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Josh Reviews Undone

Amazon’s gorgeous, emotionally rich animated series Undone centers around a young woman named Alma (Rosa Salazar), who feels stuck in the mundane routines of her every-day life.  When her younger sister Becca announces her engagement, Alma begins to spiral into insecurity and frustration and loneliness.  After a car crash — the result of her running through a stop sign — lands her in the hospital, Alma begins seeing visions of her dead father (Bob Odenkirk).  He begins to teach Rosa shamanistic techniques to untether her mind from her linear reality, allowing her to experience different moments in her life and explore her past, and that of her father’s.  Has Alma taken the first steps into connecting with her family’s Nahuatl roots and learned how to see time and the universe in an entirely new way?  Or is this all in her head, and she is sinking into the schizophrenia that destroyed her grandmother?

I adored Undone.  This eight-episode series is a beautiful, complex character study of a deeply broken young woman, and at the same time it is a gloriously mind-bending sci-fi tale.  Both aspects of the series work wonderfully and enhance the other.  The series was created by Kate Purdy and Raphael Bob-Waksberg and directed by Hisko Hulsing.  (Mr. Bob-Waksberg created Bojack Horseman, and Ms. Purdy was a writer and producer on that show.)

Even without the sci-fi elements, Undone would be a deeply entertaining and moving series.  I loved the way the show slowly and carefully allowed us to peel back the layers of Alma’s personality and history.  Alma is incredibly well-developed as a three-dimensional protagonist.  She is deeply flawed, and the series doesn’t shy away from frankly depicting her poor decisions and upsetting, selfish behavior.  At the same time, the show never condemns her for those choices.  And while in the hands of less-skilled storytellers these choices might have turned off the audience, I found that they only rendered Alma even more interesting and sympathetic a character.  I couldn’t help but connect to how human and real she seemed.  Rosa Salazar’s phenomenal performance was rich and nuanced; she floored me with her work time and again over the course of these eight episodes.

Undone was created through rotoscoped animation.  Actors performed the scenes on a soundstage, and then that footage was used as the basis for the show’s gorgeous animation.  (Click here to read more about the process.)  The result is a unique and dazzlingly beautiful show.  The approach is perfect for executing the show’s regular dips into mind-trips and other brain-bending scenarios.  As co-creator Kate Purdy points out in that article: “We thought the show should be live action [at first]… but then if you … [continued]

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I am delighted by this first trailer for AppleTV’s upcoming adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation:

Mr. Asimov’s Foundation series is one of my very favorite works of sci-fi in any medium.  I love those books and have longed for years for a top-notch adaptation.  Will this be it?  Hard to say, but that trailer is great.

I’m also, like the rest of the world, very excited for the upcoming release of Hamilton on Disney+…!

Josh Gad has pulled together another fantastic Reunited Apart episode with this Ghostbusters reunion:

Star Trek: Voyager was, for quite some time, my least-favorite Trek series (though it looks amazing, now, compared to Discovery and Picard), but I nevertheless quite enjoyed this recent reunion of the Voyager cast on Stars in the House, raising money for The Actors Fund:

I enjoyed this podcast interview on “Off Panel” with comic book author Brian Michael Bendis, looking back on his incredible career.  Comic book fans might also be interested in this lengthy interview from “Comic Book News with Dan Shahin” with Dan DiDio, who was recently outside from his long-held position running DC Comics:

Click here for a lengthy interview with Dave Filoni, looking back on the conclusion of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

In other Clone Wars news, a terrific Star Trek podcast I listen to called Inglorious Treksperts recently did a rare non-Trek episode, interviewing Henry Gilroy, who was a key creative player on both Clone Wars and Rebels.  Dave Filoni tends gets most of the spotlight for those Star Wars animated shows, so it’s fun to hear from Mr. Gilroy.  Give it a listen here.

