Category: television

Returning to Survivor

Back in the day, there were a number of shows I watched regularly. When I ditched television back around 2009, I gave up most of them. At the time, it just didn’t make sense to be paying how much I was paying (as a percent of what I earned) in return for the television shows themselves. Of course, it’s been 12 years or so since then, and there’s only so much sitting around during a pandemic you can handle. So maybe it only makes sense that I would eventually return to some of the television shows I used to watch all the time. (I even caught some of American Idol on Sunday. I’m still not sure how I feel about that . . .)

But one show that I’ve really been enjoying catching up on is definitely Survivor. We had avoided watching it with the kids for a long while, simply because I remembered it getting fairly cutthroat, and I wasn’t sure they were up to it yet. But there’s something about being abandoned on a beach and having to fend for yourself that really resonates with me right now (I wonder why), and so we launched in with Season 25. (I can’t remember which seasons I’ve seen and which I haven’t, so we just started somewhere I was sure no one had seen.)

If I were to ever want to go on a reality game show, Survivor would definitely be my first choice. It’s not my favorite of the genre: that would be The Amazing Race. However, I’ve traveled enough to know that I personally would probably tank in the Amazing Race. All those planes . . . I just don’t think I could force myself to do that for that amount of time. Survivor, on the other hand, has proven that you don’t necessarily need to be a superhero to be able to succeed in the game. Yes, there’s a physical aspect to it, but so much of the game is social and strategic, and that’s the part of watching it that really appeals to me.

I love board games. To me, Survivor is just one big enormous social interaction game, and nothing more. I don’t really understand how people playing the game say things like, “I have to give up my integrity to play this game well.” It’s a game. If I’m playing Risk with someone, and I make an alliance with them, and then I end up having to break that alliance, am I suddenly a person with no integrity? I would say no, since it’s all within the bonds of that game. (And in Risk, if you break an alliance, that can really come back to haunt you, just as in Survivor.)

Does that mean I’d do anything in order to win? No. I tend to believe I’d use my typical skill sets to try and get ahead on the game. When I play board games, I almost always keep my word, even within the bounds of the game. I’ve found that trust is more valuable than short term gains from breaking trust. What else wouldn’t I do? I wouldn’t compromise my morals, and I wouldn’t do things that go against my religion. (Another reason I think the Amazing Race would be ill-suited for me. There’s inevitably some challenge that involves alcohol, and I’d have to just take the automatic penalty, which would really stink.)

Do I think I could win on Survivor? Sure, it’s in the realm of possibility, but just as much as anyone can win on Survivor. Yes, a lot of it is skill based, but there’s plenty of luck as well, and I’m always impressed by the people who manage to successfully finagle their way through all the potential pitfalls to come out on top.

Of course, at the end of it all, I do have a general question as to what the worth of Survivor is. I like to watch things that improve me or my writing somehow. In the Amazing Race, I like seeing other countries and learning a (very small) bit about them. That’s enough to justify the show to me. In Survivor, I’m not sure. It’s an excellent way to pass the time, and it offers some interesting scenarios to spark discussion with the fam. (I wonder how often my family wishes I would stop hitting “pause” to make commentary . . .)

In any case, it’s been a diverting way to spend some evenings again. (Though I’m still not sure I’ll ever get back to full American Idol fandom . . .)

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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.

Revisiting The X-Files

I mentioned the other day that Daniela and I are now revisiting the X-Files. We’re still really early on in the show, but I had a couple observations already, and since what I really want to write about (the impeachment trial) is something that I don’t feel up to writing about today, I thought I’d focus on something lighter instead.

When I was in high school, The X-Files was one of the first shows I viewed as event television. Something that you’d get together with friends to watch, and that you’d all be talking about the next day. (Or, since it aired Fridays as I recall, the next Monday at school.) In many ways, it was a show that broke ground for the sort of television that’s so common now: big plot arcs, compelling mysteries, hints handed out bit by bit over time. It’s the kind of show that would have a mass following online if it were to come out now, with people all dissecting the little clues they noticed in each episode.

