Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. FINAL SEASON 7 (& series as a whole)

Ah, MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. what an interesting journey, both on screen and off. The real question remains: is it canon or is it not? I mean, the first several seasons, particularly the first and second, connected directly to Captain America The Winter Soldier and Thor The Dark World. Nick Fury and Sif even showed up for an episode or two! But then from each season on, the world outside the television show it took place in, started getting mentioned less and less, and even though Thanos was mentioned near the end of season 5…we never saw the series link to any of the later Marvel Cinematic Universe films, especially Infinity War or Endgame. After those movies went by before the shows’s sixth and seventh seasons premiered, the show runners and producers couldn’t even answer simple questions as to when all their events exactly took place. Is it still canon, or if not…is it now it’s own thing…it’s own timeline? Because with the last 3 seasons, we aren’t given any exact dates or years, any time that passes, it is just casually mentioned with a title card or two ‘one year later’, no big deal. So, that brings us to a new question: in SEASON 7, the final season at the very end, is everything connected? Does it concretely establish itself as MCU canon? My concrete answer: even if it does or doesn’t (it kinda sorta does and doesn’t), it doesn’t really matter. After the first three seasons, the show became its own thing, and without the constructs of having to adhere to the MCU theatrical timeline, its storytelling exploded with rich exposition, imagination, and character development. When it became it’s own thing, it was absolutely riveting. And although season 7 does have a couple of nods to the MCU, ESPECIALLY the last two episodes, at the end of the day, who gives an ultimate shit? Us still loyal viewers, we wanted an ending for the CHARACTERS, and not just placating fan service to Infinity War, Endgame, or even Spider-Man Far From Home. Did we get that character ending? Abso-fucking-lutely we did.

Not only do I feel safe in saying that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had a fantastic series finale, but I’m quite confident that it was the best season out of the seven, a truly rare accomplishment indeed. Out of 13 episodes, maybe only one lost my attention a couple of times. The other 12? Some of the best episodes of the entire series, especially one directed by series regular Elizabeth Henstridge, that pays homage to Groundhog Day to absolute perfection. Most of the series maybe had about only half a really great season, and half a so-so season. Let’s do this in order shall we? The first half of the first season is absolutely fucking abysmal. But those last 11 episodes, especially when it ties itself to Captain America The Winter Soldier…solid. Season 2 takes season one’s momentum and ups it a notch, showing how Sky (Chloe Bennett) finds her lineage and her real name (Daisy), along with her superhero identity (Quake). It lagged a bit in the middle though. Season 3 takes the Inhuman story line and steps it up yet a tiny notch further, especially since the references to the MCU become smaller and smaller and smaller. Again, it lagged a bit during the middle though. Season 4 stumbles a bit with the Ghost Rider introduction, but once it gets to Life Model Decoy’s about half way through the season, not to mention almost no other connections to the MCU, the storytelling gets very, very good. Season 5 is the last 22 episode season that was my favorite until this last season. I couldn’t believe that almost each and every episode mattered, considering I think any show that goes over 13 episodes now per season is tiresome. But season 5, dealing with the team going way into the future and facing the ‘Destroyer of Worlds,’ was an excellent, excellent storyline.

And the ending of that season? It honestly could’ve been the end, but I’m glad it wasn’t. Season 6 was just a notch below, but that is mainly because I didn’t like how they made Clark Gregg (usually Agent Coulson) play a different character that also happened to be the villain of those 13 episodes. But the show now being only 13 episodes instead of 22 made it have more of a solid foundation and didn’t become tiresome. And it was still entertaining because the rest of the characters flourish, especially one that was introduced in season 5, Deke, shines here. Season 7 ties everything up, and without giving too much away, Clark Gregg is back as Agent Coulson, everybody gets a fitting ending, and the time travel to the past story line is fun and exciting. Even though the actor that plays Fitz was mostly absent, it made up for it when he finally appeared. Oh…and they pick up a character that was on Agent Carter, and actually give him an arc and an ending story line, which was nice considering that show was (rightly) cancelled abruptly after two seasons. If feels as though season 7 was completely pre-visualized before they even starting writing dialogue or full scripts. This final season has a very nice and tight arc, that while being extremely fun, especially the first 7/8 episodes, makes sure that the final 5/6 don’t rush everything. It plants seeds in the first half of the season that steadily grow into a flower that blooms the last 4 when it’s still fun, but taken more seriously, story line wise. It is hard to talk about without revealing anything, but I can say that the story involves the characters going through several different time periods in the past, and trying not to fuck up the main timeline, especially when the evil Chronicoms (you’ll have to watch the series to get what I’m even talking about), are intent on ending S.H.I.E.L.D. and possibly all of mankind in the process.

The villains this season are good, and although I could get into who they are, it is best not to give any of the reveals away. So what I can talk about without giving much away is how I felt about the series character and acting wise, focusing on the main cast only. Chloe Bennett turns Sky from an ‘aw shucks, what is happening to me’ kind of one dimensional character, and transforms into ‘Quake,’ a bad ass heroine that rivals any of the female superheroes we have gotten in the MCU theatrical films. Clark Gregg was a side character in those films as Agent Coulson, but he and the showrunners took the several glimmers of personality we got in those films, and turned it into a full and satisfying emotional arc in these seven seasons of television. Ming-Na Wen, who played Melinda May, is yet another heroine, but without any powers, that rivals most if not all of the female superheroes in the MCU. She constantly surprised us every season with how deeper her initial one-dimensional hardened character could go. Ian De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge as Fitz and Simmons were the true emotional heart of the series. Their friendship and maybe more than friendship was the one constant the entire seven seasons had. It never wavered once in its storytelling, even though Ian is mostly nowhere to be seen this final season (for a good reason it turns out). I don’t know whether he didn’t want to be in this final season as much because he got tired of being on the show, or if it was a creative decision. Either way, his arc here worked. And his arcs in the other seasons and acting were fantastic as well. Elizabeth’s really worked. She took a geeky girl scientist nerd and turned her yet into another strong and emotional bad ass heroine. And like I said before, she directs Episode Nine of this season titled, “As I Have Always Been,” that is easily my favorite episode of the series.

