And we’re back with more TV that we have watched while the pandemic has kept us home… not that we would have gone out all that much, but we used to go out to dinner and a movie one in a while. Anyway, some new seasons from older shows and some first seasons from new shows to talk about.
The Boys Season 2- Amazon Prime
I loved season one of this, with the super heroes as real people run by a corporation focused on profit and image and putting out the next film starring their heroes. Heroes are not uncommon, and the prime group is The Seven, seven heroes who represent the top of the brand. It is a gritty world where those seven all have their own personality issues and problems with the job, the public, and the company itself, while the company will do anything to protect their image.
I won’t spoil season one with too much detail, but it builds the world where a group led by Carl Urban… The Boys of the title… are trying to expose the whole thing for what it is. And then, in season two, they have to kind of run with the big build up behind them and… it kind of falls a bit flat.
The problem is, after the first season, our ability to be shocked that, say, a super hero is a legit Nazi, has been expended. We know they and the company are bad, we’re now just haggling over how bad. I think the writers/producers knew this, because they dialed up the sex/violence/gore meter a few notches over season one, but that doesn’t really offset the fact that we get the situation already. Meanwhile, The Deep joining a cult was a bit of a drag on the plot.
Still, the second season isn’t bad, and I’ll watch the third season to continue the crazy, frenetic soap opera that the show can be, but it is now hard for them to shock the audience after the first season.
The Mandalorian Season 2 – Disney+
Okay, I know, we’re not even done with the full season yet, but after episode 5 I am ready to pass judgement. This is the way.
Unlike The Boys above, season one only laid the groundwork for the show. There is a lot more to explore and discover in the post-Endor galaxy far, far away. The season starts a little slow, but the show has already decided it moves only at a walking pace as we go from adventure to adventure. We’re happy with that at our house as long as the quips are good and baby Yoda is cared for. But then, in episode five, things get real and the connection to the rest of the Star Wars universe is well and truly establish. And then episode six comes along and doubles down! This is the show that Star Wars fans deserve. I don’t want to spoil it, but it is pretty cool.
Anyway, we’ll keep subscribing to Disney+ so long as they keep making this show. I might also have to go back and watch Star Wars: Rebels while we’re subscribed.
The Crown Season 4 – Netflix
There was word that the royals were not fully happy with how they were portrayed in season 4, to which I respond with, “Are you serious? This monarchy porn isn’t fawning enough for you? Try making your own! Oh, right, you did that in season 3, didn’t you? And it sucked, didn’t it?”
The lot of them should be grateful for the casting alone. It wouldn’t take much for this to have turned into a live action Spitting Image.
That said, season four was kind of a transition for us, as we moved from “things I read about or knew from history” into things we remember from the news coverage at the time. My wife got up at 3am to watch Charles and Diana get married.
The time frame is essentially the Margaret Thatcher era, who is portrayed by Gillian Anderson with a hard shell of hair and a back brace to keep her posture as rigid as possible. (That last bit is conjecture on my part.) She looks and sounds contrived, but so did Thatcher at the time, so spot on I guess. She is shown in the mix of her achievements. She is a heartless conservative who could care less about apartheid or the poor. But she is also of middle class origins, believes in her cause, and works very hard relative to the indolent royal family (and pretty much everybody around her), whom I honestly expected to reprise the Maggie Smith line, “What is a ‘week end’?” when the Thatcher’s are invited for dinner. They disdain her and her middle class ways.
(And word is that conservatives in the UK want the show conspicuously labeled as a “work of fiction” because they too are not fully happy, this time with how Maggie was portrayed. I suppose one could allow that many of them are experts on fiction. Just look at the Brexit campaign.)
Much of the season is the poor royals, trapped in their roles and longing to be free… so long as they can keep their titles, wealth, and privileges. The Queen, Anne, and Margaret are probably the most sympathetically played this season.
Charles and Diana make up much of the season. Charles is probably the most likely to be aggrieved by his portrayal as they push his slouch and mannerisms to exaggeration, and he comes off immature, petty, self-absorbed, and uninterested in much beyond polo and Camilla.
Diana is a bit of a mystery. Being from a similar background, she fits in with the royals initially. She is one of them and her first weekend with the royals juxtaposes the Thatcher weekend. But after the wedding that seems to stop. She is lonely and the fairy tale is a sham, so she starts to find ways to fill her own needs even as she starts to outshine Charles in the public eye.
Anyway, it was all charming and well done and I await season five when the Queen orders the SAS to kill wayward Diana… or however they’re going to play that. Didn’t we have a whole movie about the aftermath from the same person?
Roadkill Season 1- PBS via the UK
I am pretty sure I read somewhere that the stated objective of PBS’s Masterpiece Theater is to get us to fawn endlessly like stricken colonials over all things British. And it seems to be a viable plan, since it has kept going as a show over here since the early 70s.
This time we’re back with Hugh Laurie whom I think I first saw when Masterpiece brought over Jeeves and Wooster back in the 80s, long before he showed up in House which, when I first saw it, made me ask, “Why is he speaking with that horrible parody of an American accent?” But I gather I was in a minority on that front.
Anyway, we like him around our house, so we decided to watch this when it came up and… it is kind of hard to peg. We have him as Peter, a British politician in some political hot water who is part of the cabinet and everything seems to be working against him, including the Prime Minister, and then things just sort of work out in the end for him. While the journey had its interesting points, it is sort of like House of Cards... original or remake, take your pick, right down to a dead female investigative reporter… with all the hard edges sanded off.
Is it a commentary on ruling class privilege, the nature of politics, how some people can get away with anything and still succeed? And what does that title mean? And what was going on with the Prime Minister’s right arm? I really don’t have any answers. I realize everything doesn’t have to have a universal message at the end, but you want something to hang your hat on.
Finally, while I liked Hugh Laurie in it, this did feel like more of a Hugh Grant role, where just a bit more charm would have had it all make some sense… maybe… but I guess he was busy using that charm to hide malice in The Undoing.
Away Season 1 – Netflix
This follows an international crew on the first manned mission to Mars. There is the brash American who is leading the mission, because the Americans are clearly paying most of the bills for this, the salty Russian who has more time in space and feels he should be leading, the handsome Indian Air Force Group Commander who is also second in command, the unsmiling Chinese chemist there to represent the party, and the Brit botanist who was probably as surprised as the rest of us that the UK was even included. But he makes up the majority who force English to be the language for the mission.
This is less science fiction and more space soap opera. There are some science bits and problems to overcome, but the show is mostly focused on the personal strengths and weaknesses of the crew and how they cope together locked in a metal cylinder headed towards Mars. Not a bad show, but it was cancelled after the one season, so you can imagine this as the prequel to some more exciting movie like The Martian or Robinson Crusoe on Mars.
Treadstone Season 1 – Hulu
Time to try and capture some more of that Jason Bourne magic, so Project Treadstone has been shaken back to life as we discover there are all sorts of other sleepers like Bourne out there, called “cicadas,” and somebody is waking them up for some sinister purpose.
On the upside, the show is well acted and has excellent production values. USA, where it was original aired, and the crew that created the show can be proud of that.
The downside is that it the plot itself is a confused mess that has at least three major plot lines that never quite run together, including a diversion back to 1973 and the Soviet program that inspired the Americans to create Treadstone. So you get tense situations and some very good action, but you’re left wondering how that connects with the guy back in the US and the woman in Korea and the woman in Russia on the farm with the missile that the woman in London was talking about and what that part from the 70s added to anything.
So the show was cancelled, though I am sure the real reason why it got shut down wasn’t its complexity, but its failure to adhere to the Robert Ludlum rule: Three Word Titles.