A full month of being locked in had the expected effect on what I’ve been watching on TV: I consumed a shit-load of content! I thought about breaking this list into multiple entries. Instead I’m going to put on my editing hat and pare these down as much as I can. I will put the items I write most about at top, and share progressively less as we move through the list. They are also divided into three categories: TV shows/movies aimed at adults, web shorts, and kid shows (or at least shows we watched with the kids).
Part One: Grown Up Shit
Better Call Saul, season five
This season did not disappoint. To me it was a little more slow burn than recent seasons, but the final three episodes really ratcheted things up. The last two episodes were especially brilliant. Hell, the final 5:00 of episode nine, “Bad Choice Road,” were as good as any five minutes on any show ever. The confrontation between cartel boss Lalo Salamanca and Jimmy “Saul Goodman” McGill and Kim Wexler was utterly amazing. I don’t recall ever doing this before, but as soon as it was over I rewound and watched it again. Rhea Seehorn is the breakout actor of BCS, and her utter evisceration of Tony Dalton’s Salamanca was as savage as any scene of graphic violence that Saul or Breaking Bad has ever offered. It is a travesty that Seehorn has not been nominated for an Emmy. If it doesn’t happen this year I will demand a congressional investigation.
The final episode had me constantly on edge, as Wexler revealed a totally unexpected side of herself, Salamanca avoided an assassination attempt, and McGill/Goodman showed rare restraint, lack of confidence, and even vulnerability. The episode wonderfully sets up what should be an amazing final season.
Better Call Saul is the best show on TV right now, period. It is approaching the heights set by its predecessor. If Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould can nail season six, BCS will enter the pantheon as one of the great shows of all time.
An Amazon Prime series with immense potential that came up short.
Al Pacino leads a ragtag team of people hunting Nazis in 1977 New York. Not just your standard Nazis who fled Europe in the 1940s and blended into American, either. In this show there is a whole secret society of Nazis who are poised to use chemical warfare to take over the US.
Sounds promising, and there were some excellent moments throughout the show’s 10 episodes.
However, the show couldn’t decide what it wanted to be. It pulled in elements from comics and super hero flicks, but in random moments rather than as a core part of the show. There were a lot of strange structural elements. The show wildly zigged and zagged between exceptionally dark moments (depictions of life in Nazi concentration camps, moments of extreme violence in 1977) with moments that were supposed to be cartoony and funny. And there were some serious issues about time and space, with people somehow driving between the Deep South or California and New York in a matter of hours.
The final episode tries to make up for some of these flaws with two massive twists. One of those twists was pretty wild and successful. My jaw hit the floor. The other felt forced and manipulative, designed purely to set up a season two. I rolled my eyes at that moment.
There were some great performances. Pacino was Full Pacino, playing an elderly Holocaust survivor to the max. Dylan Baker was absolutely fantastic as a Nazi hidden within Jimmy Carter’s administration. And Jerrika Hinton was excellent as FBI officer Morris, who must navigate the old boy FBI not only as a black woman but also as a lesbian struggling to forge a relationship while keeping it secret.
Not a waste of time yet disappointing because there was so much promise here.
Well, what to say about this absolute train wreck of a show? I watched this over about 36 hours on Easter weekend, unable to look away. I don’t know that I have any particularly insightful comments. I’m in the camp that pretty much no one who was on screen has any redeeming qualities. By the end I felt some sympathy for Joe Exotic, simply because, as the final episode focused on, he got absolutely hammered while people around him who were just as guilty of the same crimes weren’t prosecuted.
I normally wouldn’t like a show like this. I’m not into reality TV. I don’t like watching white trash, total disasters get their 15 minutes.
But there was something insanely compelling about the show. I think most of that lies with Joe, who was as original a character as has appeared on TV in some time. For all his endless flaws, the dude is certainly interesting.
Reply All podcast, episode 158: The Case of the Missing Hit
I don’t venture outside of my normal podcast rotation very often, especially these days since I seem to be behind on so many. This show got a lot of run so I threw it into the queue.
It’s a pretty fascinating account of a man in California who was haunted by a song from his college years that was stuck in his head yet he could not find anyone else who could identify it. His memories were so strong that he even recorded an acapella version of it – with him singing all the musical parts and lyrics – to try to run it through music identification software and find a match. It produced no results.
Reply All got ahold of the story and used their powers to bring in experts from all over the country to review the song. Rock critics, artists, producers, and DJs. No one could identify the song, though.
Until they caught a lucky break.
