What I've Been Watching (January 2021)
What another great month of viewing.
Current ratings system:
I wish this was never made
Don't let anyone see this
I'm not suggesting this to anybody
Only if nothing else is on
You can wait to see this
Watchable, but not memorable
Rush Home and Put this on Now
Feedback is appreciated. Thank you.
Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (Seasons 3-4) - HBO Max
- As the seasons progressed on this show, I realized how spoiled we have been by modern TV. There rarely seems to be an over-arching storyline to this show, and the characters never truly move very far from their original characteristics. In fact, this has become quite mundane other than the few rather repetitive sarcastic jokes that Will makes. I had hoped a little that they might break out of their mold a little when Will and Carlton moved to college, but it seems like they had just more of the same and disappointing compared to what I remembered. There are a few good emotional episodes that worked very well like when Carlton accidentally takes Speed or when Will gets left in a graveyard, but this is mostly uninterestingly tedious bedtime viewing. Hopefully, it picks up a little toward the last two season as I finish this.
The Flight Attendant (Season 1) - HBO Max
- A very interesting new program of Max Original content. Funny at times, thrilling at others, and Kaley Cuoco is someone you do genuinely root for despite her character failings because she is at least trying to be something else. This was an extremely bingable show, and well worth the eight episodes of time. It does clearly set up where things can go since they did renew this for another season at least, and I do think it is an interesting property to revisit. I'm not really sure how you're going to get another season out of this show as the plot really did revolve around a central event to season one (yup, trying to avoid spoilers). The obvious is the throwaway line at the end of episode eight for Cuoco's character as well as the unfinished Rosie Perez plotline, but its hard to figure out where they will go. Regardless, I will certainly give it a shot since I like several of the characters well enough to spend another eight or so hours with them.
Soul (2020) - Disney+
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (2020) - Netflix
Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) - HBO Max
Bridgerton (Season 1) - Netflix
- For a series that I originally watched just to have something to talk about with my mom and sisters, this was really entertaining. Since it is a Shonda Rhimes show, I do feel like we need a quick conversation about her other work first. So, I was an original Scandal watcher and did watch the show up until the last two seasons where I felt things completely went off the rails, and I've never felt the need to ever go back and finish because its just burned so many bridges for me to have gotten to that point. Frankly, there are only a few shows that are so like that, that get away from their original identity and so far from the reason I watched in the first place, that I will not revisit (looking at you Burn Notice and Dexter). So, all of this is to say, that I certainly hope this does not go down that path. I also sincerely hope that this doesn't end up being overdramatized like the few episodes of Grey's Anatomy I watched felt like to me. I know this was renewed for another season, and there are I believe eight books to write from. It does seem like we will be focusing on the third, but I enjoyed many of the characters from this too. Moreover, it was another quick binge show that was highly engrossing and entertaining that never fully felt strained by its subject. Thus, while I wouldn't recommend this to just everyone, I do think this is a show I would likely tell several friends to watch.
One Night in Miami (2020) - Prime
- If you saw my top 10 lists for 2020, you know this was one of my best movies of last year. It is also one of my favorites. Another awards season movie based on a play, I think this movie specifically does a better job of making this feel more cinematic. On the acting, I get the reviewers that have said that Eli Goree's characterization of Muhammad Ali was more impression than the others, but I really can't imagine anyone doing any better personally. Regardless of those smaller points, I do feel like this is the most "of the moment" film I've seen so far this year, and also raises the most poignant questions particularly in light of the recent social dialogue and progress in the US (or even internationally) on race such as "what is success for the racial equality movement?" or "what is valuable or meaningful contribution to the 'struggle?'". Most of that is found in the wonderfully paced dialogue between the four main characters but particularly between Sam Cooke and Malcolm X, and, while this does take a while to get to that point (mostly due to wanting to give the movie a more cinematic feeling by giving better introductions to the primary characters (which I feel were unneeded) and changing the settings to give a better illusion of cinema), once this movie gets there it's fire.
Dave (Season 1) - FX and Hulu
- This is a show I definitely didn't anticipate liking. It was a show I had been suggested by a lot of critics and celebrities as one of the funnier shows of 2020, but it had such a weird premise that I felt like I could skip it. However, there became a tipping point somewhere for me that I couldn't tell you what it was, yet I felt like I eventually needed to give this a try. Still, I got through maybe the first ten minutes of the pilot and I audibly said "what the #^&% is this?", and I turned it off. It took me another probably 5-6 weeks to go back and give it another try, and I'm glad that I did because this is definitely one of the funniest things to come out last year. Honestly, I kept thinking to myself with every episode that this might be the funniest show I've seen that almost no one around me would get particularly my family. Moreover, one of the things I didn't even get a full appreciation for the show until I stumbled on to other people's reviews was how deep the satire of the show was, and, I have to say, I am honestly blown away how good this show was. If you can buy into the initial episode, you'll love this show. If you can't, I also understand because both of those things happened for me here.
