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Critical reviews of U.S. TV shows
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April 2017

Posted by The TV Critic on 6 April 2017 | 2 Comments

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I won't rehash all that's wrong with The Walking Dead but season seven continued all the bad trends. It even managed to reach new lows with Jadis and the trash people. Their implausible behaviour was only matched by the stupidity of Rick trusting them.

You can put that all to one side though. The most egregious thing about the whole season was the finale. It was a rehash of the Season 3 ending where nothing was resolved so that the Governor could limp on for another year. The staging of the battle was awful. People with automatic weapons, standing a few feet apart, all failed to hit one another for about ten minutes. To give us this nothing-conclusion after 14 episodes of poor characterisation felt like a real kick in the teeth.

Lets take the story seriously for a moment though. The sensible thing to do at this point would be to flee the DC area? There is no realistic way for the allied communities to survive the coming war. But they could just leave. Surely that would be better than being slowly wiped out?

Sadly though we all know what's coming. Negan was able to move mountains when the show wanted him to seem threatening. Now he will become strangely incompetent and under manned in time for our heroes to triumph. Yawn.

Despite the good reviews I approached The Night Of with suspicion. I don't believe that crime mysteries make for good drama. I'm always waiting for the big reveal of evidence that no one discovered until the last second. The Night Of doubled down on my fears by strongly suggesting that some sort of grand conspiracy was at work. Another of my televisual pet peeves.

However the pilot was compelling. The mystery was intriguing. And the performances were superb. The overall study of how a criminal investigation unfolds and the lives it ruins was strong. But sadly the big reveal did come. Along with implausible behaviour from a key character. It was all a bit annoying and despite the show's good qualities I remain a sceptic of the genre.

Veep was another acclaimed show I sat down to watch with hope. I am a big Seinfeld fan. I liked the West Wing. I love Yes Minister. I studied politics at university. Everything was lined up for me to at least appreciate the show. But I didn't. I've watched the first two seasons and find Veep to be an utter disappointment.

I still don't understand the show's purpose. It completely fails as a comedy. I was tired of people trading petty insults after a couple of episodes. Beyond that the only gags seem to be about putting Selina in a compromising position in front of the media and watching her wriggle out of them. But for those moments to be funny there would need to be

a) stakes - but there never are. Her popularity can rebound based on one comment and plummet just as quickly. So who cares?

b) a clear sense that she'd brought it on her self. But there is no Curb Your Enthusiasm style justice here. Usually she is guilty of only minor gaffes or used as a scapegoat by the President.

c) a clear sense that she was innocent. Which there isn't, she is frequently hubristic and foolish.

c) a Michael Scott style hilarious attempt to clear her name. Which there can't be because she has to remain plausibly competent.

So we are left with monotony. Selina makes a mistake. Selina tries to wipe it away, makes things worse. The episode ends with no clear sense of how much damage has been done or how this will affect the future. Meanwhile her staff get no meaningful characterisation beyond their work lives. In a show like Spin City the private lives of the minor characters was a rich source of comedy but here they just insult each other tediously.

And what is the show's perspective on D.C.? That all politicians are egocentric, incompetents? Great. What witty satire.

Bojack Horseman on the other hand completely won me over by the end of season two. I was very surprised to find an animated comedy that could present actual character development alongside the usual silliness. But by the end of the first season I still wasn't sure. The show nailed a couple of key emotional moments but beyond that what was I left with? It was depressing in tone and wasn't very funny. However I wanted to watch more which was a good sign.

Season two only deepened my appreciation for the show's construction and ambition. Again the emotional moments were nailed with each of the main characters seeking happiness and fulfilment in strangely plausible ways. Bojack almost sleeping with his old friends 17 year old daughter would have led to sooo many problems in a live action show. But in cartoon form we could absorb the ramifications without getting bogged down in the horror.

