The pandemic has completely changed the way I watch TV. Before we were all quarantined, I watched one or two shows at any given time regularly, but otherwise used TV as nothing more than background nosie. As a result, there are many mainstream and classic movies I’ve never seen despite their repeated small screen runs. All that’s changed in the past year. Right now, I have Purple Rain, Heat, Scanners, season 2 of Solar Opposites, and a re-watch of Avengers: Endgame planned for this weekend. There’s no way I’m going to accomplish all of that, but that’s the plan.
The thing is, I now have a much greater appreciation for the small screen than I ever had since I was a kid. The only time as an adult that I watched TV to any significant degree was the mid-90s when I got HBO (which means it was still about movies rather than TV shows). I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that the pandemic would have this impact, but I don’t think it would have been so severe if streaming services hadn’t proliferated.
I’d write more about this, but I have a schedule to keep.
From Rolling Stone magazine, Yaphet Kotto, Star of ‘Alien’ and ‘Homicide: Life on the Street,’ Dead at 81. And let’s not forget Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. Well, on second thought ….
Yaphet Kotto had a long career and did some very good work. He was a Bond villain (Live and Let Die), a prison trustee (Brubaker), and a Ugandan dictator (Raid on Entebbe). However, for some reason, the first thing I think of when I hear his name is an episode of the otherwise-forgotten Alfred Hitchcock Presents called Prisoners (1985). Kotto played an escaped convict who broke into a woman’s house to evade the cops, and he kept her hostage so that she couldn’t rat him out. The way he was caught (spoiler alert!!!) was he coached her when she answered the phone, allowing her to carry on a conversation with a friend on the other end of the call. That tipped off the friend that something was wrong because the woman (hostage) was deaf. She’d been reading Kotto’s lips the whole time, and his character didn’t realize it. The show had a bit of a twist to it, which shouldn’t surprise you considering its namesake.
A new docuseries just dropped on Netflix this past week, and I watched all six, 45-minute (or so) episodes on Saturday. Age of Samurai: Battle for Japan discusses the quest for power in 1500s Japan. It’s presented through recreations narrated by historians. As you should expect, those from the 16th century seeking to rule a nation were often cruel and selfish. Some were arguably insane. All of them, however, were master tacticians, and some of their techniques have earned the respect of modern militaries.
I read a thread on Reddit in which several people stated that they didn’t like how the show was presented. For example, when the show cuts away to the historians, “who where paid to speak like stupid 9th graders,” the video goes to black and white for dramatic effect. Another stated he “had to turn it off with all this pandering.” I find all of this criticism to be at best inaccurate and at worst dishonest. Yes, the historians made sure to present the material as dramatically as possible, but they didn’t sound like they were in high school. The black and white shots provided a clear contrast between reenactment and dialogue. It’s a nice effect. Finally, I don’t see how there was any “pandering.” Japanese honor is often romanticized, and this show doesn’t do that at all. It clearly shows how cruel, deceitful, and selfish these leaders were.
According to Rotten Tomatoes, the audience approval sits at 57%. Technically, I’m in the majority, but that’s considered a bad score. But none of the commenters disputed the truth of what was presented, and that’s what matters to me. Unless you’re a true student of history (I’m not), there are a lot of interesting, significant events in history of which you’ll never scratch the surface. This series helps in that regard.
I mentioned this past weekend that I’ve found my next streaming obsession, Resident Alien. However, that show is currently being aired, which means I can’t binge watch it. That leaves me with a hole in my viewing schedule. Well, I suspect many of you have repeatedly seen that same clip in a Hulu commercial where Abe Lincoln says he’s having the worst theater experience in his life, and Jesus thinks he’s an idiot for saying so. Some quick internet sleuthing informed me that the clip is from Future Man, so I decided I’d watch it.
I finished season one over the weekend and am about halfway through season two, which was easy to do because each episode is about 25 minutes (as opposed to 50 minutes). It was okay, but I’m still intrigued by the clip. It’s not getting better, but I’m confident it will because I learned Seth Rogan will eventually show up. (Believe it or not, I like Seth Rogan a lot.) Like Resident Alien, it’s a dramedy with a bit of science fiction. If you’re into video games (I’m not), that’s mildly relevant to the show and may make it a bit more interesting for you. If you’re into the Hunger Games, the lead is someone from that cast, Josh Hutcherson, but the supporting cast is pretty good. In fact, I love Keith David, and he plays an important role in season one. He’s worth the price of admission by himself.
