October Horror Roundup

Some years it seems October passes me by before I realize it, and I find myself staring November 1st in the face with the startling realization that I neglected to watch any horror to get myself into the Halloween spirit. Granted, horror can (and should) be enjoyed all year long, but taking in some spooky stuff while the decorations are out is extra special.

This year I made it a point to not let one of my favorite holidays (shout out to Christmas) pass me by. I’ve been able to check out a handful of horror I hadn’t seen before, and it’s been wonderful. I tried to cover as much of the horror spectrum as I could, from over-the-top-bonkers gore spectaculars to more traditional creepfests. I lucked out in that none of it was especially bad, and some of it was incredibly good. So if you need a kick in the pants to rev up your Halloween spirit or want something scary to watch in the dark on All Hallow’s Eve, here’s a quick roundup of what I’ve seen so far this month. (All available on Netflix)

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Terrifier (2017) 

Terrifier is all about expectations. If you’re looking for subtle, nuanced fright, look elsewhere—subtlety is not to be found in this throwback to 80’s slasher flicks. Some have criticized the film for its derivative, paper-thin plot, but honestly, this film lets you know what you’re in for within the first five minutes. When you see a character’s eyeballs popped in their sockets, you should adjust your expectations accordingly.

Featuring a sadistic killer clown out on the town for a maniacal killing spree, the kills in Terrifier are straight up gnarly: decapitations, dismemberments, and one scene so shocking (featuring the world’s sharpest hacksaw) that it even got raised eyebrows from this gourmet of gore. There’s a degree of detachment to most of the violence thanks to its less-than-realistic effects work, which only serves to add to the campiness and pitch black comedy.

Bottom Line: If you’re into crazy, over the top gore and not looking to set the bar too high, this will be right up your alley.

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The Ritual (2017)

Based on the novel by Adam Nevill, The Ritual is very Blair Witch-esque, featuring some lost hikers in the hills of Scandinavia and a (seemingly) supernatural entity haunting them at their every turn. The film does a great job of mixing physical scares with psychological terror, and there’s a nice element of surrealism to keep you wondering exactly what the hell you’re watching.

Without getting into spoilers, once the men see the thing in the forest they have been running from, it’s one of the best reveals I can remember in a long time. A truly WTF climax, with about as satisfying an ending as a movie of this type can deliver. This one definitely surpassed my expectations.

Bottom Line: A nice take on a familiar story, well written and well executed.

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The Haunting of Hill House (2018) 

There’s not a lot about this 10-part series that hasn’t already been said. It’s probably the most buzzed-about thing Netflix has had since diving into original programming, and if you haven’t already seen it you might be wondering how something so critically lauded can possibly live up to the hype. All I can tell you is that it does, in spades.

Nearly every frame of Hill House’s ten hours is filled with a palpable sense of dread. You never know what’s going to happen at any given moment, and just when you think you’re safe something will catch you off guard. All of this done with very few jump scares (and excellent timing of the ones they do use), and practically no blood or gore.

The ending has been roundly criticized, but that is truly a nit being picked by people who should appreciate being given a piece of work this exceptional. When the worst thing people can say about a ten-part saga is that it’s not absolutely perfect, you know you’ve got something special.

Bottom Line: Believe the hype. A definite must watch.

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Oculus (2014)

In what turned out to be a double shot from director Mike Flanagan, Oculus has a few things in common with The Haunting of Hill House—namely how ghosts haunt and ultimately screw up an otherwise happy family, and some reverse storytelling to gradually reveal what really unfolded. Initially revealing a young boy killing his father after a dastardly bout of domestic violence, the film makes use of flashbacks to fill in the missing details, and show us how the adults were manipulated by a haunted mirror that had come into the family’s possession. (That sounds corny as I type it out, but it actually works in the movie, trust me.)

Now grown, the children are determined to document exactly what powers the mirror possesses before ultimately destroying it—but of course the mirror won’t go down that easily. The ending is quite satisfying, although a major part of the climax will be obvious to anyone who’s got even a basic knack for spotting foreshadowing.

Bottom Line: Not great but by no means bad, Oculus proves Hill House was no fluke for Flanagan.

