Category: television

TV Review: The Goes Wrong Show

When I find a British show that I love, my biggest complaint is always (inevitably) that it’s just too short. Seasons across the Atlantic are like five episodes long. Six, if you’re lucky. Thankfully with The Goes Wrong Show, it’s a “long” season of 6 whopping episodes, available on Amazon Prime even as we speak. And if I were you (which I realize I’m not), I would stop whatever you’re doing this instant and go watch this show instead.

Oh wait. That would mean you’d stop reading my blog, wouldn’t it? Well, whatever you planning to do after you finished reading my blog, I would watch this show instead. Someone had recommended it to me (I’ve sadly forgotten who), and I decided to watch it when I got around to it. Don’t be like me. This is some of the funniest stuff I watched in a good long while.

The premise is straightforward: a fairly amateur acting troupe in England prepares a weekly live play that they film in front of audience and then broadcast to the nation. Except their entire production is just plain awful. They’ve got set design folks who make an absolute mess of things, their actors are all highly unprofessional, the writing is a mess, and pretty much everything you can imagine ends up going wrong. (It couldn’t have taken them long to come up with the title for the show.)

A lot of the time I have trouble really laughing at people in painful situations. I can’t typically last too much of The Office for that reason. It’s so uncomfortable for me to watch people making such poor life choices, and then laugh at them. However, with this show, I don’t have to worry about that. I’m not laughing at real people’s lives (even if they’re fictional), I’m laughing at people who are just flat out bad at what they do professionally. For some reason, that makes all the difference.

It also helps that a lot of the humor from the show comes from things other than just “these people can’t act” over and over. The set design crew makes tons of errors, like building a court room where they thought the measurements were in inches, not feet. Or building a dining room vertically, so the table’s on the wall. Not every single episode is a grand slam, but they’re all a lot of fun, and I was often laughing so hard I had to pause it.

Fair warning: the humor does get a bit ribald now and then. We watched it with the whole family, and there was a time or two when I felt like it crossed the line for MC (though it likely just sailed right past her), but I don’t like wholeheartedly recommending something and then risking it being too much for some people. I’d still say it’s squarely in PG range, and it is indeed rated TV-PG, so maybe I’m being too fussy.

In any cast, I gave it a 10/10, and I can’t wait until I can watch season 2.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Television Review: For All Mankind (Season One)

The premise behind For All Mankind intrigued me right away. What if the Russians had been the first to walk on the moon instead of the Americans? What sort of an impact might that have had on history? Ronald Moore (creator of Battlestar Galactica) poses that question in the first episode, and then proceeds to play out the what if from then on. The result is an intriguing season, bogged down occasionally with too much melodrama.

The show shines when it can have fun with the premise, showing both how some things might have changed and how some things would have stayed the same. In a fairly non-spoilery example, the Chappaquiddick scandal in Ted Kennedy’s life was avoided, since the Russians landed on the moon the same evening Mary Jo Kopechne died in our normal timeline. Kennedy left that party before the death occurred, and voila, he was then scandal-free, letting him win the presidency in 1972. (Of course, since Kopechne was still alive in this new timeline, he was then bogged down in a sex scandal later on, when the affair came to light.)

On the other hand, sometimes I felt like the series got hung up on the lives of its characters, to the detriment to the plot. I know that sounds like a pretty lame reason to critique a show (the characters are too important!), but when the main engine of the show is running on “what if,” taking the time to explore universal issues like the stress of the space program on the families involved feel like the show spinning its wheels. I can get that in any number of shows about the space race. Give me more of that sweet alternate history action, thank you kindly.

But thankfully, that bogged-down feeling is generally kept to a minimum, and the show moves forward quite quickly. (Yay for binge watching.) It’s rated TVMA for a bit of language here and there, but nothing that should cause too much of a hangup for most audiences. (A number of episodes are actually TV14. The show seems to want to appear more “mature” than it really is, as if audiences don’t want to watch a TV14 show. I do wish they’d just trim the content to be more squarely in the TV14 range, since that’s what the show feels like it wants to be.) Honestly, the biggest strike against it is probably that it’s on Apple TV+, which just isn’t that widely used as of yet.