I’ve found my next streaming obsession. I think. The SyFy channel has a new show called Resident Alien. It stars Alan Tudyk as an alien, Harry, living in a small town in Colorado. If, like me, you’re into science fiction and so-called dramedies, this could be for you as well.
But as I’ve said before, you shouldn’t care about someone else’s opinion about a show unless you understand why they hold that opinion. I’m a Star Trek fan (duh!), and one of my favorite aspects of the show is how they examine humans from an outsider’s perspective. Humans are stupid; even the smart ones. Our emotions make us do silly things. Spock and Data are both characters that make interesting observations about how this occurs, but they also show how such a thing can be a strength. Our emotional connection to others is the essence of what makes us “social creatures,” which leads to tribal cooperation and eventually to civilization. Harry, does this very well. If this is up your alley, then this may appeal to your interests.
I wish I had a psychology degree.
One thing that’s different: Harry is definitely a bad guy. Like Vic Mackie from The Shield, he’s an anti-hero, but being largely comedic and clearly involved in a moral growth process, my guess is that the resident alien will come around to the good side. We’ll have to see, because this is a new show, and as of this moment, only four episodes have aired.
Cobra Kai inspired me to watch the often-maligned Next Karate Kid, which I recently learned is on Netflix. It wasn’t Highlander 2 bad, but it was bad, and I was happy when the final credits rolled. I just wanted it to be over. The writing was garbage, but you could still tell that Hilary Swank was going to become a good actor. I love when movies connect (perhaps explaining my obsession with the MCU), so despite its weaknesses, it would be great to see her in a future season of Cobra Kai. The primary villain, Michael Cavalieri, could return, as could Michael Ironside (who really sucked in this) and Jim Ishida. Ishida is the one still-living actor that played a monk. Hell, Walter Goggins could return. Walter Goggins! Despite all its flaws, I’d love to see this movie recognized in Cobra Kai.
After all, it’s not as if Karate Kid III deserved any awards, but we all want to see Terry Silver and Mike Barnes, right? As always, YMMV.
I’ve watched only one and one-half of the six, 50-minute (or so) episodes of this show. That’s enough. This is an important show to watch, but not for the reasons the show advances. It’s important to see how low humans can get. It’s important to see how assholes will take advantage of peoples’ trauma to make a buck, leaning on the trivial point that “we don’t know everything” to justify making up bullshit at which traumatized people will throw their money. Seriously, to hell with anyone who gives these charlatans a voice.
That’s not to say that this couldn’t be a good show. It could be. There are patterns to near-death experiences that are impossible to ignore, but they should be studied from a psychological perspective to know why we perceive what we do.
I just finished Spycraft on Netflix. At first, my thoughts were, “Great. Even more ways in which I have no privacy. Maybe I should take more seriously all these spam emails that claim to have me compromised.” It eventually got worse. Much worse. Now I’m thinking, “Oh, so Armageddon is a real thing. I didn’t know that.” Well, then . . .
This was quite horrifying and educational even though I’m apathetic and technically literate (if not a bit behind the curve after all these years of lawyering). The one thing I didn’t like is that they addressed Robert Hanssen without interviewing Eric O’Neill (or even mentioning him). Eric’s a friend and was the center of the operation that caught Hansen. But that means nothing to most of you.
This was far better than the Social Dilemma. I actually learned something with this one. As always, YMMV.
I watched the third season of Disenchantment this weekend via Netflix. The first two seasons were a big meh for me, but I kept going back to the well because I’m such a huge fan of Futurama. Just hearing, for example, the voice of Mom’s oldest son now recast as “Eyeball” makes me laugh a little bit. But this third season was a definite improvement. There were several gags that made me laugh out loud during the first two-thirds of the season.
That said, it wasn’t all good. The writing inexplicably returned to its stale, unfunny self by the last few episodes, relying instead on its cliffhangers to keep us watching. Why? Also, the fate that befell King Zog was supposed to be funny and sympathetic. It was neither. It dragged on way too long and became annoying quickly.
So, was it worth the watch? For the most part, yes, but it’s still having troubles. It’s taking far too long to hit its stride. If it keeps getting better, I’ll keep watching, but if season 4 is a step backwards, it’ll be the last season I watch. If it gets cancelled, I won’t miss it. There’s too much good content out there waiting for me.