What I Watched This Week: 20 Aug 2017

NEW SHOWS
Twin Peaks – “The Return, Part 15” (A-)
The first 10 minutes were the happiest I’ve been watching TV this entire year. The rest of the episode can’t quite live up to that. Part of that isn’t David Lynch’s fault, since David Bowie is no longer with us. Regardless, none of the other scenes have nearly as much emotional weight. But we’ve got three more episodes that might make me feel the way I did when Norma kissed Big Ed as Otis Redding played on the jukebox.

Saturday Night Live: Weekend Update Summer Edition – “August 24, 2017” (B)
Solid without grasping at straws. Cecily Strong was clearly this week’s MVP.

The Sinner – “Part IV” (A-)
The best episode yet, with the plot moving forward at a rapid pace. I’m a sucker for scenes involving therapists talking to their patients, trying to get painful memories out of them. Not sure what that says about me, though.

BINGEING
GLOW – Season 1 (A-)
Possibly the slowest I’ve ever consumed a Netflix Original, but it did have a rough go of it in the beginning. But this show’s arc, its focus on female friendship and its deep love for all its characters, was so rare that I felt like I was part of something special while watching it. Also, has been noted elsewhere, Marc Maron is so much better as burnt-out director Sam than he was playing himself on Maron. He should win Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series at the Emmys next year.

OLD SHOWS
The Simpsons
I’m going through some of the highlights from the previous three seasons. At the end of Season 25, I gave up on the show except for the annual Halloween specials. I’ve seen a couple here and there, but I’m going back to hit the big parodies, travelogues, holiday specials and episodes that were actually well-received.

Season 26
“The Princess Guide” (B+)
This is a sweet-natured episode that lets Moe be the big softie he really is underneath that gruff exterior, and I love when that happens. It’s no “Moe Baby Blues,” but it’s a solid episode with no unnecessary subplots. All the action is directly related to the deal Mr. Burns is trying to close with a Nigerian king. Homer has to watch the princess, but she sneaks out of her hotel room and ends up seeing the sights with Moe, who’s finally with someone who’s nice to him.

Season 27
“Much Apu About Something” (B)
Who needs the Kwik-E-Mart? Apu still, apparently. After losing his beloved convenience store after a police tank crashes into it, his nephew takes it over, filling it with organic food and high-brow magazines. I do like Bart’s subplot about his new prank-free life, but the millennial jokes are too frequent and lame to land.

“Gal of Constant Sorrow” (B+)
A surprisingly heavy episode that features Lisa looking up to another washed-out musical icon (in this case, a junkie folk musician voiced by Kate McKinnon with singing by Natalie Maines), only for her to be let down by an addict. But it still finds plenty of laughs, including a Drake-set montage with Bart going on a shopping spree at the dollar store and Homer’s misadventures in home repair.

“The Burns Cage” (A-)
Starts with one of the most downer beginnings in show history (“0 Days Without a Heartbreak” is one of their most depressing sight gags), but then lets Smithers disentangle himself from Burns and find temporary romance. Instead of Homer taking over, a series of lawyers and other employees do, to hilarious results. Of course, it’s all going to reset at episode’s end, but this did have Smithers declare, in plain English, his love for Mr. Burns, and his acceptance that that love will never be reciprocated.

Season 28
“There Will Be Buds” (A-)
Unless I’m forgetting one, this is the best kids’ sports episode the show has done since Season 6’s “Lisa on Ice.” A sly parody of Friday Night Lights (the show), the town becomes obsessed with lacrosse after the entire pee-wee football team gets concussed. It’s an extremely strong showcase for Kirk, still Springfield’s most pathetic man.

“The Last Traction Hero” (B+)
Homer is immobilized yet again, but this time doesn’t grow closer to Marge. Instead, she gets her emotional fulfillment from Smithers, while getting sexual gratification from Homer. (“I’m the luckiest man alive!” he says to himself.) Meanwhile, Lisa becomes the school bus monitor, which unexpectedly becomes a Snowpiercer parody.

“A Father’s Watch” (A-)
One of the best episodes of the last five years without a doubt. Bart, Homer and Abe all connect over an inherited pocket watch in a story about resentment, pride and bad parenting. But again, there are plenty of laughs as Springfield falls prey to “parenting gurus” who have opposite views on raising kids.

“Moho House” (B)
Combines two plots the show has already done before: Marge and Homer split up AND Moe remodels his tavern. It can’t help but feel redundant, even if Marge’s sadness still hits like a punch in the gut.

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What I Watched This Week: 13 Aug 2017

NEW SHOWS
Twin Peaks – “The Return, Part 14” (A)
The best episode yet. It’s all mystery and forward movement, with a supernatural twist at the end. Don’t fuck with Sarah Palmer, redneck truckers.

