TV Review – Severance Season 1

Severance Season 1 (Apple TV+)
Written by Dan Erickson, Andrew Coville, Kari Drake, Anna Ouyang Moench, Amanda Overton, Helen Leigh, and Chris Black
Directed by Ben Stiller and Aoife McArdle

So Apple TV+ officially has its first great show. I was curious about the streaming platform at its launch in 2019 but didn’t find any of that initial batch of programs worth keeping up with. They weren’t terrible, just nothing that caught my attention. We watched the first and second seasons of Servant, but I haven’t found myself interested enough to watch the latest one. Then I started seeing a solid buzz about Severance, a show whose title seems so generic. I’d seen Adam Scott’s face in the marketing materials and thought it was just some workplace comedy I wouldn’t be interested in. Oh, how wrong I was. By the time we got to the final episode of the first season, I was fully convinced this is approaching Twin Peaks levels of good. In the same way, Lynch & Frost were using the tropes of the primetime soap opera, Severance has taken the workplace comedy and turned it completely on its head.

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TV Review – Brand New Cherry Flavor

Brand New Cherry Flavor (Netflix)
Written by Lenore Zion & Nick Antosca, Mando Alvarado, Christina Ham, Alana B. Lytle & Haley Z. Boston, and Matt Fennell
Directed by Arkasha Stevenson, Gandja Monteiro, Matt Sobel, Jake Schreier, and Nick Antosca

Serialized horror has become increasingly popular over the last decade thanks to shows like American Horror Story and others it inspired. However, AHS is a program I gave up on because I personally did enjoy its brand of campy horror-comedy (and the steep decline of its writing). Instead, I really came to love the tragically short-lived Channel Zero, the brainchild of writer Nick Antosca. Antosca took internet-published stories called “creepypasta” and adapted them into season-long stories. While Channel Zero was canceled after four seasons, it has remained a cult favorite, and Antosca has turned that into other film & television opportunities. One of these has been to adapt the obscure 1990s horror novel Brand New Cherry Flavor by Todd Grimson.

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TV Review – Raised by Wolves Season Two

Raised by Wolves Season Two (HBO Max)
Written by Aaron Guzikowski, Julian Meiojas, and Karen Campbell, 
Directed by Ernest Dickerson, Sunu Gonera, Alex Gabassi, and Lukas Ettlin

Few shows being made today are as a pretty wild trip as Raised By Wolves. While watching the season two finale, I think my emotions could be described as confused & stunned, but all in a good way. I think I’ve reached the point where I do not see the show as doing anything important or trying to make a serious point, but the intensity that the showrunners have who think they are makes it such an entertaining experience. Going into the second season, my expectations were reasonably lukewarm. The first season concluded on an odd note that had me wondering where the narrative would go next. Instead of bringing things back down and being grounded to a degree, Raised by Wolves ramped it all up.

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TV Review – Search Party Season 5

Search Party Season 5 (HBOMax)
Written by Sarah-Violet Bliss & Charles Rogers, Starlee Kine, Andrew Pierce Fleming & Matt Kriete, and Craig Rowin
Directed by John Lee, Heather Jack, Sarah-Violet Bliss & Charles Rogers

I have been watching Search Party since its debut on TBS in 2016, and it has consistently been a show that felt like every season could be it’s last. And with each renewal, the series found a way to reinvent itself. First, it started out as a murder mystery, then a dark Dostoyesfy-ian drama, a courtroom trial show, a show about a psychotic stalker, and now finally, the fifth season. This final entry is a wild mix of different genres and tones, fully relinquishing any sense of grounding previous seasons might have had. This turn into cartoonish-ness might not sit well with everyone, but it does remain consistent in one way: examining and mocking the vapidity of privileged people.

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TV Review – The White Lotus Season 1

The White Lotus Season 1 (HBO)
Written & Directed by Mike White

In British popular media, there is a regular focus on class as a means of societal division. You see this in programs like Upstairs Downstairs or Downton Abbey. In America, we often substitute race or gender for the same purpose. The White Lotus is an interesting anomaly as it takes that framework and combines it with a somewhat outdated American television series format, the procedural vacation show (Love Boat, Fantasy Island). The result is a series that doesn’t feel like anything else on television at the moment, and that’s quite refreshing. It’s no surprise this comes from Mike White, the showrunner behind another magnificent HBO series, Enlightened. Once again, he presents a story that doesn’t follow the structures and narrative we might expect from such a show.