And I've found the show funnier the longer its gone on. Not because its joke-writing has changed dramatically but simply because I'm enjoying the overall experience more. My guard is down and I'm willing to embrace an Improv-gun-fight because I'm touched by the friendship between Bojack and Todd. It's a lesson a hundred other comedies should learn from. Bring on Season Three.

Finally Legion enjoyed a really strong first season. The show has limitations. Despite early signs that characterisation would be at its core, it isn't. This is a comic book show. It will be all about delaying gratification. David finds love but he can't touch her. David discovers he's not schizophrenic but he does have a mutant living in his brain. They get the mutant out but he jumps into someone else's body. Oliver comes out of his coma but then ends up being possessed. Peace is made with the government but now they must both work together to catch the Shadow King. The season ends but David is kidnapped by a mysterious ufo. 

That's the game. Like an actual comic, the key is to provide constant action and constant yearning for a happy ending. For once I'm not complaining. I enjoyed this cat and mouse game far more than DareDevil. In part because the mindless violence of that show numbs me. While Legion cleverly created chaotic worlds inside character's minds or on the Astral plane to avoid making the real world too messy. I also don't have to worry about how these people can maintain normal lives. Because they don't, they are a super hero team living outside society. 

What we were left with was a very creatively directed show with drama and moments of humour. A very small amount of plot filled 8 episodes easily leaving plenty of room for expansion in future seasons. As long as the direction and acting remain strong I will keep watching. Slip in a little more emotion and I'll be pretty happy. 


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  • Funny thing about Bojack Horseman. I was very much underwhelmed after watching the first 5 episodes or so. But for some reason, after a while I came back an gave it another chance. Certain moments stood out enough to come to me during everyday life for me to think that there was more to it than I first realised.
    "It gets easier... but you have to do it everyday" he is told as he starts trying to get into shape. Wise words, delivered at the end of an episode when Bojack was trying to turn his life around. That sort of thing.
    It has an understated tone sometimes that takes a little while to sink in. The end of season 2 is devastating. He can't help himself from ruining this one good thing... he can't help it. He is weak, liable to throw anything away from temptation. So relatable and tragic. He acts as a kind of prism for me, reminding me why I don't always do what I want to in the moment because there is always a bigger picture. And so I sympathise and empathise with Bojack because I understand his temptations, his drive to be loved at all costs, but I am empowered because I may not have his fame and money, but I have some measure of self-discipline, some level of control over my actions... and so, some level of happiness that he can't achieve for any length of time. Bring on season 4!

    I agree that Veep is vapid, where is the satire or heart? A waste of time.

    There are two other shows worth watching that I feel should get mentioned.

    Rik and Morty is a tour de force with regards to sci-fi, but it also has that heart that Bojack has. More of a comedy than Bojack, and more explicitly philosophical, it will similarly come back and pop into your head as you live your life. Like truly great sci-fi it reflects our mundane lives back at us, while teaching us about how nihilism can actually be empowering. Season 3 premiered the other day and the rest of the season will follow soon.

    It's always sunny in Philadelphia finished with such a strong finale to season 12 that I'm interested to see what next step the show can take. It was bold enough to actually have its characters change, without the silliness of the episodic comedy suffering. I'm looking forward to seeing it continue and I think season 13 has already begun.





    Posted by The G Man, 06/04/2017 4:36pm (23 days ago)

  • I didn't watch TWD this season, but i kept current with reviews and plot details.

    It just seems like TWD has turned into Game of Thrones, back in the early season we had 1 survivor camp and we saw them react/adjust to new people in a focussed fashion. Season 3 alternated between two camps, but I think the total is like 5 or 6 now?

    From reading Fluids and Aaronic's reviews, it seems that season 7 never hit the highs of the show's best episodes and didn't fall into the lowest of the low (The Same Boat).

    Gonna get my AMC fix from my good friend Saul I think.

    Posted by Ben F., 06/04/2017 1:10pm (24 days ago)

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