14 thoughts on “TV Show Thread (2018-)

  1. Stranger Things (season 2)
    67/100

    This wasn’t as good as the first season, in my view, although I wasn’t always giving the episodes my fullest attention.

    Dirty Money, episode 6, “The Confidence Man” (2018)

    This is about Donald Trump, focusing on his business acumen, business, including very sketchy associations. What the episode reveals is that Trump really isn’t a good business man at all, but someone who is and has been great at creating the impression that he’s a successful businessman. One newer revelation for me is the degree to which The Apprentice was a big boost to this image.

    Also, based on the film (which draws on other reporting that I’ve encountered elsewhere), here’s an outline of Trump’s business career:

    1. With the help of his father, Trump starts off as a developer and has one or two successful building projects. Trump uses media skillfully to promote himself.

    2. Banks are willing to lend him money, and he expands–trying to start a casino in Atlantic City, buying an airlines, a USFL football team, among other things. He doesn’t know what he’s really doing and these businesses fall a part. He can’t pay back loans, and has to declare bankruptcy. This roughly occurs in the 1990s.

    3. He starts getting back on his feet by licensing his name to buildings, and he starts getting involved with shadier characters–corrupt oligarchs or people with ties to organized crime. Reporting has revealed these things, but I almost get the sense that there’s more disturbing things we don’t know about.

    4. The TV show, The Apprentice creates the image that he’s a successful business executive. The episode shows that this is dubious claim–or at least provides information that should cause one to question the claim. The underlying premise in the episode is that Trump is a con man, and I personally think that’s accurate.

    5. He runs for POTUS, but never thinks he has a serious chance of winning. He’s doing it to boost his brand, make business deals–basically, it’s a publicity stunt and attempt to enirch himself. That’s what it seems like, anyway.

  2. Dark (season 1, on Netflix)

    I think I read someone describe this as a German version of Stranger Things, and as a broad description, I’d say that’s fairly accurate. One difference is that this series doesn’t push nostalgia and attempts at paying hommage to directors. The one film that it made me think of was Donnie Darko, for a variety of reasons. If you liked that film and Stranger Things, I think there’s a good chance you’d like this. For me, personally, I would say both are a similar quality 66-70/100).

    One warning, though: This is the first of at least two seasons.

  3. Mind Hunter (2018, season 1)
    Created by Joe Penhall
    70/100

    I’m burnt out on serial killers, which is one the main reasons I didn’t watch this, even though it got good buzz. But I finally decided to give it a chance. The first episode begins with an FBI hostage negotiator arriving to deal with a hostage situation, and I was pretty hooked. I got even more interested by the premise–specifically, the young hostage agent’s realization that the FBI needs to understand criminal psychology a lot better and part of this should involve interviewing violent criminals, especially those who don’t commit violent acts for conventional reasons. The series is partly chronicles the development of an innovative approach to dealing with crime.

    The series also functions somewhat like a traditional TV show, in that, some episodes deal with specific crimes in different areas, as well as different criminals that the agents interview.

    The filmmaking is also noteworthy. David Fincher directs the first episode, and the subsequent episodes fit his style, which I really liked in this.

  4. Manhunt: the Unabomber (2017)

    I only have two more episodes to go, but I’m writing some comments now because I may never finish. The weird thing is that the details of how the FBI caught the Kaczynski is interesting and the show runners present this in an entertaining fashion. Still, for whatever reason, I’ve been losing desire to complete this.

    I suspect one of the main reasons for this is the casting of Sam Worthington in the lead role. Besides Ryan O’Neal, I don’t think there’s another lead actor that I like less than Sam Worthington. You know how great movie stars have a kind of charisma that draws audiences to them, makes them care about the actor? Worthington almost as a the negative version of this–a kind of anti-charisma. It’s not that you hate him, but you just don’t care about him at all. He’s bland and cardboard–but in a way that isn’t passive; it’s like a negative force. I don’t know, maybe that’s not the reason, but there’s a good chance I’m not finishing the series.

  5. Hap and Leonard (Netflix)

    White guy black guy, pulp buddy series. Two middle-aged Texas dudes, formidable with their fists and guns, getting into different scrapes and adventures. A perfect vehicle for Tarantino, although maybe it’s too obvious. I’ve only seen two episodes, and while I liked the two lead initially, I’m not sure how long I’ll stick with this.

  6. Homecoming (Season 1)

    This is an Amazon TV series, where each episode is about 30 minutes. It started off well, but lost a little steam for me. Two things stand out:

    1. The filmmaking. This might be one of best cinematic TV shows I’ve seen–or at least I can’t think of many off the top of my head.

    2. Julia Roberts’s bangs. I had a friend who claimed that a change in hairstyle took away his emotional connection with a character, a claim that I found hilarious (partly because I could see what he was saying). I don’t know if that was the case here, but Roberts’s hairstyle was distracting. I’m guessing they did this to de-glamorize the character, but I kept thinking about this intention every time I saw her.

