Category Archives: Television

Binge Watching Between the Deluge and the Floods

In California the idea of “average annual rainfall” is complete garbage.  We either have way too much rain or a drought.  In that situation the average is like the guy with his feet in the oven and his head in the freezer: On the average he is the right temperature.

This year was a rainy year.  The initial floods have subsided for now, but the snow pack up in the mountains will soon be melting and the next round of flooding will begin.  We’re on a patch of high ground, so we’re safe, but others will be in trouble when the rivers rise and the levees break.

My new TV graphic… AI generated

All of which has nothing to do with this post, but sometimes I feel like adding some color to the opening of these.  I suppose I could just jump in with “Here are some mini-reviews of shows we’re watched so far this year.”

A Spy Among Friends – MGM+

I am probably alone in being tired of the Cambridge Five, but not only have I read all about them, my great uncle was friends with Kim Philby and used to pal around with him in Beirut when we wasn’t helping overthrow local governments. (My uncle, that is, not Philby.)  I even have a letter from Moscow from Philby to my uncle.  But my wife wanted to watch it, which also meant we had to subscribe to MGM+, yet another streaming service, in order to watch it.

It covers the details of Philby’s defection in 1963 and the subsequent investigations and events.  It was okay, but not exactly action packed.  I was, however, able to pause the show when my wife had questions and give brief bios of most of the main characters, which at least made me feel engaged.  The acting is fine, it looks good, and I’ll take any indictment of the the old boys network I can get, but overall it felt like style over substance.  Also, I was a bit salty about having to subscribe to MGM+ for this.

War of the Worlds – MGM+

What if they had an end of the world apocalypse show that was set in Europe for once and half the cast spoke French?

Given the past versions of H.G. Well’s 1898 story, I was pretty sure I could guess how it was going to go.  But I was wrong.  I will give the series that.  It starts off as expected, though the aliens are more like Daleks in robo-dog suits.  Then you think it is going Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  And then it veers of into time travel and paradoxes and parallel timelines.  It wraps up and feels done after three seasons, and it did keep me guessing most of the way… though I have a sneaking suspicion that it wasn’t all mapped out that way in advance.  The whole thing was a bit of a slow burn, so if you’re expecting giant three legged machines striding over the earth and destroying cities, be advised.

The Last of Us – HBO Max

What if The Madalorian met The Walking Dead, but everybody he and Grogu ran into ended up dead?  What if we had plant based soy zombies that were really scary… and as scarce as zombies in later seasons of The Walking Dead? What if they made a TV series based on a video game you never played?

It was okay.  Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey work well together.  But I was not invested in the story, its message (hint: people are the real bad guys again], or its fidelity to the video game, and I got to the end of the season and wasn’t really sure where they could take the story from there or if I really cared.

The Night Agent – Netflix

On the rocks FBI agent, who is the son of a disgraced FBI agent, is relegated to answering the night phone in the basement of the White House, a phone that “night agents,” who are off the book operatives, has the phone ring finally, only to get a message from an agent being attacked. For not good reason they send him out to take custody of a survivor of the attack and it turns into a thing and there is a conspiracy to kill them and a plot within the White House including an attempt to kill the president and it all works out, leading to promotions and a new career and a new love.

Also, every plot twist is telegraphed well in advance and the whole thing ends like it is the prequel for a completely different show.  I don’t know.  It was okay, but my wife and I had fun shouting out what will happen next at the TV, but it isn’t like The Wire or anything.  I couldn’t see myself re-watching it.

The Recruit – Netflix

A young, smart ass CIA lawyer gets mixed up in affairs outside of his usual scope, ends up in the field chasing down a lead while goes hilariously bad on multiple occasions.  Funny, wry, silly, it is one of those stories where a simple goal is presented to the main character who finds himself constantly thwarted by complications, office politics, and unreliable rental cars.  It is just eight episodes and a lot lighter and more enjoyable than The Night Agent.

The Diplomat – Netflix

And unlikely premise and an absolutely ridiculous series of events as Kate Wyler is appointed to be the US ambassador to the UK because the president wants to try her out as a possible replacement vice president, but she is a Middle-east expert and doesn’t really want that job and her husband is a former ambassador who put her up for the job and their marriage is strained in part because he can’t take a back seat in any of this and Alfredo from Elementary is her deputy chief of mission trying to get her up to speed for a job she doesn’t want and he is sleeping with the CIA head of station and the UK Prime Minister is a egocentric half-wit, so at least they got something true to life in the whole thing.  Rory Kinnear plays the prime minister, something he has done in the past, in that Black Mirror episode where he has to fuck a pig.

The performances are good, the whole thing is a setup for a second season, and it has been popular enough to spawn a bunch of “that’s not how any of this works” articles in the press, save for the deputy chief of mission, whose role was apparently portrayed somewhat accurately.  Fun, if you like that sort of thing.

Beef – Netflix

The lesson here is to be judicious in the use of your car horn.  A road rage incident entangles the lives of two people who just can’t fucking let it go, and tracks their obsession and how it impacts the rest of their lives and relationships.  Also, it is something of a comedy I think.  I don’t know.  It comes across to me as the gold/blue dress sort of situation, where you’re either going to become invested in the two main characters and hope they get their acts together or you’re going to be like me and spend 10 episodes wondering at the time and dedication the two main characters invest in self-sabotage.

The Mandalorian Season 3 – Disney+

After 2.5 seasons of The Mandalorian… because we got about a half of season of it in the middle of The Book of Boba Fett… this season felt mostly like an unsuccessful attempt to recapture some of the early magic.  It has some “problem of the week” episodes about pirates and helping Jack Black and Lizzo maintain their droid oppressing regime.  It had some “I don’t really care” episodes about New Republic re-education camps for Imperials.  And then there was a whole “retaking our home planet” thing with the different Mandalorian factions coming together after bickering about helmet etiquette for an episode.

There were some good points, but the through line of the season was kind of choppy.  I will say that the last scene of the last episode was about perfect and that they can just leave it right there and call it done.  But they won’t.  Disney will need to beat the life out of this.  Maybe that will slow them down in their desire to do a remake of the original trilogy.

Perry Mason Season 2 – HBO Max

I was reading the Raymond Chandler Philip Marlowe series when this dropped, and it was kind of nice in that this too was set in 1930s LA.  Perry, having won last season’s big case tries to stay with just civil rather than criminal law… but a new case and a need to see justice done drags him back in.  Racial tensions, immigration issues, blackmail, prosecutorial misconduct, and baseball all pile up to make Perry’s job impossible.  But do you think he loses the case in the end?  Overall it was okay.  It looks a lot better than it plays.

Shrinking – Apple TV

Harrison Ford plays himself as a grumpy old therapist of some sort… they never really go into details… at a practice where he is something of a mentor to his two younger colleagues, one of whom lost his wife in a car accident a while back and has never recovered and his life is spinning out of control, but in entirely humorous ways appropriate to a sitcom.  Well, maybe a sitcom on streaming, since blow and hookers enter into it.  Anyway, that guy is the center of the story.  For all the absurdities, it is solid, well written, and funny with a solid cast that turns in good performances.  What else are you going to ask for?

1923 – Paramount+

Harrison Ford plays himself as a grumpy old rancher in this Yellowstone prequel.  If you watched Yellowstone, then you know the drill.  Good, honest cattle ranchers are beset by land speculators, city slickers, and sheep herders and have to defend themselves by gunning them down or stringing them up from the nearest tree.  Everything that makes the show what it is, but it is in 1923, so they have to ride horses into town rather than big pickups.