Henry Simmons as Mack was always the strong brute that could’ve also been just a two dimensional character, but in later seasons he got his emotional moments and brilliant one-liners enough to branch out on his own. And then finally Brett Dalton, Natalia Cordova- Buckley, and Jeff Ward, who were only in a third to almost half of the series episodes as Grant Ward, Yo-Yo Rodriguez, and Deke, all shined in whatever screen time they did have. Especially Brett after Grant Ward’s big reveal near the end of the first season and when Jeff Ward got to cut loose with Deke in season 6 and made him the comic relief. It was also nice to see that during these whole seven seasons, there was never any showrunner or writer shake up. They stayed put and got to do their vision their way, which is always commendable in the day and age of studio interference. The only thing the studio interfered with here was the uses of any character that the films maybe wanted to use down the line, which actually benefited the show, seeing it didn’t have any chains to weight it down. In summary, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. is one of those very rare shows that just got better and better as time went on. It will be known more for the second half of its life than its first, which is astonishingly unbelievable. Once the connections to the MCU went away, everybody got more creative and more time to play. And it shows. So in the end, who really cares if it is canon or not? I certainly don’t (even though in my mind I can argue and provide proof for both ways). When I just finished the series over lunch, the first thing that came to my mind wasn’t whether or not canon even mattered because of the confusing nature of where exactly this took place in the MCU. No, the first thing that came to my mind was how emotionally satisfying the arc of all the characters ended and how the storytelling really did become its own…Pandora’s Box, if you will. And it was all very…very satisfying and I loved that I got to open Pandora’s Box for seven years. Now if only they would let the two showrunners, Jed Whedon & Maurissa Tancharoen…write their own MCU script. Just imagine…

My personal rank of seasons of AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. :

  1. Season 7
  2. Season 5
  3. Season 6
  4. Season 4
  5. Season 3
  6. Season 2
  7. Season 1

Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: PERRY MASON SEASON 1 (HBO)

Before you ask, no, I have not seen one episode of your great-grandfather’s or just grandfather’s old Perry Mason series that starred Raymond Burr. And I know that PERRY MASON SEASON 1 on HBO isn’t your great-grandfather’s/grandfather’s Perry Mason, as this one has a shit ton of adult content that couldn’t air on network television, even at this more forgiving time let alone back in the 1950’s. All I know, is that this is supposed to be a soft reboot/prequel series of the old show, but giving everything a very hard and dark edge. Per IMDB.com, HBO’s new Perry Mason is described as: “In booming 1932 Los Angeles, a down-and-out defense attorney takes on the case of a lifetime.” The original series is described as such on IMDB: “The cases of a master criminal defense attorney, handling the most difficult of cases in the aid of the innocent.” So needless to say, this is about what happened right before he became a criminal defense attorney, where he is a private investigator. This new series has the detective noir time period look and feel down. This series looks and feels amazing. The thing that is disappointing though is that half of the seasons 8 episodes are very mediocre in terms of story telling and character development. Very, very basic writing that doesn’t challenge the audience. Especially the awful, awful, awful, awful subplot involving the usually great Tatiana Maslany’s church leader character (and the subplot ends anti-climatic as well). But whenever the show focuses on Matthew Rhys and him alone, it shines brilliantly. Knowing that Maslany won’t be a part of next season, I might give it a chance, but I’m extremely on the fence about it.

It just seems like it the whole thing wasn’t conceived very well or at least half of it wasn’t. Episodes 1, 6, 7, & 8 really focus on Perry Mason as a character…and since the show is named after the titular character, he should be the main presence in every single episode. However, in episodes 2, 3, 4, and 5, the show treats him like a 4th or 5th fucking background character, focusing way too much on a crazy church lady and her mommy subplot that is so poorly written that I almost wanted to plug my ears either time Maslany or Lili Taylor opened their mouths. The season’s story goes like this, a couple’s child is kidnapped and killed, and the mysterious events around it lead to such a big conspiracy that the child’s mother ends up being put on trial of the crime, where Perry Mason is convinced she had nothing to do with it, with not only the evidence provided, but with some of it even tampered. A subplot involving high up church leaders trying to not only lend a hand to the mother on trial, but promising that her dead child will somehow be resurrected in the coming days…yeah, the first part sounded interesting didn’t it, and it almost lost you there at the end, huh? The church arc was absolutely pointless (except for a little detail that ties it in a different way to the kidnapping & murder), and the ending of those characters was rather…odd to say the least, you’ll see what I mean if you check this out. And the last episode was great in terms of Perry Mason’s arc, and his closing speech to the ladies and gentleman of the jury was powerful, well written, and well acted, but the conclusion to those events, and the fates of some of the characters that were perpetrators to the kidnapping and murders, felt out of place and kind of cliched to other, better tv shows & movies that have done it before. Especially when it came to certain karma.

Another problem I had with the program, is that the central story didn’t really have a mystery. We know who the perpetrator of the kidnapping and murder is from the very beginning. And knowing who it was, I was able to put two and two together on what exactly took place. It was kind of disappointing. On a lighter note, the television show though gets the look and feel of the 1930s detective noir time period though, and other than Maslany and Taylor, every one gives a fantastic performance. You feel really sorry for John Lithgow’s character, you want to strangle Stephen Root’s, Chris Chalk as a black police officer could score him a supporting nomination, but the man of the hour is easily Matthew Rhys as Perry Mason. He plays the character to perfection and completely melted away any fear I had of him just copying his masterful performance that won him an Emmy for The Americans. Every time Rhys showed up on screen, the show started to get a little bit better. I do have a suggestion for next season though, and instead of just focusing on one case, Perry Mason should focus on 3 or 4 at the same time, challenging the writers to make a compelling story/mystery without convoluted cliches or coincidences. Get them to write a perfect weave that doesn’t get confusing or sluggish. Write an actual mystery, and have the reveals saved for late in the season. Don’t just show your cards right from the beginning, it leaves absolutely no tension for the rest of your season. With a story like this, you gotta have tension and the fear of the unknown or you’ve completely failed as a narrative. The only way I will consider watching Season Two is if the trailer blows me away like Season One’s did, but if Season Two has a typical sophomore slump, with an already ‘only okay’ season one, Perry Mason will not have me joining him on another case.

Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY SEASON 2 (Netflix)

The sophomore slump. It happens to 95% of television shows. The second season of almost anything is usually not as good as the first. For example: 24, Lost, Alias, Homeland, Stranger Things, The Walking Dead, and Westworld, to name a few. There is the occasional exception when you think of shows such as Seinfeld, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Friends, and The Americans. Well, the 2nd season I’m about to review of a newer popular Netflix series has just reached that rare 5% where it not only doesn’t have a whiff of a sophomore slump, but completely destroys that cautious train of thought. If THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY Season 1 was the series’ A New Hope, then SEASON 2 is its EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Season 2 eclipses Season 1 in every way imaginable: character development, plot structure, acting, pacing, twists, turns, visuals, and its entertainment value. I couldn’t believe how perfect the second set of ten episodes were. It starts off with a bang and does not let up, the final three episodes being some of the most perfect hours of television I have seen in 2020 along with the entirety of Better Call Saul’s 5th season. This season is a masterpiece, and it doesn’t matter if Season 3 is not up to snuff (which if there isn’t a season 3 after this Netflix is out of their fucking minds), there is no way in hell it could ruin the perfection of what I just witnessed. To put it in a better metaphor: the show’s umbrella did not let a drop of rain ruin the cashmere fabric that is these ten episodes.

I won’t be digging into Season 1 all that much on here, so if you are looking for an in depth analysis on it, I suggest you look elsewhere. I will just say that Umbrella Academy’s first season is a fun, if not flawed first 10 episodes, where the first couple of them are great and the last couple are great, but the middle of the series lags a bit. Only do the acting and characters pull through that slog to reach its grand epic conclusion. If you haven’t seen any of this show…what the fuck are you waiting for? The Umbrella Academy is about a family of 7 former child superheroes, who have grown apart, one of them even dead, that must now reunite to continue to protect the world. Well, that’s the first season in a nutshell. Minor spoiler alert for that season (but don’t worry, won’t spoil the big stuff of Season 2), they end up failing in the end and have to use one of their time traveling abilities to go back in time and try again. The first season ends right as they time travel, right before everything blows up and dies around them. The only thing I will reveal about the 2nd seasons story is at the beginning it is revealed that they went a little too far back into time, the 1960’s to be exact, and they have to prevent another and different kind of apocalypse, this one much sooner than what they had experienced in April of 2019. That’s all I’m going to say. Needless to say, when watching a trailer tease for this 2nd season, I was worried at first about the story line having a copy cat apocalypse angle from the first season and just doing more of the same. Boy, was I dead wrong.

The names of the seven characters are Vanya, Klaus, Allison, Luther, Ben, Diego, and Number Five. Their arcs and screen time were kind of uneven last season, focusing a little too much on just Ellen Page’s Vanya, but this season, everybody gets the exact same amount of screen time, all of them have full, interesting arcs and densely developed story lines. One villain that was uninteresting and in the background too much in the first, Kate Walsh’s Handler, is front and center this time and much more interesting, and a new character Lila, played extremely well by Rita Arya, has a fantastic dynamic with Diego and her own interesting reveals. Plus you have little mini arcs with some interesting characters from last season including Hazel, Pogo, Grace and Reginald Hargreeves, but nothing too distracting that takes away from the main seven. Episode 7 is easily the best of the ten, providing a new look at a list of time paradox ticks that are used perfectly and hilariously (you’ll see what I mean when you get there). I can’t reveal much more, so I’ll end this by saying that the series has a fantastic climax that is perfectly plotted over the course of the last three episodes (making the climax of season 1, that really just took place in the last 15 minutes of the final episode, feel rather tame), the visual effects are much more striking, the characters have a shit ton more to do, and Robert Sheehan’s Klaus and Aiden Gallagher’s Number Five, much like last season, steal every scene they are in. It’s just a fun and engaging second season that is perfectly structured narratively, directed and shot to perfection, and the character development is crisp and acted to new heights. It’s a perfect season of television, an unbreakable, sturdy umbrella if you will, that is sure to make you weather this COVID-19 bullshit of a storm for a bit.

Zach’s Zany…Netflix Game Show Reviews? WTF?: FLOOR IS LAVA!!!!

“This motherfucker is desperate for some clicks right here!” – future quote from one of you. That’s right, I’m going to do a small review on the new binge-able game show from Netflix that is sweeping the nation, FLOOR IS LAVA. It is ten episodes, ranging between 27-37 minutes each, and is a fantastic, fun, easy and cheesy way to kill 5 hours of your time. It was created and hosted by Auto Racing Analyst and co-host of Top Gear, Rutledge Wood, and the game is exactly as it sounds, but to the extreme. It’s basically one giant room filled with bubbly color dyed orange red water, that is transformed into 5 different kinds of settings with many obstacles and challenges to get from one side of the room to the other. There are different paths to take and sometimes you may have to go out of your way for a bit only to backtrack to make your journey easier. You have two to three contestants per group, and 2 to 3 groups compete depending on the episode. Depending on the number of people, you can get up to 3 points, but say only 1 or 2 people get across in one group, and then the same number get across in another group in the same room episode, the tie breaker is the least amount of time one or both people made it to the finish. And if you or none of your group makes it across, you are basically out of the competition, unless nobody from all groups make it but…spoiler alert…that never happened in the ten episodes I saw.