Of course, as a pioneer in that type of television, it’s got many aspects that don’t necessarily stand up as well to modern scrutiny. For one thing, it’s a bit hard for me to watch the series, since I know full well that many of these mysteries will just never be answered. That’s been something that’s held me back from watching a number of TV shows over the years. I watched the first bit of Heroes, for example, but then heard that it got significantly worse later on, so I just lost interest. In many ways, it feels like someone tells you “The first five chapters of this are incredible. Then it gets worse.”

There’s no way I would read that book. Bit then again, isn’t that what television has sort of been like all along? The difference is that now we’re often consuming it a season at a time. Maybe I’m just getting much more demanding, or maybe there’s more good television out there, which makes it harder to find shows that are as good.

(Something else that’s hard to wrap my head around? Gillian Anderson was 25 in season one. Duchovny was 33. When I watched them in high school, they were indubitably Old. What does that make me now? It’s almost been 30 years since the first X-Files aired. Showing it to Daniela now would be like me watching The Beverly Hillbillies or The Dick Van Dyke Show with my parents when I was her age.)

Then again, from what I remember, the X-Files also did a great job of “episode of the week” deliveries. Sure, there were the episodes that advanced the big plot forward and dribbled out additional hints and clues, but there were also just flat out funky episodes where cockroaches invade a town or there’s a monster Scully and Mulder have to fight. That’s something that I haven’t watched as much of recently, and it’ll be interesting to revisit it. (Doctor Who is pretty much completely in this vein. You’ve got the cool premise, and so you use that as a vehicle to do cool things.)

So far, the shows have stood up well, but like I said, we’ve barely scratched the surface. I’ll be interested to see where it goes from here. (Especially since I’ve never seen all the episodes. I mean, back when I was watching them, you either saw it live, or you didn’t see it. Talk about the stone age.)

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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.

Unpopular Opinion: Bridgerton Edition

Bridgerton has really been drawing a lot of attention since it came out on Netflix last month. While I might not seem like I’m squarely in the target demographic, there were a number of things about it that intrigued me. First off, anytime something’s getting that much attention, as a maker of pop art, I want to check it out and try to see what the appeal is. Add to that the fact that I was a big Downton Abbey fan, and I don’t think it’s a huge leap to think I might have liked the show. So I gave it a shot.

As per my policy, I don’t review things I don’t finish. And I’m reviewing Bridgerton now, so obviously I liked the show enough to stick around to see the end. That said, I loved the first two episodes, then grew increasingly frustrated with the plotting and characterization of the show the longer it went on, plus its insistence on just shoehorning sex in whenever possible. I realize that “I didn’t like this steamy soap opera show because it had too many random steam scenes and was too much like a soap opera” is a pretty idiotic criticism to make. (Kind of like saying, “I didn’t like that chocolate ice cream because it tasted too much like chocolate ice cream.”) But hear me out.

Those first two episodes were a lot of fun. They were setting up characters, setting up conflicts, and it all seemed to be going in a nice straight boy meets girl sort of a pattern. It was light and amusing and very different from any of the darkness kicking around current events, and so I appreciated it for that, and I was really excited to see it continue in that vein.

In many ways, this is the same thing that attracted me to Downton Abbey. I always felt that show was at its best when it was just presenting the lives of the characters through a historical lens. Showing what they thought was important and how they dealt with it. I became most frustrated with the show when it chose instead to delve into the soap opera story lines. The murder accusation was the worst offender that I can remember at the moment. In my opinion, the show jettisoned character for plot in those instances. Sure, anyone can have something “shocking” happen at any point in a plot. But throwing in shocks for the sake of shocks is just too much of a blunt instrument at some point.

Four episodes into Bridgerton, things started really going off the rails. I won’t spoil anything in particular here, but I’ll just say that characters stopped behaving like rational beings. They stopped being consistent with the people we got to know the first few episodes, instead choosing to do stupid things that (to me) felt like they were done simply because the writers wanted them to happen. It’s cheap theatrics, and it’s disappointing. For example, one of my personal big pet peeves is when a conflict would be easily solved if only the characters would take five minutes to talk to each other. I understand that sometimes people refuse to talk to each other, and that can make for problems. However, people need reasons not to talk. They can’t just decide not to talk because because. Bridgerton had huge swathes of conflict that relied heavily on this. So in many ways, my disappointment was heightened because I liked the first two episodes so much.