There are also side stories about the abuse that Native American children received at the hands of Catholic missionaries sent to teach them the ways of the modern world (when your boarding school has a graveyard for students, it might be a sign you’re not doing this right), the unlawfulness of marriage between the races at that time, and the difficulties of international travel in the age of steam.

Succession Season Whatever – HBO Max

I am not even sure this is done yet.  There might be once more episode or horrible rich people being horrible to each other and those around them.  It was a bit of a spectacle in the first season, and kept me interested in the second, but I am not sure I even finished last season, and this season I am done with.  I mean, which character in this whole show would you want to pal around with?

The strange thing is that this is the show that people keep talking about on Twitter, but Yellowstone gets something like 5x the viewers per episode.  Facebook is where the Yellowstone memes are to be found.  Maybe the last episode will be a cross-over and the Roys will try to buy Montana then Kevin Costner and the Duttons will ride up into New York City and string the lot of them up on Wall Street.  A man can dream, can’t he?

Changes at Netflix, HBO, and MTV

I am still catching up on notes I took almost two weeks ago, but there were some video related topics I wanted not note involving three different video services that have had something of an impact on me.

  • Netflix ends DVD Service

I haven’t subscribed to the Netflix DVDs by mail service in a good six or seven years.  I haven’t felt the need.  But I was always happy it was there as a fall back because, while the Netflix vision was always to stream video, we have learned that streaming services are, at best, fickle stewards of our video culture.  And then the announcement came that their DVD service was going to be shut down.

A Netflix Company

For openers, that is bad because if you REALLY wanted to watch something specific, some movie or TV series, the Netflix DVD service had you covered in a way that a dozen streaming service subscriptions will absolutely fail to do.  You couldn’t do it that night, on demand, but with a little bit of planning that red envelope would show up in the mail and you would have the disk set to watch.

For years we got those red envelopes in the mail regularly… though it helped that we’re very close to their distribution hub.  Netflix is still just up the road from us.

Moving away from DVDs to streaming only is a blow due to the attrition that always comes to pass when we change formats.  There were a lot of titles on VHS that never made it to DVD.  And from DVDs to BluRay more titles fell by the wayside… though at least players supported both formats.  Likewise, there are a lot of titles on DVD or BluRay that nobody has bothered to factor for streaming.

DVDs aren’t going away.  You can still find them and watch them if you have a player or an optical drive in your computer. (I do still!)  But Netflix was by far the easiest way to access the vast library of titles on DVD and, come September, it will be no more.

  • HBO becomes Max

For whatever reason HBOs owners, Warner Discovery, have decided to throw away a reputation 50 years in the making and rename HBO’s streaming service to Max.

Everybody to the Max or something

I mean, it was already HBO Max… after having been HBO on Demand, HBO Go, and HBO Now… but to finally ditch the anchor name that has been around since late 1972 seems like a dumb marketing move.

Yes, the plan is to merge it with Discovery+ content, so maybe the two streaming services combined deserve a new name… but did nobody consider HBO Discovery?  I mean, that maintains the continuity of the services in people’s heads because, because in the case of HBO people think of those three letters for shows like The Wire, Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, and Westworld.

Okay, maybe not Westworld, which has been part of the original content purge at HBO so they don’t have to pay the talent in order to save money.  This is another reason Netflix DVD services going away is bad, because you cannot stream some titles now.

But it feels to me like people who don’t pay close attention aren’t going to make the leap to Max.

Also, and this is what leaped into my brain first, HBO’s has a sister service on cable called Cinemax (or Skinemax, as we used to call it for its propensity to show soft core porn back in the day) that has been branded on and off again as just Max.

Is that the association they want?  We’ll see this Tuesday, as May 23rd is the cut over.

Anyway, it seems dumb, but I guess they have already trashed the HBO brand by this point.  I got a deal last year to subscribe to HBO Max for a year at a low price.  I did that, then they started the purge and doing dumb things.  I think we’ll be able to live without Max when that subscription lapses.

  • I miss my MTV

Finally, there is the demise of MTV.  It was announced that MTV News, the last bastion of the once influential network, would be integrated into Showtime as Paramount engaged in cost cutting measure that include slashing 25% of its overall staff.

The idea that MTV would be finally gone for good as something of an independent channel did stir something in me.

Yes, I know, it hasn’t been what I think of as MTV for a couple of decades at this point.  But back in the day it was something.

If you’re like me, seeing this image triggers music in your brain

MTV feels very much like a milestone for my generation.  I first saw it when we were going to move back in May 1982.  The people buying our house wanted cable, something we didn’t have, so it got wired up while we were still moving out.  My sister and I found MTV on the channel options and wouldn’t turn it off.  Our parents hated it… boomers… but we wouldn’t let it go.

It lost its edge a bit with time… there was a lot of Rod Stewart in the early rotation… but it remained a channel you would just throw on with people around, and we all knew the VJs… who didn’t have a crush on Martha Quinn or just want to hang out with her… and they did crazy things.  They had a contest with Madonna that encouraged viewers to make a music video for her song True Blue in 1986.

And then they showed the entries, one after another, so that song was stuck in my head for years.

Eventually interest in just music videos waned and other content began pushing that off the schedule.  Then there was MTV2, the joke being that they need some place for the music videos to go.  Then VH1.  My wife and I would turn on the VH1 video count down on Saturday mornings in the late 90s and early 2000s to watch music videos.

MTV broke gound with shows as well, with Liquid Television, which saw things like Æon Flux emerge, as well as Beavis and Butt-head.  (Beavis and Butt-head also sat around watching music videos and commenting on them.  This is the clip that always comes to mind for them.) Then there was MTV’s Real World, the start of reality television, which I won’t thank them for, but which was certainly influential.

The final bits of MTV being subsumed into Showtime has very little meaning to me and my actual viewing habits today.  I haven’t watch the channel in over a decade and if I want music videos, then there is always YouTube.  I have no idea what directions it has gone in since the days when I used to watch it.  But the mention of its name will always bring up the moon landing channel ID clip they used to play back in the day.

That is my MTV, part of the bygone era that was my late adolescence and early adulthood.

The Big 2022 Binge Watch Summary

I keep starting a fresh binge watching post every time we finish up a couple of shows then never get around to finishing the write up beyond getting a draft with a couple of titles in it.  So this is going to be my rapid fire, 2022 binge watch round up.

2022 is what we get

No deep analysis, no title cards, just quick observations and reactions.

Really wanted to like it, but didn’t finish watching it.  It turns out Amazon didn’t have the rights to the Silmarillion, so they had to create whole cloth tales based on hints and suggestions in the appendices at the end of Return of the King.  They seemed to feel Tolkien was right, that his stories without Hobbits aren’t as compelling, so they made some up.  Also, Gandalf origin story is… well, now I want to know how they think Radagast and Saruman showed up.  I would, however, watch a second age sitcom about Elendil and his family on Numenor, with young Isildur fighting with siblings and goofing off in boating school, which is what one of the episodes seemed to be developing into.

Wasn’t really that interested in it to start with but, you know, more Game of Thrones stuff.  We are required to watch by law or something.  Finished watching it, but wasn’t impressed.  Turns out I don’t really care about the Targaryens.  Paddy Considine was solid, but 10 episodes of court intrigue with a supporting cast that felt at times both indifferent and under utilized… Matt Smith had such menace at the start and then fell off into sulky tedium… left me looking at my iPad a lot.  Seriously, court intrigue in Game of Thrones worked because the characters were all so interesting on their own… Tyrion, Cersei, Little Finger, Varys, Olenna among many… and interacted so well with each other and every new character that showed up.  That cast was golden.  The Dragon Clan just doesn’t get there.