***NOTE: Oculus is only available on Netflix until Nov. 1st, hurry if you want to see it.

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Tales of Halloween (2015)

In the mood for a string of campy mini B movies with gore galore and enough cheese to make fondue? Friend, meet Tales of Halloween. Made up of ten horror comedy shorts from various writers and directors, Adrienne Barbeau of Creepshow fame plays a local DJ who serves to string the tales together in a style reminiscent of old HBO favorite Tales From the Crypt.

The shorts run the gamut from amusing to decent to bad; a couple of them border on good, and some stink outright. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter—the stories are so short that the next one is on before you can complain about the last one. Gallows humor and corny comedic violence abound, making the fact that the content is not exactly top notch easier to swallow. Another reason to sit through it is the plethora of cameos, including horror directors John Landis and Mick Garris, The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s Barry Bostwick, Greg Grunberg of TV’s Alias and Heroes fame, and one of my all-time favorite comedians (and former writer on The Simpsons), Dana Gould.

Bottom Line: Worth watching if you are in the mood for total silliness but still want gore and violence. Willing to bet it would be 100% better with alcohol.

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Apostle (2018)

Quite different than the other ones I’ve mentioned, Apostle is a period piece set on a remote Welsh island in 1905. Our protagonist Thomas Richardson’s sister has been kidnapped by a religious cult, and is demanding ransom for her release. Traveling to the island amid followers and infiltrating the cult, Thomas sets out to find his sister and rescue her from the clutches of the madman ‘prophet’ and his disciples. Of course, there is much more to the story which it’s better not to know going in. Suffice to say, belonging to the cult involves bloodletting, and there’s a wicked bit of medieval torture involving a device called The Heathen’s Stand.

Apostle is a slow burn compared to much of the contemporary horror put out nowadays—it’s almost like a mashup of The Wicker Man and The VVitch. The dialogue and many of the finer points of the script are a bit slow, but the chills and violence more than make up for it.

Bottom Line: Could be better, could’ve been a lot worse. It’s easily good enough to stick with it until the very cool ending.

Well, there you have it! Let me know f you end up watching something I mentioned above, and don’t hesitate to let me know of any good horror you’ve seen recently that you’d recommend to close out October!

Happy Halloween, people!

 

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I Am A Killer (Netflix, 2018)

From the doubt-casting phenomenon Making a Murderer to the excellent serial killer series Mindhunter, Netflix is up to its ears in crime shows. Now they’re out to prove that there is apparently no such thing as crime fatigue with the release of 10 episode docuseries I Am A Killer.

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Using a bit of a broad brush, each episode of I Am A Killer focuses on a different death row inmate. All the men on the show have been convicted, sentenced to death, and fully admit to their crimes (although to what degree some of them admit to being involved is called into question) and they all discuss their crimes frankly, in their own words. While some episodes are more compelling than others, even the weaker ones are still interesting and easily watchable for fans of true crime.

One of the better episodes of the series tells the story of Justin Dickens, an addict who killed a customer during the attempted robbery of a jewelry store. He claims the customer charged him and fought for his gun—he shot the customer once in the torso, then the customer yanked on the gun once more, causing the gun to go off and deliver a fatal head shot. The prosecution in the case presented a vastly different version of events, and painted Dickens as a cold-blooded, calculated killer, claiming forensic evidence proved Dickens was lying. The other victim from the jewelry store, however, provides an eyewitness account that matches up exactly with Dickens’ version.

Why does this matter? Because in a crime of this type, if the victim provokes the perpetrator, the death penalty is taken off the table. The prosecution claimed Dickens shot the customer without a struggle, and succeeded in getting the death penalty for  Dickens.

Another standout is the story of Kenneth Foster, Jr., who received the death penalty after a friend he was riding in a car with shot and killed a man; he was convicted and sentenced under Texas’ Law of Parties, which states a person is equally responsible in the committing of a crime if they are believed to have solicited, aided, or encouraged the person who physically committed the crime.

Possibly the most thought-provoking episode features Joshua Nelson, who, at two months past his 18th birthday, teamed up with his 17 year old best friend to brutally murder a mutual friend in order to steal his car. Now 40, Joshua makes a compelling argument regarding the notion that he, despite what he’s done, is on some level deserving of forgiveness, and that he is redeemable. It’s an argument the victim’s mother (who still vividly remembers the chilling smirk Nelson gave her in the courtroom during the trial) doesn’t buy for a second.

