Sunday, April 2, 2023

TV Snide: March 2023

TV Show of the Month: Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers’ Dynasty - Season 1
(HBO Max): It was a mighty month of TV watching for me. And the undisputed champ is this one. How in the world have more shows not been made like this? Fictionalized documentaries of great sports teams. I would love a 1970s Steelers one. Or how about a 1980s Cardinals? The Chicago Bulls series at the start of the pandemic was close, but real actors would be better, even if the real people (like Jerry West) don't have kind words to say about the way their stories are told. John C. Reilly continues his master class of acting as owner Dr. Jerry Buss. The actors who play Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, West, Jack McKinney, Paul Westhead, Jeanie Buss, and Spencer Haywood are all mesmerizing. I didn’t know who I wanted to watch most. But 1980 is an entertaining and eventful year for the Lakers. That’s all I’ll say. And hallelujah that a season 2 is on the way. It's Showtime! 5 out of 5 stars

Shrinking - Season 1
(Apple TV): Most months, this is my show of the month. Jason Segal kills it yet again (like he does in Winning Time). Harrison Ford is comedic brilliance. The Daily Show’s Jessica Williams is just awesome. With such a superstar likable cast, this show would have to really mess up to mess up. It’s about a psychology practice, but mostly it’s about how these three colleagues deal with the troubles in their personal lives, which include being a widow, having Parkinson’s and a case of the grumpies, and just having typical 30-something life problems. It all culminates in a big wedding, with so much fun along the way that it will be a crime if there’s not a second season. 5 out of 5 stars

Outer Banks - Season 3 (Netflix) The OBX crew continue their exploits to find the hidden treasure, as the show hits the mark somewhere between Indiana Jones and Beverly Hills 90210. It's a blast, and often of highly improbable proportions, to watch with my 15-year-old son. 5 out of 5 

The Last of Us - Season 1 (HBO Max): Yet another great show that I was able to binge digest this month. I wasn't really expecting to like it since I'm only mildly interested in zombies and almost not at all in video games anymore. But I do love some apocalypse, and this show has plenty. After the first episode I thought it was perhaps going to be really poorly acted, but then Pedro Pascal, Bella Ramsey, Anna Torv (from the highly recommended Mindhunter show), and Nick Offerman turn up the heat. 5 out of 5 stars

Novel of the Month: Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak: This is a tremendous yarn, the rare page turner that wraps every loose end up satisfyingly and clearly describes what happens to everyone at the end. Mallory is a late-teen recovering from addiction who gets hired by a yuppy couple named the Maxwells to take care of their kid Teddy for the summer. She meets old hippy psychic neighbor Mitzi and hot yard-keeper Adrian along the way. As her sponsor Russell gets more and more worried about Mallory’s seeming relapse, little Teddy appears to become more and more possessed. What is happening? Mallory and her new friends will have to figure it out before time runs out for them. 5 out of 5 stars

Beverly Hills Cop: Eddie Murphy was in his prime for this 1984 classic tale of wholly human cops chasing down very bad (and luckily bad shots) drug smugglers in Detroit and L.A. Mike from Breaking Bad and Paul Reiser make early acting appearances and the action is well worth checking back into if you haven’t seen it ever or in 39! years. 4 out of 5 stars

“The Gay Old Dog,” by Edna Ferber (1917): The author was known as sarcastic and this story flips the prejudice against women of the time on its head. Jo Hertz is a Chicago “Loop Hound” and a plump and lonely 50-year-old bachelor. When his mother died back when he was 27, her dying wish was that he not marry before his three sisters married. Jo fell in love with a little woman named Emily, who tried to matchmake the sisters but failed and eventually left to marry someone else. Eva finally married, then Babe, and finally Carrie didn’t marry but rather moved out to the West Side for work. Then World War I started and Jo got rich from his once-pedestrian leather business. He started being seen with a much-younger woman then bumps into Emily watching her son (also named Jo) leaving for war in a parade. He tells off his current parter, then his sisters, and is destined to live the life of an old maid (butler?) from then on. This drags in places but is definitely powerful and important in the march to women’s rights. 4 out of 5 stars

History of the World Part 2 (Hulu): This is a long-in-arriving sequel to Mel Brooks’s Part 1 movie, with the legend himself narrating. Highlights include the Russian Revolution with Nick Kroll selling mud pies and Danny DeVito leading the Kardashian-like Romanovs; Shakespeare in the writer’s room; a bumbling Lincoln and a drunk Grant leading the Civil War; Jack Black’s JoJo Stalin musical in 1918 Moscow; Seth Rogen’s Noah, who only brings dogs on the Ark; and The Beatles reimagined as Black Jesus and his apostles, in sessions and on the rooftop before being arrested, then many years later the Pope’s all-white-man council has a PR meeting that results in Jesus being rebranded as white. Kroll as usual stands out as the brightest light in this farce. 3.5 out of 5 stars

The Kings of Summer (Showtime): The indie 2013 movie is about three teens who decide to “become men” for the summer, running away from home and building a house and a life in the nearby forest. Nick Offerman, Megan Mullaley, and Alison Brie tag along as concerned family members back home. It’s weird and slight but also a touching coming-of-age tale that shows how strong the desire for independence can be. 3.5 out of 5 stars

“My Old Man, by Ernest Hemingway (1923): This story, told from the point of view of a young man named Joe, relates his relationship with his horse jockey father, who gambles on horses and drinks whiskey. The boy loves going to the races and sitting at a cafe in Paris with his dad, until one day he leaves the boy parent-less when he dies in a race. This is one of the master’s earliest stories and it shows promise of his approaching work, but is also a little bit of a mess. 3 out of 5 stars

“Brothers,” by Sherwood Anderson (1921): Anderson, often compared to Ernest Hemingway (I’m still not convinced), tells one of his typical tales of small-town isolation. One man, on his regular walks around his village outside of Chicago, often encounters an old man who people say has lost his mind, and always tells lies and that he is related to famous people. The man is nearly totally silent at night when he returns from his bicycle-factory foreman job. But he begins to fantasize about one woman at the factory and then for almost no reason stabs his pregnant wife to death. He is found guilty and later somehow encounters the old man again one day. The old man doesn’t know he’s the murderer but tells the man his brother is the murderer. One of these days I hope to find an Anderson story that clicks, but this doesn’t hold up over the past century. 2 out of 5 stars

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