Friday, November 26, 2021

Studio C (BYU TV)-Can child-friendly sketch comedy be edgy?

 Studio C (BYU TV)-From what I can gather, there’s a sketch comedy group on campus at BYU in Provo, Utah. Some kids from this sketch group decided “hey, let’s be professional sketch comedians.” I’m sure there are lots of other capable college kids in college sketch groups who have had those same thoughts before reality and student debt hit them. But these kids had two advantages: 1) The college owns a successful TV station with a base that pulls on the Mormon community which includes half the state of Utah and 2) These kids have a distinctive brand of comedy.

BYU, and Mormon culture in general, is watchful of things that are PG-13 rated entertainment-wise. As a result, all of BYU’s content is family friendly which means no swearing and limited talking about sexy stuff. There might also be other stuff they’re not allowed to do on TV- like portray demon worship, express enjoyment towards the Red Hot Chili Peppers, or show people drinking hot tea* — but I have absolutely no idea as I don’t have a copy of the standards and practices in front of me.

*They did a pretty clever sketch with a couple going on a romantic dinner and milk was used a stand-in for wine. Maybe that’s poking fun at a restriction the writers have on using alcohol in sketches?

The end result is a sketch comedy that goes out of its way to be family friendly. The show might be less edgy in terms of blue content but one can admire the way they work with less punchline options to produce more.

Another great thing is that, regardless of your religious affiliation, most parents wouldn’t let their kids skip straight from Sesame Street to Saturday Night Live. This show has the potential to get kids involved in sketch comedy before they’re old enough to watch Saturday Night Live.

The show’s cast was originally comprised of students transitioned from college to the show. They deserve credit for taking the idea and launching it successfully but it was clear that this was a college sketch troupe.

At some point, the old cast went to form a patreon-funded sketch troupe independent of the TV station and there was a nationwide casting call that drew in professional actors to the show. The show now has a new level of polish and a universality (the original cast relied on inside jokes) that takes the concept to a new level.

The cast is assorted with improv theater trained actors, university theater majors (Matt Galvan and Garet Allenn), musical comedians (Jetta Juriansz), and stand-up comedians (Arvin Mitchell).

Juriansz, for example, was on America’s Got Talent where she sang this song.

She brings her ukelele song-writing talents here directly to the show. The above number is performed with larger production values

The BYU TV station is entirely for free where individual episodes can be shown

Sunday, November 21, 2021

What I'm Watching November Edition: Ghosts (CBS), B Positive (CBS), Locke and Key (Netflix), Inside Job (Netflix), La Brea (NBC)



Ghosts (CBS) Season 1-Utkarsh Ambudkar and Rose McIver star as a yuppie couple from the Big Apple who inherit a mansion that’s inhabited by eight ghosts of different eras. There’s a Viking who grunts a lot; a Native American; an effeminate Revolutionary War captain; a 19th Century schoolmarm with aristocratic roots; a sassy flapper from the Prohibition Era; a flower child who is permanently tripping through the afterlife; a square scout leader from the 80s; and a Wall Street playboy from the 90s. The octet makes for a brilliantly strange found family of people whose only commonality is that they died in the the same spot -- seemingly all of them in comic ways.

Before the arrival of Sam, the ghosts simply had little choice but to entertain each other and passively experience the house’s occupants. However, when Sam has a near death experience, the ghosts are suddenly able to communicate with her and suddenly the living and dead residents of the house have to renegotiate a living arrangement between them.

While there might not be a clear stand-out character among the ghost crew,  the contrasts and dynamics between them add up to making them more than the sum of their parts. This a clever premise that’s executed with just the right light-hearted tone. There’s a certain urgency stemming from the couple’s financial uncertainty regarding their plan that adds some stakes but mostly it’s a lot of fun. 

 



B Positive (CBS) Season 2- Starring the underrated Annaleigh Ashford and token schlub Thomas Middleditch, B Positive is a multi-cam laugh track sitcom that’s a good reminder that sitcoms have evolved for the better nowadays.

