83 thoughts on “TV Show Thread (2018-)

  1. Stranger Things (season 2)

    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

    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.

    1. Homecoming season 2

      Roberts is not in this one, but some of the same characters appear.

      I realize I never gave a description of the series. Here’s a quick sketch. A chemical company has developed a drug that could possibly help soldiers deal with traumatic combat experiences. In season 1, a psychologist (played by Julia Roberts) runs the program, and she begins learn some disturbing things about the program.

      Season 2 begins with a new character (played by Janelle Monae) waking in a row boat in the middle of the lake. She doesn’t know how she got there. The series does a good job of unraveling the mystery of this.

      I would add the filmmaking (the visuals) are good in this, as they were in season 1. Really, both seasons are actually movies that have been chopped in 30 minute pieces.

      I’m ambivalent about the conclusion to this. On some level, I can understand it, but it’s also dissatisfying as well.

  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.

    1. I’ve been trying to get my hands on this by legally questionable means. I wish I understood Netflix’s practices for getting its original content on DVD. It gets Orange is the New Black on disc usually within a year after it debuts, but Mudbound doesn’t seem to be on schedule yet at all.

      The closest I can think of to a vignette movie being all good is Paris, je t’aime. Oh no wait. There’s In Another Country (the Korean movie with Isabelle Huppert), which only has four pieces. Some are better than the others but none is bad. I think four longer pieces is much easier to make well than, say, ten shorter pieces. And Paris, je t’aime is the better film, even if In Another Country is more consistently good.

      Paris je t’aime: 87% on Rotten Tomatoes, 66 on Metacritic.
      In Another Country: 83% on Rotten Tomatoes, 69 on Metacritic.

      Kind of a push.

  9. I’m about five episodes into Maniac on Netflix. I’d recommend it to Mitchell, and I would recommend knowing as little as possible.

    1. I finally finished this. The resolution wasn’t so good. I must say that that the humor didn’t really work for me. For what it’s worth, it wouldn’t surprise me if Mitchell would really like this.

  10. I started Russian Doll. Like Maniac and Happy!, i would recommend knowing little or nothing before watching these three series. (I haven’t finished Happy, by the way; I haven’t been in the mood.)

    With Russian Doll, I’ll say a few things. First, I almost gave up after the first episode. Similar to Forever, I didn’t like the main character. But each episode got more interesting. I’m about half way (4 out of 8 episodes), and I want to see how this ends. One more thing: This is one of those series were the idea and initial fleshing out of the idea show great promise, but one feels like the chances of a satisfying ending isn’t that high.

  11. Love Hate + Robots

    Remember Heavy Metal the magazine and movie? This Netflix series is basically that. Many of the episodes, about 10-20 minutes long, are animated, with different animators doing each episode. After the first episode I thought to describe it as Heavy Metal+Twilight Zone, but now I’m wondering if Heavy Metals stories often did have a Twilight Zone vibe. Not really having read the magazine all that much, I’m not sure. Anyway, the episodes I’ve seen so far are pretty good. I’m pretty sure fans of Heavy Metal will like this.

  12. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (BBC mini-series)

    I think the relatively recent movie adaptation is superior, although I preferred the casting of Sir. Alec Guiness as George Smiley, as well as Michael Jayson as Peter Guilliam in the TV mini-series. This casting is the thing I liked the most. The overall series seemed a little drab and flat, which isn’t too surprising. In a way, the book isn’t well-suited for TV or film, which makes the recent film version a little more impressive in my opinion. (I’m inspired to watch it again to see if it was as good as I remember.)

  13. Mandalorian

    I think this could have been significantly better if one tweak were made–namely, less dialogue from the titular character. While he wasn’t talkative, he should have been more laconic. In my view, his character was in a similar mode as the Snake Eyes character from G.I. Joe or Peace character from the old movie, Wizards.

    The plots for some of the episodes had potential, but the overall execution and results weren’t very satisfying.

    Still, the series was mildly entertaining.

    1. I’m using the free trial. I’m going to cancel at the end of it.

      I don’t know of any ways to watch the series. Is this for your son, or you?

      1. Hopefully you will have Disney plus until April 3rd (?) or somewhere around there so you can watch “Onward”.

    2. Mandolorian (season 2)

      For some reason I enjoyed the second season more than the first. I guess I liked the self-contained (action/adventure) stories in each episode.

  14. Tales from the Loop (2020)

    This is based on a book and apparently a video game. I would describe this as a combination of Winesburg, Ohio and Twilight Zone, leaning more toward the former. I’ve watched several episodes so far. They’re OK, not great. They’re good enough that I’ll continue watching more.

    1. Maybe I’m missing something, but the series overall underwhelmed me–to the point where I’d give this a “meh.” Ultimately, the stories just didn’t have enough umph–and by “umph” I mean gravitas and profundity that each story seemed to want to have.

      Let me back up. I heard one reviewer say something like, the series is very deliberate (read: slow), which is not bad, but is there a point to it all? I can see what they mean. The stories really do take their time–in a way where I’m thinking actors would really like this. To wit, when the plotting is slower, then the actors have more space…Well, that’s one possibility, anyway. But this approach–and the acting–didn’t have that oomph I mentioned earlier. By the way end of the episodes I had the feeling of, “is that it?”