This is all setting aside the sex scenes, which really, really didn’t need to be what they were. If any of you out there are thinking about watching Bridgerton and just fast forwarding through the sex or closing your eyes or whatever, save yourself 8 hours and just don’t watch the show. (Well, maybe you’d only save 7 hours, because you’d be skipping about an hour of the show already.) What did Bridgerton feel like? It felt like Game of Thrones meets Downton Abbey, with more of the flaws of both than the strengths.

All told, I give it a 4/10 for the season. There were still glimmers of things I enjoyed, and those first two episodes were great, but it was a show that made me want to keep checking my phone or do a crossword while I waited for it to finish things that were stupid so that it could get back to the few things I still wanted to find out about. I don’t believe I’ll be punching a ticket for the second season, and unless you’re a big fan of steamy soap operas, I recommend going elsewhere for your diversions. I know it’s gotten a lot of great reviews. I just think they’re wrong. 🙂

(I understand that there’s a fair bit to like in this show. The costuming and set design are both really solid, and there’s plenty of drama to feast on. I think the 4/10 is more a response to my disappointment of what might have been, and that’s okay I suppose. Not all shows out there are made for me. I’ve learned to live with that fact, even if it makes me bitter from time to time.)

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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: The Queen’s Gambit

Sometimes it feels like I’m always last to the table when it comes to reviewing different series on streaming. Then again, whenever I actually write the review, I’m surprised to see many people often haven’t even heard about what I’m reviewing. It’s hard to remember sometimes that just because I keep an ear to the ground on new series doesn’t mean everyone does.

That said, The Queen’s Gambit has been all over the place recently, so maybe this is an instance where everyone really has already heard about it. Still, it’s rated TVMA, and that’s often a deal breaker for some, unless there are extenuating circumstances. This is an instance where I would go ahead and recommend Queen’s Gambit to just about anyone mature enough to think a series about a young female chess prodigy sounds remotely interesting. (It has no nudity, but the main thing getting that TVMA rating is extensive drug use (though it’s very much presented in a non-glorified fashion) and a fair peppering of bad language.)

So why should you give a shot to yet another Netflix show? The Queen’s Gambit stood out to me in a number of ways, and I ultimately gave it a 10/10. It’s a rare show that starts strong and maintains that strength from start to finish. But if my recommendation alone isn’t enough (why not?), here are some specifics:

  • It’s about chess. How many other shows do you have on that subject? Better yet, it makes chess look exciting. It helps to know a bit about chess, but you don’t need to know anything about it to enjoy it.
  • It’s a limited run. No cliff hanger at the end of the series. Seven episodes depict the story from start to finish. There are a number of shows that I enjoy for the first bit, but then they turn their focus to lengthening the show instead of telling the story they set out to tell. This one doesn’t do that.
  • The acting is very strong. I found the characters engaging and surprising, but not in a gimmicky sort of way. You really grow to understand them and see why they make the decisions they do, even if you might wish from time to time that they’d just wise up.
  • The finale is a really great piece of television. It’s the strongest episode of the series, building on all the pieces that were strewn throughout the earlier episodes into a climax that really packs an emotional punch.
  • It has, at its heart, a very encouraging theme. I found it ultimately uplifting, and I really need more of that now.
  • It’s also a fascinating period piece, with great attention to scene design and costuming. Even in the lulls, it’s just a pleasure to see what’s on the screen.

All told, it’s one of my favorite things I’ve seen this year. Give it a shot.

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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.

Top Ten 80s Cartoons

It’s been a long week. I don’t have another current events post in me, so I decided to turn my attention to something far more pressing. I’m speaking, of course, of 80s cartoons. Not the newer stuff from the 90s. Tiny Toons and Animaniacs? They’re not going to appear on this list. I’m talking about my tried and true go-to’s for when I was growing up. Prime “Kid Cartoon” fodder.

I watched my fair share of television in the 80s, and more than my fair share of cartoons. There might be a few on here that I’m missing (because the 80s is a long time ago now, people), but these are the ones that came to mind, so . . . they must be the ones that really matter, right?

