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Why “Glow” Is the Netflix Show of the Summer

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Think about what makes a great summer TV show – it has to be fun and entertaining, of course. It has to be binge-worthy. And it has to feature themes and topics that are light enough for the carefree days of summer, when many of us are heading to the beach (or, at least, the local neighborhood pool). So that’s exactly why “Glow” is the Netflix show of the summer – it delivers on all of this, and more.

#1: “Glow” is just good nostalgic fun

There’s nothing that says nostalgia more than ‘80’s music, big hair, and Jane Fonda leotards. This show has it all, and it’s just good fun. There are LA skate punks, seedy California motels, and plenty of hair spray.

Critics have called it “shameless summer fun” – and why not? If you’re sitting at home during the summer, you probably want to stream something on TV that’s not going to require a lot of mental effort, and that’s “Glow.” Just sit back and soak in the outrageous outfits and beautiful women in the wrestling ring.

The basic plotline of “Glow” is that a group of washed-up actresses from Hollywood during the 1980s are going to unite to form the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW). The movie itself was inspired by the original cult TV hit of the 1980s, which covered the rise of the women’s pro wrestling league in the 1980s.

And that’s what makes us so nostalgic – there seemed to be an era not so long ago when it was perfectly OK to enjoy shows just like this. Back then, professional wrestling was still a very underground, amateur sport and that’s what gave it so much fan appeal.

#2: “Glow” features a great ensemble cast and sharp character development

The real goal of “Glow” is to show us how these out-of-work actresses suddenly became wrestling stars. In this Netflix series, we meet them from the very beginning, when Sam Sylvia (played by Marc Maron) comes up with this outrageous concept. Maron himself is excellent in the role of the GLOW promoter, and special mention has to be made about Alison Brie, who plays the role of actress-turned-wrestler Ruth Wilder.

While Alison Brie is the official star of the show, the unofficial star of this show are the other 12 ladies. Each one of them seems to have a unique story, and it’s all very compelling. The character development in this series is top-notch, and encourages you to keep on watching. By the end of the 10 Netflix episodes, you will really care about these women.

#3: “Glow” is light and binge-worthy enough for a summer escape

You can watch “Glow” however you want. It’s a Netflix show, so the initial urge is to binge. And that’s what many people did as soon as the show came out. But here’s the thing: “Glow” is only 10 episodes of 30 minutes each. That’s a total of 5 hours. You could theoretically binge on this during a long summer afternoon. And that’s why “Glow” is really so much fun. It doesn’t require as much focus or attention as a typical 10-episode or 12-episode Netflix binge.

#4: “Glow” is the perfect mix of “Wonder Woman” and “Orange Is the New Black”

The one movie that took cinema box offices by storm this summer was “Wonder Woman.” That movie was so special because it was a superhero movie made by a woman for women. It reflected a real female mentality and point of view. And, in many ways, “Glow” shares some of those characteristics. It’s also made by two women – Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch – and it also reflects a uniquely feminine point of view. In short, “Glow” seems to tap into the current cultural zeitgeist.

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And there’s one more thing – the same team behind “Glow” is also behind the Netflix cult favorite, “Orange Is the New Black.” If you love OITNB, you’ll love “Glow.” It’s also a story of strong female characters. Only this time, these characters are not in the Litchfield prison facility, they are in the professional wrestling ring.

So “Glow” manages to combine the very best of “Wonder Woman” and “Orange Is the New Black.” These female wrestlers may not be traditional superheroes, but they are heroes to many (including many teenage boys). And the show delivers the same type of dynamic character development that we’ve come to expect from “Orange Is the New Black,” but without all the heavy commentary about socio-economic conditions in America.

#5: “Glow” is not afraid to explore gender and racial stereotypes

Yes, “Glow” is a light, entertaining TV series for the summer. But it also has range and depth to it. The show is fearless in exploring gender and racial stereotypes. There are plenty of scenes where the wrestling promoters are trying to come up for identities for these girls – “the Arab girl” or “the Big Black Beautiful Woman” – where we vividly glimpse all the stereotypes floating through American society at that time.

But there are also all the stereotypes within the Hollywood acting community. There’s a reason why these women are out of work or under-employed – they are fighting against entrenched prejudices in the industry. In fact, many of the characters talk about “justice” during this TV show.

#6: “Glow” is the perfect origin story show

Deep down, we all love origin stories. We all want to know how something started, and why. And that’s why people love “Glow” so much. In many ways, this Netflix series is the perfect origins story, showing us how a pop culture phenomenon of the 1980s came to be.

And this is also a story of underdogs. And who in America doesn’t love a good underdog story? To give the series as much authenticity as possible, the female actresses even agreed to do their own stunts on set. So we are seeing real women being transformed right before our eyes into pro wrestling divas. This is really exciting stuff.

Thus, for so many reasons, “Glow” really is the Netflix show of the summer. It’s lightweight and entertaining – but comes packed with enough punch to make it truly binge-worthy. You’ll love following along as these women, led by Ruth Wilder, reinvent themselves as the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.

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“Orange is the New Black” Season 5 Is the Worst One Yet

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Maybe long-time Netflix viewers started to expect too much from “Orange Is the New Black,” and they were inevitably doomed to be disappointed sooner or later. After four magnificent seasons, in which “Orange Is the New Black” made us re-think what’s possible in a TV series, Season 5 just never lived up to expectations. It’s safe to say that “Orange Is the New Black” Season 5 is the worst one yet.

Bizarre tonal shifts

While “Orange Is the New Black” has always shifted between genres, often interposing scenes of tragedy and comedy next to each other, there’s something distinctly “off” about this season. It’s almost like the series has lost its bearing, veering wildly from comedy to tragedy and then back to comedy, and viewers really don’t know what to think.

The New York Times has compared Season 5 of OITNB to “a speeding vehicle with a wheel missing.” With this season, the show is going too fast, the steering is unsteady, and it’s clear that there’s no slowing down. And this lack of focus can be disjointing – especially since all the action of Season 5 takes place within a very concentrated period of 72 hours. The mood swings are just too intense.

Plotlines and narratives just don’t add up

By now, you probably know that the dramatic narrative of Season 5 involves a prison riot and its aftermath at the Litchfield prison facility. The inmates rise up, take over the facility, take hostages, and reorganize themselves. One prison inmate, Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson (played by Danielle Brooks), tries to negotiate with the private company that runs the prison, urging them to change the living conditions within the prison.