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Seth’s Favorite Television of 2021

Search Party (Season 4, HBO Max)

From my review: Shawkat continues to give the best performances of her career so far. Physically she has a shaved head (forced upon her by the Twink), and there’s a disconnect in the way she moves. She cowers continuously, compared to last season, where she played the seductress, using her sexuality to manipulate. By the end of season four, she is genderless in many ways. She walks with a gait that could never be considered “feminine” by American cultural standards. I think this is important because it notes that Dory has played several roles as she’s dug herself deeper into the predicaments in her life. Now she’s reached a point, having convinced the public of her innocence while feeling the enormity of her guilt, that she is no one. The Twink takes full advantage of this and further breaks Dory down throughout the season.

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TV Review-Pen15 Season 2 Part 2

Pen15 Season 2 Part 2 (Hulu)
Written by Maya Erskine, Gabe Liedman, Rachele Lynn, Diana Tay, Alyssa DiMari, Josh Levine, Anna Konkle, and Vera Santamaria
Directed by Dan Longino, Maya Erskine, Andy DeYoung, and Anna Konkle

As Pen15 has wrapped up its last season, it’s bittersweet to acknowledge no new episodes will grace our screens. There have been comparisons to it, Wonder Years, Freaks and Geeks, but Pen15 stands on its own considering its presentation.

The other two are almost male-focused. Although Freaks and Geeks has its cult following and Lindsey Weir (Linda Cardellini) is the so-called lead, most of the cast is male. There is barely any mention of female friendships, the drama of being a teenager, and having someone on your side before and during those changes. Lindsey was breaking away from her friends, lingering and then becoming part of the ‘stoner’/freak crowd.

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TV Review – Squid Game Season 1

Squid Game Season 1 (Netflix)
Written & Directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk

I was skeptical when I first heard about the viral Netflix hit Squid Game. Anytime a show is that popular and popping up in so many corners of the internet, I can’t help but think it’s some shallow meme-ish nonsense. However, the fact that it was a Korean series caught my interest. Over the last twenty years, I’ve enjoyed almost every film I’ve seen from that country. Their filmmakers have a fantastic eye and are telling stories that are relevant beyond their own culture. So when I heard Squid Game was addressing issues of economic class, I was sold that I needed to see it, spurred on by the hilarious right-wing media tripping over their feet to argue it wasn’t a critique of capitalism (even though that is what the creator said) and that it was “really about communism.”

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Patron Pick – The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror I-III

This is a special reward available to Patreon patrons who pledge at the $10 or $20 a month levels. Each month those patrons will get to pick a film for me to review. They also get to include some of their own thoughts about the movie, if they choose. This Pick comes from Matt Harris.

Treehouse of Horror 
(original airdate: October 25, 1990)
Written by John Swartzwelder, Jay Kogen, Wallace Wolodarksy, Sam Simon, and Edgar Allen Poe
Directed by Wes Archer, Rich Moore, and David Silverman

Treehouse of Horror II
(original airdate: October 21, 1991)
Written by Al Jean, Mike Reiss, Jeff Martin, George Meyer, Sam Simon, and John Swartzwelder
Directed by Jim Reardon

Treehouse of Horror III
(original airdate: October 29, 1992)
Written by Al Jean & Mike Reiss, Jay Kogen & Wallace Wolodarsky, Sam Simon, and Jon Vitti
Directed by Carlos Baeza

I can vividly remember watching the first Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror on a Thursday evening in 1990. I was genuinely scared and entertained by it. I think that’s one of the great appeals of those early Treehouse episodes; the writers injected it with genuine horror but pulled back just enough so you wouldn’t get too frightened. The annual series was inspired by the anthology horror comics of E.C. (Tales from the Crypt, etc.), evidenced by the prevalence of gruesome puns in the opening credits. It wasn’t intended to become an annual tradition but rather an experiment with the show’s format. 

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TV Review – The Sopranos Season Six

The Sopranos Season Six (HBO)
Written by Terence Winter, David Chase, Matthew Weiner, Diane Frolov & Andrew Schneider, Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess
Directed by Tim Van Patten, David Nutter, Jack Bender, Alan Taylor, Steve Buscemi, Danny Leiner, Steve Shill, Phil Abraham

From day one, The Sopranos was compared to the work of Martin Scorsese. At a surface level view, that was inevitable as they both dealt in the world of Italian-American life and organized crime. However, Scorsese is concerned more with the intermingling of the sacred & the profane. Harvey Keitel kneels before a statue of Christ and prays for forgiveness throughout Mean Streets. Catholicism is highly prevalent throughout Scorsese’s work, and there are common elements of this religion in the Sopranos. However, I never once believed that Tony’s arc was a spiritual one. He does not believe in God, and it’s clear the world of the Sopranos is not governed by a deity. Instead, Tony’s journey is one of the inner mind; his dreams navigate him through the landscape of his existence. He does not speak to God; he listens to himself, for all the good & ill that leads to.

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