Saturday Night Live: Weekend Update Summer Edition – “August 17, 2017” (B-)
Not nearly as sharp as last week’s installment, with cameos from past alumni defining “missing the point.” Still, I had a lot of chuckles, especially Michael Che’s stealthy Cosby Show joke.

The Sinner – “Part III” (B+)
The most intriguing episode yet, though some of its “dark material” still feels tacked on. It may have also painted itself into a corner with Cora’s official guilty plea. But I’m hooked enough to stick out until the end. Also, I must apologize. Mare Winningham doesn’t play Bill Pullman’s wife. That’s Kathryn Erbe of Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

BINGEING
Curb Your Enthusiasm – Season 8 (B+)
Not quite as great as the Seinfeld reunion, but it does have “Palestinian Chicken,” which is one of the greatest half-hours of TV ever produced. And it also has Larry’s hilarious feuds with Rosie O’Donnell and Michael J. Fox.

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Too Early for This: Oscar Picks – 15 Aug 2017

BEST PICTURE
Detroit
Downsizing
Dunkirk
Goodbye, Christopher Robin
The Greatest Showman
Last Flag Flying
Murder on the Orient Express
The Papers
Phantom Thread
Wonderstruck

The skinny: We always start with 10, because nobody knows anything at this point. The only thing we know – and that’s purely based on statistics – is that we’re likely to have only 8 or 9 nominees. The only film that could even be called “vulnerable” at this point is Detroit, because of the controversy around it. But this is the Academy, and even with a lot of new members who aren’t old white guys, I don’t buy (yet) that the controversy alone is enough to exclude Detroit from major consideration.

BEST DIRECTOR
Kathryn Bigelow, Detroit
Alexander Payne, Downsizing
Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Steven Spielberg, The Papers
Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread

The skinny: All former nominees and winners, except Christopher Nolan, who’s been due for some time.

BEST ACTOR
Chadwick Boseman, Marshall
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Hugh Jackman, The Greatest Showman
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Denzel Washington, Roman Israel, Esq.

The skinny: Everyone’s playing a real person (or someone inspired by a real person) except for Denzel, who may be back to avenge his loss from last year.

BEST ACTRESS
Jessica Chastain, Molly’s Game
Nicole Kidman, The Beguiled
Rooney Mara, Mary Magdalene
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Meryl Streep, The Papers

The skinny: I really love all these women. Only Kidman’s movie’s been released, and she’s having a hell of a year, but if Three Billboards lives up to the hype, McDormand might nab a second Oscar.

Continue reading

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What I Watched This Week: 6 Aug 2017

NEW SHOWS
Twin Peaks – “The Return, Part 13” (A-)
Only one bad Audrey scene, and the rest is great. Who knew Tom Sizemore had it in him?

Saturday Night Live: Weekend Update Summer Edition – “August 10, 2017” (B+)
Can this just be the format for SNL going forward? Some killer impersonations, a Cosby burn and Leslie Jones telling a necrophilia joke, and it’s over in 30 minutes. Bada-bing, bada-boom, that’s the Mooch!

The Sinner – “Part II” (B+)
A hell of a lot of twists to throw into episode 2, but we’ve got Mare Winningham, dammit.

BINGEING
Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later (B+)
In some ways better than First Day of Camp, in part because I knew to expect it to be hit or miss. This thing really should have been six episodes (or 7 at the most, because that 8th episode contains a lot of filler). There were a lot of hits, a lot of misses, and Ronald Reagan demanding that George H.W. Bush “shit on [his] shit,” but the soundtrack cues were perfect.

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What I Watched This Week: 30 July 2017

NEW SHOWS
Twin Peaks – “The Return, Part 12” (B)
Audrey Horne finally returns and… honestly, it’s the first outright bad scene in the whole mini-series thus far. And it goes on forever! But the rest is the same top-notch stuff we’ve come to expect.

The Sinner – “Part 1” (B) / series premiere
Interesting enough to keep me coming back for at least another episode. Jessica Biel and Bill Pullman are quite good in their roles, but this can’t help but feel like JV True Detective/The Night Of.

CURRENT SHOWS & SPECIALS
Norm Macdonald: Hitler’s Dog (B+)
Typical Norm, which means lots of rabbit trails. But when he hits it, it’s perfect.

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Netflix Picks: August 2017

I inadvertently skipped July because your brain forgets things when you move across the country. So here are the picks for August, which is surprisingly lean.

BEST BET – FILM
Cloud Atlas – 8/1
Though its cult is very enthusiastic, too few people know about Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis incredible, controversial, life-affirming masterpiece that spans centuries, countries, races and genders. Don’t read anything about it. Just watch it and be overcome.

BEST BET – TV
The Good Place (Season 1) – 8/29
I banged the drum on this show – about a not-so-great woman who dies and finds herself in Heaven – loudly last fall, and you better believe I’ll be doing a rewatch once this hits Netflix.

