Looking for Alaska, Mini-Series

Adapted by the young adult novel by John Green, I must admit I was very excited to watch this Hulu original. As an angsty middle schooler who felt very ~seen~ by this book, I was excited to relive my pubescent days and see how they would recreate this on the small screen. I’m happy to say that the show really stays true to the novel. To anyone else who read this crying in their formative years – you will feel all of those emotions all over again and cry just as hard.

I think this mini-series accomplishes what 13 Reasons Why hoped and failed to do. It perfectly encapsulates the extreme pain and confusion of adolescence for every teen – no matter what they’ve been through at that point. However, it doesn’t glorify and romanticize the pain to a point that feels dangerous and like a model for teen suicide. It is more profound, relatable, (rightfully) careful and focuses more on the ways adolescents grieve and how they come to terms with the permanence of death. While 13 Reasons Why focuses on the act of suicide, Looking for Alaska deals with our first experience with death and how we cope. While we all grapple with the idea of death our whole lives, Looking for Alaska beautifully and painfully portrays the first time we experience it first-hand.

It definitely has corniness and every scene has an abundance of angsty chain-smoking, but that is accurate to the early 2000’s book and to be honest, part of the reason it’s so appealing to young people. Furthermore, despite the corniness, I liked that the script played with it in a tongue-in-cheek way. They outright state the pretentiousness of some of the “deep” moments, but without at all making it satirical. It knows what it is and it owns it. While 13 Reasons Why took itself so seriously, LFA reflects the seriousness of the story while letting the viewer in on the jokes. As far as young adult series go, I think this one hits the mark really well. It overcomes being completely YA and is enjoyable for any age. Whether you’re a current teen, a nostalgic, former John Green stan or someone who has no connection at all to the material – the series is compelling, moving, humorous, and leaves you clicking “next episode” every time.

How to watch: Hulu

Pen15, Season 1

Pen15 premiered in February but I thought I’d go back a few months and review this one, because WOW, it was exceptional. This comedic, yet emotional, show follows Maya Erksine and Anna Konkle playing their younger selves in middle school. It all hits a little too close to home for my own personal middle school experiences, as I’m sure it does for many. While the show is absolutely hilarious, it also is honest, heart-warming and portrays such a relatable, endearing friendship. We all have that one person we owe our life to for helping us through middle school, and Anna and Maya perfectly encapsulate that.

The show has such perfectly humorous moments, from Anna’s first kiss to Maya discovering ~masturbation~, the show will have you in tears crying. It also uses comedy to portray more thought-provoking issues such as Anna becoming more aware of racism in a cringey, but honest, moment with Maya. In an interview with “Vulture”, Erksine stated that “the experience of performing such personal material “opened up a well of emotion I was not prepared for,” she says. “I started bawling.” You can really feel that in the episodes with how raw and natural it feels, even though it’s ironically being played by two 30-year old women. I highly recommend this show and I’m counting down the days until Season 2.

How to watch: Hulu

Barry, Season 2

I didn’t think it would be possible to top Season 1, but I have to say Season 2 lived up to the hype. This season is even more heart-wrenching, as we must watch Barry come to terms with what he did at the end of Season 1. It torments the viewer even more, as we feel so compelled to cheer Barry on despite knowing that he murdered in cold-blood. With each episode, we are given false hope that he’s finally figured it out, and then we are yanked back again as he continues to stumble, fall and collapse through self-maturation and actualization.

Henry Winkler (Gene Cousineau) is brilliant yet again, and continues to hone his acting skills (ironic considering his character). He broke my heart, watching a man deal with such powerful grief, yet played with such tenderness and subtlety. Anthony Carrigan (Noho Hank) takes on even more scope in his role as the way-too polite and wildly hilarious drug-dealer/murderer. While he was basically just the comedic relief in Season 1, Season 2 allows him to be more vulnerable and gives more insight to his character. If anything, I could use more of Noho Hank in Season 3. Bill Hader (Barry Berkman), where do I even begin? He continues to prove himself to be one of the most versatile actors. He is able to play the straight man, the funny man, the insane man, the psychopath – And yet no matter which one he is playing, it is always believable and relatable.

