Crashing

I discovered the genius of Phoebe Waller-Bridge when I first started watching Fleabag. Crashing is another one of her shows now streaming on Netflix. It focuses on a group of late twenty somethings a la Friends living together in a converted old hospital. Flighty and reckless LuLu (Waller-Bridge) has landed on the door of her childhood best friend and aspiring chef Anthony (Damien Molony) who is living in the hospital with his uptight fiancee Kate (Louise Ford). Their flatmates include an intense french painter named Melody, womanizer named Sam, and shy guy Fred.  While the first season is quite short with only six thirty minute episodes, its characters are fully fledged where each individual is humanized enough for the viewer to relate.

The crux of the storyline revolves around Lulu, Anthony, and Kate. While the other characters have their own storylines with Sam grappling with his father’s death and Fred is starting a new relationship while grappling with his feelings for Sam.  Lulu and Anthony try to defy their very obvious feelings from each other while Kate in an effort to stem her jealously, hires Lulu on as a receptionist at her office, where Lulu becomes admired by all due to her fun personality – the antithesis of Kate (who can’t even fart in front of Anthony.)

Crashing’s humor relishes in the uncomfortable and somewhat painful moments of human interactions and emotions.  Waller-Bridge and Ford standout in their push and pull relationship of opposites . While both are trying to change to become more like the other. Though in the end they both realize that they can’t change who they are no matter how much they want to.  They both are play the insecurities of their characters in a subtle and nuanced way that really makes the viewer emphasize with both sides.

Like Fleabag, it also relays the message that it’s ok to not have your life figured out yet in your twenties. As constant changes, setbacks, and sometimes even growth are inevitable. Crashing is a fun quick watch and good for a laugh with an occasional awkward grimace.

Crashing is available to stream on Netflix with subscription. 

iZombie

This past week I’ve discovered the dangerous advantages to downloading Netflix shows for offline viewing on your phone.  With this in mind I’ve managed to watch the first season of iZombie in a week.  iZombie is a current CW show with its first two seasons on Netflix. The show is written and produced by Rob Thomas of Veronica Mars fame. The show has a similar plot with a quirky female protagonist solving crimes by day and dealing with her complicated love life at night. However, Liv Moore (Rose McIver) is not your average protagonist – she’s a zombie.

Workaholic medical resident, Liv decides to take a break one night and ends up at a boat party where a tainted batch of the drug Utopium ends up making people turned into Zombies. Liv is scratched by drug dealer Blaine and ends up infected with the zombie virus and a craving for brains. She manages to find her brains through her new job as the assistant medical examiner Liv tells her secret to her boss Ravi. On top of all the transitions Liv realizes that she gets visions and character traits of whomever she last ate. These visions come in handy as she teams up with detective Clive Babineaux to help solve crimes after eating the murder victims brains’ to trigger visions.

While Liv helps to solve these crimes each week she deals with her ex-fiance Major, and best friend Peyton, who don’t know about her zombie lifestyle but have noticed a strong change in her demeanor. Each episode focuses on a different murder while the other major emotional storylines around Liv are intertwined. Like Veronica Mars, the show has a film noir aspect, which is reflected in the styling of the show and general tone. The setting of Seattle is wonderfully incorporated and a refreshing change of scenery for a procedural which are mostly based in New York or California.

The stories don’t have a ton of emotional depth but the characters are somewhat relatable (other than the whole zombie part..) and the plots never seem tired or recycled. It’s a great procedural that is able to combine dark murder and lighthearted romantic comedy moments, often in the same scene. If you’re interested in a slightly brainless (pun intended) but quirky and cheesy crime procedural check out iZombie next time you’re perusing through Netflix.

iZombie Seasons 1-2 are available to stream on Netflix with subscription

 

Sneaky Pete

Ever thought about starting over? Wanted to avoid your past coming back to haunt you? How about completely remaking yourself settle a debt? That’s exactly what con man Marius (Giovanni Ribisi) Josipovic does when he takes his cellmate, Pete Murphy’s identity. After hearing story after story of Pete’s grandparents idyllic farm Marius decides to try and swindle them under Pete’s identity.

He needs to settle a 100,000 debt with crooked cop Vince (played by executive producer Bryan Cranston) who took Marius’s brother Eddie as collateral to work at his poker den. Marius believes that the con should be fairly quick. However, things become much more complicated than they appear.

