Severance – Season 1

This show gets off to a really slow start, but it’s worth hanging in there. I’ll admit that I dozed off during the first few episodes, though. They’re longer than the others, about an hour each compared to the later episodes’ 45-ish minutes. This is mostly because the show loves to indulge in long takes of people doing monotonous things. I get that there’s thematic reasoning for that, but so early in the show, when you don’t know what’s going on yet or have any connection to the characters, it is a bit of a slog. However, Severance gets better and better with each episode and culminates in a really satisfying season finale. Yeah, it still ends on a cliffhanger with a lot of unanswered questions, but there’s enough payoff otherwise to make you feel like you got your time commitment’s worth.

Without spoiling too much, Severance is about a very weird, future-ish company that’s figured out how to “sever” people’s brains. The employees’ out-of-office personas have no memory of what they’ve been doing at work and vice versa. It opens some intriguing philosophical questions, like are these two separate personalities or individuals? Who ultimately “owns” the body and gets to decide when the other retires? It’s fascinating to watch the in-office personalities slowly realize things aren’t on the up-and-up and try to reach out to their outer selves. We mostly only get to see Mark’s outer self, but Adam Scott does an amazing job of playing the depressed “real” him and the more confident office version of himself. In fact, the whole cast is great, and I cannot wait to see more of them, in and out of the office, going into Season 2.

Outer Range – Season 1

I love good science fiction and the premise of Outer Range is intriguing. A rancher in Wyoming finds a giant black hole in his pasture and wants to keep it secret, but why? (Not like an event horizon gravity-well black hole, just an inexplicable hole in the earth/reality.) Outer Range is kind of Yellowstone setting meets a Twin Peaks premise. It has very strong acting, characters, setting, and a lot of mystery. I can’t think of a time I was disappointed in seeing Josh Brolin. I really enjoyed all of the actor’s performances. I watched the whole season in less than a week. Now, I like to think of myself as someone who is a patient viewer. I can appreciate a slow build over 8 episodes, if it has a big payoff in episode 9. I can even appreciate a good cliffhanger setting up the next season, but Outer Range season 1 is something else.

There is not a payoff here and the show is already pretty slow-paced.  They explain some of the mystery, but not much. I still have a lot of questions. As far as a cliff hanger goes, it feels more like a pause mid plot-arc. I definitely want to know what happens next, but it ended at a very unsatisfactory point. Even beyond the mystery, I am honestly pretty confused when I think about where some of the characters are. The worst part is they haven’t announced a season 2, yet. I definitely enjoyed season 1, but it’s hard for me to recommend it at this point. I just have so many questions. The biggest of which is, will any of them be answered?

Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty – Season 1

I’m a sucker for a good sports story. I’ve watched a lot of the ESPN 30 for 30 specials, more baseball documentaries than I can count, and of course, the Last Dance. When I saw the preview for Winning Time, I didn’t question it at all; I was going to watch it. I’m glad I did, because I really enjoyed the characters and performances, even though everyone claims it’s not accurate. Honestly, everyone is great! My surprise favorites were Jerry West as a rage-aholic. It is something to behold and Jason Segal and Adrian Brody play the two most sympathetic characters in the show. There’s controversy as to the accuracy and depiction of most of the people, it’s probably justified, because everyone is almost cartoonish in their personalities. There’s an emphasis on entertainment, not accuracy. The basketball was fun, the story is good, but the unique thing is how it is filmed. They did some very fun things to make it look vintage. A lot of it looks like it was actually shot in the early 80s. Winning Time has a lot of style, for sure!

I did leave the show somewhat dissatisfied and I’ve tried to figure out why. The show starts with Magic going to the doctor to presumably find out he has HIV. That was in 90-91. Then the show goes to 1979 and never mentions it again. Why did it start there? It made the entire show feel like a dramatic bomb would drop at any moment, but it never does. Magic definitely gets around in the show, but that’s a dour note to start the show, that isn’t going to deal with it. It’s essentially sitting an elephant in the room. Also, Winning Time treats women very poorly, which I assume is to be period accurate, but when one time someone is called out for being horrible, he says, “That’s enough!” and seems like he’s about to learn a lesson. Well, the next time you see him, he uncomfortably forces himself on the woman he was called out about. There is no recourse. No lesson. No follow-up. In a show that is happy to take liberties with characters, why not take a few more liberties to make things less awkward? It’s a weird choice. So while I love the premise of the show and I found most of it quite enjoyable, the show is quite surface level, except when it isn’t, and then it feels a little incomplete. In the end, the show is worth watching for the Larry Bird portrayal if nothing else. Which, even if it is completely made up, is perfection.

