Squawk Box: Winter Grab Bag

Latin History For Morons: I can't remember when I first heard about John Leguizamo's new one man show, Latin History For Morons...  I want to say it was on NPR, but I might be wrong- it could have been just a random Netflix ad that I stumbled across. (This is going to bug me now, I just know it.)  ANYWAY: Leguizamo takes the viewer on a trip through Latin History, as he tries to help his son with a school project for his history class- finding a hero. Debates about diversity and representation in America today tend to go absolutely nowhere in a hurry, but if you want to try and understand why it's so important and how much of a difference it can make to people, watch this special. Ultimately, it's an exploration of history that a lot of people may not be familiar with. (The Spanish Conquest, the decimation of the indigenous people as well as the early history of Latinx people in the United States). But the end is beautiful, as his son, having been fed so many potential heroes by his Dad decides that he's going to be his own hero. Fathers and sons, representation, history you might not have known about and some humor to boot: this one is worth watching.

Bumping Mics: Joe Rogan brought in Dave Attell and Jeff Ross for an interview on his podcast and having listened to the two and half-three hour episode, about halfway through I decided about halfway through to just go ahead and dig up their special to see it for myself. Spoiler alert: it's worth a watch. Netflix is awash in comedy specials these days, but Attell and Ross stand out for first- being a double act and second, their style of roasting each other and the audience is incredibly funny. Roasting is an art form that I think can go wrong easily, but Attell and Ross prove that they are masters of the art form and have plenty of friends (Bob Saget, Amy Schumer, Gilbert Gottfried, Bruce Willis, etc) stop by and help turn the tables right back on then some. It's three episodes and if you're doing a deep comedy dive and want to mix it up a little bit, Bumping Mics is not your average comedy special and is worth a watch.

Nanette: I think I saw Monica Lewinksy interviewing Hannah Gadsby for some big event that Vanity Fair was holding and she mentioned Nanette and how incredible she thought it was- and so, well, I went off and tracked that down and watched it. (Also: Monica Lewisnky now works for Vanity Fair. The more you know, I guess.) I had no idea what Nanette was about when I went to watch. Hadn't read a review. Hadn't done any research or digging on it. Was vaguely aware that it had been released awhile back and there was some mild buzz on my Facebook feed about it but that was about it. I really don't want to say much about it, because if you haven't seen it, then it's better if you go into it knowing as little as possible about it, because it'll be exponentially more powerful that way. Nanette is powerful. It's unexpected. It's a beautiful deconstruction of what comedy is and how comedians who aren't men grapple with the basic structure of it that forces them to confront the tension of their own existences. Unexpected, surprising and powerful, Nanette is the comedy special you need to watch. It'll take your breath away.

Salt Fat Acid Heat: If Netflix is rapidly becoming the home for comedy specials of every possible variety, the other niche it seems to be carving out some excellence in is food. They've got plenty of the Great British Baking Show, Chef's Table is always a must watch. Michael Pollan had an excellent series, Cooked that's worth a watch and now joining all of them is Samin Nosrat's four part series Salt Fat Acid Heat. Based on her cookbook of the same name, Nosrat, who ended up as an apprentice in Alice Waters' restaurant Chez Panisse. As she learned more about cooking, she began to notice that good cooking revolves around four main elements: salt, fat, acid and heat- her exploration of those elements was the basis for her award winning book and now the small screen as well. Each episode of the series is devoted to one element. Salt finds Nosrat in Japan, Fat in Italy, Acid in Mexico and Heat back home in California. The visuals are excellent, the food looks amazing and perhaps most important of all is Samin Nosrat herself. She's charming, exuberant and absolutely looks like she's enjoying every bite of food she takes. Beautiful, delightful and delicious, Salt Fat Acid Heat is another great addition to Netflix's pantheon of food shows.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Season 2): I love Amy Sherman-Palladino. I've made my way through Gilmore Girls multiple times. I've seen Bunheads. Her dialogue is blindingly fast and whip smart- which is a combination that is pretty rare on television. But after creating not one, but two genuinely good- if not outright great television shows, you've got to wonder how it feels to somehow find another way to level up, because with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Sherman-Palladino seems to have found new heights for her particular brand of fast, whip smart dialogue. The fact that Mrs. Maisel is a period piece set in the late 50s just makes it all even more perfect. Picking up from where last season leaves off, Season 2 finds Midge and her Dad chasing down her Mom, Rose to Paris where she moved too. She's convinced to come home and Midge continues to build her career, while being hampered by her gender and her ongoing feud with Sophie Lennon (whom she pissed off last season.) Her estranged husband finds himself moving back in with his parents and then straightening out their business- before contemplating the idea of opening up his own club. The end of the season sees Midge getting ready to go on a major tour after a turning a television gig that seemed like it was going to be a bust into a major victory for her career growth and wanting to spend one last night before she leaves with someone who really loves her, which turns out to be her estranged husband Joel. Charming, funny, whip smart with blindingly fast dialogue, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel remains a genuine delight.

Sens8 (Series Finale): Picking up where the last episode of the second season left off, the finale opens with our heroes still trying to rescue Wolfgang from the clutches of the evil Whispers. They plan a hostage exchange to recover him. They figure out what Jonas is really up to and what Angelica was really after. There's a bunch of other revelations- including the fact that there's a pro-Sensate faction working to gain control of BPO that wants to eliminate the evil Chairman behind the drone program that Whispers is responsible for. The resolutions seem rushed, but it all works with the exception of Kala getting shot and Rajan and Wolfgang providing the worst possible CPR ever seen on camera- until she connects back with Wolfgang and starts telling them want to do. Ultimately, the gang lives happily ever after. Nomi and Amanita get married at the Eiffel Tower. Nomi's Mom, who has never really accepted her, eats a pot brownie and realizes what an idiot she's been. Instead of a generous honeymoon offer from BPO of literally anywhere they want, Amanita and Nomi (and the rest of the gang) all- because this is Sens8 after all, have a big old fashioned orgy. (Or, as the wiki-page says: 'a transcendent sexual experience.') I loved this show... it had a fascinating premise and tons of potential. I don't want to sound like a prude though, but... man, did those people have a lot of sex. I know that's an odd complaint to have about a show. (I mean, who doesn't love to watch an orgy?) But to me, I would have loved one or two less sex scenes for more time with these characters and their story. That's probably six of one, half a dozen of the other at the end of the day- but this finale was a beautiful end to a series bursting with promise and potential. I'll miss this show.


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