Goosebumps – Season 1 Review

As a kid, I was a huge fan of the original Goosebumps books, but 30 years later, I can only remember the plot to maybe 2-3 of them. So I don’t really care if a modern day TV show takes creative liberty with the IP. In fact, I actually liked the way this show was initially structured. Instead of being another anthology series, it had an overarching story where each episode brought in a gimmick from one of the books. The first episode featured a haunted camera a la Say Cheese and Die, the second episode had your classic Haunted Mask, etc. But these items were simply manifestations of the ghost that acted as the season’s villain. Well, I should say the villain for 80% of the season, because that ghost’s story is completely wrapped up in Episode 8.

That’s when the show lost me. There was already a bit too much teen drama for my liking, and then in Episode 9, they lay the drama on super thick as we follow our teen heroes on a Goosebumps-free road trip. I kept asking myself, “What’s the point of this? Didn’t the story conclude in the previous episode?” It isn’t until the end of Episode 9 when the true villain is revealed, which leaves only one episode left to resolve the new conflict. I really don’t understand why they chose to structure the season like this. If you’re gonna do the twist villain, at least do it halfway through the season so there’s time for the conflict to grow. Or do it at the very end to set up Season 2. What they did with this season is just nonsense and makes me think they’ve already expended any good ideas they had for this series.

Only Murders in the Building – Season 3 Review

This was a somewhat uneven, but overall great, season of Only Murders in the Building. It has a strong beginning and end but kinda drags for several episodes in the middle. I don’t recall Seasons 1 and 2 ever having such a slump, though Season 3 is still better than Season 2. The reason it drags is no mystery, either. Season 3 spends too much time on relationship and theater antics and not enough time on the murder. I get that a long-running show will want to flesh out its characters and give them more to do. It’s important to see how they’re trying to make a living outside of what the podcast brings in. But the investigation should never be the B plot, because that’s the glue. For much of this season, however, the podcast trio aren’t even working together. Oliver and Charles are so wrapped up in the play they’re putting on that Mabel has to do most of the heavy lifting on her own for a while.

To be fair, though, this is the season where Selena Gomez’s acting finally grew on me. She was a little wooden in Seasons 1 and 2, which might have been by design, but she loosens up a lot more in Season 3. It helps that she doesn’t have to act against Cara Delevingne anymore, an actress who has zero chemistry with anybody. They really overcompensated on the casting this time around. You get Meryl Streep, Paul Rudd, and Matthew Broderick as newcomers. No wonder Selena Gomez had to step up her game! There are no weak links in this show anymore; everyone is great. And I appreciate that, like Bunny in the previous season, they spent time humanizing the victim after so many episodes of bad-mouthing him. It’s a fun murder mystery that doesn’t glamorize the murder, and it’s character-driven enough that, even if the final reveal doesn’t impress you, at least you can still enjoy the ride to get there.

What We Do in the Shadows – Season 5 Review

This season almost felt like a return to form. Some episodes were really good, some were pretty awful. I guess I’d rank it alongside Season 3 in terms of quality. It’s at least better than Season 4, which made all sorts of mistakes. Having Colin Robinson back in his normal body was, of course, very welcome. And I’m glad the show finally had the balls to go through with Guillermo becoming a vampire. Well… half-vampire. He was pretty much stuck in human/vampire limbo for the majority of the season, which might have been a cop-out, but it worked given his Van Helsing blood. And I liked that he immediately had a change of heart after going full vampire and wanted to give up his newfound powers. It was a good finale… and could/should have been a series finale. There’s nowhere to go but down in Season 6.

See, while Guillermo’s vampire storyline was entertaining, it often took a back seat to “wacky” shenanigans. The episodes that didn’t work really didn’t work and felt like the same gimmicky nonsense that other shows start relying on when they’ve run out of ideas. You have an episode where Colin Robinson runs for local office, an episode where the vampires teach a community college night class, and an episode where they have to fill in for the news anchors on the local news. It’s all so dumb, and you have to buy into the “these characters are great no matter what” mentality to find any of it funny. The other recurring themes with Nadja’s hex and The Guide’s pathetic attempts at weaseling her way into the group are equally unfunny and annoying. And yet I fear this is all we’re gonna get from this show now that Guillermo has decided he doesn’t want to be a vampire anymore.