The five different rooms are: The Basement, The Bedroom, The Planetarium, The Kitchen, and The Study. With ten episodes, each room is done twice, but with two different levels, one being made a little more difficult than the other. Some paths have secret buttons or ropes that can be pulled that will either help or hinder your group, and some paths are safer or more dangerous than others. The “lava” is just a bubbling slicker kind of water with heavy food coloring and jets to make it look like it is bubbling out of a volcano. It’s actually pretty neat and visually amazing. There are some teams you will root for, like the smart or physically fit ones, and there are some teams you wish would just shut the fuck up and fall in already because they are loud and whiny or dumb and have the personalities of dead moths. Rutledge Wood narrates the whole thing, and has a grand voice and a witty personality, but he needs better writers for his dumb and cheesy one liners that always fell flat to me. But it’s all in good fun. The prize? $10,000 each episode to the winning group.

I just wished there were more than just 5 rooms. It is big enough to do different types of settings, and maybe get more out of them than just being ordinary house room set ups. Have a jungle room, or an Antarctica room, or a science fiction room, or a movie room. The possibilities and challenges are endless. Maybe they will have more up their sleeves next season. Also, they need to bring back the winners to some of these rooms and challenge other winners in a different set up that neither has played before. That would be interesting to see. This season, anybody that wins or loses doesn’t come back for a second round, which was a little disappointing. Some I would like to see do different rooms for sure. Don’t bring back everybody though, there are some groups of…younger millennials I could go my whole life without ever seeing again.

Floor Is Lava will make you want to create a set up in your home after you’ve watched 10 episodes and, albeit rather carefully, play it with your family. Shit, my two year old loved this show, every time someone didn’t make it or fell into the lava he’d go “he/she fall down!” or “OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH MY GOSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHH!” My wife and I had a lot of fun watching it as a family. A great time killer, even though I wish it were more challenging next time with hopefully more zany and fun obstacles and rooms for people to have to get through. You’ll be cringing and yelling at the screen, giving contestants advice and criticism even though you know they can’t hear you. It’s interactive without being interactive, and this amount of fun is kind of what we need right now, don’t you think?

Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: THE TWILIGHT ZONE SEASON 2 (CBS ALL ACCESS)

This is a review as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the written middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of my opinions and the summit of my zaniness. This is a review of imagination. It is a review of…the Twilight Zone. Season 2 to be exact. And instead of one episode being released a week over the course of two months, like last season, all 10 episodes of this new go around were dropped on June 25th…and I have a feeling we can thank the Twilight Zone we are living in currently, that of the nightmare of COVID-19. Anyway, instead of doing a two episode, five part review like I did last year, I’m just dropping what I think of all ten episodes after I binged them this weekend. My reviews will start with the title of each episode, then an IMDB.com description, then a couple of sentences of what I thought, and then a letter grade. And at the end of the review, I will write a final paragraph of my overall thoughts and then an overall letter grade (also my overall grade of last season). So let’s begin:

S2, Episode 1: MEET IN THE MIDDLE

Per IMDB, “A lonely bachelor makes a telepathic connection with a stranger, but not everything is as it seems in his new romance.”

Jimmi Simpson (the younger Ed Harris on Westworld) and a largely absent, physically wise (mostly voice over) Gillian Jacobs (Britta on Community) star in this overlong, but ultimately satisfying tale of two strangers that get to know each other by conversing with their minds. In part because of my ultimate disappointment of Season 1, there was several ways that I thought it would conclude, and if it had been one of those ways, I would’ve known that we were going to be on another very bumpy ride and ultimately ho-hum ride like we got in 2019. It even started out by one of those ways, but a very last minute twist, the ones that the old Twilight Zones with Rod Sterling were known for, puts everything into a different perspective, and the episode really sticks the landing. Jimmi Simpson, who is incredible in most of the supporting roles he does in other programs, is no different here, acting with his face and body movement, adding significant layers to his character where if it had been only dialogue, it would’ve completely failed his character. Gillian Jacobs at first sounds too much like Britta from Community, but that is just my minor stupid complaint, as I eventually got used to her voice and enjoyed her overall performance. The episode is well shot and looked stunning. But that wasn’t a surprise, considering one of the only saving grace’s from last season was all the episodes’ cinematography. To change it now would’ve been an unforgiving crime.

Grade: B+

S2, Episode 2: DOWNTIME

Per IMDB, “After a woman is promoted to hotel manager, the nature of her reality is called into question.”

The most important thing to note about this episode is it is the one that Jordan Peele actually had a giant hand in this season. He wrote it and he wrote it alone. The mastermind behind Get Out and Us wrote an episode of The Twilight Zone, and needless to say that when I heard he was writing just one episode this season, I knew that it would be my most anticipated new episode to watch. He didn’t write any of the episodes last season. My verdict? The best episode of the bunch, which makes me wish that Jordan Peele had more up his sleeve with this series than just being “The Narrator” and a co-creator/executive producer. Don’t get me wrong, he is absolutely fantastic as the narrator and sometimes gives Rod Serling a run for his money, but his writing skills are more what I look forward to these days. Now to reiterate, he only wrote this, did not direct, but he must’ve knew his script had been in good hands, as the imagery is perfect for the budget the show has, and it flowed well with Peele’s written word. Firefly & Deadpool’s Morena Beccarin stars in this, and she’s absolutely fantastic, one of her best roles. I am not going to reveal anything about the episode as I believe it is the shortest of the bunch (just a hair over 30 minutes) and that the surprises are too good to give out any sort of appetizer. Just bon a petite on this one.

Grade: A+

S2, Episode 3: THE WHO OF YOU

per IMDB, “A struggling actor risks everything to catch his big break, but an impulsive scheme takes a few unexpected turns.”

Actor Ethan Embry (Can’t Hardly Wait) made this episode what it is. Just to get the concept out of the way, because it is revealed early what exactly is going on, it is a twisted take on a Freaky Friday like situation. This episode has multiple instances of an individual switching between bodies, which allowed Ethan Embry to have to play multiple different characters, and he is absolutely perfect with each and everyone. So do some of the other actors. I don’t want to reveal the scheme or plot of this twisted Freaky Friday adventure, but needless to say, it is a episode that earned it’s tad above 40 minute run time. The ending is a tad predictable with you having to suspend belief on a small little twist revealed in the very last minutes of the whole thing, but the episode was entertaining, looked great, and was better than most of the episodes in season one, so my minor complaints are ultimately unwarranted.

