November 2015 Media Round-up (TV)

OH GOD WE’RE RUNNING OUT OF TIME TO GET THROUGH THESE AND IT WILL VERY MUCH BE REFLECTED IN THE QUALITY OF THE WRITING, PT. 2

Shows I kept current with: Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Downton Abbey, Elementary, Flesh and Bone, Grandfathered, How to Get Away with Murder, iZombie, Jane the Virgin, Jessica Jones, London Spy, Master of None, Please Like Me, Sleepy Hollow, The Flash, The Perfect Insider, You’re the Worst

Pilots tried: Superstore (not impressed)

Shows abandoned: Empire, Supergirl (maybe)

Non-current shows watched: Himouto! Umaru-chan, JPod (season 1, episode 2)

Stand-up specials: John Mulaney’s The Comeback Kid

november2015tv

Things of note:

Downton Abbey

OH MY GOD, FUCK THIS SHOW.

I wasn’t going to watch this season. I really fucking wasn’t. But I got pulled in by the presence of charming Matthew Goode, which, especially given his no longer being on The Good Wife, is a pretty compelling force. As I should have learned from Dancing on the Edge, though, that’s really not enough.

Ugh, this show is terrible and anger-inducing and if it weren’t for my self-imposed time constraint on the publication of this post, I would explore that in more depth—and maybe I will later, since I have yet to watch the Christmas special. It wouldn’t be as bad if we would all acknowledge how shitty (or at the very least, mediocre) Downton Abbey is, but instead, we’re constantly showering it with awards and nominations, because what, it has fancy British people in period clothing and thus must be intelligent, quality television?

The dialogue is terrible and the pacing is so goddamn weird in the way that so many things seem to happen within each individual episode and yet at the same time the season-long arcs move painfully slowly, to the point where every single fucking episode we need to have every character recap where they’re at (the answer: stuck in the same fucking plot point they’ve been stuck in for the last n episodes). For example, every single fucking episode contains some variation on the following exchange:

CARSON: We’re going to need to downsize the downstairs staff.
THOMAS: Does that mean me? Is my job safe?
CARSON: Well, we all hate you, so I’d start looking for a new post, if I were you.
THOMAS: But none of the former great houses are hiring butlers anymore because that way of life is dying and I probably have conflicted feelings about that.
CARSON: lol sucks to suck bro
THOMAS: > : (

And what progress is even made on that front over the course of the season? Ugh.

The costumes and sets are gorgeous, of course, and I do enjoy the exquisite bitchiness of Mary and Thomas, although as demonstrated above, this season leans a little too hard on sad!Thomas rather than manipulative bastard!Thomas. And the show almost (almost!) did a clever thing in drawing a parallel between Thomas and Mary’s tendencies to tear down other people to feel better about themselves, by tying together Thomas’s attempted sabotage of Gwen at the beginning of the season and Mary’s attempted sabotage of Edith at the end, but of course they ruin the moment by making the dialogue super on-the-nose because how would the audience possibly have figured out that connection on their own?

Oh god there’s just so much more. Fuck Edith and her fucking Lena Dunham-esque face and her fucking baby obsession. Fuck Lady Grantham and her fucking simpering not quite British, not quite American vocal inflections. Fuck Bates and his fucking martyr complex. Fuck Anna for marrying Bates and being sucked into his awful charisma vacuum and boring domestic drama. Fuck Lord Grantham for not just fucking dying of his mysterious illness. Fuck you, Downton Abbey, and fuck me for watching.


Flesh and Bone

I saw the first two episodes and was a bit too distressed by events1 of episode 2 to want to actually watch any more of this show, although I did want to know what would happen. But a few days later, I pretty much binge-watched the rest of the episodes, so. Flesh and Bone is not necessarily a good show, but it certainly is compelling.

It’s also interesting in the context of the current TV landscape. When there are so many shows being made on so many different platforms (network, cable, streaming), not every show needs to have broad appeal; there’s more than enough room for super specific shows to be made and target super specific audience segments, rather than every show attempting to be Must-See TV2. So yeah, this is a weird dark ballet show with a secret incest baby plotline and perhaps too much attention devoted to a crazy prophetic homeless guy. Probably in a year or two no one will remember it existed except for a few weird passionate fans. But I’m glad it does exist, you know?