BEST BET – COMEDY
Brad Paisley’s Comedy Rodeo – 8/15
Do I have any idea what this is? Not even close. But when Netflix has given other stars their own wacky specials, it’s mostly worked.

NETFLIX ORIGINALS
Maz Jobrani: Immigrant – 8/1
Surviving Escobar: Alias J.J. (Season 1) – 8/1
Icarus – 8/4
Voltron: Legendary Defender (Season 3) – 8/4
Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later – 8/4
Atypical (Season 1) – 8/11
Home: Adventures with Tip & Oh (Season 3) – 8/11
Naked – 8/11
True and the Rainbow Kingdom (Season 1) – 8/11
White Gold – 8/11
The Defenders (Season 1) – 8/18
Dinotrux (Season 5) – 8/18
Glitter Force Doki Doki (Season 1) – 8/18
What Happened to Monday – 8/18
Lynne Koplitz: Hormonal Beast – 8/22
Disjointed (Part 1) – 8/25
Dragons: Race to the Edge (Season 5) – 8/25
Ryan Hamilton: Happy Face – 8/29

CATALOG SHOWS
The Hollywood Masters (Season 1) – 8/1
The Royal House of Windsor (Season 1) – 8/1
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (Season 7, Part 1) – 8/8
Murderous Affair (Season 1) – 8/15
Once upon a Time (Season 6) – 8/25

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What I Watched This Week: 23 July 2017

NEW SHOWS
Twin Peaks – “The Return, Part 11” (A)
Arguably the best episode so far, if you’re like me and have been looking for a balance between Dougie and catching up with everyone else in Twin Peaks. I didn’t know I’d be so invested in Bobby or find Jim Belushi so terrific. Hopefully this accelerates us through the back half of the season.

CURRENT SHOWS & SPECIALS
Chris Gethard: Career Suicide (A+)
The rare comedy special that both hilarious and genuinely moving. Chris Gerhard’s one-man show about his struggles with depression and suicide attempts should be shown in every school in America.

Oh, Hello on Broadway (A)
Jam-packed with jokes about everything from theatre to tuna to Steely Dan to the Holocaust, and the audience only got offended at a joke that implied a dog might get eaten. This Broadway show is certainly an acquired taste, but I was in stitches almost the entire time.

Tour de Pharmacy (B+)
Exceedingly silly, but I’m so glad there’s a place for something this dumb and specific in the world. The Lance Armstrong bits don’t rub me the wrong way like they did for other people, mostly because I like the nature of the joke. But God bless whoever picked out Jeff Goldblum, Danny Glover, Dolph Lundgren and Julia Ormond for the older versions of Andy Samberg, Daveed Diggs, John Cena and Freddie Highmore, respectively.

BINGEING
Five Came Back (A)
A truly impressive documentary series that every serious cinephile or history buff should watch at least once.

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What I Watched This Week: 16 July 2017

NEW SHOWS
Twin Peaks
“The Return, Part 9” (A-)
“The Return, Part 10” (B+)
Both of these episodes are much more plot-heavy than anything else we’ve seen so far, which is great for me, especially after the mostly wordless eighth episode. Honestly, the ninth episode, even if it may not be the best episode yet, is honestly what I had been waiting for all summer. It moved the plot forward while still having enough time for Lynch’s own idiosyncratic interludes.

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What I Watched This Week: 2 July 2017

CURRENT SHOWS
Twin Peaks – “The Return, Part 8” (A-)
I won’t even begin to say that I understood any of it, but I was mesmerized, which might just be the point.

BINGEING
Big Little Lies (A- average)
The most scathing indictment of suburban life since Gone Girl. The cast is incredible from top to bottom, especially Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman. That’s gonna be a hell of an Emmy race.

Documentary Now! – Season 2 (A- average)
In some ways not as good as Season 1, but the highs were higher, and didn’t have an episode as meh as “A Town, a Gangster, a Festival.”

Grace and Frankie – Season 3 (B+ average)
Fairly lame in its early episodes, but grows into something unexpectedly moving, with a lot of characters refusing to look back on their lives with regret.

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What I Watched This Week: 25 June 2017

NEW SHOWS
Veep – “Groundbreaking” (B+) / season finale
The first time the show has incorporated flashbacks, and they’re pretty effective, including a non-awful Jonah Ryan. It draws a clear line to show that Selina was always craven, which makes her real tears after her break-up with Jafar a little hard to buy. Still, this was another strong season, even if like the show below, it might be time to move on.

Silicon Valley – “Server Error” (B-) / season finale
This season wasn’t bad exactly, but it felt repetitive in a way the other seasons hadn’t. Erlich’s exit was in line with his character, but extremely unceremonious. Richard’s eroding sense of ethics felt tired and the final scene felt like another reset. I might not be back for next season.

BINGEING
Orange Is the New Black – Season 5 (A average)
I hope to go longer on this next week – and perhaps on a real site! – but this season was something truly special, exploring when and how to extend forgiveness.

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