Grade: A-

S2, Episode 4: OVATION

per IMDB, “A struggling singer’s music career takes off when she witnesses a tragic incident, but she soon realizes that her recognition comes at a steep cost.”

And we have our first meh episode of the season. Meh because it didn’t really bring anything interesting to the table when talking about fame and how it can be overwhelming, corrupt, and meaningless. The concept is that this street singer finds a magic coin that gets her fame and fortune. But she soon realizes that the fame coming from it is too manufactured, as common folk aren’t really listening to her music, just keep clapping and giving her standing ovations for no reason. It is an interesting concept and yet not fully realized or executed correctly. Jurnee Smollet-Bell (Black Canary in Birds of Prey) is a fantastic actress, and she is really the only thing that keeps this episode from being total garbage. A last minute Twilight Zone twist also degrades the episode, as it makes no sense to a supporting character’s motivations. At all. The episode is gorgeously shot though.

Grade: C

S2, Episode 5: AMONG THE UNTRODDEN

per IMDB, “A transfer student’s unusual interests make her an easy target at her new all-girls boarding school before she discovers her popular classmate’s special talent.”

But if you watch the series in episode order like I did, it does do a slight uptick with Episode 5 before we again get a couple of stinkers. And the funny thing about this episode is that it stars only unknown actresses, not a single recognizable face in the bunch. This episode is Carrie like, as it is revealed early on that the special talent might or might not involve mind reading, telekinetic like powers, etc.. It’s a nice little story that comes with a last minute twist that I should’ve seen coming but glad I didn’t. The young women in this could actually act and their characters were more than just one dimensional robots. It was kind of refreshing. The episode, of course, was also gorgeously shot. I only give it a little less than an A- because they could’ve done so much more with the concept. But if they did, would it have been bloated and convoluted? Who’s to say?

Grade: B+

S2, Episode 6: “8”

per IMDB, “A team of scientists discover a new highly intelligent species that may endanger more than their research.”

Alien/Life/Deep Blue Sea rip off but instead of an alien or shark it is a small octopus. I liked the visuals but the end twist is telegraphed from far away and nothing was unique about it at all. Also, Joel McHale is completely wasted in his talent here. Nothing much more to say about this disappointing episode. It’s just there.

Grade: C

S2, Episode 7: A HUMAN FACE

per IMDB, “A grieving couple are led to second guess what’s worth leaving behind when an otherworldly encounter interrupts their move.”

What is a great concept here of parents dealing with their grief of a child recently deceased is bogged down in lengthy scenes of snooze worthy dialogue and the fact that I was never going to buy the “otherworldly encounters” persuasion. You’ll get what I mean when it all presents itself. There’s no way. It would’ve been a three minute episode if I was the father. Great acting by Christopher Meloni and Jenna Elfman but this short “bottle” episode (takes place almost entirely in this couples house) was too long even at an even 30 minutes. And the boring dialogue, where an alien is literally just standing there and talking for almost 10 minutes just keeps going on and on and on and on and on. Great visuals, shoddy execution. The script needed more. But definitely not my least favorite episode…

Grade: C-

S2, Episode 8: A SMALL TOWN

per IMDB, “A church handyman discovers a magic scale that gives him the power to help his small town, but the mayor takes all the credit for his good intentions.”

Tricked you there didn’t I? You thought I was going to say that my least favorite episode was this one, but I fooled you, this is actually probably my second favorite. I don’t want to talk about it much because to do so would ruin the surprise that the church handyman comes upon. It has fantastic visuals and a wonderful ending that I didn’t see coming. The church handyman is played excellently by Damon Wayans, Jr., stretching out of his comedy chops for a change. This is also a shorter episode, coming it at just over 30 minutes, and it doesn’t waste a minute of it. Engaging, good story telling, and acting, make this one of the few episodes of both seasons that I wouldn’t mind checking out a couple of more times.

Grade: A

S2, Episode 9: TRY, TRY

per IMDB, “A man dazzles a woman with his seemingly miraculous abilities, but their encounter takes a dark turn when the true source of his charisma is revealed.”

Nope, still not my least favorite episode. In fact, I would say that this may be my third favorite and a “bottle” episode done correctly. I’ll just get the mans miraculous abilities out of the way, Topher Grace is a man that is going through a Groundhog Day like experience. And he’s trying to wooo this woman on a spontaneous date to the museum. I love Groundhog’s Day concepts when done correctly, and this one does. It takes place mostly inside the museum, hence why I called it a bottle episode, and the dialogue is witty, smart, and makes you think. This twist on that “living the same day over and over concept” is the first one to make me think hard what I would do in that situation since the Bill Murray early 90s classic. Also, this contains Topher Grace’s best performance. Ever.

Grade: A-

S2, Episode 10: YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

per IMDB, “A stay-at-home housewife is looking forward to acquiring a heavily marketed device that promises to make everything better forever, but the product has an unsavory truth.”

I thought they were supposed to save the best for last, not the worst. This episode is God fucking awful, and it might be the worst episode of The Twilight Zone from these two new seasons we’ve gotten. This or that ‘Not All Men’ Me Too piece of shit catastrophe we had to witness more than a year ago. And this one was written and directed by Osgood Perkins, son of Anthony Perkins (Norman Bates in Psycho). He wrote and directed The Blackcoat’s Daughter, which I heard was good but had never seen, and he directed Gretel & Hansel, of which I heard the visuals were great but the movie was boring and the script sucked. This is how I would describe the latter. And what is ultimately disappointing? This is a sequel to a very old Twilight Episode. I’ll let you do the research to find out which one, but it is a classic. This is not. The heavily marketed device is called and EGG and you can guess what it is right off the bat. The script kind of makes fun of commercialism, but its message is blurry and skewed and doesn’t come off across well at all. It is an episode weird for the sake of being weird, and I can’t stand that shit. Awful, awful, awful episode. The only thing stopping this from getting an F is the visuals, which are great. Mr. Perkins, don’t write anything ever again, get a good script from a good writer and you could do wonders. Gretchen Mol stars in this, and she’s a good actress and isn’t the problem here. Entirely the scripts fault.

