It’s finding something else to like that’s the problem.

I feel at a loss. Which is to say that I’m lost. I don’t know what to do now. Specifically at this moment, not in a wider what does it all mean? sense. I’ve got a limp self-propulsion that at the very least will stop me from treading water for too long. Right now though, I’m just floating on my back, heading nowhere in particular. I feel unwell in a very literal manner of speaking. I’m congested with a sore throat and low level physical fatigue. I happened to be working from home today anyway (so I could go to an Ear Nose and Throat consultation), so at least I didn’t need to be in the office. That sort of backfired. If I hadn’t taken the day to work at home I could’ve just had a sick day instead. Oh well. I got all my work done, it was more relaxing than being in the office would’ve been. I could mope around at my own pace and get loose-headed on NeoCitran. I also spent a fair portion of my down time watching Please Like Me.

I watched the first episode and really enjoyed it. I found its fusion of heavy events and irreverence entirely captivating. There was drama, but they rarely leaned into it without good reason. Bad things happening didn’t stop the world from revolving, they dealt with things and moved on, or talked around them until their impact gradually lessened. Hell, the first episode starts with the lead character getting dumped because his girlfriend knows he’s gay, even if he won’t admit it (they stay good friends regardless). Then his mum tries to commit suicide by eating a packet of paracetamol and drinking half a bottle of baileys. It’s serious content, but admits to the underlying silliness. The more I watched, the more attached I grew towards this tight knit group of characters. Somehow avoiding being beaten down by the world, it wasn’t relentlessly upbeat by any means, but neither was it maudlin or cheesy in any way.

Maybe it appealed to my underdog complex, but the show managed to champion the losers and weirdos without skewing self-congratulatory. The central character, Josh, is gay and they don’t make a massive deal out of it. It’s just his sexual preference, it doesn’t define him as a character as much as his wit, propensity for cooking or habit of trying to disarm tension with humour and irreverence. There are ongoing realistic depictions of mental illness, serious marital issues and realistic struggles of twentysomething life. There are also a multitude of dumb conversations about giraffes. Characters come and go, but they’re nearly always given three dimensional representation. There are meaningful friendships galore. It’s funny, sweet and disarmingly engrossing. I can’t tell you the last time I watched two seasons of anything in under a month, let alone four seasons.

Now I’m lost because the show is over and I miss it. It ended well, but I know that I’m never gonna get to witness all new interactions with these characters I’ve grown to love. It feels like a loss and I don’t know what fills that void now. Please Like Me was unique and that’s a double-edged sword. There’s a reason it stands out from everything else, but if I want to recapture that feeling I’ll have to settle for shows that have a few close elements, but fail to deliver the total package. I didn’t watch it because it had excellent fleshed out representation of gay characters. I didn’t watch it because it was a slice of life comedy about intelligent twentysomethings. I didn’t watch it because of its willingness to depict issues in a frank manner. I watched it because it managed to be its own thing and that means it’s gonna be pretty bloody hard to find anything quite like it.

So I guess, I dunno. I guess maybe I’ll just have to write something I’d want to watch.

How many sites are running with a Legion-dary tag line right now? Oh shit, did I just become one of them?

Are you watching Legion? If you follow almost any media critic sites, I’m sure you know full well how critically lauded it’s been. FX, as it has a habit of doing, has handed this one off to a creative who knows better. I haven’t followed the career of Noah Hawley and shamelessly didn’t watch the Fargo TV series. That being said, I’ve only heard unanimous praise. Judging by the first episode of Legion, he knows full well what he’s doing.

Telling mature superhero stories is fraught with obstacles, yet seems to be all the rage in this current climate. It’s hard to escape from the first big hurdle: Superhero comics were for such a long time targeted towards a young audience. They were pulp stories rarely replete with nuance. Create a hero with some kind of extraordinary abilities and find scenarios/villains that help them showcase who they really are. Storytelling over time has changed and these characters tend to deal with more socially compelling issues. The DC formula tends to favour hugely powerful entities several tiers above humanity. This leads towards confrontations with situations on a grander scale. How is Superman supposed to relate to a world of people that to him seem like ants? Why does he care? How does he engage that disparity and still decide to be a hero. Marvel on the other hand often focuses on how its heroes’ flaws magnify their conflict. Not perfect people by any means, why do they choose to help a world that challenges them on their own levels? The X-Men tales have often been racism allegories. Why should mutants choose to protect a world that fears and hates them because they’re different?