Jessica Jones

This was fantastic, which was not at all surprising given Marvel/Netflix’s track record with Daredevil, the presence of Krysten Ritter and David Tennant, and the premise, if not the execution3, of the comics on which it was based. So actually maybe surprising that it lived up to my somewhat high expectations. Anyway, the show has gotten enough critical acclaim at this point that there’s nothing for me to add, really, except for the following graph:

Yep, we're going to keep doing these.
Yep, we’re going to keep doing these.

I shouldn’t ever look at ONTD, because I hate their particular commenting culture, but fuck it, I looked at some Jessica Jones posts on ONTD. ONTDers seem to be disturbed by the popularity of Jessica/Kilgrave over Jessica/Luke and want to attribute that to the racism of fandom and thus feel some level of moral righteousness, but I think it’s more likely that Jessica/Luke is losing out because it’s canon and that’s not as interesting, I’m assuming, as there’s less room for speculation. Like, the characters are married and have a kid together in the comics, so where can your fanfiction really go that the comics haven’t already in the past ~15 years? But also, it’s not even that much more popular (51 works to 39 works on AO3, as of writing this) and both ships pale in comparison to Jessica/Trish, so: probably not that ~problematic, ONTD. Look at the fucking data.


Himouto! Umaru-chan

Okay, have the Wikipedia plot summary of this show so that I don’t have to try to explain it:

The series follows Umaru Doma, a high school girl who lives with her older brother Taihei. At school, Umaru appears to be the ideal student with good looks, top grades, and a lot of talent. Once she gets home, however, she reverts into a layabout who spends her time lying around, playing video games, and constantly depending on her older brother, much to his dismay.

And that’s, like, pretty much all it is. Nothing really happens, and that’s fine, you know? I watched it at the beginning of November and I haven’t really thought about it since, but apparently at the time I thought there were some things so worth writing about that I saved the following draft here. So, with minimal editing:

FACADES.

Not everyone has actual physical transformations like Umaru, but all of the female characters have these clearly delineated home and public personas. Ebina hides her regional accent. Kirie has her scary persona (to the classmates who don’t know her), her shy persona (around Umaru and Taihei), her violent persona (around Bomber), her weird subservient persona (around “Komaru”), and her yuri fantasies. Sylphyn alludes to the (meeker) self she is around her brother compared to the ultra-competitive, ultra-energetic self she is elsewhere, and then the friendlier version of that that she is around UMR. Umaru obviously has her school self, her chibi self, and UMR.

The guys…don’t really have this? We don’t get a sense that Taihei, Bomber, or Alex are really projecting radically different versions of themselves in different situations.

Also, the show captures comfort rituals SO WELL, in terms of Umaru’s specific snack tastes and routines and the need to have the right food (e.g. cola, in this show) to accompany one’s entertainment to the extent that it seems worth going out in the middle of the night to acquire it.

I really don’t like the scenes of Umaru manipulating Taihei by throwing tantrums or pretending to be super sad (like when he accidentally throws out the box of her figurine), but that’s not a criticism of the show itself, just a thing that weirdly upsets me in characters/people.


1. Without looking up an episode summary, I think this is more or less what happens: Our main character, Claire, gets invited to dinner by one of the ballet company’s big donors, and the ballet director implicitly orders her to sleep with him in order to secure/retain his support. Claire tells the homeless dude who hangs out in front of her apartment about this, and he offers her a roofie to make it go down more easily, which she accepts. So yeah, she roofies herself and goes to dinner with the dude, but once she’s up in his hotel room and he’s ordered her to take off her clothes and get on his bed and shit, she makes herself throw up so that he won’t want to sleep with her. So the whole disturbing sex/power situation plus the vomit (which is shown!) is just a big fucking NOPE. ^
2. I mean, an actual network executive may vehemently disagree with me there. ^
3. I read Alias in anticipation of Jessica Jones and I…did not love it and Bendis’s weird idiosyncratic use of parentheses in his dialogue always bothers, although who the fuck am I to criticize anyone on that particular front. But, yeah, there is something there. ^

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