I read the William Gibson novel when it came out (see my 2019 books post), so had to watch the show.  Does translate some of the concepts from the book to the screen well, and actually comes out and explains “the jackpot” to viewers, unlike the book.  But the story was still somewhat choppy and diverged from the book.  I know, different media requires a different telling, but it was coming close to leaving the theme of the book in my view.  But that is my hangup, and if you didn’t read the book I doubt you’ll care.  I’ll watch the next season, but I wasn’t fully satisfied with it.

I mean, I didn’t hate it.  It had some compelling points.  But it didn’t really sell me in the end.  It suffers some from doing the “telling the story in two different time settings” thing, which is both over used and easy to do badly.  Not sure how it fits into the whole Resident Evil universe… and, also, I don’t really care about the Resident Evil universe… a problem Netflix had as well I guess, since it was cancelled after one season.

Star Wars is for adults… again.  Because Star Wars wasn’t all a Muppet kiddie universe until Return of the Jedi.  Slow, with insights into how things worked in the empire before Rogue One, as we see the formation of the rebellion.  The dark side of a lot of things, and even the “cute” droid is old and cranky.  Very much a slow drama, though not without some *pew* *pew* now and then, it is much more about bureaucracy and organization and keeping secrets and eventually enabling space battles.  Star Wars through a  John Le Carre prism, and much of what that implies.  I wanted a full, US, 22 episode season of this.  Mainly suffers from the name sounding a lot like Endor, the planet with the moon where the Ewoks lived.

I’ve always been a big Charles Addams fan, so we had to watch this.  The story is kind of shaky, but Jenna Ortega in the titular role carries it through rough patches.  I enjoyed it.  Normally I fret about who plays Gomez… John Astin was only topped by Raul Julia in the role… but the parents matter less than Wednesday.  The show is named after her.  Also, props for Christina Ricci, who played Wednesday back in the day, being included.  I don’t know what she is like in real life, but I adore the characters she plays these day.

The wrap up of the Breaking Bad prequel about the rise of Saul Goodman ended well as it tied up loose ends and fitted itself smoothly into the original show without feeling the whole thing was predictable or pre-ordained.  The whole series was high quality, if not exactly the same feel as Breaking Bad.  But that is fine.  The self-sabotaging Saul, in his own world with his own story, was a good time.  Enjoyed the whole series, would recommend.

By this point all I wanted to know was what happened to Rick and Michonne, and they wait until the final episode to even get there.  11 seasons in, and the show stopped caring about zombies around season 6, I was tired and just wanted it to end.  My wife insisted we finish, only to find that the final season was all about launching new spin-off shows in the Walking Dead universe.  I am so done with this franchise… or will be once Fear the Walking Dead winds up.

How do you take a quirky, funny show that worked for a season and go for two?  Well, another murder, of course.  And maybe frame up the main cast for that… and toss in some more quality supporting characters… and get Tina Fey in there more.  Yeah, it works.  It isn’t as charming or compelling or fresh as the first season, but it is still quality work.

A quirky, humorous, anachronistic telling of the life of 19th century poet Emily Dickinson whose works were largely unknown until after her death.  Technically not a series we binge, because it is one of those “better in small doses” shows, but still very good.  And I was so very much there for the portrayal of Henry David Thoreau.  So very much there.

David Simon, who you may remember from creating The Wire and Homicide: Life on the Streets, has returned to Baltimore, this time to tell the story of police corruption and specifically that of the Gun Trace Task Force.  This is a dramatization of real events and not a character development police drama, so it isn’t as engaging as The Wire, but it still hits pretty hard.

We will literally watch anything with Stanely Tucci in it at our house.  And we were rewarded with this show, enjoying pretty much every moment he was on screen.  We also like David Tennant, but almost every minute of him on screen evoked exasperated “Why would you do this? What are you thinking? Are you an idiot?” comments from us.  Not his fault.  Bad script.  But still, there we were hating it.  And almost every moment that had neither of them on screen was just kind of okay.  Tough to recommend outside to the Tucci performance, but it is only four episodes.

So that is me sort of catching up.  There are a few other shows that might have made the list, but which I want to write more about.  We shall see if I get to that.

Looking Back at 2022 – Highs and Lows

Looking back at 2022 makes me feel tired.  Tired for a lot of reasons, including getting laid off and having to start a new job, the failing health of my parent’s generation and having to manage that, another election season, the Russians, the general state of the world, and Elon Musk… I am very tired of Elon Musk.

I am also tired of hearing the word “charcuterie,” which I think I have heard more in 2022 that in all my past years combined.  I believe my wife unironically said “charcuterie” 14 times last week alone.

2022 is what we get

But here we are at the end of the year and another staple annual post here, something else that makes me feel a bit tired.  Some years I start writing this post in May or June, so it is easy to wrap up.  And then there are years like 2022 where I am throwing something together at the last minute.

For looks back at past years, there is a list.

Anyway, let’s step right into this steaming pile so I can get it over with.



  • Shipped the Dragonflight expansion in 2022!
  • Characters don’t use “borrowed power” directly in Dragonflight!
  • An actual plan announced for how Dragonflight is going to play out!
  • Shipped Overwatch 2!
  • Shipped Diablo Immortal!
  • Launched Wrath of the Lich King Classic!
  • Gave us a ship date for Diablo IV!
  • Actually announced a NEW GAME, something in the co-op survival genre!!!
  • Microsoft acquisition promises a cleaning of house when it comes to their loathsome corporate overlords


  • Dragonflight didn’t get that “what a great launch” compared to past expansions press release, a staple of expansions since WotLK, which is probably a bad sign
  • Dragonflight repeats the Shadowlands theme of a quick run to level cap and then the next two years in end game grind
  • Dragon riding on special dragon mounts… is still borrowed power
  • That two year Dragonflight roadmap is pretty light on dates and details
  • This new survival title is way out in the future
  • Overwatch 2?  That didn’t seem to make much of a splash
  • Heroes of the Storm??
  • StarCraft universe???
  • Diablo Immortal just lacked a cryto connection to fufill all of our worst monetization expectations
  • Diablo IV seems unlikely to hit its mark when it comes to a ship date and that was probably thrown out there for the benefit of Microsoft
  • No matter what happens with the Microsoft acquisition, the people who made Activision Blizzard a horrible place, who led by example in making it a hostile work environment, will be rewarded handsomely for all of their bad deeds
  • Oh, did I forget about Blizz and NetEase falling out, leaving Chinese gamers in the lurch?

Enad Global 7


  • EverQuest and EverQuest II get expansions, updates, and 64-bit upgrades
  • Mini-expansion and new starter areas for LOTRO
  • PlanetSide 2 hits 10 and tops its past world record
  • A lot of press coverage about their unannounced Marvel super hero title
  • They shipped some other titles… I’m sure…


  • EverQuest and EverQuest II got absolutely no other attention from the company
  • The idea of LOTRO on consoles seems less likely now than it did two years ago
  • Marvel super hero title cancelled… again… after getting all that attention
  • Daybreak titles make up most of the software revenue and almost all of the recurring subscription revenue
  • The company is now pretty much run by the Daybreak team, which has a track record of shipping nothing new and simply milking old titles
  • It probably says something that I have this little to say about the company



  • FanFest was back!
  • Big expansions were back!
  • The Uprising expansion saw players coming back and the daily population count rise!
  • The MER is now better than ever!
  • Faction Warfare finally got some love
  • The Photon UI is starting to come together
  • Finally listened to players on about the economy
  • Finally listened to players about resource harvesting, and specifically about locking resources into low sec
  • Finally gave us corp/alliance logos on ships
  • Came out against putting crypto in EVE Online
  • After many complaints CCP pulled the Prospector Pack, which sold a fitted ship, from the web store and promised not to sell ships in exactly that way again
  • We actually had a few big brawls in null sec, including that recent one at H-PA29