And that’s exactly what makes the show so interesting. The team behind it does their best to show each case from all angles: the prosecution and defense, the victims’ families, even the criminals’ families and friends. Some may argue this makes it an attempt to humanize people who deserve no sympathy. I would argue that the only ones humanized in the series are the ones who can be.

James Robertson, for example, featured in Episode 1, comes off as an unfeeling monster as he recounts coming to the conclusion that the only way to improve his situation in prison was to murder his cellmate. His reasoned that the act would move him out of the unsatisfactory living conditions and frequent solitary confinement he’d been dealing with, and get him what he considered an upgrade by putting him on death row.

The show is not perfect; the weakest episodes come close to being boring, and the good ones leave you wishing they’d have spent more time examining their subjects. Either way, while I Am A Killer may not change anyone’s view on capital punishment, it is almost certainly guaranteed to make you stop and think.

Behold My Dirty Little Secret

I need to confess something. I recently found out I’m into something kind of taboo. It’s something that’s generally frowned upon in popular society, but after stumbling across something on the internet recently I grew curious, and eventually realized I had to give in to my strange desires. And it all comes back to this woman:

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Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!

When I was a wee lad, I loved Happy Days. Arthur Fonzarelli was my favorite character on TV, but I loved anything and everything related to the show, including its spinoffs, Mork & Mindy (RIP Robin Williams) and Laverne & Shirley.

Played by now-famous director Penny Marshall (Big, Awakenings, A League of Their Own, less impressive things after 1992) was co-titular character Laverne DeFazio, a tough-talking Brooklynite living in Wisconsin who, along with the embroidered ‘L’ on all her clothes, had one memorably odd trait: she enjoyed a beverage that churned the other characters’ stomachs—Pepsi and milk.

I know what some of you might be thinking, but hang on a minute—just hear me out. Do you like root beer floats, or as an old relative of mine used to make, Dr. Pepper floats? As was pointed out in the Reddit thread I recently stumbled across, it’s the same concept, just with a slightly different form of dairy.

As a matter of fact, what I found when I did a little research into the unusual concoction is that it’s not entirely uncommon on the East Coast, and similar to a drink from Latin America in which condensed milk is added to malta (a carbonated beverage sort of like cola). Thailand uses condensed milk in it’s version of iced milk tea, and the Vietnamese commonly add condensed milk to coffee—adding milk or cream to stuff is not as weird as it seems, honest.

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Cha Yen, Thailand’s iced milk tea

Always one down to try new beverages, I decided to give it a shot and see how odd it actually was. It turned out to be pretty good! It took a little tweaking to get it just how I liked it, but nowhere near the stomach-churning gagfest that Lenny and Squiggy made it out to be on TV. I was all in, and before long I was hooked.

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Back when this photo would’ve been taken, who would’ve guessed the marvelous actor Michael Mckean would become?

As for my own personal recipe? I’ve spent the last couple weeks experimenting, and here’s what I’ve come up with: I use Pepsi Zero Sugar (Coke Zero Sugar is good too) and almond milk (vanilla almond milk would be great) in about a 60/40 ratio, topped with a splash of cream and a trickle of almond extract. Absolutely delicious.

If you’re (perhaps understandably) skeptical, start slow—try some root beer with a splash of cream. If you like it (which you should, it’s basically a melted root beer float), get bolder. Try some milk, or almond milk, or soy milk, whatever you desire. You can even switch up the soda you use. Like Sprite? Do it. Orange Fanta? That’s a liquid creamsicle, baby! Go for it—you may just end up with a new favorite drink. ***Side note: what kind of booze can be added to take this beverage to the next level is yet to be determined.

If you like the sound of the recipe I came up with above, by all means give it a whirl and let me know how you like it. I call it the DeFazio.

Thanks, Laverne.

 

 

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Big Mouth [Netflix, 2017]

A lot of words can be used to describe puberty: Awkward. Gross. Uncomfortable. Hilarious. These also pretty accurately describe the Netflix animated comedy Big Mouth.

The brainchild of comedian Nick Kroll and his childhood friend and Family Guy writer/producer Andrew Goldberg (plus Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett), Big Mouth debuted on Netflix in September 2017 and has already been confirmed for a second season coming (no pun intended*) later this year.

