Let’s talk about ex baby. It’s called an ‘adult’

I’ve found a new show that matches my dating show needs.

It’s called Back with the Ex. Australian show on Netflix. BwtE’s title should be self-explanatory, but if I solely let things talk for themselves, there wouldn’t be much point in me talking about them. The premise of the show is that they’ve rounded up a bunch of ex couples willing to give it another go. The ages and situations all range. One couple had been off and on, another couple fell out as a result of cheating, another had done long distance over two decades ago. Firstly, being Australian, everyone’s pretty good looking. More importantly, it scratches the itch of what I’m looking for with one of these dating shows. I’m not interested in a bunch of women fawning over a dude, or people trying to out-game each other. What I’m looking for in a dating show is to see how different personalities intersect, and how prospective couples navigate heightened spaces. I want to see them negotiate, and use their problem solving to work through issues. That’s not The Bachelor territory.

I’ve watched all of one episode. What I do appreciate about this show in particular, is how it showcases emotions that can’t be faked. With each couple, they’d filmed the moment that they first laid eyes on each other after a hiatus. The couples all varied in approach. Some were tentative, felt awkward or cagey. The older couple was fantastic. The scenario is that they’d broken up 28 years prior. The gal lived in America and the guy lived in Australia. At the time, logistical obstacles got in the way and they called it quits. The first time they saw one another was electric. They both trembled, immediately embraced and kissed. They’d gone from knowing each other in their twenties, to being around 50. It was so warm and engrossing to see. They were utterly excited and enraptured. Overall with this show, it’s great to see both sides coming in trying to make it work. I’m guessing they had to each consent to meeting up again, and it’s nice to see what happens when nobody has an angle. They’re simply gauging if they’re still compatible, or if the issues that split them are still relevant.

Mostly, as ever when it comes to these shows, it’s all about navel gazing. I’m vicariously inserting myself into these positions and asking those questions. What would it be like to meet up with my exes? Who would I meet up with? Are there any with whom I think a spark could be re-ignited? Invariably the answer is no. I don’t have a single ex that I would want to get back with. They’re not bad people, but each ex and I broke up for a reason. I knew that the long term potential wasn’t there, and it’d be foolish to pretend otherwise. The issues we faced weren’t about how we treated each other, but about sheer compatibility. There weren’t enough points of agreement, and that’s okay. Not everyone is destined for happily ever after, and it’s part of the process. I have a few exes I’m friends with. One I truly adore, but even then I wouldn’t want to rekindle an actual relationship. Her and I hang out every so often, and I’m incredibly grateful to still have her in my life. We’ll have a drunken kiss at a party every once in while. That, coupled with the emotional support and hang outs feels more like an intimate friendship. I love intimate friendships, but I only have so much time for a relationship these days.

Until that changes, I’ll just keep watching the show instead.

Check, please. I need something to watch

It’s time for an all new, all confident Leon.

Instead of telling people I know a thing or two about a topic, I’m gonna lead by saying that I know two things, and watch their goddamn jaws drop to the fucking floor.

I’ve figured out that I like dating shows. I enjoy putting on my judgey pants and trash talking the contestants. That said, I need to have characters to root for, and heavy handed production (think musical swells, obviously leading editing) makes me want to puke up my anus. Bravo TV kind of stuff is more trashy than I like. I just want to watch people go on dates, and make my own little hero/villain narratives, while vicariously judging all of their choices. Part of this was realising I’m actually quite into Married at First Sight: Couples Couch. To be clear, I think MAFS is super exploitative and gross, buuuut having live commentary from previous couples watching the episode is a really fascinating look at how different couples approach problem solving and issues. It’s quite engrossing. They’ll say things like “it sounds like she wants to ask for support, but by doing it in that way she’s directly antagonising him and pushing him away” or something. They talk about the situation in light of their own experiences, etc, and that’s kind of neat.