I watch enough television where I’m usually able to predict a lot of a series plot within the first fifteen minutes. What is brilliant about Sneaky Pete is that it treats the viewer a bit like they are the mark, revealing the con little by little, while using side stories of characters as a distraction from the real issue. This is highlighted by the exceptional casting of the Murphy family as well as Ribisi.  Who is able to carry the show’s twists and turns with such depth and pain that Amazon should be thanking him for not needing to budget in an Emmy campaign. Margo Martindale continues to steal every scene she is in as the family Matriarch Audrey. Her relationship with Otto (Peter Gerety), the patriarch and his downward health spiral adds a wonderful depth to the characters that makes the viewers empathize on multiple levels. Throughout the course of the season the viewer sees the whole ensemble (including a standout performance by the youngest Murphy child Carley played by newcomer Libe Barer) grapple with everything from familial strife to warring businesses.

Bryan Cranston is no stranger to playing morally flawed characters. He plays the villain Vince with a sadness and loneliness that allows the character not to become a caricature. The plot and dialogue moves forward swiftly, at some points it reflects the traditional tongue in cheek nature of heist movies where Marius’s true identity almost gets revealed to the Murphy family. Like those old movies, the slick anti-hero always manages to stay safe. The tension is maintained so well that at some points I didn’t know if I wanted to keep watching or turn it off.

The series is incredibly refreshing, with great writing and an even better cast. The plot and pacing starts out quick and is able to maintain it’s twists and turns right up to the final shot. I would definitely recommend Sneaky Pete, though be careful because it might consume your whole weekend!

Sneaky Pete is available to stream on Amazon Prime with a subscription.

 

 

Westworld

In 2017, artificial intelligence (A.I) is now apart of everyday life, from restaurants, to cars, to phones. Westworld (based on the 1973 film of the same name by Michael Crichton) delves into how A.I can be used to fulfill humans every desire – and the repercussions of that.

Westworld, HBO’s latest blockbuster series is centered on a futuristic amusement park of the same name. It is set in the indeterminate future where Doctor Ford (played by the always excellent Anthony Hopkins) and his team have created an adult playground full of eerily realistic AI robots “hosts.” Who are immersed in numerous faux 1800’s wild west storylines to entertain the parks “Guests”. Wealthy humans who pay up to 40,000 a night to indulge in their every desire with the “hosts” from sex, to murder and for some, love. The series begins with a few interlocking storylines, the employees of the park, the hosts, and guests of the park. The employees, like Bernard and Therese are divided between supporting Doctor Ford and its corporate company of Delos who just wants to use the hosts intellectual property. In the park the story focuses in on hosts Dolores and Maeve who are starting to think beyond their storyline. Park guests include the mysterious and sadistic “Man in Black” and new guests, soft spoken William and his spoiled soon to be brother in law Logan.

The plot is obviously quite complex and it takes a few episodes to start to piece together all the storylines. The plot is a bit slow moving which is countered by the distraction of the top quality production and setting. The A-list roster of actors really help to enhance the series however the cheesy and basic dialogue is a bit disappointing considering the caliber of actors (Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Thandie Newton) who could have taken the story and Westworld realm even further. Like Game of Thrones, Westworld also deals with the struggle of having so many storylines that the character development gets delayed or is sped up rapidly to go along with all the other storylines. This creates a bit of confusion for the viewer as well as creates quite a few plot holes.

By the end of the season the foreshadowing (and reddit theories) was enough to clearly see where the second season is going to head (also the fact that it was conceived by the creator of Jurassic Park), which makes me intrigued at the plot but I honestly don’t know if I’m invested enough in the characters and their stories to continue to watch.

Westworld is available to stream on HBOGo and HBONow with subscription

 

Search Party

I’m breaking away a bit from my normal streaming go-to’s to highlight one of my favorite shows I saw in 2016 – Search Party. Which to most everyones surprise did not appear on HBO, Netflix or Amazon; but TBS. TBS did take a play the digital streaming giants and released series one all on the same day to binge watch, which was exactly what I did.

Search Party centers around twenty-something brooklynite Dory and her friends in their search of their casual college acquaintance Chantal Winterbottom who goes missing under mysterious circumstances. Dory (Alia Shawkat of Arrested Development fame), in the midst of a quarter life crisis ends up becoming obsessed with finding Chantal. She then convinces her pushover boyfriend John, and narcissistic best friends Elliot and Portia to join her in the detective work. Along the way Dory joins up with a mysterious (and maybe sexy) private detective, and a potential cult.

As the series develops you realize that the main purpose for Dory isn’t finding Chantal, but for Dory to find out where her life is heading. She’s stuck with a non passionate relationship, has no career direction, and her close friends are raging narcissists. Twenty-something Brooklynites Portia and Elliot perfectly encapsulate the Brooklyn hipster millennial stereotypes with a hilarious self-awareness. The writing has a certain subtly about it that I find extremely relatable and not over the top. Like Broad City, the show also uses real New York landmarks and restaurants to add to the hip authenticity and setting. What the show does amazingly well is smoothly mixing the genres of hipster comedy with a film noir detective procedural. The use of an haunting (electronic) score by Purity Ring and great editing and stylization the show manages to instill a spooky mood of the potential dark forces at work. The mysteriously edited teasers at the end of each episode lends itself to binge watching.