      The stories are kinda a simple and obvious–maybe if the acting or the cinematic elements were outstanding the former would have been totally fine. But that wasn’t the case for me.

      Now, having said that, I didn’t really spend any time contemplating and analyzing the episodes, so it’s possible I’m missing a lot. I will say that I’m not sensing there is more underneath the surface, and I have no motivation to confirm this or not.

  15. Giri/Haji

    A Japanese detective is sent to London to get his yakuza brother, who assassinated a relative of a rival gang member. The detective, sent to prevent an all-out war in Japan, is helped by a female London police officer and a hapa, gay prostitute.

    About half way through it was mildy entertaining, but I’m close to giving up on it because of a ridiculous plot development. Kelly MacDonald plays the role of the London police officer. I usually like her, especially the way she expresses this innocent, worried and uncertain look. But here it started to annoy me. I don’t really care for the casting as well, except for the male prostitute.

    1. I actually finished this–and I’m not sure why. Below are some of things that broke my suspension of disbelief (spoilers):

      1. The thing that was a close to a knockout blow was the detective’s wife and mother attempting to go in rescue a yakuza’s daughter and her baby (the baby being the nephew/grandson of the detective’s wife and mother). Seriously? (And they succeed! Of course.)

      I actually don’t think naming the other problems is worth it, so I’ll end here….Well, I will say one other thing. There’s a kinda weird, modern dance sequence near the end, that seemed silly at first, but as it went on, I liked it. Indeed, that might have been the best part of the entire series, and I’m not sure it completely fit in with the series, as it’s so different tonally.

  16. I recently watched some episodes of David Chang’s Netflix show, Ugly Delicious. I watched some episodes before, but I was kinda turned off by the swearing. It’s weird because I don’t know have a problem with swearing in fictionalized films. The best explanation I have is that when I watch the show it’s like I’m hanging out with the hosts, and I don’t think I’d feel comfortable hanging around him. I must say also that Chang can be kind of a jerk or say inappropriate things. In terms of personality. I prefer Roy Choi and Jon Favreau, on their The Chef Show, on Netflix. (Choi swears, too, but not as much as Chang.)

  17. The Outsider (2020)
    based on a Stephen King novel, adapted for HBO by Richard Price
    Starring: Cynthia Erivo, Ben Mendelsohn, Bill Camp, Mare Winningham, etc.

    The series really entertained me–a very satisfying diversion (which is actually meant as high praise). I thought of Grace and Penny a lot while watching this, as I could see both liking this quite a bit. Overall, I found this more satisfying than HBO’s first season of True Detective. That series started off so strong for me–if we just went by that, I would say it’s superior to this series. But it took a really bad turn at one point, and just went downhill from there. There weren’t any moments like that, not any major problems anyway. There’s one or two other really good things that I loved about this, but I’ll talk about that more in the next sections.

    If I had to a vague description I would say it’s a detective movie, a mystery and a police procedural.

    Richard Price’s Holly Gibney, brought to life by Cynthis Erivo, is one of the all-time great characters, especially within this genre. She’s up there with Frances McDormand’s/Coens’ Marge Gundersund in my book. If the series was up for an Oscar, Erivo would be deserving of the award. Man, I really loved her character, and I hope I get to see her in some other films.

    I also really liked Ben Mendelsohn’s character and acting, but I must say this was eclipsed by my feelings for Gibney (Eviro). I wouldn’t mind seeing him reprise his role as well.

    The cast, overall, was good, if not very good.

    I wanted to mention a few challenges the film had, and how it dealt with these challenges:

    1. The characters initially are not considering the supernatural. They’re behaving the way normal police investigators would be (or what I would consider realistic behavior). But as a viewer, I already knew or suspected that something supernatural was at work. I think that might have taken a tad away from my experience. In contrast, it would have been more satisfying if I went through the investigation like the characters–that is, more based in reality and not so open, or expecting the supernatural. I knew about the supernatural element before starting the series, but even if I didn’t, knowing this was based on a Stephen King novel, would have made me open to the possibility at least.

    2. The way the characters gradually accept the supernatural was a rather important aspect of the story. The film just handled this OK, maybe a little better than that, perhaps. I know the Ralph character struggles with this, but the transition for him, and some of the others, wasn’t fully satisfying for me. Also, Holly’s path, specifically what brings her over, was a little disappointing. I’m thinking of her meeting with the older Cuban lady and the conversation they have. This may be one of the weaker points in the miniseries for me.

    1. Where did you watch it? I had free HBO for like a weekend and I saw like the first four episodes. When you have the pay channels, you can watch on demand for free. The next time HBO was free, when I went on demand, episodes 5-7 was missing. So I didn’t watch it, because I didn’t want to start back on 8.

      I liked what I watched so far, but I wouldn’t have thought you would. The story was starting to move into being ridiculous, I thought, but maybe it would shift back to be good.