David Haller, the central character in Legion is a character tangentially related to the X-Men stories we know. He’s Charles Xavier’s son (in the comics at least) and potentially one of the most powerful mutants in existence. He’s also mentally divergent, and his countless fractured personalities all possess different abilities. They’ve also given mental illness here pretty fair treatment. The show does its best to bring us into the fold, giving us the why, rather than just showing a character trying to deal with at times insurmountable issues. He’s a being of nigh infinite potential, but struggles with staying grounded in reality. The show runs with this, hard. Flowing in and out of reality, memory and hallucination makes David an unreliable narrator. In the first episode the chronology is all over the place, but carefully so. States of possibility are weaved together to tell the story, with the potential of unexpected twists lying behind every scene. In a series where anything could be a mislead or imaginary, how are we made to care about what does happen?

Simply because David is a human character. There’s an innocence to his character, who really seems to want to do right by the world, but is afraid of what is happening to him. Dan Stevens plays David with both a certain frailty and an assured confidence. He has moments of sweetness, doubt, anger and full blown malice. All of this aided by stunning cinematography and audio landscapes. The show looks gorgeous, cinematic. A diverse colour palette that freewheels between grim and joyous. There’s a Bollywood dance number thrown in for chrissakes. AND IT WORKS. The show sounds phenomenal, with errant whispers scattered around, mixed with realistic diegetic sound. There’s an intimate scene in a cell of a psychiatric hospital and while it’d be tempting to cut background noise (maybe focus on the dialogue in the scene) the show doesn’t. You can hear a patient in some far off room yelling at the top of his voice. It doesn’t interfere with the conversation, but it does ground it. It feels like we’ve been left in the hands of a capable director. It’s intense and dark, but with heapings of contrasted levity. Plus the musical score and visual effects are perfect. You can tell a lot of work has gone into nailing the exact mood of this show and I can tell you it pays off.

Are you watching Legion? If you aren’t, why not?

Things could be worse.

I used to pride myself on my ability to be current, on top of trends. I feel like I’ve been saying this for years, when it likely refers to a stretch of years from 2008-2010. Back when I’d moved away to the small town of Rotorua, population 60,000. Before I had things like an active social life, a lengthy commute and a girlfriend. I could spend the evenings scouring the internet for fresh new TV shows, albums, video games. Also, because I scarcely slept, I could watch these things in the same night. From around 7pm until 2am every night, seven solid hours of me time.

I don’t do this any more. I can’t. I have friends in close proximity (rather than two hours’ drive away), a live-in girlfriend and a 50 minute commute (instead of a five minute walk) each morning. At some point through the years between then and now, I also discovered a causal link between my frenetic nature and sleep deprivation. Adding to this mess is the proliferation of content driven by greater internet presence. There’s too much goddamn stuff out there and I’ve got no hope of remaining current without forsaking those aforementioned important aspects of my life (people). That’d be a full time job (albeit one I’d probably enjoy).

Which is to say, these days I’m often late to the party. Even when I get there, it’s often because I’m led by friends telling me how I’ve been missing out. FOMO is a mean, effective motivator. Funny, I talk about not having enough time, then lay a fuckton of pipe to get to the point. The point is, the show Catastrophe is many kinds of great.

A 2015 Amazon Prime show, Catastrophe is a relationship based comedy about an Irish school teacher (Sharon Horgan) falling unexpectedly pregnant to an American businessman (Rob Delaney) after his trip to London. Geez, I could’ve described this better. It’s not like he arrives, looks at her and she’s all “HOW DID A BABY GET IN MY BELLY? GET IT OUT!” She calls him months later when he’s back home. Anyway, he comes back to London and the show picks up from there.

I understand if, based on that brief blurb you’d start questioning both my recommendation and sanity. It’s not a super compelling or original premise for a show. It also has that shaky camera style that for some reason is seen as a representation of grounded content. It’s more “real” or something. It also means I go from normal to borderline vomiting within ten seconds. HOW EXPENSIVE OR HARD TO USE IS A FUCKING TRIPOD? Anyway, I’m still not selling it well. I watch it from a bed a couple of metres away from the computer screen. That helps

Why watch it then? Because the show is gut-wrenchingly funny (or maybe that’s just the shaky camera playing with my innards). I’m not the kind of person who often watches shows alone and laughs out loud, but Catastrophe has that rare quality. Both Horgan and Delaney are hilarious, throwing quips and witty non-sequiturs back and forth. The dialogue is fantastic, but it wouldn’t go anywhere without solid chemistry. Despite misgivings about the “real” camerawork, the show is grounded and believable. So many sitcoms have a habit of feeling contrived or needlessly amping up a scene for greater impact. Catastrophe doesn’t put situations outside the realms of believably, letting the fantastic writing do the heavy lifting instead. Seeing Rob and Sharon together puts you totally on their side, deeply hoping that things will work out.