The Righteous Gemstones – Season 3 Review

This might be the best season of The Righteous Gemstones yet. It feels like what the show should have been from the start, with the overarching story being the three Gemstones kids trying to run the church in their father’s shadow. Granted, the sibling bickering is cranked up to 11 this season, to the point where they barely act like believable adults. I get that these are supposed to be spoiled brats who never grew up, but it’s especially egregious this time around. (Relevant side note: it is amazing how well the child actors in the flashback episode capture the adults’ mannerisms.) It also feels like past lessons learned have been forgotten, like the beautiful way Season 1 ended. I’ve read that the creators hope the show lasts for many years, but if that comes at the expense of resetting everyone’s personal growth season to season, I don’t know if it’s worth it.

That said, I really like how they treated secondary characters in Season 3. BJ and Keefe are a lot more sympathetic, with the latter finally establishing a real relationship with Kelvin beyond just “jokey gay undertones.” Frankly, it was long overdue. I also liked that the main conflict boiled down to repairing relationships with the estranged Montgomery cousins, where neither the Montgomerys nor the Gemstones are totally in the right. I will say, though, that it’s a bit ridiculous the season finale had not one but two fake-out explosion deaths. For a show that’s not afraid to punch you in the gut, I’m surprised they didn’t commit to at least one of these deaths. On the other hand, I’m kind of glad the Montgomerys survived, as they add an interesting dynamic to the Gemstones saga that will be interesting to watch… if they stick around for Season 4.

The White Lotus – Season 2 Review

I don’t know how I got started on this show. It’s not normally something I’d go for. But the first season was about a place I hold near and dear (Hawaii) and began with a “who died” mystery that acted as a great hook. Season 2 has a similar opening, though we know this time around that the “surprise” death is ultimately not important. The White Lotus is more a character study on insufferable, wealthy tourists than it is a murder mystery. However, I think it nailed that aspect better in Season 1, where we got to see just how miserable the resort staff was in the wake of their guests. In Season 2, we only get to know the hotel manager, Valentina, and she isn’t miserable because of the guests but miserable because she’s still in the closet and has feelings for one of her employees. Um, weird that they would reuse the “gay manager lusts over employee” plot from Season 1, but at least it doesn’t get rapey in Season 2.

Speaking of (bad transition, I know), the real theme of Season 2 is sex and power. There’s a lot of transactional sex, the most obvious being the literal sex workers who hang out at the hotel all day. I found it amusing that a father and son both “partook” of the same lady friend, and only the father realizes this, but that conflict really doesn’t go anywhere. The whole Di Grasso family thread has the most disappointing resolution, even though I laughed when all three Di Grasso men turned around to ogle the same woman at the airport. It was a fitting end to their otherwise lackluster story. The character with the best conclusion was actually Tanya. I didn’t like her for most of the season, as she was a bit too air-headed, but damn, that finale was great. Her final moments were hilarious, heartbreaking, and intense. The White Lotus can be such a slow burn at times, but it’s always entertaining to see how everything culminates in the end.

The Other Two – Season 3 Review

Well, this marks the end of The Other Two. I’m sad to see the show go, because it never did course-correct after an outstanding first season. Subsequent seasons have been progressively less funny, partly because the jokes haven’t been as strong and, in Season 3’s case, the story has simply become too dramatic. The fight between Brooke and Lance, for instance, was kinda devastating. I love Lance as a character, so it was painful to watch Brooke be such an asshole to him this season. I have similar feelings about Cary and how he treated his BFF, Curtis. I understand that one of the show’s main themes is how show biz ruins relationships, but turning your protagonists into such unlikable and irredeemable monsters is maybe not the best choice. Sure, Cary and Brooke both come around in the end, but the change of heart feels hollow given everything we saw prior in the season.

And, oh boy, this season was all over the place. While it’s true that the story has very serious beats, the humor has gotten way sillier. There were a couple of episodes in particular that were honestly too much. Like, Brooke attends an industry party where non-industry people are literally invisible? I mean, it’s kind of funny, but the sudden shift into cartoony hijinks really took me out of it. Same with the episode that spoofed Pleasantville (and, come on, is Pleasantville that relevant to pop culture?). The only gag that really landed for me was the pretentious theater play that went on for days, and people started showing up in their pajamas or bringing their laptops as they lost interest in the play but felt obligated to still go. That’s the perfect balance of being outlandish enough to be funny but not so outlandish that it breaks reality. Unfortunately, The Other Two forgot how to walk that line as of late, and now the show’s over…