Search Party is funny, mysterious, and painfully self-aware from start to finish. It is a refreshing comedy that also highlights the emotions that many twenty-something millennials feel during these confusing post-college years. It is wonderfully acted without being too over the the top and showcases a lot of truly hip Brooklyn locales. Search Party has already been renewed for a second season and I can’t wait to see the next mystery Dory and her crew has to solve.

Search Party is available to stream on TBS.com with a login to a cable provider

 

One Mississippi

I’ve been a fan of Tig Notaro’s stand up for a while now and loved her Documentary “Tig” (now streaming on Netflix). So when I saw that she had a new series streaming on Amazon Prime I immediately added it to my list. One Mississippi is a loosely biographical dramedy about Tig, who  -after having serious health problems of her own – returns to her childhood home in Mississippi after her moms death.

The series opens with Tig  heading back to Mississippi from LA to watch as her mom is pulled off life support after a fatal fall. She is joined by her brother Remy (Noah Harpster) and her Stepfather Bill (John Rothman). The show is loosely chronological and follows the aftermath of Tig’s mothers death as well as presenting some flashbacks from her complicated childhood.  Tigs sharp and often brutally dry humor is peppered throughout every scene. This is evidently displayed in the character of Bill, whose lack of compassion after Tig and Remy’s mothers death is written so astutely it garnered a fair amount of laughs along with a tinge of heartache. Remy and Tig’s relationship is incredibly nuanced and a core center of the series. It is quickly clear that they don’t have anything in common but they are forever bonded through their slightly tragic childhood.

The sleepy setting of the Mississippi Bayou adds wonderful scenery that allows for a colorful cast of supporting characters, from Tigs and Remy’s drunken father to the old southern ladies that head the Mardi Gras festivities. Some of the best comedic moments involve Tig’s LA girlfriend (Casey Wilson) asserting her culture of probiotic shakes and crystals on that of Bill and Remy’s Mississippi southern lifestyle. The flashbacks with Tig and her mother are not overdone and help to balance how Tig viewed her mother before her death and helps to paint a fuller picture as Tig discovers secrets about her mom after her death.

Throughout the series Tig suffers a series of personal and professional setbacks. Like in her standup, she doesn’t make the viewer feel sorry for her or play the victim. Although it compares quite closely to Tig’s real life it also distances the realism through a series of over the top secondary characters. The series is incredibly refreshing but still is able to carry the emotional weight of the dark subject matter. Combined with a great cast, dialogue, and setting and should be next on your streaming list.

One Mississippi is available to stream on Amazon Prime with a subscription

 

Gilmore girls: A Year in the Life

This year, I had one big reason to be thankful- the return of Gilmore Girls. After many teasers and marketing ploys by Netflix the much anticipated Gilmore girls: A Year in the Life premiered on Netflix this Friday. I decided to bravely not venture from my couch and binge watch all of the four (ninety minute) episodes which start off ten years after the ending of the original TV show.

The episodes are cut up to highlight the four seasons. Winter begins with picking up where all of the characters left off. Rory is a writer going back and forth between London, NYC and Stars Hollow. She’s still trying to figure out her life and career. Lorelai and Luke are still together and managing their respective businesses. A lot of the series, especially for Emily Gilmore is focused on the main characters dealing with the death of Richard (Edward Herrmann). The main characters deal with their grief in many different ways, though Emily takes it the hardest trying. Lorelai is dealing with the loss of Suki at the Inn and restlessness on what to do with the rest of her life. Throughout the four episodes many of the original Stars Hallow characters make an appearance from Kirk, to Taylor, and even the troubadour . All of Rory’s boyfriends of past and present show up, especially Logan who Rory is still continuing a secret relationship with.

Every episode was written and directed by original show-runner and creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and her partner Daniel Palladino. The pair left the show in the last few seasons so it’s nice to see that the writing and dialogue reflects that of the beginning of the show. The ninety minute episodes allow for a more cinematic feel to the storyline. Which is also seen in the cinematography. The swooping arial shots and dreamlike sequences are able to highlight the story on a much larger scale than in its original format. While the dialogue remains the regular repartee the major plot points are very loosely filled out and a bit frustrating. This made the episodes feel very long (especially when watching them in succession) and they could have been cut down to hour long episodes. The end encapsulates this frustration where the viewer is left with more questions than answers.

The season is a nice return to Stars Hallow and all of its inhabitants. Though it could have been a bit shorter and the plots left much to be desired, in many ways it feels like returning to visit an old friend.

Gilmore girls: A Year in the Life is available to stream on Netflix with subscription