May 2016 TV

Shows I kept current with: Faking It, Game of Thrones, Grandfathered, Inside Amy Schumer, Jane the Virgin, Orphan Black, Outlander, Peaky Blinders, Penny Dreadful, Preacher, The 100, The Americans, The Flash, The Good Wife, The Graham Norton Show, The Musketeers, The Path, Veep

Non-current shows watched: Animaniacs (the “Hooray for North Hollywood” two-parter, which…how the fuck was this a kids’ show on a mainstream network?), The Buddha of Suburbia,  a bunch of old episodes of The Graham Norton Show

Pilots tried: Brideshead Revisited (the 1981 miniseries)

may2016tv

Things of note:

Faking It

This show basically sucked, but I was weirdly invested in it—well, maybe just in the happiness of one particular character. The initial premise probably drove off much of its intended audience—“Amy and Karma are best friends who pretend to be a lesbian couple to become popular at their super liberal high school” is more or less than one-line summary we got of the show when it premiered, and a lot of people were, understandably, offended right off the bat. It turns out there was a bit more complexity to that—Karma is the one who cares about “popularity” and Amy reluctantly plays along, only to realize that she actually has real romantic feelings for Karma.

(Although god knows why, because Karma consistently comes across as fucking awful, in a way that doesn’t seem completely intentional on the writers’ part.)

So the titular premise is more or less dropped by the end of the first season. Well, I suppose you could argue that “faking it” applies to other characters and situations as well and isn’t that fucking Deep. In any case, in the later seasons, it becomes more of a low-concept high school comedy, albeit a somewhat more progressive one wrt sexuality than we’re used to. It’s probably also a good example, in the casting of the extras or minor recurring characters, of what people are calling for when they talk about having diverse representation in shows even when the main characters are white/cis-gendered/able-bodied/etc. And yet, it’s never totally clear how much the show is attempting to satirize extreme political correctness/SJWs/whatever–between the school principal, Karma’s ridiculous hippie parents, and the motivation behind the initial premise–and how much it’s actually endorsing it–between the casting and the social issues addressed in various storylines. And why it feels so anvil-y in its attempts to do both.

(Well, okay, the “why” of that is clear: shitty writing. Which is also reflected in the off/stilted/try-hard feeling of the dialogue, especially in any attempts at humor and pop culture references, and the hackneyed plotting, with its over-reliance on “comical” misunderstandings.)

Apparently, a sizable–or at least, vocal–portion of the show’s fanbase wanted Karma/Amy to be endgame, and, wow, I am very glad they were not. In fact, I would have been interested in seeing the show end with Karma and Amy realizing that they’re just no longer super compatible people and their shared history and identity as BFFs isn’t quite enough to base a friendship on any more, but that might have been too depressing.


The Buddha of Suburbia

A faithful adaptation of the book, at least in terms of including the most key events and bits of dialogue, and yet: the shift from the first-person narration of the book to the third-person objective of the camera (and no voice-over) is pretty significant. If I complained about Karim’s opacity in the book, well, just take that and magnify it for the miniseries. Young Naveen Andrews does have a compelling quality to him that certainly explains how other characters react to Karim, but yeah, the lack of internal monologue heightens that disconnect between how soft-spoken he is and how little he says and the sudden actions he takes—e.g. kicking the dude who makes fun of his dad at the first party, giving Charlie a handjob despite the seeming lack of signals or lead-up to it on Charlie’s end, etc.

(Also I thought I had more of a handle Charlie’s characterization in the book? But then his portrayal here made me completely question my previous interpretation and now I just…have no idea who he is or quite what the dynamic between him and Karim is. The actor playing him was also, disappointingly, not as hot as he is described to be in the book, although I suppose we could chalk that up more to Karim’s idolization of him rather than his actual physical appearance.)


The Good Wife

So, The Good Wife ended after seven seasons, and I felt nothing, which is weird given my previous relationship with the show.

(i.e. in the summer of 2014, I watched five seasons of the show over the course of 10 days and spent basically half a day in tears due to Will Gardner’s death and the subsequent episodes of characters mourning really effectively. I then probably rewatched a good chunk of the show a few months later to make myself feel better about my sad grad school life or something.)

Anyway, at some point in the later few seasons, it seemed like the show was going somewhere cool with the Alicia as anti-hero concept, but it never quite got there. I mean, definitely by the end of the show we’re not supposed to think of Alicia as an unequivocally “good” person. Still, as solid as the show ending slap-in-the-face moment was, at least in theory, everything leading up to it was so messy that it was just ultimately kind of unsatisfactory. Part of this may be the behind-the-scenes rumors affecting our perception of Julianna Margulies. You might think this would actually benefit the anti-hero concept, but nope, it mostly just meant that we were watching Alicia Florrick as Margulies’ vanity project/Emmy reel rather than just as the character, which we had managed to avoid in the previous seasons. But also the last season just wasn’t very good, I guess, for the reasons that most people cited while it was airing: separating the ensemble cast, introducing new characters without fleshing them out enough but still giving them enough screentime to take away from the characters we know and love, and probably too much rehashing of the starting a new firm, dealing with Peter’s scandals, backstabbing between Cary/Diane/Alicia, etc. arcs that we’ve been seeing over seven seasons without anything to make them feel new or interesting in this iteration.


The Graham Norton Show

God, I hate my relationship with celebrity culture. As far as late night talk shows with celebrity guests, this is one of the better ones—the banter tends not to feel super scripted/rehearsed, the mix of A-list, B-list, and British stand-up comedian guests can lead to more interesting interactions,  and, for obvious reasons, Graham Norton doesn’t have the same sort of off-putting dynamic with his more attractive female guests as, say, Conan O’Brien or even Craig Ferguson (they both play it in a self-aware way, but the “man, you’re so hot, and I’m just a creepy old perv” thing gets really old).

But yeah, there is that thing where the sort of story that would seem totally inane coming from someone you know in real life is suddenly charming coming from a celebrity and I hate that I so easily fall victim to this sort of celebrity worship, where, like, watching Chris Hemsworth discussing Australian wildlife or James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence recounting pranks from the X-Men set seems like a good use of the limited time I have in this fleshy prison. In our defense, a large part of the reason that certain actors are successful, probably, is for having the sort of charisma and storytelling skills that enable them to spin a mediocre anecdote into a GIF-able moment. Although some actors (oh god Johnny Depp) still make totally awful and cringe-worthy guests on The Graham Norton Show and would perhaps be better served by the “tell a well-rehearsed 2-minute anecdote that we can put on YouTube with a misleading clickbait title” talk show format.

Kate Beckinsale is surprisingly delightful, though. Also delightful, but less surprisingly, in the designated comedian guest spots of their episodes this season: Sara Pascoe, Jack Whitehall, and Greg Davies.

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