I love Louie. I haven’t seen all of it, just the pilot, most of season four and now the season five premiere, but it’s one of those shows that either clicks or it doesn’t. It’s annoying that the Comedy Channel doesn’t fast track it from the US, where the fifth season finished a couple of months ago, but I don’t mind because there’s not much on at the moment, and also it’s worth the wait. As an episode of television, “Pot Luck” is fine, but it’s not peak Louie, if that’s even a thing. Apparently a lot of people didn’t like season four, but between “So Did the Fat Lady”, which deservedly won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Writing – discussions of whether this is a comedy or a drama notwithstanding – and the six-part “Elevator” story, it was one of my favourite shows on television when I was watching it last year. This is all to provide context, because I didn’t dislike “Pot Luck”, but I also didn’t love it. We have expectations and when they’re not met we get disappointed, and in the case of Louie, it’s because we know that Louis C.K. can do so much better.
I was ready to give up on True Detective halfway through the episode. I nearly fell asleep, and my mum asked why I was watching it more than once. I don’t know whether it’s a show I’ll keep writing about, but I’ll definitely keep watching for at least two more weeks to see where it goes. At this stage in True Detective’s first season, I stopped watching because I wasn’t on Nic Pizzolatto’s wavelength. I’m still not on his wavelength, but he managed to bring the weirdness in the final two minutes that makes me curious enough to watch for a few more weeks. There are some good things in here, mostly involving Abigail Spencer. Aside from that though, this show is way too heavy on the exposition. Try showing and not telling.
On Friday morning, Sonia Saraiya published a piece at Salon about the history of rape storylines on television. There’s a lot there, but it’s a really great read. Sonia’s one of my favourite television critics because she’s so good at teasing out why onscreen depictions of sexual assault are problematic, even though sexual assault is a much more common crime in the real world than it is on scripted television. As a form of popular culture, scripted television has a responsibility to make these issues part of the discussion, and that’s difficult when one part of the the audience is upset that a rape occurred on the world’s most popular television programe, and another section of that same audience is refusing to acknowledge that what occurred on screen counstitutes rape. Also on Friday morning, Entertainment Weekly published the directors for Game of Thrones’ sixth season. All of them are men. The third thing that got me riled up on Friday morning is that Rose McGowan was dropped by her agent for publicly criticising sexism in a callsheet for Adam Sandler’s upcoming Netflix project. I’ll be discussing depictions of rape onscreen in the most recent season of Game of Thrones, this is your only spoiler alert.
I cannot stress how socially uncomfortable things are about to get – Chris Gethard
There are a number of quotes I could have taken from the first episode of The Chris Gethard Show that aired on Fusion earlier this year; many of them would be appropriate, but the one at the top of this post is TCGS in a nutshell. The Chris Gethard Show is special, which is why it had a large online following before it even aired on cable television in the United States. Starting out at the Upright Citizens Brigade theatre in New York before moving to a Manhattan Public Access station, The Chris Gethard Show, or TCGS, is one of the few television shows I’ve seen that is truly unique. Host Chris Gethard is refreshingly open about his issues, especially living with depression and anxiety, that when I decided to watch the first two episodes of this version of TCGS on YouTube, I was immediately annoyed that I didn’t include it on my “list” of respectful pop culture depictions of mental illness. It’s a late night show, so it doesn’t quite fall into what I was thinking, but it should be there, because Gethard doesn’t just discuss his insecurities, he embraces them.
It’s been very difficult for me to come up with even a plan for this review, because I have no idea how I feel about A Court of Thorns and Roses (ACOTAR), Sarah J Maas’ most recent novel, which is separate from the Throne of Glass trilogy. ACOTAR is inspired by the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast as well as the Ballad of Tam Lin. A nineteen year old woman named Feyre kills a wolf while she’s hunting to feed her family, but it turns out that the wolf is actually Fae, and a treaty between the Fae and the humans after one of their many wars forbids this, even though the Fae was in human territory. Tamlin, the High Lord of the Spring Court, takes Feyre back to his lands as payment for the life she’s taken. There are spoilers for the entire book, so proceed with caution.
At least we know the vending machine is broken.