Grade: D-

In conclusion, this season is a vast improvement over last season. I enjoyed 6 episodes out of 10 here, where in the first season I enjoyed maybe only 3 or 4 of ten. The show still needs some improvement (there should really only be one, maybe too iffy episodes, but what I liked about this season is that they mostly got rid of the political and Me Too themes and instead went with an overall human morality/consequences vibe. Stick to that kind of story telling please. We don’t need Trump bashing or man bashing episodes every other twisted tale. I really hope it is renewed for a season three. Maybe third times the grand charm with this. I did some research on the writers and some of them from the first season were recycled here. Might I suggest getting a whole new team and let them try their hand at conjuring up something demented and delicious? Maybe have Jordan Peele write two or three episodes? Maybe get actual masters of horror like Ari Aster or Alexandre Aja to try and give us nightmares for nights to come? Just don’t ever get rid of Jordan Peele’s involvement. He is the best narrator for the show since original creator Rod Serling. Just get him more involved. Also, make stories not just place their bets on a twist alone, the whole thing should be prepared well so that the twist is earned and doesn’t just feel out of left field. Until next time, I have to say, much more satisfied with my trip to The Twilight Zone. Since we are living one with COVID-19 right now. But maybe it’s only chance at a season 3 is that people discover this because they are so bored and new content is drying up. We’ll see if it can capture more imaginations.

MY OVERALL SEASON 2 GRADE: B

The Overall Grade I Gave Season 1: C-

Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: 13 REASONS WHY SEASON 4 – THE FINAL SEASON (Netflix)

Oh boy, here we go! A lot of you hate that I watch and review this show. 13 REASONS WHY in general, it’s a series that people love to hate. And I get why, but then again, I don’t. Some people say it glorifies suicide and violence, and I really don’t agree with that logic. But then, the people that say they hate the show because it makes them more depressed about life including graphic depictions of rape and bullying, that I can see their logic on. The show is quite depressing at times and the bullying does become a bit too much in some episodes. I considered the whole thing to be a entertaining binge-able cautionary tale…well…maybe until now. At points, during this final batch of episodes I wanted to jump on the hate train right along with ya’ll. SEASON 4, THE FINAL SEASON, is absolutely fucking abysmal at points, and I started this review not knowing if I would ultimately recommend it or not. There is a course correction almost half way through the season that gets it back on track but then when the giant movie length (98 minutes) series finale episode hits, it mildly becomes frustrating again. To pin point that frustration: one of the ending fates of one of the characters makes absolutely no fucking sense. Episode 1, 3, and 4 of the new season are so…so bad, that I’ve been told from certain people that they stopped watching and quit the series…so close to the end. I’ll ditch something mid series with no end in sight (like The Blacklist) if I have to, but if I’m only a handful of episodes away to the very, very end…to quit would seem like a wasted journey. There is no doubt in my mind that Season 1 of 13 Reasons Why will never be beat. It is near perfect in its storytelling and execution. Season 2 stretches out Hannah Baker’s story to the point where it sags all the way to the ground, and Clay seeing and talking to Hannah’s ‘ghost’ was kind of a buzzkill. That ghost bullshit almost almost got me to quit then. But then Season 3 got things back on track with a cool murder mystery and pacing that almost matched the first season. I don’t know where to put Season 4, the final one, as it’s easily a photo finish between this and the second one, but they are both so roller coaster bat shit on and off tone at times that I really can’t decide. Hopefully I can find the reasons why, to put them in a solid and concrete preferred order.

My reviews are usually long for this series, but that’s because I go into full on spoiler territory. For this final season, I’m not going to do that, instead I will just state in broad terms what worked and what didn’t work for me. Let’s get the shit out of the way, as since this will be my final say as the series as a whole, I’d rather end on something good than something where I just seem like an angry butt hurt fan. Season 1 dealt with Hannah Baker and why she ultimately decided to end her life. Season 2 dealt with the trail of Bryce Larkin, who is taken to court by Hannah’s parents as they and her friends had a confession and other evidence that he raped her. Season 3 was, “who killed Bryce Larkin?”. And Season 4 deals with all of our main characters dealing with the after math of Bryce’s murder and a frame job, graduating high school, moving on with life, and there is a mystery introduced in a flash forward at the very beginning of the first episode back, and that is: “who is in the coffin?” The answer to that mystery is emotionally sad, paced & acted to perfection, but logically it didn’t make much sense (especially when you think about the cause of death and modern medicine). But that one fate (the rest had pretty good endings) was not the worst part of this final round, oh no, that would be episodes 1, 3…and possibly the worst episode of the entire series, 4. I forgot to say the main character whose perspective we mainly follow throughout all 4 seasons is Clay Jensen played to top notch perfection by Dylan Minnette. He has been the one true voice of the show (except for sharing it with Hannah Baker in Season 1 and Ani in Season 3) and probably the most decent character out of the main group of friends that include Jessica, Justin, Alex, Zach, Tyler, Tony, and Ani. Now, remember in Season 2 when he was talking to Hannah’s ghost? Where it seemed like he was losing his fucking mind? The first half of the final season doubles down on that. You have Clay talking to both Bryce and Monty’s ghosts (both died last season) and then you even have some of the other characters, like Jessica, seeing shit as well. I get wanting the now dead actors to still come back and receive a paycheck but… it’s very odd and off putting.