Mrs. America (Season 1) - FX and Hulu
- Another really strong historical fiction drama from FX. I mean literally that's what this is. They took a similar approach to how they did the People v. OJ Simpson, took another controversial moment, put a great number of talented people and topics together, and made a really good TV show about a subject not enough people either knew about or understood. While this show certainly does have a point of view, my question is "so what?" Frankly, their point of view seems to adhere to rather popular modern sensibilities on womens' rights, gender equality, and homosexual relationships in the scope of US political history while simultaneously showing some of the modern historical roots of the "conservative" political movement as co-opted by Reaganism then others that has led us to Trumpism. Regardless, if you enjoy the Crown or other historical drama shows, then you will likely enjoy this too.
Fargo (Season 1) - FX and Hulu
- As much as I've come to love and enjoy the movie over this past year, the show at times was better. I can do a compare and contrast piece at a later date, but Billy Bob Thornton is amazing in this show as well as great performances by so many people (Bob Odenkirk, Keith Carradine, Allison Tolman, Martin Freeman). This was a great bingeable show to catch up on, and I'm excited to see where this will take me yet in the seasons to come. Being that it is an anthology series, I will have to say goodbye to quite a few characters I grew to love and root for, but I'm sure there will be plenty more to love. As for Season 1, it was harrowing, enthralling, well-paced, and gave me just enough that I didn't need more or want less.
In and Of Itself (2020) - Hulu
- What an extraordinary take on identity, self, and our definitions not only in how we see ourselves but each other. I second the many takes on Twitter lamenting not being able to see this in person at a theater. Regardless, this touched me on so many emotional levels. The pain, the honesty, the vulnerability, and the courage are all on display. I don't want to say too much about this before you watch it, not just because of spoilers, which I'm not sure there really are any, but I want to resemble as much of the same experience that I had by going into this with almost no knowledge about it in advance. I also recognize that this might not work for some, but, for those that it does, it really works for them.
My Weekly Shows:
Mr. Mayor (Eps. 1-4) - NBC
- I know that quite a few people are high on this show so far. I am not one of them. It's fine as a concept, but it clearly doesn't know what it is yet. Yet, it's not objectively bad enough to make me quit on this yet. So, because it needs probably ten or more episodes to grow into itself yet, the characters are decent enough, and there aren't enough good sitcoms, I'm going to give this a chance to become something before I'm out.
Wandavision (Eps. 1-4) - Disney+
- With each episode so far, I've liked the show less and less. The goofy 50's sitcom trope was fine for the first two episodes, but it doesn't seem like we're going anywhere anytime soon. It's certainly creative especially given that this is the first MCU material since Endgame (no, I can't really count Spiderman since it was Sony), but either get to where you need to go or make the best Superhero version of a 50s sitcom. By the time we get to episode three, I'm already tired of the family sitcom-ness of this particularly because they didn't do anything to really say this was a 70s style show for that episode other than the aesthetic. And just when you get tired of the high-concept that they can't decide whether or not to play fully into, they suck you back in with Episode 4 to let us in on the explanation up to this point, remind us that this is part of a much bigger universe by tying it finally back to Marvel, and giving us a reason to continue on with a show that was testing my patience. I just wish they wouldn't put this out piecemeal anymore. AHHHH! Maybe everyone should wait to watch this all until they're all put out.
Black-ish (Eps. 7.9) - ABC
- This honestly felt like a real tweener episode, and rather a letdown given that it was the first episode back in two months. I think that, if you were just binging, it would be another episode, but given its placement in the schedule seems like much more of a disappoint due to its lack of depth beyond the platitude-ness in message. That being said, I'm glad to have this back as I still appreciate how usually thoughtful and well-written this show usually is.
This Is Us (Eps. 5.5-6) - NBC
- The two episodes that were released again showed the depth and quality to this storytelling. Obviously, the Kevin and Randall part has been long simmering, and will need some resolution with however they are able to shoot the show yet. However, the absolutely beautiful way that they did the "Birth Mother" episode was this show flexing at full confidence. Not many other shows could deviate for a complete episode that focused on someone literally not a part of the regular cast or even barely mentioned for most of the show, and yet make it so powerful, moving, special, and tie it in well with the progression of the show. I've said it before, but I'm bought in until they decide to end this thing.
Superstore (Eps. 6.5-7) - NBC
- It does feel like they've found a little bit of an ending kick for the primary characters now that they know the show is ending. I do think they have to bring back American Ferrara to wrap up her storyline since it seemed rather open ended with the way things finished to start the last season, but I would imagine a similar plotting as the brief return of Topher Grace at the end of That 70s Show. Either way, the character relationships have started to gravitate to their natural conclusion. Deena and Glenn are developing a better working relationship because Deena has had to be in charge for a bit and realizes the difficulties so she is less strict on Glenn and they become a team. Garrett, who has always been smarter and more talented than settling for Cloud 9, is finally getting fed up, and it is likely that he and Jonah will set out together doing their own thing as they have finally accepted their friendship. Etc., etc., etc. At least this is going to get its natural conclusion before I bailed on the show due to its loss of creativity and conviction.