So far, so good, right? This is the type of compelling story that “Orange Is the New Black” is known for. But then comes an episode smack dab in the middle of Season 5 that just doesn’t make any sense. Online fans have referred to this as “an homage to slasher films,” and it involves one of the prison guards (Piscatella) acting like he’s a villain from one of the “Friday the 13th” movies, abducting and tying up inmates.

What’s so bizarre about this whole plotline is that even the show’s writers don’t know how to play this. As a result, you get an episode that’s part horror film, and part comedy. It’s campy and cute and also horrifying. At some point, viewers don’t really know what to think. “Are they just messing with us?” is a thought that’s going to come to you during Season 5.

And that’s not all. There’s also the plotline of the prison inmate Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett (played by Taryn Manning), who winds up getting married to the man who raped her in Season 3. The show tries to make this into a bigger story of forgiveness and redemption, but it just comes off as a mess.

“Orange Is the New Black” fails to deliver on Shakespearean-sized ambitions

After four seasons of being an “important” series, “Orange Is the New Black” seemingly overdoses on its sense of self-importance. The website Vox.com has called Season 5 “staggeringly ambitious” and “a huge mess” – in the same sentence. That’s because the whole series starts to take itself too importantly.

Here’s just one example: the effort by the prison inmates to reorganize themselves into some kind of new women’s commune. There are all kinds of “important” socio-economic issues raised here, such as the possibility of building a society anew so that it is fair to everyone. But “Orange Is the New Black” constantly interjects its Shakespearean ambitions here, almost as if the show’s writers were trying to combine the very best of Shakespeare’s tragedies and comedies into one TV show for the ages.

And here’s another example: the role of Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren (played by Uzo Aduba), who has a role very much like that of the Fool in “King Lear.” She’s been taking medications for her mental illness, but the more addled she becomes, the more capable she is of speaking truth to power. But when it all comes as a rambling monologue, it just doesn’t add up.

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“Orange Is the New Black” has a final cliffhanger scene that may have driven too far off the cliff

The big cliffhanger scene of Season 5 – the one that has already sparked debate and discussion about a Season 6 for “Orange Is the New Black” – is a microcosm of what’s both right and wrong about the series. In that final cliffhanger scene, the riot police have stormed the Litchfield facility to restore order. And the 10 key characters are standing together in one room. For one of the first times in the five seasons of the show, the dramatic action has seemingly transcended racial and tribal lines.

This is supposed to be a big, important moment. It is supposed to be a moment when we imagine what’s possible when people rise up and reorganize into a better, more just society. But instead, the cliffhanger comes off as a tired ending to the season after the show has already careened out of control.

It’s almost as if many of the main characters are being prepared to be sent in new directions (or perhaps written out of the show entirely), and the easiest way to do this is just to gather all of them in one place (the abandoned swimming pool-turned-bunker at the prison) and then have the writers spend the off-season debating what to do with all of them. Next season, when some characters disappear, there will be a good reason why.

In addition, two of the main stars of the show – Alex Vause (played by Laura Prepon) and Piper Chapman (played by Taylor Schilling) – seemingly no longer have a primary role to play in the series. In Season 5, they are often reduced to offering snarky commentary on the prison’s living conditions, but do not play a heroic role in changing those conditions. Some fans have even speculated that these characters won’t even be coming back for Season 6.

Ultimately, the problem may be that “Orange Is the New Black” simply raised our expectations too high. It was always one of the Netflix poster children for the “golden age” of binge-watching, but it’s clear that binge-watching (just like binge-eating) can have some pretty negative consequences. You don’t feel so good, and you suddenly can’t stomach the idea of one more episode of the series.

Hopefully, that feeling of a bad binge will wear off and we’ll be just as excited for Season 6 as we were for Season 5. But one thing is certainly clear – “Orange is the New Black” Season 5 is the worst one yet.

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How “House of Cards” Season 5 Stacks Up

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By now, viewers know what to expect from Netflix’s “House of Cards” – a bleak portrayal of the American political landscape in which the only constant is the relentless ambition for power. And that’s exactly what Season 5 of “House of Cards,” which debuted on Netflix on May 30, delivers.

1. Raw political ambition and the lust for political power

If anything, Season 5 of “House of Cards” is bleaker and more nihilistic than any of the preceding four seasons. We’re already used to the raw power ambitions of U.S. President Frank Underwood (played by Kevin Spacey) and First Lady Claire Underwood (played by Robin Wright), but now we’re convinced that nothing is ever going to change. In fact, if anything, it’s clear that America’s timeless traditions and institutions may be no match for the current powerbrokers in Washington.

There are scenes in Season 5 that have deep symbolic meanings – such as when Claire Underwood appears to trample an American eagle underfoot on a rug in the White House, or when Frank Underwood appears to wander the White House alone, almost like a ghost, while music plays at some party he has no intention of joining. The message is clear: America is now a waning power on the world stage, and there’s no idealistic young up-and-comer who is going to save the day.

In fact, one of the trademark plot twists in “House of Cards” is how even idealistic newcomers are quickly brought up to speed on how things happen in Washington, D.C. The people who survive are not those that have an ideology or who want to change the system – it is the people who spend all day thinking of ways to subvert the system to their own whims. They study constitutional law, not to understand how to protect the Constitution, but how to subvert it.

Even the war on terror becomes just another tool for political power consolidation. In Season 5, the Underwoods are intent on inflaming public fears about ICO (the show’s version of ISIS) in order to steadily erode constitutional rights and find loopholes to increase their own power.

2. An underlying pessimism about American institutions

“House of Cards” almost seems to celebrate the men and women who have no ideology and no guiding political philosophy. That, perhaps, is why so many critics have called this the bleakest “House of Cards” yet. There is a sense that any vestige of dignity has departed the office of the Presidency, and all we see, in episode after episode, is yet another lesson in how absolute power corrupts absolutely. The goal of power, it appears, is simply to get more power. In doing so, all the political actors in “House of Cards” go about their nefarious ways.

What is most disturbing about Season 5, perhaps, is that it is not just the men and women who are flawed – it is the very institutions keeping them in power. There is a sense that all the ideals, principles and careful checks and balances that the Founding Fathers had the foresight to create are nothing more than tools now in the hands of the wrong people.

And Frank Underwood has no shame whatsoever in rubbing this in our face. At one point, he turns to the camera and says, “You voted for me, America.” Thus, as easy as it might be to blame a single person (or power couple, as in the case of the Underwoods) for this low point in American politics, we only have ourselves to blame.