It’s like they took the main tone of the series, which is supposed to be depressing teen angst, and tried to give it horror based elements, and it just didn’t work at all. When you think of 13 Reasons Why can you imagine thinking about Clay hallucinating that he’s seeing blood coming out of the school shower heads and being covered head to toe in red? No? Well then prepare yourself, because that is what happens at some point in the first handful of episodes. The sin of the first episode is just dragged out boring set up, the real crime is the entirety of episode 4. Episode 4, titled ‘Senior Camping Trip’, gets my nomination for one of the worst episodes of television…ever. Per Imdb.com, in that episode, “Clay is forced to confront his anxiety on the senior camping trip as a suspicious email threatens to turn the friends against each other.” This doesn’t even begin to describe the zaniness to come. All of the kids get freaked out and start seeing shit that isn’t there, and a couple even claim the woods are ‘haunted.’ I don’t want to spoil too much of it, you just have to witness this bat shit crazy bullshit on your own, but needless to say, the tone of this episode doesn’t match of the rest of the series, and it is glaringly noticeable. I know that the writers were probably trying to think outside the box to not get repetitive in their storytelling…but this was NOT the way to go…at all. So bad that if I ever decide to re check out the series, it’ll be a stain on my brain and I will make sure to skip it on my next go around. Episode 3’s crime deals with the blood coming out of the showers, but the main crime is that it centers on a Valentine’s Day dance…and then we get a Prom episode a little later. That was too repetitive to me. To have two dance episodes in the final season just seemed to point to lazy writing. The Prom needed to be the only one where a dance was involved because a lot of students look at Prom as an ‘end of an era’ like event. I know that some don’t but when you think about what Prom usually represents in movies and television for characters, it is THE rite of passage for young adults to move out of high school and into college and adult hood. Episode 3 should’ve been scrapped entirely and something else should have replaced it. I mean they came up with a college campus visit episode, you are meaning to tell me they couldn’t have thought up of something else other than a 2ND dance? Also, has any other high school in the world gotten in this much shit in such little time?

And even though there is a revelation in one of the final episodes why that fourth episode went down the way it did, the tone was just so off base for the series that the revelation did nothing to make me forgive that episode. Gary Sinese, aka Lieutenant Dan, shows up in this as Clay’s therapist, but with how little he is in it, it seems like he was an afterthought. Like they shot all of Clay’s scenes with an unknown, and at the last minute they got someone recognizable and re filmed all those scenes. Because if you look closely, he really is only in scenes with just Clay or his parents. I know that makes sense considering therapists not being too directly involved in kids lives but, the scenes just felt inserted. Fortunately, Gary Sinese does a good job where the awkward timing of the session are forgivable. I liked that his character had standards and rules and stuck with them and that they didn’t get his character too involved, it would’ve been…too movie-ish. If you know what I mean. Also, for non fans of Ani, who was an entirely new character in season 3, did some stupid shit and people didn’t like that she took over from Clay as narrator, she’s not in this season much. So you know that the creators definitely listened to fan input. She’s in it just enough though to have her and Clay complete their own little relationship arc, but when she’s sent to her mom’s mid way through the season and doesn’t come back till near the end, you know that she was sent away for the toxic fans of the show, and that shouldn’t have happened. Me? I thought Ani was fine, and the actress who played her did a good job in the role. I had no qualms with her and I’m disappointed that the show runners would listen to dumb feedback such as that.

Thankfully though, in episode 5, the series does a giant course correction and gives us two stronger episodes, Episode 6 maybe even being one of their strongest of the whole series. I’ll give you a hint what it is about: it deals with a possible active shooter on campus. It is also the only episode of the series so far where Clay talking to dead people is emotional and makes a bit of sense. And then after that, it stays consistently good, all the way thru the Prom and grand finale, which is basically graduation. And its consistently good, other than the tiny hiccup with the revelation of who ends up being in the coffin. It’s only because the matter of the death. If this character had died some other way, the whole finale, which the run time is a little too long in general, would’ve been 100% solid. If you want to discuss with me why or why not THAT fate bothered you and why it bothered me, message me up, I’m more than happy to describe why I didn’t think it made any sense. But other than that, it had a solid ending, and a solid very last scene. I’ve decided, I am going to barely recommend watching this last season, if only because I think I really enjoyed this series as a whole, especially the 1st. It might’ve been realistic at first and then gone off track with murder mysteries, characters losing their minds and talking to dead people, but it has remained consistently entertaining. Like watching a dumpster fire filled with teen angst. The acting has always been 100% solid too, no bumps in the road. But because of my frustration with some of the episodes, I can say with 100% certainty say that this was the worst season of the show. Should they just have ended it with season three and had wrapped up all the lose ends? Yes, that absolutely would’ve been the better choice, but I see their reasoning of wanting to end it when they all graduated high school. Definitely the perfect storytelling ending fork in the road for a lot of movies and television series. If you were to ask me, I would’ve said that it should’ve just been a one season kind of thing, loose threads be damned. Maybe they should’ve spent a little more time fine tuning this final season? Completely scrap the 1st, 3rd and 4th episodes and do some major rewrites? Doing some research I saw that this was the shortest amount of time of a wait between seasons (less than a year, the others were more). But then again, if they had taken more time they might not have finished filming because of the asshole that is COVID-19. Lose-lose situation I’m afraid. What will I remember most about this series? Probably that it was one of (if not only) high school television series about teen angst with real issues that I actually gave a damn about. Fuck you, Degrassi.

My Final Ranking Of The 13 Reasons Why Series:

  1. Season 1
  2. Season 3
  3. Season 2
  4. Season 4

Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: LOONEY TUNES CARTOONS Season 1 (HBO MAX)

This will be a really quick two paragraph review of LOONEY TUNES CARTOONS Season 1 that just premiered along with the streaming service HBO Max. Because what is there to really say about Looney Tunes? This is your Dad’s Looney Tunes, not some revamp that might as well take the word Looney right out of it. Now this isn’t the entire old Looney Tunes library that you remember watching when we are kids, but NEW ORIGINAL cartoons featuring your favorite characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, Coyote & Road Runner etc. There are 10 episodes but they are only 10 to 12 minutes each (and split into 2-3 shorts that don’t over stay their welcome, you know, like the old days). It’s basically one big 2 hour movie full of shorts. And it’s great! Not only does my young almost 3 year old son Grayson pay attention to it, but he laughs right along with all the hijinks. Not only that, but I find myself laughing along too while thinking, “they didn’t change a thing, and that’s the best thing about it.” HBO Max and whoever wrote and animated for this new original series could’ve went the opposite wrong way for sure. And in this day and age, it’s shocking they didn’t.

