A Purge of Binges

A Quick Peek in on Peak TV


The line between TV and movies is now blurry enough that Steven Spielberg only sees it as a middle finger. The process of binge-watching feels less like ingesting individual episodes of television and more like films with frequent intermissions for bullshit like “jobs” and “basic hygiene.” As much as I would love to provide full, thoughtful analyses of every show out there, I feel like I’m already exhausting all the people who disagree with me in comments on my reviews. To ask them to tell me how wrong I am about every TV show one by one seems cruel. With their needs in mind, here is a dumping ground full of brief reviews for the shows I have recently ate with my eyes and ears, all in one spot.

Future Man (Hulu)

If you love sci-fi but wish it more frequently contained sex jokes and Haley Joel Osment, have I got the show for you! The hackneyed “average white boy finds out he’s super special and needs to save all of space and time” conceit is mocked mercilessly in this raunchy, clever and unrepentantly weird show that straddles satire and sincerity. More people need to watch so that Derek Wilson can get the acclaim he so profoundly deserves for his turn as Wolf, the best warrior turned chef turned Corey-Hart-impressionist turned polygamist-Mad-Max character ever.

Grade = B+

Shrill (Hulu)

Based on Lindy West’s exceptional book of the same name, SNL’s Aidy Bryant stars in this breezy comedy about abortion, the body acceptance movement and dogs that eat hallucinogenic mushrooms. My only complaint about this phenomenal adaptation is that it is far, far, far too short. Six half-hour episodes is nowhere near enough time with these characters. The moment you fall in love with them, they’re gone. More please! More please now!

Grade = A

Love, Death, and Robots (Netflix)

A steaming spray of Heavy Metal right in your face, this animated sci-fi series is everything amazing and awful about anthology television. Half the episodes are melt-your-face brilliant, while half the episodes are want-to-melt-other-people’s-faces infuriating. If someone, and that someone will be a dude, tells you they like the first episode (Sonnie’s Edge) or third episode (The Witness), throw a copy of Atlas Shrugged as a decoy for them to chase and run the hell away. If nothing else, seek out the sixth episode (When the Yogurt Took Over), thirteenth episode (Lucky 13), and fourteenth episode (Zima Blue), all of which rank among my favorite sci-fi TV in years. Maybe next season let at least one single woman direct an episode?

Grade = C+

Russian Doll (Netflix)

The rarest of the rare, a half-hour dramedy that hinges on a Groundhog’s Day conceit, if you haven’t heard about this one, clear some time ASAP. Natasha Lyonne is a revelation as a woman who reawakens in the same bathroom each time she dies, ideally moving her one step closer to profound realizations about the psychological traumas we face as individuals and the salvation found in kindred souls. This one is something special.

Grade = A

Brooklyn 99 (NBC)

Too often, successful campaigns to save shows result in an extra season or two of mediocrity. “We hashtagged for this?” if you will. Thankfully, the canceled cancellation of Brooklyn 99 is a notable exception. Featuring the funniest character on TV, Andre Braugher’s Captain Raymond Holt, this season has given the women of the 99 time to shine. Melissa Fumero’s reactions deserve their own GIF keyboard, while Stephanie Beatriz even directed one of the season’s best episodes, which proved you can actually make a comedy about #MeToo issues without being jerks about it.

Grade = B+

The Case Against Adnan Syed (HBO)

All we want in this post-Serial world is to know if Adnan really did it. Only three parts of this four-part series investigating the evidence in Hae Min Lee’s murder have aired, but I feel safe in saying we need to keep seeing our therapists, as closure ain’t happenin’. Bloated and redundant for the millions of podcast fans that comprise the majority of the target demo here, true crime documentaries are all about proper pacing and well-organized presentation. Sadly, this really has neither.

Grade = C-

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)

My heart breaks knowing we shall never again hear a new track from Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess), presumably sexualizing a food product. What started out as a quirky exploration of posttraumatic stress devolved as most good comedies do into generally affable nonsense and subplots that went nowhere. The wrap-up here does right by Ellie Kemper and puts a fine enough bow on a show that produced bigger laughs than the last decade of Best Comedy Series Emmy winners combined.

Grade = A-

The Umbrella Academy (Netflix)

We went from “can anybody make a good superhero adaptation that’s not about Superman or Batman?” to “here’s a TV show based on a comic book written by the lead singer of My Chemical Romance.” In fits and starts, this series about a group of adopted siblings with bonkers abilities shines, particularly when Cameron Britton is on screen. However, it is painfully slow and obvious, arriving at a cliffhanger everyone saw coming 10 hours after we figured it out. Bonus points for Ellen Page in weird contact lenses playing the violin, negative points for a weird furry sex subplot.

Grade = C

The Good Place (NBC)

When this show started, it was a punny goof on the afterlife. Somehow it has morphed into the most philosophically challenging, imperative exploration of modern identity and morality imaginable. Now that Tatiana Maslany is no longer doing Orphan Black, I may have to channel my entire energy into campaigning relentlessly for D’Arcy Carden to win an Emmy for her role as Janet, what Siri wants to be when she grows up. The last episode of this show, filled with profound laughter, left all of us weeping without ever betraying its own identity. If you’re not watching, you’re missing one of the most special shows in ages.

Grade = A+

Pen15 (Hulu)

Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle have created a downright delightful nostalgia dunk tank. Popular culture is festooned with male-centric coming-of-age bunk, which led to me thinking the genre stunk. It doesn’t, it’s just too samesy. This heartfelt, silly, clever submersion into the hearts and minds of two young girls at the crossroads of young adulthood and the invention of AOL instant messaging is a must see for anyone still embarrassed by their first screenname.

Grade = B+

The Disappearance of Madeline McCann (Netflix)

Documentary filmmaking is hard, laborious work. That doesn’t mean watching a documentary series should feel the same. This eight-hour epic would have felt a bit long as one feature-length film, as it explores in micro-minutia every detail of a child abduction case with very few actual details. I know that’s what most true crime fans think they want, but it really, truly isn’t. If you can summarize the entirety of interesting revelations in a docu-series for a friend in one text conversation, the show shouldn’t last longer than most heart surgery.

Grade = D+

The OA (Netflix)

We’ve finally come to it: the show that served as my impetus for writing this whole rundown! Brit Marling stars as either a dimension-hopping angel or a nutjob in this surreal series that is unafraid to explore the silliest boundaries of sci-fi conjecture. This season turns the insanity up to 11, including telepathic marine life and an ending that will absolutely kill me if the show isn’t renewed. Yes, we live in an age of prestige television, but so few programs actually take insane risks and push the boundaries of imagination and entertainment. The OA isn’t just my favorite show of the year so far, it’s one of my favorite shows of all time. I need you to watch it, okay? Because if Netflix cancels it, I am going to be even more irritating to be around.

Grade = A+


Category: Film
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