Thing is, the characters are so well defined that there’s realistic conflict. All the time and on resonant tensions like job stress, money, wavering libidos, shitty family, birth fears and postpartum depression. They argue, more and more viciously as the show pans out (it really hits its stride in s01e04). They’ll yell and tear each other down. They’ll also, within the same conversation, joke and de-escalate, apologise. Like actual human beings who are on the same team, they love each other deeply and don’t really want to leave one another. They’re surrounded by interesting, diverse supporting characters, many of whom are hugely flawed. It’s non-judgemental and sex positive too. Being a British show, there are only six 23 minute episodes in a season (two so far), so it’s easy to dive into.

I slept on this one, but you no longer have to. Have you got five hours? In that case, you certainly don’t have an excuse.

Jughead has always been somewhat of a role model. Who wouldn’t want the mutant power of infinite consumption?

I waste too much time on the internet not doing anything. Well don’t get me wrong, I’m only playing an hour or two of Cookie Clicker per day. More realistically, I’m lurking Reddit threads on r/magictcg and r/whowouldwin. It’s not productive and I forget 90% of what I’ve read ten minutes after I’ve read-dit (ged-dit?). Perhaps I’m just unused to having spare time, given the production schedule of the Air Bud Pawdcast last year. For the very limited time being, however, I’ve got time to kill. It’s time to sink some hours into entertainment across the board.

After years of hearing recommendations to do so, I grabbed a copy of the first Dresden Files book. I was expecting something pulpy, a kind of dumb, quippy, popcorn novel. In the first 20 or so pages, I got exactly what I expected. I’ve heard the series gets better as it goes on. That the world gets built out and is ultimately a bunch of fun. One of my old flatmates said the first book was a little shite, but Dresden Files was ultimately enjoyable despite the writer falling too in love with his central character.

So far it’s suffering from heavy-handed exposition [“Is this sign on the door for real? Frank Dresden, Magician for hire?” yeah that’s me, Frank Dresden, like he says, I’m a magician for hire] and that kind of shit. Also, I dunno, *male* writing. Seriously, it’s like the guy is drawing character outlines with his semi as the pencil. The first time we meet some hard nosed female detective (and likely love interest) its all [She was wearing a pantsuit, but she probably had shapely legs built up through years of cheerleading. Blonde haired, blue eyed, she’d be better looking if she smiled more] kind of shit. Tons of clunky ways of tossing in world-building and backstory. At the same time, it comes with enough endorsements that I’m going into it with zero expectations happy to at the very least be mildly entertained. At worst it has me reading again. Throwaway enjoyment, which is perfect for my use as a way to ignore the bane of my existence: The morning commute.

The other thing that’s caught my eye is this new Riverdale show. Growing up I read a metric shitton of Archie comics. I had a close friend and the double digests littered his house. In every room there’d be four or five of the things, they had hundreds. It was harmless fun, with short storylines based on simple characters who rarely strayed from their core definition. Riverdale on the other hand, sounds like it builds on those same characters to not only subvert its own tropes, but the wider tropes of teen entertainment. Ironically it’s on CW of all places. Billed as teen drama/Twin Peaks, this usually wouldn’t be anywhere in the same neighbourhood as my alley.

On the other hand, Archie comics have been known to do weird, subversive, progressive shit for years. Over the years they’ve adopted positive representations of LGBT/differently abled characters without tokenism, blending them straight into the fabric of Riverdale. They’ve also not strayed from the utterly bizarre. Anyone remember the frenzy of 90s team up comics? What about Archie Meets the Punisher or Archie vs. Predator? Whatabout that storyline where Sabrina the Teenage Witch marries H.P. Lovecraft’s #1 ancient one, Cthulhu? Internalised prejudice against CW aside, I’ve got enough goodwill built up through those stacks of double digests to watch a couple of episodes and test the waters. It could end up being as much of a surprise breakout as Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (also CW, now that I think of it).

Anyway, I’ve got more cookies to click. See you in Riverdale!

Our plane had dark wings. We had dark words.

Probably spoilers for Game of Thrones season six to follow. I haven’t decided yet.

