Raised by Wolves Season 1 (2020)
Written by Aaron Guzikowski, Heather Bellson, Don Joh, Karen Campbell, & Sinead Daly
Directed by Ridley Scott, Luke Scott, Sergio Mimica-Gezzan, Alex Gabassi, & James Hawes
It’s hard to argue about the influence Ridley Scott has had on science fiction since the late 1970s. Through two movies, Alien and Blade Runner, he was one of the chief figures in elevating science fiction movies above the B-flick reputation they had garnered since the 1950s. My feelings on Scott have waned since Prometheus and revisiting some of his work. He is excellent in production design, but most of his work is very shallow thematically and frequently features undercooked plots. I was interested to see what Raised by Wolves would be like, a television series, a format that demands more character development. The result is a mixed bag with many things to love but a season finale that feels like everything went off the rails.
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Pen15 Season 2 Part 1 (Hulu)
Written by Sam Zvibleman, Gabe Liedman, Anna Konkle, Vera Santamaria, Josh Levine, and Maya Erskine
Directed by Sam Zvibleman
The first season of Pen15 was a wonderfully funny, absurd examination of female adolescence at the start of the 21st century. The creators and writers managed to balance the pathos & pain of growing up with inventive moments of comedy, most notably the two leads being played by thirtysomething against a cast of age-appropriate classmates. Season two took a slightly different route and ended up being much heavier & downbeat in its episodes’ conclusions, highlighting the melancholy nature of being a young teen in the 2000s.
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The Itchy and Scratchy and Poochie Show (Season 8, Episode 14)
Original airdate: February 9, 1997
Written by David S. Cohen
Directed by Steven Dean Moore
The Simpsons has always been focused on lampooning and critiquing the medium of television. The method of doing this frequently comes from episodes centered on Itchy and Scratchy, the in-universe children’s cartoon series featuring a hyper-violent cat and mouse. In 1990, the series did its first episode with Marge against Roger Meyers Jr. and the animation studio that makes Itchy & Scratchy. In 1997, with The Simpsons looking like it would last forever (and arguably has), the writers decided to comment on what happens when a show has been around for so long that it appears it might be going stale.
Continue reading “TV Review – The Best of The Simpsons Part 5”
22 Short Films About Springfield (Season 7, Episode 21)
Original airdate: April 14, 1996
Written by Richard Appel, David S. Cohen, Jonathan Collier, Jennifer Crittenden, Greg Daniels, Brent Forrester, Rachel Pulido, Steve Tompkins, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein, & Matt Groening
Directed by Jim Reardon
In season four, the staff realized they were short a couple of minutes for the runtime of “The Front.” They tacked a very short “bonus” Ned Flanders cartoon complete with a theme song and title card, a la Looney Tunes, or Hanna-Barbera. The staff loved the silliness of the short they tried to find places for them over the ensuing years but just could never fit them in.
Continue reading “TV Review – The Best of The Simpsons Part 4”
Deep Space Homer (Season five, episode fifteen)
Original airdate: February 24, 1994
Written by David Mirkin
Directed by Carlos Baeza (with David Silverman)
For some staff and crew, including creator Matt Groening, this episode felt like jumping the shark. If you aren’t familiar with that term, it is derived from a pretty ludicrous episode of Happy Days and has come to mean a moment when a television series goes off the rails, losing touch with what made it special, and instead becomes centered around an outlandish weekly gimmick. I can definitely see the argument for Deep Space Homer being that type of episode, but I still contend that the “jumping the shark” moment was later in The Simpsons’ development.
Continue reading “TV Review – The Best of The Simpsons Part 3”
Like an old relationship, I fell out of love with The Simpsons a lifetime ago. When we were together, it was an all-consuming passion, a primary element in shaping who I am today. When we fell out of love, it was sudden and cold. No regrets. That said, revisiting these episodes was a lot of fun, and I was reminded of how comprehensively the series was a part of my regular communication as a child and adolescent. So many of these phrases were uttered by myself and my siblings. I think The Simpsons was one of many touchstones that taught me about humor and how to be funny.
Continue reading “TV Review – The Best of The Simpsons Part One”
Homecoming Season 2 (2020)
Directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez
Written by Micah Bloomberg, Eli Horowitz, Zachary Wigon, Sarah Carbiener, Erica Rosbe, Casallina Kisakye, Evan Wright, and Patrick Macmanus
Choosing the perspective of a story is incredibly important. Deciding who will unroll the narrative for us affects how we perceive every character and each plot beat. Who ends up being seen as a hero or villain can subtly shift. The showrunners behind Homecoming decided to make the central character in their second season someone we had never met before. On top of that, she has amnesia and can’t even remember her name. By doing this, we are immediately sympathetic to her because we have no idea what is going on. By the end of the season, we know everything while she is still stumbling in the dark.
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Flowers Season 2 (Netflix)
Written & Directed by Will Sharpe
Flowers is such a difficult show to explain if you haven’t seen it. While watching the second season, I thought it’s like The Addams Family but grounded and about mental health. The tone and characters are realistically macabre, a tormented family of creative types whose communication has broken down so badly they just simply can’t communicate with each other any longer. Creator Will Sharpe has given us a second beautiful season that goes even more in-depth with the Flowers’ history and works to heal the damage.
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Person or Persons Unknown (Season Three, Episode Twenty-Seven)
Original airdate: March 23rd, 1962
Written by Charles Beaumont
Directed by John Brahm
The Twilight Zone could really delve deeply into some intimately existential fears. In this episode, we meet David Gurney, a man who wakes up after late-night drinking. His wife reacts with horror, claiming she doesn’t recognize him and has no idea who he is. David thinks she’s playing a prank on him and leaves for work. But once he arrives at the bank, he finds his coworkers are in the same boat as his wife. They have never seen or heard of him before. Eventually, David ends up in a mental hospital where his doctor tries to convince him he never had this life; he seems to remember so vividly.
Continue reading “TV Review – The Best of The Twilight Zone Part 3”
The Twilight Zone was not the first anthology of the fantastic, but it has gone down as the most memorable and best-written one. That writing was due in part to Rod Serling setting the standard. Rod Serling looked pretty “square,” but he was a political radical, virulently anti-war and firmly in support of racial equality. He made sure that his anthology told stories relevant to what was happening in the society around his viewers. Serling’s wife, Carol, remarked that he would often say, “the ultimate obscenity is not caring, not doing something about what you feel, not feeling! Just drawing back and drawing in, becoming narcissistic”. So you can see that Serling felt compelled to not just entertain but educate whether audiences wanted it or not.
Continue reading “TV Review – The Best of The Twilight Zone Part 1”