  • Whatever EVE Vegas was, or whatever was going to replace it in the US, that seems to be dead
  • Kind of a long wait between announcing Uprising and actually getting to it
  • Spent a whole YEAR not listening to players about the economy or resources while every obvious prediction came to pass
  • EverMarks for logos are annoying, gated busy work to get logos that we would happily spend money or PLEX on
  • Faction Warfare remains an all-in commitment for your character, so if your corp or alliance isn’t all-in you need an alt
  • The Photon UI is still slower and less responsive that the old UI, especially under TiDi
  • We’re quite a ways from the next big war in null sec
  • 33% price increase for subscriptions… in US dollars and Euros, which means it was a lot more for some people in other countries
  • Did you see the player count between the subscription price increase and the Uprising expansion?
  • The player count is on its way back down now that the expansion has been around for a bit
  • CCP prefers Monthly Active Users over any direct player count, and they have been obviously goosing that number with generous login rewards and give aways, but MAU does not reflect people in space
  • The infrastructure of sites that support EVE Online saw a notable decline in 2022 with sites going dormant or altogether dark
  • CCP only backed away from crypto “for now” after putting them in the Alliance Tournament and highlighting their CEO meeting with crypto evangelists
  • CCP thought the Prospector Pack was a good idea and, while they claimed to be listening to feedback, did not remove it from the store until their pre-planned promotion was over
  • Also, while CCP removed the Prospector Pack from the web store, they continued to sell it directly in-game as a pop-up offer to new players who ran the career agent missions for mining, thus making their statements about not wanting sell fitted ships generated out of thin air yet another bald faced lie
  • CCP is clearly going to sell fit ships again
  • EVE Valkyrie and CCP’s other VR games have now been shut down.
  • CCP is still devoting resources to making a first person shooter despite that market being both crowded and dominated by a few titles as well as CCP having shown no special insight nor innovation on that front

Other Gaming Industry Notes


  • Valheim gave us the Mistlands at last
  • Pokemon Scarlet and Violet!
  • Another big Minecraft update
  • RimWorld got the Biotech expansion
  • LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalks Saga finally made it out the door
  • Guild Wars 2 got End of Dragons
  • Pokemon Violet and Scarlet
  • New World seemed to be trying to get its act together
  • Lost Ark has hung on to its opening success and remained pretty stable
  • Solesta was a pretty solid, if a bit low budget, table top RPG simulation


  • That Game Awards were boring; stop trying to make them the Oscars and just do your own thing
  • Amazon took its sweet time trying to fix New World, and it is still something of a mess
  • Meta can’t make the metaverse happen even with an annual burn rate in the billions
  • VR actively set back by Meta after they kicked legendary John Carmack to the curb along with his idea of lighter, more affordable headsets, instead opting to follow the Juicero guy and his plan for a more expensive, more awkward path forward for VR hardware
  • Much of the year was spent again with crytpo bros trying to conflate their horrible idea with things like the metaverse and online gaming
  • Just when it seems to be clear to most that cryto in video games is a bad idea, THAT is when Richard Garriott decides to prove once again he is the 21st century harbinger of death for video game trends by announcing his own shamelessly transparent cryto NFT video game scam
  • Crowd funded MMOs continued to prove, with very rare exceptions, that their promises are empty and that you should never give Wimpy a hamburger today on the promise of being paid on Tuesday

Television, Books, and the Media


  • Still a lot of stuff to watch
  • Amazon gave us a Middle-earth show and William Gibson’s The Peripheral
  • HBO gave us House of Dragons and more Westworld
  • AMC gave us the final seasons of Better Call Saul and The Walking Dead
  • Netflix continues to surprise with new content like Wednesday and The Glass Onion
  • Even Disney+ managed to give us Andor, a welcome entry in the Star Wars canon
  • I liked most of the movies I saw this year, including Top Gun: Maverick, Bullet Train, The Batman, and…. um….
  • Books… I am sure there were some new books released… lots of them probably


  • A fair chunk of what I mentioned above ended up being something of a disappointment
  • Netflix is chaotic and is as likely to green light garbage or cancel something you really enjoy
  • I feel the fragmentation of so many streaming channels more and more with each passing year
  • It was a bit of a struggle to find things that were both new and good in any media
  • HBO Max is just pulling a bunch of their original content to avoid paying royalties, proving once again if you want to have access to something reliably you should own the physical media
  • I think I saw one movie in the actual theater this year, Top Gun: Maverick
  • Thor: Love and Thunder really tried hard to recapture the magic of Thor: Ragnarok… and kind of failed
  • Top Gun: Maverick was the US box office leader in 2022… not that it was bad, but there apparently wasn’t anything better (Avatar: Way of Water fans will bring up the overseas box office, but that is like losing the objective and claiming you won the ISK war… it doesn’t count… also, TG:M is still winning on that front)

Blogging and Social Media


  • The blog is still here and running, now sixteen years into is existence
  • I posted for 1,000 days in a row
  • Blaugust was a thing again this year
  • Some people still visit this site regularly
  • I did have some good interactions on Twitter, which remains my social media of choice
  • I spent quite a bit of time on Twitch
  • If social media gets bad enough, blogging might see a revival!


  • Fewer people visited this site this year than in any year since 2007
  • Any resurgence of long form writing like blogging will probably bypass established blogs to jump onto whatever the trendy platform of the day ends up being
  • Posting for that many days in a row sounds a lot more interesting than it is… and it doesn’t sound all that interesting
  • Email subscriptions on the blog pretty much broke this year, and doesn’t care in the least
  • Bing decided it doesn’t like sites, so the bit of traffic they sent me petered out
  • The local neighborhood of blogs shrank some
  • My time on Twitch was mostly it being in the background so I could collect channel points or game drops honestly
  • Facebook remains a horrible dumpster fire
  • I cannot train Instagram’s algorithm to show me what I want
  • Elon Musk is trying to turn Twitter into the biggest and loudest dumpster fire in social media
  • There is no direct replacement for Twitter and what it was
  • Mastodon has moved from a small collection of individually managed fiefdoms with their own rules and norms and tribes and echo chambers into a somewhat larger version of all of that
  • Post News is that condo you just bought and are trying to furnish with a limited budget and no free time
  • Hive doesn’t run in a browser
  • I used to joke that Linked In was business Facebook, but it has really become that, and I don’t mean in a good way

The World

I’m not sure I have any highs.  There is a war in Europe, COVID is still a thing no matter how hard we try to pretend it isn’t, attacks on voting rights, democracy, and free speech have become just part of the normal way of things, and, as always, nobody wealth or famous ever faces any real accountability unless they hard somebody else wealth or famous.  And don’t get me started on people who are billionaires.  If we could harness self-absorbed narcissism, our dependence on fossil fuels would be solved.


And we’re on to a new year this weekend.  Let’s hope for something better.

The Return of Law and Order

Law & Order was a show that ran for 20 seasons, from 1990 until 2010, when it finally ended.  It was one of the shows my wife and I used to watch regularly together back in the day.  We enjoyed it, and were sad to see it end, though it was very formulaic and followed a seeming set of rules that were rarely violated which often pointed to the answer of every episode.

Law & Order – The original

The pattern of the show was almost always a pre-credits sequence where the crime was committed/discovered, with the police detectives showing up and examining the scene of the crime, something that always ended with a quip from the senior detective on the show, which for many years was the late Jerry Orbach.