  7. This series was based on a fiction podcast by Gimlet media (the company that produces Reply All and Startup, two podcasts we’ve discussed here), and it’s getting really good reviews.

    Did you watch the whole thing? What did you think besides its losing steam?

    Reid, you might like Forever on Prime. It’s better not to know anything about it, but I’d say look at the first 10 minutes of episode 1 to see if it intrigues you. Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph.

    1. Did you watch the whole thing? What did you think besides its losing steam?

      I watched the whole thing. Besides the comments I already made, I thought it was just an OK thriller. But take that with a grain of salt. I feel like I’m going through some phase where I’ve become really jaded and apathetic towards certain films and conventions. In other words, if I’m less than enthused or critical of a film, the problem may be more with me than the film.

      Reid, you might like Forever on Prime. It’s better not to know anything about it, but I’d say look at the first 10 minutes of episode 1 to see if it intrigues you. Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph.

      You recommended this to me before, right? I watched an episode because of this recommendation.

      1. Oh, I did? If you didn’t hate it, look at the next episode, then decide if you want to watch it or not. I’m serious.

        1. I think it was you. Or maybe it was someone else.

          “Hate” is too strong, but both characters turned me off. In any event, since you feel so strongly, I’ll give the second episode another try.

        2. Wow, really. I thought the characters would appeal to you, especially the dialogues they have about (for example) the best kind of pie, or whatever.

          I’m beginning to think you and I have completely different ideas about creativity, because I was sucked in from those first ten minutes. I knew I was seeing something I’d never seen before on television. Or maybe you’re right, and you’re really just through with television. I can see that. I mean, you might stage the most creative Black Swan ever and I wouldn’t really care because I don’t like ballet.

          1. Wow, really. I thought the characters would appeal to you, especially the dialogues they have about (for example) the best kind of pie, or whatever.

            The characters weren’t very likable to me, and the dialogue didn’t really stand out–not as something really original and creative.

            I knew I was seeing something I’d never seen before on television.

            Can you recall specifics about what was so unique?

          2. I can’t say exactly what was the most creative because it would detract from the experience, if you should ever get to episode 3. Even telling you why I can’t tell you would be deleterious to a person’s viewing experience. And you know I’m not hypervigilant about spoilers.

            But in the first episode, which you’ve already seen, I’d point first to the opening montage, a continuous side-scrolling, no-dialogue summary of how these two characters got to where we they are when we first get to know them. It’s the kind of thing you might see in a movie (as in Up), but certainly never in a program broadcast on television. I guess it’s the kind of thing you might see in Seinfeld or MASH, but this specific way of expositing is not something I’ve seen.

            How would these two characters get together? Neither is particularly attractive (some might disagree, of course) or particularly interesting on the surface. The conversations they have establish them as smart, charming, playful, and something else I can’t really put a finger on. Of course, none of this is new. Revealing characters through their conversations is just writing.

            But there’s something else. I like the way Fred Armisen’s character seems like he’d be the same person, with the same interactions, whoever he’d be with, even if he were living alone. He seems like he’d be pretty close to fine living by himself. But Rudolph’s character is different. I don’t doubt she loves her husband. But she gave something up in favor of love. It’s some of Rudolph’s best acting.

            It didn’t work for you, so I get why you didn’t respond the way I did. When it was all over, I looked back and had a personal crisis. I mean, I was already kind of in the midst of a crisis anyway, but this really brought it to a boil. How the heck do you write like this? It makes me wonder (and don’t ask me about this because I don’t want to talk about it beyond what I’m about to say) if I’m that ball player who looks great hitting fastballs but simply cannot put a curveball into play. It doesn’t matter if you can smack a fastball like Barry Bonds; if you can’t hit a curve, you can’t play in the majors.

            But yeah. I guess you’re right that something’s being difficult to produce doesn’t make it good. I think it’s very good, though!

  8. The Ballad of Buster Skruggs

    This is Western/Cowboy series of vignettes by the Coen Brothers. To describe the series, I think of Thomas Hobbes’s description of life outside of organization society–namely, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” I’m not sure if the Coen’s wanted to comment specifically about human existence outside of civilized society, but the vignettes may be able to support this reading. In any event, I think “brutish” is the word that sticks out the most to me. Most of the stories made me think of the contrast between life in the Wild West compared to my life now–specifically, the discomfort and even sense of solitude one would experience without modern conveniences. But above all of this, death looms largest in this series–something more brutal and harsh. Indeed, most of the vignettes are not stories so much as meditations on death–the different circumstances and ways in which we deal with death.

    Are they well done? Like other omnibus movies, I think the vignettes are hit and miss. (Has there ever been an omnibus movie where every story is good?) Having said that, I feel like the stories should be taken collectively, as one big meditation on death.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *