Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: THE GREAT SEASON 1 (Hulu)

HUZZAH!!! Get used to that word, you are going to be hearing a lot of it if you check out the great new television show on Hulu called…well…THE GREAT. If you are a constant reader of my reviews, you know I’m not too fond of period piece movies, any kind of that kind of content in general…I hated history class in school. But The Great, very much a period piece, is different in many, many ways, one of which is that when the title card comes up on each episode, it has an asterisk above the t, and then below it says “an occasionally true story.” Very much a fictionalized true story then, because this television show has all the characters almost talking, and especially cursing at each other, like we do today. There’s even loads of dick and fart jokes for me to enjoy! The Great stars Nicholas Hoult and Elle Fanning in what IMDB.com and Wikipedia describes as “A royal woman living in rural Prussia during the 18th century is forced to choose between her own personal happiness and the future of Russia, when she marries an Emperor. It is a satirical, comedic drama about the rise of the longest-reigning female ruler in Russia’s history. The series is fictionalized and portrays her youth and marriage with Emperor Peter and focus on the plot to kill her depraved and dangerous husband.” That woman is Catherine The Great (hadn’t heard of this historical figure until now), but whatever category it decides to enter when Emmy nominations come about (either drama or comedy) both Hoult and Fanning much deserve to be in the lead actor and actress categories. They have never been better, their performances alone worth checking out the show. I have a feeling though that it will enter the drama category, kind of like Better Call Saul does, even though I found myself laughing much more than being shocked or awed or sad at either of these two shows. If you are still in quarantine and not one of the fucking idiots heading out to un-social distancing like beaches and parties this past Memorial Day weekend, I highly suggest checking this one out, you will have a shit load of fun while also sort of semi-experiencing a nice, yet very fictional, history lesson.

This review is probably not going to be that long, as I don’t know much about the history of Catherine the Great to do a comparison, but then again, if something is as entertaining as this, you shouldn’t really care and just take in the overall jist of what happens as semi-true and about the other 90% with a grain of salt. If you are a stickler as a history buff, this might not be for you. While there is some drama, in this there is tons of sex, sex jokes, fart jokes, dick jokes, squabbles that will remind you of a lot of the bullshit millenials fight over these days, etc. etc. etc. That’s about 40% of why you should watch this, the overarching story of the attempted coup of Peter (Hoult) is 10% of why you should watch this, and then the last 50% are the performances, especially from leads Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult. They are hilarious and have never been better, and hopefully the Emmy’s recognize that come eventual award season. This series I think is what the film The Favourite tried to set out and accomplish but ultimately failed. I know that film was critically lauded, but I just didn’t care for it. When going to the theater, I was expecting a modern take on the period piece movie formula. I got some of that, but mostly weirdness and dread that I couldn’t explain the basis for that overshadowed it. This show, which coincidentally Nicholas Hoult has roles in both, succeeds 100% of the time and then some. And I just did some more research before finishing up this review, and come to find out that the screenplay writer Tony McNamara, who had a direct hand in all 10 episodes of the series, also co-wrote The Favourite. Maybe he did The Great because he was unsatisfied with how that turned out personally? Maybe the weirdness from The Favourite came from the other co-writer or director Yorgos Lanthimos? Who knows? It doesn’t matter, the fact of the matter is that I would watch period piece films every day if they were like this. However, I do know not to expect that, as most want an accurate depiction of the times. This was just set out to capture audiences’ attention with a fun and different take on it all. And in that regards, it is great. Huzzah!!!

Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: AVENUE 5 (HBO)

I watched the first episode of AVENUE 5 on HBO when it premiered after a new episode of what I will always keep continuing watching if there are any more new seasons, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and I couldn’t even finish the pilot episode. It was unfunny and seemed like it tried to rip off the look and feel of The Orville, with more crude, crass, dick and fart joke humor combined with a Gilligan’s Island like overarching plot structure/device. I heard though, that the show is like the beginning of VEEP, and that you have to give the whole season a chance before you decide whether or not to give up on it. I gave Veep a chance, and ended up loving it to the point where I stuck with the whole show through the series finale. With Avenue 5, I’m glad I ended up going back and finishing all 9 really quick episodes, as I ended up really liking it (not loving though) and think it is ripe full of potential for us to receive a much, much better season 2, to the point where I could end up loving it. The reason I was interested in Avenue 5 to begin with was because creator Armando Iannucci had also created Veep, which I ended up loving mainly due to the excellent ensemble cast and that it played with both sides of the political coin and wasn’t as biased as I thought it was going to be. Avenue 5 is political in a different kind of way, and found it’s footing about halfway through the season, with some hilarious sight gags, plot threads, and incredibly funny and well written one liners. It does though has a way to go for me to say that it has an excellent ensemble cast (mainly due to my annoyance with one particular actor). I also wanted to watch it because I’m a big fan of Hugh Laurie, but I also didn’t want to watch it because of a previously mentioned actor who I will reveal and complain about more in detail a little later on in the review. Suffice to say in the end, I’m glad I went back and gave this quirky space comedy a chance.

IMDB.com’s synopsis nails the whole thing right on the head: “The troubled crew of Avenue 5, a space cruise ship filled with spoiled, rich, snotty space tourists, must try and keep everyone calm after their ship gets thrown off course into space and ends up needing three years to return to Earth.” Three years? Three hour tour? You can start to see where my Gilligan’s Island like structure/plot device I described above comes into play. But Gilligan’s Island was, to me anyway, more focused on character development while trying to find a way out of their plight. Finding a way out of their plight was plot B, with a focus on character being plot A. Avenue 5 is the exact reverse of that. Every episode deals with different ways that the crew can get home sooner, say 6 months, and they try to execute said plans only for giant fuck ups to happen where they end up might even extending their time in space to a full 8 years. With all this, there is a giant sacrifice to character development here, in which there essentially isn’t anyway. Almost every character is unlikable and only Hugh Laurie (as Captain Ryan Clark) & Lenora Crichlow (as Billie McEvoy) showing very small shimmers of maybe moving past their selfishness in a future season. This lack of character development helps yet hurts the series, as it is in very close proximity to the characters of Veep, and at the end of that series, *spoiler alert* NO ONE FUCKING CHANGES. But they are all so despicably hilarious that the lack of learning lessons is forgivable. Compare Avenue 5 and Veep to Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia for a point of reference, where no character learns any lessons at the end of any of the episodes or seasons. It remains to be seen if Avenue 5 can successfully continue on that trend quite yet, but I really would like to see this show expand and have characters learn and be changed by lessons, even if it is only in a character or two. Doing this would separate itself a little bit from the pack of the others where NO ONE changes, and not end up being just another copycat full of despicable yet hilarious human beings.

Let’s get to the elephant in the room (not a pun, not referencing a body type, just a big problem with the series) and that is Josh Gad. There is no doubt that Josh Gad is talented. He was one of the main players when Book of Mormon first went to broad way, he is beloved as Olaf in Frozen, etc. etc. But EVERYTHING else I have seen him in, he just comes off as unlikable, loud, and annoying. To be fair, he is just being cast in these already annoyingly written roles, it’s not his writing at all, and if Mr. Gad were ever to read this, I would beg him to reconsider what scripts he chooses, don’t become a stereotype! In Avenue 5, he’s the one character who you don’t even love to hate, you just want to reach through the screen and choke that character to death so you don’t have to see him anymore. He plays the character named Judd, the character that made this space travel luxury thing happen. He is also a massive egotistical maniac, and also dumb as a sack of bricks. If the series wants to do any character development at all, I would suggest that Judd would be the way to go. But considering what happens in the first season, it just seems to me that Gad will get more annoying by the episode. And that is a shame. Everybody else though, while their characters you won’t like, they do a good job acting as them, and convincingly make you laugh at them as well. Zach Woods, who you know from Silicon Valley and Gabe on The Office, has some of the best faces and one liners you will see and hear on television all year. Basically, once you get past the first set up episode that doesn’t contain one real laugh, if you want to see a bunch of despicable characters bitch at each other for 9 episodes, HOWEVER that whole premise is combined with delightfully funny ways of all of them trying to get out of their awful predicament, I completely recommend Avenue 5 during our own kind of quarantine like hell we are going through. Very reminiscent of the times for sure. Will definitely make this a part of my television watching universe whenever season 2 set sails.

Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: #BLACKAF (Netflix)

#BLACKAF is basically just a combination of Modern Family’s format combined with Curb Your Enthusiasm’s premise of a middle aged man complaining about almost everything anyone does…but focusing on a black family instead of white, and unfortunately nowhere near as funny as the other two, and also nowhere near as smartly executed as the other two shows. Not to say that’s its bad or terrible, I just don’t think the execution of it lived up to its concept. Instead it feels like it is kind of cheaply ripping off the other two shows at times and just putting a spin on story lines that have been done plenty of times beforehand. It all feels just a little stale. But again, it isn’t awful, but as I’m trying to keep television only having between 10 to 15 shows I watch that are still new on the air total, I don’t think #blackAFd is going to make the cut, and I’m just going to say this is the end of my journey, no season 2 for me. But instead of this being the only paragraph on my review of this, instead of me kindly saying, “I get it, but no thank you, not for me,” I do want to say I appreciate what writer/creator Kenya Barris is trying to do. I haven’t watched any of it, but I heard Black-ish is excellent and that I might want to give that a try if I didn’t care for this show too much. But looking at the man’s career, it is pretty impressive, even though there are a couple of speed bumps along the way, including that new Shaft movie disaster that came out last year (didn’t see it) and yeah, this show was kind of another speed bump. The man is unarguably a very unique talent with a lot of things to say. #blackAF is a noble way to try and say these things, but since the show’s formula copies too much of other shows’ past, and with only a handful of really good one liners but conversations that go on wayyy too long, this was just not the best medium for those messages.

IMDB.com and Wikipedia describes #blackAF as: “A father takes an irreverent and honest approach to parenting and relationships” and “the series stars Barris as a fictionalized version of himself and uncovers the messy, unfiltered, and often hilarious world of what it means to be a ‘new money’ black family trying to ‘get it right’ in a modern world where ‘right’ is no longer a fixed concept.” To add to these descriptions, this whole situational comedy is presented in documentary form, created by her daughter, who is trying to make this documentary of her family to get into college. It’s a noble format to be sure, it just feels too much like Modern Family, and Barris’ constant complaining and just not getting it feels too much like Larry David’s complaints. Listen, I’m a white guy, I know it, and anyone reading this should just write this off as me not being the target audience for this show. But I think I know a little bit about the ways jokes, stories and screenplays are written, so I feel like I have something to say in that area. There is one fantastic, excellent, excellent episode in this series, and it is episode 5, and the episode has Barris and his family going to a sneak preview movie screening of a movie, and everyone in the audience is eating it up except for Barris and his documentary filmmaking daughter. But they are afraid to let anyone know that they didn’t care for the movie, because the filmmaker was black and they wanted didn’t want to disrespect the cause. Fantastic episode, and it happened to be the longest of the eight. But listen closely to the conversations and jokes in that episode, they are ridiculously paid off well while also getting the point across without any filler whatsoever. I just wished the rest of the episode were as well developed, because the rest just float, have too much filler, and to me didn’t have a general purpose.

I wanted to watch this series mainly for one reason from the get go: Rashida Jones. Just like I think she’s an excellent actress in whatever she does, here is no different, in fact, I say she even gets to cut loose a little bit because it seems like, again using Curb Your Enthusiasm’s format, there is a lot of improve. I’ve always liked Rashida Jones, from her early days on Chappelle’s Show, to The Office, to especially Parks and Rec, to the dozen or so movies she’s done, I’ve always enjoyed watching her work. If I were to check out a possible season 2, it would only be to watch her work some more. Everybody here is actually quite decent, with Barris himself eventually coming into his own by the 8th episode, but then again, it’s all forgivable since Larry David took several seasons to not act like he was in a television show. But Rashida Jones is the true star here, and even though I didn’t laugh much at the jokes or cared for the story (family squabbles) I’ve seen a billion times before, she kept my eyes glued to the screen when she was on. Take her character Joya here, and put her in any other, better written show, and she would easily have her Emmy that she deserves. Basically, to sum everything up, I just didn’t care for the show, because to me, it brought nothing new. I’ve seen all the family squabble bits before, I’ve seen all their resolutions, there really are no more ways for shows to put a twist on the same thing, without copycatting and putting together different formats from other shows. This show just wasn’t for me, pure and simple. It might be for you, so don’t take my word #seriousAF.

Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: DAVE SEASON 1 (FX/HULU)

Just so you know this going into my review, I had no fucking clue who Lil’ Dickey or Dave Burd was until my brother recommended watching DAVE SEASON 1 during quarantine. But I do know who co-creator/writer Jeff Schaffer is, who has done numerous fantastic projects such as: Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Bruno, Eurotrip….yet unfortunately provided the screenplay to Mike Myers’ The Cat In The Hat…oops. But anyway, setting that one misstep aside, I ultimately decided to dig in because of his involvement, and I’m glad I did, this show is excellent. Watched all 10 episodes in a little over 24 hrs (this series wasn’t released all at once, it started in March and just ended a couple of weeks ago), and am happy it was announced that a Season 2 was coming eventually, even though Season 1 feels pretty self contained and could’ve ended there. Going back and doing some research on Lil’ Dickey, can’t say I’m a huge fan of his work outside of this show, but I do understand the appeal, but to be fair I’ve only seen two of his videos so far, maybe I need to do some more back cataloging to get fully on board. But I am fully on board the show, as Dave Burd’s writing on this series far surpasses what I’ve seen of his older stuff on You Tube. What confuses me a little bit is when I recently posted on social media that I was digging the show, some of the comments listed several of the episodes being, and I directly quote, “Weak AF”. Especially some messaged me a specific episode to explain where they were coming from…and I have to disagree on their analysis completely. But that is what this review is for. Sorry, I know if it would’ve been humorous and ironic if I had done another rhyme poem on this, especially for those fans reading this that are also huge fans of Lil’ Dickey, but I save those for movies/television shows that truly suck ass, and this is the exact opposite of sucks ass.

Dave is on FX/Hulu and IMDB.com describes it as, “The series stars a fictionalized version of Lil’ Dickey, a neurotic mid 20’s suburbanite who is convinced he’s destined to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Now he’s got to prove it to everyone else.” It fails to mention that he is White & Jewish, which is a big factor in how he is treated in his career by others. Also, some (if not most) of his content might be very weird and pretty offensive to some. Again, while I might not be the biggest fan of his previous work (I don’t hate it, it’s just not my cup of tea, kind of like content that tries to sing regular dialogue and count that as music, aka Les Miserables), the show worked for me 100%. It’s freaking hilarious, the pilot titled “The Gander’, the 3rd episode titled ‘Hypospadias’ and the season finale titled ‘Jail’ probably getting the biggest laughs out of me all of 2020 so far, and when it isn’t funny, it’s heartfelt, focusing intently on character depth and development. Speaking of depth and development, when looking up or hearing about what people think of the show, many do up liking it overall, but have cited some of the episodes being, “weak as fuck,” specifically referencing Episode 5 entitled, ‘Hype Man.’ Ummmm…I don’t know what you were talking about, but that was one of the strongest (if not THE strongest) episodes of this series so far and maybe one of the strongest half hour television comedy episodes I’ve seen so far this year. Sure, it didn’t have that many laughs, and Lil’ Dickey himself was barely featured in it, and instead it focused on his real life hype man named Gata, but man, was that a fantastically written half hour. I don’t really want to give much away, but the episode concludes with one of the most tear inducing confessions I have ever witnessed on television. It felt honest and realistic. That episode moved me, and I can’t say even half as much about other episodes of television these days.

See, the problem sometimes is that when you tell someone that a half hour program is a comedy, and they go into it thinking it is a straight one, and they don’t end up getting minute by minute laughs, sometimes they will end up being really disappointed. Maybe it was the marketing of the show, or the marketing of Lil’ Dickey outside of the show, I don’t know, I didn’t see much marketing (if any) for Dave because I don’t have cable with commercials anymore. It’s streaming services without them or bust for me. At any rate, marketing or not, with any show, comedy, drama, etc., you need to have an open mind. Sometimes a comedy can be more than just a crude humor laugh a minute fest and sometimes a drama can be more than depressing moments of people screaming at each other with a pinch of violence every now and then. Sometimes what you think will be a cheesy romantic chick flick turns out to even outsmart your expectations with some side steps that subvert your expectations. Sometimes, and most of those sometimes are in the best ways possible, they can transcend. Dave might not be the laugh a minute comedy you hope for, but it is the dramedy filled character depth and developmental story that you need right now. When all ten episodes were said and done, I felt like I knew these characters, knew they’re layers, and knew that none of them were one dimensional. Needless to say I can’t wait for Season 2.

And even though it sounds like he’s about to lisp every other word, Lil’ Dickey can act and he has this sense of presence about him. If I were to compare this show to something else, I would say that this show feel a bit like Curb Your Enthusiasm, if Larry David were a much younger Jewish rapper. Larry David isn’t much of an actor in the beginning seasons, but some on years later, Larry David is a warm felt presence on that show. Here, by the end of episode ten, Lil’ Dickey already has a warm presence with me, and it’s just the first season. Everyone around him, even including his real hype man, Gata, do fantastic jobs with their acting chops. They surround themselves with some veterans like Christine Ko, Taylor Misiak, and Andrew Santino, and it seems like they have been acting for years, even though its their freshman run. In the end, if you are reading this, and are thinking about giving this show a chance, please give it to the end of episode three. That’s all I ask, then, if that hilarious episode along intrigues you, but you hope to find more out of the comedy than just really funny and smartly written sex jokes and situation, continue till episode 5. If episode 5 doesn’t win you over, than there is nothing more the show could off you and you should just quit. And it’s okay, everyone has different tastes, but don’t not like the show, or think it is “weak AF” just because you go into it with the wrong expectations. If you’ve read my review, and are going to check it out, I hope I’ve given you the correct ones. If you end up enjoying it as much as I did, then mission accomplished.

Zach’s Zany Movie? Reviews: UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT – KIMMY VS. THE REVEREND (A NETFLIX INTERACTIVE SPECIAL, THE “YOU WIN” CANON ENDING)

Nope, the title of this review is not a mistake, it is that long and I meant to put a question mark after the word movie. Because is this really a movie review? Or a television show review? A little bit of both, so that would make it a TV movie review, which I don’t normally do, (El Camino is shot like a movie, doesn’t count) right? Whatever it is, if UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT: KIMMY VS. THE REVEREND had played it straight and not been a new Netflix Interactive Special, then this whole thing would’ve been DOA. It would’ve been a cheaply made, production money completely going to all the celebrity cameos, awful television movie, like the ones we used to get in the 80s and 90s that were basically just longer episodes of famous hour longs. But due to the fact that this is an interactive special, where you, the viewer, get to choose the path of where the characters and plot go, it’s a couple of slight steps above above the awful comparison I just made. And just because I’m about to say that it probably is the most interesting thing about the entire series of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt since Season 1, doesn’t mean that it’s that great. It’s tolerable and produced a couple of chuckles out of me, and it shockingly recaptured some of the quirky magic the first season had, but by no means does that mean I’m going to re visit it or the series anytime soon…if ever.

For those in the know, this is not Netflix’s first “Choose Your Path” Interactive Special. That goes to the awful, awful Black Mirror movie Bandersnatch. The main problem with Bandersnatch’s choose your own adventure storyline is that a lot of the choices the special had you make were completely inconsequential to either what happened directly afterward or later. And all the endings sucked, were too confusing, didn’t make any sense, etc. etc., and the choices weren’t all that seamless editing wise either when put into the overall narrative. The whole thing was a giant, unplanned mess. This Kimmy Schmidt special is a GIANT step in the RIGHT direction. There are several big choices at the beginning of the special that have VERY SIGNIFICANT different paths for how the narrative will unfold later, several big choices at the end as well. In the middle you are a bit more lax, as a wrong choice will trigger pretty amusing little abrupt endings that make it clear to the viewer that your choice is not meant to be taken seriously (or as canon) and will rewind you back to make a different choice. If you don’t give a shit about the endings and don’t care about canon regarding this quirky cast of characters or story line, have fun, there are a shitload of different choices you can make, going through the entire thing is said to get you about an hour and 20 minutes of footage altogether. If you make the correct choice every time, and get to the “You Win” ending straight away, it is basically a hour in television without commercials (42 to 44 minutes) and is a cute and harmless epilogue to the series finale.