The hook is that Thomas's character had an organ donated to him by Ashford's character. At least I think so. There isn't much of the premise's DNA by season 2. It's mostly just a guy fawning over a girl who works in a nursing home.

Annaleigh Ashford’s character is remarkably similar to his other female protagonist creations from “Mom” (Anna Farris) and “Big Bang Theory” (Kaley Cuoco) who wear their hearts on their sleeve and have low filters. I’ve been a fan of Ashford since the days of “Masters of Sex” so here’s hoping her career can take off like theirs.

Similarly, there’s a will-they-won’t-they between the leads that already feels strained by the third episode I saw. I’m taking a pass on the rest. 



Inside Job (Netflix) Season 1: An animated cartoon about a federal government department that does damage control in a world where most conspiracy theories are true. Although it has some of the cynicism of “Rick and Morty”, it’s co-created and executive produced by Alex Hirsch (along with Shion Takeuchi)  who’s most famous for the imaginative yet child-appropriate “Gravity Galls.” It’s a dark turn for sure from the creator and the complexity of the subject matter is heightened by giving the central protagonist (Lizzie Caplan) the Aesperger’s label.

Like “Ghosts”, the show’s premise is a winner and there are memorable moments. The first episode begins with protagonist Raegan Ridley (Caplan) trying to stop her dad from making a fool of himself  in front of the White House as he shouts crazy dribble through a megaphone. It’s immediately established that this is a routine task for Reagan through the fact that this is simply part of her daily commute. It’s smart, economic storytelling and funny in a relatable sense (especially considering I’m a DC native who has seen this kind of activity at the White House often).

The episode involving Valentine’s Day and the nostalgia trip through the 80s are both pretty funny despite following conventional tropes (how many Valentine’s Day episodes have you seen before?). However, the rest of the season was a bit uneven and I’m worried about how high the upper ceiling is on this show. It’s still mildly watchable. 







Locke and Key (Netflix) Season 2-The YA fantasy series is set in an idyllic New England town where a widowed mom of three, Nina Locke (Darby Stanchfield of “Scandal”), moves into her husband’s old home and the family unwittingly enters into a battle of good and evil. As the title indicates the weapons of choice are a set of magical keys that have various functions (one allows you to see into another’s psyche, one allows you to control someone else’s movements, one traps you into a mirror, etc.) and the protagonist family is the Lockes. Get it? Yeah, it’s cute.

In the second season, the show upped the stakes significantly as the big bad, Gabe, used a shape-shifting power to disguise himself as Kinsey’s boyfriend. The show appears to be made for teenage viewers whose hearts are set aflutter with shipping possibilities among various high schoolers. With that caveat, if a show has to cram in superfluous teenage romance storylines, it’s best if the relationship drama ties into the plot. That’s why Kinsey’s love triangle between Gabe and her ex Scott was a nicely performed tightrope act that raised the stakes this season.

Speaking of love interests, apparently Uncle Duncan is gay and engaged? The former’s not a problem (although he’s non-stereotypical which isn’t a good or bad thing but I wonder if his sexuality was changed in adaptation to give the show a token gay character) but isn’t he a reclusive amnesiac? Additionally, Mommy Locke gets a hunky boyfriend this season whose motivations are a welcome enigma.

The show gets a little overly sentimental at points but the essence of the relationships work and the serialization is engaging throughout the entire 10-episode run. Pretty highly recommend. 




La Brea (NBC)-A cross-section of LA denizens fall through a groundswell in Los Angeles that takes them to the stone age and prompts the question “how is this different from a normal day in Los Angeles?” Seriously, I don’t know. It seems like an LA thing though from so many films and TV shows I’ve seen.  

The show cross-cuts between two different scenes.

The dad and husband of two of the victims has paranormal premonitions about what’s happening and gets the attention of a shadow government agency that is determined to suppress the truth and conduct a rescue mission.