At a friend’s recommendation (that I later discovered wasn’t actually a personal recommendation, they just heard that the show existed) watched the first episode of Netflix’s Love is Blind last night. Egads, I hated it. Love is Blind, from the first episode at least, was goddamn boring. It felt like a combination of weak talent and terrible content selection. None of the contestants were charming, interesting or likeable. This seemed especially weird, because there were all these contestants who don’t get screen time. They seemed to fixate on four couples max. I want to hear about the virgin dude with the weird swollen Ken Doll face, aside from him just being a punch line. People are inherently fascinating, so how was the talent so milquetoast?

Moreover, the clips that the show chose were resoundingly uninteresting. Did they just not get any good material on film? Especially because everyone seems to be dialled up to 10. They’re so desperate to either make an impression on their potential partners or the audience, that it feels like people are acting. In the first episode you have a marriage proposal or two, which feels like an absurdly rushed and unearned timeline. MAFS at least lets you know what you’re in for right from the start. Love is Blind feels even more unrealistic, and potentially more exploitative. I’m not, however, sure who’s exploiting whom. Are participants just looking to parlay their appearance into a spin-off show or something? Garner minor celebrity and use this to further their own cultural capital? With Bravo TV stuff it’s usually unnecessarily trashy, but it felt like Netflix wanted this show to look classy. As a result it flies so close to the ground that it sorta flat lines.

What is the show for me, folks? I thought Dating Around was okay. I also think a good distinction is that I don’t like competitions. I like seeing people actually go on dates, where the conflict is will or won’t they match? I don’t care who “wins” the heart of the Bachelor, because that seems like an inherently stupid and flawed system. I want to see normal people in normal social situations and vicariously gauge how I’d treat the same situation. I want to watch things work out between two people, or collapse into a tyre fire.

Got any good show suggestions?

It’s me, I’m the one who watches

Well Watchmen was a goddamn satisfying endeavour.

I’m not gonna do spoilers. I don’t know what the statute of limitations on a highly critically regarded 2019 HBO show based off a popular graphic novel series is, but I feel like we’re still within it.

I like the Watchmen universe, and I rarely think about it. I read the graphic novels in my early 20s and thought they were fantastic. Totally gripping. The Snyder film came along and it was kind of meh. It had a slavish reverence for the source material, right down to framing. The only times they tried anything different were when they changed the action to better reflect the popular Wushu trend The Matrix brought in, and Snyder’s trademark brand of unnecessary slow motion/zoom shit.

I came into the Watchmen TV show expecting a dour rumination on racial politics in a small American town. Instead I got a vibrant and colourful show, caked in bizarre and specific humour. Watchmen is endlessly imaginative and actually builds on the IP it inherited in fascinating ways. The racial politics aren’t remotely throw away. Instead the show uses its platform to examine themes of racially motivated violence, prejudice, and inherited intergenerational trauma. Unlike the Snyder film, they deviate from the source material in ways that only strengthen the world-building. Much like the Snyder film, the needle drops are a little on the nose, but not enough to bring down the show.

The structure of the series is awesome too. The first half centres around developing its most prominent characters. It builds up a butt-ton of mysteries, and ties them up in the back few episodes in a pretty satisfying manner. There’s nuance to the characters, and their trauma is a pathway into greater understanding of the society they inhabit. It also has this nice little trick that it does a few times. It’ll put you into a scene where you’re like, okay this is slightly weird, but I guess I’m in. Then it’ll zoom out just a little bit and you’ll be like oh, OH SHIT.

I think over time I’ve become naturally hardened to reboots, etc. When there are so many new ideas waiting out there in the wings, it’s massively disappointing to be fed the same old content. Yes, there are only 7 types of stories, etc, but there are infinite untold ways to tell those stories and so much colour with which to inhabit a world. At the same time, I do understand that corporations are hesitant to waste money, so they rely on pre-sold content. A Star Wars will always make money, because at least a certain number of people will watch a Star Wars. In this post MCU landscape, it’s not like people don’t make new superhero IP or adaptations all the time. People love The Boys, right? I didn’t see any reason for a new Watchmen show to exist, and I’m happy to say in writing how wrong I was. Watchmen is not a reboot, but actually builds upon the original in all new ways. It’s not pointless, they used their big platform to tell a new story that raised all sorts of interesting quandaries, ideas and themes. Dare I say that I’d be open to more of this stuff?

On that note, how is Hulu’s High Fidelity reboot?