Anyway. Enough with the preamble. That’s about as worthless as commercials. Let’s get to the good stuff!

10–The Smurfs: Yes, you can’t get any less cool than the Smurfs. Not really. They’re a bunch of tiny blue creatures running away from a cat. Plus, they showed a real lack of imagination when it came to their naming. Brainy Smurf. Papa Smurf. Smurfette. Everything was Smurfy. That said, it lasted a whole long time, and I watched a whole lot of the show, so in the end, I guess I was a Smurfed as the rest of them.

9–Inspector Gadget: Another of the highlight shows I enjoyed on the younger side of the 80s. A screwy detective who’s somehow part robot, and he fights crimes against the evil Dr. Claw? I mean, what’s not to like here? It was a bit too light hearted for my later bloodthirsty preferences in animation, but for a good long while, I looked forward to seeing the show any time it was on.

8–Garfield and Friends: If this were straight up Garfield, this would be higher ranked. But it had those “Friends.” Sort of like when you ask a cute girl out on a date, and she brings her cousin along that you don’t really like. This isn’t what you wanted out of the evening. That said, the Garfield specials that came on in the evening were always a highlight, so there’s that.

7–Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Yes, some people will undoubtably have this higher. I loved the turtles, but not to the point that I was buying their merchandise. I mean, I played a fair bit of the video games, but those came later, didn’t they? Maybe I just couldn’t connect with a bunch of amphibian martial arts specialists the same way I could relate to robots or scantily-clad barbarians. I don’t know. It’s not you, TMNT, it must be me.

6–DuckTales: You can jam this together with the other Disney block of shows. Talespin? Rescue Rangers? Gummy Bears? They were all high caliber viewing experiences. They didn’t quite have the impact on me as the higher shows on this list did, and they sort of blended into the 90s in many ways, so they just don’t stand out to me as the epitome of 80s cartoondom. But they were tons of fun anyway. DuckTales was the best, hands down. Who knew a show about an elderly billionaire duck living with his three nephews could be so captivating?

5–Voltron: I think I would have liked Voltron even more if I had ever been able to watch it all the way through. But I would always miss weeks and episodes, and so it never made complete sense. Plus, there was the vehicle version of Voltron, and the lion version of Voltron, and that really made a kid scratch his head and wonder what was up with that. Not too much, though, because sci-fi lion robots are cool.

4–GI Joe: Yeah, yeah. It should probably be higher, but in my day, you either liked GI Joe, or you liked Transformers. You had to choose. And I was a Transformers fan, through and through. So while I watched the show and had a great time, I never really embraced it. That was for my brother. Plus, who needs the constant PSAs after every episode? Yes, Duke. I know I shouldn’t play with fire. Just let me watch my cartoons in peace!

3–He-Man: The show had it all. Cringer. Castle Greyskull. Orko hiding out in each episode. Skeletor! Lady Teela. (It also had She-Ra, which I deeply resented for reasons that made sense at the time. Probably because I didn’t want girls getting anything cool. What can I say? They had cooties?) I had a load of He-Man merchandise. The Castle Greyskull was particularly awesome. Dungeons! Skulls! What’s not to like?

2–Thundercats: This isn’t a terribly complicated show to understand. There are people that look kind of like cats, and they fight a guy who looks like a mummy. Also, it’s science fiction. With swords! It also had Cheetara, which was a definite point in is favor. (Then again, it also had the twins. I didn’t like the twins at all. They were annoying. Kind of like Snarf.) But in the end, it’s that sword that really set it apart. Who doesn’t want an extending sword that will blast a Thundercats signal into the heavens? (We will not do a Freudian reading of this show today, folks. In fact, we will never do a Freudian reading of it . . . )

1–Transformers: The flat out most awesome cartoon for me back then had to be Transformers. I mean, giant robots that turned into everything from tanks to dinosaurs? What’s not to like about that? I was a huge transformers fan, and I had a ton of the toys. I would happily sit there switching them from robots into airplanes and back. Transformers was epic. (And it’s a shame what Michael Bay did to them. But I won’t go there.) When I think “watching cartoons in the 80s,” the first thing that always springs to mind is this show.

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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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