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I’ve been thinking about Twin Peaks a lot lately. I finally got around to watching it two months ago and I’ve kicked myself ever since for not watching sooner. David Lynch’s circus of soap opera, mystery, intrigue and nightmares is one of the most unique, weird, heartbreaking and beautiful things I’ve ever watched and it’s amazing that a major TV network even gave this two seasons. I’ve been sad a lot and this show, strangely, brought me a lot of comfort. See a show like this sparked the imagination and experimental switch in my head which has been like a breath of fresh air.

Part of my depression has come about because of my place in life and the fact that I want to make a living writing and make a living filming but I haven’t come close to either. There comes a point where you’re so mired in hopelessness that you question whether or not you really want this. Is it really that I just hate my job or don’t find much excitement in the thing I studied in college? Would I really care as much if I were making enough money? Maybe this really is just a phase that I haven’t quite outgrown yet. Tumblrs with snarky, C-grade humor and wordpress blogs that devolve into narcissistic vents of frustrations don’t exactly make a great writer, and if I’m not actively trying to be better, what exactly am I doing?

Then you watch something like Twin Peaks and it all comes back to you. You remember what great art and great writing can do and you revert to that child that wanted to be guided by imagination before life pounded reality into the mind. It’s the same feeling you get from a great record or a breathtaking film. I am not a great writer but I yearn to be because I obsess over great writers. I don’t strive to have the answers or know the right thing to do, I only strive to learn, keep learning and always want to learn. That’s the feeling I get from a writer like James Baldwin or Toni Morrison, from a Ta-Nahesi Coates essay or from a television show like Twin Peaks. These are people following their mind’s road–wherever that may go. I like that sense of adventure and that effortlessness to take the mind as messy as it is and make something eloquent. A fiery passion can create a hungry min yearning to grow. I hope that fire walks with me.

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martin

Here me out.

The first season of True Detective was a interesting concept and technical feat surrounded by smothering pretentiousness and often silly dialogue. The show was a work in progress from beginning to end but it was always somewhat entertaining and interesting. The most intriguing part of the series is that it’s limited: every season will bring a new story and a new cast. This season brought us Woody Harrelson growling and clinging on to some dated sense of masculinity while also wishing he cold give it up; it also brought us Matthew McConaughey’s jaded, College-junior level ruminations on the meaning and inherent hopelessness of life. It was ridiculous but also kind of fun and I think True Detective should continue down this path.

This is what leads to my opinion that season 2 should be about Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowrey, otherwise known as Martin Lawrence and Will Smith from the 1995 film Bad Boys. For those of you who remember, Bad Boys was the directorial debut of a flashy commercial and music video director by the name of Michael Bay. It has the benefit of being early in Bay’s career, before he figured out how to shove in 4,382 explosions into a 2 and a half hour movie while still making time for racist stereotype humor and gratuitous shots of women’s asses. Bad Boys as it stands is just a cheesy action movie that looks like a sleek early 90s music video that is propelled by two great performances made by two Black actors about to completely blow up.

All this said, there’s no two people I would rather watch discover the evil hidden in all men while trying to infiltrate a secret cult of white supremacist Miami club owners who sacrifice 20-something bottle girls for their satanic rituals than these men. Just imagine it for a second: Marcus Burnett, family man, watching his 37 kids grow up and growing distant from his wife but refusing to admit that it’s happening. He just wants to do his job and go home to wife to spend some quality time. Instead he’s got to put him with this secret cult bullshit. He blames Mike for this because he blames Mike for everything. As far as he’s concerned Mike is a magnet for this type of shit. Everywhere ol’ Mikey Mike goes, there’s a secret cult sacrificing women in satanic rituals. The truth is, he blames Mike because he envies Mike. Who the fuck is this trust fund cop anyways? He rides around in the nicest cars, fucks supermodels and uses this job as an excuse to live out his Commando dreams. Marcus’ resentment is understandable: nobody envisions a life unfulfilled, a marriage with a spark that has faded and children who treat you like you don’t matter. This job is the only thing that makes Marcus feel like a man, even if only for a moment, but it isn’t enough. Marcus would never cheat on his wife though–he just can’t bring himself to–so instead he accepts this life; a life of emasculation in a world where male truthers are desperately clinging onto the most basest, aggressive senses of male ego. In this world Marcus continues to make sense of it all.

