Girls – Season 4 (HBO)
This show is so constantly hit or miss for me, very much like New Girl, but it has a much lower batting average than New Girl. I enjoyed the first season of Girls. I didn't love it, but I liked it. I continue to feel mostly the same about it. What is difficult for to understand is if I hate it because most of the characters are the kinds of people I loathe. Everything about Marnie, Hannah and Jessa is just awful. Parts of Shoshanna aggravate me, but at the same time her naïveté is a good representation of so many people her age who think the world works the complete opposite of the way it actually does. Ray is the most likeable character on the show but even he is frustrating at times, especially when you remember he is supposed to be about 10 years older than the rest of the ensemble. Adam is enjoyable for his blunt and direct, no-BS approach, but even he is frustrating at times.
It's interesting to see how easy it is to suspend reality for a pure comedy, but in more dramatic shows like this the absence of reality is a put off. Neither Hannah, Marnie, Jessa or Adam appear to have had any sort of income producing jobs in a while. How are they paying rent? How are they paying for all the dinners and drinks out they seem to regularly have? It's difficult for me to justify bashing this show without sounding sexist because I enjoy many other shows with bad people at the center. But this show just doesn't work for me on a regular basis. I have heard Lena Dunham on appearances out of character and I find her charming and intelligent, so I think I would like her in other things, but this is show is so hard to watch sometimes.
The Knick – Season 1 (Cinemax)
One Line Description: A doctor in early 1900s New York battles politics and primitive medicine.
Cinemax is basically the only channel I don't have in my cable package, and it is kind of silly at this point not to just pay for it, but I haven't yet. Because of that I couldn't experience The Knick on it's initial run, and instead had to wait for it to show up for a limited time on HBO GO. At Chris' recommendation I plowed through the season over the course of a couple of weeks, but was left not being all that impressed. I have always enjoyed period pieces, and that aspect of things is just awesome. The show is based at the start of the 1900s and watching medicine being practiced and evolving is definitely a sight to see. But the characters on this show do nothing for me. Contrary to a show like Treme (which I will be writing about again soon) where the story is bland but the characters are great, this show has a nice backdrop, decent story but few compelling characters. I find most of them to be uninteresting at best, and in the case of the main character Dr. Thackery a feel of forced traits/conditions that don't add to the show. Getting to see season 1 definitely won't get me to run out and order Cinemax, and I will be hard pressed to visit season 2 anytime soon.
Mr. Robot – Season 1 (USA)
One Line Description: A computer hacker is recruited by a mysterious man to help take down the world's biggest financial company.
I was “late” to the party on this show, having to play catch up about halfway through the season. I knew it involved hackers in some way, but until other people (Chris and Tom) started making it clear I needed to be watching it, I wasn't even recording the episodes every week. I was hooked almost from the first five minutes. The style of the show, setting and cinematography are different, in a good way. This show definitely doesn't feel like a ripoff of other shows, which is a big achievement these days. It's hard to really say what it feels like without spoiling it too much, but I immediately got the vibe of a specific late '90s movie, and I ended up being right. There are some nice hooks and twists along the way, but at times the show does get a little wacky. I watched the season finale with my wife, who had not seen a single episode, and she gave me an interesting perspective from someone who wasn't watching from the beginning. That perspective is that this show is not for everyone.
It's not as universally good as The Americans, or with top to bottom great performances like Breaking Bad, but it does enough to get you to want to come back each week. Rami Malek is spectacular as the main character, and he can carry this show for a while. The good news is that it will be back for season 2, and from what the showrunner has said, it isn't meant to be just a big mystery to solve a la Lost. That is a good thing because I had concerns about how it was going to maintain momentum. Definitely give the first couple episodes a try if you haven't.
True Detective – Season 2 (HBO)
The first season of True Detective gave people a taste of how good an “anthology” show could be when it only had to think about one season. The second season proved why that can also be a gigantic train wreck. Starting fresh means establishing everything from scratch, like characters, backstories and setting up the main arc of the season. That is a challenge of most shows, and the first couple of episodes of any series can feel a bit rough and awkward. The problem with “anthology” shows is that they must go through this every single season. On top of that an entirely new cast must also try to live up to the previous season's success. All of those factors create a high degree of difficulty, and season 2 of True Detective could not overcome that. The cast was full of movie stars (Colin Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, Taylor Kitsch and Rachel McAdams), and the setting was Los Angeles, everyone else was a mystery.
As expected the season started slow, but it never really got past that. The characters are mostly dull, and that is the problem with a one season cast, there isn't time to change the cast or evolve the characters. I loved Tim Riggins, but it's becoming abundantly clear that Taylor Kitsch can't do much beyond that. Colin Ferrell showed everyone why he hasn't been in a good movie for a long time (ever?). I actually enjoyed Vince Vaughn not playing a dope, but no one else did, and it was somewhat clear why he doesn't play more serious roles. Rachel McAdams was probably the best part of the main cast, but she could only do so much with what she had. This season had a couple of cool moments, but for the most part it was junk. And the ending was even enough of a payoff to make up for the time spent. The bar from season 1 was probably unfairly high, but this was so far the other direction that they will have to dig out of this hole for season 3, or this show might be too expensive for HBO to keep making.