\

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

Josh’s Favorite TV Series of 2019 — Part Four!

All right!  We’ve entered the TOP TEN of my list of my favorite TV series of 2019!  Click here for numbers twenty-five through twenty-one, click here for numbers twenty through sixteen, and click here for numbers fifteen through eleven.

10. Legion The best super-hero show that no one I know was watching.  Created by Noah Hawley (Fargo), Legion was a gloriously weird, outlandish, surprising series that eschewed all the tropes of a standard super-hero TV show.  Every time I thought I might know where the show was going, I’d be surprised to, instead, get a dance number!  Or a bizarre digression into, say, watching a Japanese-language explanation of the rules of time-travel!  This show was an incredible visual feast, filled with extraordinarily unusual and memorable sequences.  This third and final season took a deep dive into the X-Men mythology, exploring the events in which a young Charles Xavier fell in love with an Israeli woman, Gabrielle Haller, and confronted the powerful psychic villainy of Amahl Farouk, the Shadow King.  This was thrilling to see on-screen.  At the same time, the show moved even further away from the type of standard super-hero narrative that one might expect, choosing instead to get weirder and wilder.  There was never anything on TV quite like this show.  I miss it already.  (Click here for my full review of season three.)

9. Better Things Pamela Adlon’s gloriously strange, personal, funny, moving show is one of the most unique and wonderful series currently being produced.  It is phenomenal expression of Ms. Adlon’s enormous talent: she wrote almost every episode (eight of the season’s twelve episodes), and she directed ALL of them.  This show focuses on an incredible array of strong and interesting women: single mother Sam Fox (played by Ms. Adlon), her mother Phil, and her three children Max, Frankie, and Duke… and also the many other interesting women in Sam’s life!  Ms. Adlon’s storytelling is hyper-focused on honesty, specifically when it comes to depicting the real-life joys and struggles and sorrows of life as a working single parent of kids.  She seems to revel in showing the audience real-life moments we’ve never seen on TV before.  (As a prime example: episode seven, “Toilet,” chronicles Sam’s preparations for her colonoscopy.)  Season three was the first season created without the involvement of Louis C.K., but the show didn’t miss a beat and, if anything, was even better in that it became more personal than ever for Ms. Adlon, completely infused with her life and her experiences and her perspective.  If you’ve never seen this show, you should remedy that immediately.  (Click here for my full review of season three.)… [continued]

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

The Best Superhero Show You’re Not Watching: Josh Reviews Legion Season Three

December 9th, 2019
,

There are very few people I know who watched Legion, Noah Hawley’s magnificent, mind-bending three-season series based on the somewhat obscure X-Men character David Haller, who was created by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz in the eighties.  I keep saying to people: you’re missing out on one of the best, most delightfully bizarre and original super-hero TV shows ever made!!  The show’s eight-episode third and final season brought the series to a satisfying conclusion.  I’m still not certain I understood half of what was going on, but I hugely enjoyed the journey.  (Click here for my review of Legion season one, and here for my review of season two.)

Legion is unlike any superhero TV show I’ve ever seen.  The show has very complicated storylines, but at the same time, I often felt like the show wasn’t really focused on the plot-lines.  Similarly, while Legion is packed with fascinating characters, I often felt like the show wasn’t really focused on the characters.  Noah Hawley and his team’s goals seemed to me to be more about the experience they were creating for the viewer, watching the show.  Legion is stuffed to overflowing with incredibly bizarre and memorable imagery; sequences and moments that were completely unexpected and out there.  The show doesn’t follow any sort of standard narrative path.  There are none of the expected super-hero/super-villain punch-em-ups one might expect from a show like this.  Legion is a much weirder, much more unexpected experiment in telling a story about super-heroes and super-villains that avoids all of the cliches and expected paths of the genre.  All of this sounds like it could have/should have been a mess.  But in the capable hands of Mr. Hawley and his team, I have found Legion to be a riveting experience, one that continually delighted me with its surprising twists and turns, and one I have been thinking about for quite a while after finishing watching it.

Legion’s main character is a relatively minor X-Men villain/supporting character, David Haller.  David first appeared in New Mutants #25 back in 1985.  He was revealed to be the son of Charles Xavier and Gabrielle Haller; he was a mutant with extraordinary psychic powers (rivaling those of his father), but who was also beset by a multiple personality disorder.  Although a sympathetic character, David was generally presented in the comics as a villain.  I was at first surprised that this minor villainous character would be chosen as the main character of an X-Men TV show, but I assumed it was just a way to tell stories in the X-Men world on TV without connecting in any way to the X-Men movies.  It seemed clear to me that … [continued]

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

Catching up with Legion Season Two

September 19th, 2019
, ,

I was blown away by the first season of Legion back in 2017.  I thought it was magnificent; hugely creative and weird and unique.  It was a gloriously mindbending experience that pushed the boundaries of what a television show could be.  I loved it.

But by the time season two came out, I felt that I needed to rewatch the first season to refresh my memory of everything happening on this twisty, complicated show.  And so I held off on watching season two until I had a chance to rewatch season one.  Although that first season was only eight episodes, in this age of “peak TV” I found it hard to find the time!  I kept deciding to watch something NEW as opposed to going back to rewatch something I’d already seen.  But I finally made the time, and I’m so glad I did, because it was a delight to rewatch season one — there were so many nuances I caught, knowing where that season would wind up.  And I am certain I got a lot more out of season two having season one fresh in my mind.

So what did I think of season two?  I loved it!