If you like that and want to listen to other episodes of Inglorious Treksperts, I recommend this fantastic remembrance of Leonard Nimoy with his long-time assistant Kirk Thatcher, who also played the “punk on the bus” in Star Trek IV!!  It’s a terrific conversation.  Click here to find it.

I was so sad to see the news of the passing of the great Ian Holm, who was so magnificent in so many films from Alien to The Lord of the Rings.  Bilbo Baggins now resides forever in the Grey Havens.  Click here to read Peter Jackson’s moving remembrance of this wonderful actor.

Click here to read about Mad Magazine’s Al Jaffee, who has apparently drawn his final “fold-in” at age 99!! Wow!

J.K. Simmons has already shot his next Marvel movie cameo as J. Jonah Jameson??  Fantastic!

I very intrigued and excited by this rumor that Michael Keaton will return as Batman/Bruce Wayne in the upcoming Flash movie!  Will this be a “Flashpoint” style reboot of the current DC cinematic universe?  I don’t know, … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Disenchantment Season Two

Matt Groening’s animated Netflix series, Disenchantment, doesn’t seem to me to have made much of an impact on the pop-culture scene.  And, let’s be honest, Disenchantment isn’t The Simpsons.  It doesn’t come near to approaching that series’ transcendent heights.  And it’s not even Futurama, Mr. Groening’s sci-fi comedy that, while it hasn’t made a hundredth of the cultural impact of The Simpsons, might just be even more beloved by its true fans — including me.  So, OK, Disenchantment isn’t as good as two of the greatest animated TV shows ever made.  I still think it’s quite good!  If you’ve previously enjoyed either The Simpsons or Futurama, Disenchantment is worth a look.  (It was one of my favorite TV shows of 2019!)

Disenchantment is set in a medieval fantasy world, and the writers have fun playing with the tropes that fans of anything from Game of Thrones to Dungeons & Dragons might expect.  As was the case on both The Simpsons and Futurama, Mr. Groening and his team have done a great job at developing the reality of this universe.  I enjoyed the many nooks and crannies that were developed and explored here in season two.  It’s fun to feel like you’re getting to see a fully-realized new world, one that has been carefully thought about and designed.

The Simpsons has always been very episodic.  Futurama was too, though that series gradually developed a very enjoyable continuity.  The characters were able to stay in their archetypical status quo, but at the same time, their personalities and relationships developed.  Meanwhile, as Futurama continued, viewers discovered that there were all sorts of fun mysteries built into the world, which were gradually revealed.  Disenchantment has been designed to move even further into serialization.  It’s a choice that makes sense, both as a reflection of the modern television landscape and also as a way to bring momentum to these short (10-episode) Netflix seasons.  Disenchantment is more about the series larger story-lines than Futurama was.  There are times when the show seems to value these unfolding storylines above the need to have a funny joke every few seconds.  Disenchantment is a very funny show, but I’ve never found it to be fall-off-your-seat funny the way The Simpsons and Futurama were at their best.  That’s not a criticism at all, just an explanation that the show has a different “vibe” than either The Simpsons or Futurama.  I like the choice.  There are hundred and hundreds of hours of those two previous shows.  It’s nice for Disenchantment to be able to be its own thing.  At the same time as the show has embraced serialization, it never falls into the trap of being a movie chopped … [continued]

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Josh Reviews John Lewis’ Graphic Novel March

June 22nd, 2020

March is a three-book graphic novel series, telling the inspiring true story of Congressman John Lewis’ years spent as a leading figure in the Civil Rights Movement.  This graphic novel memoir is an extraordinary powerful, deeply moving history of the Civil Rights Movement and Mr. Lewis’ experiences during those long years of struggle.  The book is devastating in its unflinching look at the blood and horror that African Americans faced in their quest for basic human dignity in the United States… and a sobering reminder that we still have so far to go.  I would go so far as to call March absolutely essential reading.

