Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Dean's Fall Cable + Streaming TV Preview

Welcome back to another series of Fall TV thoughts--now in its fourteenth year.

It feels like things are off to a very, very late start this year . . . and that feeling is almost certainly 100 % correct. But--well--I can't do anything about that because all of the Time Turners were destroyed in the Department of Mysteries back in 1996.

So, we just have to move on the best we can. And the best way to begin to stop the grieving process is to rely on my friend and reliable guest blogger Dean. He has put in the work and has kindly provided me with the start of this season's Fall TV Previews, focusing on Cable and Steaming shows. Please ignore the fact that almost all of this has already begun and the word Preview is being used as a sort of brand convention rather than as an actual descriptor of timeliness. --David

There’s a lot of TV so here’s the deal.

I’m not listing most of the streaming shows because there are a billion of them and streaming shows are ultimately pretty disposable because everyone watches them at a different pace and it’s impossible to talk about them with other people.

I also won’t mention late night shows because, my God people, how many of these shows can you people watch? *Stares seriously at camera* Trump is bad. *Everyone cheers*

Also . . . reality shows won’t be listed here, as they are not my particular cup of tea. Finally, most of these have already started airing so this is too late to be useful to you. Sorry. [Don't worry Dean, I've already apologized for you.--DTM]

Venture Brothers Adult Swim (Currently Airing) As we all remember, last season on the Venture Brothers…uh…Brock Sampson…uh does something. OK--wait . . . the Monarch and Doctor…Girlfriend? No, wait, Mrs. Doctor Girlfriend? Mrs. Doctor Wife? Crap! I have no idea what happened. It was so long ago. This show is never on, but now it’s back! One of the characters is named Dean which is great!

Better Call Saul AMC (Currently Airing) When Jimmy finally goes full Saul it will break my heart. If you liked Breaking Bad you have no excuse not to watch this. If you didn’t like Breaking Bad because of the violence, this show is much less violent so you have no excuse! Plus this show is better than Breaking Bad either way. [I love this show and one of the main reasons why is because it is universally praised and it CONSISTENTLY features almost fifteen minutes of silence per episode. The script writing for this show must be a fucking BREEZE.--DTM]

Wrecked TBS (Currently Airing) The first season of this “Lost but a comedy series” was really good and I think you’ll like it. This is the best TBS comedy since My Boys. (That may not be true, I just wanted to plug My Boys and demand more work for Jordana Spiro.) [Please also try to find room in your heart--and space on your DVR--for the other TBS show "Search Party." Season 2 of SP was good, I promise!--DTM]

Ballers HBO (Currently Airing) Do you wish Entourage was still on but starred the Rock? Well, I have some good news for you!

Insecure HBO (Currently Airing) Everyone says this show is great but I have to take their word for it as I did not have HBO when the previous seasons of this show aired.

Crime + Punishment Netflix (Available for Streaming) I love this novel--so why not watch this?
. . . *actually checks listing*
OK, so this is, in fact, an award-winning documentary about corrupt and racist NYPD cops--not the seminal novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky? Please, Netflix, greenlight a Dostoyevsky series! You’re throwing money away not airing the Brothers Karamazov. It could be the next Downton Abbey!

Ozark Netflix (Available for Streaming) Jordana Spiro is in this and no one told me. I hate my friends.

Jack Ryan Amazon (Available for Streaming) Fact: John Krasinski is the best actor to have ever played the role of Jack Ryan.

Mayans M.C. FX (Currently Airing) I would like Kurt Sutter-helmed shows more if there was someone around to tell him no. An hour of Kurt Sutter per week is fine. Two hours of Kurt Sutter per week is too much. Unsurprisingly, Sutter's wife shows up in the first episode. (Katey Sagal is great so this is not a complaint.)

The Purge USA (Currently Airing) If I could do crime one night a year it would definitely not be murder. I felt bad about ripping tags off of mattresses for like a year, so no murder for me. I would probably just jaywalk a lot.

Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia FXX (Currently Airing) Despite Glenn Howerton’s commitments on AP Bio he has made time to join the gang as they drag every person they encounter down to their level.