I truly think “Barry” is one of the best shows of all time. It is an effortless blend of witty, dry, dark humor weaved amongst devastatingly heartbreaking scenes. However, the third key component is hope – Hope for Barry as a character and for all of humankind and our often wicked tendencies. It connects and cuts so deeply with such a large audience. No matter who you are, there is a piece of this show that will make you laugh, cry, question yourself and reflect on who YOU are as a person. You know you have found a brilliant series when it leaves the audience not just trying to understand the characters, but trying to understand themselves.

How to Watch: HBO

Season Finale: 19 May 2019

Drew Michael – HBO Stand-Up Comedy Special

Stand-up comedy can take many different comedic routes, from raunchy to self-deprecating  to political to everything in between. However, most comedy specials follow the same layout, a person with a microphone in front of an audience. This seems obvious and an unquestioned setting for stand-up. However, Drew Michael’s new special turns this format on its head. He pulls off something I doubt many people would even think about: stand-up with no audience.

His special is artistic, theatrical and reminds me of “The French New Wave Style,” except applied to stand-up comedy. It’s focusing only on the audience at home. Most comedy specials aim to make you feel like you’re actually in the audience, in the theatre watching them. However, Drew Michael artistically edits with jump-cuts, cut-aways to a girl Skyping that is never introduced, and the most jarring, a lack of background noise. He’s reminding you you’re watching this as a film and making the most of the digital medium.

When I first started watching, I was a little thrown off. Maybe I’m not sophisticated enough to immediately appreciate the silence but it was strange not to hear others laughing. Comedy is such a communal performance, with audience members coming together to laugh with each other and the comedian inserting themselves among them. It felt like a backlash against that. However, I soon found myself hysterically laughing with just me and Drew Michael. With the set being a simple, blue, dream-like background, you really feel like you’re in his mind. It creates a personal connection between him and the viewer, making the performance very intimate despite exaggerating the fact that its being shown on a screen. Additionally, without the live audience, it gives the audience at home the chance to digest a joke more. Just like when laugh tracks disappeared from sit-coms, it felt like the creators were letting the audience decide when to laugh, rather than basically holding up a cue card that says, “This is funny! You should laugh too!”

His comedy is on the darker, serious side with bits in between making light of it all or funny, outlandish comments that he thinks to himself. It definitely has a pretentious tone, but at the same time, he is self-deprecating and analyzing his personal flaws. While I wasn’t dying of laughter, like when I watch John Mulaney or Chris Rock, I’m not sure that’s what Michael was going for. It’s more of a chuckle and a, “Wow, I actually never thought of that,” or “Yes!! I relate to that pain too, but you made me smile about it.”

I highly recommend watching if you’re a fan of stand-up at all. It will make you laugh, reflect, feel and question why we think it’s fucked up to have sex with animals (you’ll have to watch it to get that last one). Above all, it’s just so unique and could be the start of a sub-genre of stand-up comedy that takes a more poetic, melodramatic form.

How to Watch: HBO

Release Date: 25 August 2018

Abbi Jacobson & Lena Waithe, In Conversation

On Sunday, November 5th, I had the absolute honor of hearing Abbi Jacobson and Lena Waithe speak. These hilarious, intelligent, inspiring, glass-ceiling-breaking women are 2 of my biggest heroes. Both have created some of my favorite content on the small screen. If you are not familiar, Abbi Jacobson is the co-creator and co-star of Broad City, as well as the illustrator of Carry This Book, a New York Times best seller. Lena Waithe is the co-writer and co-star in Master of None and was the first black woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. She also recently created The Chi, on Showtime. Needless to say, I was in heaven listening to these comedic geniuses share their thoughts, vulnerabilities, humor and art. The event was a book tour for Abbi Jacobson’s I Might Regret This: Essays, Drawings, Vulnerabilities, and Other Stuff.

Since the book just came out, I’m only 4 chapters in but already in love. You know a book must be entertaining and engaging when even the a shameless television-addict, like myself, can stop watching and actually do some reading (ooh, so ~intellectual~). So far, the book is a perfect blend of the comedic, the serious, the introspective and the heart-breaking. It is a candid version of a writer and actor I have admired for years, exposing a side of herself that she has never let us see. While Broad City is one of my all-time favorite series and I am already bracing for the last season, I am happy to see Abbi and Illana working on exciting new projects. They are both starting to create unique, individualized content, making their own personal marks on the entertainment world.