Getting the lion’s share of the action is the group of displaced people as they try to figure out what is happening in a loose rip-off of “Lost.” The crew includes a wide variety of professionals such that many are the deus-ex-machinas for each other’s ailments. There’s a kid with life-threatening injuries but fortunately there’s a doctor among the stranded to rescue him. Ditto with a stunted child who’s been trained to pretend she’s mute and a child psychologist who needs to get information from her without traumatizing. Similarly, there’s a paleontologist who can decipher the tea leaves and a cop who can keep order.

The coincidental nature of each person’s abilities isn’t so bad but there’s a clunkiness to the dialogue and the character development that’s par for the course for standard broadcast procedurals rather than the middle brow serial this show aspires to be. This certainly slows down the show but it’s marginally watchable and has enough potential that it’s worth finishing the season.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Kim's Convenience and Managing Offensiveness as a Viewer

Kim’s Convenience (CBC  ---> Netflix) Season 1- The show stars a nuclear family in Toronto with two immigrant parents and two fully integrated millennial children. The college-aged daughter (Andrea Bang) is as rebellious as a daughter can be who lives under her parents’ roof whereas the son (Simu Liu) is a high-living bachelor who works as middle management in a rental car agency.  

The degree of development given to the parents (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee and Jean Yoon), on the other hand- yikes!  I haven’t delved too much into critical response to the show (it matters much less with streaming television, however), but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was extremely negative. It traffics in such roughly drawn stereotypes of Korean-American characters that I have no idea how this show got on the air. The two parents speak Chinglish despite being in the country for decades, they’re extremely judgmental and stick out for their tight-fisted avarice more than any altruistic means. A more forgiving view could see what the writers are going for: Capturing the meddling nature of Asian-American parents but this is beyond the line of overkill.

Here’s the thing though: I’m capable of compartmentalizing this negative aspect of the show and enjoy the parts of the show that work.

I can also take comfort of knowing that this is the show exists alongside a media landscape that has rapidly increased the visibility for Asian-Americans including  “Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (what tipped me off to this show’s existence), “Crazy Rich Asians”. “Minari”, “Blue Bayou”, “Parasite”, “The Farewell” and “Fresh off the Boat.” I can’t speak to how a negative stereotype personally affects an Asian-American but I’d consider it reasonable that a negative portrayal of Asian-Americans in one work today would have significantly more effect than in an era with sparser representation.  In fact, I’d argue that there’s a freedom that needs to be celebrated with a rich landscape of representation allowing for filmmakers not to be burdened with having to confine a character from this demographic to any one template, even if it’s a backwards character.

It’s also worth noting that the show is co-created by a Korean-American (which technically makes it just as valid of a representation of Korean-American culture as anything else) and there are elements of the culture that the show gets right including how immigrant families might end up in arrested development due to greater geographic proximity to their parents and living at home.

Am I saying that show works extraordinarily? No, it’s mostly just mindless popcorn entertainment, but there’s a need to turn my brain off with my entertainment every once in a while. The show’s plots work. Besides the show has its moments. The sheer cringe factor of auxiliary character Shannon (Nicole Powers) is off the charts and it’s always nice to see Janet’s tiny levels of enjoyment with her parents amidst the heavy layers of obligatory loyalty.

Update:

It appears two stars have spoken up about a divisive environment in the writer's room:

-The cast claims that it was understood that they would draw upon the experiences of the Korean-American actors and they were locked out of the creative process. This is justifiably frustrating in my opinion.
-Additionally the writer's room was largely not Korean and never consulted any resources to be able to be accurate. I generally maintain that a show creator doesn't need to be bashed if they don't get the exact ratio of white to non-white writers correctly BUT if you are creating a show about Koreans and don't use actual Korean consultants, that's pretty disrespectful to your audience.
-One cast member said the Asian-American who wrote the play upon which the TV show was based, Ins Choi, was stifled in the writer's room. The other said that Ins Choi was part of the ignoring of other voices.My original impression that the show was guided by a South Korean show runner might have been incorrect.
-The cast members said their characters never really grew. I've only seen the first season and it doesn't really seem like one of those shows. Like "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" or "Little Mosque on the Prairie", the show formula seems to be based on comfort in familiarity. Still, there are ways to grow the cast (i.e. Mac coming out, Dennis briefly getting married) without sacrificing that familiarity. 