Iron Fist Netflix (Available for Streaming) You can’t make me watch this. [Don't worry. I'll keep you well informed . . . as soon as I get around to finishing it.--DTM]

FLCL Alternative Adult Swim (Currently Airing) The horn is a metaphor for obviousness.

The Deuce HBO (Currently Airing) If you watch this and you have children, just be warned that they will come down at the worst possible moment and you will pause the TV at the worst possible second.

Kidding Showtime (Currently Airing) Jim Carrey should work on his painting because I have no use for him as an actor. [Look, I'm not here to try and convince you the Jim Carrey is Olivier or Brando. But Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Truman Show are really good movies. Maybe that is despite Jim Carrey. But I don't think people would have paid attention to them otherwise. And the world is better with these entertainments in it. Is the world better for having Kidding in it also? Still too early to say, but I am watching. My only direct criticism so far is the overreliance on sexuality in a few spots. But that is, I suppose, the price of doing business on premium cable.--DTM]

Shameless Showtime (Currently Airing) How is this show still going on? This is the Simpsons of prestige cable dramedies.

American Horror Story: Apocalypse FX (Currently Airing) Ryan Murphy takes on Marvel’s greatest villain. [That's an AHS I would consider watching. Otherwise, nope.--DTM]

Snatch Crackle (Currently Airing) Did you know there was a TV version of Guy Ritchie’s film Snatch? I did not. I also don’t know what Crackle is so good luck finding the 2nd season of this show.

American Vandal Netflix (Available for Streaming) If you liked Serial, you’ll love this spoof of Serial that is somehow also an incisive look at the ethics of these kinds of podcasts. [I am VERY excited to begin watching AV s2 very soon!--DTM]

BoJack Horseman Netflix (Available for Streaming) I do not like this show but am also happy that Will Arnett finally has a successful leading role.

Norm Macdonald Has a Show Netflix (Available for Streaming) Norm Macdonald hosts a talk show where he doesn’t talk about current events. To demonstrate why he wouldn’t talk about current events, he immediately offended everyone with his #MeToo comments and then his apology made things worse. There is no doubt that he did it on purpose. [I have never had any time for Macdonald's style of humor or his point of view. And I don't even know the particulars of this latest SNAFU.--DTM]

The Good Cop Netflix (Available for Streaming) I’m only mentioning this show because my SEO advisor says a mention of Josh Groban will get at least one more click than otherwise would have been the case. Tony Danza is there too.

Maniac Netflix (Available for Streaming) Cary Fukunaga is a fantastic director and Emma Stone is a fantastic actress so this should be good! (Jonah Hill is also there.) [This is one of the reasons why I haven't finished Luke Cage, Iron Fist, or started American Vandal. So far I have enjoyed the first two episodes. But someone remind me who Fukunaga is. Is he the guy that is going to be directing the next series of Bond movies? He's NOT the same guy who directs Atlanta, right? Why am I getting this mixed up.--DTM]

Mr. Inbetween FX (September 25th) I know nothing about this show but I watch pretty much anything on FX so I’ll be watching this. This sounds like a cry for help, and to be honest, it probably is.

South Park Comedy Central (September 26th) Someday someone is going to dig up a past episode of South Park to try and kill Matt and Trey’s career--James Gunn style. And I’m 50/50 on whether that will end up working.

God Friended Me CBS (September 30th) I’m crowding in on David’s turf just to say this is the worst named show since Selfie. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this show will not be as good as Selfie was. [Hold on . . . first, now you're just forcing me to have to evaluate this likely terrible show when I write my own post. Damnit. And secondly . . . was Selfie the show with my beloved Karen Gillan? Because if not, I have no memory of Selfie at all.--DTM] 

Doctor Who BBC America (October 6th) The doctor is . . . a woman!? Really looking forward to all the articles highlighting the same three outraged tweets from accounts with 50 total followers. Never gets old.