Overall, I gave it a 7.5/10. There’s plenty to like, and I’m intrigued enough to move on to season two, but it isn’t complete bliss. Season two might well make or break the show. We’ll see. If the premise seems interesting, or you’re a sucker for space exploration or light science fiction or alternate histories, this is one I’d definitely keep an eye on.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Television Review: Ted Lasso

There are times when I can feel very contrarian when it comes to what I want to watch. I might hear great things about a show, but I just put off watching it for no real reason other than “I don’t want to watch the same thing everyone else is watching.” Of course, other times I’m the first to line up for the thing that everyone else is going to be watching, so it’s not like I’m consistent. But for whatever reason, I delayed watching Ted Lasso even though I’d heard fantastic things about it from many different corners. A show about an American football coach who goes to head a British soccer team? It couldn’t be that good, could it?

Having now watched the whole season in about 4 days, I can confirm that yes, it actually is that good. I gave it a 10/10 and enjoyed every minute. That said, I definitely can’t unequivocally recommend it to everyone, so read on a bit to see why.

First off, why did I love the show? At its heart, it’s just wholesome. Ted Lasso is an incredibly optimistic, genuinely good person, and the show manages to be both heartwarming and very funny by placing him in a variety of situations where his nature just typically doesn’t belong. Perhaps one reason I was avoiding the show was that I generally don’t love shows where the main character does stupid things and is put in awkward positions. While I think The Office is hilarious, it often could make me feel too bad for the people involved, and so I’d have a hard time sticking with it for too long, just because I don’t like cringing non-stop. I worried Ted Lasso would be that sort of humor.

It isn’t. The show isn’t about making fun of Ted Lasso, or about people taking advantage of him. Often, they let him come out on top, showing how good nature can really beat out jaded underhandedness. He’s not the butt of the jokes. He ends up being able to use his positivity to overcome problems, instead of having it create non-stop problems for him.

The writing, the acting, and the characters themselves are all very well done. Really, the biggest complaint I had was that it was just 10 episodes, and I wanted way more.

So why can’t I recommend it to everyone?

The content. It’s rated TV-MA for language alone. There is no sex or violence to speak of, but the language is very salty, and not just with swears, but with subject matter at times. It’s not generally raunchy (though at times some of the characters definitely dip their toe into the raunch pool), but it’s pervasive. Is it necessary? That’s a different question. A lot of what makes the show so good is the contrast between Ted and the people he’s up against. By having the football fans all hate his guts (and be very specific as to why), Ted is even more admirable for being able to stand up to the hate and keep smiling. Could they have done it without all the swears? Definitely. Though then perhaps it would have felt less like Ted’s living in our world and more like he’s living in an alternate TV land.

Like it or not, people swear in the real world. Some of them are often raunchy. And this show is true to life in that way. Not all the characters are like that, but some are. Is this a show you’re going to watch with the whole family? I definitely wouldn’t. But if you’re a grown adult and four letter words aren’t going to turn you off right away, then it’s certainly worth your time. (Of course, it’s also just on Apple TV+, which might be a bigger turn off for many of you than the language . . .)

Have you seen it already? What did you think?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Returning to American Idol

Okay, okay. Remember how back when I blogged about revisiting Survivor, I mentioned in passing (and jokingly) that I might even try American Idol again? Yeah, well . . . I broke down and added it to my DVR, and then I went one step further and watched the first episode. One thing led to another, and that’s how I’ve started watching the season. Yeah. I’m a sucker, what can I say?

However, a few comments have come to mind around this new version of American Idol that I’m watching now. First of all, the DVR makes a huge difference. If there’s a performance I don’t like, I can just skip it. I can also skip all the ads, which means an episode takes much less time. (I don’t think I’ll watch it live. Even for live sports, I typically will just stay away from any news sources and then start the game an hour or so late. Who has time for ads?) Watching shows on my own schedule is very freeing. (Though there are still some shows I make time for each week as soon as I can. The Marvel shows on Disney+ have been that way for me so far.)

But more than just watching it with a DVR is the fact that the old American Idol was basically “Watch Simon be abusive to people for an hour.” Paula and Randy’s comments didn’t really “matter.” The whole point of the show was to impress Simon Cowell. (A format that went on to be successful in other reality shows, including The Apprentice. One might even wonder if Donald Trump would have been president if not for the path Simon Cowell blazed for him.)

Back in the day, I remember really liking Simon because he was so brutally “honest.” I cringe to think back on that now. And if the current AI were that way, there’s no way I would stick with it. However, the new hosts are genuinely caring. Sure, they do and say some stupid things now and then, and they can get combative with the contestants if the contestants are being combative first, but by and large they seem genuinely concerned for the singers who are on the show. They want to see them succeed, and they give them feedback to help them, no matter what stage of the game the contestants are at.