    2. I’m watching it on HBO Now–the 7-day free trial.

      The Holly Gibney character, and to a lesser degree the Ralph Anderson character, are the big reasons I’m liking this. Also, going in I new a little about this, including that this was based on a Stephen King novel, so I was prepared to accept a little more.

      What parts or aspects did you think would turn me off?

      By the way, I’m watching Chernobyl right now. I have a feeling you would like that. In any event, I think it’s terrific so far.

    3. Don,

      I asked you what you thought would be ridiculous to me. Was it some of the problems I mentioned below (spoilers for those who haven’t seen any of the series):

      1. What makes Holly suspect the interaction between some of the people–including getting a cut in the process–was really significant? In the real world, I don’t think anyone would suspect that this was significant. Then again, we faced similar circumstances in the real world, maybe we would be more open to this?

      I think the miniseries might have been stronger if they showed the Ralph or Holly exhausting other possible explanations. Then it would make more sense if they became open to something more incredible or even supernatural.

      Additionally, I don’t think the series really show how Holly’s unique abilities enabled her to arrive at the conclusions she did. She follows certain connections, but it’s not clear how her abilities contributed to this.

      2. Meeting the old Cuban woman and hearing about El Cuco was kinda lame. Ridiculous to some degree, but not very original also. Knowing this is a Stephen King story, my mind allowed for the supernatural, but the situation and use of the boogeyman trope was a bit disappointing.

  18. Mitchell,

    Shoot, sorry, I think I accidentally erased your post. What the heck? Anyway, here’s my response:

    I’m pretty sure it’s called HBO Now. I’m guessing it’s like an on-demand streaming site for HBO shows and films airing on the channel. I’m not sure, though.

    I’m liking it so far–but that’s because I’m watching TV shows I’ve been wanting to see. Watchmen and Westworld are probably the next two that interest me. But if I don’t watch anything else (I just finished Chernobyl which was terrific.), I’ll be satisfied.

    1. I deleted it because I remembered that HBO Max doesn’t launch until next weekend. HBO Now will continue for a while but it’s eventually going to fold into HBO Max, is my guess.

      I originally commented because I thought it weird that HBO Now is still offering promo deals when the media blitz for the past two weeks has all been HBO Max.

  19. Chernobyl (2019, HBO miniseries)
    Dir. Johan Renck (written by Craig Mazin)

    If someone said this docudrama about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster was among the greatest disaster movies of all time, I would not have strong objections. This is not only a terrific disaster movie thriller, but it also have a mystery sub-plot, revolving on what caused the disaster, and a political film about the importance of truth and facts.

    For whatever reason, I never really had a lot of interest in seeing this. However, so many of the people I respect on twitter raved about this series; the consensus and praise was really strong. But even with this praise, I was reluctant because I thought it would be too depressing. (Thankfully, it wasn’t, at least not overwhelmingly so.)

    More information that’s not full-blown spoilers, for those who are interested in knowing more:

    The film works as a disaster movie/thriller in that it shows the disaster unfolding and then the efforts to get the reactor under control. That’s one major story line. The series mainly follows a bureaucrat (Stellan Skarsgard) and a scientist (Jared Harris), as they struggle to find ways to stop the danger–and there are a myriad of tough challenges they have to solve.

    There’s also a mystery we learn about early on–namely, the reactor seems to have exploded, but all the scientists believe this is impossible. So what happened? One scientist, played by Emily Watson, goes in search of the answer, mainly interviewing the scientists who were at the reactor, but are at a hospital.

    The series also goes over the devastation and harm caused by the explosion, and it does a good job of explaining things in an accessible way (although the final explanation of the explosion was a little confusing for me).

    By the way, the show is very timely–specifically, to the pandemic. One takeaway or lesson from this: governments should really care about the truth, especially when it comes to disaster or events that can cause great damage to the people. The government needs good, accurate information in these situations, and there’s a huge price that people will pay if they don’t get this.

  20. Westworld

    I watched the first two episodes of season 1. I don’t think I’m going to have time to watch much more of this. I think I would have been more enthused about this series, if I didn’t hear lukewarm reactions to the second and third seasons.

  21. I’ve watched three Japanese TV shows, two of which are anime so far during the quarantine. The first is called “Silver and Gold” and it’s not an anime, but it’s based on a manga called Gin to Kin. There are 12 half hour episodes, which makes it lacking in character development. There are other problems as well, but it could just be that’s how Japanese TV is. That being said, I really enjoyed it. It basically series of cons, some of which were pretty clever, or at least I thought so.

    The next was an anime called “Last Hero Inuyashiki”. This anime has 11 half hour episodes. It’s pretty violent as some anime may be, but I would say there were definitely some pretty intense parts. I really enjoyed this as well.

    The last anime is called “My Hero Academia”. It’s a pretty generic story of superheroes and their powers. I wouldn’t doubt if it’s loosely based on X-Men and the school which has all these different superheroes. I believe the series is still on and there are almost 90 episodes (maybe more actually) and I’m only on like 25. Some episodes are super fun, and some are really slow, but based on my limited viewing of anime that has a lot of episodes, that seems to be par for the course.