Taking yesterday as a day of rest (rather than the traditional day of sex, being hump day and all), my girlfriend and I decided to unwind and watch a few Game of Thrones episodes. It’d been long enough since we’d last watched that we’d forgotten we were in season six, let alone which episode we were on. It was a fun world to dive back into and we quickly devoured three episodes before crashing out. We’re now five or so minutes away from having finished the fifth episode (laptop battery died on the plane flight at the climactic moment). While we were watching though, we’d both noticed a change in the air. I remembered that while the series diverged from the books a while back, this was the first season that didn’t have a corresponding book. The obvious outcome is that we were watching Game of Thrones that hadn’t been written (scenes or an overview at least) by George R.R. Martin. The difference was kind of noticeable. As always, one of my favourite things about watching a film or show with someone is unpacking and comparing thoughts and feelings. Sharing the experience has a somewhat vicarious feel to it, as it helps provide alternate views to your own which in turn expand your own perspective. Comparing season six to the previous ones, here were some things we noticed:

  • Gratuitous nudity down, gratuitous swearing up: “Tits and dragons” has scaled down both the tits and dragons. The language on the other hand is bluer than ever. I’m not complaining, it’s just different. Ser Davos, while a sailor at heart, never used to curse like one. Now it’s “fuck” and “cunt” as punctuation. I understand that Mr Seaworth has lost close friendships and family, but I’m not sure that it’d immediately change Mr Seaworth into Mr C-Word. He’s always been honest, humble and blunt, but rarely crude, as far as I remember. Unless my memory is the issue. It’s been a while since we last watched.
  • Characters becoming closer to caricatures: My girlfriend pointed out how many of the characters feel less dynamic than they did. As if they ran focus groups and discovered well this is what people liked about Daario, so let’s make him like that all the time. Characters being defined by specific features instead of being given depth. It’s kind of changed how the show feels. Less prestige, more pulpy. Ramsay Bolton, for instance, always had an exquisite sadism about him. He delighted in causing suffering. Now it feels like he’s cruel or violent for the sake of it. At the same time, there hasn’t been much telegraphing of him slowly unraveling, so it feels unearned. Tyrion’s trademark barbed wit needs sharpening and his ability to turn around a situation feels lacking. Self-interest was always one of his primary motivations (while essentially having a moral compass that’d get the better of him). His arc into selflessness feels too all-encompassing.
  • Fanservice at the behest of storytelling: My longstanding issue with Parks and Recreation (a show I really did adore) is that eventually it fell too deeply in love with its own characters. As a result, the show was loathe to let them really face strife and it became obvious that everything would work out okay. Game of Thrones is known for its abrupt twists and turns, throwing you off balance and not knowing what to expect. Now it feels like the fan favourite characters are gonna be alright no matter what happens. Of course Jon Snow is fine. Tyrion will be okay. Daenerys will come out on top time after time. Everything in its right place. Arya’s trials with blindness could’ve been far more of a depraved struggle, but instead were overcome with a tight little training montage (and this is coming from someone who loves training montages). The twists, when they do come, seem far more obvious than they did. Dialogue is predictable and runs on safe patterns. George R.R. Martin seemed to take pleasure in withholding what the audience wanted and the series felt stronger for it.

It’s not like the show is terrible now. Being basically the most popular show in the world, having so much time, money and talent pumped into it, obviously it’s great fun. Mid season six, however, doesn’t feel like its golden age. Valar morghulis, of course, but can’t it wait till the end?

If you have seen all of Black Mirror, go watch Dead Set. Don’t even read the synopsis, trust me on this one.

My first TIFF experience of the year last night. Which film did I see? NONE OF THEM. See, TIFF has started doing primetime premieres. TV shows premiering at a large scale international film festival seems uncouth, but considering how often people say the words “golden age of television”, is it that odd? I saw the first two episodes of one of my favourite shows, Black Mirror.

If you haven’t seen Black Mirror yet, why the fuck are you still here? No I’m not gonna do a run down for you. It’s some of the finest television in an era defined by enormous budgets and slavish fanbases. Twisted, pitch black sci-fi humour based on terrifyingly resonant premises. Some of which aren’t too far removed from our present environments. OH GOD DAMMIT, you got me monologuing.