Big Mouth centers on the relationship between Nick (the aforementioned Kroll) and Andrew (superb comedian John Mulaney), and their friends—the eternally horny aspiring magician Jay (Jason Mantzoukas), the smart and cynical Jessi (Jessi Klein), and the endearingly nerdy and slightly naive Missy (Jenny Slate)—as they traverse the rocky terrain between adolescence and puberty.

Surreality and absurdism play a large part in the show, to both good and bad effect. The best of the good is represented by two things: first, the presence of hormone monsters (and a hormone monstress) that speak to the children (and at least one adult), usually giving them bad advice and encouraging them to give in to their weirdest, most depraved thoughts, and second, some of the musical numbers—especially when a sexually confused Andrew sings with the ghost of Freddie Mercury, or when a tampon resembling Michael Stipe sings a parody of Everybody Hurts called Everybody Bleeds. The worst of the bad can be seen in all its glory in Episode 6, Pillow Talk, where Jay goes on an emotional roller coaster with his sex pillow (later involving his bathmat). When the show crosses that line into the utterly absurd it can become a chore to finish (no pun intended*).

Despite the fantastical, ridiculous, and flat-out weird elements that permeate the show, Big Mouth actually manages to make the characters relatable in the way it handles the characters’ emotions and reactions to what’s happening to their bodies. It’s impossible to watch the show and not at some point be reminded of your own stumble toward adulthood in some way, be it wet dreams, accidental and sometimes confusing erections, exploring your nether regions for the first time, or having sexual relations with the severed head of Garrison Keillor.

The cast of Big Mouth is practically a comedy honor roll—scanning the names voicing the show’s many characters, it was easier to pick the names I didn’t recognize rather than the ones I did. Along with the excellent main cast, the show also features the talents of Fred Armisen, Andrew Rannells, Kristen Bell, Jon Hamm, Kirsten Wiig, as well as my two personal favorites: Maya Rudolph is phenomenal as the sassy and nasty hormone monstress, Connie, and Jordan Peele absolutely slays as the ghost of Duke Ellington, who lives in Andrew’s attic and says a plethora of immoral and outlandish things to the boys, as well as giving them generally terrible advice.

With a show this vulgar and gross, it’s definitely going to have its detractors. My friend Eric in California (Hi, Eric!) stated in no uncertain terms that a show featuring ejaculation, menstruation, and masturbation did not appeal to him whatsoever. To that, all I can say is, different strokes for different folks (no pun intended*). With that in mind, if you’d like to see a completely different take on the show, you can read this extremely negative review I found while doing some research to write my own. Ironically, it is far more graphic and detailed than mine, presumably in an attempt to offend anyone who reads it as much as the person who wrote it.

Although it takes jokes too far in places, for the most part Big Mouth is a solid comedy that will elicit steady chuckles and occasional big laughs. Just know you’re in for some depravity—if you expect any less, you’ve got another thing coming (no pun intended*).

 

*j/k all puns intended

I Love a Horse(man)

It seems like it’s been a while since I’ve talked about TV. I guess that’s partly because my viewing habits have changed so drastically over the past year and a half or so. Once upon a time I wrote a post giving 3 Reasons Why Man Can’t Live on Netflix Alone. Oddly enough, reading back over it, I still agree with most of what I said there.

That being said, I’m now a cord-cutter, and while I do miss the ability to mindlessly surf channels like a lobotomized sloth, I’ve gotten to the point where I can’t imagine being without my dear, sweet Netflix. I originally got the free trial just so I could binge watch Breaking Bad, but (of course) I ended up keeping it. Then back in February I ditched it for Hulu for the sole purpose of watching 11.22.63, but I ended up keeping it for a while so I could catch up on Broad City, plus I got hooked on the Hulu original show, Casual. But I had to go back and get Netflix again, mostly for one solitary reason: a dickhead anthropomorphic horse.

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 I first started watching BoJack Horseman on the recommendation of fellow blogger Dylan at Hooray for Movies!(whose opinion I respect a great deal), who wrote this post about the show after binge watching its first season in 2014.

