Tag Archives: The Morning Show

Binge Watching into the Holidays

The holidays meant time off which meant all the more time left to spend sitting on the couch burning through TV shows.  And so my wife and I carried on with our now familiar binge watching habit.

I steered away from this one for a while because nothing could have been possibly as funny and charming as people were claiming this show was said to be.  Eventually we got down our list of things to watch and there was Ted Lasso, with a new season even, so we gave it a shot.

And, it is as funny and charming and nice as people said it was.  Jason Sudeikis in the main role is great, but the series is really a combo of great performances that come together.   Brett Goldstein’s grumpy veteran Roy Kent is perhaps my favorite role in the series.  We binged through most of the first season on a Sunday afternoon and it was fun.  I don’t have any urge to go back and rewatch any of it, but it was a good distraction.

Another show I was tempted to steer clear of.  I run hot and cold on Steve Martin and more cold than hot on Martin Short, so the two of them together seemed like it might be a bit much.

I groused about Clickbait last time around, annoyed at its surprise ending not really being a surprise because they don’t give you the clues you need until the very end.  Only Murders in the Building manages to do this in the right way in the guise of following the podcast format made famous by Serial.  It can be very silly at times and the Martin and Short characters are quirky and then some, but Selena Gomez hold the podcast crew together and, in the end, the murderer was actually a surprise.

I suppose I should be happy they didn’t dive into the opioid epidemic for season two, but instead they decided to make season two the Covid season.  They frame things up right away in the first episode that things are picking up in late 2019 and we’re going to see Covid unfold in the background of the remaining conflicts at The Morning Show.

And so we see events as they passed, cruise ships and lockdowns and what happened in China and Italy all through the eyes of a group of people who are really more interested in ratings, salaries, and who gets to host the presidential debates.  It, rightly enough, feels like a TV show about the thing that people who produce TV shows love most… TV shows.  So it quickly goes from “hey, I remember that” to ” who cares what these horrible people want.”  And yet I finished watching the whole season, so helped with the ratings on that front!

The second season of The Great suffers from the problem of going all in on the first season… and I am sure they were not sure they would even get a second season, the Russian aristocracy not being a well trod avenue to comedy success in the US… and then having to come back and deliver something for another ten episodes.  The essential conflict had been pretty much resolved at the end of the first season and, while I know the reign of Catherine the Great had much going on, the writers couldn’t let go of Peter and the first season cast and didn’t want to dive into the possibly less comedic reign of Catherine, so the show spends time trying to revive the initial conflict between Catherine and Peter, a cow that had been milked of most of its potential in the first ten episodes.  I wanted to like it, but it felt a bit dull.

Another Netflix series, this one felt pretty good in the first couple of episodes.  Monsters are real and there is a secret government organization out there… men and women not necessarily in black… protecting humanity, with the story centered on one husband and wife team and their kids, who are not in the know.

When I looked the show up as we started watching I was disappointed to see that it didn’t make the cut for a second season, that Netflix had canned it, after it started off so strong.  And then we got into the season and it became clear that the story stemming from that good solid start wasn’t going anywhere all that interesting.  It was kind of neat.  I don’t regret watching it.  But I can see why it didn’t get a second season.

I read the suggestion that Succession should be viewed as humor with the Roys as a high end dysfunction version of the Bluths in Arrested Development.  The problem is that there is no sane person in the middle of the chaos, no Justin Bateman there to represent us in the middle of the misfits.  It is my habit to latch on to one character as my guide in a show like this, but there is literally nobody to root for among the Roys.

We started off initially with Kendell being the cast as the hero, but he is no Michael Bluth.  He is flawed and dumb and full of himself and can’t pull off lunch plans, much less corporate takeover plans.  Shiv is the outsider of the kids, but is just as corrupt and self-serving as any of her siblings.  Her husband Tom is no hero and cousin Greg is just trying to say whatever it takes for somebody to like him.  And then there is Roman, who is a fun character to watch, but can’t even manage to be the anti-hero.

I kind of want to like Connor Roy, because he is played by Alan Ruck from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but he is almost the worst in his self-delusion as a character.

I enjoyed the first two seasons of the show but, like Billions, it has gotten to a point where there is nobody to root for.  There isn’t even an outsider.  Everybody who wanders in is just as bad as the Roys. I made it through season 3, though it was slow going for the first few episodes and I am sure I’ll peek in when season 4 lands.  But the show better come up with some new cards to play because the surprise at the end of season 3 was just another round of some of the Roys screwing over some of the others in completely predictable ways.

Pandemic Binge Watching in the New Year

Just because the world is falling apart doesn’t mean we’ve stopped watching TV.  Sometimes we watch more.  Back on the 6th I had the TV on and tuned to CNN… live freaking television… almost all day.  I don’t think I’ve done that since the Gulf War back in ’91.

But aside from insurrectionist farces involving people who probably lack the self reflection to ever achieve the “Are we the baddies?” epiphany they rightfully deserve, we have watch a series or three.

A powerful mixture of the ordinary, the supernatural, and the Jim Crow reality of the US in the 50s, it follows Atticus, an African American veteran of the Korean War, whose father publishes a travel guide akin to the Green Book and whose family history is mixed up in things alleged to have inspired H.P. Lovecraft’s tales or horror.  Based on a book of the same name, it is disturbing, confusing, and compelling by turns, it isn’t done until you get to the final episode.  Oh, and time travel… there is time travel in there too.

