I’ll Tell Ya What I’m Watchin’ on My Telly (Part 4)

It’s been a hot minute, which translates from slang into English as meaning a good long while, since I wrote about my television viewing. Originally it began last spring because, well, the pandemic. After a few installments, I felt like I should focus on my main issues and on more important topics, like Black Lives Matter. Every day I’m out there biking, walking, and in here reading, writing and doing yoga. But when I can, which is most days, I do like to enjoy some of what my grandmother used to call “your programs” to my brother and me. Write what you know, you know? So here we go with a trio of shows from HBO, which used to have this as their tag line: “It’s not television, it’s HBO.” Now it comes with new and improved HBO Max. I’ve also included one from NBC for good measure. Pop the corn and hand me the remote, will ya?

True Detective

True Detective season 1.png
Source: Wikipedia

Generally with HBO, you know you’re getting the good stuff. Season 1 of this crime anthology, which came out in 2014, blew my mind. Season 2 was also quite good, if different. Both involve conflicted police officers caught up in all manner of personal problems while trying to solve some difficult cases, both involving weird sex stuff. In the first, Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey play both their younger and older selves. In the second, Collin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, and Taylor Kitsch are the protagonists walking that think blue line, while Vince Vaughn portrays a convincing gangster with a moral code. But it’s all shades of gray as the stories unfold, histories are revealed, and action dictates reaction. The writing by Nic Pizzolatto just feels natural.

Gritty locations, atmospheric natural shots, grand yet personal, these eight episodes for each season are like a slow burning candle. Of course there’s plenty of conflict and gunplay, the bad guys are plenty bad, and the good guys aren’t all that good sometimes. Somehow the quest for justice, or at least each character’s interpretation of what that means for them, is engrossing. Because most people contain multitudes, and these people aren’t caricatures, they’re deep in the shit and trying to stay alive while fighting their enemies. I hear Season 3 is also quite good with Mahershala Ali and Stephen Dorff. Evoking the film noir elements and old stories by Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and the like, it’s just a good show. Season 4 is reportedly in the works, too.

Raised by Wolves

Source: Spoiler TV

I heard of this show when it came out last year, and knew I’d enjoy it. Having just been magically granted access to the full HBO Max, I immediately tuned into this Ridley Scott helmed sci-fi feast for the senses. If you don’t know Ridley, he’s great (Scott!). Even if you’re not a fan of the genre you’ve probably heard of classics like Aliens and Blade Runner, and The Martian, but also Thelma and Louise, Black Hawk Down, and Gladiator.

He’s a master of the medium, and he produces and directed the first two episodes. A fascinating fact I learned reading about him is that he hand draws the storyboards and works with a lot of practical effects (real, though also uses CGI). I am not alone in appreciating his vision and impeccable eye (“the best in the business,” someone said) for beautiful shots, and the knack for getting fiercely human portrayals out of his top tier stage and film actors.

This show is both wild in its epic look, various themes, and deliberate in its pacing. Not far into the future, humans have destroyed earth and abandoned it in arks. Two androids are raising children on a remote planet. Then there’s an army of religious zealots. Hilarity, I mean drama and violence, ensue. The lead character, Mother, is a convincingly humanesque robot, but also creepy and terrifying. Her partner, Father, provides some levity by telling lame jokes. The kids soften the harder edges. The action is riveting, the story compelling, and the ideas relevant. As an atheist / agnostic myself, I appreciate hearing those words used on screen, which I seldom have. The cinematography, music and overall tone is absorbing, at times meditative, even. I have the final episode to watch, but give this four enthusiastic howls. You’ll love it or hate it, but for the former of us, the good news is that Season 2 is in production.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Source: Vulture / John Boughton

A dude needs some levity, this guy just makes me laugh. John Oliver is a British comedian (now American citizen) who became known for his work on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. He has been doing this 30 minutes on HBO for some time. There’s a serious main topic with some silly bits thrown in. But it’s how he takes down rich, powerful, corrupt, or just clueless people and institutions with aplomb, humor, ridicule, satire, and sarcasm.

It’s a rant, it’s educational, it’s infuriating, and it’s good television. Except remember, it’s not TV, it’s HBO. So there’s also plenty, a plethora, a passel even of curse words. Oliver also gets in the news for challenging the town of Danbury, Connecticut to rename its sewage plant after him.After he donated money to their food pantry, they actually did it! He had a huge sign made so he could “blow up” 2020. In another brilliant piece, he recently skewered the sleazy practice of sponsored content on local news — paid ads for products often with spurious health claims.

Image may contain John Oliver Clothing Apparel Suit Coat Overcoat Tie Accessories Accessory Human and Person
Source: Vanity Fair

He actually caught an Austin, Texas reporter in an elaborate prank for flacking a product that he totally made up — the sexual wellness blanket. True story: I recently “met” this reporter via an online via a job search meeting and exchanged notes; I fault the TV station, not them, though. Maybe John’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but he and the show have won 20 Emmy Awards and plenty of other ones. Give him a shot if you haven’t and can access HBO. You will learn something, and you’ll have a laugh doing it.

By the way, many of his clips are available online for free. Here’s the YouTube for the sexual wellness blanket.