March was written by Congressman John Lewis, along with Andrew Aydin, and it is illustrated by Nate Powell.  It was published in three volumes.  The book uses two events as its central framing pieces: the marches from Selma to Montogomery in March, 1965, and the inauguration of President Barrack Obama on January 20th, 2009.  The focus of the book is on an incredibly detailed recounting of the Civil Rights struggle, between 1958 and 1965.

Congressman Lewis is a true American hero.  Quoting President Bill Clinton, from the book’s promotional materials: “Congressman John Lewis has been a resounding moral voice in the quest for equality for more than 50 years.”  Congressman Lewis and Mr. Aydin are able to strike a perfect balance between keeping the story of March intimately focused on Mr. Lewis’s personal journey and experiences, while also creating a clear and detailed history of the events that unfolded during that tumultuous time in the fifties and sixties.  That context is critical to March’s success not only as autobiography but also as a vitally essential history lesson for readers.  It also allows the book to not fall into the trap of spotlighting Mr. Lewis’ role and achievements above and beyond all others.  Rather, the book continually pauses to introduce the reader to other important figures from the Movement, several of whom I was not previously familiar with.

As a history lesson, March was a revelation to me.  I have to admit that there were a number of horrific events depicted in the book that I was not at all familiar with.  March is unblinking in its portrayal of the horrifying violence visited upon innocent African Americans throughout the years it chronicles.  Some of these events I knew about (such as the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 that resulted in the deaths of four young girls and the injury of dozens of others), and many I had not.  Reading March is a wrenching experience, as it seems that every time that the groups fighting for Civil Rights made … [continued]

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Star Trek: The Shocks of Adversity

A while back there was a lengthy interruption in the publication of new Star Trek novels from Pocket Books, a situation only recently resolved.  During the break, I went back to catch up on a stack of Trek books that’d been published over the past five or so years that I’d never gotten around to reading.  Mostly these were stand-alone Original Series books, because I’d tended to prioritize reading the new Trek novels that were connected to the expanding continuity of 24th century-set novels, taking the characters of Next Gen, DS9, and Voyager beyond the last-seen events of the on-screen shows and movies.  After reading a whole swath of Original Series novels by the great Greg Cox, I moved on to several other books by a variety of other authors.

First up was The Shocks of Adversity, by William Leisner.  While investigating a planet surrounded by a dense field of crystyalline asteroids that are nearly-invisible to sensors, the Enterprise is attacked and seriously damaged by a group of aliens using those asteroids as brute-force weapons against the ship.  With their warp drive crippled, the Enterprise is rescued by representatives from the Goeg Domain, who offer to bind their ship to the Enterprise and escort her to one of their facilities for repair.  During this ten-day journey, the Enterprise and Domain crews work together and get to know one another.  Captain Kirk, in particular, begins to form a strong connection to the Domain ship’s captain, Laspas.  Kirk is delighted to discover that the Domain is an alliance of worlds just as the United Federation of Planets is, and he enjoys the company of a fellow officer who understands the unique pressures and loneliness of command of a starship.  But what had seemed to be a new friendship turns sour when Kirk and the Enterprise discover that the Goeg are embroiled in conflict with a group of rebels from within the Domain, and that the Domain might not be as similar to the Federation as they’d thought.

The Shocks of Adversity is a crackerjack novel, wonderfully written, exciting and engaging.  Mr. Leisner has devised a terrific story.  There have been so many Star Trek stories over the years — hundreds of hours of TV shows and movies, not to mention countless books, comic books, and more.  It’s hard to tell an original Trek story that doesn’t feel like a retread, but I was pleased at how fresh Mr. Leisner’s story felt, and how he avoided predictability as the tale unfolded.

I was especially pleased at how well Mr. Leisner was able to use the entire Original Series crew.  Original Series episodes tended to focus on the triumverate of Kirk Spock and … [continued]

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Josh Reviews the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Interactive Special!

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was one of very my favorite shows for the four seasons it was on Netflix.  The series was hilarious and joyous and pretty much wonderful in every way.  I was happy with the manner in which the fourth and final season wrapped up the series — but I am over-the-moon thrilled that wasn’t the end, and the series has returned for this amazing interactive special!