Then the show would run the opening credits, after which would come the investigation stage of the hour long drama… the “law” in the title… followed by the district attorney’s office prosecuting the person tracked down by the detectives… which I guess is the “order” part.

There were occasional variations or switch ups… sometimes the first person arraigned wasn’t the perpetrator, and sometimes the perp got a not guilty verdict… but it was a solid formula that spawned a whole franchise, including adaptations in France and the UK.

But the original, with its “bum bum” or “chung chung” musical notes that were a hallmark of the show, went away even as other variations carried on… or died quick deaths, like Law & Order LA.

Now, however, the original is back.  It even has some of the original cast, including Sam Waterston as District Attorney Jack McCoy, still on the job after all of these years, and Anthony Anderson as Detective Bernard, still working as a detective in homicide.

Stephen Hill, who was District Attorney Adam Schiff for the first decade of the series, seemed like an old guy when he was playing the part, but Sam Waterston is now older than Stephen Hill ever was on the show.  Meanwhile, Anthony Anderson spent a most of a decade starring in the sitcom Black-ish.

The rest of the cast has been filled in by newcomers, with Jeffrey Donovan of Burn Notice fame taking on the role as Bernard’s partner in homicide, Camryn Manheim as their Lieutenant, Hugh Dancy as the assistant DA on the “order” side of the fence, working with Odelya Halevi working as his assistant on cases.

So all the roles are filled and I am fine with all the choices, save for perhaps Hugh Dancy, who comes off as a bit of a dandy at times… though that probably fits his character, so is a minor gripe.

And all the elements of the show are in place, just like the good old days.  The pre-credits scene, the opening music with and updated credit sequence, the story flow, it is all there.

But it all feels a little wooden… a little too unsubtle… a little too much like it is trying to make a point and afraid somebody might not get it unless the telegraph it with a big red marker.

Not that the original series was a master class in subtlety. You knew the pattern.  You could often spot the killer because they most recognizable guest star wouldn’t be wasted on a subsidiary role.

Here though, every character seems to have an assigned role/point of view they are scripted in every episode to express.

Jeffrey Donovan… who I fear will never have another role as good as Burn Notice… is the brusque, cranky old white guy who must voice the politically incorrect opinion.

Anthony Anderson is the tired of it all black man who has to speak about the way minorities are treated in the US.

Hugh Dancy is the ADA who wants to win his case more than he wants justice, while Odelya Halevi has to be his conscious about right and wrong.

And I am not complaining about the show suddenly being too woke of socially aware… the old episodes could manage that now and then… as much as how the characters are so predictable that you know when they are going to go into those defined roles before they even start speaking.  Even the actors seem to realize they are checking a box as their delivery tends to go a bit flat when they are required to step up and fill those roles.

The actors in question… especially Jeffrey Donovan and Anthony Anderson… are capable of much better performances, so it really makes me wonder what is going on.  What kind of direction are they getting?

The season does get better as it goes along, and the whole thing has been renewed for another season, so it passed muster better than Law & Order: LA did, but it doesn’t have quite the same spark that the show did back in the day.

Then again, a lot has changed since the original went off the air in 2010.  Maybe it is more a sign of the changing times, the way Dragnet became something of a parody of itself as the series wound down in the late 60s.


Back on Tatooine with Old Ben

More Star Wars, more Tatooine.  I say yet again, this planet is so important in the galaxy that I don’t know why the Republic or the Empire don’t keep it constantly staffed with masses of troops.

And Disney+ brings us back, this time to follow in the footsteps of Obi-wan Kenobi in order to fill in the gap between Revenge of the Sith and Rogue One, because the company is sure we don’t want any NEW adventures in the galaxy, just an ongoing attempt to fill in any possible gap in the Skywalker narrative.  What did Obi-wan get up to while waiting for Luke to grow up?

More Star Wars because more is better

Ten years down the road from the rise of Darth Vader, Obi-wan is living in a cave in the desert and making ends meat by working at the local Hormel meat processing plant where they are stingy with wages, but don’t seem to mind him cutting off a slice at the end of the day to feed his mount.  Maybe it is in the union contract.  He doesn’t really hide what he is doing.

He tries to keep an eye on Luke, but uncle Own isn’t too keen on that, so Obi-wan becomes a creepy middle age guy with binoculars.

Then there is Leia, a precocious 10 year old on Alderaan, who is living the good life while her twin brother helps eke out life on a moisture farm in the desert.

And, finally, there are the inquisitors, under the command of Darth Vader, who spend their time tracking down Jedi because, as I have suggested elsewhere, the success of Order 66 seemed to be mostly imperial propaganda.

All three of these intersect and Obi-wan has to dig up his lightsaber, leave Tatooine, and get mixed up with the empire again.  He and Darth Vader meet up, Obi-wan discovers that Darth Vader is Anakin Skywalker, which I guess could have been a thing… though Anakin getting left for dead and a week later the Emperor has a powerful new Sith Lord by his side seems like it would raise at least a few “so where did he come from?” question in the tabloids… they fight, and then part ways because the beginning and end states of the stories were already set in stone.

Some interesting characters pop up, a few people die, but in the end Obi-wan is back on Tatooine hanging around waiting for Luke to grow up while desert life changes him from 51 year old Ewan McGregor into 63 year old Alec Guinness… I guess that age gap kind of works, which kind of worries me because I am the middle of those two ages… while Darth Vader… I guess completely forgets this whole episode?  I don’t know.  Again, in his place I might have kept a closer eye on Tatooine going forward given how much shit seems to just happen there.

Was it any good?

Sure, it was fine.  I enjoyed it.  There were some very good performances.  It was originally slated to be a movie, which is how I suspect it got such a good cast… though maybe just being in a Star Wars series is enough.  The story kept my interest despite being bound within the constraints to the overall story arc.  There were a few insights into the characters that might have been worth the effort.

It didn’t grab me like The Madalorian, where a new and interesting character led us through a different aspect of the Star Wars universe.

But it was much better than The Book of Boba Fett, where we spent four episodes being force fed a dull, and eventually inconsequential, backstory before The Mandalorian came in and dragged the story away from bacta tank flashbacks into the present day.

Anyway, if you’re into it you’ve probably already watched it as well.  I mean, the next season of Westworld didn’t even start until the last episode was already live.  But, if you decided to give it a miss, you can get the summary with some good visuals from the Honest Trailer.

And, if you’re like me, you’ll watch the commentary for that as well, where they dive into discussing the series.  I wasn’t engrossed enough to watch the weekly episode discussion videos, but an overall run through I was good for.


Binge Watching into Another Season

Back again with more TV that we have been watching.  There isn’t, technically, a pandemic right now.  We’re all back to pretending COVID is gone, though the case numbers are rising again.  But now we’re in the habit and routine of watching a lot of TV.  So here we go again.


In some not too distant future… or past, the time line is ambiguous… Lumon Corporation has perfected a technology called “severance,” which allows them to split the conscious brain into two parts, separating a person’s work life from their outside and home life.

If you have the procedure, your work self knows nothing about your outside life and vice versa.  In fact, your work life has no outside memories, it only knows work.  Every day when you arrive at work you pass through an elevator that activates the change to work.  The work version of you… your “innie” in the slang of Lumon… only knows an endless existence of entering the elevator to leave, then immediately exiting the elevator, back at work for another day.

The procedure is controversial, but Mark, the lead character, has chosen it because his wife recently died in a car accident and being able to forget that for the work day seems like a blessing.