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3. The Trump context

Of course, you can now see why so many people are trying to make this season’s “House of Cards” a pointed commentary on the current political environment in Washington. The Trump presidency, in many ways, is a mirror image of the Underwood presidency. You have an egomaniac in the White House, using the Oval Office simply to advance his own ambitions and business brand.

The way that Frank Underwood humiliates his underlings, too, has an analogue in the way that Donald Trump likes to punish and humiliate his underlings – whether it’s forcing Sean Spicer to go out and give a press conference at the most inopportune time, or when it comes to directly contravening statements made by one of his inner circle via a late night Twitter outburst.

And, of course, the way that many say that President Trump has degraded the office of the presidency with his constant half-truths and reckless Executive Orders have a clear precedent in the Underwood presidency.

But here is the thing – whereas Frank Underwood has absolutely no underlying ideology or values, one could argue that Donald Trump is at least following some abstract notion of “making America great again.” In the case of Frank Underwood, it’s not so much a case of making America great – it’s about making himself great.

And many people fail to point out that Season 5 of “House of Cards” actually started production BEFORE Trump was ever elected. Thus, even though the show debuted almost exactly four months after Trump was sworn in, it actually had already been in production long before.

For liberals, Donald Trump is just a slightly more odious version of Frank Underwood. For conservatives, though, the double-dealing and corrupt Underwoods are a slightly more odious version of the Clintons. You can see why we’re at such a political impasse in America these days – both figures are so polarizing that there’s little or no opportunity to meet in the middle.

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So what to make of “House of Cards,” then? Many would argue that it has simply become too repetitive. The characters may change, but the plot does not. There is more scheming, more shifting of alliances and more egomaniacal attempts to subvert the system. Even the newcomers to Season 5 – Patricia Clarkson (as the deputy undersecretary of commerce for international trade) and Campbell Scott (as a top adviser to the President) – do little to change the underlying dynamic of the show.

But something very distinct has changed in the way that we view “House of Cards” in 2017. If, back in 2013 when the show first premiered, we thought that the Underwood presidency was pure fiction and too insidious to ever become true, we now realize that it is, indeed, possible. In fact, it may now be the case that fact is stranger than fiction. The naked power grab of the Trump presidency and all the inflamed rhetoric about making America great again may actually have the opposite effect – it may reveal just how low the American political system has fallen, and how the lust for power has become all-consuming on both sides of the political aisle.

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“Master of None” Season 2 Sparks Social Commentary and Conversation

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When Netflix signed up comedian Aziz Ansari to do a special original comedy series, they couldn’t have possibly expected that “Master of None” was going to spark so much social commentary and conversation. But Season 2 of the show has just absolutely changed the national conversation on so many topics, including LGBT issues and what it means to be a Indian-American.

The show, of course, is a fictional account of Aziz Ansari’s life in which Aziz plays Dev Shah, a 30-year-old New York actor. The show is “loosely based” on real-life experiences, including his travels abroad, his experiences in New York, and the friends and family members who have influenced him.

And here’s where things get really interesting. “Master of None” (the title of the show is a reference to the expression “Jack of all trades, master of none) was really meant to be more of an itinerant series, moving from here to there at whim, showing some funny scenes from Aziz’s life. (In Season 2, for example, Aziz winds up in Italy.)

That approach was a remarkably successful formula for Season 1 back in late 2015, when the show routinely made the list of “Best TV Show of 2015.” Critics loved the show, and ranked it as one of the Top 10 shows of the year. There was a lull, and then in May 2017, here came Season 2, fortified with 10 new episodes.

On the surface, perhaps, viewers weren’t expecting the series to become such a spark for social commentary. After all, one of the key plotlines of Season 2 was the character of Dev Shah going to Italy to learn how to make pasta. There were some funny scenes – like the one where Aziz Ansari and his friend accidentally get their car stuck between two buildings in Italy. But then came “Thanksgiving”…

In “Thanksgiving,” Dev shares the story of how he likes to celebrate Thanksgiving with his childhood friends since his parents do not celebrate the holiday. And one of his best friends from childhood (Denise, played by Lena Waithe) happens to be both black and queer. That led to the idea that the episode would feature Denise talking about her decision to “come out” and announce that she’s queer. The episode also featured Angela Bassett as Denise’s mom Catherine, and that’s where things became explosive – the mom is not so accepting of Denise, and that sparked a major conversation about LGBT life.

In fact, that one episode attracted so much buzz that Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe did a special feature for New York Magazine’s Vulture blog, in which they broke down, scene by scene, how and why they decided to do the “Thanksgiving” episode. Lena Waithe is also gay in real-life, and was willing to share her own experiences and ideas about what it was like to come out on TV.

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And there have been other episodes that have also sparked social commentary. For example, Episode 3 (“Religion”) features Dev and his decision not to be a devout Muslim. He can’t possibly tell his parents that, so he has to fake it in front of them. That led to a lot of discussion in the media and entertainment blogs about Aziz’s “pork-fueled feud with his parents.”

More generally, it gets to the root of what it’s like to be Muslim in America. That’s a particularly sensitive topic right now, especially with all the discussion about a “Muslim ban.” How are Muslims assimilating into America? How are they reacting to the Muslim ban. Aziz is such a funny comedian, that we sometimes don’t even think that he’s thinking about these issues. But he’s only human, and it’s clear that all of his hilarious “brown people jokes” are really meant to be a biting commentary about America and its unwillingness to accept Muslims as equals.

And then, in another episode of the show, Aziz Ansari explores how it’s possible that everyday people can actually be racist in their own way. In Episode 4 of Season 2, for example, he dates a number of different girls, and the one he ends up sleeping with actually has a figurine in her home that the character Dev Shah interprets to be racist.

That raises an interesting question – especially from a social commentary perspective – and that’s how people can claim they have “brown friends” or “black friends” and yet still be racist. It could be that these feelings and emotions are so deep under the surface that they don’t even know that they are there. But the appearance of something seemingly as innocuous as a figurine can bring them to light.

Finally, there was one other issue raised in Season 2 that has started to get traction on the blogs and social media, and that’s the very difficult topic of sexual harassment. Despite all the claims that women are equal to men in America, it’s still the case that sexual harassment in the workplace is rampant. And that’s a topic that “Master of None” hasn’t been afraid to tackle.

So, as you can see, “Master of None” is really more than just a Netflix original comedy. It’s more than just funny insights into Aziz Ansari’s life. No – it’s really an increasingly important platform to discuss important social issues that show up again and again in daily life.