-The cast members admitted a lot of nuance in their thoughts. Their feelings were torn over how to express this all. Bravo!

-The cast members were resentful that their non-Asian star got a sequel even though they wish her the best. This is my only issue with their post. Their co-star shouldn't be solely defined by being non-Asian and the decision to spin her off isn't as simple as serving a "non-Asian" character. There are a lot more dimensions to Shannon such as the fact that, well, she's probably the most marketable character. That their costar became a break out character isn't something they should begrudge her for, and even if they are explicitly wishing her the best, they are indirectly damning her in today's twitter climate. 

 

 

Kim's Convenience star Simu Liu puts producers on blast in explosive Facebook post (blogto.com)




Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Reverse Engineering "Little Mosque on the Prairie" Show Bible

 If you have watched the show "Little Mosque on the Prairie" (which can now be watched for free on YouTube), this post will be a really great read. If not, I understand it's not your cup of tea. I definitely recommend watching this show in the interim.

Running from 2007 to 2012, “Little Mosque on the Prairie” was a Canadian-produced TV show that caught a small audience in the US through Hulu. The show centers around a community of Muslims in a small town on the Canadian Prairie. Despite having characters as morally despicable as a shock jock and a fundamentalist Muslim who bashes Western decadence. Still, the show boasts a gooey small-town vibe like Andy Griffith or (sister show) Schitt’s Creek.

But how does such dissonance work? The show is filled with life events as serious as divorces, a major character quitting his jobs over unrequieted love, hateful characters being kept in check, a major character being put on a bus 




In trying to analyze how the show is successful, I tried considering what a character bible might look like.

For example, animator Chuck Jones of Loony Tunes and his team were said to follow these simple rules when creating the Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoons

  1. The Road Runner cannot harm the Coyote except by going “meep, meep.”
  2. No outside force can harm the Coyote — only his own ineptitude or the failure of Acme products. Trains and trucks were the exception from time to time.
  3. The Coyote could stop anytime — if he were not a fanatic.
  4. No dialogue ever, except “meep, meep” and yowling in pain.
  5. The Road Runner must stay on the road — for no other reason than that he’s a roadrunner.
  6. All action must be confined to the natural environment of the two characters — the southwest American desert.
  7. All tools, weapons, or mechanical conveniences must be obtained from the Acme Corporation.
  8. Whenever possible, make gravity the Coyote’s greatest enemy.
  9. The Coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures.
  10. The audience’s sympathy must remain with the Coyote.
  11. The Coyote is not allowed to catch or eat the Road Runner.

So what might be the "Little Mosque on the Prairie" rules?
My take:
1. Even though some of the characters (particularly Fred, Joe, Baber, and later Reverend Thorne) are tactless, willfully ignorant and even malicious, the recipients of their spite are never emotionally affected. This keeps any negative vibes from dominating the tone of the show.*
2. The ordeals of the show's main protagonist,  Amaar, are largely secular concerns (people not taking him seriously with no beard, annoyances with Fred or Baber, working around Yasser's sloth, etc.) rather than existential religious struggles. This is to keep the show's tone in the realm of a light sitcom....
3. At the same time, Amaar's faith is constant. In fact, the issue of faith is such a non-issue, that it's not a source of meaningful enough drama to build an episode around. In one episode, for example, Amaar is lured into a double date which he endures to be socially polite. A show about a wavering cleric would have Amaar wrestle with his attraction for his date. Instead, Amaar never allows himself to consider the event a date, and the episode's comic inertia revolves around Amaar's insecurity that his non-date didn't have a good time.
4. The show's Muslim Characters fall along a dichotomy of taking faith too seriously or not seriously enough with Amaar and McGee at the center.
Sarah, Yasser, and Layla fall in the below axis whereas Baber and Joe are too religious. Rayyan falls roughly in the middle which is why there is so much foreshadowing that she is Amaar's other half.
5. The idyllic small-town feel is partially created by unlikely loving family units whether Baber/Layla, Sarah/Yassir/Rayyan and to a lesser extent Fatima/Jamal or the makeshift family of McGee/Amaar. Baber and Layla shouldn't get along since her father is such a tyrannical idiot but the show seems to make it work with the eyeroll and occasional temper tantrum. Similarly, Rayyan seems to do her fair amount of eye rolling but rarely do you see an adult child and her parents get along so well. The lack of family conflicts (at the nuclear level) is also a hallmark of 1950s and 1960s shows like Leave it to Beaver, Andy Griffith, and the Donna Reed Show and it was roundly mocked in the 1998 film Pleasantville.
6. Characters are inherently good but none of the secular characters are above cutting corners in life. Whether Yasser's sloth, the Mayor's vanity, or even Amaar's ego, there are areas within every character for self-improvement.
7. Characters are inter-connected. Fred and Baber, for example, are both dislikeable characters, but they both are able to carve out a healthy and affirming relationship with Fatima. Joe and later Reverend Thorne have good connections to the Muslim community with time.