    1. My Hero Academia is super popular with the anime geeks I know. What platform are you watching these on?

      1. I watch it on Crunchroll. It’s free but there are commercials. Just about the same amount of commercials as network TV. So a 22 minute show would take about half hour.

      1. “My Hero Academia” is definitely kid-friendly. There are some breast jokes every fifth episode, though. That is kid-friendly to Japanese I guess, because breast jokes are pretty consistent in anime. “One Piece” is kid-friendly as well, but “One Piece” is like on episode 900 or so, I think. The “One Piece” character is one of my favorite, and I have a lot of his “stuff” on my desk. But I only probably got to like episode 40 or so.

      2. OK, thanks for the feedback. The description of My Hero sounds like something that might appeal to my kids.

        What is One Piece about?

        1. In Japan, “One Piece” is the most popular manga and anime of all time. It centers around a kid, Luffy, who becomes a pirate looking for a treasure. Luffy ate a gum gum fruit, so his body is super stretchy and virtually indestructible. Luffy recruits all these guys to be in his crew, like a cook, a doctor, a super good swordsman, etc. Luffy is a super fun character, but the anime can get slow at times, where it could be 10 to 15 episodes to finish a “story” like recruiting the cook.

    2. Ah OK. I noticed it’s not on Netflix and Amazon Prime (although Netflix is releasing a live-action version soon). Oh well.

      1. I watch “My Hero” on Crunchroll. It’s one of those anime sites in which if you pay you can watch ad free, but if you choose the free version, their are commercials. I’m going to guess since you don’t have network TV, the commercials may become a bear. I know “One Piece” is on there too, I just don’t know if they have all the episodes. When Hulu was free, I used to watch it there, but after like the third season or so, they didn’t have a few seasons. Then maybe from season seven it started up again, which made me think maybe different seasons were owned by different companies.

    3. I watched the 3 episodes of My Hero Inuyasha, but I’m not sure I’m going to continue–not because I think it’s bad–I actually mildly interested in how the series will deal with the contrast between the hero and villain. I’m reluctant to continue because the violence is kinda disturbing, the nature of the violence as well as the graphic depiction. I might work try to keep watching, in spite of this, though.

  22. Queen’s Gambit (2020)
    Creators: Scott Frank, Allan Scott

    I heard several people rave about this mini-series about an orphaned, chess, child prodigy. Overall, it was fine, but not equal to the hype, so I was disappointed. I don’t get why these people raved about it.

  23. The LIberator (2020)
    Dir. Grzegorz Jonkajtys

    This is a four episode mini-series about an actual WWII military outfit, the 45th Division, also known as the Thunderbird Division, made up of mostly Mexican-Americans, Native Americans, and Oklahoma cowboys. The film is done in roto-scope animation, and has the look of WWII comics like Sgt. Rock. The animation and art was one of my favorite aspects of the series. I also liked the actor and character, Coldfoot.

    The series starts off strong, but then kinda peters out in my opinion. The ending is a bit anti-climatic. Still, a solid series.

    Some backround information from Smithsonian Magazine.

    One of the passages that stood out for me:

    “He (Sparks) told me they (Mexican-Americans) were treated like second-class citizens and there was terrible discrimination,” Kershaw says. “Before Sparks went into combat in Salerno, he was worried. Are they going to die for a country that treats them that way? After the first day of battle, he was so proud because they were fantastic soldiers.”

    I have so much respect and pride for the U.S. soldiers of color.

  24. Pessimism and snark are certainly effective in dealing with the stress of current events, and God knows I’ve leaned on each from time to time.

    These past few years, and especially these past few months, I’ve found my tolerance for both at all-time lows. It’s one reason I’ve recently stayed away from FB. The gigantic majority of my FB friends’ posts is uplifting and comforting; I just can’t take the small amount of negativity that comes through my stream these days.

    When I first heard some media commenters speaking of a new Apple TV+ series called _Ted Lasso_, I listened half-heartedly. It’s a stupid name for a program, and the description isn’t very compelling. An American football coach moves to England to coach a Premiere League soccer team.

    Then more people in my media streams talked about how surprised they were by the utter positivity and sweetness this show projects. Some said it was exactly what they needed when they didn’t know they needed it.

    I watched the first two episodes Thursday night and the rest Friday. I never binge-watch stuff, but I inhaled all ten episodes in 24 hours.

    Every episode made me laugh aloud and tear up, and a couple of them made me do both at once.

    It’s not a feel-good show the way you think of feel-good shows. These characters are hurting and broken, the way we all are, and there doesn’t seem to be any end to either condition. Yet the main character’s steadfast positivity seems genuine without being treacly.

    We all have received grace, and we can all extend it to others. _Ted Lasso_ convinces me (again) that we must.

    Positivity, sweetness, and grace. I’m betting you could use an injection of this.

    I think it’s exclusively on Apple TV+, but if you aren’t a subscriber just rent it. Or sign up for the free month’s trial. It’s worth it.

    1. I’ve seen other people recommend this on twitter. But I take that with a huge grain of salt, as I think my taste is very different from the people I follow, particularly the people on my politics twitter. (Their tastes seem to be far more mainsteam than my own.)

