Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (Netflix)
One Line Description: The prequel to the movie of the same name (minus the subtitle) about the first day of summer camp.
The 2001 movie about a summer camp that this (mini?) series is a prequel to has become a cult classic. It’s crazy, bizarre, often off brand humor appeals to a particular set of people, but the enormously (now) famous cast intrigues almost anyone between the ages of 25-40. Paul Ruud, Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, Michael Ian Black, Ken Marino, Elizabeth Banks and many more recognizable faces represent Gen X+Y formidably. The movie takes place on the last day of camp, and it seems crazy that so much stuff is crammed into one day that they could fill an entire movie. The TV series is about the first day of camp, and is spread over the entire series, which is even crazier. It’s pretty amazing to watch how different things were at the start of camp, and how all in the first day things seem to pretty much get all the way to how they are in the last day of camp. Considering how insane the first and last days are, one would think there would be a lot more changes in between, but that’s the ironic part about it. The other ironic part is that this movie uses the same actors playing the same characters, so even though they are all 14 years older now, they are supposed to be playing characters 3 months younger.
There are some great additions to the cast, including three Mad Men alums (Jon Hamm, John Slattery and Rich Sommers), plus Josh Charles and Jason Schwartzman. Overall the cast is huge, but there is enough time to get everyone from point A (this show) to point B (the movie) without anyone feeling short changed. Some of the plots are lame (Elizabeth Banks’ story was my least favorite), but some are downright awesome, like Gene the cook (played by Christopher Meloni). Anyone that didn’t like the movie will hate this show, hate it. But anyone that liked it will love it. It’s amazing to me that was worth it enough for Netflix to make this, especially since this cast could have not been cheap.
Graceland – Season 3 (USA)
USA has been making original programming for a while now. Until Mr. Robot earlier this year, the only USA showed I loved to this point was In Plain Sight, which I mostly watched because I like Mary McCormack. For some reason Graceland has been the other USA show I was drawn to. The premise is basically that a bunch of undercover government agents from various agencies (FBI, DEA, ATF and ICE) live together in a beach house while working their own cases. This devolved quickly and now in season 3 it’s easy to forget that everyone isn’t FBI and on the same team. This is because there seem to be at most two cases going on and the entire group is working on all of them together. The Customs agent never seems to actually have his own work to do, and there doesn’t ever seem to be any formal request to work across agencies. Also the rules that are broken, and corners that are cut has gotten a little out of hand at this point. There is little reason any of these people should get away with what they do, and it doesn’t seem like they ever have to even report in. It’s an easy watch, and my investment at this point is mostly as background noise more than anything. If you haven’t gotten into this show by now, don’t, it’s not very good.
Married – Season 2 (FX)
I have always been a big fan of Judy Greer. She is unquestionably someone you would recognize if you don’t know her by name. She is a “that girl” of movies, but she is funny and it was cool to see her get a starring role. That is a big reason of what drew me to this show originally. I also love Jenny Slate, but she left the show early in season 2. The rest of the cast, Nat Faxon (Greer’s on-screen husband), Brett Gelman, Paul Reiser and John Hodgman are good as well. Gelman is apparently all-in on playing quirky, eccentric characters like he has in pretty much every show he has ever been in. The show is about Greer and Faxton as a 40-something (?) couple with three kids who are just trying to hold it all together.
Most of the people involved in this show are known for their dry sense of humors, so there aren’t a ton of over the top moments, but that isn’t a bad thing. Season 2 definitely focused more on Gelman, which was probably a necessity with Slate departing, but it’s weird to see so much focus on him when the show is called Married. I really enjoy the cast, although not as much without Slate, but this show still isn’t on the same level as FX’s other new(er) comedy, You’re the Worst. It’s more “real”, but not as funny. It is by no means a bad show, but it’s far from great either, and season 2 was definitely not the solid follow-up I hoped for.
Narcos – Season 1 (Netflix)
One Line Description: The rise of Columbian drug cartels in the ’80s, with a focus on Pablo Escobar
Netflix just keeps churning out new content and this is an interesting subject matter. It’s far from perfect, and definitely not on the same level as Orange is the New Black or even House of Cards, but it still has plenty of pros. The show tries it’s best to stick to actual history, and even weaves in actual photos, clips and news reports from the actual events, even though this means that the face in these does not match the actor playing Pablo Escobar. Many shows would not take that chance, but it works well here. The performance of Escobar jives pretty well with stories you hear about him, and the mid-80s setting is pulled off pretty nicely.
But the show has serious pacing issues. The 10-episode first season starts off before Escobar is really anyone. And it jumps around a lot in the first 3-5 episodes to bring things to a certain point that it then sticks with for the rest of the season. This feels weird. It’s one thing to spend a couple of episodes providing backstory mixed in as flashbacks or something, but it’s odd to jump forward as such an uneven pace. The narration is also just terrible. It is probably necessary with the unusual pace of the story in order to keep viewers aware of what is going on and how things are jumping around. Boyd Holbrook just does fine as the main DEA agent, but as the narrator it just doesn’t work for me. The weird pacing of the show also meant the last few episodes feel like they took forever. It’s a well done show, and at moments it’s very good, but it’s not consistent enough, and could use some polish for season 2.