How do I put this without resorting to hyperbole? Bojack Horseman is one of the best shows on television, and in just 3 seasons is already one of my favorite shows ever, joining the ranks of The Sopranos, the aforementioned Breaking Bad, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Whether you like those shows or not, I realize calling it one of the best shows on TV is a bold claim. After all, we are experiencing a bit of a golden age for television. Why would I make such a statement? Let me break it down for you:

First, let’s talk about the cast. BoJack is voiced by the always awesome Will Arnett of Arrested Development, and his freeloading friend/roommate Todd is played by Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul.  Then there’s BoJack’s feline agent and on-again-off-again girlfriend, Princess Carolyn, voiced by one of my favorite people in the known universe, Amy Sedaris. Rounding out the main characters we have Community’s Alison Brie as Diane Nguyen, the writer assigned to help BoJack write his autobiography, and her boyfriend, golden retriever Mister Peanutbutter, voiced by comedian Paul F. Tompkins.

And as if that wasn’t enough, the talent in the supporting cast is absolutely insane. Here, you know what? Let me bring in a visual aid.

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I’ll spare you any gushing about the amazing cameos throughout the show by the likes of Daniel Radcliffe, Greg Kinnear, Candace Bergen, and oh so many more—other than to say that this show has raised the bar on cameos so high that I don’t know if another show will ever match it.

But wait, you may be saying, what’s this show even about?

BoJack is a washed up 90s sitcom star. He was on a show called Horsin’ Around, where he was a single horse raising three kids. Think Full House, but with a talking horse. The show made him very rich, and he…well, he doesn’t do much but party. He drinks, does drugs, and screws whoever will let him. Diane is hired to ghost write his autobiography, and her boyfriend is BoJack’s arch frenemy (and fellow 90s sitcom star) Mister Peanutbutter, and the show takes off from there.

The thing is, the show is about so much more. This show goes deep and gets real in a way few shows can manage. It’s astounding how real and three dimensional these characters are, a feat made all the more remarkable since many of them are animals, but the feelings they have are distinctly human. I attribute that to the incredible writing.

The storylines, character arcs, and dialogue are all among the best I’ve ever seen. Certain lines of dialogue can alternately make me laugh, gasp, or leave my jaw hanging open. They’ll spend nearly an entire season setting up a joke, or subtly reinforcing a punchline over and over without you even being fully aware of it (For anyone who’s watched the show, I’m referring to the ‘What are you doing here?’ line woven throughout season two). I feel like all writers could benefit from watching this show; it’s a true master class.

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A little meta humor for the Aaron Paul fans out there.

Ultimately, it’s a show about depression and how people seek validation and happiness in their lives. BoJack is not a very likable character—to call him an anti-hero is much too nice. He’s a toxic asshole who destroys everything he touches. The thing is, he knows he’s toxic, and he wants to be better, and to be happy. At least, he thinks he does, but he manages to sabotage himself every step of the way.

As I was trying to think of how to explain the type of character BoJack is, I found myself looking back at a show I mentioned earlier, The Sopranos. In a lot of ways BoJack reminds me of Tony Soprano, in that they’re both selfish, manipulative narcissists, and yet you find yourself still liking them (to a degree, at least) in spite of that.

Lest we forget, however, that in all the talk of the dark, bleak themes, the show is still a comedy. And there are so many joke. So. Many. Jokes. Silly animal puns. Clever jokes. Smart jokes. Stupid jokes. Vincent Adultman, for Christ’s sake—two children stacked on top of each other inside a trench coat pretending to be an adult, dating Princess Carolyn who is completely oblivious. The show practically requires repeat viewing just to catch the jokes you missed the first time around.

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So why aren’t more people watching?

I mean, it has its (very devoted) fans, but this show deserves the adulation (and ratings) of Mad Men, House of Cards, and the like. I think it suffers from two problems.

1) the first impression it makes. A lot of people simply don’t want to give an animated show with talking animals a chance, period. They’ll write it off as another Family Guy wannabe, which really couldn’t be farther from the truth.

2) The show requires some investment. The  first few episodes are funny, but it’s not until you learn more about the characters and some of their true (and very dark) colors come out that the show really gets its hooks in you.

Look, what can I say—I love pretty much everything about this show. It’s damn near perfect.

And I haven’t even mentioned the incredible opening and closing themes, composed by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach and Grouplove, respectively.

So here’s what I ask of you:

Give the show an honest chance. At least 5 or 6 episodes. You may already enjoy it by then, but that’s when the show takes its first dip into darkness, and that’s when it really got my attention.

And if my urging isn’t enough for you, there’s this: Time magazine just announced its list of the best TV episodes of 2016, and none other than BoJack Horseman’s  underwater-set (and largely dialogue free) episode Fish Out of Water was named best television episode of the year. What more recommendation do you need?