And what of Mike Lowrey: rich kid, action cop who crashes cars into giant explosion piles and buys another one afterwards. Who cares? None of it matters anyway. Another impossibly hot woman comes to his beautiful condo in order to be pleasured by him and then never heard from again. He’s happy to oblige because he’s always happy to oblige, doesn’t mean anything to him anyways, just the same thing every single day. Mike loved someone once but it didn’t work out, maybe it was the toll the job took on him, maybe he just didn’t know anything about love or maybe after years of causal meaningless sex the concept of love is too foreign to ever be taken seriously. Love is probably imaginary anyways, he figures, just something to distract us as we die alone. Something is happening to Mike the deeper he gets into the cult of Miami club owners. Clubs used to be nothing more to him then a place for overly priced Hennessy and scantily clad women paid to entertain your advances. It never occurred to him that this place could harbor the worst qualities in man but now it only makes all too much sense. The animalistic masculinity and aggression on display mixed with the countless cases of sexual assault? Of course nightclubs could be linked to satanic rituals, if only he’d seen it earlier. If only he’d seen a lot of things earlier. Mike’s been obsessing over this case in between periods of reading nihilist works from Jim Crawford and Eugene Thacker. He’s been trying to make Marcus understand his newfound viewpoint but Marcus isn’t having it. “Now’s not the time Mike” he says; he always says this, because time is a flat circle and we’re doomed to repeat the same things. Mike has found himself obsessed with the boogie monster that leads this cult. He wants to understand how he thinks. He’s stopped shaving and keeping up appearances, Marcus doesn’t get why. Marcus never gets why. At least not until the time is opportune for him to get why (probably episode 8), at that point Marcus will have some insightful commentary about the meaning of life and our place in it and Mike will look at him with bated breath and proclaim, “NOW THAT’S HOW YOU ‘SPOSED TO PROGNOSTICATE THE FATE OF HUMANITY! FROM NOW ON, THAT’S HOW YOU PROGNOSTICATE THE FATE OF HUMANITY!”

So yes, this absolutely needs to be True Detective season 2.

BB-2

 

*****Includes spoilers… sort of******

Like any good American citizen, I’m currently in the process of rewatching Breaking Bad. The dark and intense story of Walter White’s transition from mild-mannered to evil drug kingpen has been an incredibly satisfying and grisly development to sit through.

