The Jinx (HBO)
One Line Description: The story of suspected murderer Robert Durst
Before Making a Murderer but after Serial came the HBO documentary The Jinx about Robert Durst and the two murders, and one disappearance that occurred to people he was associated with. The “miniseries” is six episodes and an interesting watch. Durst is a creepy fellow, who does a great job of making you feel sorry for him, when in reality no one should feel too sorry for someone who is handed essentially unlimited wealth at birth. Durst gives his own first hand accounts for each and every event that occurs, and it’s clear from the get-go that the purpose of the documentary is to try and determine whether or not he committed any of these crimes. A lot of information about Durst, and the stories contained within this miniseries, since it aired in 2015, but I will still hold back potential spoilers.
It does a nice job of showing connections between Durst and all of the cases, but also presents evidence (mostly in the form of testimony from Durst himself) about why they don’t make sense. Durst is by no means presented in as much of a positive light as Stephen Avery was, and it seems much easier to go against him based on his chilling speech pattern and mannerisms. I am really hoping they make a second miniseries covering everything that happened after this one because there is a lot more story to be told. That is the only downside here. To feel fully satisfied with the outcome, there is some self reading to be done after viewing this. Otherwise, fitting with the “true crime” type stories that are all the rage, this is a good one.
Another Period – Season 1 (Comedy Central)
One Line Description: Mockumentary about two spoiled rich girls in the early 1900s.
Definitely an interesting premise, and unquestionably a lovely supporting cast (Michael Ian Black, Padget Brewster, Christina Hendricks, Brett Gelman, Jason Ritter) really got me interested. I didn’t know much about Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindholme who are both the stars and creators of the show, but they do a solid job. The show also does an amazing job of playing off the technology and societal norms of the times as well as bringing in famous contemporary characters (usually played by well-know actors) and then getting over the top mocking with them.
Truthfully the show rarely strays from the over-the-top nonsense. And that for me gets a little old after a while. There are plenty of laugh out loud moments, but the in between grates on me after a while. Sometimes the jokes just drag on one beat too many. This is not a dealbreaker by any means, but it’s the kind of thing that takes a show down a peg from “great” to “good”. I am hoping that season 2 stabilizes things a bit rather than taking them up a notch in craziness, but only time will tell. The nice part about this show is that while there are story arcs across episodes, they really don’t impact the enjoyment, so it would be easy to jump in at any time. It also makes it safe to say that if you don’t enjoy it after a couple of episodes it’s not likely to get better for you. If I was handing out letter grades this one would be a solid ‘B’, mostly for it’s occasionally hilarious moments.
Making a Murderer (Netflix)
One Line Description: The story of suspected murder Stephen Avery’s trial.
Netflix released this around the holidays (kind of a weird choice) and it came became of the talk of the town (and of course social media). ThIs is the story of Stephen Avery, starting with this prosecution for sexual assault in the 1980s and focusing mostly on his trial for murder in 2005. Overall the documentary is put together extremely well. The fact that it foregoes narration in exchange mostly for exposition from interviews and news clips (with the occasional on-screen text block to fill in certain gaps) makes it feel that much better. Like any documentary it can only contain so much information before it becomes unwieldy, but with 10 hours to fill it did seem like at the times the show went to extremes to tell just one side of the story.
There was immense amounts of backlash following the release of the documentary, including petitions to free Avery. While it’s easy to present a case he is innocent based just on this television series, it doesn’t mean that he is. There was a lot of information not presented, and parts of the trial that are completely omitted. That is one of the ways that The Jinx was a better experience, in that it tried to show both the sides of innocence and guilt. I think that it’s also likely that this documentary opened a lot of people’s eyes to how messed up the criminal justice system can be, and how court appointed lawyers can really hamstring defendants. This was a riveting 10 hours of viewing, but it loses a bit to me because of the widespread assumptions that Avery was innocent based just on this documentary. Also hard to call something “enjoyable” when the subject matter includes a real-life murder and a trial for a man who clearly got a raw deal along the way. Educational and enlightening probably makes more sense.
Fuller House – Season 1 (Netflix)
One Line Description: The story of the Tanners picks up 20-something years after the series Full House ended
Full House was definitely one of my favorite shows as a kid. I’ve watched it as an adult and it’s cheesy as can be, and clearly the kind of show that belongs on ABC Family nowadays. The idea of Fuller House seemed outrageous and stupid, but there was no doubt I was going to watch at least some of it. By now anyone that cares knows the premise (DJ has three boys, her husband dies and her sister Stephanie and best friend Kimmy move in to help her take care of the kids) of the show, which just happens to mirror the plot of the original show almost to a ‘T’. The first episode acts as a reunion that on it’s own is worth watching for anyone that was a fan of the show as a kid. From there the show sort of goes on it’s own path.
There are lots of references to the original series, right down to clips used to tell the current story. The main difference is that this show focuses much more on the grown-ups than the kids, which is probably what most people coming back from the original show want, but that probably makes it a harder sell to kids. Overall the show is actually really well done, and doesn’t sully the reputation of the original series. It’s cheesy, but at times it tries to be. There are lots of great references to old episodes and stories, and plenty of not-so-subtle shots at the Olsen twins who refused to participate (for now). I was incredibly surprised as to how much I enjoyed the show. It’s very hard to do something like this, but getting all of the same cast together definitely helped. I don’t know how long this show will last, but the first season more than exceeded expectations.