Category: television

Yes, I’ve Seen Russian Doll

As a staunch Groundhog Day fan, I think I had at least three different people recommend Russian Doll to me the moment it came out on Netflix. For those of you who might not have heard about it, it’s a time-loop series. A woman starts off at a party and then keeps coming back to that same party over and over and over again.

Post Groundhog Day, this is actually a plot that’s been coming up more and more in movies and television, and I have a soft spot for them. It’s always interesting to me to see how each different story handles it. How they put their individual spin on it. So it’s no real surprise that people thought of me as soon as they hear about the show. And so as soon as I finished The Americans, I turned to Russian Doll.

First, a disclaimer. It’s a foul mouthed show. F bombs are as plentiful as pronouns at times. So this is most definitely Not a Show for Everyone.

Which is a real shame, because it’s a fascinating show with a great mystery at its heart. Great acting and writing. Complex characters that start off as insanely unlikable and somehow turn into people we’re really honestly rooting for. And the language adds literally nothing to anything. Yes, you could argue it helps define who the main character is, but there are so many ways you can show someone’s gruff and uncaring without having them spew profanity with each breath. It’s a sloppy, weak crutch in my book, and I think the show would have been much better without it. Or at least without as much of it. I like salt as much as the next guy, but I don’t throw the whole shaker in.

If you can get past that, as I say, there’s a lot in the show that will appeal to you. Overall, it’s put together well, and the ending doesn’t disappoint. I don’t want to say too much about it, since so much of the show runs on mystery. Just don’t go in expecting answers right away. You’re supposed to be confused and asking yourself a lot of questions. That’s okay. They do eventually get answered. (It’s always nice to know that going in, just so you can have some faith in the show.)

Is it my favorite time loop movie (other than Groundhog Day)? Well, no. Edge of Tomorrow, Looper, FAQ about Time Travel, and Primer come to mind right off. (I have yet to see Happy Death Day. It’s on my list, though!) But this is one of the better ones. Overall, I gave it an 8/10. I just wish I could recommend it more widely than I can . . .

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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 been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. 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: The Americans

The concept is pretty straightforward: a Russian couple is trained to be super spies. They lose their accents, learn American ways, and move to the country in the late 1960s. Fast forward to the early 1980s. They’ve got a couple of kids, run a successful travel agency, and they’re still doing top secret missions for the Russians.

And then they get a new next door neighbor: an FBI agent who works in counterintelligence.

Honestly, the tack on neighbor was one item with the premise that I felt might be taking it all too far, jumping off into soap opera territory. But I’d heard good things about the show, and I wanted to give it a shot. We’re now in the sixth and final season, and I’m officially willing to give this show a full recommendation.

What’s good about it?

  • Well, the premise is pretty solid to begin with, but the show really uses it to its full extent. The kids of the spies, for example, are full Americans. They have no idea their parents are Russian. That generates drama, especially as the kids get older and start to wonder what exactly it is their parents do at a travel agency that necessitates them leaving in the middle of the night so often.
  • The historical details of the show are well executed, as well. It’s not nearly as “in your face” as Stranger Things, but you get a really strong 80s vibe throughout the show, and I enjoy that
  • The acting is really well done across the board. Eminently watchable.
  • The plots are, for the most part, great. This is a show that was weaker at the beginning but grew into something very strong. The premise for this final season is absolutely fantastic (no spoilers), and it’s only possible because of how much we’ve already invested into the characters. If they nail the landing on this season, then the entire series will be elevated even higher in my book. (And from what I’ve heard, it does.)

What’s bad about it?

  • Like I said, the early seasons weren’t as good. The show was still trying to find its way somewhat. It’s not that they were bad, but I only gave them a 7/10, if that makes sense. I gave season 5 an 8.5.
  • There’s occasional scenes of very brutal violence. Sometimes gory. Sometimes just plain disgusting. It’s also got a few sex scenes sprinkled throughout, and fairly frequent rear nudity. (Never frontal.) I don’t recall there being issues with bad language, however. (Just trying to cover the bases of what people might object to in the show.)
  • Some episodes are more . . . deliberate than others. Sometimes the big plot streaks forward. Sometimes it plods.