Take the example of LGBT issues. That’s something that Aziz Ansari rarely – if ever – tackles in his standup comedy routines, but it’s a topic that suddenly shows up in “Master of None.” Or take the issue of sexual harassment. Aziz may make a lot of jokes about how he is “human garbage” for the way he acts around women sometimes, but his show takes a deeper, more critical look at the issue.

Ultimately, comedy is a great tool for exploring these issues. And, as we’ve seen with Aziz Ansari and his amazing Saturday Night Live (SNL) hosting gig after the presidential election, he’s increasingly willing to take a stand on tough issues. That’s what makes “Master of None” such a great Netflix show. Even as we’re laughing, we’re also getting incisive takes on deeply important social issues.

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Why Fans Loved Season 3 of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”

When Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” first premiered back in March 2015, it was clear that this comedy was going to develop into a cult show with a huge fan base. And so, perhaps, it’s no surprise that fans loved Season 3 of “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” as much as they loved Season 1 and Season 2. This show really delivered everything they wanted – and then some.

#1: More twisted, wacky plot lines

All you have to know about “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” is that comedian Tina Fey is one of the executive producers and co-creators of the show. She is really the creative genius behind the show, and it shows up in all the plot lines of the show. Even the major premise of the show – that Kimmy Schmidt (played by Ellie Kemper) was rescued after being imprisoned for 15 years by a doomsday cult and is now living in New York City with a gay Broadway actor (Titus Andromedon, played by the amazing Tituss Burgess) – is just so wacky.

But it’s that 15-year separation from the world that makes Kimmy so endearing and lovable. It gives the show’s main actors a unique vantage point to question the world around them. Kimmy seems to question everything, and especially the Internet. She’s still fascinated by Google, and can’t quite figure out the meaning of Airbnb, asking at one point, “So, it’s basically like a sleepover with strangers?”

And the wacky, twisted plot lines include the appearance of characters like Jane Krakowski’s Jacqueline. She plays an Upper East Side society woman, but it turns out that her whole life is really just a façade. In fact, her real name is Jackie Lynn, and she’s a native American who fled her life on a Lakota Indian reservation. And to make things even more farcical – she’s dating someone who is linked to the NFL’s Washington Redskins. Everything about Jacqueline is a hot mess – like how she tries to keep the trappings of wealth even after her divorce by creating cardboard cutouts of jewelry – and that’s why fans can’t stop laughing when they see her.

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#2: The new star power of Tituss Burgess

The show might be named for Kimmy Schmidt, and she may still be the star of the show, but the one actor that everyone is talking about these days is Tituss Burgess, who plays Kimmy’s gay roommate in New York. You’ve probably seen him making all the rounds on the late-night comedy shows, and for good reason: we may be seeing a new star break out on “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”

The best example, perhaps, is the parody of Beyonce’s “Lemonade” that was touted so highly in the trailer for Season 3. In this scene, Titus Andromedon dresses up in a yellow, flouncy maxi-dress just like Beyonce, grabs a baseball bat, and proceeds to take that bat to both a fire hydrant and a car belonging to his gay lover, a construction worker who happens to be cheating on him. And just like Beyonce sang about jealousy and craziness, Titus also sings about being turned crazy by jealousy. The actual Beyonce clip with the dress and baseball bat (“Hold Up”) has been viewed more than 100,000,000 times on YouTube – and now the parody video with Tituss Burgess is also going viral.

#3: The nuanced return of the doomsday cult plot line

In the first two seasons of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” we learn the basic back story of how she was held captive by a doomsday cult leader (played by Jon Hamm), and how she was kept in some kind of underground bunker for 15 years. But in Season 3 is where we really start to find out all the details. This makes the show much more nuanced and intriguing.

And, in some ways, the details are really dark. There’s the insinuation that Jon Hamm may have continually raped her over those 15 years – and that really gives us pause for thought. Kimmy Schmidt seems so optimistic and so naïve, that we suddenly realize how much of her past life she’s had to sublimate. There’s a dark alternative reality to all her good moods, and it involves both sexual and mental abuse.

In Season 3, the unhinged cult leader (Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne, played by Jon Hamm) has a new surprise in store for Kimmy Schmidt, and that’s his plan to marry his jailhouse sweetheart, Wendy (played by Laura Dern). On the surface, Wendy seems like a very established, well put-together woman, but we quickly realize that she’s a lunatic, just like everyone else on the show.

In one plot line of Season 3, Wendy visits Kimmy, trying to convince her to sign some divorce papers so that she can marry the cult leader. That leads to a whole lot of hilarious jokes – like the need to print out the divorce papers using an outdated, archaic dot-matrix printer.

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#4: The ongoing visual and verbal jokes

“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” has so much humor going on at one time, that it can be difficult to sort through it all. On one hand, of course, there are all the verbal jokes. And then there are all the visual jokes. These visual jokes are really what separates “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” from other shows. In one episode, for example, a water stain on the wall becomes an ongoing sight gag.

In terms of the verbal jokes, Season 3 really distinguishes itself with all the ongoing jokes about young millennials. That’s because Kimmy Schmidt has decided to go back to college in Season 3, and somehow ends up on the campus of Columbia University in New York City, where she learns about all the strange habits of young millennial college students. One of these concerns dating – and the whole need to fill out a “consent form” if the two people plan to engage in any physical activity during a romantic relationship.

On Rotten Tomatoes, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” is a superstar show, pulling in a total freshness score of 96%. That’s just unprecedented, and it really shows how much fans loved Season 3 of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” The show has so much going for it – the unique comedic talents of Ellie Kemper and Tituss Burgess, the diverse cast of wacky stars (including Laura Dern, Kane Krakowski and Jon Hamm), and, of course, the continued creative direction of superstar comedian Tina Fey. Fans just can’t wait for Netflix to greenlight Season 4 now.

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I Gave Up Netflix for 60 Days – Here’s the Result

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Two months without streaming a single movie or TV show on Netflix? When my co-worker first proposed this to me as a personal challenge, it seemed impossible. After all, I’m the type of person who binge-watches entire series over the weekend and who is always streaming video content on the go. But, never deterred by a challenge, I decided to give it a go. I gave up Netflix for 60 days.

WEEK ONE

Once I decided to give up Netflix for two whole months, my entertainment schedule seemed to be a disaster. This must be how people feel when they go on a juicing diet – you start to question how you can possibly follow through with it. There just didn’t seem to be anything to do with all those empty hours in front of me.

But that’s when I decided to take control of all those empty hours in my life formerly filled by Netflix. I started by actually taking a closer look at what was on live television. The problem here was that I had cut the cord with cable a long time ago, so it meant that I was limited to getting broadcast TV shows. And it meant actually looking at the TV schedule for the week and planning my time accordingly.