I believe we all have different inherent aptitudes for different skills. Whether it’s sports or an instrument or writing or whatever, each of us would start off with more or less skill in that than someone else. But you can take the skill you start off with and really make something with it. Through hard work and diligence, you can make that skill come alive, and you can get to a higher point with it than someone with better inherent skill who chose not to hone it.

If people are genuinely interested in getting better at something, the way to help them isn’t to tell them how bad they are, though that can be appealing if you yourself are unconfident. To really help, you point out their strengths and weaknesses and show them the next steps. I really enjoy seeing the judges do that now. Are there as many zingers and “did he just say that?” moments? No, but who cares? You can watch people being nice to each other.

More of that, please.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Netflix Review: Murder Among the Mormons

With a title like Murder Among the Mormons, how could I not watch? If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a documentary that just came out last week, focused on the Mark Hofmann case. Directed by Jared Hess (of Napoleon Dynamite fame), you might expect this to be some sort of light-hearted, zany look at an historical event. If you’re at all familiar with what Mark Hofmann did, however, you’d know that’s anything but what you’re going to get.

How to review a documentary where I assume many of the readers don’t know anything at all about the subject, and it’s presented in a sort of mystery format? I think I’m going to lead off with a spoiler-free discussion of the three-part documentary, and then I’ll get into some spoilery details after those who want to go into the show “clean” have a chance to leave.

It’s a compelling documentary, and since it’s just three parts, it’s very accessible for anyone to watch. You could easily finish the whole thing in a long evening. Denisa and I watched it over the course of two nights. They actually did something in the same vein as I did with THE PERFECT PLACE TO DIE, which is to treat the historical case like a mystery. Yes, a fair number of people might already know the specifics of the case, but a fair number won’t. More importantly, the people who were living back then didn’t have a clue what was really happening either. I think it’s more interesting to look at how things seemed at the time, rather than to view it all with perfect hindsight. One of the reasons noteworthy cases become so noteworthy is that they seemed unsolvable and unique at the time.

What do you need to know about the history going in? Back in the 80s, there was a man (Mark Hofmann) who specialized in digging up obscure documents out of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ past. Documents that became more and more problematic for the church. And then pipe bombs started entering the mix. Police had no clue who was doing the bombing or why. Take it from there.

It’s well executed, and I found it very compelling. It doesn’t treat the church with kid gloves, though it doesn’t treat it really unfairly, either. I thought they found a good balance between the two extremes, something I was very curious to see how it was handled heading into it. All told, I gave it an 8/10, and I appreciated having something that was longer than a movie but shorter than a long series to watch. It would make an excellent show to watch in between shows.

With the spoiler-free part of the review out of the way, I want to dig in a bit more to the actual history of the case. So here’s your warning if you’d rather avoid those comments.

SPOILERS BELOW

So. Mark Hofmann. I’m always amazed at how easy it is for people to become really evil. I know he presented himself as just a normal guy, but I was astounded at how far he sank and how quickly. Justifying murder with the thought that “they might die in a car crash anyway” and “it’s really self-preservation, which is justified.” I don’t think Hofmann viewed himself as a terrible person, and I don’t think people who commit atrocities generally do either. You just get to a point where you’re able to justify it to yourself, and once you can do that, you reduce a lot of things down to a thought experiment.

People made a big deal in the show (and in some articles I’ve read around the case) about how the case proves Latter-day Saint prophets are phony. If they commune with God, then how come God didn’t tell them Hofmann was a murderer and the documents were fake? I tend to think people oversell the “commune with God” angle when they’re viewing religion. I don’t really believe God is just there with a red phone hotline that He uses to direct things. By and large, He lets us muck through things on our own, because that’s why we’re here on Earth in the first place. To figure out how to do things on our own. To grow and develop. If God intervened to keep the church from buying some phony documents, where does the line get drawn? Just my thoughts on the matter. (Richard Turley, the church historian interviewed in the mini-series, did a podcast entry about it here, which was interesting as well.)

I was really impressed with the investigation that went into the case. Proving Hofmann was a forger took a ton of hard work and persistence. That’s not easy to do when the common consensus is that all of that hard work is a waste of time. Hofmann’s discoveries were real, after all. They’d been verified by the FBI! But because of a few people’s persistence, it all began to unravel. (Also interesting to note just how quickly it all fell apart, once the story began to fray.)

Anyway. It’s a show that’s getting a fair bit of attention, or at least enough that I’m hearing a lot about it in the online circles I walk through. It was a fascinating look at the history of an event I knew something about, but which I’d never really taken the time to fully dig into.

What did you think?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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