Daredevil Netflix (October 19th) Everyone’s favorite visually-impaired superhero is back soothing his Catholic guilt by getting beaten to a pulp before overcoming the odds to save Hells Kitchen yet again. [Well, when you describe it like that . . . --DTM]

DuckTales Disney Channel (October 20th) Woo ooh! [Tried it last year. Pass.--DTM]

The Guest Room TBS (October 23rd) This charming show introduced me to honeyhoney and I really enjoy them. Listen to honeyhoney because they’re great.

Deutschland 86 Sundance TV (October 25th) Deutschland 83 was about a reluctant East German spy struggling to fulfill his duties while slowly embracing life in the West. I assume Deutschland 86 is about that but set 3 years later! (Deutschland 83 was excellent and now that The Americans is over you know you need a good spy show.) [I've not seen Deutschland of any year. But I would recommend Starz Counterpart as a good spy show witha fun sci-fi twist. True . . . I've still not finished watching season one on my DVR. But I KNOW that the J.K. Simmons-led drama is definitely my tempo.--DTM]

House of Cards Netflix (November 2nd) Kevin Spacey is dead now and Princess Buttercup is here to do whatever it is that happens on this show that people in Washington love because they think it flatters them somehow.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs Netflix (November 16th) The Cohen Brothers are making a Netflix show and I couldn’t be happier. Everything they touch is great except for The Ladykillers and Burn After Reading. Those were not good.

Watership Down Netflix (December 25th) Really excited for this show to traumatize a whole new generation of children with fields of blood. [Nothing says Happy Christmas like a bloody, enraged General Woundwort! I'm totally ready for this show! --DTM]

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Football Counter-Programming 2018: Week 4

Welcome back to another weekend of Football Counter-Programming, my seasonal attempt to "disrupt" your social media feeds with non-football content.

This week, I'm talking about the problem with automated cars . . .

If we accept that automated cars are the future, then you have to admit that our relationship with cars and the daily experience of travel must in the future be different. So, in order to get in your car to go to the grocery store, you will need to have a negotiation with your car. Do you know the specific address of the Kroger that you are aiming for? You can't simply get in the car and drive. Those days are over. You need to type in an address--often with a touchscreen keyboard or some other clunky interface. Or if you don't want to do that, you will need to speak to your car to tell it where to go. Given your experience with Siri, do you think that saying Hey Vinnie the Van . . . I want to go to the neighborhood Kroger store. is going to work? We all know that text-to-speech recognition is not very good. It's a very good chance that Vinnie will respond "OKAY. I HAVE FOUND RESULTS FOR WINNIE THE POOH AT THE NIGHTENGALE YOGURT STORE FOR YOU."

If we accept automated cars, then where is the freedom of just getting in a car to . . . go? This takes  the freedom that the car originally gave to us. Now you have willingly enslaved yourself to the robot that tells you what to do. Is this not the opposite of progress?

Progress is often couched in terms of increased efficiency. But if ruthless efficiency is the only goal for which we strive, then where is the spirit of invention? Where is that unplanned moment of chaotic discovery?

Star Trek always portrayed the future of the human race as perfected in such a way to allow everyone the freedom to do whatever they wanted with their own set of unique skills and talents and desires. The automated mobile future that we are aiming for would take a small piece of our individual right to choose to ramble and remove it from our grasp.

My brother used to tell stories about when he would get in his car and just drive around the back roads of our hometown--going nowhere in particular, but finding out how all those nowheres connected to each other and where they returned home again.. I always thought that was an  interesting vision, imagining him driving on the dirt roads of Tift County, headed nowhere in particular. Maybe I’ve not had that same level of adventure in my own life, but robot cars are conspiring to take that away my future improvements.

Until next week, please remember . . . the buses that bring your football team to the stadium might run on natural gas. But that is still not as efficient as solar power.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Football Counter-Programming 2018: Week 3

Call me a dick if you want.
Call me a Quisling. 
Say that I lack commitment.

But . . . this--specifically the gif below--is my default online response about a great deal of the political gotcha posts that I see on social media regarding Trump, any politician, whatever . . .

via Gfycat

Everyone is so desperate to find a way to get Trump out of office. But I think that they are missing the very real fact that any result of removing Trump requires a political will from the Right (and enough bloodthirstiness from the Left) that I just don't see as a reality.