Ready for some groan ups

So I’ve been watching Marvellous Mrs Maisel season 3.

It’s fun, if forgettable and I like it. Something I’ve noticed is that while it’s a period piece, it seems to have a super sanitised view of race relations. Fair game. I’m here for light-hearted entertainment. I don’t need to see folks being shitty to people of colour. At the same time, I’ve noticed the “R” word being used twice. Neither time was it important to the script. They could’ve easily used different words. I’m not offended, it just seems like a weird choice. The show may take place in the 50s, but the writer’s room exists in 2020. For whatever notion of period appropriate dialogue they have, they’ve already chosen to smooth over contentious elements. Why not this, when it’s a very easy thing to not include? It’s a massively popular show, and the word is known to be offensive enough that y’all knew exactly what I meant by “the “R” word”. Seems like unnecessary roughness, or a room that specifically relished the chance to use that word. Am I the only one who finds this odd?

We’ve delved further into searching for a new rental. It’s depressing. The market is brutal, and rather than paying another $500 monthly for an equitable place to our current abode, it’s looking closer to an extra $800. Grim. Our real estate friend hooked us up with an agent exclusive search engine. It’s even worse than the public ones. Our current two bedroom costs $1450 monthly including utilities. Using this search engine to find a two bedroom with a rent cap of $2500, there are two places within desirable areas of Toronto. Literally two. One costs $2400 monthly, the other is $2500. Neither include utilities. We already realised that we’d maybe have to lower expectations. Having a two bedroom with on-site washer and dryer in a relatively decent area looks to be over budget for two professionals in their thirties. The system might be broken. At least the slumlords are thriving. Always a silver lining. Has there been a film where a professional couple stage a hit in order to take over a rent controlled unit? If not, I guess I’ve got work to do.

In good news, I forgot I was going to a staged reading of Tom Scharpling’s Grown Ups 3 script tonight. It’s good news, because I didn’t make alternative plans, and it’s an awesome surprise. I’ve never seen Grown Ups or its sequel, but I have listened to a few episodes of The Worst Idea of All Time podcast, where two Kiwi comedians watched Grown Ups 2 every week for a year, and recorded a podcast after each viewing. Suffice to say, I have a very basic idea. From what I understand, Scharpling did not write a spec script, nor did anyone actually ask him to write a Grown Ups script at all. He just had a twisted idea, and put it together with a disturbing amount of respect for the entirely lacklustre franchise. They’re films made so Adam Sandler can go on holidays with his actor friends. A good cause, to be sure, but not cinematic landmarks by any measurements. I’m thrilled. I haven’t even read the script yet, and can’t wait to see how weird it gets.

I bet HE won’t use the “R” word.

All for spree and spree for all

For a change, and mostly to save time, I’m writing this on an exercise bike. My hypothesis is that by doing so it’ll cheapen both simultaneously. Last I heard, efficiency was a positive attribute.

It’s Sunday evening and this gym is dead. I’m literally the only person in the cardio area, possibly even on this floor. Who knows? The leading quality of this location is that it’s built like a labyrinth. Twisting hallways and weird back areas. The layout is so unintuitive it’s almost charming. As a result it’s very unpopular, and that’s a perk. I don’t have to wait while power lifters spend an hour and a half in a single squat rack. I can do my workout without too much hassle and leave. Even better, the bathroom is always stocked with cotton buds, so I can pick earwax AND there’s nobody around to judge me. The perfect crime. It’s crazy how quiet it is at the moment. They even turned off the music. Weird. I didn’t think there’d be listener quota.

Oh. The guy just came over. Turns out it’s quiet because this place closes at 6pm, and it’s currently 6:01pm. I need to shower tout de suite.

I’m hunkered down in the corner of a Starbucks. Because I’m a strident political activist, I’m not even gonna buy anything. Once again, the perfect crime. I’m practically on a perfect crime spree tonight. Man, I feel like spree is a word I barely use. I wonder what kind of sprees I could go on. If I get more than eight hours of sleep in a night, is that a slumber spree? I ate half a rack of ribs last night. Was that a bone spree? Does half an hour count as a writing spree? Y’know, I just worked a whole day, which felt like a veritable DV spree.

