Pygmy Reviews #60 – TV

Catastrophe Season 1 (Amazon)

Chris turned me on to this British show that Amazon picked up and added to Amazon Instant Video. It’s only six episodes, so it’s a might easy watch. The premise is fairly simple, an American businessman has a love affair with a woman while on a business trip in the UK. The woman ends up pregnant and things go from there. It feels a lot like You’re the Worst but with far less horrible people involved. It has that dry sense of humor found in British comedy, but many of the jokes still land. It is clear that there is enough talent here (both writing and acting) to sustain a storyline after the baby is born, especially if it keeps up with the 6 episode season length it has so far.

Because of the shorter length of the season there isn’t a ton to say about it. It feels like it is trying harder to be less stereotypical than the usual stories of this type, but it may just be the British style. There are some interesting supporting cast members who get a little zany, but not in a bad way. If you are looking for something to watch that you can blow through in on day, this is worth your time for sure.

The Americans – Season 3 (FX)

Not only is The Americans one of the best shows on television, but it probably is the most underrated. People often ask me what shows I am watching, and I am always quick to point out The Americans. I suspect this is one of those shows that will gain an audience late in it’s run as more people catch up and realize how great it is. Keri Russell was always that girl from Felicity but she and Matthew Rhys just keep churning out great season after great season. This season started to involve the couple’s daughter Paige as she comes closer and closer to figuring out her parents’ secret. Unlike some of my other favorite shows (Game of Thrones for example) there really isn’t a bad story arc in this show. Some of the stuff back in Russia isn’t great, but it’s good enough.

Elizabeth and Phillip are a totally new type of anti-hero. They aren’t as inherently bad as someone like Walter White, but the fact that they are Soviet spies during the Cold War instantly make them someone you shouldn’t root for. Seeing where things go with Phillip’s unwitting accomplice/wife Martha could be their undoing. Figuring out how the Jennings’ neighbor/FBI agent Stan Beeman fits in will also be a great reveal down the road. This show has so much to build on, and it feels like its just getting started.

Halt and Catch Fire – Season 2 (AMC)

Season 1 of this show felt like Mad Men meetings Pirates of Silicon Valley, but not in a good way. Joe McMillan was as much of a Don Draper ripoff as is humanly possible, and not in a good way. The characters were bland, and the story was just a thrown together mess. If not for the subject matter I don’t think I would have made it to the end. Season 2 was a drastic switch though. Female leads Mackenzie Davis and Kerry Bishe have been given an increased focus, and it works very very well. Bishe is growing on me in a hurry.

This show is far from perfect though. It feels like the writers are having the fictional company Mutiny come up with (or across) every future, groundbreaking idea: online games, chat rooms and whatever else they want to reward the founders with. At the same time the company can’t breakthrough and seems to run into problems at every turn. Much like Silicon Valley one has to wonder how much longer the company can boomerang back and forth between the highs and lows. Season 3 will be a big moment for the show to really figure out where it’s going. The company can’t remain small forever, but once it goes will it still be good?

Orange is the New Black – Season 3 (Netflix)

Orange is the New Black held it’s momentum from season 1 to season 2 reasonably well, but because the cast is stuck in prison it’s more difficult to mix the plot up too much. Season 3 was good, but this show definitely feels like it’s trending down. The inciting character of the show, Piper, has (thankfully) become more of a background character in season 3, although her plot to make money late in the season is entertaining. As good as Laura Prepon is, it feels like her character has also run it’s course. This goes back to the first statement I made about how the plots can only go so far when the characters are in prison. The construction of bunk beds at the end of the season, and showing the arrival of several busloads of new inmates should increase the potential for plots to expand, which is good because what is here as somewhat felt like it’s run it’s course. There are still funny moments, and the flashback scenes are both enlightening and very well constructed, but for the show seems to have lost that “hanging on every moment” feeling it had in season 1. I would be shocked if this show has more than two seasons left in the tank, and it would be nice to make that known and just start wrapping things up over the next 26 episodes rather than try to make this work longer than it should. Certainly it’s still an above average show, but has dropped from being in the class of “great”.