Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Squawk Box: The Grab Bag

13 Reasons Why: In terms of a starting point for discussions on suicide, depression and overall mental health for teens, I think 13 Reasons Why is a good show. I think these are important conversations to have (and you can add the importance of consent, sexual assault, slut-shaming- a whole host of things, really) for young adults and if this show can change some minds and spark some discussions for kids and teens, excellent.

As a show, however... oh boy. Where to begin? Hannah, Clay and Tony aside (though I did want to hit Clay over the head a few times) with the exception of the surly barista, Skye (who is my favorite character on this show) all the other kids on this show are fucking awful. Plus, the premise of the show itself gets stretched almost beyond credibility: you mean to tell me that they keep the box of tapes secret for longer than a day? No way that happens in real life. Kids talk too damn much. Her suicide plan is also way too elaborate for my taste: she goes through all the trouble of finding tapes, recording equipment and making the damn things and kills herself anyway? (Yes, I get that depression is a strange beast. Been there, done that. But so many opportunities just to vocalize it to someone, anyone in authority is maddening.) So much of this show could have been avoided if someone would have just told someone, which is both an important lesson for kids and teens and probably the source of my frustrations with this show.

Will I watch Season 2? Maybe.

Dear White People: I'd already seen the movie so was curious enough to check out the television show- and no, before you freak out, it's not promoting white genocide or whatever the usual segments of the internet were freaking out about...  what it is, however, is a thoughtful, intelligent discussion on the complexities of race in America today and switching the medium from film to television allows creator/film director Justin Simien a lot more room to explore the issues.

Look, just go watch this okay. It has 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Keep an open mind, watch the show and you might be surprised at how much you enjoy it. You might even learn something.

Fauda: A Men In Blazers podcast actually tipped me about this show so I dug it up on Netflix, watched an episode and was instantly hooked. An Israeli import, Fauda tells the story of a top secret undercover team of Israeli spies that go into the Territories to track down terrorists and the like. When a bomber by the name of The Panther re-emerges, a retired agent, Doron is drawn back into the hunt and once he's back in, he puts it all on the line: his family, his career, even risking his life. What's especially impressive about this is that a lot of it is based on the experiences of show creator Lior Raz who actually did more or less what the characters in this show do- work undercover and catch terrorists, etc. (You can kind of tell, actually- if you watch the way the team enters the building and how they clear rooms, you can tell that it's not lightly fictionalized 'SPY TRAINING' it's legit .)

Even more impressive (admittedly from my relatively safe white guy perch in 'Merica) is that the show doesn't pull punches with either side of the Palestinian-Israeli question. It's unafraid to look at the indignities of the Occupation or the questionable tactics used in the name of catching terrorists used by the Israelis.

I'm hesitant to use terms like 'appointment television' or 'important television', but if I was the sort of person to use those terms Fauda would fit the bill. Yes, it's subtitled. But it's a thrilling, scintillating ride that manages to illuminate an entrenched conflict in unexpected ways. (And seriously: go listen to that MiB Pod Special. It's an amazing listen.)

Sens8: Oh Sens8, you were too beautiful and too ahead of your time for this world of streaming and cable I think... (I think. At the very least you were just too beautifully shot and far too expensive to justify making more of.) I thought the first season was interesting enough that I wanted to see more (there was a lot more global sex orgies that I was expecting) so I was hoping that the second season the show would gather itself and start going somewhere and wouldn't you know it? The second season had plot. It had character development. It had action. It was going places! I was starting to invest in these characters and actually care about them...  I was getting down with the concept (TL;DR- certain people are telepathically linked together in a 'sensate' cluster and can see/hear/experience what each member of the cluster experiences.) And then you had to go and end it on a fucking cliffhanger like that!!!!!  You can't be doing that to me! I want more! If not another season, then at least a 'two hour special' or two or three to wrap it all up in a satisfactory manner.

Spoiler Alert: actually really got into this show and would absolutely watch another season or movie or special or just about anything you want to throw at me.

Catastrophe: An Amazon series that I kept hearing about, I finally sat down and watched it and it was raunchy, hilarious and touching all at the same time. The seasons are only six episode apiece (yay for British television formats) and basically Rob (Rob Delaney) hooks up Irish teacher Sharon (Sharon Horgan) on a business trip. They hook up a few more times before Rob leaves and then Sharon calls him back in America to let him know that she is, in fact, pregnant. So, Rob goes back and together they embrace the accidental nature of their relationship and just figure it out as they go, getting married and having another kid and navigating the various car crashes that life throw their way. Carrie Fisher is absolutely glorious as Rob's mother Mia. My personal barometer for any sitcom is a simple one: does it make me laugh? And Catastrophe does that in spades...

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