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?
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
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
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.
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!
Thank you for visiting me on WordPress or at https://ADudeAbikes.com. Feel free to add your Likes and Comments and to Follow the blog through WordPress if you have it, or by email. Contact me on the About page with any questions. Please feel free to Re-blog and Share as long as you give credit and the permalink to this post.
© 2021 A Dude Abikes. All rights reserved.