The final season of Silicon Valley starts October 27th and is shortened in length to 7 episodes. I always liked this show and I know it will go out on top. Looks like the last season will cover all the timely tech news, like user privacy and accounts, as Thomas Middleditch’s Richard will make a mess of everything, as usual. It’s time for the show to end, so I’m not sad, but I’m looking forward to its swan song.
The final season of Orange is the New Black is a solid, back to basics run of episodes that puts the focus squarely on the original main characters. Quickly dispensed with are the newbies from last year (Daddy is done away with pretty early and ditto Murphy, thank god), in favor of final flashbacks for Piper, Alex, Gloria, Red, Lorna, Maria, Doggett, Flores and even a last glimpse of the dearly departed Poussey. It’s a touchingly bittersweet season that gives us unambiguous endings for most of the characters, even if they’re not all happy by any means.
The one new innovation this season is an extended ICE storyline, as Blanca Flores is transported to an immigrant detention center, where she’s quickly joined by Maritza (Diane Guerrero) and then a mini-reunion with the Litchfield prisoners as Red and Gloria are brought in to work the kitchen at the center with their own followers. I’ll forgive a little contrivance in that department, since the stories of the immigrants are weaved in seamlessly and the cruelty of ICE and the immigration court madness is so relevant right now and needs to be seen to be believed. There is no exaggeration in the telling of these women’s stories, and it even leads to the first ever sympathetic storyline for Fig, as she’s now placed in a thankless job as an ICE paper pusher.
Meanwhile, Taryn Manning’s Piper is now back on the outside and struggling to rebuild her relationships with her family, meet the demands of her parole officer and figure out how to stay in her marriage to Alex (Laura Prepon), who still has three years left to go on her sentence. Not surprisingly, things get rocky between the two of them pretty fast, as potential other romances spring up and the two of them get one last storyline in their still groundbreaking portrayal as the central same sex couple in a long running series. Back at the prison, CO Tamika Ward is hired by Linda as the new warden, and she’s the first to actually try to improve conditions, by abolishing solitary confinement and instituting new programs for the inmates, like GED classes and restorative justice therapy. This leads to several intriguing self-improvement plots like Doggett finding out she’s dyslexic, Maria facing down the victims of her former reign of terror and Caputo coming back to teach class at the prison while also solidifying his now oddly functional relationship with Fig and dealing with a MeToo inspired story regarding a former CO.
Some other inmates are released this season (Cindy for example, who slowly grew on me over the series and is one of the ones to show most growth as a character), while Danielle Brooks’ Tastee must come back to face life in prison after her devastating conviction last season. Tastee remains much of the heart of the series, as seeing her broken in this manner is new, but her old friend Tamika tries to help her out of her slump to find seek sort of light, while Daya goes down the opposite path from where she started and deals with her life sentence by becoming the reigning drug lord of the prison, much to the consternation of her still crazy mother Aleida. The show finds a way to give everyone their moment in the spotlight, from Suzanne to Nicky and Caputo, with sad ends for some (Dogget, Red and Lorna) and brighter ones for others (Gloria, Blanca, Piper), all with regard to the system that dishes out deserving and undeserving fates in equal measure. Or not so equal, as OITNB has never ignored the class/racial discrimination faced by those who suffer in this system under the so-called hand of the law. Even through its uneven arcs, I found substantive stories to enjoy and grab onto in every one of its seven seasons, and as one of Netflix’s flagship shows, it’s never dropped the ball as far as I’m concerned. Now It goes out on top. Brava, ladies.
Not enough people watched last year’s The Terror. Now is a chance to see the next entry in the now apparent anthology series, set in the Japanese internment camps of WWII. It’s getting great early reviews and looks pretty intriguing from this trailer, which showed at Comic Con. I’ll be tuning in for sure.
IZOMBIE SEASON 5
After the epic failure that was the fourth season, iZombie had to do its best to try to come in for a soft landing, but it only succeeds in kinda sorta digging its way out of the giant hole it fell in. It never gets back on the right road, sadly. The way Rob Thomas chose to blow up the premise of the series last year, there was no real way to undo that. So zombies are out and about, Seattle is quarantined off and there’s no more need for our hero Liv (Rose McIver), to have a secret identity. This led to a wide array of confusing and chaotic storylines that the writers can’t quite knot their way out of, but I think it’s obvious they did at least realize that the heart of the show was Liv and Clive (and Ravi) solving murders using Liv’s adopted victim brain foods, so even though there is no logical reason any of them should be having to do this anymore, the show does go back to those episodic adventures. Thankfully, that makes this season bearable to get through, because the rest of the continued stuff with Mercy Graves (which Major is now stuck in charge of), Mayor Peyton (a character who was never anything but boring), Liv’s suddenly appeared father she never knew who apparently created the original zombie drug (whaaa?) and the ongoing shenanigans of Blaine and Don E, it’s impossible to keep up with everything that’s going on or understand the point of a lot of it. But on the bright side, we get a whole episode that uses Ravi, Liv and Clive to spoof the Dirty Dancing montage, which practically makes the season worth it. The cast chemistry is still there and these actors were always delightful to spend time with when they weren’t being bogged down in indecipherable plot lines. I will miss watching them trade quips and enjoy each other’s company, but I won’t miss the show, which nose-dived during Season 4 and never really recovered. I think Rob Thomas is a guy who simply can’t go the distance.
