Email Roundtable #56 – Big Little Lies

In this week’s roundtable Jane and Kerri attempt to discuss Big Little Lies, the HBO mini-series about a group of women whose children are all in the same first-grade class. At the beginning of the series, Shailene Woodley’s character, Jane, moves into the Monterey Bay area and is quickly befriended by Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) and Celeste (Nicole Kidman). Things take a turn when Jane’s son, Ziggy, is accused of attacking the daughter of Renata (Laura Dern). The truth is hard to come by. Big Little Lies involves multiple MYSTERIES (some big, some little) and there are MODERATE spoilers ahead. Read on at your own risk.  Continue reading

Joining The World of Missing Persons: Season Three of Halt and Catch Fire

Halt and Catch Fire’s main theme has always been communication. Technology – affordable desktop computers, chat rooms, games, the embryo of an idea like the internet, a place to buy all of the things you’ve been looking for, for years (from Winnipeg, no less!) – was all about connecting one person to another, or one person to the world. Unlike earlier seasons though, season three has been less about making things that facilitate communication, than it is about communication itself. Two people talking, through whatever form that might take – online, on a phone, over the airwaves, in person. After moving on and moving away, to varying degrees (because he’s never very far behind or away), from Joe MacMillan, the unhinged businessman and anti-hero/pure villain, Halt and Catch Fire turned to its much more interesting at-one-time secondary characters: Cameron, the unstable coder genius, and Donna, the put-together, business and tech-savvy mother of two and wife of Gordon, a technical genius in his own right. It was and continues to be the relationship between Cameron and Donna that provides the show with its heart. And it is their fraught relationship this season that, though at times too constructed, has become what the show hinges upon.

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The Reality Myth: life is not what it seems on unREAL

I’ve made terrible TV mistakes in the past. I once wrote a very glowing essay on this very blog after the first episode of The Affair (I still stand by my thoughts about that first episode), essentially declaring that it would likely be the next-best, must-watch, prestige drama of the season. I’ve since stopped watching the show outright, realizing that what I thought was thoughtful, smart tricks in plotting and characterization was actually, maybe just not knowing who the characters were. And that any amount of shouting couldn’t cover up not so great writing. And so I’m usually a little slow to assert my opinion about a show, I’ll wait a few episodes before saying anything one way or another. This wasn’t the case while watching Lifetime’s drama unREAL (the show originally aired last summer and I’m just catching up with it now). After watching the first two episodes I was telling anyone who would listen that the show was brilliant and unique and my favourite new thing. And then I watched the rest of the season. That’s not to say I made a mistake about unREAL – in fact, my fondness for the first season still rivals some of my favourite new shows from last year – it just proved that, in many ways like the show it skewers, it wasn’t exactly what it seemed. Continue reading

Channel Surfing #7 – Drinks Edition: Horace and Pete, The People Vs. OJ Simpson, Baskets, Broad City, Kevin Morby

Sit Down and Have a Beer

We live in a curious age. An age where the extremely wealthy (and moderately creative) can cobble together vanity projects and drop them online, somewhat secretly, and get them out to an enormous audience. Recently, Louis CK went the Kanye route and corralled a group of his most famous actor friends, made a little show, and put it on his website. The result is Horace and Pete, a show that harkens back to the days of the multi-cam sitcom, most specifically Cheers (one of the first pleasures of the show is when you realize that they’ve done a lovely job paying homage to the Cheers set). The show stars CK as Horace and Steve Buscemi as Pete, owners of a family-run bar (called Horace and Pete’s) in Brooklyn. The bar has been passed down through the family for over 100 years, from fathers to sons all named either Horace or Pete. Alan Alda plays the curmudgeonly, spiky-tongued, racist, Uncle Pete, the bartender, who will only serve beer or straight alcohol, no mixed drinks. Edie Falco plays Horace’s sister, Sylvia, who is in a particularly a bad spot. There are a number of other actors you will immediately recognize and many other character actors that stop by for a drink (you’ll be pointing at the screen and saying, “that guy!” multiple times while watching).

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Hiding in plain sight: The big and small secrets on Manhattan

“This entire hill was built on secrets, Frank. They’re traded around like ration stamps” – Glen Babbit

This past week it was announced (or rather mentioned, “announced” being a word reserved for things that people actually care about) that the WGN show, Manhattan, had been cancelled. Its ratings were abysmal, it hardly even mustered enough to get it into the top 1,000 watched shows of 2015. This is doubly unfortunate because the show is competent and captivating and because I just started in on its windswept, sandy, sweaty first season. Manhattan is set in 1943 Los Alamos, New Mexico and surrounds an army compound where scientists are sciencing-up nuclear weapons. Yes, it is about the Manhattan Project but, generally speaking, the main characters in the show aren’t the actual historical major players, instead are the (fictional) underlings and unsung heroes, the grunts if you will, of the real-life events. As of this writing I’ve made my way through the majority of season one. The acting, writing and production put the show in the same company as any other prestige drama on TV but, for whatever reason – maybe the fact that it was on WGN and no one could find it? Maybe because it never engages in much in the way of anti-heroics, it’s characters rather just messy people, making a mess of their own lives and others – it never seemed to enter into the same conversations as the Mad Mens and Breaking Bads of the world.

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Television Secret Santa – Olive Kitteridge

Over the holidays we decided to treat ourselves to some quality shows by doing another round of TV Secret Santas. This time, instead of picking shows for each other, we all wrote down the names of various shows (which we had either seen and wanted others to watch or hadn’t seen at all) and did a random blind pick out of a Santa hat (or in our case a Ziploc bag). This week Kerri discusses her pick, Olive Kitteridge. 

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