April 2015 Media Round-up (TV)

Shows I kept current with: Barely Famous, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Childrens Hospital, Daredevil, Elementary, Game of Thrones, Inside Amy Schumer, iZombie, Jane the Virgin, Mad Men, New Girl, Orphan Black, Other Space, Outlander, Shameless, Silicon Valley, Sirens (US), The Americans, The Flash, The Good Wife, Veep

Shows dropped: One Big Happy, because it was super hackneyed and not even lesbian Elisha Cuthbert could make up for that; it appears that it just got cancelled after 6 episodes, anyway.

Shows on probation (not caught up, but may revisit when super bored): Community, The Last Man on Earth, Weird Loners

Rewatched: various episodes of Mad Men—at first just S07E07 to prepare for the season 7b premiere, but then S01E01, S04E09, and S05E01 because I remembered how much I enjoy Mad Men. 

apr2015tv

Some shows with season finales in April:

Barely Famous

  • This is a weird show to discuss—for one, it’s on VH1, which is, let’s say, not exactly renowned for scripted comedies. It’s also not quite what we expect from a scripted half-hour comedy: Barely Famous is shot like a reality show and stars Sara and Erin Foster as themselves, shooting a reality show, but the whole thing is scripted and satirical. Which I guess is sort of what The Comeback would be if it dropped the extra layer of fiction and actually had Lisa Kudrow playing a character named Lisa Kudrow, but maybe less mean-spirited? The Foster sisters as they appear in the show are delusional, selfish, superficial, ignorant, semi-awful people, but they’re also charismatic and funny, which prevents their in-show exploits from being too cringe-inducing (although cringe is still a major factor). Obviously, the implication that the real-life Foster sisters are aware enough of their privilege and status in Hollywood to make this type of show in the first place1 helps, and perhaps if they were playing characters with slightly different names and biographical details, it wouldn’t work as well, even though it would be practically the same show.
  • So is it any good? Yeah, sure. I mean, satirizing reality TV and socialites is not exactly groundbreaking comedy, but the writing is sharp, the Fosters are solid comic actors, and there are only 6 half-hour episodes. Plus, you know, the whole female-fronted comedy thing.

Daredevil

  • OMG THIS SHOW IS FANTASTIC OMG OMG.
  • To be fair, I had low expectations going in; I had no particular attachment to Daredevil the character2, Charlie Cox wasn’t super memorable in Stardust and isn’t especially hot in photos3, and the promos for the show just made it look unbearably ~dark and gritty~. And the show itself is dark and gritty, because like…life sucks in a crime-infested city, but it manages to strike a tonal balance somewhere in between the overwhelming dourness of the Nolan Batman movies and the sort of emotionally-detached levity of Guardians of the Galaxy. The Daredevil characters make jokes and point out the absurdities of existence in a world with superheroes, because they are, you know, humans who aren’t completely incapable of joy. There’s also a lot of angst, obviously, but it mostly feels earned; the tragic shit in Daredevil largely seems to occur organically as consequences of the characters’ circumstances and choices4. And the Catholic guilt adds an interesting aspect to Matt Murdock’s angst that further separates it from Generic Superhero Angst. Also, the extensive structural damage that resulted from all the ~cool explosions~ in The Avengers forms the basis for the villainous plot in Daredevil, and that’s kind of great because Real World Consequences, man.
  • So, realism: great! The cast: great! Charlie Cox manages to be charming, brooding, adorable, badass—just SO MUCH from one so seemingly bland in the face. Rosario Dawson is awesome because…Rosario Dawson5. Toby Leonard Moore is weirdly reminiscent of Josh Charles and that is also awesome. Everyone is awesome. This show is awesome.
  • The action sequences: obviously, also great! I feel like there’s some sort of essay one should write about the fight scenes and how they play with vision (a few notable scenes use clever choreography with stuff happening offscreen in a way that feels very intentional for a show about a blind superhero), but maybe it’s already been done and if not, I would need to rewatch the show before attempting it. What a burden that would be.

Sirens (US)

  • So, this was the US remake of a 2011 British series6 about EMTs. I was bitter about it when it first aired as I fell prey to the commonplace “god Americans are so unoriginal—why can’t they just enjoy the (superior) British series and come up with their own ideas?” sentiment7 that tends to accompany the announcement of every remake. And the first season was pretty bland and I think I had some issues with its portrayal of women, although I don’t remember well enough to discuss them (yeah, that’s a lame excuse). And the second (and it turns out, final) season was also mostly bland, but I feel like there’s something noteworthy about it that I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s like…a show that’s pretty progressive in terms of representation of race and sexuality but also almost completely not-edgy in terms of humor? I almost want to describe it as proletarian, but that feels a bit too pretentious, and there’s that whole thing where declaring something as proletarian makes it pretty clear that you have no fucking clue about the experiences and sensibilities of the proletariat, so…I don’t know. It was developed by Denis Leary and aired on USA and maybe that says enough.

The Americans

  • A lot of shit happened this season that you were kind of hoping/dreading would happen at some point in the show but didn’t know if the showrunners would have the balls to actually go there, since it might be easier to let the show go on indefinitely without changing the status quo in a major way or making the audience uncomfortable. But they went there, so yay, go showrunners! (I have nothing more insightful to add at this time. Um, this season had some well-deployed Fleetwood Mac, but I’m not sure anything will beat TUSK! and its ongoing influence in the AV Club comments section.)

1. I’m tempted to use the word “game,” since that is how we always seem to describe female actresses who are willing to give (gasp) slightly unflattering performances in comedies that would be standard or expected from male actors. ^
2. I had read a few issues of Mark Waid’s current Daredevil run, but wasn’t that engaged? I was totally wrong about that, too, as we may examine in a later post. ^
3. Then again, pre-Game of Thrones, I did not get Natalie Dormer, and pre-Winter Soldier, I did not get Sebastian Stan, and oh, how wrong I was about them. Like, obviously these are all conventionally attractive people, but they have way more charisma speaking and moving than they bring to whatever photos initially pop up in a Google image search. ^
4. Whereas the tragic shit in a lot of lesser shows and movies in the genre seems to occur as the consequence of masochistic writers with limited emotional toolboxes. ^
5. This is maybe my favorite exchange in the show? ^
6. Also called Sirens. A solid, if not necessarily brilliant, sitcom, mostly remembered for having a scene of naked Richard Madden. ^
7. But this is a boring and obnoxious way to think and I have Transcended. For one, it’s not like the British are immune to producing shitty remakes (consider: the UK version of That ’70s Show. Not that the American original is that great, but the UK one is truly dire), or that the British TV series is some sort of holy art form that we dare not disrespect. Also, not all remakes are that unoriginal; in the process of being molded to the sensibilities of another culture, a remake can take on a life of its own and become its own distinct entity (consider: the US version of Shameless). Also also, what even is unoriginal at a point in history when so much media has been produced that it’s probably impossible to tell a story that’s never been told before and we can only really hope to recombine tropes in interesting ways? ^

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