Do yourself a favor: watch it. You won’t regret it.

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Yep.

Ever been talking with someone and the conversation seems to just sort of grind to a halt? Not necessarily an uncomfortable one, but it just seems like there’s nothing more to say for the time being? I think this is the blog equivalent of that.

Yep.

Yep.

I’m going through something of an identity crisis, I suppose. Nothing seems a) important enough or b) timely enough to put on the site anymore. When I started, I was watching a ton more TV and movies and could easily fill my blog with reviews or news of upcoming shows. A change in my work schedule and more time spent actually writing has meant a serious decrease in TV viewing, so I really don’t have that to fall back on now.

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For example: I just watched Gone Girl. I thought maybe I could devote a post either to a full-fledged review of the film, or a comparison of the book vs the film. Then I thought, isn’t it a little late to be talking about it? I mean, I’ll tell you what I thought of it, but to spend a few hundred words on a movie that came out several months ago seems a little late.

Anyway, regarding the movie: I liked it a lot, and thought it was just as good as—if not better than—the book. The things that didn’t make the film were pretty minor, and Gillian Flynn did a pretty excellent job adapting her novel for the screen. As much as I like Trent Reznor’s work, I felt like in some scenes the music was a distraction from what was going on. When Nick and Amy were having a huge blow-out fight, hearing a film score under it (even a somewhat ominous one) took me out of the scene.

The real highlight of the film for me was Rosamund Pike. I literally can’t think of anyone who could’ve pulled off Amazing Amy so perfectly. Cold, calculating, psychotic…her performance was awesome. I don’t know whether or not she’ll win the Oscar, but I think she definitely deserved the nomination.

Want a Netflix recommendation? I’ve got one of those I can throw your way.

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If you’ve never heard of Better Off Ted, you’re not alone. It was only on for two very low-rated seasons on ABC back in the days of yore (2009-2010) when people still watched TV primarily on TV instead of their devices. Take it from me, though, this show is hilarious.

Part romantic workplace comedy, part biting satire of corporate America, and part screwball comedy, how this show never caught on is one of life’s biggest mysteries (because I don’t use my brain to think about things like science or the universe). Once I saw the show was on Netflix I went back to re-watch what I remembered to be my favorite episode and it totally held up, so a BOT marathon may be in the works.

If you’re going to give it a shot and want one episode to see if you like it, I point to “Racial Sensitivity” from season one. The show is set at the headquarters of megacorporation Veridian Dynamics, a sort of SC Johnson or Glad type industry giant, and in a cost-saving measure all the lights, elevators, water fountains, etc. in the building are replaced with motion-sensors that turn off automatically when not in use. The problem? The sensors are defective, and do not detect light reflected off darker skin tones—i.e., they don’t work for black people. The solution? Replacing all the sensors is initially deemed too expensive, so as a temporary fix the company hires a bunch of white people, paying them minimum wage to follow the black people everywhere.

Exchange between Ted and his boss (and company puppet) Veronica:

Ted: “The sensors don’t see black people? …That’s racist!”

Veronica: “The company’s position is that it’s actually the opposite of racist, because the system isn’t targeting black people, it’s just ignoring them. They insist the worst people can call it is indifferent.”

As I write I get more anxious to go back and re-watch the whole series—it really is that good. Give it a shot!

And now, I submit the BOJ suggestion box. Like I said at the top, topics for blog posts are getting a little thin. I have a few ideas, but I’m open to ideas. Soon I should have more writing-related things to talk about as I move from the actual writing of my first novel to trying to get it published, so there’ll be some material there, but what else?

One thing I’ve been bouncing around is a series of “In Defense of…” posts, where I defend something in pop culture that’s either (unjustly) unpopular or was overlooked by the population at large. I may start the first installment of that next week if I don’t think of anything else. So, if you have ideas, suggestions, feedback, whatever it may be, feel free to let me know. What kinds of things would you like to see discussed here?

3 Reasons Why Man Cannot Live on Netflix Alone

Well, this man, anyway.

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Netflix is the rare technological advancement that’s totally affordable but I haven’t adopted yet. For the longest time it was because I had no device to deliver Netflix to my TV—my gaming days ended way back at the PS1 (which, not to get on a tangent, but I’m very grateful for. As if writers don’t procrastinate enough, I can’t imagine having video games calling my name from the other room while I’m trying to get some writing done). Then, last Christmas I got a Chromecast, and suddenly Netflix re-entered the picture as an actual, viable option for our TV/movie viewing needs.

