TV Reviews

Sparking Rage: TV Roundup 1/16/19

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We’re back from our long winter’s nap to bring you the latest in speecy-spicy TV takes! Check it out below while you take a break from turning your house upside-down because a spritely Japanese woman told you to!

TV Roundup 7 Days Out

7 DAYS OUT (Netflix)

“Hmm,” I thought, settling in to find something Mom-friendly to watch on Netflix while home for the holidays. “7 DAYS OUT is on the grid. I guess I could crank out a pilot.” Fast forward 30 minutes into episode one and I’ve texted at least three people that they have to put it on. 7 DAYS OUT is absolutely hypnotic. If you’re a fan of SOMM and other documentaries that explore a hyper-specific world you know nothing about, you will absolutely dig this show. It tackles some of the world’s most prestigious live events, chronicling the preparations that go into putting on the event in the seven days leading up to it. Episodes include The Westminster Dog Show, the Kentucky Derby, the CHANEL Haute Couture fashion show, a restaurant’s grand re-opening, a NASA mission, and a League of Legends championship. I watched the episodes essentially in order from most to least interesting (1. Doggos, 2. Horseys, 3. Food) and found myself absolutely rapt all the way to the bottom of the list. It is just so satisfying to see the best people in any given business hard at work doing what they love. The episodes are quick watches, endlessly entertaining, and you’ll even learn a thing or two! Come for the puppers, stay for everything else. [Kate Brogden]

TV Roundup Bandersnatch

BLACK MIRROR: BANDERSNATCH (Netflix)

Transitioning from page to screen isn’t always seamless, especially when a premise is complex. And no story is more complicated than a choose-your-own-adventure. An interconnected web of alternate realities, choose-your-own-adventures are tasked with telling multiple stories within one, overarching narrative. To write one, you’d have to be absolutely mad… and there you have the premise of Netflix’s latest Black Mirror Frankenstein, BANDERSNATCH. No doubt inspired by interactive video games like BEYOND: TWO SOULS and DETROIT: BECOMING HUMAN, BANDERSNATCH follows a protagonist who slowly realizes his actions are being influenced by a higher power (the viewer). Lurching spasmodically from conspiracy theories, secretive government experiments, dissociative psychology, and mind-bending alternate realities, BANDERSNATCH never quite settles on an identity. Each and every “ending” is intriguing in its own right, and, if you hang in long enough, you will see every single one. But the longer you watch, the futility of your decisions becomes more and more apparent. No matter what you choose at each prompt, you will still see each and every ending. Frosties or Sugar Puffs? Does it even really matter? The illusion of choice is a fun twist on an otherwise linear narrative, but like every BLACK MIRROR episode, it leaves you thinking, long after the screen has gone black. [Tracy Nicoletti]

TV Roundup Series of Unfortunate

A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS S3 (Netflix)

Adapting a television show or movie from an established series of popular children’s novels can be notoriously difficult, a phrase which here means “various studio executives completely miss the point of the books and disappoint countless children.” Luckily for the loyal readers of Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” the Netflix adaptation of the unfortunate exploits of the Baudelaire children continues to be absolutely delightful, a phrase which here means “has finished its third and final season on a wonderfully strong note.”  Despite my praise of the show and its wonderful acting, set design, and surprisingly deep and interesting dives into backstories of various characters that the books didn’t have time to get into, any new viewers should know that the story of the Baudelaires is desperately sad. Their constant attempts to get away from a man who calls himself Count Olaf but looks suspiciously like Neil Patrick Harris is a constant point of dismay, and anyone considering watching it should probably go pet a bunny instead. However, if a brave and well-read person insists upon viewing, they will most likely be entertained while crying themselves to sleep. [Anna Mansager]

TV Roundup Tidying Up

TIDYING UP WITH MARIE KONDO (Netflix)

Netflix’s latest wholesome reality series came amid mass clothing donations, overflowing dumpsters, and lines out the door at The Container Store. Marie Kondo’s “KonMari” method of tidying has taken the world by storm in the form of her book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” so a Netflix series was only a matter of time. Indeed, Marie flits to and fro through cluttered domiciles in the Los Angeles area like some kind of delightful cleanliness fairy. I hope to someday love anything as much as this woman loves tidying up: from gazing at overflowing drawers of crap with an awe befitting Christmas morning, or clutching a couple’s wedding DVD and ever-so-quietly whispering “sugoi.” What is decidedly not sugoi is how it highlights just how gendered housework remains in 2019. There have been a few well-written thinkpieces about this (and if the terms “third shift” and “emotional labor” have you scratching your head, please, for the love of god, read this), so I won’t get too deep into it here, but what I thought was going to be a GREAT BRITISH BAKE-OFF-esque soothing ride often devolved into me yelling at the television that I will NOT heap praise on a 40-year-old man for folding a shirt. Episode One is especially repugnant in this category, where a wife is constantly reduced to tears by the sheer volume of what’s expected of her and the husband rolls his eyes because she hates doing laundry. WHY DON’T YOU DO THE FUCKING LAUNDRY, THEN?? At any rate—if watching this show motivates you to part with some excess clutter in your house and think more purposefully about how your possessions affect you emotionally (and it will), then awesome. But don’t go into it expecting a smooth ride—and perhaps take the opportunity to discuss division of labor with your friends, partners, and parents. Otherwise, you may find this series sparking rage rather than joy. [Kate Brogden]

TV Roundup True Detective

TRUE DETECTIVE S3 (HBO)

I remember the exact moment I gave up on season two. Right after Colin Farrell declared that vaping was akin to [sic] “sucking a robot’s dick,” my first thought was “better luck next season.” It’s rare that a series can destroy the good faith given to a truly remarkable first season, but TRUE DETECTIVE did it in about 35 minutes. Rather than balk at the milquetoast reception, Nic Pizzolatto and HBO dug in their heels and bet on Mahershala Ali’s well-deserved reputation to win back our trust. In case that wasn’t enough, they released not one, but two of the eight episodes this week and tacked the release date of Nerd Super Bowl AKA GAME OF THRONES onto the front just to be safe. Safety’s what I kept thinking about during “The Great War and Modern Memory” and “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye.” The most-loved aspects of the first season—nihilistic squad car banter, time-hopping narrative structure, long stretches of dialogue-sparse psychedelic sequences—look pretty similar to how McConaughey and Harrelson did them. Despite feeling a bit overly familiar, gorgeous cinematography and Ali’s distant yet smoldering delivery keep it on the rails. The “elite lone wolf” archetype of Ali’s Wayne “Purple” Hayes gets the blood pumping even if it doesn’t quite measure up to Rusty Cohl’s shamanistic self-loathing. Despite lacking spicy originality, I’m still impressed with the crime drama fundamentals on display here. Essential viewing for Mahershala stans and police procedural buffs, TRUE DETECTIVE’s third season gives a fresh coat of paint to a sturdy building. Come for the horrifying murders and eerie bluegrass, stay for the gorgeous woodland shots and jokes that aren’t about android phallus. [Dan Blomquist]

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