I highly recommend listening as both the path to get to a resolution and the
resolution itself are highly compelling. Also, who hasn’t got a song stuck in their head that they can’t place? This show is confirmation that we aren’t all totally crazy.
This is a damn-near perfect show. It is funny as hell, making me laugh to the point of tears several times. There are also scenes that moved me to tears from their poignancy or pain. It has several scenes (and episodes) that are deeply dark and difficult to watch.
The show has depth, addressing all kinds of issues you wouldn’t expect a comedy to cover: gender roles, expectations, and double-standards; dealing with the loss of a parent and your surviving parent finding a new partner; sibling issues; the difficulty in running a small business; religion; substance abuse. But, famously, sex is the big issue that Fleabag is centered on. There is a lot of very frank discussion and representation of sex. Definitely a show you watch after the kids go to bed or with headphones on.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge – it is very hard for me not to call her Phoebe Bridgers – is a genius. I’ve put Killing Eve on my watch list and hope her contributions to the next Bond film salvage it from a difficult production process.
The show is brilliantly written, superbly cast and acted, and wonderfully shot. Like I said, a damn-near perfect show.
No Laying Up: Strapped
The humorous, budget travel and golf series the NLU guys put out. Season six was in Southern California, and gorgeously shot. Seriously, it’s crazy what you can do with digital cameras and drones these days. As always, it was a great watch and inspired me to go back and watch the previous five seasons. The beauty of a three-episode season: you can knock it out in an hour.
Let’s Go Crazy The Grammy Salute to Prince
Broken down here.
A 30-minute film about an American hermit who communicates with a Soviet cosmonaut via amateur radio in the early 1960s. There’s a sci-fi element to their communication that is kind of cool. A strange story that I’m not sure worked.
Marcy Learns Something New
Rachael Dratch as a single mom looking for ways to connect with others. The avenue she takes is completely unexpected. And her performance, which is pretty straight, is absolutely fantastic. Warning: This is highly not safe for work.
Bush Pilot: Reflections on a Canadian Myth
You know things are getting weird when you watch a documentary made in 1980 about Canadian bush pilots. I found this fascinating, though. And I loved the photographic elements of it. I’m not taking pictures much these days but have been feeling the urge build.
A Mile an Hour – Running a different kind of marathon
Looking for things to do? This guy has the perfect way to spend a day!
Entertaining and fairly light family friendly flick on Amazon. Most of the characters were quirky, in a fun way, which made for a lot of laughs. One element of the ending seemed awfully forced but it was also brushed over pretty quickly so it wasn’t bothersome.
M and C watched this a few years back, but I don’t think I watched it with them. L just read the book and didn’t remember watching, so she wanted to take a stab at it and I watched with her. It’s the story of surfer Brittany Hamilton, who lost her arm in a shark attack when she was 14 and recovered to still have a pro surfing career. It’s pretty saccharine and light, but is also a pretty solid family watch. L told me that actress AnnaSophia Robb had never surfed before she got the lead role. I’m sure she had some help, but she was awfully impressive.
Can’t watch this too many times. L and I still laugh a lot each time we watch it.
There were only two compelling things about this movie. 1) Jack Black. Even in a fatally flawed movie he is good for some laughs. 2) Ana de la Reguera. Despite being dressed as a nun she gets an A+. My browser history likely has some time spent looking at pictures of Ms. De la Reguera. Otherwise this movie was pretty awful.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
We forced all the girls to watch this, hoping they would enjoy it. None of them seemed to get it at all. Which was a big bummer. “Let my Cameron go!”
A for the parents, no idea how the girls would grade it.
Your standard quest movie. And it had elements of just about every big quest movie ever wrapped within it. The core story – about searching for connection with a lost relative and, in the process, realizing you had everything you thought you were missing in an unexpected source – was nice. But this did not feel up to Pixar’s normal standards. L disagreed, though. When it was over she immediately said, “Ten out of ten, would recommend!” I asked her if she was sure and she said, “Wait, twelve out of ten!” She’s watched it at least one more time since then.
C+ for me
*Dr. Dolittle *
L and I watched it on my suggestion. We saw it in the Disney+ listings and I said, “Oh, that movie is hilarious! You’ll love it!” L did like it, but about five minutes in I realized I was thinking of The Nutty Professor, a movie which she can most definitely not watch yet. I thought this was kind of crappy.
Jane Goodall The Hope
We had to go to school a week ago to pick up a workbook from L’s teacher, and she suggested this to us. It was interesting and pretty good, although it often bordered on the hagiographic. Goodall was kind of a looker when she was young. Who knew?!?