This was perhaps the hardest part – at least at the beginning  – of giving up Netflix. It meant that I was no longer free to consume content anytime, anywhere. It meant that I had to be on the couch right at 8:00 pm if I had any chance of watching primetime TV shows. And it meant that all of my multi-tasking habits had to be changed accordingly. If I wanted to watch TV, it meant that I had to give up my tablet or phone.

With Netflix, the great thing that I missed the most was the recommendation engine – always getting helpful tips about what to watch next. Staring at the TV in front of me, I reverted back to my old ways – just flipping channels incessantly, fervently hoping that something – anything!  – would be on TV. Only I didn’t have hundreds of channels, because I didn’t have cable. Instead, it meant that I had a handful of channels to choose from. And the commercials seemed to be everywhere! Every time I turned on the TV, there were commercials for medications that I couldn’t possibly use (or, at least, hoped that I wouldn’t possibly ever use).

WEEK TWO

By week two, I had abandoned the whole “let’s rely on broadcast TV” strategy as a way of watching content. Sure, it was fun to catch up on some of the sitcoms I had heard my friends at the office talking about, but what I really missed were all the movies. And, to be honest, there just weren’t a lot of movies on broadcast TV. Plenty of sitcoms and dramas and celebrity news programs, but no movies! And certainly not any art house cinema movies, or any quirky movies – the kinds that I loved Netflix for finding.

So I turned my attention to other things. I realized that all my Netflix binge-watching had been seriously cutting into my gym time, so I started going to the gym every other night. Previously, I might have watched a Netflix show while on the treadmill, but now I was forced to watch the monitor in front of me, showing my progress as I raced around an imaginary (digital) track.

Working out for a change was certainly good for me. Not only did I feel like I had more energy, I also realized how watching Netflix had ingrained certain behaviors in me that weren’t exactly conducive to losing weight or getting into better shape. For example, I loved to munch on chips while watching a movie at night. I bought “low fat” chips or “organic” chips, but still… chips are chips. So by cutting Netflix out of my nightly routine, I was actually helping to work wonders for my diet.

WEEK THREE

This was the week that I resolved to set up more social meetings to hang out with friends I hadn’t seen before. The first brunch date went well, but something seemed to be off – suddenly, I didn’t have as much in common with my friends. We used to talk about the latest episode of “Game of Thrones,” or discuss all the cool new movies coming out on Netflix this month, and now I was drawing a blank. As part of my “no Netflix for 60 days” strategy, I was doing my best to avoid reading any online content that might possible remind me of my glorious Netflix days.

WEEK FOUR

Was it just me, or did it seem like Netflix was inserting itself back into my life in ways that I couldn’t have imagined? All of my email newsletters seemed to have a reference to Netflix, or some new show coming to Netflix. Every time I walked down the street from my home, it seemed like there was a billboard for a new Netflix original show. My social media feeds seemed to be filled with people talking about some Netflix show. It was just 30 days in, and I was beginning to feel the effects of Netflix withdrawal.

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WEEK FIVE

OK, I admit it. Week Five was originally going to be my “cheat week.” I knew that I could get through the first 30 days without Netflix, but to keep myself going for the full 60 days, I knew that I knew some kind of Netflix fix. I still wanted to observe the 60-day ban, but wow! It was getting more and more difficult. So I started to watch Netflix trailer videos on YouTube. I started to check out which new shows and movies would be hitting Netflix at the end of the 6o-day period. And I started to gravitate toward entertainment shows on TV, desperate for some connection to my Netflix days.

WEEK SIX

This was the week that I resolved to get through an entire novel. Yes, I was going to beat this Netflix challenge by going Old School. I was going to read an entire novel, cover to cover, during all the extra hours in my schedule that I used to fill with Netflix shows. I looked through my bookshelf and found a title that I had ordered from Amazon Prime years ago, but had never picked up. This was perfect! It was going to get me through the week.

But I found that my all-digital lifestyle – consuming all content on my tablet, or streaming on my TV – had made me flabby when it came to handling a written novel. In the same way that hitting the gym had seemed strange and unnatural after such a long absence, so was actually committing to a period of reading. In silence. With no TV on in the background!

WEEK SEVEN

Two weeks, and I would be done. This was the week that I decided to fill my hours with social media. I started to check out all the “live” broadcasts that my friends were doing, and I started to check out all the Instagram Stories my friends were creating on a daily basis. But you know what? All those brief snippets of video activity only made me realize how much I really missed Netflix. You can’t fill an hour with random “live” video clips that people post on social media, and certainly not the same way you can with a Netflix movie.

WEEK EIGHT

The Netflix detox was finally over! Somehow, I had made it through the full 60 days without watching a single TV show or movie on Netflix. It was finally time to add up all the pluses and minuses to see how it had changed me.

Most importantly, this 60-day challenge made me realize more than ever before how many digital entertainment options are out there that aren’t named Netflix. Believe me, I had sampled a lot of them, and I was now more attuned than ever before to their advantages and disadvantages.

And I had become a bit sharper about life in general. Going to the gym more often had given me more energy, and watching only broadcast TV had made me watch the nightly news – something I hadn’t watched for years. And I became a bit more knowledgeable about the level of programming on primetime TV. There were actually a lot of good shows on these days!

Would I do it again? It’s hard to give an unequivocal answer to this question. Much as some people go on juicing diets, or go on a social media detox, the idea of going on a Netflix detox diet still seems like more of a stunt than anything else. I still can’t imagine not having Netflix in my life. Old habits die hard. Once a binge-watcher, always a binge-watcher. Maybe I was watching too much TV, but I always told myself that I was watching “quality TV.” Somehow that always made me feel better.  At the end of the day, I felt an affinity for the Netflix brand, and what it promised. And I loved the endless stream of content that always seemed to be available. If other people want to cut their ties with Netflix, OK, that’s fine. But I’m planning to hold on to my Netflix.

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What Fans Think of Marvel’s “Iron Fist”

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When it comes to their opinions about Marvel’s latest creation for Netflix – “Iron Fist” – there’s a sharp divide between fans and critics. Whereas critics offered a mostly negative take on the show, fans were much more accepting. You can see that divide on many movie rating sites, where the ratings can differ markedly.