What was so incredible about this event was seeing my idol basically vocalize all the insecurities I, too, have all the time. She talked about everything from her fear of dying alone to her constant internal battle of hiding her darker sides behind comedy and acting, both on the screen and off. I found it so comforting and moving to see the person I admire basically telling me, “You’re not nuts! I feel the same way and look at what a damn queen I turned out to be!” Okay, that was some gross misquoting, but you catch my drift. It was just a very special experience and one I won’t forget any time soon. I felt understood, hopeful and, above all, inspired to try and create something I would be proud of (even if that just ends up being this amateur blog!)

Apologies for this being more of a personal Kelly story than a television review or recommendation. I can hear the eye-rolls as people read my overdramatized reaction to this hour and half long event. However, it was a friendly reminder that even the people you look up to most were probably in similar shoes to you at some point. BUT, if you are here looking for TV reviews/recs and not a Lifetime Special about female empowerment and accepting yourself, click here!

Guest Review: Mustang (Film)

Author: Kalena Tamura

The Turkish film “Mustang,” directed by Deniz Erguven, centers on the lives of five orphaned sisters from a small conservative village in northern Turkey. Based on a number of events from Erguven’s own personal life, the film courageously battles topics of arranged marriage, rape, and the normalization of suppressed female sexuality in the face of a patriarchal society. In a depiction that is both stunning and timely, the film delivers an honest message via the voices of five sisters who have never acted before, but who know what it means to grow up as a young girl in a conservative society — how it shapes character, how it tests resilience, and how it teaches the inexhaustible strength of familial unity. Ultimately the film’s strongest achievement is not its accurate portrayal of cultural tension and the pressing hardships young Turkish women must face, but its representation of female characters as determined, intelligent, compassionate and most of all human.

Huge thanks to the very talented and well-written, Kalena Tamura, for sharing this Guest Review! Kalena is also a Film & Television minor at UCLA and is constantly giving me new, exciting content to watch. This will be next-up on my watch-list for movies, and I’m guessing it’s on yours now too.

Extra Things to Know –

How to Watch: Netflix (At the moment)

Release Date: 17 June 2015

To see more of Kalena’s art / writing / coolness, check out her website: here!

Once again, if you have a TV show, film, or any type of visual art that you would like to write a review on, please reach out to me! Feel free to shoot me an email, and let your inner television/film geek run free!

Maniac, Netflix Mini-Series

This highly anticipated mini-series hit Netflix on September 21st, starring the OG Superbad stars, Jonah Hill and Emma Stone. The characters, both dealing with their own different traumas, agree to enter a Black Mirror-esque simulation that is being tested with the goal of curing depression. The simulations have the characters basically face their traumas, their flaws, and their deepest insecurities in the hopes of having the confrontation lead them to acceptance. However, Annie (Emma Stone) and Owen (Jonah Hill) end up being in the simulations together due to an unexpected “glitch” in the computer. I’ll leave the synopsis at that, because anymore may be riddled with spoilers.

While I think the show is definitely worth the watch, I did have some mixed feelings about it. I like how they were taking the dystopian technology plot and twisting it a little bit by adding a lot of humor and creating a world that is both very realistic but also very outlandish. It felt really realistic and something that could definitely happen today. I just thought some of the humor missed the mark a little bit and instead of being a funny spoof, just took me out of the plot a little bit. Sometimes I was laughing out loud, sometimes I was cringing, but I like the attempt to blend serious trauma with humor. Dr. James K Mantleray (Justin Theroux) was definitely supposed to be the comedic character and he was really great at certain moments. However, it wasn’t as well done as Noho Hank (Anthony Carrigan) in Barry, which is the same type of character who you are supposed to laugh at and like despite him being pretty fucked up and being the catalyst for the protagonists’ struggle. In fairness, Anthony Carrigan set that bar pretty high.

