Friday, February 10, 2023

TV Snide: January 2023

TV Series of the Month (Tie): The White Lotus - Season 2 (HBO Max)
: Creator Mike White pulls out all the stops for a second season of perfect TV. The seven episodes again bring together the lives of hotel guests and resort employees, as a body washes up on the beach in Italy. We have to guess which starring character it is for the length of the season. 5 out of 5 stars

TV Series of the Month (Tie) Succession - Season 2 (HBO Max): This is a can't-keep-your-eyes-off, old-fashioned shitshow that is fascinating to view. The whole Roy family (patterned perhaps off the Murdoch media empire) is worth throwing to the sharks. The non-family inner circle too. The drama lies in who will fall and how. 5 out of 5 stars

Short Story of the Month: “The Thirteenth Day” by T.C. Boyle: One of my favorite authors appeared with this story in the April/May 2022 edition of Esquire. Enough time has passed since the start of COVID-19 that it is enjoyable to read the tale of a couple stuck on a cruise ship for a month. The conditions are unappealing even in their 5-star balconied cabin. It’s hard to believe anyone would ever want to take a cruise again after reading this. A couple of Boyle’s best novels include Outside Looking In and Drop City. I really need to read The Road to Wellville too. 5 out of 5 stars

Documentary of the Month: McEnroe (Showtime): Favorite athlete ever. Check! Favorite sport ever. Check! I admit I'm biased on this one, but I really like the way the filmmakers blended their own creative vision with great chronological footage of the tenns great's career. 5 out of 5 stars

Belushi (Showtime): A worthy documentary of one of comedy’s legends. I think John Belushi falls in right after Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, Bill Murray, Gene Wilder, and Richard Pryor in my ranking of funniest 1970s comedic actors. The producers of this probably rank him higher, and this mixes footage with cool graphic treatments to tell his life story. 4.5 out of 5 stats

Novel of the Month: The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager: I really enjoyed this suspense/horror author's The Final Girls. This one is not as good but still worth a quick read. It centers around out-of-work, Upper West Side actor Casey, who is spiralling into alcoholism at her Vermont lakehouse after her husband Len's drowning death. She begins a Rear Window-like relationship with the tech leader/supermodel couple across the lake, and other neighbors in their midst eventually come along for the ride. I'm not sure the supernatural elements of the book work, but if you can get past those, the rest provides for a gripping page turner. 4 out of 5 stars

“Roy Spivey,” by Miranda July (The New Yorker): This short story ran in the magazine in 2007. July is relatively famous for her screenplays along with her fiction. The protagonist is flying first class and sitting next to a famous actor named Roy Spivey. They have a fun time together and he gives her his phone number. But much like with many other things in her life, she procrastinates, waiting to call him many years later while she is watching her husband out the window clean their car. The number is out of service, and probably has been for many years. This makes me want to read more from July, possibly her debut novel The First Bad Man. 4 out of 5 stars

Never Have I Ever - Season 3 (Netflix): This seems like more of a teen-girl watch than one for me, but ever since the debut of this series, having my tennis hero John McEnroe serve as the narrator was all the hook I needed. From there, the cast and storylines of navigating high-school love and relationships has gripped me. It’s based on Mindy Kaling’s own oft-awkward arrival from India to the U.S. and I highly recommend you give it a try. 4 out of 5 stars

Invisible Things by Mat Johnson: The author of this 2022 novel skillfully brings out most of the best elements of sci fi. The only thing missing are aliens, which is odd since the story is about a group headed to Jupiter to study a society of people kidnapped from Earth. The most alien element of these people, living under a dome, is that they and their society are just like those back where they came from. The first half is a rollicking read that bogs down a bit as it wraps up with the crews’s struggles to bring some of the inhabitants back to Earth. The “invisible things” keep the society from being able to progress in ways that classicism, racism, social media, demagogues, and other factors do in our own world. 3.5 out of 5 stars

Confess, Fletch (Showtime)
: The Chevy Chase Fletch movies are comedy classics, so this new entry had a lot to live up to. If anyone can handle it, it’s Mad Man Jon Hamm. And he is a truly great comedic actor. He holds the whole slightly messy whodunnit art-theft plot together as best he can, and he’s almost entirely the reason (along with somewhat bumbling police investigators) the movie succeeds. 3.5 out of 5 stars

Who Killed Santa? (Netflix): I will forever love Jason Bateman and Will Arnett for Arrested Development and their Smartless podcast, but this is lazy stuff. Oh, it’s still pretty hilarious in several spots, but it’s borderline experimental and Netflix would probably never air something like this if it didn’t have the two stars’ star power. Like an SNL skit, but not one worthy of drawing out for an hour. 3 out of 5 stars

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