This second season was a wonderful expansion of everything we saw in season one.  I was intrigued to see the way the show took our main characters from season one and pushed them all in unexpected directions.  (This is NOT a show that returns go the status quo at the end of every episode, and I love it for that!)  I enjoyed meeting tons of fascinating new characters.  Most of all, I was delighted that the show continued to be every inch as wonderfully bizarre and unexpected as season one!  Season two was packed full of strange imagery and moments, and the show continued to be playful with its very structure as a TV show, throwing in narration and asides and digressions so that I as a viewer was constantly surprised by the directions in which the show was taking me.

That is what is most memorable and praiseworthy, in my opinion, about Legion.  Creator Noah Hawley and his team are constantly pushing against the limits of what a TV show can be, and the conventions of “normal” TV narrative.  Legion is constantly surprising in terms of what we’re seeing on screen.  Suddenly we’re watching a dance sequence!  (David’s dance-off showdown with Farouk!)  Suddenly we’re listening to narration (by Jon Hamm!!) of how a delusion develops, an idea memorably depicted by showing chicks hatching from eggs (ideas) and a horrifying black goo monster (a delusion).

Visually this show is extraordinary!!  It’s jam-packed with strikingly original, memorable images.  I am haunted … [continued]

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

Welcome back!  We’re about to enter the TOP TEN of my list of My Favorite Episodes of TV of 2017!  Click here for part one, click here for part two, and click here for part three.

And now, onward…!

10. Silicon Valley: “Terms of Service” (season four, episode two, aired on 4/30/17) — A comedic highlight of the fourth season of Silicon Valley, and the show as a whole, was this brief, beautiful moment in which Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) ascended to CEO of PiperChat … and then flamed out spectacularly.  Mr. Nanjiani has been a secret weapon on the show since the beginning, and he killed it in this spotlight episode.  I loved watching the arrogant, drunk-with-power Dinesh, but the brilliant comedic beauty of the moment in which Dinesh realized how badly he had bungled things and just how far over his head he was, was astonishing.  It was one of the funniest moments in any TV show all year long.  (The continual pinging sound effect throughout the scene, as more and more under-age users sign up for PiperChat and Dinesh finds himself in deeper and deeper trouble, took a great scene and made it amazing.  It’s a piece of comedic genius.)  The entire ensemble was on fire in this episode.  Throw in the welcome return of Matt McCoy’s sad-sack lawyer (“My shame will linger long after my voting rights are restored”) and a great final moment with series villain Gavin Belson as his triumph turns to ash (when he realizes the truth about PiperChat) and you have a winner of an episode.  (Click here for my full review of Silicon Valley season four.)

9. Sherlock: “The Final Problem” (season four, episode three, aired on 1/15/17) — What just might be the final episode of Sherlock that we ever see (though I hope that’s not the case!) was one of the series’ darkest and most nail-bitingly intense.  After a lot of teasing, this episode confirmed that the big bad villain of the season was the never-before-seen third Holmes sibling.  Sian Brooke was terrific as the dangerous and insane Eurus Holmes.  For the first time in the series, both Sherlock and Mycroft seemed truly outmatched.  This episode wrought tremendous tension out of Eurus’ torturing of her brothers and John Watson, as she presented them with a series of increasingly impossible challenges.  This was as grim as the show has ever gotten, as time and again our three heroes were powerless to stop innocent people from being murdered by Eurus all around them.  I could hardly believe what I was watching.  The show has never looked better — every aspect of the production seemed to be firing … [continued]

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

Josh Reviews Legion Season One

In much the same way that I never imagined a TV show based on the Coen Brothers’ magnificent film Fargo could possibly be any good, when I first read about Legion, a new TV show based on a minor character from the X-Men comics, I was not at all interested.  I’ve been burned by many previous super-hero shows, and with the X-Men movie franchise floundering without much direction, this looked like a cheap way to cash in on the X-Men name.  Well, Noah Hawley has proven me wrong twice now.  I will never doubt him again.  Just as Mr. Hawley’s reimagining of Fargo was an incredible success, so too has he created a rich, thrilling, wonderfully bizarre version of a super-hero show with Legion.  I loved pretty much every minute of it.

Based on story-lines written by Chris Claremont and illustrated by Bill Sienkiewicz in the X-Men spin-off comic book The New Mutants from the 1980s (as well as some key issues written by Mr. Claremont in the main Uncanny X-Men book), Legion tells the story of David Haller, a young mutant with incredible psychic powers whose apparent schizophrenia makes him an enormous danger to the people around him and perhaps the entire world.  As the series begins, we see that David has been institutionalized, but he soon falls into the hands of a mysterious agency called Division Three.  They suspect what David will soon learn, that what he has always thought were his deep psychological problems might be a manifestation of his incredible mutant abilities.  David is rescued from Division Three by a group of fellow mutants, though neither they nor David realize that he had been hiding, deep within him, a powerful evil.

That brief plot description doesn’t begin to capture the head-spinning complex narrative that Mr. Hawley and his team have crafted, a joyously madcap journey through David’s past and present in which one can never be quite sure what is real and what is imaginary.  The entire structure of Legion has been designed to put the audience right into the middle of David’s madness and his broken mind.  Its fiendishly clever.  Watching the show becomes an incredibly fun exercise in attempting to unravel the tangled of mystery of David’s past.

Every inch of Legion has been crafted with great care.  The overall narrative, as I have just described, is an impressively clever piece of work.  Beyond that, time and again the show delights in zigging when you would expect it to zag.  We spend several episodes wondering about the mystery of Melanie (Jean Smart)’s frozen husband Oliver.  When we finally meet him, or at least his astral projection, its in the instantly iconic, and very … [continued]