There are seasons where I feel like I needed to re-watch the previous season to understand what is going on and there are series where I feel that maybe I should have read the book (or the books in this case) in order to have gotten the most out of them, but here we have a rare combo of both.

We watched the first season when it came out and then, a year later, picked up with the second season only to not really get a grasp of what was really going on.  The basics were there in the “previously” summing up segment, but the “why do I give a shit here?” was sadly lacking.  Lots of stuff goes on in the parallel worlds, the visuals are magnificent, and I could sit and watch stylishly attired Ruth Wilson and her vicious monkey familiar… demon… whatever… all evening, but at the end credits of the final episode of the season I was left feeling a bit… so what?

The other show I wanted to watch on Apple TV.  Inspired by, rather than based on, a book, this is a look into the world of morning television in the US centered on the fictional The Morning Show.  The series opens when the male co-host of the show, played by Steve Carell, has been fired due to allegations of sexual harassment, leaving Jennifer Aniston, whose character had worked side by side with him for years, alone hosting the show.

The show follows who is complicit and who knew what was going on, the network’s attempt to cover things up, and the infighting over who runs the show and whether or not Jennifer Aniston will remain in the host.

It was… okay.  I know it was nominated for a bunch of awards, something I attribute partially to it being about the one thing the industry loves most; itself.  And it has some good performances, with a lot of the supporting actors carrying water for the show.  But the main cast let me down.  Steve Carell comes with a lot of baggage having played so many clueless comedic roles that his lack of self-awareness steers a little too close to that.  Jennifer Aniston might have peaked as Rachel Green in Friends, because her performance feels like we’re revisiting the same character 20 years down the line.  And Reese Witherspoon is unsurprisingly cast as the outspoken southern woman who is a bit of a loose cannon.  Go figure.

Another Netflix series that was getting a lot of buzz a while back, so we were perhaps a bit late to the party.  Though, I say that as somebody who follows Netflix on Twitter and they retweet positive reactions to their own shows, so sometimes I am fooled by that.  But not this time.

Chess, drugs, orphans, Soviets, and the 50s and 60s all based on a novel from 1983, this wrapped up into a surprisingly compelling package.  We would have burned through this over a weekend if our daughter hadn’t been home from school and watching it with us, and she has a two episode limit when it comes to watching TV in the evening.  I quite enjoyed the whole thing, even though the rules of television plot did dictate the ending somewhat.

Scandal, mild intrigue, and ever so many romantic complications in Georgian period piece.  The London season is upon us and grand balls and matchmaking the order of the day.  But the mysterious Lady Whistledown has been publishing a fliers that dish the dirt on seemingly everybody and many are keen to find out who she is, including the Queen.  It doesn’t have the gravity of, say, Dangerous Liaisons, and feels a bit stretched over eight episodes, but it isn’t bad.  My wife seemed to enjoy it immensely.

There are two tidbits I want to bring up.  First, Nicola Coughlan, who plays the 16 year old Penelope Featherington, and was also the teen Clare Devlin in Derry Girls, is in her freakin’ 30s.  That is beyond Beverly Hills 90210 level of playing a character younger than yourself, and she nails it.  I only noted her age on reading up about her.  She is amazingly youthful.

Second, as with The Great, which I wrote about previously, the cast is multi-ethnic rather than just being pasty white Brits.  That’s fine.  It isn’t like we haven’t heard about Hamilton around here, so roll with it.  And nobody within the show mentions it, so it isn’t a thing… until one short scene mid-season when Lady Danbury mentions to the Duke of Hastings, who are both played by black actors, that he needs to hold up his end of things because they’re only in the heights of society because George III married the black Queen Charlotte, introducing a measure of racial equality and tolerance.

At that point I figured that the racial makeup of the cast was going to become a thing… and then it was never mentioned again.  If you’re not going to do something with a revelation like that, just don’t bring it up.  I imagine somebody management got nervous and felt the need to quickly explain the racial makeup of the cast.  Maybe they should go see Hamilton.

Still, fun and extravagant and fun and if you listen closely to the music you might find you’re not getting what one might expect.

Something old.  I was bemoaning my inability to find The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin on any streaming service when I summed up some of our binge watching, and on my subsequent mental list of shows I would want to go through again was The Sandbaggers, another one of the shows from the UK that found its way to the US in the 80s via public television.

Having been recorded/produced on standard definition video tape, which was the standard of the time, rather than 35mm film like some earlier television, has no doubt held it back from the transition for formats beyond DVD.  (Hogan’s Heroes for example, was all on film, which was why it made it to HD early and why you can find the whole series on Blu-Ray today.)  As such, I had little hope of finding it anywhere save for some episodes somebody dumped onto YouTube.

On a whim I used Roku’s search, which goes through all the services they support, and I found it on a service called Tubi, which was purchased by Fox last year, which puts it in bed with Hulu and Disney+ at this point.  You don’t have to subscribe, but you do have to watch commercials.  There is always a price.

But for The Sandbaggers and its focus bureaucracy and policy fights over Bond-like action I’ll put up with a few commercials.  And at least they show it in 4:3 aspect ratio rather than trying to stretch it awkwardly in order to fill up your HD screen.