Upon rewatch, the show is even better but no less uncomfortable; the drug business, after all, is not for the faintest of hearts. While this is indeed the story of “Mr. Chips becoming Scarface”, it’s also a show about the relationship and evolution of Jesse Pinkman: the foul-mouthed brat that started the show taking cues lifestyle cues from XXL and the juggalo lifestyle.
But let’s discuss Walt. It’s hard for me to identify with the thought process behind still rooting for the guy. He’s killed, lied and stolen for selfish reasons (the family excuse is most flimsy), he’s always been an arrogant and condescending asshole who talks down to any and everyone and he’s really just incredibly insufferable and has made everyone’s lives worse (especially Pinkman’s but we’ll get to that). Yet on some level, I get it. Many have pointed out that from the beginning, Walt has never been much of a good guy. He was never evil either, he was just the prototypical embodiment of the spineless “Falling Down” white male constantly frustrated by the life unfairly bestowed on him. It’s the story that’s been told a million times, only here it’s done in a more engrossing way.
Walt’s story may have started as the tale of a man who wanted to provide for his family before his death from lung cancer, but it became the tale about a man’s thirst for power and control. The tale of a man who got to finally profit from his genius the way he always felt he should have. Pretty much every murder or pain he’s taken part in–that wasn’t about protecting himself–has been about holding onto control. The only unselfish murder he committed was to protect Jesse in season 3, otherwise he’s made being a terrible person look natural.  But man has he been fun to watch. All love and respect to Brian Cranston, he went from Malcolm’s dad to Heisenberg and he’s been perfect the whole way through.  The only time Walt was ever unbearable to watch happened in the middle of season 4 but that seemed to be purposeful. Walt may not be someone to root for but he has been a great foil and madmen to watch.
Now Jesse is truly the heartstrings of this show. From his beginnings as a scrappy little punk, Jesse has been through hell and back and has truly shown himself to be nothing more than a kid who’s fucked up a few times and has no real direction in life. From the day he partnered up with Walter he’s been shot at, beat up and on the verge of death or depression multiple times.  He’s a kid who probably needed just a few more hugs in order to have lived life as a doctor instead of a junkie dealer. He’s in constant search of a father figure or family; he tries to find it in Walter who, to his credit, has stuck by his side thus far but really Walter only needs Jesse because he trusts him and he’s easily manipulated by his bullshit. Any moment where Walt has the chance to treat Jesse like a peer and deal with what’s troubling him is almost always blown so that Walt can instead focus on himself.  After the events of seasons 2 and 3, Jesse realized what kind of person this life has turned him into and it eats at his soul. It’s heartbreaking because Aaron Paul sells it and it’s tragic because it’s an all too familiar tale of ill-conceived loyalty to anyone who’ll give a damn by someone who just wants to be loved.
And that’s where we’re at as we near the end of the series. A man who’s gone into the darkest spaces of the human soul and embraced it and another man who’s gone to the same spaces and just wants to be held. It’s not completely clear how this story will end exactly but it barely matters. What does matter is who these people end up as by the time it’s over and whether or not the things they’ve done will come back to bite them or just haunt them. These last 8 are sure to be intense but when it’s all said and down I’ll miss these characters because of the richness and tragedy of their stories. The dad and the street punk have come a long ways.

So here we are. After 7 years of persistant purchasing/torrenting/renting; in-jokes amongst friends, message boards and pop culture blog comment sections and whispers of will-they, won’t-they: it’s finally here–new episodes of Arrested Development on Netflix.

Let’s just get this out of the way right now: there was no way that Arrested Development would truly thrive in this type of situation. The fevered anticipation of the series’ return as well as its increased popularity, thanks to the internet, made expectations way too high–not to mention the fact that, due to scheduling conflicts, all of the cast members weren’t able to consistently film together so instead the entire season is full of episodes dedicated to each character. As much as we’ve clamored and dreamed for this, nobody actually believed it would happen… and now that the day is here, it’s hard to know how to feel. There’s excitement in the air, as well as trepidation–even now this unedited babble is merely spilled over glee and conflict over what I’ve just watched and the aching need to write about it. Grantland’s Andy Greenwald posited on his mailbag the past Tuesday two questions (technically three, but only two matters): 1) Will the new season be any good? and 2) Will the new season be good enough?

The first one is an easy one to answer: Yes. It won’t shake up the world and it wasn’t without its duds. One of the things that has always helped AD is that, even in its weaker episodes (i.e. most of season 3),  the show thrived off of B, C or D stories from the other members of the Bluth family. Now, with each episode focused on specific characters, there are no B, C, or D stories and as a result–the duds really stand out. Not every character is meant to carry a full episode–especially full episodes that don’t adhere to a strict time format–and some of the storylines just don’t seem to stick, but the new season is definitely daring in its approach. It’s not just content to provide fan service (although there’s plenty) and it’s admirable that the show would take a risky approach like this. It doesn’t always work and it’s full of over-explanation, in an effort for a more “mainstream” audience to keep up. It gets grating at times–AD has always been great about respecting an audience’s intelligence–but overall it doesn’t get too out of hand. The pacing is a bit off, due to the way the episodes are structured. Most noticeably, the season is really, pretty dark. AD has always been great at balancing the heart of the show along with the dark undercurrent. There’s always a sense that these people love each other–even if it’s only because they have nobody else to turn to–but the new season focuses only on the darkness. At times it can be jarring. A lot of times. And you do get a very real sense that they’re building to something more: whether it’s another season, a movie or who knows (maybe a christmas special). It’s definitely the “empire strikes back” of seasons.

