fan that nerds getting upset at minimum wage workers about McNugget sauce did for Rick & Morty. 8/10 because I honestly don’t know where they even go with it but I hope they go easy on Joyce. Give Joyce a break. Give them all a break. I am having a hard time coming to terms with how uneasy and distressing it is to see children as upset as they get on Stranger Things.
Star Wars: Rebels
Dave Filoni’s second canonical animated series for Star Wars had me a little worried when it first came out. It was one of the first projects since Disney bought the franchise rights and the protagonist has blue hair and looked like a background character from Reboot. The animated Clone Wars series started a little rough too: we had a game at my old apartment where every time Ahsoka called Anakin “SkyGuy” you’d heat-sterilize a dirty needle from the back alley and shove it in your urethra. They straightened it out, and Rebels ends up pretty alright. Not quite as good as The Clone Wars, which ALMOST redeems the garbage prequel trilogy, but a serviceable, compelling enough serial that relied on almost no established characters from other media beyond cameos to anchor it. This was the last year of it, which meant the show had to figure out how to write off several characters in order not to disturb the movie canon. It’s done elegantly enough and provided some real emotional resonance, a lot of which I’d speculate might be lost unless you watched this show for four years and not over the course of a few weeks. 7.5/10 farewell, Ezra, Kanan, Hera, Zeb, Chopper and Sabine. Dave Filoni’s next Star Wars series will likely be set during the rise of the First Order, which could potentially cause me to start giving a flying fuck about anything going on in the sequel trilogy (probably not).
I Have Escaped The Walking Dead
After seven years, I quit on zombies. I don’t quit shows or books. I got through all of Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis entirely on hoping for various characters’ deaths. I finished Son of Anarchy as a week-to-week viewer despite hating every aspect of that show since nothing ever came of the Emma Goldman graffiti in the pilot. I stack the circular misery pornography of The Walking Dead against SOA’s idiot criminal melodrama pretty evenly, in the sense that I hatewatched both of them, but SOA gets an advantage in that I didn’t feel like every time a character had their head caved in it was over a pay dispute with the network. It’s my understanding that Corall, weepy protagonist Rick Grimes’s only son, was killed off this year essentially because the actor was turning 18 and they didn’t want to raise his pay. There’s reports that his father is kind of a pain in the ass stage parent, but the kid had just bought a house in Atlanta to be closer to production and the Carl character in the mediocre comic books inherits his father’s cop-in-a-coplesss-world role and becomes the primary hero. I just don’t care anymore. This show has been a rinse-wash-repeat plot since season 3 and “which character that I liked a couple of times is going to die” loses its fun once you know you have to sit through an hour-and-a-half goodbye episode of slow-motion crying montages. Like most dramas on a network with commercials, it’s absolutely unwatchable during the live broadcast, and the less spoken about Chris Hardwick as “America’s Host!!!!” the better. Ratings are down, but it still averages 7 million viewers a week, making the AMC threat that it could “run for decades” actually a viable statement. If it makes it to season 10 I’m starting a paramilitary organization to have it and Young Sheldon cancelled or we resort to armed struggle.
Spring TV Lightning Round!
- Can the second season of Crichton-by-Camus sci-fi western Westworld be any good when most of the fabulous ensemble main cast is dead or a robot? Probably!
- Will Barry with Bill Hader as a hitman that gets into an acting class and Fonzie as his coach be a solid enough premise to last more than a season? We’ll fucking see!
- Rebooted Roseanne crashes and burns as soon as she starts yelling about the frogs turning gay.
- Hey, didn’t The Expanse come back? Maybe! Despite having everything I could want in a science fiction series, I can barely remember any of it and don’t care about anything that happens! Do the gangly space anarchists win or not?
- Atlanta is dope as hell but I’m not sure why everyone is treating it as this artful revelation? Lando Gambino or whatever talking about the nature of Hot Cheetohs and Bojack Horseman is absolutely something I would watch but I’ve yet to see an episode of this show that really floored me. It’s an artfully shot hang-out slice-of-life comedy… isn’t it? Am I racist now?
- Didn’t you want a show about Superman’s grandpa? Syfy has you covered with Krypton, where oh god who the fuck cares when are we going to be done with men in tights? SuperGrandpa tries to redeem the honor of his great house and stop the chaos that will inevitably destroy his planZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.
- Jessica Jones returns this week and I’m hoping Netflix is aware there is an audience for a mean drunk lady fighting street crime and that audience is me. I know it’s only a matter of time before they write her a Sobriety Paladin arc but nothing makes me swoon like seeing a lady put whiskey in her coffee and blow off any accusation of having a drinking problem. Someone tell Krysten Ritter I want to remake Leaving Las Vegas with her.
- Let’s have a show of hands for everyone still watching Sillicon Valley basically for Gilfoyle? Ok. Now, let’s do that again with everyone in the room that has always watched Sillicon Valley solely for Gilfoyle? I see a lot of the same hands! Thanks guys, donuts are in the back.
- If I watch more than two episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale in a row, when I stand up I feel like I have guns I’m supposed to be cleaning. Fingers crossed for a castration scene this year!
- Archer rules and will continue to rule.
- The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: This is Basically About the Side Characters Now returns in May but Ellie Kemper has crossed over into “annoying girl giving me a tour of my new middle school” territory so soft pass.