Okay, I had choir this evening and it’s nearly 10 pm, so this isn’t going to be the best or even longest review. “One Day in the Life” was a good episode of The Americans, it’s just that “Stingers” was one of the best episodes of television I’ve seen all year, and “One Day in the Life” was always going to be a step down. This week Phillip and Elizabeth still have to keep going with their various missions while their daughter knows their real identities. Paige doesn’t know exactly what they’re up to, which is probably a good thing, since she’d probably be even angrier at them if she did.
This year I only watched one episode of Orange Is the New Black a day, which is different to how I approached the first two seasons. I don’t think it affected my overall enjoyment of the show, but as I wrote about with my experience watching Kimmy Schmidt, watching any more than 4 episodes of a show in one day is really bad for my mental health. Over at The A.V. Club, Myles McNutt was reviewing one episode per day, and it fit in really well with my schedule, so I gave it a shot. These Netflix shows are strange beasts because Netflix chooses to release them all at once and it’s a race for some people to finish it. I don’t know if the ‘one episode a week’ model works better – from the way people watched the sixth season of Community, it’s hard to tell right now, but that’s another discussion for another day. The third season of Orange Is the New Black was a transition for both the show and Litchfield. For that reason it wasn’t as good as the first two excellent seasons, but Jenji Kohan and her writers were still able to make great television.
I’m nearly caught up on the third season of Orange Is the New Black – I’ll watch the finale tomorrow morning before the review goes up on The A.V. Club – and I’m impressed at the way the show addresses mental illness. As Myles McNutt pointed out in his most recent review, Pennsatucky’s emotional state is devastating, but there’s an extra layer of complexity when compared to Inside Out. These two pieces of pop culture are dear to me precisely because they treat emotions and mental illness (the mental illness is implied in Inside Out, and as I wrote in my review last week, having suffered from depression, the film resonated with me) respectfully. Sadness isn’t just necessary, it’s important, and it’s okay and even healthy to be sad. What’s unhealthy is bottling it up. We don’t want Riley or Pennsatucky to just pretend that everything’s okay. Pretending that everything’s okay doesn’t end well. Anyway, in celebration of these shows, I’m going to highlight some of my other favourite pieces of pop culture that depict characters with mental illness as people rather than just devices or caricatures.
People keep telling me that if I kept watching the first season of True Detective I’d really love it. I stopped after the first two episodes, not because it was bad, but just because I couldn’t see the Alessandra Daddario nudity in the second episode as having any point other than titillation. I thought the conversations between Marty Hart and Rust Cohle were interesting, but I’m more or less done with shows about white middle aged men, the least oppressed group of people in the world who somehow seem to think that the world has wronged them. Healy in Orange Is the New Black is pretty much the caricature of this archetype, and even though he’s an antagonist, his portrayal is scarily accurate. I’m sure season one of True Detective was really good, but Emily Nussbaum’s piece in The New Yorker pretty much said everything I thought about the show, and I just read a great piece by Ryan McGee titled “All Art Was Not Made For You”. True Detective was not made for me. It is for that reason that I’m considering reviewing every episode of its second season. Because I’m not a paid television critic, I’m able to choose to write about whatever I want, it’s the joy of the internet. So I’m going to try reviewing every episode of a show I don’t love.
I know that whatever comes next, we’ll face it together, as a family.
Orphan Black‘s third season ended strong after a slow start. The show’s biggest weakness is that there is often too much going on: There’s Castor, Leda, Dyad, Topside, Neolutionists and Proletheans. The Original is Mrs S’ mother. What worked about Orphan Black‘s third season is that it cut down. We kept track of Gracie and Mark, but aside from Gracie’s mother appearing in a couple of episodes, the Proletheans are more or less gone. I don’t understand the distinction between Topside and Dyad, but it turns out that the real threat have always been the Neolutionists: Dr Leekie, who was Delphine’s mentor, and that guy back in season one who had a tail before Helena cut it off. The third season of Orphan Black worked because it cut back on the Neolutionists and Proletheans while introducing the military and Castor, and brought back neolutionism when they needed it at the end. But that’s not what Orphan Black is about. Ultimately it’s a show about family, which is why Rachel’s mother is alive, why Kendall is the original, and why the closing shot is of Sarah and Kira.