Some TV shows I’ve recently watched

Like many others, the pandemic and sheltering in place has left me with more than the usual amount of spare time. Mostly I’ve been catching up on some reading (making some decent inroads into my shelf of shame), but it’s also given me some time to watch some of the many new(ish) TV series while they’re still pretty fresh – usually I’m years behind on this kind of stuff. For example, I only watched The Wire about a good decade after the first season was aired. (The last few major series I watched somewhat close to their original release times were the Sopranos, Mad Men and Galactica– and I still haven’t seen the last seasons of the latter two).

So I finally decided to take advantage of the pretty extensive IPTV package we pay for with our internet and land-line, which includes HBO on Demand – basically the equivalent of HBO Max over in my corner of the world. Besides Watchmen, which I covered in greater depth a few weeks ago, here are my thoughts on a few other series I’ve watched over the past few months:

Avenue 5

*heavy sigh* I really wanted to like this, but mostly it’s been kind of oddly disappointing. It’s really got a lot going for it, though. The basic premise – an interplanetary cruise ship that gets knocked off course slightly, so it’ll take 3 years instead of 8 weeks to get back home – is pretty solidly funny. The cast – including Hugh Laurie, Josh Gad, Suzy Nakamura and Zach Woods – is top notch. And there are so many funny bits in each episode. But as a whole, they never really seem to gel for me. If the second season ever gets released, though, I may still watch it in the hopes that it’ll get better.

Barry

I saw this getting recommended all over the place, so I gave it a watch. On the whole, I can’t say I liked it very much. Granted, a show about a killer for hire (the titular Barry, played by Bill Hader) decides he wants to make a career switch to acting after a (botched) assignment in LA, is kind of darkly humorous. And I liked the first few episodes well enough. But after a while I found it a bit of struggle to sit through them (although I did soldier on to the end because so far there are only two eight-episode seasons). To some extent, I just found it hard to stay interested in a series in which the protagonist is a blithely remorseless killer, but there’s also some individual aspects that made me say, “Wha, huh?” (e.g., the romance between Henry Winkler’s character and the police detective, the occasional strokes of good fortune that Barry has that keep him from getting completely busted, or the little ninja girl in the second season). A third season is apparently in the works, but I doubt I’ll be watching it.

Doom Patrol

Damn, I so loved the first season, but I’m not as enamored with the second (which is currently stalled at the ninth episode). Although every single episode is extremely well made and compelling, the last few have left me vaguely dissatisfied – mainly I think I just want the show to move on from the various members of the team dealing with their personal problems and start interacting more with the wider world (so far, only Cyborg seems to be doing that to some extent). Also, the story arc involving the Chief and his daughter made less and less sense to me as the second season progressed. Hopefully that’s something that gets resolved/explained satisfactorily in the coming episodes, whenever they may appear.

Stargirl

Great fun. It’s kind of like My So-called Life (probably the only teen angst show I’ve ever liked) but with superpowers. Yeah, it’s not very original, there are some clichéd aspects to the storytelling, but I found the series thoroughly enjoyable. It’s mostly light-hearted, but also has it’s serious moments. The casting is great, especially Luke Wilson as a middle-aged Pat Dugan/Stripesy (er, sorry, I mean S.T.R.I.P.E.), and, of course, the very bubbly and likeable Brec Bassinger as Courtney/Stargirl.

 

Lovecraft Country

It’s still ongoing, with seven of the ten episodes released so far, but I just had to mention it because it really lives up to the hype: the horror is genuinely horrifying and unsettling, and the treatment of underlying themes (especially racism in America) is equally unsettling and thought-provoking. And it’s so damned good!

6 Comments

  1. You absolutely need to get through the end of Mad Men, sir! That way you can marvel at how awesome the Funko POP of Peggy Olsen is!

    And I’m looking forward to eventually seeing Lovecraft Country. I actually read the book it’s based on and it’s fantastic, so it’s good to hear that the adaptation is also very good.

  2. jccalhoun

    Doom Patrol kind of fell into a pattern where they spend the episode wallowing in the character’s past and like 10 minutes on the overall villain’s plot. It didn’t help that I hated Dorothy Spinner in the comics so her presence in the tv show had me biased against it.

    I’m enjoying Lovecraft Country but most of the changes from the book have not been for the better in my opinion. I haven’t watched the latest episode yet but it seems to be quite different from the book and the Korean War stuff is all new.

    1. Edo Bosnar

      On Doom Patrol, yeah, the constant trips down memory lane for the various characters seems to have become a bit of a storytelling crutch. As for Dorothy, I don’t mind the character as such (I’ve never read the comics in which she appeared), but there are aspects of her backstory in the show – and the Chief’s for that matter – that, like I said, are straining the patience of inner geek (the one that keeps asking things like ‘where the hell was her mother this whole time?’)

      On Lovecraft Country, I haven’t read the book (yet – I kind of want to now), so I don’t have anything to compare it to. I think it’s just a fantastically well-made show at pretty much every level.

  3. mike loughlin

    To each his own, but Barry is one of my favorite shows. I love dark humor, and Bill Hader brings a good deal of humanity to his messed-up-killer title character. The supporting cast is great, too.

    I liked Stargirl, mostly due to the cast and the novelty of seeing JSA characters on-screen. As with most CW super-hero shows, the dialogue and plotting can be seriously wonky, but I’ll probably keep watching. Here’s hoping it’s more consistently enjoyable than Flash. I think hitting the absurd heights of Legends of Tomorrow is too much to ask.

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