Netflix: What I’ve Been Watching Lately


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…and by lately, I mean the last few months, I haven’t done one of these for a while! ;-).

Salem: This show rocks! That is, if you are into gloriously over the top, grotesquely, comically violent, romantically gloomy supernatural shows vaguely based on real life atrocities like the Salem witch trials! Most of the main characters are based on real life people (loosely!). The first season is particularly good; it does get a bit carried away with itself by the end and perhaps loses any deep emotional punch due to this. But I do recommend it if you like supernatural type shows.

The characters are fun, I particularly like the wayward minister Cotton Mather (and his psycho dad Increase, who is blooming marvellous), and lead female character Mary Sibley, although everyone is good in it. It’s quite an ambitious show, with the themes of witches just trying to get some basic damn rights for women in a Puritan society becoming more of a feminist take than one might expect from such an over the top show.

It gets a bit muddled with the devil stuff; I found it more fun when it was all Pagan-y and exposing Puritan hypocrisy. I do wish Netflix would pick it up for a fourth season (it was cancelled by its network after three this year), but it seems a dim hope. Also it has a super catchy, creepy theme tune by Marilyn Manson, who also cameos (I am not a Manson fan but he is good in this!).

Last Chance U: This documentary series is about a community college in rural Mississippi’s football team, which has become an unlikely championship team due to the methods of its coach and dedication of the staff. Basically, they take a lot of troubled players, who were once “Division 1”, which is the top league for college football,  but who for various reason got expelled or kicked off their teams, and try to get them back in a position where college/professional football is an option (all while vying for the State and hopefully National championships).

Now, going into this show I could care less about football. But this show is as much about redemption, racism, and deep social inequality, as anything else. We see the players' academic needs micromanaged and babysat, yet still many of them struggle or aren't interested in the academics, even though it is essential to get them back in the top tier. 

They have an academic counselor called Miss Wagner who is unbelievably caring, and has Sandra Bullock will win an Oscar if she ever plays this part written all over her. We are shown many of the players' backstories, some of which are tragic and make you realize it’s a miracle they have come as far as they have. Some stories are less sympathetic (sorry but any guy who has been violent to a woman is out for me), but no less compelling or revealing of just how intertwined race, poverty and crime are in America.

The way the football games are filmed is riveting, it is much more close up than I have ever seen and as a non-football fan I found myself engrossed.

The head coach, Buddy, is also like something out of a movie - and not always in a good way. His desire to win supercedes everything, leading to some pretty harsh moments of ingrained racism revealed, and an eventual attempt at redemption whose sincerity feels questionable at times. It's an intense emotions type watch, but I think this series reveals a unique perspective of a slice of life that not everyone is privy to or understands. Supposedly season 3 will be moving on to a different college, which, to be honest if you watch the show you will understand why.

The Killing: (U.S. version). I had seen the first two seasons a few years ago, I am just getting around to the the Netflix produced seasons 3 & 4. I forgot how much I liked this show. Seattle homicide detectives Linden and Holder continue to enthrall with their deepening, if always slightly caustic friendship. Season three picks up where two left off, with Linden having left police work, the psychological effects of the job having taken their toll on her home life with her son.

Sarah Linden has always been a prickly and at times tough to discern character, I feel like this season really opens her up while at the same time respecting the essence of her nature. It also brings in Peter Sarsgaard as a death row inmate, a mercurial and complicated character that Sarsgaard is more than up to. The central serial killer plotline is mesmerizing without bringing in too many tropes, his victims being Seattle's homeless teen population making it a doubly heartbreaking story.

I still have to see the finale, but this season has already had more intensity and suspense than many series manage in a run. Joel Kinnamen's Detective Holder is fragile and (that rarest of things) endearingly cocky all at once, a pure heart perhaps not destined to withstand the brutality of being a murder cop. Mireille Enos as Linden manages to deliver a performance that is compelling and always holding something back, so when the dam does break it is gut wrenching stuff indeed.
 
The Gilmore Girls: Um yes so I am finally doing a Gilmore Girls re-watch. Completely unnecessary, I am pretty sure I have seen them all a few times…BUT still. Whatever (I’m an addict, ok! ;-)). I did have a potential master plan of watching all but the final season, and THEN re-watching last year’s revival, because that’s basically how the creator, Amy Sherman Palladino, treated the characters. Like the final season never happened (she left the show irl after season 6, which personally I thought was worse than 7). It’s complicated. Like a lot of people I have mixed feelings about the revival so I am curious to re-watch it.

Gilmore Girls, for anyone unaware, is a show about a single Mom and her daughter, both named Lorelei Gilmore. It is set in the fictional small town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut, which is like a perfect New England version of It's A Wonderful Life meets something a bit more quirky. It's very rapid fire and dialogue heavy, but feels light like those early 40s films where everyone talked pitter patter style. It is heavy with the pop culture zingers.

It's also oddly soothing, from the gentle variant "lah lah lah" singing underscoring many scenes (there is a neat article by songwriter Sam Phillips about her experience scoring the show here), the music is almost an additional character at times.

ANYWAY season one is lots of fun, Lorelei had some terrible fashion (so much tie dye!) and wore a lot of blue eyeshadow for some reason (I do not remember this being a thing in the early naughts?). But mostly it’s fun being re-introduced to the characters. My affection for Lorelei's parents  Richard and Emily deepens, all of the strange Stars Hollow quirks are still fun, and there are some really great episodes in season one.

My favourites being The Dance, mainly for the scenes between Lorelei and her mother Emily, trapped together in the Gilmore Girls’ house as Lorelei has a bad back, and it’s the first time we see them deal with each other in a way that isn’t completely antagonistic. I also love the Bangles episode, because it’s the first time Rory and Paris realize they are not mortal enemies.

Among the weird things I have noticed are: local surly oddball Kirk began with a couple of cameos as a totally different character named “Mick” – how bizarre! And also – I forgot just how much they dumbed down Dean (Rory’s first boyfriend). At the start he was reading Hunter S. Thompson and quoting Rosemary’s Baby, but we all know by the time Jess arrives he’s like a tall dumb box of doornails. I mean, I get that Rory and Dean were probably never meant to be, but they really did manipulate his character to fit the narrative. Also I still stand by my feeling that Max is Lorelei’s most boring boyfriend ever (yes I even prefer Digger to him – come at me! ;-)).


Ok so I think that's enough of that for now!...what have you been enjoying watching or streaming recently?

2 comments

  1. Hemlock Grove., deranged gothic horror fantasy set in US. Wynnona Earp, cowboy Buffy style horror.

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  2. You know,I haven't heard of any of these shows (except Gilmore girls, and they are both named lorelei wat). The Killing and Salem do sound interesting though! I will have to see if I can add that to our queue. We've actually been watching a lot of Let's Make A Deal, lols. Don't know why, but it's funny and my husband and I like to see what we would win. I "win" a lot of cars oddly enough.

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