      But I’m going to seriously consider renting this given your praise and description. If your description is accurate, it’s something I would very much welcome.


      I just watched a trailer for this. It looks very sit-com-y, which is a deterrent for me. I think I may have lost an appreciation for sit-coms. (I had trouble getting into the new version of One Day at a Time and The Good Place as well.) I have a feeling I could get back into the groove, but it may take many episodes, and I’m not sure I’m up for that. The odds of me watching this just decreased, but we’ll see.

  25. Alice in Borderland (season 1)

    This is a Japanese TV show involving three best friends–a video game slacker, a guy good with his fists, and an office worker. One day, after running into a bathroom stall in a mall, while running from the police, they discover everyone is gone. They’re the only ones left in Tokyo. Later a big electric sign tells them that a game is about to start, giving them directions.

    I got interested enough to want to know what happens at the end, in spite of the suspense and violence–and even though I suspected the ending would leave me dissatisfied. That I was as dissatisfied as I thought I would be, I consider a win.

    I really did like one of the twists that leads to an action sequence at the end. That was probably my favorite part of the series.

  26. Night Stalker (2021)
    Dir. James Carroll, Tiller Russell

    A four part documentary about the hunt for Richard Ramirez, a.k.a. the Night Stalker. I’m not really interested in serial killer stories, but for some reason I gave this a try. What hooked me is the two lead detectives–Gil Carrillo and Frank Salerno. They were likable. Carrillo (at the time) was a young, rising detective, while Salerno was a well-respected veteran.

    Some of the details that helped the solve the case also made the story engaging.

  27. Sense 8 (2015, season 1)
    Dir. Wachowski siblings

    The premise: Eight individuals are linked in a way where they can share their feelings, thoughts, knowledge and skills among each other. They can also astrally project themselves to where the others are. I thought the premise was interesting, especially if each individual had special abilities and the filmmakers utilized them in interesting ways. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen a lot in the first season.

    My sense is that the Wachowskis are going for something more conceptual and/or dramatic, rather than going for an action/thriller storyline. There are interesting questions and scenarios that could be explored with this new type of human. For me, the series didn’t really work on this level, either, although at some point, I wasn’t paying close attention.

    I don’t really have a strong motivation to see the second season, so I probably won’t.

  28. Cobra Kai (season 1)
    Ralph Macchio, William Zabka.

    I was all set to be totally okay never seeing Cobra Kai, even though I have a million friends who love it, and what I read about it sounded good. These days, with such good content on so many platforms, you have to be okay with missing out or you just go after everything good and never quite be satisfied. I’m choosing being okay with missing out.

    Sometimes, though, you don’t have to miss out. Season 1 of Cobra Kai is ten half-hour episodes, and it costs ten bucks to purchase as a streamer on different platforms. It’s three years old now, sure, and everyone’s done buzzing about it, but a dollar for half an hour of entertainment or escapism is worth it to me. The last time I shot pool it cost four times that.

    The final nudge came when I read that Tamlyn Tomita and Yuji Okumoto are in Season 3. I mean come on. That’s a sign from God, and you don’t just ignore signs from God.

    Seasons 1 and 2 streamed originally on YouTube Red; I purchased them both on Amazon Prime. Season 3 is a Netflix original, which presents a bit of a problem I’ll deal with when I get there.

    Non-spoiler summary: It’s the present day. Daniel LaRusso has a lovely wife, two smart kids, and a string of auto dealerships in California. He’s doing well, but he’s never really gotten over his hate for Johnny Lawrence, whose life hasn’t turned out quite as well.

    Their paths cross again in Season 1, in a few contrived yet believable (enough) ways.
    The story arcs are best left for you to discover yourself, since this was part of my enjoyment, but if you need something to nudge you, as I needed something to nudge me, consider that the writers put a ton of effort into delivering fan service for old people like us — sometimes in cheesy ways, but nostalgia even at its best can be pretty dang cheesy — while presenting a story for now. A lot of stuff in 1984 movies really won’t fly in 2021 and the show doesn’t ignore this.

    Better, the target audience (as far as I can figure) is people our age who grew up loving the Karate Kid films AND their kids, as long as their kids are teens by now. It’s a show for aging Xers and for their teens. I struggle to think of a show or even film that really pulls this off.

    I love that we aging Xers will smile at stuff and mutter “that’s so stupid” while we’re also laughing at ourselves and the memories of our teen years. At the same time, I don’t think teens will recognize the same stupidity, and this is important: for a teen movie (or TV program) to work, it can’t condescend to teens. It has to consider important and serious the things teens consider important and serious — sometimes the very things we look back on and laugh at ourselves.

    I also love this: among the main characters, almost everyone is someone else’s antagonist, and all the main characters are protagonists. I didn’t know whose side I was on most of the time. It was great!

    My friend Reid is very unlikely to enjoy this, and I wouldn’t blame him or anyone else for whom the original film is special. Messing with an iconic film like The Karate Kid is a dice roll and not everyone will approve. My advice for them is to give it a try, especially if they have teens and need something to watch with them.

