Another Week: Number 5
Beneath, please find my notes from the past seven days.
Big Little Lies
Tuesday night we finished Big Little Lies, Season 2 (of 2). For those unfamiliar, it’s a slightly crimey rich housewives drama set in Monterey, California that ran on HBO from 2017 to 2019, starring Reese Witherspoon, Adam Scott, Nicole Kidman, Alexander Skarsgård, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, and Zoë Kravitz. Season 2 added Meryl Streep.
It wasn’t the finest series of TV’s new golden age, but it was good enough for us to finish eventually.
For someone who is generally reputed to be the most excellent actress of the last couple of generations, Meryl Streep didn’t do it for me. Her character was a wig and glasses and a few mannerisms in search of a self. Pirini Scleroso was more believable on SCTV.
Generally, I love when a show or movie has a great soundtrack. With Big Little Lies, however, someone obviously wanted to show off their trendy playlist skills by sticking yet another track into every scene on a nearly per-minute basis. This quickly becomes too much.
Nevertheless, in episode 2.2 Laura Dern delivers one line that makes the 12 total hours all worth it.
Félix Carvajal, Cuba’s first Olympic marathoner
Wednesday morning, Amy treated me to a potion of a podcast she enjoys, My Favorite Murder.
Specifically, it was the second half of “Episode 362: A Generous Number of Apples” (beginning at 36:08), concerning Félix Carvajal (1875-1949) who lived a preposterous life as a penniless long-distance runner in Cuba and competed in the 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis, Missouri — just one of many ridiculous escapades.
Wednesday night we watched episode 2.3 of Vida, a half-hour dramedy we’ve been nursing on Hulu. It originally ran from 2018 to 2020 on Starz.
This is an exceptional show. It concerns two estranged sisters from Boyle Heights, Los Angeles whose mother dies — leaving behind her wife and an unprofitable neighborhood drinking establishment.
There’s significant Latina and LGBTQIA+ representation in the characters and storylines. The mostly-English script frequently borrows Spanish words and phrases. The politics of gentrification creates conflict. There are occasional sex scenes, which are fairly explicit, and even some violence. This is not a kids’ show.
The writing is superb. While the storylines don’t always lope forward, the voices ring distinct and true. The actors — all unfamiliar to me — are outstanding. The production is clever and beautiful. Each episode holds a worthwhile surprise.
Let’s hope Hulu adds the third and final season by the time we get there.
As We See It
Also Wednesday night, we began a year-old, series on Amazon Prime that’s already been cancelled after one eight-episode season. As We See It is centered on a Los Angeles apartment where three young adults — all on the autism spectrum both as characters and in real life — live together, along with an aide (played by Sosie Bacon, daughter of Kevin Bacon) who is studying autism on the path to her professional career. You will also recognize Joe Mantegna as the father of one of the guys. In real life, Mantegna’s daughter is on the spectrum.
This is a half-hour dramedy, and it’s seriously funny stuff. The trio are seen in their respective jobs — or just trying to navigate the sidewalk all the way to the corner store — and their autistic quirks are perpetually misinterpreted by their coworkers.
It’s also heartbreaking, because communication breaks down, frustration builds up, and feelings get hurt.
As We See It balances these laughs and tears deftly and naturally.
We’re only two of eight episodes in, but already I feel shame that this show — based on a 10-episode Israeli series — didn’t attract more viewers. It’s rare for something unconventional to get this far, and rarer still for it to be so good.
That Timothée Chalamet commercial notwithstanding, we continue our quest to find things on Apple TV+ to justify our subscription, and so on Friday night, we tried Shrinking, the new comedy series starring Jason Segel as a basket case of a therapist and Harrison Ford as his curmudgeonly colleague. There’s also Jessica Williams, who we know from The Daily Show.
With Shrinking, you can see what they’re going for.
I imagine they want another Ted Lasso — a show about actual human feelings that’s cushioned with plenty of humor.
Ted Lasso didn’t hit its stride right away, and Shrinking begins as a chaotic mess. Jimmy Laird — Jason Segal’s therapist character — seems like he’s in the early stages of a wacky nervous breakdown. His daughter has been taken in by a neighbor couple, and that husband is having his own wacky nervous breakdown about parenting a daughter that’s not theirs. The Jessica Williams character, Gaby, uses gigantic water jugs to keep herself hydrated.
The jokes are not funny. The timing is off. Everyone is trying way too hard — except Harrison Ford, who is just gray and curmudgeonly.
But then as the first episode draws to a close and the second one gets going, some of the clutter clears up. Relationships are more defined. There’s some rhythm. Harrison Ford thaws a bit.
Maybe — like Ted Lasso — this will become good once we can all see what it is.
Episode 3 drops this Friday.