It’s been nearly three months since my last (and first) What I’m Watching post. I haven’t watched much in terms of variety since then, but I have packed in some quantity. So here’s a quick run down.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine I was doing some DVR cleanup, mostly deleting crap the girls recorded and never watched over the summer, and realized I had almost half of last season’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine to still get through. I worked through them over a couple weeks in September. It will never be the best show in Michael Schur’s collection, but it never disappoints. B+
Saturday Night Live I’m trying to remember the last time I watched new episodes of SNL regularly. I think I may have tried to watch it my first year living in Indy. Although Indiana did not observe Daylight Saving Time back then, local TV was always on the eastern time zone schedule, with SNL starting at 11:30. That was tough for someone raised on 10:30 SNL’s. I know I tried to get back into it a few times over the years but, for whatever reason, couldn’t do it.
Last spring I watched a skit that got some buzz – I can’t recall what it was – and ended up watching almost the entire episode. I made a mental note to give the show another try this fall. Which I have done. And I’ve enjoyed it more than I expected. The show has definitely changed over the years. The production values are much higher than even in the Will Ferrell years. I wish the cold opening didn’t have to be about politics every week, although Kate McKinnon as Elizabeth Warren is gold. I wish it wasn’t so obvious how even the cast members are reading many of their lines straight off the cue cards. But I’ve laughed more than I’ve been troubled by these minor complaints.
The bonus will be I actually know who most of the cast members are when Eddie Murphy hosts in December, an episode I would be watching whether I enjoyed the first five episodes of the year or not. B+
Halloween Wars We recorded three of the Food Network’s Halloween shows this month, but this is the only one L and I watched. I, personally, prefer the Halloween Baking Championship but L picked this as her focus. She enjoyed it, picking a favorite team and rooting for them the entire time. I wasn’t as into it as her, and spent more time getting excited about the various holiday baking shows that kick off this week. B
Murder Mystery There is always an entry here for a movie that S starts watching and I sit through, half-watching. I thought this was pretty dumb. She’s done it many times, but I just never buy Jennifer Anniston as this hot chick who has stuck with some semi-deadbeat husband for years. Come on… C
Springsteen on Broadway I watched this in small segments over several weeks. I really liked it, although I think I watched it in those chopped up bits because the beginning seemed to drag. Perhaps it is because that part of the show most mirrored what Springsteen wrote in his book Born to Run. The back half was filled with better stories and better songs.
I appreciated the stagecraft that went into the performance. If you don’t like Springsteen he will come off as arrogant and insufferable. But if you like him, you will enjoy him skewering his own image, pointing out how everything he has ever done is an act, and jokingly saying, “That’s how fucking good I am,” when he points out that he built a career on writing songs about working people when he’s never held a normal job in his life. B+
Stranger Things Finally, I watched all three Stranger Things seasons over about five weeks. I had watched season one before, but still started there to remind myself of who was who and what was what. I again found that season utterly magical, full of delightful moments that got deep into my Child of the ‘80s soul, well written and acted and paced, and ending with an absolutely perfect finale.
Season two was a little more uneven. It felt like they crammed 10 episodes of material into eight, and adding another couple of hours would have made the flow better. Its finale couldn’t match season one’s, but it was still quite good.
And then there was season three. I kind of hated it. The over-the-top, constant 80s references were annoying. The story was flat out dumb at times. I didn’t understand how Hawkins morphed from this tiny, rural town into something more along the lines of Bloomington or Columbus, complete with a big ass mall that was crammed with people. I thought a lot of the acting was really bad, both from the secondary characters and from a few of the main ones. Some of that bad acting came from poor writing. They kind of ruined Hopper, turning him into a parody of what he was in the first two seasons.
And then there’s the whole secret Russian sire under Hawkins. HOW THE HELL DID THIS HAPPEN? They can just build this massive instillation below an American city and we have no idea? Come the fuck on. I know, I know, to watch this series you have to buy into parallel worlds, demonic creatures, and humans with super powers. But the logistics of the Russians somehow building this base in the middle of America and trying to tunnel into the Upside Down in secrecy made me flat out angry.
Season One: A; Season Two, B; Season Three, C.