Honestly, today was an OWN spree. Oprah’s network. For the past two days it’s been almost nothing but OWN content. It’s very much not my kind of entertainment, and that’s fine. One show though, egads it’s abysmal. I don’t know that I’d ever seen Tyler Perry content before starting this job. Having watched The Haves and The Have Nots, I yearn for those days of innocence. Apparently the show is wildly popular, which seems the greatest crime of all. If there’s a spree to end all sprees, it’s that show continuing to exist. It’s tacky as shit. The acting is incredibly forced, with all the subtlety of an anvil. The writing clunks along like it’s on square wheels. I saw a bunch of people retweeting Perry saying he writes everything solo. No writer’s rooms. It shows. The plot is staid and predictable. Everyone inevitably sleeps with everyone else. For all the credit I’d be ready to give it for writing gay male characters, it fails to write any that are believable. So I guess that’s equality in 2019. That said, I can’t judge Perry on his work ethic. He’s prolific to a fault. Now that dude must engage in some writing sprees. Is that the perfect crime?

You know, maybe what we’ve learned today is that I’m an even worse criminal than I am a writer.

Is “I watch too much TV to watch TV” a real issue?

I watch more and less TV than ever.

Most of it isn’t elective viewing. Given that I’m working in Described Video, my job literally requires me to watch TV for eight or so hours per shift. I have very little control over what I watch. Sometimes it’s good, most of the time it ain’t. Whatever, that’s my job. I’m not complaining. It still boggles my mind how dominant reality TV is after all these years. Entertainment is entertainment, and I judge nobody for what they choose to watch. That said, egads these shows are fucking garbage, and I’m sure that’s part of the attraction. Rich white women with manufactured conflict and unrelatable issues. I’m sure it’s part train wreck, part vicarious. What would it be like to have all that money, and such simple problems? Hell, I see these dating shows and mentally insert myself into the situation. What would I say? How would I react? I get that. What I don’t get is how, in the Golden Age of Content, we’ve placed the mundane on such a pedestal and made stars out of unremarkable nobodies. Things like Bravocon freak me out. I don’t know at what stage people go from mocking to idolising these figures. It’s beyond weird. Celebrity is fucked up, but that’s nothing new. I mean, it gave us Trump, right? That played out well…

I don’t know what the point of that preamble was, if not to say that I’m watching TV all day at work. When I get home, it’s hard to sit down and get invested in a narrative. My stack of TV I meant to watch has grown out of control. I never got around to Chernobyl, which I’ve only heard amazing (and bleak) things about. I think I’m a series behind in Killing Eve, which feels like a travesty. That show is a goddamn marvel. Excessive critical response to Succession tells me that I’m far overdue to watch and catch up. Search Party is one of the most original shows I’ve seen in years, and my girlfriend and I have been at the start of season 2 for yonks. I don’t know what, aside from discomfort maybe, has kept me from diving deeper into Baskets. It’s as funny as it is cringeworthy. I have yet to finish Hannibal, a show that I can’t believe ever made it to network television. Still haven’t finished Legion, something I would’ve chastised myself for a year ago. I loved True Detective season one so much, and while season two was a shitshow, I’ve heard overwhelmingly good things about season three. The Americans is apparently impeccable, but the amount of seasons feels daunting when my list is already so long. It’s part of nobody’s water cooler talk, so I think I’m safe for now. Speaking of which, when am I gonna start Deadwood? Will I ever get far enough into Lodge 49 that I understand the widespread adoration people feel for it? Then again, Fosse/Verdon is supposed to be fantastic and the people involved are amazing. But what of Watchmen? It’s been so high on critics’ lists and makes sense given all of my tastes. It feels like if there’s a time to start, it’s now. But Kumail/Emily’s Little America is only a week or two away. When am I gonna find the time for that?

