September 2015 Media Round-up (TV)

Shows I kept current with: Blunt Talk, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Empire, Faking It, How to Get Away with Murder, Masters of Sex, Mr. Robot, Playing House, Review, The Great British Bake-Off, The Mindy Project, You’re the Worst

Pilots tried: Fried, Southcliffe (may follow up on this)

Non-current shows: Grantchester, Monogatari Series Second Season (episodes 1-4), The Great British Bake-Off (season 4, episodes 5-9, 11; season 5, episode 1)

Rewatched: Nekomonogatari (Kuro), Nisemonogatari (episodes 8-11)


Things of note:


Okay, so this is a show about a hot young vicar solving crimes and dealing with PTSD and romantic angst in the 1950s English countryside. Like what more could you possibly want from a TV show?

The first season was only 6 episodes, which I think gave it a good overall structure, since the procedural aspect of the show might have gotten a bit tired in a longer season, but I was sad to be done with it so soon. There will apparently be a second season, so yay!

The Great British Bake-Off

Oh man. I thought I was done with reality TV1, but THIS SHOW.

I shouldn’t like GBBO. I’m not even into cooking shows, since it’s frustrating to watch people make delicious-looking things and not be able to taste them, although I guess I have found myself sucked in by Iron Chef and Ace of Cakes on a few occasions. The reality competition shows I’ve watched the most in the past were Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model, where the judging criteria are, in theory, mostly visual, so the viewer can sort of “play along” at home. For a cooking competition you can judge the presentation of the dishes, but you basically have to take the judges’ word for the taste. So you never really tell if a contestant made and “objectively” good/shitty dish or if the judge has a particular taste bias or if there’s some behind-the-scenes producer manipulation to encourage the judges to keep/eliminate contestants based on their drama potential.

The thing is, GBBO is presented in such a way that the judging actually feels legitimate and merit-based. And maybe the mostly unmanipulative feeling of the show is actually the product of super masterful manipulation, but I don’t know. The show has pretty minimal confessionals—mostly after challenges, as a way for contestants to be like, “I’m so happy I did well!” or “I did poorly, so now I’m especially driven to do better next time”—and not very many opportunities for on-camera interaction between the bakers, so there’s just not that much personality-based drama. (There is, however, a LOT of baking accident based drama.) So it doesn’t seem that likely that the producers would encourage the judges to keep on a subpar contestant for the purpose of creating drama. Although one does wonder if the hosts, Sue and Mel, are supposed to be wildcard drama-creating elements, what with their occasional “accidental” destruction of contestants’ baked goods.

Overall, it’s just such a comforting and feel-good show. The baking all takes place in a tent set up in the grounds of an English country estate and there are frequent cutscenes to, like, pastoral scenes of sheep chilling in the countryside, which is DELIGHTFUL. And it’s surprisingly educational—the hosts occasionally take us on some detours about the histories of particular baked goods, and we (as American viewers) get introduced to all of these cakes/pastries/puddings/etc. that are apparently British staples, as well as the dishes that not even the contestants have heard of (lol flaounes). The current season had a Victorian themed episode—game pies, tennis cake, and Charlotte Russe—and, well, omg Victorian recipes.

Playing House

Still not sure if I like this show. Something about the Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair comedic pairing irks me, with their specific performance of Female Friendship, as well as being this very specific type of well-off, glossy-haired women in their 30s who are super into drinking wine and hating their bodies and using ~sassy~ voice? Not to overuse the word “specific,” but it really is just this specific energy that I can’t quite articulate and yet it’s super grating to me. And yet, I really enjoy half-hour sitcoms—we are tempted to make the argument that a well-written half-hour sitcom is, like, the Highest form of Art, but let’s not do that here—so I end up watching a lot of half-hour sitcoms that I feel pretty ambivalent about because I think I may have already watched all worthwhile half-hour sitcoms of the past decade and I don’t want to have a period where I don’t watch any half-hour sitcoms.

Playing House certainly has some moments and I was still invested enough to ship Jessica St. Clair and Keegan-Michael Key’s characters, so. The premise is pretty solid—two female friends decide to raise a baby together after the mother discovers her husband is cheating on her and divorces him; Parham’s character was pregnant for all of season 1 and gave birth in the season finale, so there was the risk that this season would spend too much time on precious baby antics, but it wisely managed to keep the focus on the adult characters. So I don’t know: definitely watchable, and occasionally good, but ultimately not great.

[1] Nothing against reality TV as a genre, actually. I genuinely think Project Runway was a great show before it moved to Lifetime, and I have watched a lot of cycles of America’s Next Top Model. But at this point, I’m already consuming so much media, between currently airing scripted TV, non currently airing scripted TV, movies, books, and comics, that I need to prioritize, and reality TV just doesn’t seem as Important to…whatever I’m trying to Become through media consumption. ^


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