In this you will see absolutely no jokes that try to modernize the cartoon. They don’t even utter any terms such as yolo, millenial, or even say the dreaded hashtag in front of other words. It’s literally new of more of the same from way back when. All the violence where all the cartoon characters are okay, but would literally die in real life, is all here in all its glory…along with your favorite dynamite sticks! All the characters still sound the same, you still get Daffy vs. Elmer Fudd, Daffy and Porky Pig messy mix ups, Bugs Bunny gaining the upper hand on every single obnoxious villain he comes across, and the damn Coyote still can’t catch the Road Runner. Giant rocks fall on characters, countless explosions, slapstick humor, all in tact. Nothing changed. I’m surprised that helicopter moms weren’t screaming from the rooftops from the beginning to make this project more accessible to younger viewers. It is all a hard TV-PG for sure. The only thing disappointing about it, is that it is only 2 hours of content right now. But seeing as this, and then that child like Elmo late show are the only things people are watching on the new streaming service right now, and that animation shows aren’t being affected so much by COVID-19, I think we can expect a season 2 sooner rather than later. Back in the day, this was a zany Saturday morning cartoon that the whole family could enjoy. It still is, just now with no commercials. Finally, something that feels fresh by still remaining the same. How looney is that?

Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: SPACE FORCE SEASON 1 (Netflix)

Man…did SPACE FORCE pick the wrong weekend to debut or what, am I right? Not it’s fault though, but suffice to say that when viewing numbers for this weekend come out, I wouldn’t be surprised if Netflix, Greg Daniels, Steve Carrell and co. are disappointed with the ultimate results. Hope you all are staying safe out there and if you are protesting that you are doing it peacefully. Speaking of peacefully, I thought the show was going to have a lot more digs toward the government or those in charge of power, but everything was surprisingly tame and not controversial whatsoever. Which to be honest, was a little disappointing. Most if not all of the humor was tamer than some of the now tone deaf laughs that The Office gave us way back then. That being said, I still enjoyed Space Force for what it was and have to disagree with a lot of the critics that hated it. It is a different work place comedy from the creators of the ultimate work place comedy that people (including me) still binge watch constantly over and over again on Netflix (until it leaves that platform later this year, that’s when I’ll bring out the DVD’s!). While the show didn’t provide nearly as much laughs as I would’ve liked, the whole story was entertaining to me, and at least the first season was much, much better than the first season of The Office or Parks and Recreation. Remember how horrible those were but then those shows found their footing? Well if this show is already 10 times better than the 1st season of those shows, and it manages to find their footing in the next season or two, we could be in for something truly special. It remains to be seen, but I’m willing to give it a couple of more season chance. Right now it is passable okay bordering on good. And that ain’t bad.

Per Wikipedia, “Space Force┬áis a workplace comedy series that centers on a group of people tasked with establishing the sixth branch of the United States Armed Forces. Carell’s character, Mark Naird, is the general in charge of the effort and the series follows his collaboration to get “boots on the moon” per the orders of the President.” To add to that description, needless to say, almost all the people in this special sixth branch (excluding only a few) are a few thousand gallons of fuel short of a successful launch. Thankfully, Steve Carell is definitely not just playing Michael Scott with a rough military scowl, but an entirely new buffoon altogether, one that you could definitely say has more smarts than Michael Scott with the same amount of heart. Really none of the acting is a problem here, everybody plays a colorful and interesting character, but if I had to pick an MVP of the series, it unfortunately would not be Mr. Carrell, it would easily be John Malkovich. I haven’t enjoyed John Malkovich this much since his days playing an over the top character in movies like Rounders or Con Air. Here, he plays it straight, but he plays it so straight that its absolutely fucking hilarious. He is one of the few exceptions to all the dummies he’s surrounded by in the new special military branch (the African American pilot played by Newsome is a close second in terms of smarts and laughs). And when he disagrees with anybody’s thoughts on the next step to a problem they are having to solve, his facial expressions, demeanor and dialogue are pure comedy gold. If there is any reason to give this entire season a watch it is for him and him alone. Fortunately, he isn’t an ‘AND’ character and is second billed in the series, so he almost has as much screen time as Carrell. If the series ever didn’t bring back Malkovich, I would probably stop watching immediately.

The series is entertaining on a story level, especially the B plot that turns into the A plot at the end of the American Space Force vs. The Chinese Space Force. It is just that all the laughs are more chuckle worthy than laugh out loud antics (all the laugh out loud stuff is mainly just Malkovich). I’d say the jokes are hit and miss, about a perfect 50-50 ratio. If I had to pick my favorite episode out of the ten it would easily be the 2nd episode, which deals with a monkey and dog in space. That is the one episode that had me shaking the whole house with my laugh and didn’t just elicit light chuckles that wouldn’t shake anything but my tongue. The problem with the humor and jokes is that they didn’t take it as far as they needed to. They needed more controversial umph. Maybe they were afraid of retaliation of our current president that they didn’t want the attention? If so, that is disappointing, there was plenty of opportunity to make fun of the politics of it all and also make people laugh their asses off with some smart jokes. Instead, everything is played a little too safe. Maybe the showrunners will receive that feedback and not pull their punches in future seasons. If so, and they land those with brass knuckles right on the political satire cheek, this series will go places. Right now, it was good and not pretty good. I think the critics were a little too hard on it to be sure, but they do have a point. When you are the creator of two shows (Greg Daniels) whose first seasons were downright terrible but somehow overcame cancellation and ended up winning a bunch of Emmy’s with smart future seasons, wouldn’t you think the third time workplace comedy would be the charm? Apparently not. But this season was better than the first season of Parks and Rec and The Office, the last two seasons of The Office and the last season of Parks and Rec. And to me, that’s something to go a little over the moon about.

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.