The series was also just slightly confusing, which always bothers me when it’s a topic that is actually realistic and somewhat easy to explain. I wanted more explanation for a lot of the things happening. Somewhat *spoiler alert* but how did the computer obtain empathy? How did a computer cry and actually create water? Was the computer actually a mind-replica of the doctor’s mom and how did they have access to all her personal thoughts based just on her books? Are both Annie and Owen’s minds creating their simulations at the same time, or does one mind take over and the other is basically an actor with no say in it? If you don’t think too much about it and the small plot holes don’t bother you, it shouldn’t be an issue. However, if you’re like me, and want to know the reasoning behind major points in the story, Maniac fails in that regard.

Overall, I definitely recommend the show if you’re looking for something to watch and enjoy shows with dark humor or being disturbed by the ~inevitable future of technology.~ Despite my mixed feelings, I admit that I finished the season in just a few days. It definitely accomplishes the main, and arguably only, goal of TV which is just to entertain, even if I was wondering what the hell was going on at times. Beyond the cons, the special effects are amazing and all of the actors are great and do the best with the confusing and not-so-hilarious script. I’d say it’s a hit or miss for viewers and I think each person has to watch a couple episodes to know if it’s for them.

Bob’s Burgers Season 9, Episodes 1-3

This will be a quick little review of the first 3 episodes of Season 9 of Bob’s Burgers! As I said in the post “Top Shows I Watched This Summer and Think You Should Too,” I’ve been watching this gem since it started in 2011 and binged the 8th season this summer, laughing all the way through. To read the article above on summer shows, click here:

https://thischicklovestelevision.blog/2018/09/28/top-shows-i-watched-this-summer-think-you-should-too/

General overview of Bob’s Burgers as a Series

When to Watch: This may sound silly, but honestly Bob’s Burgers is a great go-to whenever you’re feeling down or even existential. The comedy is so light-hearted and wholesome, but not corny or cringey. It makes you smile without throwing you deeper into an existential crisis, like Rick and Morty for example. It’s also a great show if you want to passively watch some TV. While I think the show is enthralling, each episode stands alone so you don’t have to pay attention to every detail. Also recommend watching when you’re ready to get high/veg out. Once again, it’s so fun-loving, it won’t leave you geeking out or struggling to pay attention. 

How to Watch: Hulu

Season 9

Season 9 premiered on September 30th, 2018 and the first 3 episodes don’t miss a beat. I relate heavily to Tina in the Episode 1, “Just One of the Boyz 4 Now for Now.” While chasing after a boy she met briefly on the sidewalk, she has to come to terms with the fact that she may not actually love him, but that she’s just plain boy crazy. This was such a funny start to the season and plays on their classic joke of the boy band, “Boyz 4 Now” which perfectly spoofs One Direction and middle school fan-girling which many of us fell victim to, myself included… still love you Biebz.

Episode 2, “The Taking of Funtime One Two Three,” chronicles the kids efforts to win the dune buggy at the local arcade with the help of Mr. Fischoeder. This episode was pretty funny, but of the 3, I would say it’s the least memorable. It’s a classic plot of the kids trying to pull off a sneaky heist with some unexpected help, but it’s a little bland in my humble opinion.

I thought Episode 3 was hilarious, maybe because any episode where Tina is the center-focus is a riot to me. The episode also has the whole gang of Zeke, Jimmy Junior, Tammy and the chick that follows Tammy around – does anyone actually know her name? The episode is hilarious as the kids join the entrepreneur club and Tina slowly spirals into becoming a cut-throat business mogul. The main plot is supported nicely by the subplot of Bob and Linda dealing with a dine and dasher who fools them not once, not twice, but three times.

I was chuckling the whole way through these episodes and look forward to the rest of the season – each episode coming out on Sunday nights!