But really, if you’re looking for espionage, the 80s, and family drama, or even just one of those, then this is a good show to check out. It’s been nominated for an Emmy for Best Drama twice, and the entire season is available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Already seen it? What did you think? Have any questions? Ask away.

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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 been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. 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.

Choosing Television Shows to Watch

It’s always a big debate. You find a show you like, and it’s all fun and games while it lasts. But sooner or later the show comes to an end, and you’ve got to find something else to watch. And let’s face it; it’s not like tv shows are being made at a rate that keeps up with the rate we can binge them. Not good ones, at least. When you finish watching an excellent series, you don’t want to leave it and go to something that’s just sort of okay. You want something excellent.

So I’ve taken some time to try and get a list of shows I want to watch, so I can have one ready the next time I finish a series. (We’re currently working our way through The Americans, which I mostly really enjoy. It seems to be getting progressively better, which helps a lot as well.) To try and see what I’ve been missing, I went through all the shows that were nominated for an Emmy for Best Drama from 1990 to today. It was an interesting look into some TV history I hadn’t always paid much attention to.

You see certain patterns develop. Some shows lodge themselves into the nominations and just don’t let up. Game of Thrones. Mad Men. Downton Abbey. But beyond that, the type of show has changed and evolved over the years. At first I’d planned on going much further back than 1990, but the shows that were getting nominations in the 90s were already ones I’m not too interested in bingeing today.

Compare some of the popular shows (nomination-wise) of the last few years with the ones in the 90s. Today we have Westworld, Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, and more. In the 90s it was shows like Law & Order, NYPD Blue, and ER. I haven’t seen the latter two, but I’ve seen my fair share of Law & Order. It’s a show that worked well when you were just watching it once a week, but I’m not sure how much I want to try bingeing a show like that.

As I looked through the shows, I realized I don’t just want a drama. I want a drama with a long, sweeping arc. With real character development over time and intersecting stories as one of the prime features of the show. Then again, I loved West Wing, and it was a great show to binge, and it was much more a “flavor of the week” show, where each episode generally dealt with something specific.

I suppose the trick is I’m never quite sure what I’ll think of a show until I’m in the middle of it. The other trick is that you can’t really compare a show you’ve just finished multiple seasons of to a show you’re just starting on. Of course the characters aren’t as deep and ingrained with you yet. They haven’t had time to really develop. The same is often true of the first season of a show. It can take time for it to really get its feet under it, even though that might be frustrating for the first while of a show.

One other thing I noticed is how some excellent shows just don’t get recognized at all. (Note the complete lack of a single nomination for the Wire. That’s just criminal.)

Anyway. I thought I’d share my findings with you, in case it’s useful for others. After going through the exercise, a few shows I’m eyeing next are The Handmaid’s Tale and a return to Breaking Bad. We’ll see what I actually go to.

Show NameBest Drama NominationsBest Drama Wins
Westworld20
This Is Us20
Stranger Things20
Handmaid’s Tale21
Crown20
Americans20
Game of Thrones73
House of Cards50
Better Call Saul30
Mr. Robot10
Homeland41
Downton Abbey50
Orange is the New Black10
Mad Men84
True Detective10
Breaking Bad52
Boardwalk Empire20
Good Wife20
Friday Night Lights10
Dexter40
True Blood10
Lost41
House40
Damages20
Big Love10
Boston Legal20
Heroes10
Grey’s Anatomy20
Sopranos72
West Wing74
2451
Six Feet Under30
Deadwood10
Joan of Arcadia10
CSI30
Law & Order111
Practice42
ER71
NYPD Blue61
X-Files40
Chicago Hope30
Star Trek TNG10
Northern Exposure41
Picket Fences22
I’ll Fly Away20
Homefront10
Quantum Leap30
LA Law32
Thirtysomething20
China Beach20
Twin Peaks10

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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 been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. 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: The Good Place: Season One

I had heard a bit about The Good Place, all of it positive, but there are so many things to watch these days, and time is in short supply. However, Denisa and I had just finished watching a series, and I’d just seen Ted Danson nominated for an Emmy for his work on the show, so when it popped up on Netflix, we decided to give it a shot.