This is now the fourth Marvel series for Netflix – following “Daredevil,” “Jessica Jones” and “Luke Cage” – so much of the split between fans and critics was mostly based on how they viewed the entire Marvel universe of characters. This show is obviously the setup for “The Defenders” (which features the stars of each of the four Marvel shows on Netflix) so most fans were willing to give this series a pass, as long as it helped to interconnect all the relevant Marvel plotlines.

#1: Finn Jones as Danny Rand/Iron Fist

It’s impossible to talk about the new Marvel series without talking about the main hero, Danny Rand/Iron Fist (as played by Finn Jones). In this role, Jones must play a billionaire Buddhist monk and kung fu expert who has come back to New York City to reclaim his business empire (Rand Enterprises) after being absent for close to 15 years. For those years, he has been training to become a warrior with amazing kung fu skills.

The problem is not so much with Jones the actor, as with his martial arts skills. As in, he’s not a big kung fu expert. Although he trained extensively before the series began, and has been practicing Buddhist meditation principles in order to immerse himself in the role, he still falls a bit short of what people were expecting.

Making things worse, this is one of the few Marvel superheroes who can’t hide behind a mask and a cape. That means you can’t have stunt doubles coming in and taking over your scenes. That has led to some pretty tough criticism of Jones, with one  reviewer calling him “a befuddled surfer who wandered into the middle of a kung fu movie.”

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#2: The second-rate fight scenes

If you’re making a movie about a martial arts expert, then you have to have some exciting martial arts action. The only problem is, there’s not a single memorable fight scene in any of the 13 episodes. When you look at the original Marvel comics, you can see the problem: the original comics had Iron Fist plowing through group of enemies and assailants at a single time.

In contrast, the fight action in “Iron Fist” often seems like it’s been slowed down so that Finn Jones can catch up. Reviewers have suggested that Finn Jones is holding back the manic pace of fighting that they were expecting. As a result, you don’t have any of the over-the-top choreographed scenes that we saw even in “Daredevil.” Every scene seems heavily edited, to the point it’s not even possible to focus precisely on the action. It’s like one giant aggressive cut, all mixed together to create the appearance of action.

#3: Too much dialogue

Another fan concern was the proper balance between action and dialogue. While there has to be some dialogue and exposition to explain who Danny Rand is, and why he was training with Buddhist warrior monks (his family died in a plane crash over the Himalayas), the common consensus is that the series just gets bogged down in way too much dialogue.

There are 13 episodes in this series, and the common consensus is that it could have been told in just six! That gives you an idea of just how much extra dialogue there is in this series. There’s a serious issue with the pacing and storytelling.

#4: An underwhelming villain

The centerpiece of every great Marvel comic is the arch-villain. Just consider the Marvel shows for Netflix: some of the great villains have included Killgrave and Cottonmouth. In “Iron Fist,” however, the main enemy is a shadowy organization known as The Hand. There are some ninja enemies, and a lot of talk about how they are preying on people in New York, but we never really get a sense that Iron Fist is facing an arch-rival or arch-fiend. That just brings down the whole series. We wanted super-villains, and they just gave us a bunch of bad ninjas.

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#5: Questions about racial and ethnic identity

One problem cited by both fans and critics is how the series treats the martial arts, as well as how non-white characters fit into the Marvel universe. In this case, it seems like all the good guys are white, and all the bad guys are people of color. Moreover, some fans have accused the series of “Orientalism,” or the desire to characterize and stereotype an entire race with a few simple tropes. In the case of “Iron Fist,” the martial arts are just one more way for white people to triumph over evil, and it’s felt that the Asian characters are never fully developed.

#6: Mad props for Jessica Fenwick

If there’s one character who gets a lot of love from Marvel fans, it’s Jessica Fenwick, who plays Colleen Wing. She’s a sharp, tough martial arts expert who owns a NYC dojo. Fans like the fact that she seems like a no-nonsense New Yorker and someone who makes a worthy sidekick for Iron Fist.

#7: The weakest link in the Marvel chain

The problem, quite simply, is that Marvel shows like “Daredevil” spoiled fans. It featured great fight scenes, a tight script, great pacing and some amazing action. In comparison, “Iron Fist” is commonly considered by fans to be the weakest of all the Marvel series on Netflix, trailing not only “Iron Fist,” but also “Jessica Jones” and “Luke Cage.”

And, most disturbingly, some fans have basically suggested that Marvel is only using “Iron Fist” to set up its next show, “The Defenders.” In order to do that, it had to set up the whole back story of Danny Rand, and explain the powers of his glowing Iron Fist.

At the end of the day, it’s easy to see why fans and critics diverged in their assessment of “Iron Fist.” Critics tended to judge it primarily on its merits, in terms of acting and pacing and storytelling. Marvel fans took a bigger picture view, and evaluated the series as part of the Marvel universe. And there were more willing to overlook the shortcomings of Finn Jones as Danny Rand. Whatever the case, all eyes are now squarely on “The Defenders,” which is coming to Netflix in August 2017.

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What “Dear White People” Teaches About Racism

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The latest Netflix original series, “Dear White People,” has already caused a firestorm of controversy, with people debating whether or not the show is meant to unite or divide people. Even before the first 10 episodes dropped on April 28, there was controversy brewing with the teaser trailer, which led to some people accusing the show of being anti-white and guilty of white racism. Some people even called for a boycott of Netflix. So what exactly does “Dear White People” teach us about racism?

The show explores the various forms of racism through a number of difficult social situations, with many of them exploring ideas like black-white relationships, or whether or not white people can use certain words (like the “N” word) in casual conversation. The show also examines various stereotypes about black people by showing them in uncomfortable situations that challenge conventions.

The goal of the show, according to director Justin Simien, is to show that “there are a plethora of ways of being black.” Thus, for example, there is the star of the show, Logan Browning, who plays Samantha (“Sam”) White, the host of a controversial campus radio show called “Dear White People.” If that sounds somehow familiar, it’s because there was a 2014 movie of the same name by the same director. Through Sam, we see a lot of questions at the heart of what some would call racism.

Take, for example, one of the scenes from Episode 1, where Sam’s white boyfriend posts a photo on Instagram, saying that they are “hooking up.” That raises a lot of uncomfortable questions: Is it possible to have a white-black romantic relationship where people won’t judge you? What type of emotional baggage do people bring into these relationships. So, the show is not really so much about racism, as about exploring the issues of identity and relationships through the eyes of white and black characters.

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Or, take the main plotline of Episode 1, in which a group of white boys plan to throw a “black face” party to protest Sam White’s campus radio show. The boys claim that the radio show is racist, and are taking advantage of this party to make a loud social protest. Only, of course, this is 2017 and you can’t do that kind of stuff anymore. That raises a lot of fascinating questions about racism, as well. For example, is it really possible to have racism against white people?