The first six episodes of the new season starts October 21st on Netflix. Luckily for me, I’ve a friend who works for TIFF and he offered me a ticket. I very rarely go to the movies, but whenever I do it reminds me just how much I love the experience of a darkened room with a single objective: To pay attention. It’s so gratifying to be absorbed in a narrative outside yourself. It might be easy to binge on Netflix, but I’ll be fucked if I actually pay the same level of attention as when it’s mandated (or you feel dumb not doing so, given that you just sprung for tickets). Seeing such an intricately constructed show in that kind of environment was perfect. The thought of watching two back to back episodes (when each is so rife with complex concepts and ideas) was daunting, but worked out just fine.

If it wasn’t apparent already, there’s no way I’m gonna spoil anything here.

The two episodes were starkly different in tone, meaning it was easy to find the balance. As Netflix is want to do, it seemed like they’d given Charlie Brooker and the crew carte blanche to do things their way. It sure as hell paid off. Excellent acting, directing and technical quality. One episode in particular went to places no other Black Mirror episode has tread before. Both episodes so laden and full that it’ll take until October 21st to get them out of my head.

Not only that, but being a premiere a stack of cast and crew were in attendance. Charlie Brooker himself, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rashida Jones, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mackenzie Davis, Joe Wright, Owen Harris and more graced the stage for a post screening Q&A. I’ve never been so excited for a TIFF Q&A session and judging by the sea of raised hands, neither had anyone else. There were so many people on stage, an abundance of questions and such little time that not everyone got to speak.

This is so frustrating. I loved the episodes so much and now I want only to talk everyone’s ears off about them. When will October 21st hurry up and get here?

Actually, there’s an exact answer to that one.

I haven’t vacuumed the rug in ages, mind.

I feel like I’ve been repping enthusiasm pretty hard as of late, but I’ve been sharing very little of my own.

Perhaps it was the dense feeling of dread permeating my cerebral cortex after realising that for the second week in a row I had no choice but to watch yet another contrived kids’ film revolving around the misadventures of five golden retriever puppies and their newfound friends. In fact, that’s almost exactly what it was. The prolix has it!

Instead of focusing on how little desire I have to watch yet another Air Buddies film, I should focus on things that I’m excited about right now. Here goes:

  • Tough Mudder: I’m so goddamn close I can almost taste it. The taste is muddy, of course. Kind of like kava but with fewer weird mental hijinx. Many mental hijinx, but mostly excitement. Last year I ran around the course like a maniac. I devolved into some hyperactive monkey/cocaine fairy, climbing things with a terrifying glee and extolling the virtues of consensual butt touching. Team work was everywhere, with bonds that extended beyond actual team mates. Total strangers helping one another out as a matter of course (pun intended). Great costumes all around, with some neat themes (we went for bright and tight) that became all too irrelevant once everyone was caked in wet earth. I’m tapering things down right now as Saturday closes in. The next few days are the calm before the storm as I try not to strain/break anything.
  • Television: You’re the Worst is back! First episode of the season brought to the forefront everything I’d been missing. Hilarious, sharp, sexy and poignant without being maudlin. I’ve become obsessed for a reason. Atlanta screened last night and I haven’t gotten a chance to watch yet. Donald Glover in his first starring role. It’s a virtually  autobiographical series that supposedly delicately walks that comedy/drama tightrope with aplomb. Better Things has started its press tour, so it can’t be far off (looks like it starts tomorrow on FX). Pamela Adlon has been fucking brilliant in everything she’s been in over the years (King of the Hill, Californication, Louie) and I couldn’t be happier to finally see her get her own vehicle. Take My Wife is already out, but living in Canada without a VPN service, I don’t have easy access to comedy streaming service Seeso. For now, this means no dice. Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher, real life married couple, feature in yet another semi-autobiographical comedy. I think I’ve got a “type”. Both Esposito and Butcher are funny as hell. I’ve seen them live a few times and can’t wait to catch Cameron when she’s in town for JFL42 in a few weeks. Which brings me to…
  • JFL42. I got my accreditation last week, which is outstanding news. For the last two weeks of September I’ll be a ghost, floating around from show to show all ephemeral-like. I haven’t even planned my schedule yet, but very luckily I should have some access like last time to sold out shows. Fingers crossed I’ll be able to hit item one on my wishlist: Dan Harmon’s VIP/ComedyCon show at The Royal Theatre. Pray for Mojo.
  • The girlfriend and I finally got our tickets to New Zealand. Leaving Toronto on the 31st of December, leaving Auckland on the 22nd of January. Three weeks of friend/family time and whirlwind touring of my home country. It’s been three years, let’s see what a homecoming feels like.

And now I get to go discuss that precocious canine space caper Space Buddies in podcast form.

Don’t let the existential dread set in.