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Amazon Prime Video Review: Recent Watches


Hi! So I haven’t done an Amazon Prime video round up in quite a while, thought I would rectify that!

Here are my favourite picks of what I’ve watched in the past few months…

Loudermilk: This dram-com stars Ron Livingston as Sam Loudermilk, an AA group leader (I don’t know if they ever say if it’s AA? It’s definitely an alcoholics anonymous type group). Loudermilk is the kind of character the acerbic Livingston was born to play, he is a natural in this role, and at the same time has room to express more emotions than perhaps some of his other well-known roles have allowed (I mainly know him from Office Space, Band of Brothers and a few other indies, and of course the infamous SATC arc where he played Carrie’s boyfriend Burger, who broke up with her in a post it note!). This show is the brainchild of Peter Farrelly (There's Something About Mary, Dumb and Dumber Kingpin always Kingpin! ;-)) but it is far more understated and low key than that might imply. It does have elements of the zany, which honestly came close to wrecking it for me in a couple of instances. I was not crazy about the plot twist at the end, I thought it was super dumb (let me know if you watch it what you think!).

At any rate, Loudermilk is not your usual kid gloves type AA leader. He’s rude and grumpy and kind of an a-hole, as the show is keen to point out from time to time. At the same time, he is basically a decent guy who does the right thing even when he really doesn’t want to. Loudermilk  is a former music writer living in Seattle, the show has a few punchy anti-hipster refrains that manage to come off as not too trite, or maybe I am just of an age where I enjoy grumpy old people my age complaining about the youth! His character reminds me a little bit of John Cusack in High Fidelity, albeit in a slightly less self -serving way. He has an unavailable neighbour he fancies and a fellow recovering alcoholic roommate. He also takes in a young addict who has gone off the rails after her Dad died, and the unlikely pairing of their slightly paternal relationship adds a nice touch.

The one thing I didn’t always  enjoy was the subplot involving a corporate guy whose boss makes him go the AA classes for him after he gets a DUI, where he attracts a sponsor who is a little intense to say the least, who aggressively stalks him to keep him on the straight and narrow (the joke being the character is not really an alcoholic, which wears thin fast). I liked the actors and the relationship they develop is sometimes funny, I just felt like this storyline maybe took up too much of the show at times and it never seemed to go anywhere.

Other than that I really like the setup and the dry humorous tone of the show, Ron Livingston is just great in it and I am happy it has a second series in the works. Loudermilk is one of the first shows from the Audience network I believe, and I am not sure how you access that outside Prime, presumably streaming?

The Bold Type: Ok yes this is maybe a “guilty pleasure” type show, but I need a bit of froth in my telly diet, especially as the husband and I have been recently watching more grim shows like Manhunter, Narcos, Dark et al. on Netflix. Anyhoo, The Bold Type is a show about three young women working at a fashion magazine in Manhattan. It is based on the experiences of Cosmo editor in chief Joanna Coles. It is a fun watch but also deals with a few deeper issues so it’s not all fluff either. 

It’s great to see a show so focused on young women trying to navigate their fledgling careers, making various dramatic and hilarious mistakes along the way. It feels very authentic with the amount of detail that goes into the feature writer character Jane’s storyline especially. In charge of social media is Kat, who often makes p.r. disasters/faux pas, as a blogger it was kind of fun to watch this aspect too! The other main character Sutton is working in admin but longs to be in fashion, which is by far the most competitive field to get a foot in the door at a fashion magazine. Seeing the characters grow in confidence and find their footing was pretty  inspiring actually, I admit I did start this show thinking it would just be some brainless fun but I ended up really caring about the characters. 

The show focuses on their romantic relationships too, but for me their life at the magazine and friendship is the best part of the show. It also stars the always excellent Melora Hardin (Jan from The Office ;-) as their editor in chief, and she is really great in this, the last episode has a very moving moment that I kind of saw coming but it’s still a powerful punch and gave this show a depth to it that was a bit unexpected. I think this show is on Freeform in America, not sure if that is streaming or cable?

Hap and Leonard season 3 (on Sundance TV in America): You guys this show is so good! I wish more people watched it. Based on a series of books, Hap and Leonard are two best friends from East Texas. Raised as brothers after Leonard’s Dad is killed in a tragic accident, Hap is white and Leonard is African American, which in the show's universe often raises eyebrows, which Hap and Leonard often take sarcastic glee in poking fun at and undermining the backwards attitudes they encounter in the deep south.

James Purefoy is the laconic ladies man Hap, and Michael K. Williams is his slightly more uptight friend, who also happens to be gay. The race issue is treated in at times dark and upsetting ways in this season, as for the first time Hap and Leonard come face to face with the KKK  in a neighbouring town called Grovetown, which has a long history of pervasive and ugly racism. At first it feels somehow hard to believe as the show is set in the late 80s, but given recent tensions in America it feels more relevant that ever.