The Boys Presents: Diabolical – Season 1

I love animation, but I don’t particularly enjoy when a live-action show takes a detour into animated territory. The characters just don’t feel like themselves, and it’s hard to take seriously what happens in the animated world as canon. That’s definitely true for this Diabolical spin-off. Though to be fair, most episodes have nothing to do with the main The Boys cast, anyway. Which begs the question: why is this even set in the same universe? Amazon could have just called it a separate superhero anthology series similar to Netflix’s Love Death + Robots, and I would have been more onboard with the idea. The only thing that really ties it to The Boys is the fact that most episodes are about people getting their hands on some Compound V… to disastrous results. But I thought Compound V only worked on children over a long period of time? These cartoon episodes really confuse what the main show has tried to show us.

Taken as a cartoon, though, some of these episodes are pretty fun. I liked the Baby’s Day Out episode that was done in a more traditional animation style and featured zero dialogue. And the episode about a girl discovering that her power is to make poop come to life is certainly amusing. But, again, neither of these felt like they had anything to do with The Boys and would have worked better as their own random creations. Only two episodes play into The Boys storyline, but the first one models the characters after their comic book counterparts, so it means nothing to people like me who’ve only seen the live-action show. The second such episode feels more grounded, mainly because the characters look and sound how we would know them. That episode was about Homelander’s first (unsuccessful) rescue mission and further highlights how awful he is, but… we already knew that. Can we just get to Season 3 already?

Ted Lasso – Season 2

The first season of Ted Lasso was gonna be a hard act to follow. Not only did it come out at a time when some positivity was sorely needed, but the overall theme of people warming up to Ted was just fun to watch unfold. So where does a second season go, when everyone likes Ted now? Well… it goes nowhere, apparently. The first several episodes of Season 2 felt very meandering, like there was no end goal in sight. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a show that’s more bite-sized and laidback, but the stakes are sooooo low. Even the most saccharine content needs some conflict. To be fair to Ted Lasso, things do pick up about halfway through when we start to see Ted’s anxiety and Nate’s selfishness manifest themselves. I don’t have a problem with either of these developments, but I also don’t feel like they were foreshadowed very well and kind of come out of nowhere.

For Ted, maybe that’s the point. We, the audience, only see what Ted, the character, allows us to see. And I’m okay with Ted not being able to keep up the facade 24/7. I think it was needed to see him break down. I can’t say the same for Nate, though. Nate is a huge asshole in Season 2. While I get where this is possibly coming from, it requires me to fill in some of my own blanks, and none of it is forgivable to this character. He’s beyond redeemable now. At least Season 2 did something with him, though. Other characters like Rebecca have so little to do in Season 2. For her especially, it’s such a waste of talent. The only character who gets better in Season 2 is Roy Kent. Seriously, he is the best thing about the show, and I’m glad they found ways to include him even though he no longer plays on the team. If Season 3 is nothing more than ten episodes of Roy grunting at people, I’m still on board.

The Other Two – Season 2

I might have spoken too soon about how great this show is. Season 1 still makes for some really funny TV, but Season 2 is definitely not as good. The main issue I have is that they’ve changed what it means to be an “other two.” For most of the season, Chase takes a backseat, because it’s their mom who is the famous one now. Though Molly Shannon is fantastic in this role, I liked her more as the stage mom in Season 1 instead of being a talk show host in Season 2. That also completely changes Streeter’s reason to exist, as he is no longer a manager but Pat’s love interest. Ew. Well, technically, Streeter is still a manager, but he co-manages with Brooke now. This means Brooke is a successful businesswoman, which makes the “other two” gimmick no longer work for her. Granted, the position stresses her out, and there’s comedy in watching her fail upwards, but it doesn’t carry the same charm as her being a lowly assistant in Season 1.

At least we can still delight in Cary’s struggles to be an actor. I was sad that he really did replace his agent from Season 1, though the agent that wanted him to write a screenplay, then couldn’t bring herself to read it was funny. I also liked the running gag of so many staff members in the hospital being actors practicing for their roles. Again, it felt very Arrested Development-y. And they got me pretty good with the callback to Brooke camping out in the real estate unit, so much so that I had to keep checking if I was watching the right episode until I realized what was going on. So, yes, the writing is still pretty sharp. I wouldn’t say you shouldn’t watch Season 2 if you liked Season 1. Just know that the character dynamics change a lot. Maybe this means a new Dubek family member becomes famous in every subsequent season. We’re running out of family members if that’s the case, though.