Meanwhile, what he and his team do an Lumon is a mystery, even to them.  They have quotas to meet, which earns them rewards like a waffle party, but they have no idea what they are actually accomplishing.  Meanwhile, Lumon has a cult-like corporate culture, with a handbook of quotes from the founder, and an obsession with security even within the severed portion of the company.  The groups there are kept apart through a labyrinth of corridors.

The series starts slowly, kicking off with a new employee, Helly, being brought into the group, and seems very strange, but you do get some payoff by the end of the season as to what is going on.  A slow burn, but it kept me hooked.

The Flight Attendant

Flight attendant Cassie is living the carefree airline lifestyle, traveling the world, drinking to excess, partying, and sleeping with people she has just met.  And then she wakes up next to one of them, a first class passenger who was on her flight to Bangkok, to find he is dead.  She was in an alcoholic blackout and doesn’t know if she killed him or what happened.   She panics, cleans up the crime scene, then gets on her flight back to the US, where she and the rest of the flight crew are questioned by the FBI because the body has been discovered and the Thai police are following up leads.

She isn’t a suspect, but panics and ends up doing a bunch of dumb things that bring more attention to her, while also somehow unraveling by accident the actual conspiracy that led to the murder.  It is dumb but fun, and Kaley Cuoco, best known for her role in Big Bang Theory, is probably the perfect actor to pull the whole thing off.  It isn’t a huge stretch from the BBT role.  So it is fun and silly and full of “that’s not how this really works” moments, but whatever.  You’re there for the ride, and the first season pays off pretty well.

And then there is season two, where the manic quirkiness… well, it isn’t over, but it isn’t quite the same either… changes but the “that’s not how things really work” aspect is doubled down on and I couldn’t make it past the second episode.  But we’ll always have the fun first season.

Vikings Valhalla

A follow on to the Vikings series, which I have not seen, this takes place 100 years down the road, opening with Æthelred, King of England, unleashing the St. Brice’s Day massacre, an attempt to slay all the Danes living in England.  This pisses off the Danes, who sail for England to exact revenge.

And from there we follow the stories of King Cnut, Lief Erikson and his sister Freydis, and the schism between the Vikings who have turned to Christianity (with a very Viking aggressiveness) and those who still follow the old ways.  I wasn’t expecting much from it… it seemed to lack in Skarsgards for something Nordic… but I ended up quite liking it.

Slow Horses

In MI5 Slough House is where you get sent if you have screwed up just shy of being fired.  There Cold War burn out Jack Lamb is in charge of keeping those sent to this purgatory busy with a mix of menial tasks, like sorting through and cataloging the garbage of a somebody who isn’t really suspected of much, and a steady diet of scorn and derision.  Those assigned, the “slow horses” of the title, can put up with it and maybe get back into a better position or resign.

Up and comer River Cartwright, whose grandfather was a major player in the service, makes a very public mistake and is sent there, but cannot leave well enough alone.  He does his tasks but also carries on with some extra curricular activities which Lamb tells him to stop, but then grows interested himself, in his own scornful way, as it turns out Cartwright is on to something and it leads back to Slough House.

Fun, dynamic, and it has Gary Oldman and Kristen Scott Thomas.  What else do you need?  I actually waited until the series was complete… Apple insists on the one episode a week drip… so my wife and I could binge it if we wanted… and we did.


Jack Reacher has been done before.  The popular 26… soon to be 27… book series has already had two movie adaptations starring an unconvincing Tom Cruise as the title character.  I’ve read a few of the books… not a huge fan as the quality of the early books varies quite a bit… and Jack Reacher, who everybody just calls Reacher, is a muscular 6’5″, while Tom Cruise is a wiry 5’7″ on a good day.  There is only so much suspension of disbelief he can carry.  Also, Tom Cruise only knows how to be Tom Cruise.  He is very good at it, and if you have a role written for Tom Cruise, only Tom Cruise will do.  But Jack Reacher isn’t a very Tom Cruise role.

Alan Ritchson though, the star of the Amazon Prime series, he very much sells the Jack Reacher role.  If you have read the first book… and the series starts with the first book, unlike the movies, which picked up in the middle of the series… the first episode of the series will seal the deal.  You don’t get the inner monologue from the text, but Reacher doesn’t waste words, and when he does speak he tends to hit the mark hard.  A couple people I know who love the books were big on the series as well.

And if you haven’t read the books, the first season is still very good without that knowledge.

Binge Watching Too Many Mysteries

The TV stays on and we keep watching most evenings.  Mysteries seem to be the neutral ground for my wife and I, a genre we enjoy together.  The problem starts when you watch too many and you start to unravel how they work and so we’re constantly calling out what will happen next, and rare is the program that fools us without cheating. (Looking at you Click Bait and Broadchurch. )

But the other shared ground for us, science fiction, doesn’t have as many options popping up.  I am going to guess that the effects and props budget for mysteries are a lot smaller.

Not even a title card, but this image makes sense if you watch the series

The full title is actually The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window, but it was supposed to be just The Woman in the House early on in production.  Also, that fits more easily on the page as a bullet point without wrapping.

Why the change to the long, silly name?  My guess is that was a flag to ensure people got that the series was trying to parody such mystery thrillers.  That it needed to raise such a flag probably says more about the genre than the attempt to parody it.  A good parody immerses itself in the material it is poking fun at, but the genre has been a bit off the rails, so it can be tough to tell if something was supposed to be funny or just trying to one up something else.

Anyway, it is fine as a parody, and better than some serious mysteries we’ve watched of late.  Kristen Bell is solid and the show hangs on her.  It was worth the eight episode investment.

The Stranger is such a common title they had to specify

A strange woman in a hoodie, the “stranger” of the title, tells a married man that he needs to look into something about his wife.  When he finds the information, she asks him for more time before she explains, then disappears.  Meanwhile, the woman is also blackmailing some people with information she has found, and the man, who is a lawyer, is trying to keep some old neighbors house from being knocked down, and the company trying to knock the place down turns out to be run by the mans estranged father.  Also, Jennifer Saunders is in it, briefly.  That sounds like trivia, but it was the selling point for us to start watching it.  Anyway, several people end up murdered, then it turns out key people are related and everybody tries to just forget it all happened.  In the end, it was society or middle-class values to blame.

This was a few steps from being a parody of the mystery genre itself.  It did get us hooked with the first episode, but by about the half way point we were mostly watching just to see which next twist would get thrown into the mix.  I will give it credit for keeping us from guessing what was going on too early on in the show.

Stay Close to what now?

  1. Stay Close – Netflix

Also a Harlan Coben novel made into a series, and probably the leading indicator that we have been watching too many mysteries.  It was only eight episodes, but my wife kept saying, “Oh, we’ve seen this one already.” through the first three, because… well, because there wasn’t a lot to set it apart.

And I almost forgot to add it to this post because I keep forgetting the title and what it was about.  Seriously, in my notes I wrote “the one I keep forgetting” because I couldn’t remember it.  Eddie Izzard is in it, if briefly, as is the lead actor from The Stranger (same author but not the same character or story… I think…), and an English actor who kept pulling faces that reminded me of Titus Welliver in Bosch.  Too dull to be a parody I think… but I really cannot recall it well enough to be sure.

Post-Wallander Wallander

I enjoyed the moody, introspective, and empathetic Kurt Wallander played by Kenneth Branagh, which came to the states over a decade back via the usual BBC ratline to the Americas, US public television.  The moody bleakness of Sweden makes such a good background for murder.

That show was a success and when you can’t make more of them, you make a prequel!  It worked for Lucas!  Right?  RIGHT?

So now on Netflix we have two seasons of Young Wallander which, in an odd twist that most people won’t care about, takes place in the present day, which means technically Young Wallander happens after Wallander.  How can old Wallander be hopeless with tech while his younger, future self seems comfortable with it?  Also, insert Benjamin Button joke here.