Basically this special is only for A. hardcore fans of the series or B. people that actually watched all of the series (like me) even though you might not have cared for most of it. Season 1 is really the only great season of Kimmy Schmidt. They all get progressively worse from there, Season 2 hitting a giant sophomore slump, and it only gets worse and never recovers (unless you could this special as sort of recovering). As each season just chugs along it tries harder and harder to be quirky and funny and it all eventually feels forced, especially season 3 and 4, where you get to the point of eye rolling your eye balls out of your sockets. But if you aren’t a grouch like me and have enjoyed this series from top to bottom, you’ll love this special, I guarantee it. All of the characters you know and love are back and Ellie Kemper still can act her cute little butt off. Jon Hamm still feels like he wants to be there, Carol Kane still has a shit ton of energy, Titus Burgess is still…well Titus, there are a bunch of other small celebrity cameos of which some put a smile to my face, and if anybody gets short changed scene time wise its Jane Krakowski as Jacqueline, but I hated her character anyway so that’s definitely a check mark on the “PRO” side to this special. The best edition though to this universe is easily Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Frederick, Kimmy’s fiance. He is in a lot of this special and thankfully he isn’t wasted. The guy has charm up to the wazoo and I’ve been trying to watch everything he has done post Potter as I think he has always had more potential other than that one role. With this and everything else he’s done recently, I stand here with a smile on face, proud that I was right.

Anyway, with this being the last paragraph of my review, after it if you skip my ranking of all the Kimmy Schmidt Content to date, you’ll see how to get the “You Won” ending if you aren’t in it for the goofy, fake, nonsense paths and want to see the story how it is meant to be, canonically wise. Don’t worry, I only partially ruin the absolute 4 choices you MUST make, but I don’t reveal what happens in the story fully, it’s just a little nudge in the right direction. But if you are a true fan of the series, yet you are one of those people that only want the correct path, once you are done I suggest restarting it and having a bit of fun to see all the different ways things play out with all the different choices. Some of them even got more than a chuckle out of me. But if you haven’t ever been a fan of this series, or you were out ever since you realized Season 2 was a giant bummer, this will not change your mind. It’s the best thing to come out of this world since Season 1…but is that really saying anything? Like I mentioned earlier, if this had just been a TV movie epilogue to the series, with no choices and only one path to the straight and narrow, this would’ve been a giant dud. You can tell that not much thought was put into the linear parts of the story, but more input was made into the fake, abrupt, yet funny, non-canon endings. To give it credit, everything is nice and seamless here, the editing and comedic timing working well while choosing a path, going back after a wrong choice, or to get to the next scene. I do hope that this is the final final ending to the series, we don’t need anything else. Next time, I would love for Netflix to make one big giant original interactive choice movie that doesn’t have any ties to anything previously released on the streaming platform or anywhere else. Time to get the audience that doesn’t want to devote their time to having to watch a whole bunch of something else, just to get to the newly released content. Time to break that habit.

My Ranking of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Content:

  1. Season 1
  2. Interactive Special
  3. Season 2
  4. Season 3
  5. Season 4

******SPOILER CORRECT PATH WARNING, ALTHOUGH NOTHING IS REALLY REVEALED*****************

To Get The “You Won” Ending:

This is the only ending that rewards the viewer with the coveted “You Won!” bumper at the end of the show. To get it, you must make Kimmy select the Fun Dress in the very first choice of the game. This is not a Bandersnatch situation, the first question really matters here.  

The second crucial choice is to Read The Book when Kimmy gets home from her dress fitting. There’s something in the book Kimmy needs to know for later, and failing to do so early in the game sets up a chain reaction towards crappy, non-canon endings.

Many of the choices in between reading the book and the third act lead to temporary fail states that are easily reversible, so you can pretty much do what you want in the middle a bit (which I suggest you do, it is quite fun) without screwing up the ending, but the game’s final two choices are super important:

Titus must Follow Kimmy when she chases the Reverend through the woods. Ignore the Garden Banquet.

Finally, Kimmy must Spare the Reverend. Once these four choices are complete, the winning ending is automatically unlocked.

Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: SOLAR OPPOSITES SEASON 1 (Hulu)

Let me make this short and sweet for ya: if you do not like or watch Rick and Morty, then you will not like SOLAR OPPOSITES SEASON 1 that just premiered this past Friday on Hulu. It’s from one of the creators of Rick and Morty, Justin Roiland, the one that does a lot of voices on that show too (one of the showrunners, Mike McMahan, came in with him on this) and other than being less meta and a shit ton more language and amped up violence to the nth degree, it’s the same fucking show just with different characters. However, I fucking love Rick and Morty, so I really enjoyed Solar Opposites. Not as much as Rick and Morty, but I watched all 8 episodes released at the same time in about less than 24 hours, they were short and quick, and I laughed my ass off. And I think I can also say this: I think if you have any interest in this show and want to watch it, you’ll have to watch a couple of seasons of Rick and Morty first, just to ease you into that humor. This series assumes that you are here because you are a Rick and Morty fan, so that humor is just fast and furious, a hand full of joke a minute, no time for you to catch up. Rick and Morty started out a little slow at the beginning (not boring, but was just had a generic set up) and eased you into the jokes. Rick and Morty is one Season 4, and I think starting with Season 2 it pulled no punches. You either get the humor, sometimes very meta, or you don’t. And if you’ve tried all that, and you don’t, then stay far, far away from Solar Opposites. It literally has nothing different to offer you other than different characters and different weird alien science-y adventures. But I knew that going in, and that was all I was asking for, and came out of it wanting more episodes now, but am unsure of its potential on Hulu, so I won’t give my hopes up for a Season 2. **goes to check internet** Never mind, it’s already been renewed for Season 2, YAY!!!!

Another warning, this show is an extreme TV-MA, and even though it is a cartoon, it is NOT for kids. There is cursing, sex, nudity, the whole she bang-a-bang. Also, there are many pop culture references you are going to have to go back and do some research on to completely get the joke. For episode one, I would suggest looking up an old Disney program called Disney’s Fuzzbucket. Just trust me on that one. Solar Opposites is about a family of aliens (two adult males and one male and female child, not the males offspring either btw) that move to middle America, where they debate whether life is better there or on their home planet (even though their home planet is revealed to have been blown up by a meteor in the opening credits), have fun and crazy, sometimes very violent and science-y adventures, and there is also this giant B-plot in the show about people living inside “The Wall,” which is basically a community inside the alien’s home filled with a bunch of asshole humans who were shrunk to tiny sizes because they were mean to the boy or girl alien. With the B-plot being a giant size of the story, and a linear narrative itself, you can’t just jump in and watch random episodes (yet), kind of like what you can with Rick and Morty. Which is the only disadvantage, but if you watch the whole thing in order at first, and ever want to watch specific episodes again, it will be no problem for you to do so, seeing as you already know the whole story. But this isn’t The Simpsons or Family Guy where pretty much there is no continuation, there are consequences here, and the characters sometimes mention what happened in a previous episode to show their current train of thought.

The voice acting here, just like Rick & Morty, is incredible. Justin Roiland and Silicon Valley’s Thomas Middleditch bring zaniness yet their characters are also unique, distinct, and colorful. You will love going on adventures with Korvo & Terry. You feel like they are your best friends at the end of the 8 episodes, and all the other voice work, including the two kids, is near as perfect. Nowadays, in order for me to watch an animated show, you gotta be more than just over staying your welcome by about 10 years and don’t try hard much anymore (The Simpsons), jokes that don’t relate to the plot at all and rely on pop culture shit that just happened a week ago (Family Guy), or ones that try to be random for random’s sake (most of what is on Cartoon Network nowadays). You gotta be smart while being funny and your show ultimately has to have some kind of point, and the more you have to dig into the subtext to get to that point, the better. Rick and Morty and South Park fit that bill. Solar Opposites season 1, near the end of it, shows that it ultimately has something to say and might even have bigger laughs and a deeper subtext when it comes back in season 2 and then maybe even beyond. Would Hulu have been smarter if they had released this one week at a time for the next two months? Maybe. Because the watch was entirely too fast. Maybe next time we could get 10 to 13 episodes, just a little bit longer. I think either way, the word of mouth on this is still going to be about the same, especially if Rick and Morty fans get together and end up watching it and then giving endless discussions to it on endless message boards. Hulu’s Solar Opposites has a lot of attraction, and I can’t wait to get more of it down the line.

Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: UPLOAD SEASON 1 (Amazon Prime)

You know what the perfect shows to binge during this shitty COVID-19 time that we are trying to get through with a forced smile on our faces? Half hour comedies. They are 100% perfect. Not too long, not too short, binge-able over a weekend where you don’t forget about them immediately afterward. Never Have I Ever, that just debuted the beginning of last week on Netflix is a recent example of what I’m talking about. And while I still prefer that new show more, you can add UPLOAD SEASON 1, that just debuted on Amazon Prime Video during the weekend, to that list. It’s also a quick 10 episodes, albeit the first one is a rare 45 minutes, because it’s a pilot and it tries to establish the set up without it feeling rushed but while also trying to get it out of the way. My wife and I devoured it over the weekend of its release, and it left us craving more episodes, what more could you ask for? Well…maybe not so much of a depressing downer of a cliffhanger ending, which this had. Most binge worthy shows that release all of their episodes at one usually have a season arc that is completely wrapped up with only a hint or two of what is to come. Upload pushed a cliffhanger on us mid story. But maybe because The Office (U.S.) and Parks and Recreation (Greg Daniels) already has everything mapped out and knows it all can’t go back 4 or 5 seasons? He realizes with a high concept comedy, which this very much is, that you can’t over stay your welcome. At least, I hope he realizes it…considering that both The Office and Parks and Recreation both certainly over stayed theirs.

Borrowing now from Wikipedia: Upload “is set in a future where “humans are able to ‘upload’ themselves into their preferred choice of afterlife. When Nathan (Robbie Ammell) meets his early death, he is greeted by Nora (Andy Allo) in his version of heaven. The series follows the two as Nathan grows accustomed to life away from his loved ones, and the alive Nora struggles to stay afloat working her job alongside Nathan in the afterlife.” There is more much to it than that, but I think it’s listed that way it can avoid spoilers. I think I can expand without revealing anything as well. There series brings up other questions such as, “Can Nathan stay attached to his still alive girlfriend so she will keep paying his hefty afterlife bills?” “Was there more to Nathan’s death than possibly meets the eye because of his career before being uploaded?” Also there are a bunch of crazy side characters with their own little arcs along the way, but that is too much to get into. The series main ethical questions are “what if?” ones meant to cause debates over loved ones who happy to also watch the show and countless message boards everywhere. What exactly is alive? If you are dead but your consciousness can still stream to your loved ones, are you really dead? These are all brought up in hilarious fashion, and yet it doesn’t try to hit you over the head with it’s multiple layered messages. All of it is very subtle and set ups are paid off as you go, accompanied with fantastic sight gags. While it is a comedy, some of it does go to the dramatic side of things, but not enough to get too dramatic…well, except for maybe the depressing cliffhanger (my only complaint with the show).

The acting elevates the show from good to great status. The chemistry between Robbie Amell and his “angel” Andy Allo is impalpable. Whoever hired those two deserves a motherfucking raise. You might not know Andy Allo, she hasn’t been in much except the CW show Black Lightening and a very small part in Pitch Perfect 3, but you might recognized Robbie Amell. He is cousins with Arrow’s Stephen Amell (in fact he even has a small role in the whole CW/Arrowverse), and has been in other feature films such as The Babysitter and The Duff. I’ve always liked the guy, and in this role, he’s the most likable and charming he’s ever been. I hope this opens some doors for many other projects for him to chew the scenery on. All of the side characters are great too, even Nathan’s girlfriend, played by Allegra Edwards, is someone you end up loving to hate for how dumb shit is. It’s a feel good hilarious comedy that gets funnier and funnier with each episode, but it’s a high concept one that also makes you think, which is always very appreciate for someone that hates to turn off their brain before pressing play. And while I didn’t care for the ending (mostly due to the fact that the sad and depressing tone didn’t really fit the rest of the series, although it did have one big laugh at the very very end, and also I want more episodes now), I really do hope that Amazon sees they have another hit show on their hands (Bosch being the other one) and that after this whole COVID-19 mess if over, they “upload” new episodes in the near future.