So, you know, we should all take that real seriously.
Wednesday, July 29, 2020
The Jews who are backing the most antisemitic candidate running for election in Minnesota want you to know that it's scurrilous to accuse Georgia Senator David Perdue (R) of antisemitism just because his campaign released an ad where his Jewish opponent's nose was photoshopped to look bigger in the midst of accusing him and another prominent Jewish Democrat of trying to "buy Georgia".
Monday, July 27, 2020
I'm surprised it took me this long to watch Alpha House -- not only would it seemingly scratch the illusive West Wing itch, but it was the project that took Garry Trudeau away from my beloved Doonesbury. Come to think of it, maybe that's why I didn't watch it.
Alpha House centers on four Republican Senators who live together in a Washington, DC row house (based on real life!). It's sort of like The West Wing, except the Senate instead of the Presidency and Republicans instead of Democrats, and set in "the real world" (Obama is the president during the series, for example). The four main characters actually do a decent job running the gamut of Republican archetypes of the mid-2010s: the smart but probably corrupt one (Robert Bettencourt of Pennsylvania, who also does a good job as a Black Republican); the lazy, coasting off name-recognition one (Gil John Biggs of North Carolina, played to perfection by John Goodman as a former UNC basketball coach); the cluelessly homophobic but possibly closeted one (Louis Laffer of Nevada), and the hyper-ambitious but sex-addicted wunderkind (Andy Guzman of Florida, definitely channeling some Marco Rubio).
Is it good? Yes. It's main drawback is that it was clearly cancelled prematurely. But its two seasons are definitely worth watching. Other thoughts:
- The other main players on the show are the Senators' key staffers, who are all -- in true DC fashion -- overworked and underappreciated. They generally do a good job playing straight man to their bosses' antics, to good effect. The lesbian couple that's not exactly closeted but not exactly out either, given the known politics of their party, is a particularly good touch.
- There's a scene early in the series where a house guest walks in on John Goodman coming out of the shower. It's shot in such a way such that the bare ass of Goodman's character almost certainly is a body double -- which makes me wonder how one casts for that. "Wanted: John Goodman ass lookalike"?
- Janel Moloney, aka Donna Moss, has a fabulous arc as the hyper-conservative Tea Party Senator from North Dakota who carries a gun on Capitol Hill and says her favorite painting is of the British burning down the White House because it symbolizes what she wants to do to government. I don't know if making her Senator from North Dakota was specifically meant to be fan service, but the one cameo scene where she's on a panel with Bradley Whitford and just immediately tells him to "shut up" definitely was. I wonder how many takes it took because she accidentally called him Josh?
- Speaking of the recurring characters, Wanda Sykes is in the series as the quartet's next door neighbor and friend (who is also a Democratic Senator from Illinois). Wanda Sykes really should be in more things.
- We've got just enough distance that some of the Obama-era specific jokes are funny again. I particularly enjoyed the discussion of making the Benghazi committee permanent, so that "future generations" would not be deprived of the opportunity to investigate it.
Sunday, July 26, 2020
Times are getting desperate in the Schraub/Rodde household. We've watched every back episode of Community at least ten times by now. But deep in the bowels of "recommended for you" on Hulu came a real contender for our attentions: Marvel's Runaways. We just finished the first season (of three) -- should you watch it too?
Marvel's Runaways is about a group of high school friends who discover the charity their parents all volunteer for is actually an evil teenager-sacrificing secret society. "Friends" is a bit of a ragged descriptor -- though the kids all grew up together, at the start of the show they've grown apart (partially because they're teens now, partially because one member of the group apparently committed suicide). The discovery of their parents' secret does end up bringing them back together, but the show does a good job of underscoring that the differences in their personality and gripes with one another are real and can't fully be papered-over merely by circumstance. The parents, incidentally, are in the same boat -- somewhere between co-workers and friends, not really liking each other but having a sort of affinity and bond that is (I imagine) unavoidable when you've collectively been working together in a secret society for over a decade.
Oh, and some of the kids also have superpowers. Inhuman strength, for one, or an ability to talk to her parents' pet dinosaur, for another. One of them glows with strobing lights that she can pulse as energy, and also can fly. This is useful given that they're now lining up against the aforementioned subterranean evil death cult. As usual, one of them appears to only have "good at computers" as his skill, which, I'm not denying is useful, but did make him seem a little extraneous when the gang was lining up together for a fist-fight.
Scattered thoughts follow:
- Though a Marvel series (is it part of the MCU continuity? I'm not sure), its focus on a group of high schoolers meant that for me it gives off strong vibes of Buffy and Veronica Mars. It's not as good as either of those shows, but even being grouped together in the same thought as such august company is a good sign.
- I'm a sucker for shows which portray villains as regular people with basically regular lives and motivations, and Runaways very much does that for the parents. They are not, by and large, mustache-twirling evildoers toasting their plans to bring hell and brimstone down on the world.
- The strength of the show is in the actors. All of the main players, both adult and teenager (though its most impressive in the latter) are very strong. Even though the kids are in some ways archetypes (The jock! The goth! The perfect daughter!), they nonetheless feel fully realized and complex. I even can overlook the strangeness of James Marsters not sounding like Spike (for the record, he's an American actor--it's the British accent in Buffy that's a put-on)!
- Also on that note, the kids all are recognizably the children of their parents without being clones, which is very nicely done.
- Of the parents, the Yorkes (the nerdy over-sharing Jewish scientists) are my favorites. They're freakin' adorable.
- Of the kids, nominally Molly is supposed to be younger than the rest, but she doesn't actually look any younger. But for the most part, that isn't a huge distraction. Also, that she's perpetually taking naps in the aftermath of big dramatic moments is a nice character beat -- the little peanut is all tuckered out!
- The weakness of the show is the story, and in particular the story's pacing. They really slow-walk the core mystery of the show. A full season in, and we still have barely any idea what exactly the bad guys are trying to do, or even who they really are. The result is a great cast fighting against a very shaky script.
- The opening theme music is very evocative. It reminds me of the Mass Effect: Andromeda opener, which I'm probably the only person who finds memorable.
Overall conclusion: it's pretty gripping in spite of itself, mostly because of a really strong cast. If you like Veronica Mars and Buffy, this won't replace those shows by any means, but you'll probably have a good time watching.