    I lost a lot of sleep last week watching this. I’m going to lose more as I get into Season 2. Or maybe not. Mr. Miyagi’s wisdom may steer me to more responsible viewing: “Lesson not just karate only. Lesson for whole life! Whole life have balance, everything be better.”

    EDIT: Ooooh I just saw that seasons 1 and 2 are on DVD and Blu-Ray. I wish I’d discovered this sooner!

    1. I was actually curious about this, but the bits and pieces I learned kinda cooled my interest–although when I heard Kumiko would make an appearance, I considered watching the series.

      1. Give it a try. And I’d recommend giving it a few episodes. Especially if your kids are interested in the first couple of episodes. And if you’re okay with several BJ references and a penis spray-painted on a face on a billboard.

  29. Warrior (season 1, 2019)

    This is an HBO series based on a script or concept of Bruce Lee’s. It seems like the original idea for what turned into the Kung Fu series, with David Carradine. However, in this series, the immigrant isn’t from a Shaolin temple–and he’s also played by a hapa actor, Andrew Koji. Another difference is that Koji’s character, Ah Sam, becomes a part of a Tong gang, and gets caught up in a Tong war.

    There are also subplots that involve the Mayor of the city (San Francisco) and his wife, as well as a Irish police officer, his partner, and a Irish, quasi-union leader.

    The series definitely focuses on the racism the Chinese immigrants experienced, and I must say this aspect is a bit of a downer to me as the racism is so pervasive; almost every white character seems intensely racist. If the depiction is accurate, the sense that Asians will never be accepted as Americans is really strong.

    The series also has hand-to-hand fight sequences. The actors who play the main fighters seem to have a martial arts background, which is a good thing, but for some reason the fights aren’t that exciting to me. (It could be I’m losing interest in fight sequences.)

    One last thing. The acting isn’t very strong in this. I don’t really care for Koji or the Mai Ling character.

    1. Season 1 of The Warrior was pretty graphic sexually and violently. I thought there was some good episodes, but average ones as well. I think Season 2 is better for what it’s worth.

    2. Season 1 of The Warrior was pretty graphic sexually and violently.

      In my experience, that’s the nature of a lot of HBO TV series. I’ve seen series that were worse in both areas as well.

      By the way, do the better episodes in season 2 occur later in the season? I watched about three episodes, and I’m leaning towards giving up.

  30. Mare of Easttown (2020)
    Starring: Kate Winslet, etc.

    This is another HBO miniseries which is more like a long movie. Kate Winslet stars as a detective, struggling with emotional issues and a murder in a small town. It’s a story that blends character study and a detective story/mystery. I should the small town community is also a prominent part of the series. Initially, I would compare it stories by Richard Russo (e.g., Nobody’s Fool), but without much of the humor.

    In a way I’m surprised I enjoyed this, as the actors and the characters they bring to life weren’t that memorable. Winslet’s character, Mare Sheehan, is similar to Casey Affleck’s character, Lee Chandler, in Manchester by the Sea or Kristin Scott-Thomas’s character, Juliette, in I’ve Loved You So Long. All them are clearly hurting inside and that draws viewers in–except Winslet really didn’t do that for me. I didn’t have the same level of interest in her character as I did the others. Part of me feels like she another actor would have been better for the part. (Mira Sorvino? I would have said Anne Heche 15-20 years ago….or maybe someone like Emily Watson, Katherine Keener,…) Actually, none of the characters are really that memorable in my view, but they were far from bad as well.

    There’s one main reason I enjoyed this, but to say so might be a minor spoiler at least. I’ll say more about this in the next section.

    One more thing. This series really takes its time to develop and unfold. The first episode is almost exclusively about establishing several characters. And given my reaction that to the characters, I almost gave up on the series. It’s only by the end of the second episode that the story gains some traction (at least for me).

    The way certain key aspects of the mystery reveal themselves deep into the series is one thing I liked about this. I think most other similar films reveal these things earlier and that draws things out a bit. Here, there was a more compressed feeling. (Spoiler: I’m thinking specifically of the revelation of one of the criminals, and the specific nature of the crimes.)

    Basically, the plot and plot twists were the best thing about the series for me–although there were one or two twists that were excessive.

  31. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

    This is the HBO docuseries about Michelle McNamara, a crime-writer and wife of Patton Oswalt, hunt for the identify of Golden State Killer. Unlike other documentaries about serial killers (and in this case, he was a serial rapist), McNamara and her personal life is also at the center of the series. The victims, and their stories, also feature prominently in the series.

    For me, I primarily wanted to know if they caught him and how they did so. That was primarily my main interest. In terms of telling this story, the series did a good job, and I was mostly satisfied.

    However, the series focuses quite a bit on the actual crimes, explaining them to a degree that wasn’t necessary. There was quite a bit of this, and it made the series hard to watch. I have to wonder if any viewers are drawn to these segments. I wanted to fast forward through many of them, but I didn’t want to miss anything that might prove critical to narrative. (I actually did skip over some parts, though.)

  32. Perry Mason (HBO)

    A fun diversion, similar in quality to the Mare of Easttown–except in addition to a detective/mystery, there’s also courtroom drama as well.