But let me get to the positives: this show is still very funny, very well written and well constructed. The world in which AD lives is a rich one and I can’t tell you how happy I am to be back in it. The standout episodes involve Tobias and Gob and Maeby (who is SERIOUSLY underutilized always). It’s always a joy to see Michael and George-Michael together, their relations goes through a lot of rough patches this season and it’s great watching the dynamic switch around. The season all together is a B+. Even with the duds, there’s enough comedy to make up for at least a few shortcomings.

Alas, now we get to the tough question: is it good enough? In a recent interview, Damon Lindelof (writer; “Lost”, “Prometheus”) stated, “my advice is you can’t win, and just tell your story.” He further added, “…a lot of them are going to be wrong, and it’s very hard for a human being to say, ‘I was wrong. You got me! Your way is better!’ Most people say, like, ‘My way is better, and because my way is better, I know your show better than you know your show.'” There’s no way for Mitch Hurwitz and company to win. There are millions of things that different fans want and feel entitled to receive from the show. There’s no way to meet all of them nor should they feel the need to. All they can really do is make the show they wanna make and see if it can stand up with the rest of the series. It’s pretty clear that–all constraints considered–they made the show they wanted to make. So while the show may not be “good enough”, it’s still fine. There are bits that are amongst the series best and are better than anything else on TV this past season; I’ve already found myself quoting things from the new season and there are plenty of sight gags and callbacks that work effectively.

You can’t please everyone nor should you try. There will be those who absolutely love this season and there will be those who deplore it. There will be debates, arguments, backlashes, backlashes to the backlashes and think pieces much longer, much more eloquent and well-written then mine. Ultimately, it will be time that has the final say so on this season. I think time will be kind to this season–there’s still a lot here to love–and I don’t think it’s far off from its complicated and rushed third season. Hopefully there is still money in the banana stand and we do get that movie but for now this will do: a sometimes good, sometimes underwhelming return to form. It may not be the height of excellence but, for me, I’m so happy to be around the Bluth family again (I’m getting ready for a second run through). Who would’ve thought a lowly rated show that FOX tried to burnoff in a two-hour block on the opening night of the Olympics would make such a huge impact on the lives of so many people. What a fun, sexy time for all of us.

Big news on this morning: as I may have mentioned here before, I’ve been volunteering my services to the greater good of getting shows by black creators made in some form or fashion. The show in question: Quarter Century, a show about mid-to-late 20s young professionals in DC, by FAMU alumna Shayla Racquel (@ShaylaRacquel). The show is really well done and getting better each episode (and I’m not just saying that) and just recently HBCU Digest, popular online magazine about the goings on in historically black schools, recently named it one of its top 5 web series.

You can read the article here and check out episode 1 and episode 2 right now. While you’re at it, go ahead and follow the series creator and the show itself (@QCwebseries). In the words of Ron Howard: “Please tell your friends about this show”. Man, I can’t wait for Arrested Development to get here already.

 

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On January 22, 2003, Comedy Central premiered a new sketch comedy series by a funny, yet relatively unknown comic named Dave Chappelle. Named simply Chappelle’s Show, it was a modest little production that aired on a Tuesday and, suffice it to say, one of the most important moments in television began. I remember watching the first episode in my room with the sound low, because my parents did not allow me and my sisters to watch TV during the school week. I remember that very funny (and now incredibly dated) opening sketch and I remember that great blooper of that first sketch that followed it. Then, of course, there was the final sketch of the night: the black white supremacist frontline sketch; I was still relatively young at this point but even then I knew how ridiculous this idea was and but I was still too young to fully grasp just how daring of a sketch it was. With it, Chappelle’s Show had already cemented its legacy in the first episode.