SWAMP THING SEASON 1
Speaking of aborted shows, Swamp Thing also had its work cut out for it in simply getting anyone to tune in after the DCU unceremoniously canceled the series after just one episode had aired. Talk about getting the shaft. Still, I chose to slug it out and watch all ten episodes of what will be the only season of Swamp Thing (unless it gets miraculously revived, which is highly unlikely at this point), and it was a worthwhile experience that I wish more people had gotten to have. The classic DC character created in the 70’s is given the monster movie treatment here, played by two different actors (Derek Mears in his human form as Alec Holland, and Andy Bean after he becomes the swamp monster) and is given life and a real soul in this very faithful adaptation, which combines some of the original 1970’s comics origins with the groundbreaking, revered take on the character revived by Alan Moore in the 1980’s. A really good cast rounds out the ensemble as the show takes its time to build the world of Marais, Louisiana, with Crystal Reed centered as Swamp Thing’s true love Dr. Abby Arcane, Will Patton as the nefarious Avery Sunderland, Virginia Madsen as his wife, Jennifer Beals as the town sheriff and Kevin Durand as Jason Woodrue (soon to be or would-have-been Swamp Thing’s enemy Floronic Man). The show incorporates horror elements in every episode and the special effects in terms of Swamp Thing himself and the various demons and magical creatures inhabiting the swamp are effective and chilling. It’s really too bad the show has such a rushed and abrupt ending after building storylines with a clear direction and seeds being planted for the future. There’s a lot of potential here that will now go to waste. A real shame.
The official trailer for the next season, which is dropping next Friday, August 16th, looks pretty good and now they tease the appearance of Charles Manson in the FBI interviews. Isn’t that a coincidence. Really excited to see this.
The Television Critics Association loved Fleabag, apparently. I know it’s a great show, but that Program of the Year category is supposed to be like a cultural relevance award- is Fleabag really that popular? Or even widely seen? I have my doubts. I still love it though, and I love Michelle Williams winning for Fosse/Verdon, and Leaving Neverland snagging a big win in News/Information programming. Thinking that Chernobyl’s win here over When They See Us may portend Emmy dominance in miniseries, even if I would prefer it to be the other way around.
2019 TCA WINNERS
Individual Achievement in Drama: Michelle Williams, “Fosse/Verdon”
Individual Achievement in Comedy: Phoebe Waller-Bridge, “Fleabag”
Outstanding Achievement in News and Information: “Leaving Neverland”
Outstanding Achievement in Reality Programming: “Queer Eye”
Outstanding Achievement in Youth Programming: “Arthur”
Outstanding Achievement in Sketch/Variety Shows: “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”
Outstanding New Program: “Russian Doll”
Outstanding Achievement in Movie or Miniseries: “Chernobyl”
Outstanding Achievement in Drama: “Better Call Saul”
Outstanding Achievement in Comedy: “Fleabag”
Program of the Year: “Fleabag”
Big Little Lies didn’t have much of a reason to return for Season 2 and despite being inherently watchable, it never really came up with one by the end of these seven episodes. Unless the addition of Meryl Streep counts as reason enough, and for some people it may well be.
She certainly added some campy, enjoyable bitchiness to a show that was always kind of an upper class, prestige version of Desperate Housewives. After the “accidental” death of Alexander Skarsgard’s abusive rapist Perry last year, the women are back and are now being dubbed the “Monterey Five,” as suspicious detective Merrin Dungey keeps an eye on them. The heavy secret takes its toll, especially on Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz), who at first glance seems to have more to do this season, but by the end of it, has probably spent the majority of the last four episodes sitting in a hospital chair, staring at her comatose mother (Crystal Fox).
Celeste (Nicole Kidman) meanwhile, is having nightmares and flashbacks to her life with Perry, suffering under the weight of his loss, as she seeks out the comfort of pills and anonymous sexual encounters with men. She’s also dealing with the arrival of Mary Louise (Streep) as Perry’s mother, who shows up to psychologically terrorize all the women with her passive aggressive commentary and suspicion over her son’s death. Streep is pretty fantastic, obviously having a great time as this mother from hell, lording her authority all over the place under the guise of a deceptive churchlady haircut and a necklace she can’t stop fiddling with (got to love those Streepian mannerisms!). David E. Kelley writes her sparring scenes with not just Kidman but Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern and Shailene Woodley, so that Mary Louise becomes the driving villain of the season (even if it kind of amounts to nothing much but those antagonistic back and forths).