Just think about where we are right now in the United States: we have members within the Administration opening (if anonymously) admitting that they handle Trump like Dudley Dursley. And others are openly speculating about whether there are enough justifiable grounds to Constitutionally remove him from office.

And every time one of these things pops up in the news, we rush to crow about it and to hit the WE GOT HIM button.

But three days later, there he sits and people sit around bewildered and ask, "Didn't we get him this time?"

Again, let me be clear. I don't' like that Trump is president. I think he is spectacularly bad at it and is unquestionably unqualified/unprepared for the job. I think the fact that he IS, in fact, the president is a reflection of a great many of the Worst Tendencies of being An American that just keeps growing and becoming more prominent each year.

But all of that does not mean that I am a willing participant in this social media-driven bitch fest that defines so much of our national conversation. No matter how many posts I throw up on my feed . . .

I asked my friend to make this for me. It is funny.

. . . it won't give Republicans a sense of the Right Thing to Do. And it won't help the Democrats get organized and grow a spine.

And you should, should, SHOULD find ways to do the right thing and to call out what is wrong and to model the best behavior and demand the best from the people that operate in our government. But I guess I'm weary of people thinking social media criticism adds up to the final straw that will break the camels back.

Obviously--and as always--this isn't new and my opinions are adding up to precisely just as much as you paid to read this.

So, go back to your football I guess.

But remember . . . you can post cell phone video of the dumb ass rally for the embattled coach that happened at the stadium. But it won't make the suspension wrap up any quicker.

See you next week.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Football Counter-Programming 2018: Week 2

Welcome back to another week of Football Counter-Programming--my weekly attempt to distract you from the hegemony of college football social media posts.

How do I do that, you may wonder? Usually, it involves opening up my browser and starting to write about whatever crosses my mind. But this week, I had a plan and was all set to write about American politics. But then, on Friday I heard this: "She has a very consistent style that works for her. She's kind of the embodiment of Mom Jeans".

So say the hosts of a podcast that I listened to about Jennifer Garner--who has a new older-person actiony style movie Peppermint out in theaters today. (So say they . . . think a female version of Liam Neeson's Taken.)

So, turning on a dime, I saved that draft post on politics, doctored up the image you see above, and sat down to write about one of my favorite actors of the past thirty years. How favorite? I truly have considered going out this weekend to spend money to watch Peppermint. I have no idea if the movie is any good. In fact, the podcast hosts definitely said that it was NOT good. But even so, I would very much go against type and venture (most likely alone) on opening weekend to see a random movie starring Jennifer Garner presumably righting wrongs Joan Wick-style with fists, kicks, and a bit of artfully placed blood.

To stress again, I have NO IDEA what Peppermint is about. I just know that it hearkens me back to when Jennifer Garner was a young, fresh-faced (if severely cheekboned) actor convincing me that Sydney Bristow could handle the dual worlds of college student and international spy. Alias--in case you are not familiar--was a weekly TV companion of mine. It was my twin J.J. Abrams love, alongside LOST. The plots of the show were bananas much of the time, the feats of spycraft only exceeded by those of Chuck Bartowski and Sarah Walker.

Garner has moved on in her life, to kids, on-again/off-again times with Ben Affleck, Capital One credit card commercials, and whatever else. But I'll likely never fully move on. (Heck, I have seriously considered getting a Rambaldi tattoo--in the correct location, btw. But I haven't done it . . . yet.)

I want Garner to keep making things. I liked Thirteen Going on 30. (Or was it 13 Going on Thirty? Or maybe 13 Going on 30? Well, it definitely wasn't Thirteen Going on Thirty.) I tolerated the non-Netflix Daredevil and even watched some of Elektra. I wasn't too sad when she started playing mom roles as in Juno. If Peppermint helps her pay the bills or maybe helps Ben pay his rehab bills, then good for her. It won't win any Academy Awards--and it won't even have a shot at the now delayed Popular Movie category. But actors gotta act.

