TV Shows That Don't Deserve Their Own Threads

Started by scenicdesign71, May 05, 2020, 08:30 pm

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May 05, 2020, 08:30 pm Last Edit: Sep 24, 2020, 05:42 am by scenicdesign71
Has anyone else watched Ryan Murphy's new Netflix series Hollywood?  I just binged it today and was entertained despite the usual Ryan Murphy "WTF is he doing?" too-much-ness -- which is present here but relatively under control, at least by his own often-demented standards.  Revisionist "alternative history" narratives have been in vogue lately, but I can't think of one as determinedly sunny as this -- which, in our current real-life dystopia, makes it an enjoyable confection even if, in the end, what we're being asked to swallow is largely empty calories.


I started watching a couple of weeks ago.  I watched an episode at work Friday night and thought it was #3 but really it was only #2.  A LOT happened in the pilot.  I'm liking it so far but, being a Ryan Murphy creation, I assume there will be much over the top stuff and then it will fizzle out if it continues for a number of seasons.  The first season is usually very good and then the shows get really wild and then tepid. 

American Horror Story may be an exception to that.  I couldn't get past the first season.  I thought it tried too hard to be shocking and just couldn't take it.  I even tried a different season but didn't care enough about it to finish.  Many of my friends really liked the show but it never caught me for some reason.
I no longer long for the old view!


Sep 24, 2020, 01:30 pm #2 Last Edit: Nov 06, 2021, 01:01 pm by scenicdesign71
I've renamed this thread, which was originally dedicated to Hollywood.  The Film section has its own "Movies That Don't Deserve Their Own Thread" thread, so I figure television should have one too.

Specifically, I wanted an umbrella "Don't-Deserve" TV thread today because I just finished watching Ratched (also by Murphy, also on Netflix) last night, but didn't want to start an entire thread for it.  (Not to obsess over Murphy or Netflix, but, come to think of it, his first show for them, The Politician, also really belongs on this thread.  Or conversely, maybe I should try to be less judgy and just make this a Ryan Murphy thread, for pans and praises alike.  Decisions, decisions...).

I don't even have a whole lot to say about Ratched -- I guess I could waste an inordinate number of words on its loopy plotting and head-spinning inconsistency, but sifting though it all would only make my brain ache.  Like Hollywood, I got through the new show's entire first season in just a few days, and might even go back for more whenever a second gets made (though I have yet to grit my teeth and even really seriously consider watching The Politician's S2).  But like a solid majority of Murphy's work as a "creator", his latest is the guiltiest of guilty pleasures.  (Out of the writer's chair, he seems on solider ground: I liked the film of The Normal Heart he directed for HBO quite a lot, and am looking forward to the Boys in the Band remake that he's executive-producing for Netflix, premiering next week).

What to say?  Ratched's design and cinematography are deliriously gorgeous -- for me, the show's real stars are a triumvirate of greens so disorientingly lush and tactile that they feel like a powerful contact high: the vibrant deep-emerald of the eponymous (anti)heroine's cardigan in the title credits; the electric mint of her spiffy Ford Coupe; and the crisp, luminous chartreuse of Cynthia Nixon's drawing-room curtains. (Not to mention a host of others, from the hospital's haute variations on "institutional" green and its staff's turquoise uniforms, to the velvety late-1940s iterations of sage, celadon, olive and verdigris in various carpets and upholstery there and elsewhere.  Frequent intrusions of livid red notwithstanding, it really is a show about green).

But the dramaturgy is utterly deranged; far too reliant on cartoonishly ugly ultraviolence that makes Murphy's American Horror Story look prim and gentle by comparison; and, more often than not, laughably unworthy of its supremely talented and hardworking cast -- if nothing else, the show is a masterclass on how brilliant performers (in concert, surely, with gifted and sensitive film editors) can sometimes, somehow, build compelling performances even on the quicksand of atrocious writing.

As many have pointed out, Ratched bears, as yet, no plausible connection at all -- narratively, tonally or stylistically -- to the Nurse Ratched we meet in ...Cuckoo's Nest.  With four seasons reportedly planned, and more than a decade's-worth of story to spin before arriving at the present-day of Ken Kesey's novel or MiloŇ° Forman's movie, I suppose there's plenty of time to course-correct -- never mind that the formidable Sarah Paulson was already several years older, while filming the show's Hitchcockian fantasy of 1947-50, than Louise Fletcher was in the movie's grittier, more naturalistic 1963.  There may be hope, but for now the show is a hot mess -- and, ominously for these last several Murphy outings, his shows more generally have a habit, as Tom pointed out, of peaking in their first season and growing only more scattered and incoherent thereafter.  So if things are already this unhinged from the get-go...

And yet, and yet... as usual in a Murphy joint, Ratched, even at its most maddening, is seldom less than entertaining -- it's certainly never boring -- and once in a very great while it stumbles into moments that are almost sublime.  His ear for dialogue is often appalling, but it's compensated at regular intervals by his eye for performances that manage, at least for a few moments here and there, to transcend the nonsensical writing.  (And also, more broadly speaking, by his plush casting: Paulson, Nixon, Judy Davis, Amanda Plummer, Sharon Stone and Sophie Okonedo are all reason enough to muddle though this season).

And when all else fails, there are those knee-weakening chartreuse curtains...


In terms of quality (I haven't found many reviews since the season premiere aired last Sunday, but the handful I've seen are enthusiastic), I think Power, Book III: Raising Kanan absolutely "deserves" its own thread.  Still, given my undoubted bias (having worked on it from the very beginning, before the pandemic, up until the first season wrapped two months ago, with an unexpected six-month hiatus last year), I guess I'll play it safe and file it here among the miscellany for the time being.

Biased or not, I thought the season premiere was pretty amazing.  As a point of professional pride, I'm very pleased indeed with how the show looks; I think all departments have done a brilliant job (if I do say so myself) of bringing Kanan's granularly-specific world to the screen in a way that sails beyond "evocative" to "immersive".  It's beautifully designed and filmed, and the writing and performances are just as impressive.  Our cast is remarkable across the board, but in this first episode I was particularly taken with our formidable leading lady, Patina Miller (Pippin, Sister Act, Madam Secretary); Mekai Curtis in the title role; and Haley Kilgore (Once On This Island, Respect) playing the teenage version of a character portrayed by Anika Noni Rose in the original Power series.

I'll be happily watching the rest of the season with more than professional interest.  Having read most of the scripts during production, I already know they stay this smart and compelling right through to the season finale.  But I think the acting ensemble and the beautifully cinematic visuals just might tip the show into must-see territory.


Jul 23, 2021, 03:15 pm #4 Last Edit: Jul 28, 2021, 03:50 am by scenicdesign71
... Schmigadoon!, on the other hand, legitimately doesn't deserve its own thread.  I was less disappointed than this guy (and even he doesn't hate the show), but then I was never expecting much -- I hadn't really even aimed as high as basic watchability -- from something called Schmigadoon!; as his review points out, the title is an accurate indication of the general level at which the show's parodic humor operates throughout.

Onstage, The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!) covered this general territory with more wit, and onscreen Crazy Ex-Girlfriend did so with more penetrating insight.  But with appropriately modest expectations, there's plenty of dopey lighthearted fun to be had here.  In the first two episodes, the performances are winsome and the writing and production are never less than crisply competent.  I won't begrudge the show two more hours of my life to catch the remaining episodes.