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Josh Reviews Dispatches From Elsewhere

Jason Segel created and stars in Dispatches from Elsewhere, a bizarre, twisty tale of four oddballs who become friends and deeply affect one another while participating in an elaborate social experiment/game that may or may not actually involve the true-life disappearance of a young, innovative artist many years earlier.  This ten-episode series aired on AMC last spring, and it seems to have gone mostly under the radar.  I suspect some people might find its wry, off-kilter tone to be off-putting — but I found it to be a pleasing delight.  I’m glad I took the journey, and I think this series is worth your time if you missed it last year.

The series is engagingly playful with the normal structures of TV dramas.  There’s a meta, self-aware aspect of the series right from the very beginning, in which Richard E. Grant speaks directly into the camera and addresses the viewer.  (The series gets extra-super-duper meta in the final episode, which is the one aspect of the series that didn’t quite work for me.  More on that later.)  I loved Mr. Grant’s monologues, which opened most every episode.  They were just the right balance of intriguingly weird to hook my interest.  But it wasn’t just those opening monologues; throughout the series, I enjoyed when the show took the opportunity to play with the typical structure of a TV show, from the guy literally saying “work stuff, work stuff” to Jason Segel’s character at one point in the premiere (in a scene which called for work-related dialogue that wasn’t actually relevant), to the cartoon introduction to Janice’s background in episode three, and many more examples like that.

The series is packed with mysteries, and the ten episode season takes the viewer on a fun, twisty ride.  (There are definitely shades of Lost to be found in all the twisty-turny mysteries and the men-who-might-not-be-what-they-seem and their bizarre introductory videos…)  I enjoyed the mysteries, but the reason this show worked for me were the characters.  I loved the exploration of these four people — each very different, each damaged in their own way, and each played by a fantastic actor.

Jason Segel plays Peter, a shy, lonely person who feels trapped in his boring data-entry job and his isolated existence.  Mr. Segel is compelling as always, although he’s played this sort of sad-sack, lost soul before.  I always love seeing Mr. Segel on screen (I’ve been a huge fan ever since Freaks and Geeks), but I appreciated how he and the show allowed his co-stars room to shine.  Eve Lindley is a revelation as Simone, a trans woman whose jovial nature belies her deep insecurities.  I was delighted by this character and I loved … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Click here for part 1 of my list of my favorite TV series of 2020, and click here for part two!

15. Curb Your Enthusiasm season 10 — Ok, sure, the best days of Curb Your Enthusiasm seem to be in the past.  And I thought the first few episodes of this season, in which Larry runs afoul of the #metoo movement, were misguided.  But come on: the episode in which Jon Hamm slowly morphs into a Larry David duplicate was an all-time great.  And that was just one of the season’s many comedic delights, which included (but were by no means limited to): Larry’s wearing a MAGA hat in order to prevent people from coming up and chatting with him; Larry’s getting seated in the “ugly section” at a restaurant; Jeff’s being mistaken for Harvey Weinstein; side-sitting, yo-yo-diets, texting while driving, and all sorts of other shenanigans.  (Click here for my full review.)

14. Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian This behind-the-scenes look at the making of The Mandalorian is a lot of fun for a major Star Wars fan like myself.  The series is a delightful mix of after-the-fact roundtable discussions as well as lots of behind-the-scenes footage.  I was particularly delighted by the fourth episode, which took a deep dive into the revolutionary technology utilized to create the astoundingly beautiful and photo-real visual effects of the show, and the eighth episode, which explored all the myriad fun connections to obscure corners of the Star Wars universe that Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni and others incorporated into the show.  (Click here for my full review.)

13. Star Trek: Lower Decks This animated half-hour Star Trek comedy, exploring the lives of the lower-ranked “lower decks” characters on a Federation starship, is an enjoyable new version of a Star Trek show.  The animation is beautiful, and the show is very funny and packed with endearingly nerdy references to the vast breadth of the Star Trek universe.  It’s a pleasure to be back in the familiar 24th century setting of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager, and over the course of this first ten-episode season, I grew to quite enjoy this series’ cast of misfits.  The triumphant inclusion of Captain William T. Riker and the starship Titan in the season’s final moments gave me a lot of joy.  This isn’t exactly the type of new Star Trek show I most want to see (I’d have been more interested in a straight, dramatic telling of most of this season’s stories), but dang if I didn’t grow to appreciate it nonetheless.  Bravo to creator Mike McMahan and his team.  I can’t wait for season two.  (Click here for my … [continued]