The show works hard at laying the groundwork for the the Branagh version of the character, perhaps too hard and too obviously, but then doesn’t do much to make the young one very interesting.  It was good enough to get a second season, no doubt based on the popularity of the original, but it could have been much tighter if it had used the old show’s shorter format.  Like a lot of shows, it seems to spend time looking for ways to fill out all the episodes it was contracted to provide.  Very much not a parody.  Also, how can you set a show in Sweden and have nobody in the main cast with blonde hair?  One of the detectives actually dies her hair blonde in the second season, and I think it was just to get past this obvious error.

The good title cards were all in portrait mode

The series opens up with an Irish tourist in Australia being chased by a truck, a turn of events that ends up with him in the hospital with amnesia.

“Oh no, the amnesia trope!” I hear you say, and would tend to agree that it is a bit cheesy.  However, the show sticks with it firmly, even while half the characters seem incredulous about it.  But it does allow you to go on a voyage of discovery with the tourist, who is trying to piece together who he is and what happened to him… and why somebody was trying to kill him… which, of course, he doesn’t remember so has to find out about afresh.

The whole thing is very improbable, and close to parody itself at times.  Or maybe it was parody.  Parody is generally cast as comedy, and there is comedy in this show.  But sometimes comedy is just comedy.  It is one of those shows where the little details can be quite amusing.  Overall a fun ride.  If you watch through some of his dream sequences, make sure to pause the video and read all the signage.  Unusual for an HBO Max series as they dropped all the episodes at once.  But it was a series they bought, so maybe they don’t bother with those.

Finally, a decent title card

Raised by WolvesHBO Max

And, finally, a science fiction show and not a current day mystery!  Or a parody!

Earth is wracked by a war between religious zealots, the worshipers of Sol, and the unbelievers, and all life on the planet seems likely to be wiped out shortly.  An unbeliever scientist reprograms a combat android and a utility android and sends them off to Kepler 22b, a potentially Earth-like planet (which was also mentioned in a show we started watching), with a supply of embryos in order to ensure the survival of the human race.

But both sides in the war know about the planet and soon both sides are there and seem intent on finished the work started on Earth.  The first season starts strong… hey, Ridley Scott directed the first two episodes… but then it meanders for a few episodes.  The second season, which is two episodes shorter, stays more on point.  The second season wrapped up last week, so it is available for full binge.  Strange but compelling.

Binge Watching in a Dusty Shade of Yellow

Are we still watching television?  Yes we are!  So it is time for a few recaps once more.

In Montana, not Wyoming

Some friends kept recommending this, calling it the “Cowboy Sopranos,” but I think it is more like “Cowboy Succession.”

The first problem was finding a way to watch it without paying $1.99 an episode, because there is no TV series on earth that is worth that kind of money.

We found that the NBC streaming channel, Peacock, had the first two seasons of the show and that we didn’t even have to pay to see it.  It was one of those things that if your local cable service had the channel, you could use the streaming app.  You have to watch some ads, but not nearly as many as you would on live TV.  The only jarring bit is that the show is cut into acts so ad breaks can be inserted between them and the Peacock ads DO NOT get injected into those transitions.  Dumb, but what can you do?

Anyway, the show is about the Dutton family, headed by John Dutton, played by Kevin Costner, who is as Kevin Costner as he always is.  Some actors can become characters, other actors have the roles become them… he and Tom Cruise are in the latter category.  The Duttons own a giant ranch in Montana called Yellowstone, which is close by the boarder of the national park of the same name.  The park figures into none of this save for a tangential mention now and then, and a sly reference to the “zone of death” related to the park.

John Dutton has four children all in various states of relation to him, either rejecting him, trying to please him, doing his bidding, or working against him, depending on the situation.  He manipulates them all with disappointment or praise as suits his plans.

The ranch is threatened by various real estate developers as well as the adjacent Indian reservation, the residents of which can’t go half a dozen sentences without reminding everybody with ear shot that the ranch used to be their land.  The Duttons and their ranch hands handle problems in the cowboy way, which generally involves violence when the law won’t suffice.  They beat people, threaten them, and murder now and then.  They pretty much had to bring in a worse group in season 3 because the Duttons were very much shaping up to be the bad guys until then.  They look more sympathetic against straight up kidnappers and murderers.

Meanwhile, their dysfunctional family and complicated relationships, as I noted above, remind me of Succession.  And since somebody said Succession is pretty much a billionaire version of Arrested Development, I guess they are really the “Cowboy Bluths,” though missing the mediating presence of Michael.  Like the Roys, I am not really sure who to root for because they’re all problematic in their own ways.  But the show is still entertaining in a way that Succession has fallen away from.  Lots of daily antics and arguments to amuse.  Also, it has normalized drinking Coors beer, which is my old man brew of choice.

And then came season four, which is NOT on Peacock, but on the Paramount Network, which has its own app with the same deal about your local cable service and ads.  However, our local cable service doesn’t carry the right channel, so we’re locked out until the season comes to Peacock or something else we can watch.  But the first three seasons were worth the time, so we’ll wait for the fourth to come around.

It is the school mascot, nobody gets stung

We picked up Showtime for a month to watch something else.  Then, with the time left on the clock, we hunted for something else to watch, landing on Yellowjackets, which had just wrapped up its first season.  We got hooked immediately.

The story revolves around a girls high school soccer team in mid-90s New Jersey that goes to the national championships, which are being held in Washington state.  They board a chartered flight, but crash somewhere in the Canadian wilderness, where they have to survive for a year and a half before finally being rescued.

The story splits between modern day and the events on the ground after the crash, weaving the two parts of the story together very successfully.  A lot of shows do this, but I haven’t watched one do it this well in a long time.

At the crash site, most of the team survives, though only one adult makes it through the crash, and they are badly injured.  The team has to figure out how to survive as it becomes more and more obvious that immediate rescue isn’t in the cards.  The radio beacon on the black box is on the fritz and it is 1996 and nobody has cell phones with a GPS in their pockets. (Also, nobody watched Gilligan’s Island, because there were at least half a dozen things they would have picked up from that show about getting rescued.)

Then there is modern day, where it is quickly obvious that there are a lot fewer survivors who made it back than who were alive after the crash.  The baggage of those events weighs on the adults we see.  They agreed on a basic “we survived” story and have otherwise remained quiet about events in the woods, though they remain local celebrities.  But somebody is suddenly interested in what happened.

Meanwhile, back in the woods in 1996, you can see a Lord of the Flies scenario starting to emerge as the very competitive and athletic girls work out how to survive.  There is something strange in the woods as well.  But we only get glimpses of it before the season wraps up, leaving lots of questions and angry looks at the calendar knowing it will probably be a year before we get any more details.  It was a good show, with a tight story and good acting, leaving you hungry for more even after ten episodes.

Another brother Ray

Three items in and I have already fallen off the color theme.  Whatever.  And I am not here to endorse this item really, but figured I would bring it up as this was the reason we picked up Showtime for a month and ended up watching Yellowjackets.  Backstory.  You like backstory right?

I wrote about the six seasons of Ray Donovan previously, a mixed bag of a show.  But we went the distance with it, so the finale, the movie wrap up of the series seemed to be a must.

It wasn’t, really.

The series spends a lot of energy hinting at what happened back in Boston when Ray was a kid and why he and his father Mickey are at odds so often.  If you were paying attention, they pretty much laid out all the key points about their past, so I wasn’t really worried about it.  I wanted to see the current day resolved in some way.