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Interactive Special: Kimmy vs. the Reverend is magnificent.  I could not be happier with how this came out.  Bravo to director Claire Scanlon and writers Robert Carlock, Tina Fey,  Sam Means, and Meredith Scardino.

The special utilizes the same choose-your-own adventure technology that made the Black Mirror special Bandersnatch so intriguing.  Every few minutes, the episode pauses and allows you, the audience, to choose among several possible actions for the characters to take next.  You make your choice with your remote control, and then the episode seamlessly moves forward down whatever path you’ve chosen.  The result is that there are a myriad different ways the events of Kimmy vs. the Reverend can play out.

This isn’t only fun and intriguing, it’s endlessly funny.  It turns out this interactive technology works even better with a comedy than it does with a drama, because the episode’s writers were able to mine incredible fun from the various possibilities, allowing the characters to do all sorts of crazy, funny, often fourth-wall-breaking activities.  Usually, “alts” to a joke will wind up on the cutting room floor.  Here, different jokes or ways to go with a scene have all be incorporated into the finished product.  It’s sort of genius!

Certain series of choices will take you all the way through to the “end” of the episode, though there are a variety of ways the events can wrap up.  Other choices lead you quickly to dead-ends.  In many ways, these dead ends are even funnier than the “right” choices.  (Often-times, characters will appear on-screen and berate you, the viewer, for the dumb choices you made.)  It’s clear the special’s writers mined maximum fun out of exploring all of these different avenues and dead-ends.

I had a ball playing out the episode the first time through, but I had even more fun going back and exploring some of the alternate paths I hadn’t taken on my first pass.  I have no idea how many total hours of footage were filmed, to create all of the many different paths and choices you can search out.  But I know my wife and I watched and laughed for at least an hour and a half, making our way through several different versions of the episode.

The second time through, … [continued]

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Josh Reviews George Takei’s They Called Us Enemy

They Called Us Enemy tells the riveting story of George Takei’s youth growing up in an American concentration camp, after he and his family, along with 120,000 other Japanese Americans, were imprisoned by the U.S. government following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  Mr. Takei, of course, played Hikaru Sulu on Star Trek.  This graphic novel memory is both a compelling personal personal story and a deeply relevant, vitally important historical document with much to teach us today.

This graphic novel was written by Mr. Takei, along with Justin Eisinger and Steven Scott, and illustrated by Harmony Becker.  The authors guide the reader through the story of Mr. Takei’s family.  We see how his father, who was born in Japan and came to the United States as a teenager, and his mother, who was born in California and raised traditionlly Japanese, met and started a family.  Simultaneously we read of the political dominoes that fell after Pearl Harbor, which led to FDR’s signing, seventy-four days after the attack, Executive Order 9066.  This began the process in which people of Japanese ancestry were forced out of their homes, had their businesses and finances frozen, and were moved into camps.

As the graphic novel progresses, we follow Mr. Takei’s reminiscences as he charts his experiences growing up in a variety of these camps.  His family was forced, at first, to live in the stables of the Santa Anita racetrack.  (The causal inhumanity of this is staggering.)  They were then moved by train, along with other Japanese Americans, to the Rohwer Internment Center in Arkansas.  After several years there, the Takei family were moved into the higher-security Camp Tule Lake in Northern California, a maximum-security segregation camp for “disloyals”.  In 1946, they were finally able to leave this camp, but rebuilding their lives was not easy, as the final portion of the book depicts.

This is a terrible, deeply moving story.  It’s difficult to read at times.  But I was impressed by how Mr. Takei and his co-writers were able to craft a story that could be accessible to younger readers as well as adults.  Mr. Takei doesn’t pull any punches with his depiction of these atrocities.  But neither did I think the book was too graphic to be appropriate for younger readers.  (Framed by conversations both before reading and afterwards, my fourth-grade daughters both read this book last week and I think it was a powerful experience for them.)