    I liked the lead actor, who had a down-trodden, Everyman vibe, at least initially. There are some interesting female roles in this as well. (There was a spiritual element that was interesting, but it wasn’t really a big part of the mini-series.)

  33. Lovecraft Country (2020)
    Showrunner: Misha Green

    What is most noteworthy is the way the series features African-American characters and themes, particularly racism (The series is set in 1950’s America.) within the type of sci-fi and horror one would see in The Twilight Zone. While there is an overarching story, many of the episodes have an element of a self-contained element. Sometimes an episode will focus on one character and theme, within the context of the larger story.

  34. Cooking with Paris on Netflix streaming is excellent. Cute, funny, clever. Recommended if you like cooking shows or Paris Hilton, or if you think you hate Paris Hilton.

    I’m watching Foundation on Apple TV+. The production — visual effects, music, editing — is really good. But so far this is not a compelling show, and we’re four episodes in. I’m sticking with it for now because I don’t dislike it.

    Jon Stewart has a new show on Netflix streaming called The Problem with Jon Stewart. The premise is super interesting. He tackles one issue per show. The first segment will feel familiar. Just Stewart at a desk, breaking down and explaining a single topic with the usual accompaniment of silly graphics and jokes of varying cleverness.

    But in the second segment, he has a panel of people directly involved in the issue. This was inspired by his hearing the stories of 9/11 responders. He just wants people to hear the stories of real people.

    Then (and I don’t know if this is going to be a regular thing), he interviews someone involved in policy to try to understand what’s preventing a problem from being solved. In the first episode, he sits down with the secretary of veterans’ affairs.

    One episode in and I’m pretty impressed.

    Ted Lasso season two just completed on Apple TV+. Wow. Non-spoiler review coming in the next week.

    I just watched the first episode of Squid Game on Netflix. May not stick with it but I liked the first.

  35. Arcane (season 1)

    This is an animated series, based on a video game. I only watched this because of a persuasive review from an Atlantic newsletter. One of the points made by the author was the exceptional animation. I agree. You know how animators will draw stills of animated characters–pictures which feature far more detail (e.g., shading, different color tones, etc.)? This animation look like that–in a kind of Disney style, with an anime influence.

    Beyond that, though, the series was a bit of a letdown. It wasn’t so bad that I gave up on it, but I could have easily stopped.

  36. Star Wars: Visions (Disney+)

    These are a series of anime shorts, involving jedi. I saw most of them. My two favorites are “The Duel” and “The Ninth Jedi.” The duel is set in Japan, animated in black and white, making it feel like an old chambara movie–actually not just any old chambara film, but Seven Samurai specifically. Villagers have hired bodyguards to defend them by a Sith warrior and her marauders. I liked the lead character, as well as the blending of old Japan and Star Wars tech.

    I may have enjoyed “The Ninth Jedi” even more. In this short, a mysterious figure, Juro Margrave (often referred to as “the Margrave”) has sent a message, calling the remaining jedi, promising their light sabers, which has become a rare item, if they appear. The anime style is more conventional, but I liked the action sequence and the characters–one in particular.

  37. I wouldn’t blame you if you turned it off 15 minutes into the first episode, but don’t. Give it two complete episodes before you give up on Sprung, a new series on Amazon’s free streaming platform, Freevee.

    In the spring of 2020, when the nation was locked down in response to COVID-19, nonviolent prisoners across the country were released in an effort to keep people alive.

    Sprung is about these prisoners. Two of them, Jack and Gloria, have nowhere to go, so they move in with a third, Rooster, who lives with his mother Barb.

    Barb is quite possibly the most eccentric television character I’ve ever seen: crazy and criminal, but driven by love. I wouldn’t call her the main character, but she is the soul of this program, the way Fonzie, Kramer, and Norm gave Happy Days, Seinfeld, and Cheers their prevailing colors.

    Episodes are about 35 minutes each—half an hour of utter stupidity and five minutes of genuine sweetness. I’ve never seen anything like it.

    I’m writing this because of the sweetness. I said two and a half years ago that Ted Lasso was the feel-good show we didn’t know we needed in the darkest days of the pandemic. It’s still true, but here’s a pretty good one too.

    So yeah. Give it two episodes. If ten minutes of real, believable sweetness don’t win you over, I’ll understand.

    Content warning: I suspect many people would call this a PG-13 show, but although there’s no nudity, I’m calling it R-rated. Parents please be warned.

    If you are an Amazon Prime subscriber, you can watch Sprung right in the Prime Video app. If you aren’t, you can still watch it on the ad-supported Freevee. Let me know if you need help accessing it; I would be enormously happy to help.

    PS: Have I mentioned how profoundly sweet this show is?

    Bonus info you should feel free to skip.

    The show’s creator-writer-director-producer is Greg Garcia, who gave us My Name is Earl, the Guest Book, and Raising Hope, three shows I haven’t yet seen. I’m familiar with Garcia because he’s a frequent guest on the Tony Kornheiser Show podcast, which I’ve listened to religiously for many years, and he cracks me up every time. This is the first show of his I’ve seen but I considered myself a fan before I even saw this.