But the people making the show really felt we needed a ride back to the 70s to go through, in detail, what happened back then, all as a flashback from the current day.  Unlike Yellowjackets, this isn’t two stories being twisted together in parallel, this is more like a “remember when…” clip show, only the clips are brand new.

So, if you wanted to see the family history played out, how Ray got where he ended up, why Mickey went to jail, the story of Ray’s sister, and a pack of other details, you are set.  I was there for the 70s cars and styles, but didn’t walk away thinking, “Now that is how you end a series.”  It was fine fan service, and filled in some details, but didn’t thrill me.

Let the Star Wars spin-off multiply and conqueror

If there’s a bright center to the universe, you’re on the planet that it’s farthest from.

-Luke Skywalker, wrong as usual

I am going to have to do an inventory of how many of the Star Wars films and shows spend at least some time on Tattooine.  If as much stuff went down there as I recall, either the empire or the republic should have a much more serious presence close to hand.  And it is sandy, and sand is yellow, so back on the color theme, right?

Anyway, the last season of the Mandalorian introduced a bevy of characters set for spin-off shows, and the first of those to land was The Book of Boba Fett.

Of the seven episodes, the first four are basically setting the scene for the post-Mandalorian era events, telling parallel tales of how Boba got out of the sarlacc pit and where he went and what happened after he ran into Mando and him setting up shop on Tattooine.

Again, in comparison to Yellowjackets, this was an attempt to twist to timelines together.  The problem here is that I just didn’t care.  I was never a fan of the Fett,  I wanted to be Han Solo, not some background bounty hunter whose costume looked like low rent cosplay.  But he was popular beyond the extent of his roles in the original trilogy, and Han Solo shouted his name Return of the Jedi, so he has a fan base.  I’m just not in that crowd.

As such, I wasn’t really invested in what he did before or after his appearance in The Manalorian, and the show plodded along with the assumption that anybody watching would think this was key to the Star Wars universe.  Four episodes of that was too much.

Then for episodes five and six we left Boba Fett behind and the show became The Madalorian again, and was much more interesting to me.  I really liked Mando on the ring habitat.  I was having Ringworld flashbacks.  Good times.

But Mando has to find his way to Tatooine, because of course he does, it is the literal bright sandy center of the Star Wars universe, drawing all plot lines to it, and hooks up with Boba to help solve his gang lord turf battle, with the final fight playing out in very predictable fashion.  I don’t mind playing to the western theme, but when I know something mentioned in a previous episode has to come up in the final fight to turn the tide before it happens, then they might not be working hard enough.

Anyway, it was fine.  So not great, nor as enjoyable as the first two seasons of The Mandalorian, but it was probably better than the last three films.  Jon Favreau is probably channeling the best post-Lucas look into Star Wars we could reasonably hope for.  Meanwhile, Amy Sedaris channeled many fan thoughts when she told Baby Yoda… because of course he shows up again… that Grogu is a horrible name and we’re not calling him that.  #TeamBabyYoda

This being a Star Wars series, there are some other opinions on the series out there if you prefer:

Binge Watching into the New Year

There was a lot of free time over the holidays, which meant lots of time for TV.  We managed to get through three new series.  We were a bit late to the party for the first two… though that was fine, because it meant we didn’t have to wait week-to-week for new episodes.

The wheel weaves yadda yadda yadda

I was probably the ideal audience for this show.  I am familiar with the material, having read… or at least listened to in audio book form, which at least means I know how to pronounced things, sort of… the whole series.

But that was more than a decade ago for most of the series, and I didn’t come away as a huge fan of the tale, so I am not wed to the idea that every word is sacred and must be reproduced on screen as the late Robert Jordan intended.

I know the basic tale, am hazy on the details, and happy enough to see them bypass huge tracts of text to winnow the story down to something that can be told in less than a thousand one hour episodes.  So I enjoyed it, remembered enough so I was never really lost, and felt they got through first book just fine.  Just a dozen more to go!

The casting might have been the weak part of the show, not that I don’t love Rosamund Pike, and having Sophie Okonedo, who we last saw as the boss in Flack, as the Amyrlin Seat sparked some amusement, but the kids from the Two Rivers were all kind of bland.  We’ll see how they develop over time I suppose, but I’d like to get some more of the cast of Flack into the Aes Sedai.

The hard core Wheel of Time fans though, there are some very unhappy people in that group.  And I get it.  I like about 1.5 movies out of the six that make up The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.  But I also try to remember that bringing something to a different medium makes it a different story almost by default.  Of course, that is easy to say when I’m not invested in the tale.

My wife was on the other end of the spectrum and knew nothing about the story and just had to go with what was on screen and the bits of clarification I could provide.  But even with that, she was on board.  We’re looking forward to next season.

Beautiful and pretentious

Another one where I might theoretically be a prime candidate.  When I grew up the science fiction club in middle school had drawn a line between those who worshiped Asimov and those true to Heinlein, and the weirdos like me who were off reading Niven or Burroughs learned to keep clear of the holy war between the two factions.  And while I warmed to Asimov later, the Foundation series has always been ill considered pretentious schlock in my book. So color me happy to see somebody re-interpreting it, because it always felt like it needed another pass to make it worth reading.  And the series looks so good.  Production values worthy of the tale.

A pity it is both pretentious and as dull as dishwater, though I suppose in that they have captured the original.  We plodded through, though I will probably need a serious “previously” recap when the next season drops… because it was good enough to get renewed for a second season.

Those opening credits

And a third series for which I was well primed, this time because I had never seen the original so I was not going to rend my garments every time something varied from the expected.  Overall the show had great casting, great music, tons of style, and really worked for me for the first eight episodes.  I very much enjoyed the practical set dressing, the retro-futuristic kitsch theme, the music, and the way the story kicked off.  I liked the opening credits so much that I didn’t even skip them after the first couple of episodes.

I was all into this.

The biggest chore was watching it with our daughter, who had seen the original, though she seemed mostly okay with this live action remake.  The problem was that she only wanted to watch one episode a night, and what kind of binge watching is that?

As it turned out, that managed to expand my enjoyment over more than a week.  On New Years Eve we watched the final two episodes and… well, we’ll always have the initial eight.  If they had stopped at eight and teased a bit of what was to come, we might have had a season two in the works.

They ran into what I think of as the Burn Notice problem, where there is a story arc for the season, but a lot of time is spent on quirky, fun side adventures that let you get to know the characters, but don’t always advance the main story.  And then in the last two episodes they went all in on the main story arc, with a whole episode of flashback and then a final conflict episode… and I really missed the quirky, fun side adventures.

We had also just watched The Last Duel, and there were some odd parallels between that and the final episode.  Anyway, the end wasn’t as satisfying… so much so that there will be no second season.


Somewhere in season four the series kind of lost us.  But, the books also lost me at about the same point, so I guess that all adds up.

The cast is still good, the sets and effects remain top notch, and there are occasionally things going on that I follow and understand, but we were pausing and asking each other, “So what is going on here?” a little too often.  I think there is an argument here for waiting for a show to be done and binging the whole arc in succession so as to not lose the threads of the plot.  The wheel weaves erratically at times, such that even having to go a week between episodes left us a bit lost.

I don’t know why Amazon insists on weekly episodes.  If there is one streaming service we’re never going to cancel, it is Prime, because we use the subscription for other things as well.

Anyway, we muddled though, saw Holden as the reluctant hero once more, and saw some state of accord come to the solar system for a bit.  I’m just not sure what the scenes on the planet through the gateway were about and, honestly, I kind of missed the simplicity of “whose got the proto-molecule?”  But this was the final season, so I guess we’re done with that.