Guest Review – The Haunting of Hill House Season 1

The Haunting of Hill House – Season 1

Author: Ryan Brookins

The Haunting of Hill House is one of the most intense, emotionally gripping television series that I have ever seen. It’s very rare for a horror genre film or television show to have a compelling storyline that grabs at every fiber of your core. The story follows a husband, wife & their five children that flip homes for a living. The show chronicles their journey after moving into a home teeming with life beyond death.  Consistently transitioning between present day and the past, you learn about how the effects of a traumatic night in the home have shaped the family’s present.  Each character has their own unique side of the story and you solve the mystery of the Hill House as each person reveals their version and how they now struggle with events transpired from their childhood.  You are consistently on the edge of your seat; laughing one minute, the next terrified, the next, so emotionally ravaged that you catch yourself with your mouth agape as the mystery of that mysterious night is told to you. This is hands down my absolute favorite show of all time and I cannot wait to see if there will be a second season.

 

Huge thanks to Ryan Brookins for writing the first Guest Review for this site! I have yet to see this show, but after hearing this chilling and enthralling review, it’s definitely going to the top of the television bucket list. Sounds like the perfect show for the Halloween season, stay spooky friends!

Extra Things to Know –

How to Watch: Netflix

1 Season, 10 Episodes

Creator: Mike Flanagan

Release Date: 12 October 2018

Also, if you have a TV show, film, any type of visual art that you would like to write a review on, please reach out to me! I absolutely loved reading this article and am always stoked to hear about sectors of television (like horror) that I don’t tend to watch as much (because I’m a huge weenie). So feel free to shoot me an email and let your inner television geek run free.

 

 

SNL Season 44, Episodes 2 & 3

I wrote about episode 1, with host Adam Driver, so if you haven’t seen that one, I recommend starting the season from the top because the first episode is great. However, the second two episodes are still a riot and continue the season off to a great start.

Episode 2 was hosted by Awkwafina, an American rapper and most recently, starring in the popular novel adaptation of Crazy Rich Asians. She was only the second Asian-American woman to ever host SNL, the last time being Lucy Liu 18 years ago. This is honestly shocking and highlights the lack of diversity in Hollywood. Awkwafina touches upon Liu being her idol in the monologue and it’s one of the more touching moments on this usually just comedic-centered show.

Episode 2 had some funny sketches, but it also had a couple bombs. SNL is experimental and almost always has a few misses, but the hits make up for them. This episode reflected that pattern. The late night battle, a sketch about dance battlers (is that the right term for them?) who end up dancing to the Jeopardy theme song, had potential to be funny but just felt pretty awkward and hard to watch. The baby shower sketch also missed the mark, to no fault of Awkwafina’s performance, but just a poor flow throughout the whole sketch and a weak lead-up to her character. The Cleopatra sketch also just fell a bit flat and was trying too hard.

There were a couple sketches that still landed and made the episode worth the watch. Not a sketch, but Awkwafina’s monologue was well-done and personable. It’s always great to see a host do the classic stand-up style monologue, rather than using a crutch of other cast members or use of the audience. She seemed really natural and comfortable and had the clever joke of “I was going to dress up as a water bottle, but somebody already did that last week,” referring to Kanye’s performance. A hilarious sketch from the episode was the emergency alert sketch, spoofing Trump’s emergency alert texts received that week.

Overall, the episode was on the less funny side but still had some good laughs and Awkwafina is a natural performer who I look forward to seeing in the future.

Episode 3 hosted by Seth Meyers was absolutely hilarious, no surprise as a former cast member. Episodes hosted by SNL veterans are always just innately funny, as they are already so comfortable, know how to make sketch comedy work effortlessly and have a strong rapport with the other cast members. I’ll spend less time on this episode because with a comedian like Seth Meyers, you already know you’re in for a treat.

My personal favorite sketches were Beta Force with Beck Bennett, A Frightening Tale with Kyle Mooney and Seth Meyers, who have a really great chemistry on the screen, and the cold open, Brett Kavanaugh Post-Game. Kate McKinnon in the opener will have you on the verge of tears, both from laughing and being thoroughly disturbed. By far the best sketch in my opinion was Traffic Stop because it really highlighted the talent of new cast member, Ego Nwodim. The newbie is paired with Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon where they pull over Seth Meyers just to inappropriately objectify him. The whole thing is so absurd, but works so well. Nwodim really showed off her comedic talent and seemed to already have a hang of SNL.

Thanks for reading about my obsession with SNL and hope you all enjoy the first 3 episodes of season 44 as much as I did! Feel free to call me out if I missed any great sketches, I won’t take it too personally.