As with the first month of shows, Ted Lasso continued to shine in the final five episodes of season one. Sure, there were predictable, clichéd choices in how the show progressed. But the dynamic between the main characters is what carried the program. I believe I said this last month but it was a little shocking how good Jason Sudeikis is in the emotional moments of Ted’s life. Hannah Waddingham and Juno Temple were both outstanding, too. A show that made me laugh, smile, and feel a little each Friday. I was suspicious of Apple TV+ when it first came out, and we only have it because we get it for free after buying a new device. A season two of Ted Lasso may be enough for me to actually pay for it a couple months next year.
Listen, I heard the talk. “Have you watched Cobra Kai? It’s really good!” And I would put it on my To Watch list and forget about it. After a few months I would delete it, only to put it back on when I came across another recommendation.
Well, folks, I finally dove in and watched the first two seasons over a three-day stretch. I can’t believe I waited so long. And I can’t believe I liked it so much.
It isn’t high art. But it was highly entertaining and shockingly well done. Was there cheese? Absolutely. But it was like the perfect amount of cheese that made it enjoyable without going over-the-top.
William Zabka is the big revelation of the show. I loved, loved, loved where they placed Johnny Lawrence in his life and how Zabka worked to add depth and growth to his character. And I love how his prime pupil, Miguel, goes from good to bad to somewhere in-between before the absolutely shocking end of season two.
I loved how all the feelings from the original Karate Kid movie are flipped. You want Lawrence to succeed while Daniel LaRusso comes across as a pretentious dick for much of the show. And having Robby Lawrence be LaRusso’s pupil, and morphing him from troubled kid you hate to kid you want to succeed to, well, whatever you feel about him at the end of season two, was supremely satisfying.
Lots of good supporting characters as well. Not to be creepy, but Amanda LaRusso is exactly the kind of girl I would have been totally in love with but utterly unable to talk to back when I was in high school. Plenty of excellent call backs to the original movie and the 1980s in general. Some great 80s music. As Johnny Lawrence would say, it is all pretty bad ass.
Season one, A+
Season two, A-
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
I was warned about this. Two friends who generally enjoy Will Ferrell’s work said this was not worth watching. But I saw it pop up on a couple summer lists of good things to watch so I gave it a shot…and I didn’t last a full hour. No real laughs and not much of a story to keep me engaged. Maybe it got better in the second hour but I’ll never know.
A brief and high level review of the history of video games. It begins with the development of Space Invaders and the rise of Atari, moves through Nintendo’s domination, the transition of role playing games from boards to computers and consoles, SEGA’s bold ventures in the ‘90s, and then two episodes about fighting and first-person games, respectively. Not exhaustive by any means. But for someone like me who had a childhood love of video games that has never quite translated completely to adulthood, it was good enough.
A Golf Channel documentary about the history of the role of caddy, narrated by Bill Murray. It was ok but kind of ruined by Golf Channel running commercials every four minutes. Even on the DVR that’s super annoying. But golf tournament broadcasts have commercials roughly every four minutes so I guess that carries over to non-tournament broadcasts as well.
Stuck at Home in an Albanian Blood Feud
A short that explores the Albanian concept of “Kanun,” which allows for seeking blood in revenge for the death of a relative. Don’t get me wrong, we have some crazy, historically-based shit in this country. Witness how we treat people of color for example. But this stuff is truly insane.
The Death of Stalin
I knew going in that this was a satirical farce about the power struggle in the Soviet Union after the death of Josef Stalin in 1953. Still I was not prepared for how ridiculous of a movie this was.
I say ridiculous in the best possible way. It features British and American actors, in their natural accents, playing most of the major roles. Steve Buscemi is Nikita Khrushchev. He does standard Buscemi things. Which is an amazing way to think about Khrushchev, the man who pounded his shoe on the table and said “We will bury you!” a few years later. Jason Isaacs as Georgry Zhukov is especially fantastic. Rupert Friend as Vasily Stalin was absolutely delightful.
Even if you don’t care about history and have zero interest in the history of the Cold War or Soviet Union, this is an excellent way to spend an hour and 45 minutes.
The latest entry in No Laying Up’s small budget travel series.
The crew chose Peoria, IL because of a contest on the No Laying Up Refuge message board in which a group from Peoria raised the most money for charity. Despite that good will, this edition falls flat in relation to past seasons of Strapped. And it’s all because of Covid. One of the delights of Strapped is how they shine a light on aspects of the communities where they are playing golf. There is an Anthony Bourdain quality to the show when they dive into the history of race relations in Baltimore, the life of a struggling singer in New Orleans, or the background of a young PGA pro while in Southern California. That’s all missing since Peoria, and especially Bradley University, were largely deserted during the group’s summer visit. They couldn’t explore the locally owned shops and bars. There were no doubt some campus eccentrics or local history experts that they would have spoken to in normal times. They do pull in a couple interesting locals, but both are golfers and more cool guys than personalities unique to Peoria.