I was impressed with how well Mr. Takei and his collaborators were able to pull the reader into the mindset and experiences he’d had as a little boy.  Mr. Takei depicts, powerfully, how adaptable children are, and how they can make even the … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The Spy

Netflix’s six-episode mini-series The Spy tells the true story of Eli Cohen, an Israeli spy in Syria in the 1950’s.  This was one of my favorite series of 2019, but I realized I’d never finished & posted my full review — time to remedy that!

I watched all six episodes of The Spy with my stomach tightly clenched.  The series is a wonderful exercise in sustained tension.  I found it so intense and gripping to watch that I had almost a physical reaction watching the episodes.  I was literally perched on the edge of my seat, with my whole body tense.  This was a very intense experience.  As a result, it was almost a relief when the series arrived at its conclusion.  But that only illustrates how well-crafted this series was.

This is an incredible true story.  Eli Cohen, an Israeli who was born in Egypt, volunteers to serve his country in an extremely dangerous manner: creating a completely false life for himself in Syria.  All six episodes of The Spy were directed and co-written by Gideon Raff.  Max Perry has the other half of that co-writing credit.  (Mr. Raff created the Israeli series Prisoners of War, which was adapted by Showtime and became Homeland.)  The Spy is based on the book L’espion qui venait d’Israël (The Spy Who Came From Israel), written by Uri Dan and Yeshayahu Ben Porat.  Eli Cohen’s story was previously depicted in the 1987 film The Impossible Spy.  (My father says it’s a good movie, so I’ll have to check it out!)

The series is very well-paced.  I’m pleased that the show was structured in a way that allowed us to spend time with Eli before he ever begins working for the Mossad (Israel’s national intelligence agency).  We see what drives him to undertake this extraordinarily dangerous mission, one for which he proved to be uniquely well-suited.  This is so critical for our investment in the character.  Once Eli begins his undercover mission, I loved the way the show filled out the details of how Eli slowly built his cover and created a complete second life for himself.  I loved all the little details of his spycraft.

Sacha Baron Cohen is fantastic in the lead role.  I’ve always been impressed with Mr. Cohen’s ability to vanish into a character.  Usually that’s in service of a comedy, though I’ve enjoyed, for example, his supporting role in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo.  That was a drama, though Mr. Cohen still scored several big laughs.  Here, he plays things completely straight as Eli Cohen.  And he’s phenomenal; completely convincing as this character, and compelling to watch go on this journey.

The Americans’ Noah Emmerich … [continued]

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Last week I went down a rabbit hole of watching fan-edited “modern trailers” for classic films.  Check out this terrific trailer for The Empire Strikes Back:

I also absolutely love this trailer for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan:

I’m a huge fan of the Paley Center and everything they do.  They have lots of great content available online — I encourage readers of this site to take a look.  It’s a treasure trove!  Here are a few examples of recent material that I’ve enjoyed:

This Parks and Recreation reunion from 2019:

Alan Sepinwall interviews Hank Azaria and Amanda Peet, discussing the final season of Brockmire:

Here’s a great hour-long interview, from Collider, with Ronald D. Moore, in which he discusses his work on Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, For All Mankind (the recent Apple TV series that I loved), and Outlander:

And here’s another great Collider interview, this one with Paul Feig:

So, wow… after years of rumors, Zack Snyder will be completing and releasing his version of Justice League!  I never thought this would actually happen.  Mr. Snyder directed Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman, building towards a planned two-film Justice League epic.  But following the poor reviews of Batman v. Superman, his plans were curtailed… and then he would up leaving the post-production of Justice League following a family tragedy.  Justice League was completed by Joss Whedon.  There were aspects of the film I enjoyed, but not enough to say I thought it actually worked.  For several years we’ve heard rumors about Mr. Snyder’s original almost four-hour cut, and all of the storylines he’d filmed that were excised from the theatrically released version.  While I am unconvinced that Mr. Snyder’s original version will wind up being much better than the theatrical version (many/most of the problems in Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman can be laid squarely at his feet), I am certainly very interested in seeing what he’d planned.  It’s also cool that this release on HBO Max won’t necessarily be edited down to a two or three hour version.  The articles suggests a four-hour-long version, perhaps separated into chapters, might be what they release.  I’m intrigued!