Ten years later, it’s hard to watch the show without thinking of it in some sort of pseudo-psychological way. You look for the cracks within the show that led to Chappelle quitting: the symbolism in the sketches, the hints of animosity, hell even Paul Mooney seems prophetic in retrospect. It’s hard to remember how you felt when you first watched the show all those years ago. For that first season, I remember loving it instantly (I also remember being one of the few of my fellow classmates watching) and I remember planning out ways that I could watch it each week without my parents catching me. The second season was even better—in fact,  it’s one of the best seasons of any television series—and suddenly everyone in my school knew every line of every sketch. I knew how great the show was then but, having been a television obsessive at that point (and just being an all-around pessimist), I never felt good about the show’s third season. At the time it was mostly a fear that it just wouldn’t be as funny or as good as those first two seasons but, as we all soon would find out, there was a lot more to it than that. By now we all know the story (and if you don’t, start here), the show was a machine and it no longer felt comfortable so Dave bolted. That’s not what matters believe it or not; despite the controversial ending of the entire series, Chappelle’s show was too good a series and too important a moment to have that overshadow it.

We could argue all day whether Dave should’ve left or not. Was the show getting too big to handle? Maybe, was it dangerously close to moving away from responsible yet extreme social commentary to just plain masked racism? Possibly, did he make the right call by turning down the money and leaving at the peak? It depends on what vantage point you look at the situation. What I do know is that for two years Dave Chappelle captured the world’s attention by putting on one of the most brilliant, important and funny programs to ever air on television. Yes there were the lost episodes that make season 3, and while it had some great moments, it just didn’t cut it—it’s basically The Godfather 3 of the series. Chappelle’s show was a phenomenon and a force; when you think of lil Jon, you’ll think of Dave first (same goes for Rick James, Prince, Wayne Brady and R. Kelly). I still say “game, blouses” and “this ain’t trading places nigga, this is real fucking life! Protect ya got damn neck!” on weekly basis. Charlie Murphy will always be the guy who got UNITY jabbed into his forehead, Donnell Rawlins will always be “Ashy Larry, Marcy projects… Marcy son, what!” Wayne Brady will always be the guy the scariest black actor ever and when a rapper says “turn my head phones up” or some variation on a track, I will forever laugh. When I remember Making The Band, all I’ll really remember is Chappelle’s parody of it; if I actually heard a white person scream “white power” in public, I would laugh because of Chappelle too. Tyrone Biggums, Tron, ridiculous comedy special tropes, Mos Def making bird calls and Dave running out of a press conference when questioned about oil are some of the best things ever, and no matter what Rashida Jones does she’s never more perfect than when she tells her friend all about “some pads that’ll make your flow mothafuckin’ tizight.” At the end of season 2, Dave’s last words were, “we shook up the world!” That you did Dave… that you did.

I find Girls to be a pretty enjoyable show. The idea that it’s such a polarizing program is mostly laughable. There’s nothing really “offensive” about it–the lives of over-privileged white girls slumming it because their parents won’t give them more money, that’s a pretty damn safe premise.  Most of the vitriol (and praise) it is just a tad unnecessary.

Calling it one of the best new shows on television doesn’t really say much (I mean it’s closest competition is probably Veep) and calling it a “great” show seems a bit much. As I stated before, it’s enjoyable–it even has moments of greatness–but it always struck me a show just shy of being a favorite of mine. Something about the construction of the show doesn’t click with me enough–and it isn’t because I don’t relate to it, I don’t give a shit about that–I think I just find it hard to care about Lena Dunham’s “Hanna” character.

The detractors of the show, while making some valid points, go just as overboard. If you don’t like a show that’s fine; entertainment is subjective and people have opinions. The idea that this show deserves some sort of special hatred pedestal is ridiculous. As far as the whole “no ethnic people” issue, well here’s the thing: the criticism is deserved but let’s not forget that this is a show about over-privileged white girls written by an over-privileged white girl. She’s writing what she knows, and while she herself admits that there is a level of responsibility to reflect reality, it seems to me that the New York of Girls is just another reflection of a life she’s led. That’s not to say she doesn’t know any black people, that’s just to imply that it’s probably a limited experience.

With that being said, much like with The Walking Dead, I will be tuned in to the new season. Hoping that this likable show becomes lovable and that the characterizations get a little better than they were in season 1. Here’s hoping.

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