*I've read a number of viewer reviews that were turned off of the show when Thorne entered in Season 4. This could be because his presence broke this cardinal rule. His threats of eviction of his Muslim tenants had definite consequences to the status quo.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Sketch: If Three Casual Jodie Foster fans decided to unknowingly replicate the Reagen assassination attempt

This is an attempt at some dark humor. One event that my generation probably doesn't know much about (because it was too recent to be on our AP US History tests) is that Ronald Reagan got shot at the Washington Hilton by a mentally ill John Hinckley who became obsessed with Jodie Foster after watching Taxi Driver 15 times. 

I'm not all about writing fiction but I've tried to dabble a little.

Team Jodie Foster

Characters: Sam, James, Kevin, Lisa

Sam, Kevin and Erin are watching TV as Lisa and James enter in the apartment.

Erin: I gotta say this film is really growing on me.

Kevin: Yeah, originally I was like what is this romance with this campaign worker, but then Jodi Foster started showing up and really has made this movie better 

Erin: Yeah, Jodi Foster is really the saving this movie.

Sam: You know, I’m going to go a step farther than that and say that Jodi Foster is totally saving our week. I was looking forward to movie night all week and think at how much this movie would’ve blown if Jodie Foster wasn’t in it.

Kevin: Totally

Sam: Maybe we should give her a shout-out on twitter.

Kevin: Yeah, good idea.

Sam: Oh wait, she’s not on twitter.

Kevin: Damn, I love her even more. She’s elusive, I like that

Sam: How about Instagram?

Kevin: (checking) Um, no

Sam: Snapchat, TikTok, BingBong, WingWong, Friendster, Sexster?

Kevin: No, no, no, no, no, and no

Sam: Hmmm, you know we should go big or go home. Let’s just shoot the president

Erin: What the hell?!?

Sam: Well, we don’t have to kill him. Just maybe shoot at him a little bit and not hit him in the critical areas. Besides, I get this strange feeling that Jodie Foster doesn’t like US presidents

Erin:  Are you seri----you know what? I think I can see that

Kevin: Hey guys, I got a problem with this. I like Joe Biden. I don’t want him to die.

Erin: Hmmm… well, we could shoot the last President

Kevin: Yeah, but everyone wants to kill the last President. It wouldn’t really be a good way to show our that we’re Team Jodie.

Erin: Ditto Ted Cruz.

Sam: I’ve gotta be honest with you, I’ve always wanted to do something violent against US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Kevin: Duh, no one likes Tom Vilsack. He currently wants to consolidate the seed industry in order to keep agriculture more competitive but some economists say that with the added impact from the bottom of the supply chain on up, it’s going to result in higher prices for consumers.

