Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Quick Reviews: Shows I Watched In Lockdown (Part 1)

Since the Coronavirus lockdown started earlier this year, there's been more time to watch new television shows and revisit some of my older faves. I didn't think there would be so much time to watch as many series as I have so far and probably more to come with how Florida has been doing such a good job handling this whole crisis.

Below are my quick reviews of shows that have entertained me (or at least tried to) along during the lockdown and social distancing - Space Force, Hunters, Once Upon A Time, Survivor: Winners At War, True Detective, Jericho, and E.R. There are no specific plot spoilers below. (Part 2 of more quick reviews will be coming along soon.)

Space Force

When I heard that The Office creator Greg Daniels and actor Steve Carell reunited for a new show, my interest immediately peaked. The trailers looked promising as Carell plays a general who is in charge of Trump's 'Space Force' - the U.S. government's actual new program to fight non-existent wars in space. It could've been a dry satire about the state of politics right now as well as the 'incompetence' of NASA under Trump's leadership, but immediately the show, fell apart. Carell's character is like if Season 1 Michael Scott lived on to ruin the rest of the series - selfish, ignorant, arrogant, makes stupid decisions because he thinks he knows best, and gives you little to empathize with. The concept of loons running the space asylum was entertaining, but Daniels hasn't made the water-cooler humor between older and younger audiences work as well as he did on The Office.

Rating: ☆☆☆


In the beginning, Hunters was right up my alley. Logan Lerman leads the way as a young man who witnesses his grandmother's murder and discovers she was apart of a secret organization hunting Nazis. The story starts to explore the ideas of justice versus revenge, however, over time, the series casts so much violence against the Jewish characters, it makes you forget it's a show about hunting Nazis. The cat and mouse aspect gradually falls apart with fake-out deaths, plotholes, and a ridiculous twist at the end with the leads that makes the whole first season feel like a big joke. Having been a World War II history buff forever, it made me giddy to see little known tidbits Hollywood hasn't explored getting a fair shake. Unfortunately, not even the cast could mend how much the writing was secretly grasping at straws with its overall plot.

Rating: ★

(Re-Watch) Once Upon a Time

Since I work from home, I have a tough time putting on new movies or tv shows in the background because I end up missing everything. The quarantine made me realize how close I am to giving up Netflix. Similar to Disney+, their overall movie or tv show catalog is unexpectedly limited except - too many reality shows or incomplete series. The lack of SwanQueen is something I'll recover from, so I forced myself to put this on because I've seen it before. The earlier seasons reminded me of how good the series was with the real town of Storybrooke paralleling plots from the Enchanted Forest, and making the fictional characters from both realms come to life. I forgot how much the series was an innocent escape, and it's a relief to listen to compared to everything else going on. BUT it still pains that SwanQueen didn't work out, especially for Pride month this year....

Survivor: Winners at War

I'm relatively new to Survivor, having only started to watch the series last December. The two past seasons left me lukewarm because tribes didn't compete against each other as much as they tried to hide in the background and hope they didn't get voted off. Winners At War was totally different with 20 previous winners coming back and doing everything they can to win. It was fun to see the alliances break apart during tribal council and not really knowing who were allies or not. And every time a contestant gained an advantage to vote someone off or save themselves, they used it and shook up the eliminations. I was hoping Michelle won in the end - because she was never voted out, won multiple challenges and immunity necklaces - but she didn't. The final three were contestants were so good that  any one of them could've won, and it would've been satisfying.

Rating: ★★1/2☆

True Detective

Finally, after six years of managing to avoid all spoilers, I checked out True Detective. McConaughey and Woody Harrelson's performances makes the show more of a slow-burning character study than it is a thriller. They deal with the past and present blurring together as an old solved case comes back to haunt them. I watched this specifically for McConaughey, and he didn't disappoint. His performance was one of several at the time that kicked off the McConnaissance, and I was impressed by what a great balance he had with Rust being withdrawn and coming across as a sociopath. I find it hard to believe he didn't win one nomination for the series. Harrelson was exceptional as well, but Martin's mid-life crises felt too cliche compared to Rust and made it difficult to invest in his arc. Additionally, I'm not sure if I was satisfied by the resolution of their case. The show spent so much time intricately building up the *big reveal* of various suspects, and then the real killer was hiding in plain sight all along. It wasn't a switch that felt warranted, but more like the show intended to end ambiguously but decided against it at the last second. Otherwise, you can go back to this series and see how it revolutionized thrillers and dramas now with every episode trying to have the production quality and storytelling of an Oscar-worthy movie. 

Big shout-out to the magnificent 6-minute tracking shot in Episode 4. It made me want to be a director and execute a perfect shot like that.

Rating: ★★☆


I started re-watching The Walking Dead, but it was too depressing to think of how far the show has fallen and it made the quarantine more depressing than it already was. Jericho is still a post-apocalypse series, but I'm watching for.....research. When a nuclear mushroom appears outside of a small town in Kansas, the citizens are forced to fend for themselves as they're cut off from the rest of the world. A few of the town's mysterious visitors, who happened to show up before everything hit the fan, might know more than they're letting on. The show deals with the same things like democracy vs dictatorship, rationing food, how to deal with traitors, etc. but Jericho had less time and excuses to massacre their storytelling than The Walking Dead did. Their characters are layered, even the women, and the cast feels like a family. The biggest qualm is that it's a product of its time - 2006 (lol) - as the costumes, music, and direction resembles 24 too much with melodramatic action scenes and shaky handy-cam. 

Rating: ★★☆

(Re-Watch) E.R.

My sister subscribed to Hulu earlier this year, and I couldn't believe E.R. was listed on the app. I've wanted to re-watch this for years, almost as long as it when it finally ended in 2009. I don't know if I'll rewatch the later seasons as that's when most of the originals left and it didn't quite feel the same. But I was pleasantly surprised by how much it still holds up, especially the earlier seasons. It has a good balance of packing in every episode with the craziest cases and an intense rush for the crew to save people's lives, but also the characters from doctors, nurses, and even janitors have issues to deal with both at work and in their personal lives. No matter how many times the emergency room is flooded with patients, the show still manages to be wholesome. ALSO, George Clooney.

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