If you don’t know, the premise is that a decidedly less-than-good person (Kristen Bell) ends up in heaven by mistake. (Heaven, in this case, is people almost solely by folks who were all extremely good. Like, saved millions of lives, found the cure for cancer, etc.) She has to try to pretend to be good, so that no one catches on to the fact that she really should have ended up in the Bad Place, instead.

It’s a fast paced comedy, with short episodes and an actual big overarching story arc. It’s also fairly clean, with no bad language or nudity, though there are some adult-oriented jokes now and then. (Well, I suppose there’s technically bad language, but you’re not able to swear in heaven, so it all gets turned into something else. “Fork,” “Shirt,” etc.) Denisa and I blazed through the first season, often watching more than we had time to watch, which is always a surefire sign that the show is great. It’s inventive, unpredictable, and quirky.

Overall, I think I’d give the season a 9/10. There were a few parts where it might have dragged a little, but all in all, it was a fantastic 13 episodes. I can’t wait to watch the second season and see where they take it next. If you’re looking for some lighthearted fun, I encourage you to 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 been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. 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.

YouTube TV Review

This month, I finally did it. I inched my way back into the world of live TV by signing up for YouTube TV. The main reason? I wanted to watch BYU games more easily, and this was the simplest way to do it.

I didn’t just jump into YouTube TV, however. I took some time to figure out which live TV service would work the best for me. I considered a number of different ones: YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, Sling TV, Cable, and Satellite. It took some time to slog through all the different features to find out which would work the best for me, but in the end, YouTube TV won out, and I’ve been very happy with it. What gave it the edge?

First off, I love being able to cancel or pause the subscription at any time. Cable and satellite come with physical alterations to my house, and to get the good deals, they usually come with longterm contracts. Back when I had satellite nine years ago, I had the basic subscription to Dish, which was costing me $50/month. These days that basic package looks like it’s more like $60, but I knew either way that I had no interest in signing up with another physical service. Not unless it was cost prohibitive to go with one of the streaming ones, which it wasn’t.

YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, and Sling TV all have fairly evenly matched offerings. This article was helpful in breaking them down. In the end, YouTube just won out because

  • It’s the same price as the others: $40/month. (Sling has a $25/month offer, but it’s limited in channels I’d want)
  • It offers all my local channels. (I live in a remote enough area that there are a number of channels I could never get over the air with an antenna.)
  • It has a ton of channels for live sports included in the normal package.
  • It has unlimited DVR storage (though you only keep recordings for 9 months. Whatever.)
  • It has a solid stream I can rely on. (Not always a guarantee when my internet is 13mbps.)
  • It lets you pause your subscription for up to 6 months at a time, even letting you keep your DVR recordings there for when you unpause.
  • It works great with my AppleTV.

So that was enough to get me to pull the trigger and commit. (Though since I didn’t have to sign any longterm contract, “commitment” just means I paid for one month and can stop whenever I’d like.)

Now that I’ve used it for a few weeks, I’m very happy with the service. For one thing, I can tell it what sports teams I like to watch, and it will automatically record all their games. When BYU plays at 10pm at night, this DVR ability is very handy. You can skip through commercials very easily, and it automatically records the whole game, even if the game goes long. The picture is clear, even at my slower-than-many internet speed. (Apologies to friends who have even slower speeds. I feel your pain.)

I even watched the Emmys Monday evening. It was so nice to just be able to turn the AppleTV on and get the live show. No need to drive to friend’s house!

Bottom line: if you’re paying for internet anyway, and your TV package is $40 or more per month, I would seriously look into switching to YouTube TV. I’d guess you’d want at least 7mbps internet speed for it to really work, but they’ll let you try it out for a while for free, so you could do that first to make sure it works.

When the BYU football season is over, will I pause my subscription for a while? That remains to be seen. There is, after all, BYU basketball season. But in any case, I’m happy with the service so far and can readily recommend it to others.

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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 been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. 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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