(Interesting aside: not long after the news of Zack Snyder’s cut of Justice League broke, Suicide Squad director David Ayer tweeted that a nearly-completed version of his original cut of that film also exists!  Suicide Squad went through a famously difficult post-production period, and the film was apparently dramatically re-edited late in the game in an attempt to strike a lighter, more humorous tone.  It’s hard to say who is ultimately responsible, but the finished film was terrible.  Would … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Sherlock Holmes and The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols

In Nicholas Meyer’s wonderful new Sherlock Holmes pastiche (a novel structured to imitate the Holmes stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle), The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols, the great detective Sherlock Holmes and his comrade Dr. Watson are tasked with investigating the origins of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.  The Protocols actually existed; this hateful, anti-Semitic text asserts that a secret cabal of Jews secretly control the world.  This might sound ludicrous to any reasonably intelligent person, but these fabricated texts (designed to inflame Jew-hatred) not only existed, but continue to be spread to this day.

I became a huge fan of Nicholas Meyer from his incredible work with the Star Trek franchise. He wrote and directed Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; he wrote most of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (he wrote everything set in the 20th century, after Kirk & co. travel back in time), and he wrote and directed Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  After more than fifty years of Star Trek’s existence, Mr. Meyer’s contributions remain my very favorite versions of Trek.  Mr. Meyer also wrote several previous Holmes novels.  His first, The Seven-Per-Cent solution, is a terrific novel that was adapted in 1976 into an also-terrific movie.  Mr. Meyer also wrote and directed the 1979 film Time After Time, in which Sherlock Holmes duels with Jack the Ripper.  (Allow me to also recommend Mr. Meyer’s memoir The View From the Bridge, which is a fantastic read for anyone interested in a behind-the-scenes look at how Hollywood works.)

I was immediately intrigued when I read the plot synopsis of Mr. Meyer’s new Holmes novel.  Taking the fictional character of Holmes and combining him with a very real anti-Semitic incident seemed like a risky proposition.

But I found that, under Mr. Meyer’s skilled hands, The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols was a complex and compelling tale.

Mr. Meyer writes a great mystery/adventure, and he has a firm grasp on the characters of Holmes and Watson.  Both men come to vivid life in these pages, and their depictions feel perfectly correct and in-character.  Same goes for Sherlock’s brother Mycroft (who has a significant role to play in the novel).

The novel also features a wonderful new female character, Anna Strunsky Walling.  This intelligent, competent woman winds up accompanying Holmes and Watson for much of their adventure.  It’s terrific to have a major female character added to the mix, and I quickly grew to love this heroine.  (I do wish Mr. Meyer hadn’t allowed Anna to get into “Damsel in Distress” peril towards the book’s climax.)

As he did in his previous Holmes novels, Mr. Meyer writes this book as … [continued]

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Just Reviews Stumptown Season One

I enjoyed the first episode of Stumptown, and I’m pleased that I continued to enjoy the subsequent seventeen episodes of this first season.  Stumptown is based on the fantastic comic book series written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by first Matthew Southworth and then Justin Greenwood.  It centers on Dex Parios (played by Cobie Smulders), a private investigator in Portland, Oregon.

Stumptown is a fun adventure series.  It’s episodic by nature, but the formula works fairly well, and I enjoyed the show’s tongue-in-cheek, just slightly off-kilter sensibility.  The individual cases have danger and drama each week, but the show maintains an enjoyably comedic tone.  It’s a series that regularly returned to the status quo at the end of each episode, but it was able to zig where the standard sort of network procedural would have zagged enough to keep my interest.  I loved, for example, the show’s many unusual music choices used to score its action sequences.  I loved the use of a freeze-frame (that would then cut to an illustrated-looking version of the freeze-frame) that takes us into the opening titles each week.  (It was used to great comedic effect, and it looked cool!)  And while the show was generally episodic, they enjoyed throwing in a good cliffhanger on a regular basis, to help ensure viewers would return for the next episode.