Witherspoon’s storyline this season is a drag, as Madeline deals with the fallout of revealing her infidelity to Ed (Adam Scott), a repetitive plot that gets hammered to death as we wait to see if he’ll get over it, but Woodley’s is even worse, as Jane gets a boyfriend who looks about twelve (Douglas Smith) and is duller than dishwater to spend time with. Laura Dern fares better, as Renata’s worthless lout of a husband (Jeffrey Nordling) gets arrested for insider trading which forces her into bankruptcy, giving Dern the chance to rival Streep for onscreen hysterics- she’s actually pretty funny as Renata acts out her frustrations in the most wildly exaggerated fashion, episode by episode. She’s the most entertaining thing onscreen this season by far.
Each episode moves quickly and is juicily addictive, melodramatic and performed with command and ease by the actors, but the last couple of episodes don’t exactly wrap up the plot threads in a satisfying manner and kind of make you wonder what the point of it all was. If it’s just about the acting, and the in the moment soap opera, Big Little Lies still delivers (it probably always will). You like it while you’re watching it, but by the end you wonder if it meant anything.
Yes!! I don’t know why it took so long for Season 2, or why there seems to be relatively little hype for it, since it’s coming out on August 16th, but I loved the first season of this. It was fascinating and not at all like what you’d expect of a cops tracking serial killers show. Not so action-packed, more cerebral and psychological, but the cast was great. I can’t wait to watch it again.
As a longtime fan of the cult teen drama Veronica Mars and a member if its target audience (I was in high school when the original series premiered in 2004 and have been there since Day 1), I was pretty excited about its revival, even after the kickstarter revival movie back in 2014 turned out to be too fan service-y. This time the show was commissioned for a new season by Hulu, and thus not dependent on its extremely devoted fanbase for its survival. I thought this would give creator Rob Thomas and co. the chance to reboot the show creatively, take some risks and reinvent it for this new era of streaming and shortened television seasons.
Well, turns out I wasn’t wrong about that, but just because it was no longer dependent on fans didn’t mean it had to actively screw over the ones that stood by it all these years. And yet, unfortunately, that’s exactly what this experience turned out to be. Veronica is in her mid-thirties now and living in Neptune, as per the status quo at the end of the movie (and the two spinoff novels published since then). She’s also working as a P.I. with her dad Keith (the still great Enrico Colantoni) and has a beach apartment and a dog with longtime boyfriend Logan (Jason Dohring). There’s a new mystery set up when someone blows up a motel complex during Neptune’s lucrative spring break season, and several new suspects and characters are added to the mix (Patton Oswalt, J.K. Simmons, and Kirby Howell-Baptiste fit well into the noir-ish world of Neptune).
So far, so good. And happily, the memorable and quippy dialogue from the original series is intact, with the rapport between Bell and Colantoni just as sharp and fast as ever, as is true of the dynamic with Bell and Dohring. They even manage to make good use of Logan in this story, figuring out how to get him hired as a targeted Congressman’s private security officer, which makes sense with his new naval background. So if all of this runs smoothly and feels familiar, yet new and fun enough to ring true as an updated adult version of my favorite teen show, why am I so unhappy with this revival? The answer to that is what happens in the last ten minutes of the last episode, which leaves such a horrible taste in my mouth that yes, it does in fact, retrospectively ruin the relatively fun eight hours that preceded it.
I won’t spoil the nasty little turd Rob Thomas dropped in the laps of fans, but let’s just acknowledge it flips the whole premise of the show on its head and sets it up to become something entirely different if it continues (which apparently is the plan). And to that I ask, and I mean this as genuinely as possible, why not create something entirely different, with a brand new premise and a brand new character for Kristen Bell (who really is still great as Veronica), since that is clearly what you wanted to do in the first place? And what was the point of these eight episodes, if this was the goal you were heading towards? There is nothing redeemable about thanklessly and pointlessly dumping the last cruel twist on the long suffering audience who stood by this much loved series and literally brought it back from the dead with their own money. It would also be another story if this “twist” had been in any way done well, and rendered with meaning to the characters and the show, which it was not. After the initial shock of the event, the aftermath grows more bitter with every passing thought.
If the intention was to strip the show of anything that cemented the passionate love for it in the first place, then that was done successfully, but that also means that I won’t be back for any more of this, and neither will many other fans. Congratulations on your successful suicide bomb, Rob Thomas. It blew up all the good along with the bad.
So, this looks weird. I loved Transparent in general, but everyone pretty much knew the show was over after Jeffrey Tambor’s firing. I guess Jill Soloway just decided to hell with it and is now going to end the show with one musical movie length wrap-up. I’m cool with the movie length wrap-up, but a musical? And it’s centered on Shelly, really? This sounds like it could be horribly annoying, to be honest. But it’s just one episode and I gotta finish it. September 27th it is.