So, look for me at the central Ohio movie theaters this weekend with a smile on my face and a fresh tattoo of a fictional Renaissance inventor/mystic. If anyone asks "What's in my wallet?" I'll cheerfully say that it is lighter by approximately $11.50.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Football Counter-Programming 2018: Week 1

It’s time for a new season of Football Counter-Programming: that time of year when I make weekly attempts to distract you from endless social media posts about football with something else of my choosing. 

This week--inspired by a discussion I had at lunch on Friday--I’m asking:

Who is your favorite fictional president?

A few bits of explanation. I want you to focus on actors or actresses who have portrayed a fictional president. That means completely made-up characters who served as the vessels of all that we think is good and right about our American democracy. That does not include actors who have portrayed actual presidents in movies based on historical events. So . . . that eliminates performances such as John Travolta's barely hidden characterization of Bill Clinton in Primary Colors. And it also means that no matter how much you liked Daniel Day-Lewis' portrayal of Abraham Lincoln (in the imaginatively named movie Lincoln), he’s not considered here. 

I’ll give you my top five. Leave a comment arguing for your favorite that I left out. You can search on the Internet for all kinds of lists giving you information and videos and plot summaries of each of these men--and even some women!

But first--an Honorable Mention that I just have to include--

Charlie Sheen's portrayal of President Rathcock in the movie Machete Kills-not because I like Charlie Sheen, or because I’ve seen the movie, or even because I have any idea what Sheen is like as a fictional present, I just like the idea of a president Rathcock--something that would absolutely never happen in actual American politics.

Number Five

How about Morgan Freeman as President Beck in the movie Deep Impact. Definitely a fictional president shaped by catastrophe--as so many fake presidents are. But when the moment arrived, President Beck took advantage of good speech writers and he delivered that inspirational speech that the nation needed to hear. Unfortunately what they heard was that only some select few would survive the asteroid strike in deep caves. But President Beck was honest and forthright about his religious faith in a televised address. That is a plus in my book and something most politicians won’t do in real life.

Number Four

Julia Louis Dreyfus' character Selina Meyer (Veep) is best known for being the almost-president. But she was president briefly on the show, so she gets good consideration here.

Number Three

Harrison Ford is definitely one of the choices. As ridiculous as he is showing President James Marshall fending terrorists off of Air Force One, it’s not as ridiculous as President Camacho in Idiocracy--who is not under consideration, because I haven’t seen that movie and I think that the 2016 election proved that truth can be stranger than fiction.

Number Two 

It might surprise you that I didn't pick Bill Pullman's Independence Day president Thomas Whitmore as the greatest fictional American president. "President Whitmore" may certainly be the greatest presidential orator in any American movie not about Lincoln, however. Whitmore's inspired speech gave courage to the world, enabling everyone to fight against alien invasion. Then he participated in the jet fighter attack against the alien ship. And, finally he convinced a drunk and down-on-his luck Randy Quaid to sacrifice himself for the good of all mankind. That's a presidential trifecta!

Number One

My favorite fictional president is Kevin Kline's Dave Kovic in the movie Dave. Sure, he is technically just a presidential impersonator who is asked to fill in for a comatose President Bill Mitchell (also portrayed by Kline). But Dave has a good, well-meaning heart and after he gets over his misgivings (and starts falling for Sigourney Weaver as a confused and sad First Lady, President Dave is every bit as inspirational as President Bartlett in the NBC show the West Wing. (And since I don't like most of Aaron Sorkin and just want to be contrary and reject Barlett's praise, I go the other way.) Love live President Dave! And long live Dave Kovic who wriggles out of multiple counts of fraud and (probably?) treason to eventually convince the acting Vice President to champion a needed jobs program. Then Dave decides to run for local office--which is how we should all commit to as citizens of this fine country.

So--that's it for this week. Stop watching football and go take a walk.

And, please . . . remember this. It doesn't matter if your starting defense decides to kneel during the national anthem. It was never about the flag anyway.