I’ve talked to people I know, and read the comments/opinions of people I don’t know on the internet, and there seems to be a resounding cry of “Screw the cable companies! Get Netflix and cancel your service provider! Netflix is all you need!”

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I agree with the first half of that statement—seriously, screw cable companies. Satellite providers may be only marginally better, and that depends just on your personal experience with whatever company you use, but I hate cable companies. I mean, like, hate-hate. They aren’t regulated for the most part, and it’s basically like the wild west when it comes to their business practices.

But the second part…get Netflix and cancel my paid TV service altogether? I don’t think I can do that. Why? Funny you should ask.

1. Limited choices

From what little I know about Netflix’s menu of programming, TV shows are pretty easy to find—the vast majority of shows are available to binge watch at your leisure. Still, I’m sure with my luck there would be something I watch not on there. Then there’s the issue of movies. I don’t watch movies all the time, but I like having a wide variety to pick from, which from what I can gather about Netflix, is not necessarily the case. They are constantly working to get better, newer movies on their format faster, but their choices are a little limited for the time being. Again, this is just as I (an admitted Netflix ignoramus) understand it.

2. HBO

HBO holds a special place in my heart. Sure, they show movies. Yes, they have boxing. But how HBO got their hooks in me and kept them in is with their original programming. I’m thinking back as far as I can, and the oldest shows I remember watching are Tales from the Crypt, Kids in the Hall and Dream On. Then I got hooked on OZ, followed by the big daddy, still my favorite show of all time, The Sopranos (R.I.P. James Gandolfini—still missed). Since then, HBO has pretty much kept their momentum, with a few bumps in the road of course, with Six Feet Under, The Wire, and Big Love, and currently with True Blood, Game of Thrones, and True Detective.

Time is a flat circle.

Time is a flat circle.

And that’s just the scripted shows.

HBO just struck a deal with Amazon (another alternate TV viewing option) to stream their shows, but only shows that are at least 3 years old. Right now my wife and I are getting ready to watch the final season of True Blood (are they really going to let Tara survive the entire series?), then a cool-looking new show called The Leftovers starts next week, so we’ll be checking that out, and I just started getting into Veep and Silicon Valley. My point is, I’m in too deep.

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Damn you, HBO…

 

Which brings me to…

3. I’m a creature of habit.

I’m writing this on Sunday morning. Once I’m done with this and any other writing I’m working on, I’ll go sit in front of the TV and see what’s on. I’ll look through the onscreen guide, flip to something I’ve never heard of or want to see what it is—I’ll channel surf. That’s what I do, and I can’t imagine not doing it with Netflix.

Last night I found myself watching some show called The Pool Master, about some British guy who was hired to build a dream pool for this (evidently filthy stinkin’ rich) couple in Kentucky. They wanted this dramatic pool built on the side of a cliff, deep enough to high dive off rocks—to cliff dive into their pool, basically—that would have a water feature and a fire pit, etc. It was a massive undertaking as the Brit had to figure out the logistics of digging out the hole for the pool, moving the enormous stones he wanted to use to construct their cliff diving thingie, and it was really interesting…for about ten minutes.

I love doing that kind of thing. Seeing something on and going, what the hell is that? And changing the channel to see just what the hell it is. I know if I cancelled my TV service I could still get a handful of basic channels (the networks) with an antenna, but I’ve been down that road during especially bad storms that take out the satellite signal, and living off antenna is not something I want to do again. Homo sapiens have evolved this far, I’m not going to take a giant leap backwards and watch TV off an antenna like some animal. That’s a slippery slope—where does it end, doing away with my remote and getting up every time I want to change the channel?

I know some of you remember...

I know some of you remember…

Despite all my ramblings, I’ll probably end up getting Netflix sooner rather than later. I think it’s actually a really cool service that would make a nice addition to my TV viewing experience. But to me, that’s all would be: an addition; an enhancement to what I already have. I’m not ready now, and may never be in the future, to cut myself off completely from the pay TV lifeline I’ve been weaned on for so long.

I’m curious what anyone can tell me about Netflix—are you happy with it? Do you find its choices limiting? Have you dropped cable/satellite altogether?