It’s been a while since I’ve watched an episodic network show like this.  Even though I enjoyed the pilot episode, I was a little worried that the series would fall into a boring regular pattern.  But I enjoyed the outlandish cases in which Dex found herself involved week after week.  There were some fun and memorable installments in this first season!  If the show had a failing, it was its over-reliance on soap-opera-ish melodrama.  I found myself a little bored by the love triangle between Dex, Grey (Jake Johnson) and Hoffman (Michael Ealy) and the predictable sitcom-ish misunderstandings and bad-timing complications that arose between them.  Similarly, while I like that Grey had a tougher edge than the Grey in the comic series, I didn’t love the outlandish way the show wound up continually pushing him back into criminal-adjacent situations.

The show’s greatest strength is its cast.  Cobie Smulders is terrific in the lead role as screwed-up, P.T.S.D.-suffering P.I. Dex Parios.  She’s endearing and engaging and completely believable as this tough, don’t-mess-with-her young woman.  She can effortlessly play the drama while also demonstrating very solid comedic timing (clearly honed by her decade on How I Met Your Mother).  I’ve really enjoyed the dimension that Jake Johnson has brought to Grey.  Like Ms. Smulders, Mr. Johnson is very skilled at playing both the dramatic beats and the comedic … [continued]

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Josh Reviews the Fourth and Final Season of Brockmire

Hank Azaria’s series Brockmire has consistently been one of my very favorite shows these past few years.  (Season three was one of my favorite TV shows of 2019.)  Each eight-episode season has been a small slice of pure pleasure.  The series is fiercely hilarious while also telling emotional stories about the broken characters featured on the show.  This fourth and final season was absolute perfection.  The series’ love of baseball, and its commentary on today’s world mixed beautifully with the way they wrapped up all of the main characters’ storylines… without ever being afraid to pause to allow Hank Azaria’s Brockmire to deliver a scorchingly profane punchline.  I miss this show already!

As I have written before, Jim Brockmire is the role that Hank Azaria was born to play.  Mr. Azaria is screamingly funny, while also able to skillfully bring a lot of pathos and emotion to his depiction of the character. I love how the series has chronicled Brockmire’s slow, painful journey back from being disgraced and in the gutter.  It’s an insane idea that, here in this fourth and final season, Brockmire has somehow managed to become the Commissioner of baseball, but it’s absolutely perfect.  The series mines a lot of comedy from the profane, rough-and-tumble Brockmire’s new role as an administrator, and it’s fun to see the show explore a new side of the world of baseball.  (Also: I’m glad we got one final very funny Joe Buck appearance!!)

A key element in the first season of Brockmire was Amanda Peet as Jules, the woman with whom Bockmire falls in love while working as a play-by-play announcer in Morristown, a small Pennsylvania coal town.  I missed Jules’ regular presence in seasons two and three, and so I was delighted that she was back as a full-time player here in the final season.  Ms. Peet and Mr. Azaria’s comic energy remains spectacular, and I was very pleased to see that Brockmire and Jules’ on-again off-again relationship was given a satisfying resolution.

This final season of Brockmire is, for the most part, set in the future: specifically, the year 2033.  It’s a bold choice, but one that turns out to be beautifully serendipitous.  The show was completed long before the start of this pandemic, but began airing right as COVID-19 was spreading.  This makes the show’s social commentary far more biting than might have been expected.  Brockmire’s depiction of the United States of America is a scary (but horrifyingly possible) future, in which the country has continued to slide into a chasm of haves versus have-nots; many Southern states are now lawless “Disputed Lands”; and climate change has wreaked havoc, not the least of which appears … [continued]