Saturday Night Live

This American cultural institution has had its controversies, ups and downs, and stronger casts and seasons than other. I watched as a kid and it was a big deal staying up that late to watch the likes of Chevy Chase, Jane Curtain, Dan Aykroyd and more. It’s spawned countless memes and is still talked about on Monday mornings at the water cooler, or Zoom calls. Last fall I began watching again as an antidote to the poisoned politics of the most recent presidential election. Whether your a fan of the show or not, you probably agree that satire is still an important art form. That they produced it live, with strict COVID protocols — and by the way won a bunch of Emmy Awards in 2020 — is impressive.

If you don’t know, SNL regularly features established stars starting with former cast member and first show of the year host Chris Rock (Fargo Season 4 — excellent by the way, haters can STFU) and up and comers like final show host Anya Taylor-Joy (Queen’s Gambit), as well as popular musicians. Not every joke lands a belly laugh, but I really enjoyed many moments this overall. And for the first time since 2007, the full cast will be returning for the next season. It airs on NBC of course ( you know when) or you can stream it on Peacock or Hulu (the latter with no commercials if you have the no-ad version).

Well, those are some of the latest shows I’m enjoying. Have you seen any of them and have any thoughts? Or other shows you like? Happy watching!

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12 thoughts on “I’ll Tell Ya What I’m Watchin’ on My Telly (Part 4)

  1. I just finished season three of “The Kominski Method”. It was and easy five stars for me. I enjoy A variety of movies and and series. For example: On Netflix
    The Chef Show
    The Queens Gambit
    The Highwaymen
    On Prime:
    Zero, Zero Zero
    One movie that I really enjoyed is “Wind River”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the recommendations. I like Michael Douglas and that looks interesting. I have a watch with Highwaymen stamped on it. Special price for you my friend. Don’t have Prime but probably don’t have time for more shows. I also liked Wind River, sad though.


  2. I tried to watch True Detective a few years ago but couldn’t get past the first episode. Couldn’t click with either Woody Harrelson or Matthew McConaughey. Remember them as almost caricatures of characters. Might give it a go again though as it took me a few goes to get into The Sopranos and then ended up loving it.
    Have watched Raised by Wolves. Loved the concept and found the whole android aspect very original. Mother and Father are outstanding characters and excellently portrayed. Was disappointed with the war storyline. It just wasn’t credible to me and felt very manufactured. I also struggled with the religious society and how medieval it was but set within a highly technological society. I was really looking forward to seeing Travis Fimmel as he was excellent as Ragnar in Vikings. Found him very disappointing in this. I probably will watch S2 as I’m interested where they will take the story next.
    The other two I’ve never seen but have a feeling they are of American tastes and may not translate well internationally.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. John Oliver is from the UK, but it is about US politics.

      Aren’t all religions medieval in the sense that they’re usually thousands of years old, but now it’s 2021? For example, orthodox Jews don’t eat pork because it was u clean. But we have refrigeration now, so… Pass the bacon!

      I don’t quibble with a storyline much if the overall mood and look and so on are interesting, but I see your point. Many shows have plot holes you can drive an ark through. But is science FICTION, so I guess you either buy it or not.

      TD was interesting to see how it unfolded and I liked it.wothnall shoes you have to be willing to suspend your disbelief. With well known stars even more so. But that’s just, like, you know, my opinion, man!

      Never saw Vikings but may be interested now thanks to that actor.
      I really like Niamh Algar, have you seen her in anything else (that you didn’t disklike)?

      SNL is a 45-year old show so it must be doing something right. Maybe there are similar ones over there that might not make a lot of sense. But like the Matt LeBlanc Irish uncle men’s in Twitter, they were still funny even if I didn’t get all the nuances. I would have had some Irish uncles a few generations back.

      Thanks for the comments!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Niamh Algar – haven’t seen her in anything else. Looking at her Wikipedia page it’s all unfamiliar to me. Didn’t realise she was Irish, she looks very Scandinavian. She was good though.

        Vikings is great, especially the first few seasons with Ragnar as the main character. Definitely worth a try.

        I got into The Wire in the last lockdown and watched it all. Very good but last season was a bit weird. I did struggle with a lot of the street talk but the storyline and characters are great.

        Tin Star is another that you might enjoy although it does go off the deep end a bit where you definitely have to suspend disbelief at times.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. She’s in one on Netflix and has new ones coming out in theaters so is getting notice. She was in one Vikings episode. Not sure why it doesn’t appeal much though I’d probably like it.

        They say The Wire is the best US show in years but old shows don’t much interest me for some reason. I have it on DVD in a box but maybe that’s one worth going back to.

        What is Tin Star on?


      1. Don’t watch a lot of television other than sport. I’ve recently watched last series of Line of Duty, Engrenages (Spiral)…….can’t think of anything else.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’ve not heard of those. I guess it’s all what you like and have time for.

        I meant to watch the Tour last year but list access to it. It’s just so long unless you buy the cable channel, you can’t get the hour recap and have to watch the whole stage. And I must pick biking myself over that.

        There are too many good shows and movies. Thanks.

        Liked by 1 person

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