All of which is to say that I started Ramy last night at around 2am and instantly fell in love. While I’m not and have never been religious, I really appreciate media that depicts religion as an everyday part of normal people’s lives without being preachy. It’s something that’s integral to so many, and in the kind of narratives I watch it’s usually some kind of boogie man or metaphor for a system of control. Thing is, belief is something we all have whether religious, spiritual or systemic. While much of the cultural climate depicts faith as an outmoded concept, for so many it isn’t. Ramy, from the one episode I saw, manages to depict the struggles of living a modern Western life, balanced with the demands of personal faith. Specifically with the Muslim faith, I’m so naive as to what it means in a mundane context. How does it change dating? Work? Social interactions? Does it even affect those things? Is it possible to package all that into a hilarious, heartfelt show that’s immensely accessible? It looks like Ramy may well have those answers.

So I guess that other stack can wait.

I’m a cell out like everyone else

I accidentally left my phone at home yesterday. It was great.

It also made me take stock of just how addicted I am to my phone. Grabbing my phone has become an automatic response for damn near everything I do. It’s unrelenting. In countless situations I had a physical reaction of reaching into my pocket, only to find empty air (and old tissues). I realised after I’d gotten on the bus and reached the station. Maybe a ten minute walk from my house. I couldn’t be bothered going back, when my only worry was that people might want to contact me and couldn’t. But I was gonna be at work until 12.30am. It’s not like I had anything urgent to get to or talk about. What was I gonna miss? A bunch of robocalls telling me I’d won a cruise? I didn’t turn back.

I also realised I had a topic for today’s writing. I could simply list all the times I thought about using my phone. So without further ado I’m gonna turn to my favourite crutch, Bullet Point Time:

  • Once I realised I wanted to write about this, I reached for my phone to write it down in a notepad app. None was forthcoming. I crossed my fingers and hoped I remembered on my own.
  • On the TTC I saw a photo for some pantomime, Little Red Robin Hood. Every year the same company does pantomimes for kids, usually revolving around some fairytale. The same guy seems to be in each poster. A jovial looking older dude with bright red hair. He usually seems to play some kind of uncle type character, and he has this infectious smile. I saw the poster and wanted to take a close up photo of the dude to post on Facebook. Something like “this guy is my favourite part of the Christmas season. Hands down.” Obviously, I didn’t.
  • I usually listen to a podcast on the way to and from work. It’s a great way to unwind after a shift. Instead, I listened to St Vincent. I’ve been delving into her back catalogue over the past few days in order to figure out my preference order of her albums. Currently I’m at Strange Mercy>Actor>Marry Me>St Vincent>MASSEDUCTION. In saying that, I think every song on MASSEDUCTION is great, which should speak to how much I love her stuff.
  • On my break at work I usually catch up on social media. Last night I had nothing to do, so I kind of just ate and went back to my work. You’d think that working in TV, having access to years worth of programming for 40+ channels I’d just watch something. Nope, I just ate mashed potato and meat with a large plastic serving spoon because I couldn’t find a single piece of workable cutlery.
  • I had to DV an episode of Charmed. At numerous times I wanted to post something about how stupid it was. Seriously, this new series is fucking terrible. The writing is clunky and obvious. You know how characters will fare based on how good looking they are. They’re playing in a world of almost endless possibilities (as a character in this episode said, with the right spell, anything is possible) and still they choose the dumbest narrative options to pursue. Overall, the episode still hasn’t aired, so I’m glad I didn’t post spoilers.
  • I’ve been talking about that song Low Rider for the past few days, and how it used to be ubiquitous in soundtracks everywhere. Whether it was TV shows, trailers, or ads, its funky rhythm made it perfect for endless applications. For some reason I don’t feel like I’ve heard it much over the past few years, which weirds me out a little. I realised that I had no idea which band made the track, and had no way to look it up on the go. Then I forgot until now. Turns out it’s a band called War.
  • I’ve gotten really used to posting whenever something crosses my brain. It distracts me from my work all the time. Turns out when I have no phone around, I’m more productive. Last night at countless times I turned around to check my phone, only to find a space absent of solid matter.
  • The only thing I was even remotely worried about was using my phone to check bus times post shift. Without the Rocketman app, I had no idea. So I had to walk back to Union Station in the snow. No big deal, but also not ideal.

Today I have both my phone, and my work party. So no doubt it’ll be stowed in a pocket somewhere and largely forgotten. Keeping the dream alive.