Channel Surfing #6 – Dog Days Edition: You’re the Worst, True Detective Season 2, Another Period, Mr. Robot, Hannibal

It’s summer. You are probably outside. But maybe it’s too hot and there are bugs and you got a sunburn. So, now you have to go inside. What else are you going to do except watch TV?

You’re (not) The Worst

You’re the Worst starring Chris Geere and Aya Cash as Jimmy and Gretchen, two admittedly terrible human beings, who just want to have sex with a bunch of people and do drugs and drink, who have no interest in settling down, who find each other in this crazy world and fall into a thing kind of like love, passed me by completely when the first season aired in 2014 (the show’s second season starts this September). The central premise is slight, the above is really all there is to the show, at least in the early going (I’ve seen only three episodes as of this writing) but the two main characters are funny, charming and have chemistry brewing. In fact, the premise, however thin, may be the thing that I like most about the show – as awful Jimmy and Gretchen are, their like/love for each other is instantly relatable. Watching people fall in love is enormously appealing, even if (maybe because) they are saying awful things while doing it.

You’re The Worst has similarities to another show that I have written about recently, Catastrophe, in that it is about a Brit and an American dating under somewhat odd circumstances and it is impossible for me not to compare the two. You’re the Worst isn’t as immediately sure-footed as Catastrophe, its leads don’t hold a candle to Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney and its jokes don’t always land (instead of being situational like the jokes in Catastrophe, You’re the Worst sometimes shoe-horns jokes into moments that would otherwise be fine without them). And it’s too bad that the show wants to have its cake and eat it too by making Jimmy and Gretchen fully aware (and if not apologetic, at least weary) of their own terribleness, which takes some of the fun out of the proceedings. The show also has Catastrophe’s secondary character problem, in that most of the secondary characters are underwritten. Worse than underwritten though, the secondary characters mostly seem to be uglier people than Jimmy and Gretchen. So who is the worst?

Who Cares About the Mystery?

Everyone is hating on True Detective Season 2 and, no, it’s not great but it has provided me with lots of fun this summer. Not a week goes by without at least one beautifully crafted bon mot (usually unintentionally hilarious) spouting from the mouth of Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, Taylor Kitsch or Vince Vaughn. There have been multiple quotable lines about e-cigarettes! Don’t believe me?

And here are some more for your reading pleasure.

Let’s Do the Time Warp

Remember that time on Downton Abbey where Lady Mary fucked a dude to death? Yes, we all remember that as the best thing that ever happened on Downton Abbey. Well, if you liked that (and we all liked that, it was the best thing that ever happened on Downton Abbey, after all) then you will probably love Another Period, created by and starring Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome as two horrible socialite sisters, Lillian Schmemmerhorn-Fish and Beatrice Tiffani Amber Thiessen Downsy, in 1902 Rhode Island. Another Period presents itself as a faux-reality show, sort of like a more polished version of what I imagine Keeping Up With The Kardashians was like (but I couldn’t tell you if that’s true). There are a myriad of characters, a hilarious hip-hop soundtrack, an upstairs/downstairs element (maids often have to endure such degradations as being hit in the face with baked goods and trying to blend into the wall when the countess walks by) and lots of slapping.

The show stars a bunch of people you know from other stuff, having an absolute hoot playing a menagerie of weirdos and eccentrics. There is Paget Brewster as the wakadoo matriarch, Dodo Bellacourt; Michael Ian Black as Peepers the head-butler with the most impossible-to-place accent you’ve ever heard; David Wain and Brian Huskey as the husbands of Lillian and Beatrice who have more interest in each other than the two women; Christina Hendricks as the new maid, who gets christened “Chair” in the first episode by an ever loving and kind Lillian; Brett Gelman as the sleaze-bag Hamish who hangs around, seemingly, to torture and hit on Chair; Lauren Ash as Hortense Jefferson Library Bellacourt, the “other” dowdy but intelligent sister who is uniformly ignored until she isn’t.

And then there is Jason Ritter. Can we talk about Jason Ritter for a second? Why is Jason Ritter not a bigger star? Why isn’t Jason Ritter starring in everything? He is incredible as Dipper on Gravity Falls and he is just so appealing and unthreatening as an actor. He’s a cartoon good-guy come to life. Do the ladies not love him? The ladies should love him. At any rate, here he plays Frederick Bellacourt, the brother of Lillian and Beatrice. Frederick is having a not-so-secret, not-so-frowned upon but still FORBIDDEN affair with Beatrice. He is also a complete and utter dunderhead. My favourite moments in Another Period, thus far, have been the times that Frederick gets a suggestion and just blindly runs with it. Like, for instance, the time that Sigmund Freud declared that Frederick was a homosexual. Instead of protesting, knowing as he does that he is in love with his sister, Frederick decides that, sure, it must be the truth and gives gayness a go. Or the time he weeps, food pouring out his mouth, at the suggestion that the dessert is not up to snuff because it includes three kinds of berries instead of the requisite four.

Another Period has problems, at a half-hour (or 22 minutes, or whatever) it is decidedly too long. Sometimes the jokes, most of which have to do with the dumb things upper crust idiots might do or say in the olden days (Racism! Sexism! Homophobia!), get stretched a bit too thin. There is a little bit of feminism hiding somewhere within the show and some social commentary but as a parody the show tends to nibble not bite. But it can also be giddily hilarious and the silly factor (which I love) is high.

Domo Arigato

Mr. Robot may be the most paranoid, isolated and inward-looking show on TV right now. It stars Rami Malek as Elliot Anderson, a hacker working at a company called E Corp (or “Evil Corp”, as Elliot calls it – oh, what, is that too on the nose for you?) who gets embroiled in an ongoing conspiracy that involves his employer. Malek has what I like to call “a face” – an oddly handsome, mostly eyes, other-worldly face – and it is very effective at what he is doing here. Christian Slater shows up, too, early on as the titular Mr. Robot, a hacker who employs a team of similar misfits at an arcade on Coney Island. The thing about shows like this is that I can never keep track of conspiracies or technical mumbo-jumbo so the “other stuff”, the human interaction and the tone of the show, better be something I can hold on to.

The neat thing about Mr. Robot is the show has this kind of coldness, this kind of overall greyness, this kind of insular paranoia, a kind of, for lack of a better word, robotic iciness – where Elliot seems to dislike most people so much that he can’t stand being one himself. Emotions don’t quite make sense to him. Emotions stay quiet in Elliot until they bubble and churn up and out of him in terrible sobs. The world of Mr. Robot is all Elliot, all inside Elliot. And there is something to this coldness, this lack of understanding that brings you in instead of forcing you away. We are in Elliot’s warped, drug-addicted head and we best just settle in. Mr. Robot is, at least in the early going, a slow burn. But it bubbles and churns, just like Elliot, and I’m looking forward to getting to the boiling point.

What The Heck is Going on with Hannibal

Everyone is now either dead, half-dead or a Batman villain, you say? You’re damn right I’m still watching.

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