Hap and Leonard are just two everyday working joes who somehow always end up knee deep in various crimes or criminal investigations, sometimes they are on the wrong side of it as in the first series, but this time they are actually de facto investigators trying to find their missing friend Florida. They can handle themselves in a fight, having been through their own school of hard knocks – Hap went to jail in protest of the Vietnam War, whereas Leonard served in the army of said war (also Leonard is some sort of jujitsu type master), which helps as they are guys who end up in fights a lot! The violence in this show veers from the comedic to the gruesome, in this series there were definitely some hard to watch scenes though.

This season was definitely the most uncomfortable to watch, the trademark wry humour of the characters helps occasionally ease tension, but it really is a dark and upsetting reflection of the ingrained racism in parts of American society, both historical and lurking underneath the surface. Hap and Leonard consistently has a very noir, southern gothic feel to it, but also manages to feel modern in attitude. The acting and layered storytelling in this show are reliably stellar, and at six episodes it is always over far too quickly.

Mozart in The Jungle:The fourth and final season, apparently. Le big sad sigh. I am truly SO sad/mad that Amazon cancelled this! I could write a whole ranty blog post about how Amazon never promoted this show properly or treated it the way it deserved given that it won two Golden Globes. Grrr. Anyway. I love this show about a slightly chaotic New York symphony and its eccentric maestro, Rodrigo de Souza. I think I described it in a previous review as a “quirky whirligig” and I will stand by that! You could call it a romantic comedy, but it’s not your average rom com either, what with its delight in embracing silliness and being a bit nerdy about art and classical music. It’s got a unique joie de vivre, an innate feeling of life is a fun adventure for the living, and I always feel inspired and happy when I watch it.

The maestro Rodrigo (Gael Garcia Bernal) and the New York symphony orchestra have settled into perhaps a slightly too comfortable relationship. Rodrigo and Hailey are finally a couple, and they are adorable and not annoying at all. Ok so Hailey refusing to admit they are in a real relationship because she is afraid of Rodrigo’s previous form for flakery is a problem, but I just love the way the show portrays their relationship, from its most joyful to even in its saddest moments. 

There is this moment when they are in Japan, running and laughing, holding hands, and it is the epitome of how sweet and happy they are together and it has a vibrant energy to it that captures young love so perfectly. Hailey and Rodrigo are friends, and their romance has always felt destined, but the show manages to keep their friendship and joy in each other’s company as a central part of their relationship, avoiding pretty much every romantic trope and pitfall that happens when a "will they won’t they?" couple becomes real.

Hailey is now an aspiring conductor with her own small Brooklyn (of course) orchestra, and they travel to Japan for a young conductor’s competition, where Rodrigo is both fascinated and deeply disturbed by a robot conductor. Rodrigo, as ever, is having an existential artistic crisis (only Gael Garcia Bernal could continue to keep this man child of a character so dang likable!), he is kind of over music, he dabbles with dancing, which is kind of silly but fun.

Meanwhile, the business of the orchestra is having its usual financial and admin quibbles; to be honest many of the characters had slightly less of a storyline this season. Bernadette Peters wasn’t given much to do besides look fabulous, although she did have a great Nancy Sinatra karaoke moment. Thomas (Malcolm McDowell) gets a new avant garde composition and ramshackle orchestra which is diverting but now that the general storyline is less focused on improving the orchestra as a whole it did lose some of the cohesiveness for the rest of the cast I felt. Rodrigo’s youth orchestra has been passed on to cellist Cynthia, but this felt like a storyline they couldn’t quite manage to keep afloat with everything else going on.

I appreciate that they focused on Hailey’s maturation as a woman and artist, but the music felt like it took a back seat compared to previous seasons (I say this having been re-watching the earlier seasons in recent weeks). There really weren’t as many goosebumps from the classical music brilliance punctuating the storyline moments.

Saying that, the show delivered and then some with some of the episodes, in particular with the Japanese teahouse episode, Ichi Go Ichi E. This was a sublime episode that conjured Alice in Wonderland with its trippy and stunning fantasy visuals, evocative Japanese cultural beauty, and the slowly unravelling heartbreak at its core: it is hard to believe this episode won’t win all of the awards.

What makes me particularly sad is that while the show ended on a sort of demi-finished note, it did feel deserving of a better ending (SPOILERS AHEAD!). Rodrigo seems on the cusp of (maybe?!) becoming a composer, or who knows maybe he will go live in a wigwam somewhere he is Rodrigo! But to not get the happy ending or even one with more closure feels more than a bit cruel, especially given the (SPOILER!) last shot of Hailey’s violently sobbing face.

I find it hard to believe that is how the creator’s would have wished to end it, the show coasted along with a small but devoted audience for four years, and Amazon’s decision making seems to be motivated by cutting quality to produce their big dumb epic Lord of the Rings type show. I have struggled to get into a lot of Amazon Originals, including Preacher, that weird Neil Gaiman one, Mr.Robot, and they are still making Transparent because WHY THOUGH. Sorry, I am just a little heartbroken still. I really don’t think they gave this show the chance it deserved for a fitting finale, they hardly promoted it at all (I have never once seen an ad for it before one of their shows), and it kind of stinks that the fans won’t get a little more closure with this very special show.

Anyway that's enough for now, are there any streaming shows you are digging right now? Have you seen any of these?





via GIPHY