The people who were calling for a boycott of the show certainly think so. The YouTube trailer received a huge number of dislikes, and the goal was to punish Netflix for even thinking of streaming this show. But isn’t that a form of racism as well – saying that blacks aren’t allowed to tell their stories and share their experiences, for fear of alienating whites?

Yes, things are quite complicated, and that’s something that we see again and again in “Dear White People.” One of the discussions that takes place in Episode 1 is about the types of jokes that black people and white people can make. The common consensus is that jokes about white people (e.g. white people can’t dance) don’t lead to oppression by the police or incarceration, while jokes about black people can. Thus, jokes about black people and white people are not inherently the same.

The Netflix original series also looks at the topic of “subtle racism.” This is not the overt racism of a black face party, but the type of racism that black people experience every day in normal society. There’s one scene in “Dear White People” that especially stands out – a group of white people and black people get into a fight, and the campus police is called to break it up. The police then asks one of the black students for his ID, to prove that he’s really a student at the university (the fictional Ivy League university Winchester University). That’s something that would never happen to a white student – the police would just assume that the white guy was enrolled there.

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And the storytelling about racism also looks at friendship between whites and blacks. At what point can a black friend forgive a white friend for a remark or action that’s perhaps unknowingly racist? And is there any way to eliminate racism entirely from a friendship?

One of the role models for the show is Samantha White. Her campus radio show might be highly controversial, but it’s only intended to get people talking about issues that have been hidden for too long. And, in fact, she’s the type of person who wants to be friends with everybody, no matter if they are white or black. She even has a white boyfriend.

As Justin Simien said after all the controversy surrounding his new Netflix show, “Glad you’ve woken up.” If you listen to interviews with the cast members, that’s also a theme that gets picked up a lot – the idea of being “woke.”

It’s not just students at prestigious universities like Winchester who need to be “woke” – it’s everybody in society who lives inside a little bubble, not aware of how racism can manifest itself on an everyday basis. And all of that pent-up emotion can sometimes explode, like we’ve seen in Ferguson and the whole #BlackLivesMatter movement.

So the final takeaway of “Dear White People” might just be that white people and black people need to meet halfway in the middle. Black people can’t just use “slavery” as an excuse to hate the system, and white people can’t ignore the fact that “acting black” (especially if it involves using the “N” word) can be hurtful and offensive to some black people.

It’s a very complex issue, and “Dear White People” is just trying to make sense of it all. The very fact of calling the show “racist” is, in fact, definitely racist. Wrap your head around that for a second. Clearly, more has to be done with race relations in this country, and “Dear White People” is a good step in the right direction.

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The Hilarity of “Santa Clarita Diet”

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There’s never been a zombie comedy like “Santa Clarita Diet” before, that’s for sure. This Netflix Original Series has steadily gained in fans and popularity ever since all 10 episodes of he first season debuted on February 3. The reason for the popularity is simple: the entire premise of “Santa Clarita Diet” is just hilarious. When you have a zombie family in the middle of suburban California, you can’t help but laugh.

Drew Barrymore’s comic genius

First of all, you have Drew Barrymore as a genuinely funny zombie. Ok, maybe the gruesome gore can be a bit much, but let’s just repeat this: Drew Barrymore is a zombie. In addition to being a wife, mother and real estate agent, of course. She’s enjoys eating human flesh, but even Slate.com forgave her for this, calling her “adorable.”

What makes it work is how much Drew Barrymore really embraces her role as Sheila Hammond. Becoming a zombie was difficult at first – she didn’t understand all the stomach aches and sudden craving for raw meat – but now it’s easy. “I’m so much more confident – I can parallel park in one move now!” she proudly tells her family.

A new kind of zombie genre

Let’s face it – everyone is at a saturation point with zombie apocalypse movies. And that’s what makes “Santa Clarita Diet” so enjoyable: it completely reinvents the zombie genre. The whole series is really more akin to “Dexter” or “Desperate Housewives” (or a mix of the two) rather than any zombie movie you might have in mind. That’s because, as much as it’s possible, this zombie only kills people who deserve it. There’s no more of the undead mindlessly searching out victims!

This new genre is a mash-up of a family drama and the undead horror film. Mom is afraid she might want to eat her family. The husband (Joel Hammond, played by Timothy Olyphant) is initially concerned about living with a zombie wife, but then decides to get in on the action himself. And the family’s sole daughter – Abby, played by Liv Hewson – views her mom’s transformation into a zombie as just one more growing pain of adolescence.

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California satire at its best

What’s also brilliant is the skewering of suburban California life. Take the title of the show – it seems to invoke a very California thing like “the Malibu Diet,” but it turns out that the Santa Clarita diet involves human flesh. But, hey, if it keeps you looking young and full of energy, then it must be doing, right? Just tell that to all the women in California, who inject themselves with a poison (Botox), in order to keep their skin looking young and rejuvenated.

What makes this California satire work so brilliantly is that the beautiful neighborhood cul-de-sacs all look so wonderful. It’s the same idea as in “Desperate Housewives” – behind all this scripted wonderful life, there must be some deep, dark secret, right? Zombie shows are supposed to take place in dark, creepy locales – not in the middle of bright, shiny, happy California. Every joke in “Santa Clarita Diet,” then, takes on a whole new satirical side.

Things are not what they seem

The executive producers of the show – which includes both Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant – are not going to be content just swapping in a few zombie jokes here and there. They want to challenge the conventional notions of what’s possible with the plot line.

The one episode that everyone is talking about is Episode 5 (“Man Eat Man”), in which a cop neighbor (Dan, played by Ricardo Chavira of “Desperate Housewives” fame) discovers a human finger in Joel’s backyard. As a cop, he immediately runs the finger for prints and finds that it belongs to a California neighbor who’s been missing. So what is he supposed to do – arrest Joel and Sheila after confronting them with the evidence?

Ha, that would be the easy way out. Instead what Dan does is ask Joel to kill someone for him – to murder a murderer. What could possibly go wrong? Well, since this is “Santa Clarita Diet,” a lot can go wrong.

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A family comedy with zombies

On one level, a teenage daughter who’s starting to question her parents and her role in life is the stuff of family sitcoms. But what happens once you work in zombies? In many ways, the fact that Abby’s mom is a zombie is a metaphor for something much larger. There’s one line of dialogue – “Did mom die when mom died?” – that perfectly captures both the ridiculousness and the horror of Abby’s new situation.

