Friday, May 14, 2021

Should I PlagueWatch It?: Series Finale!

In March 2020, I inaugurated on this blog what I said "may but hopefully won't(?) become an ongoing series": Should I PlagueWatch It? Basically, it took the thing Jill and I do best -- watch TV -- and offered our recommendations for what you should watch to get you through the pandemic.

Over a year later, Should I PlagueWatch It? did, indeed, become a series. In addition to the first entry -- HBO's Avenue 5 -- I also did entries on Gentleman Jack, Marvel's Runaways, Alpha House, Never Have I Ever, Jelle's Marble Runs, Making the Cut, and a "roundup" post that covered Billions, Insecure, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Ultimate Tag, Titan Games, and Holey Moley.

But now, it feels we're finally closing the chapter on the pandemic. Jill and I are vaccinated, my parents came to visit this past weekend, we're seeing friends, the CDC says we can go unmasked. It seems, alas, that all good things must come to an end. And while the pandemic itself is certainly not a good thing, some of us may be feeling a bit bittersweet at the prospect of being expected to interact with other humans rather than sit around and watch Netflix all day.

So to wrap up the series, one more omnibus "quick hits" review of all the shows we PlagueWatched that haven't yet gotten their own entry.

* * * Mild spoilers * * *

Blown Away
  • Reality TV can be wonderful in its formulaicness. Take a random hobby, find ten people who are pretty good at it, dangle $50,000 in front of them, and bang, you've got a competition show. This one's about glass blowing. I know nothing about glass blowing, but the competitors seem pretty talented to me?
  • I was impressed at how versatile a medium glass is. I worried when I started the show that the challenges would end up being pretty one note (how many vases can one make?). But the competitors actually made a lot of really cool material!
  • There's a lot of running and swinging and flailing given that they're handling molten-hot material.  It stressed me out. Also, apparently "glory holes" are an essential part of glass blowing, and nobody made a joke about it.
  • This show is definitely more in the "everyone likes and supports one another" mold of reality TV compared to the "constant cat fights and 'I'm not here to make friends'" mold. No judgment, just letting you know what to expect.
  • A Netflix series about a young college student with no sexual experience who decides she needs to develop an app to optimize the female orgasm. It's not the most innovative concept, but it works well enough.
  • Of the core trio, my favorite character is Paulina -- the religious Catholic best-friend who is having (bad) sex with her fiancé and feels guilty about even that sin. She does a lot of great expressive work and has some superb character beats (her popcorn addiction -- just casually munching away while watching porn). 
  • Speaking of Paulina, at the outset I told Jill she looked like someone and Jill's first guess was "a plainer Emily Blunt" (that's not an insult -- who isn't plainer than Emily Blunt?). It wasn't who I was thinking of, and soon I realized the answer was like six women I've known over the years. So maybe "plainer Emily Blunt" is a more common face than I realized?
  • The show is in Polish (with subtitles), and I'm very proud that I managed to identify the language as Polish right away (I do not speak a word of Polish).
  • The musical motif for the show combines one of the catchiest guitar riffs I've ever heard with a sample loop of a woman's sex moans. It fits the show perfectly, but it's a bit awkward to listen to on its own.
  • You shouldn't need me to tell you about this show. It's good, but my hottest take -- and I stand by it -- is that as an exploration of grief Never Have I Ever does it better and it's not close.
  • Can we concede that Wanda is the unambiguous villain of the show? With only the barest shift in perspective, Wanda could be the nemesis with an admittedly sympathetic motive. To some extent, I think the show was far too forgiving of her. Motives aside, how different is she from Kilgrave on Jessica Jones?
  • Poor Emma Caulfield. So much build-up for her character, and it's only a head-fake.
Space Force
  • I liked it. It's not in the most elite of the elite comedies, and maybe that's the standard when Steve Carrell is the lead, but it was quite funny. That said, I keep on almost forgetting that I watched it, and have no substantive commentary to offer. So take from that what you will.
  • AOC lookalike alert (the character even gets the nickname AYC -- "Angry Young Congresswoman")!
Mythic Quest
  • I love that Ubisoft is actually involved in the show (which is set at a game studio producing a popular massively multiplayer online RPG).
  • Surprisingly, given my love affair with Community, Danny Pudi is one of the least interesting characters on the show.
  • The actress who plays Poppy isn't the very strongest (though she's improving), but Poppy herself may be my favorite character. Of course, everyone knows I'm a sucker for an Australian accent.
  • The show has some great characters in side parts who don't get enough attention, like Sue the community manager and Carol the HR director. Also, Aparna Nancherla has a small recurring role in the first season and apparently doesn't come back for season two? I don't get why she keeps getting sidelined like this -- she's funnier than the rest of the cast put together.
Ted Lasso
  • Good, sweet, endearing, fun. British soccer comedies with heart are a winner for me (Bend It Like Beckham, anyone?).
  • Ted's estranged wife is played by the same actress who plays Linda in Better Off Ted. This was very strange, though admittedly I'm probably the only person who cared enough about Better Off Ted to notice or care.
  • Dashing gentleman thief who's always a step ahead of his adversaries, except maybe the one nemesis who actually can match him step for step in a constant cat-and-mouse game? Look, it's a cliché for a reason. I'm not going to say Lupin breaks the mold, but it certainly is a well-crafted entry into the mold.
  • If there is anything innovative, it's how Lupin particularly leverages stereotypes about race and class to maneuver more freely in certain spaces (e.g., he can smuggle himself into prison because the guards can't tell him apart from another inmate -- sad commentary, but useful for Lupin!).
  • It did do something I hate, which is release "half a season" and just leave the audience hanging at the end. Maybe it was the pandemic's fault, but one could really feel its incompleteness.
Kim's Convenience
  • Of the Canadian shows I've been watching, I'd say Working Moms (not in this post because it is pre-pandemic) is the stronger of the two. But this is fun as well.
  • It just got cancelled, unfortunately depriving it of the chance to wrap up its single greatest storyline (that's been ongoing since season one). That's a real, real shame.
  • Simu Liu as Jung is the latest iteration of the Jason Mendoza trend of "dumb male Asian hottie leads". I guess it's a blow against stereotypes?
  • Pastor Nina also could be an AOC lookalike. I think the show struggled a bit to draw a bead on her character.
  • I actually mentioned this show in my post about Jelle's Marble Runs, but it is such a joy to watch. I can't wait for season two, which is dropping very soon. For pure, simple, uncomplicated happiness, Legomasters beats out everything on this list.

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