    1. I don’t watch a lot of TV (or movies) these days, but I will try and check this out. Question: Are these the actual people or is it a dramatization?

  38. Blue Eye Samurai (2023), season 1 (8 episodes)

    After a few episodes I started getting into this series. By episodes, I was really hooked, but the last two episodes were a bit of a let down.

    This is a about Eurasian female samurai, seeking to kill the only four European men that were in Japan. You see one of them raped her mother, In the process, others join her in her quest.

    To me, the action sequences are the least interesting aspects of the series. The characters and themes and the dramatic narrative surround all of these, are what the series is about in my view.

    But again, I thought the ending of the season was a bit disappointing.

  39. The two Reacher movies surprised me–I enjoyed them way more than I thought I would. Because of that I was interested in the TV series. Actually, I was interested until I saw Adam Ritchson cast as Reacher. He seems more like a villain than the good guy for one thing. So I stayed away from the series for a long time, but I recently gave it a shot.

    After a few episodes I gave up. Ritchson was the main problem. To me, he’s too much of a brute and bully, making him unappealing. He also physically towers over some of the bad guys he faces, and that makes these scenes less effective, compared to Tom Cruise in similar scenes.

    I also didn’t really care for the two local cops he teams up with, although this is more of a minor criticism.

  40. Mr. and Mrs. Smith (season 1)

    Two reasons the series interested me:

    1. I like Donald Glover;
    2. I’m interested in seeing movies and films with interracial couples, especially when one of the partners is Asian.

    But Maya Erskine cast in the Mrs. Smith role gave me pause. I hadn’t seen her in anything prior to this, but she just didn’t look like an action lead. I was pretty skeptical she would work out, but the other two points above outweighed this concern.


    Erskine worked primarily because the relationship is at the center of the series, and by this I mean the series is more of a talk-y drama/comedy (in that order) than an action series. The scenes that showcase this were mostly effective and entertaining.

    One criticism I have is the way Erskine’s character goes from being aloof to embracing (literally) her relationship with Glover’s character. I thought this happened too fast, and I would have preferred if the series took more time with this transition. Overall, this is a minor criticism.

    I may not love the series, but I will watch the second season (if they have one).

  41. One of the more dramatic and surprising changes in my tastes, in the past 10 years or so, has been my waning interest in sci-fi (and superhero movies, and action films). I guess I’m not so disappointed and sad, as I still have other interests when it comes to art and entertainment, but the change is significant, and I would have found this unimaginable in the past.

    But every once and a while a film or TV series proves that my interest has not completely vanished. (Actually, I don’t think I’ve lost interest so much as I find it harder to find satisfying sci-fi, action, etc.) That’s the case with the HBO Max’s Scavengers Reign animated series, which is now streaming on Netflix.

    The premise is not original: A spaceship crashes on a planet. And the survivors are trying to get off the planet. I’ll say what I really like about the series in the next section, which won’t technically be a spoiler, unless you’re picky about such things.

    Sci-fi action/adventure stories–like action/adventures stories in general–almost always depend on effective villains. This series is an exception. What makes the series work, in my view, is that instead of a villain(s) to challenge the protagonists, the planet–specifically, it’s flora and fauna–provide that challenge. What makes the latter so satisfying is the imaginative minds that created the alien flora and fauna. To me, it’s very reminiscent of the movie Fantastic Planet (and I would be surprised if that film didn’t inspire the creators). Really, what’s fun about the series is the way the characters explore the planet and discover new creatures and face new challenges.

    I’m on episode 3 now, and I’m really enjoying the series so far.

    1. This is a really well-reviewed show. Might give it a chance, even though I have Max and could have watched it any time. 🙂

    2. Here are some random thoughts after finishing the series:

      • I mentioned echoes of Rene Laloux’s Fantastic Planet, but there are some others. The animation style reminded me of the styles one would see in Heavy Metal films–with one very big exception–namely the almost sexless, anti-erotic approach to the illustrations, especially of the clothing and bodies of the female characters; and it’s not like the females were unattractive. I found this to be really refreshing.
      • Along similar lines, the film has three very competent and strong female characters, each manifesting this in slightly different ways. Chris is strong to the point of being Nietzschean (Read: sociopathic); Ursula has strength and competence, which stands in contrast to her male-counterpart’s bumbling and sometimes blubbering, but retains feminine qualities like sensitivity and caring; Azi is a lesbian character that seems to be somewhere in the middle of both.
      • One other influence: The mind controlling creature seemed to be influenced by Miyazaki’s ugly version of the river spirit in Spirited Away–the look, movements and even the ultimate fate.
      • I’m not sure if I said this in the previous post, but I enjoyed this series partly because I could vicariously explore this really interesting, fantastical planet. (To me, the characters were way to reckless at times in their encounters with the alien flora and fauna, and the way learned about different ways to use them seemed unbelievable (e.g., using creatures as “SCUBA” devices).
      • Often series that start off strong peter out and/or really go downhill. The resolution was a little anti-climatic, but not enough to ruin the series. I am interested in seeing watching the next season.

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