And, with plenty of wacky neighbors, there’s no shortage of potential friends – or victims – for the family. The family that craves together, stays together. This is a horror-comedy, with everything that makes zombies so horrifying (their undead status, their craving for human flesh) turned into a source of rich, hilarious comedy.

A whole new kind of physical comedy

American comedies have never been afraid to embrace physical comedy, but “Santa Clarita Diet” takes it one step further, because the physical comedy often involves blood and guts (literally). The show gives entirely new meaning to the idea of “chowing down” and will make you re-think the next time you decide to pig out on some chicken wings (beware the bones!).

Some of the physical comedy is meant for laughs – like Episode 8, titled “How Much Vomit?” But all those vomit chunks are also meant to be a type of comic glue that holds each episode of the series together. Don’t worry — once you’ve embraced the idea of Drew Barrymore as a mom who craves human flesh, you’ll start to see the hilarious comedy involved in having a little human midnight snack.

Ultimately, “Santa Clarita Diet” is a very dark comedy even if it’s filmed in very sunny California. But that’s exactly the point – each episode can be thought of as part of a dark comic journey that viewers take together to some place lighter. Already, “Santa Clarita Diet” has picked up a 70% Rotten Tomatoes score and a rating of 8.0/10 on IMDb, so it’s clear that it’s doing something right. If you’re looking for a hilarious new comedy to watch, you absolutely have to watch Netflix’s new original series, “Santa Clarita Diet.”

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Review: Netflix’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events”

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The Netflix content studios continue to produce some of the highest-quality original content that you’re going to see on TV these days, and that now includes Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” It’s clear that Netflix has figured out the formula for success: bring in top acting and directing talent (in this case, Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf, with Patrick Warburton as Lemony Snicket), give them some amazing source material to work with, and let them tell a story the way it should be told.

That approach works especially well with “A Series of Unfortunate Events” because Netflix has decided to re-tell all 13 novels in the famous young adult fiction series. So, Season 1 features eight episodes, adapting the first four books of the series. And Season 2 (already approved and on the way) will adapt books five through nine. Season 3, if it gets the green light from Netflix, will cover books ten through thirteen. The math here is simple: 2 episodes per book, so that gives plenty of time to tease out all the wonderfully “dark” and “awful” secrets that made the book series so popular.

What’s wonderful is that Netflix has worked with Daniel Handler (who wrote the books under the Lemony Snicket pseudonym) to reproduce faithfully the look and feel of the books. That means Lemony Snicket (in the form of Patrick Warburton) shows up as the narrator again and again throughout the episodes, reminding viewers of how “horrible” everything is and why it’s best to “turn back while [we] still can.” This perfectly captures the idea of the books. In fact, NPR has called this series “inspiringly faithful” to the original book series.

There’s also the matter of the stage sets, which look like nothing else you’ll see on TV today. The sets appear to be grayed out with a sepulchral filter, creating the right sense of doom and gloom. But then these sets are suffused with fairy tale-like colors. And then there are the CGI effects, which are so over-the-top at times that they are meant to remind the viewer: this is not really happening. All the gothic elements are there to make this a creepy tale of woe – a mansion that appears haunted, a mysterious outdoor maze and whipping winds on a lake. Not to mention some really quirky, if not spooky, characters.

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Some critics have complained about the tone and pacing of the show. And, indeed, there is quite a bit of variation in how long each episode runs. That might make binge-watching the show a little less formulaic than you might expect: some episodes clock in at 40 minutes or so, while others run well beyond an hour. So give yourself plenty of time to watch on any given night.

What matters here is the story of “woe” that we get to watch unfold, in different forms, throughout each of the episodes. Episodes 1 and 2 introduce us to the main characters (the Baudelaire children) and the evil Count Olaf, who is intent on stealing away their fortunes. We hear their tale of woe, and learn that Count Olaf hardly has their best intentions in mind.

If you haven’t read the series of books, the plotline goes basically like this: Violet (Malina Weissman), Klaus (Louis Hynes) and Sunny (Presley Smith) Baudelaire had their home destroyed by a fire, in which their parents also died. Thus, they are basically orphans with no place to go, so they end up at the home of Count Olaf (played by Neil Patrick Harris in a campy, over-the-top manner).

He, of course, has other plans for them. If all goes according to plan, he will subject them to a life of servitude and steal away their fortune. In Episode 2, we learn the full evilness of this plan – Olaf plans to acquire the fortune by marrying young Violet. When the Baudelaire children try to warn the family banker (Mr. Poe) about this, chaos ensues.

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That same plotline, in varying forms, plays out in each of the next episodes as well. For example, in Episodes 3 and 4 (“The Reptile Room”), the Baudelaire children are sent to live with their uncle Monty Montgomery (played by Aasif Mandvi), but we learn of an evil plan by Count Olaf to use a dangerous viper to kill the children and take away their money. And in Episodes 5 and 6 (“The Wide Window”), the children are sent to live with their Aunt Josephine, but once again, things are not as they first appear. Count Olaf keeps appearing again and again, in different forms.

The question that you should be asking right about now is the following: Is this show really for young adults or for older adults? After all, even though the show’s heroes and heroines are young kids, there’s a lot going on here that might be hard for young kids to fully grasp. Dead parents, evil guardians and gothic gloom?

What keeps the whole Netflix original series together is the role of Count Olaf, played brilliantly by Neil Patrick Harris. Harris finds the perfect notes to hit in his portrayal of the Count, making him the right mix of “campy” and “dastardly.” There’s also a bit of humor in everything that he does – as well as an accompanying amount of weirdness. But his endless attempts to don disguise after disguise in his pursuit of the Baudelaire children gives him a sort of cartoonish villain character. (Keep in mind, the original casting called for Jim Carrey in this role, so you can get an idea of what the show’s producers had in mind)

If you’ve already seen the 2004 film version of “A Series of Unfortunate Events” (starring Jim Carrey, Jude Law and Meryl Streep), it’s time to forget everything and start over. There’s just so much more you can pack into an 8-episode TV show than you can a 2-hour movie.

Ever since “A Series of Unfortunate Events” premiered on Netflix on January 13, viewers and critics have been near unanimous in their praise: it currently has a rating of 8.5/10.0 on IMDb and a 92% freshness score on Rotten Tomatoes. If you loved the whole book series, you’ll love the Netflix TV adaption of this young adult fiction series. The “Series of Unfortunate Events” is not so unfortunate as its title might suggest. It might just lead you on a wonderful new journey.

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