Sam: And he totally bungled his testimony at the latest congressional hearing on expediting processing plant speed in the pork industry

Erin: How many times have we been over this, you idiots, the responsibility for the six swine-processing plants that have reported a slowdown in production isn’t under the purview of the DOA but legislation written by congress under the Trump administration that has hampered the executive department’s ability to regulate such things as efficiency.

Kevin: Guys, I think we’re getting off track. So if Vilsack’s off the table, let’s think about someone else.

Sam: Oohh, how about President Reagan. 

Kevin: You know, I’m starting to think that just shoot anyone ex-president is a really, really bad idea

Sam: Huh, why not?

Kevin: Well, I read somewhere that you get in a lot of trouble for it, there’s like a word for it, I think it starts with an A. Assartilation. It’s like a crime or something.

Erin: And I feel like maybe we should go play pokemon instead. I don’t have the energy to go all the way to wherever it is that ex-presidents live.

Kevin: You know, a lot of the ex-presidents go to the Washington Hilton for the National Correspondent’s Press dinner, that’s not too much of a walk

Erin: OK, let’s do it if it’s not too long of a walk. And we can shout “Team Jodie!” or something. 

Kevin: Loving it.

Erin: So, what else do we need to do?

[James walks in the door]

James: Hey guys, what are you watching

Kevin: Taxi Driver

James: You know, my dad saw it in the 70s when it first came out

Kevin: Huh? This is an older movie?

James: Yeah, you couldn’t tell. I mean Jodie Foster’s a kid in this movie and Albert Brooks is like 70-something now

Sam: Wait, I’m looking it up…oh wait, Jodie Foster’s 58 years old

Erin: Ewww, she’s over the hill.

Sam: Yeah, I feel much less obsessed with her now that she’s old

Kevin: Hmmm, ok, next week instead of killing the president, let’s just play Pokemon Go

Erin: Yeah, seems much less bloody

(Erin, James, and Sam walk out)

Kevin: Yeah, I think I need new roommates



 

 




 

Friday, October 01, 2021

What I'm Watching September Update: Lost Symbol, AP Bio, Only Murders in the Building, The Premise review

 

Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol (Peacock):  Dan Brown has pretty much the exact plot in every book with different details. But the devil’s in the details and he has some extremely thorough details and those details are his hook.

The thing is that Dan Brown has to invent an awful lot of dues-ex-machina situations in order to manufacture situation in which a stuffy Harvard intellectual (no matter how good looking) like Robert Langdon is called upon to save the world. I say “thing” and not “problem”, mind you, because the suspension of disbelief is a price we’ll gladly pay for the mind-blowing historical nuggets wrapped up in a James Bond-style adventure.

So with that said, this show will never earn points for originality or excellent screenwriting but it’s extremely comfortable as popcorn entertainment and I plan on gobbling it up. The cliffhangers also help and this adventure appears to be set (or at least) start in my hometown of Washington D.C. so I’m excited so far.


Only Murders in the Building (Hulu)-The best part of the show is the press interviews between the odd trio of Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez. Unfortunately, that’s not part of the show itself which is surprisingly mediocre.

It’s a shame because Martin Short and Steve Martin are generally can’t-miss propositions and the idea of three amateur podcasters solving a murder plot involves a healthy degree of serialization.

So why is this so boring? For one, the actual murder isn’t something that’s particularly engaging.  The idea is that one of the three members (Gomez) of this makeshift sleuthing team was a childhood friend of the murder victim but the show only commits to that angle half-heartedly.

Another problem with the show is that it feels awfully insiderish. “Only Murders in the Building” is set in a pretty insular Manhattan world and two of the three characters are aging showbiz archetypes. I’m on record as feeling pretty sated by sitcom characters who are in show business so this isn’t drawing me any closer. The show tries to mine pathos from Martin and Short’s characters as two old men looking back on their lives from the perspective of their twilights but there are character arcs are pretty predictable.

As for reasons to keep watching, Amy Ryan plays a love interest to Steve Martin and the chemistry is genuinely sweet between these two. Additionally, there’s a very high probability that Steve Martin or Amy Ryan will do something funny considering that’s what they’ve been doing for most of their lives.

