The Reality Myth: life is not what it seems on unREAL

I’ve made terrible TV mistakes in the past. I once wrote a very glowing essay on this very blog after the first episode of The Affair (I still stand by my thoughts about that first episode), essentially declaring that it would likely be the next-best, must-watch, prestige drama of the season. I’ve since stopped watching the show outright, realizing that what I thought was thoughtful, smart tricks in plotting and characterization was actually, maybe just not knowing who the characters were. And that any amount of shouting couldn’t cover up not so great writing. And so I’m usually a little slow to assert my opinion about a show, I’ll wait a few episodes before saying anything one way or another. This wasn’t the case while watching Lifetime’s drama unREAL (the show originally aired last summer and I’m just catching up with it now). After watching the first two episodes I was telling anyone who would listen that the show was brilliant and unique and my favourite new thing. And then I watched the rest of the season. That’s not to say I made a mistake about unREAL – in fact, my fondness for the first season still rivals some of my favourite new shows from last year – it just proved that, in many ways like the show it skewers, it wasn’t exactly what it seemed. Continue reading

Be-League’rd

It struck me as quizzical as to where my monthly Shaw bill was. I’m ol’ school – l pay bills by writing cheques and buying stamps. But by some sort of a mix up my Shaw bills were emailed to me and that left me with a whopping sum after a few months. I did notice that I had not cancelled the streaming service “Shomi”. So, I did some password recovery and dialed it up.

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Channel Surfing #7 – Drinks Edition: Horace and Pete, The People Vs. OJ Simpson, Baskets, Broad City, Kevin Morby

Sit Down and Have a Beer

We live in a curious age. An age where the extremely wealthy (and moderately creative) can cobble together vanity projects and drop them online, somewhat secretly, and get them out to an enormous audience. Recently, Louis CK went the Kanye route and corralled a group of his most famous actor friends, made a little show, and put it on his website. The result is Horace and Pete, a show that harkens back to the days of the multi-cam sitcom, most specifically Cheers (one of the first pleasures of the show is when you realize that they’ve done a lovely job paying homage to the Cheers set). The show stars CK as Horace and Steve Buscemi as Pete, owners of a family-run bar (called Horace and Pete’s) in Brooklyn. The bar has been passed down through the family for over 100 years, from fathers to sons all named either Horace or Pete. Alan Alda plays the curmudgeonly, spiky-tongued, racist, Uncle Pete, the bartender, who will only serve beer or straight alcohol, no mixed drinks. Edie Falco plays Horace’s sister, Sylvia, who is in a particularly a bad spot. There are a number of other actors you will immediately recognize and many other character actors that stop by for a drink (you’ll be pointing at the screen and saying, “that guy!” multiple times while watching).

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Oscar Autopsy

It is the night when Hollywood’s biggest stars come out to shine. I like that the juggernaut of film has to submit to its kid sister of television to get its pageant to the masses. This year I went full boar to take it in as one of the biggest nights on the television calendar. Snacks! Bubbly liquor! Extensive red carpet pre-show watching! So I was already committed to this monstrosity of tuxes and bouffants for hours before the telecast itself began. Continue reading

Gillian Jacobs’ Face: the Heart of Love

love_0

WARNING SPOILERS in the last paragraph

Like most Judd Apatow offerings, Love is a mixed bag. Created by Apatow, Paul Rust, and Lesley Arfin the Netflix Original series stars Gillian Jacobs and Rust as star-crossed love interests Mickey and Gus. I binge-watched Love over a weekend and have piles and piles of notes on the show. The pilot is contrived, the pace is sluggish and Paul Rust (while comically effective) over-plays his hand when given material that’s emotional. However, none of that is what I want to talk about. Continue reading

Hiding in plain sight: The big and small secrets on Manhattan

“This entire hill was built on secrets, Frank. They’re traded around like ration stamps” – Glen Babbit

This past week it was announced (or rather mentioned, “announced” being a word reserved for things that people actually care about) that the WGN show, Manhattan, had been cancelled. Its ratings were abysmal, it hardly even mustered enough to get it into the top 1,000 watched shows of 2015. This is doubly unfortunate because the show is competent and captivating and because I just started in on its windswept, sandy, sweaty first season. Manhattan is set in 1943 Los Alamos, New Mexico and surrounds an army compound where scientists are sciencing-up nuclear weapons. Yes, it is about the Manhattan Project but, generally speaking, the main characters in the show aren’t the actual historical major players, instead are the (fictional) underlings and unsung heroes, the grunts if you will, of the real-life events. As of this writing I’ve made my way through the majority of season one. The acting, writing and production put the show in the same company as any other prestige drama on TV but, for whatever reason – maybe the fact that it was on WGN and no one could find it? Maybe because it never engages in much in the way of anti-heroics, it’s characters rather just messy people, making a mess of their own lives and others – it never seemed to enter into the same conversations as the Mad Mens and Breaking Bads of the world.

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House of Trump Cards

I could never be a cord cutter. Relying just on DVD’s and streaming services doesn’t do it for me. Part of the overall television experience is the flipping. The aimless wandering around the dial looking for something watchable. Over the last little while the most compelling thing on TV doesn’t really have a set time slot, but it is on more than not. If you have a vast enough cable package you’ll have access to Trump TV. Not really a show in itself, but an aggregate of the wild and wacky Donald Trump as he gallivants around ‘Murica running or sometimes just walking for President. From comedy shows to news shows and all points in between it all just falls under an umbrella of “Trumpvision”. Of course you can be disgusted at this relic from the 80’s mad lust for fame and glory and dismiss the whole thing. Or like me, enjoy the ride. Continue reading