What We Do in the Shadows (FX)-This has been reviewed previously, but this show continues to fire on all cylinders. At its best, you have home run episodes like The Casino or the one where Nandoor picks up the same girl in the gym three times. 

 


 

The Premise (FX)-BJ Novak’s anthology series is an attempt to dramatize hot button issues through scenarios in which characters have to make difficult choices. Through the first three episodes, the series has been a little tonally inconsistent and hasn’t always been rewarding but the general nuts and bolts of a good idea is there.

In the first episode, a socially conscious white person (Ben Platt) has to humiliate himself in court to free a black person from an unlawful arrest. It’s a direct nod to George Floyd or Michael Brown or all that.  It successfully puts a character in a tight spot though it probably splits viewers along where you stand on the degree to which white allies need to be tested on their allyship.  Either way it’s provocative.

The second episode features a new hire (Jon Bernthal) for an expy of the National Rifle Association. He seems like a loyal foot soldier to the cause but he might or might not be secretly wanting to blow up the place. This is more of a guessing game (the character already knows what they’re going to do) than a provocative morality tale.

The third episode is about a pop star (Lucas Hedges) who wants to inspire his high school alma mata (and perhaps do a little performance art) by offering to sleep with the valedictorian. It’s a fine commentary on the commodification of sex in society. Beside one jarring scene in which two of the candidates exposition the hell out of what the audience is supposed to think, this is the best of the three.

AP Bio (Peacock): Show runner Michael Patrick O’Brien has done such a fantastic job world-building over the first three seasons, that I can’t imagine myself ever getting bored with this show. As I’ve written about plenty of times before, this is a brilliant and endlessly fun show about a high school teacher who initially goes out of his way to be beyond redeemable before his better angels win out (often before each episode’s conclusion) and features an extremely deep bench of quirky students, fellow teachers, and one helluva needy prinicipal (Patton Oswalt).

The problem is the actress who plays Jack’s love interest Lynette got another gig that paid her more than the recurring guest star credit. It’s hard to hold that against the show, but they handle the transition poorly.

Lynette and Jack are vibing one episode, and the next, she’s being put on a bus. And to pour salt in the wound, Jack is dating someone else so fast? I understand the need to make sure good romantic plot lines are unused, but Elizabeth was uniquely twisted. The most twisted thing about the new love interest (Hayley Marie Norman) is that she has problems sabotaging her own relationships. But, make no mistake, she’s nowhere in Lynette’s league in terms of juvenile fun. Alderfer could sell you with her sly smile.

The show still has a great penchant for experimentation with a great Marcus episode in there.

 



Nine Perfect Strangers (Hulu)-This is a pretty dark anthology adapted from a novel that I wouldn’t be surprised is far better.

The cast features lots of heavy hitters including Melissa McCarthy, Michael Shannon, Nicole Kidman, Bobby Cannavale, and---wait, is that Jason Mendoza form “The Good Place”? Let me tell you, this show is pretty eerie by design, but seeing Manny Jacinto under the sex spell of Nicole Kidman is a new level of bizarre.

The story is about some wealthy clientele who go to a healing resort where their anxieties are treated to some unorthodox methods. It’s not too far off from the far superior “White Lotus” anthology series on in its “Vacation is Hell” theme. So yeah, watch “White Lotus” instead.

Miracle Workers: Oregon Trail (TBS)-Previously reviewed last month. It’s not the best season of this anthology but it is still worthwhile.

 The show gathered a little coherence by the end but it rarely had a stand-out episode. At times when the show was attempting to mine humor out of today’s commentary (using Todd’s alliance with Benny’s outlaw daughter as a stand-in for Trumpism), there was no subtlety. When the show didn’t approach hot-button issues from a perpendicular angle, there was a lot of breathing room for Simon Rich’s brilliance to shine through. When Prudence and Todd encounter the 19th Century version of hipsters, there’s a lot that works because the show mixes up anachronisms between our modern lens and historical realities.