Dexter Fowler to White Sox: No Thanks

There are still rumors the White Sox might add another outfielder before the offseason is over, someone that best case will be someone who can spell Melky Cabrera, or worst case an insurance policy for Avisail Garcia if he can’t get better at hitting. Alex Gordon, Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton all have new teams already. Barring a trade for someone like Andre Either from the Dodgers, the pickings are getting slim. It seems like the name coming up most at this point is Dexter Fowler, the Cubs starting CF in 2015.

This doesn’t make a lot of sense. First of all, the White Sox best outfielder is their current CF Adam Eaton. He was the 11th best CF based on fWAR last season in all of MLB. Dexter Fowler was 12th. Neither is much of an offensive terror, although Eaton was 6th amongst CF in a couple of aggregate offensive categories. Fowler still cracks the top 10, which means he is no slouch either, and is probably a better defensive CF than Eaton.

In reality, both of these guys are solid centerfielders. Eaton is better offensively, Fowler defensively. Fowler is going to be 30 on opening day, Eaton 27. Most of the teams in the league would like to have one of these guys (although Fowler’s extended free agency may indicate otherwise), but few teams would think it makes sense to have both. It’s true that Melky and Avisail were two of the worst OFs in baseball last season, and that neither can field or hit it seems, but how much of an update is Fowler if he isn’t playing CF, or Eaton if he is moved?

Looking at a non-position weighted stat like wOBA here is where the involved parties ranked, along with a random few others for reference:

Rank wOBA Player
1 .461 Bryce Harper
4 .389 Jose Batista
10 .367 Yoenis Cespesdes
19 .346 Adam Eaton
23 .340 Justin Upton
31 .333 Dexter Fowler
47 .301 Melky Cabrera
52 .295 Avisail Garcia

Looking at those numbers, Fowler is surely an upgrade offensively over Cabrera or Garcia. He is closer to Eaton than Eaton is to Cespedes at 10th, so those 11 guys in between are a little deceiving. There were only 15 leftfielders who got enough PA to qualify last year (compared to 23 CF), so let’s expand the list to guys with at least 400 PA last season. From a wOBA standpoint Eaton would have ranked 6th in CF and 8th in LF. Fowler would have ranked 14th in CF and 13th in LF (Cabrera was 24th). This is before defense is factored in.

Fowler is probably a bit better in CF, but either of these guys would likely be a massive upgrade over Cabrera in LF. That means that if Eaton hits as well as he did in 2015, and plays the same level of defense in LF as he did in CF he is probably easily a top 10 LF, and maybe top 5. So on paper Fowler is an upgrade over Cabrera and Garcia assuming they all play at the same level.

And therein lies the problem. That is a pretty big assumption. Melky Cabrera is only going to be 31 on opening day (one year older than Fowler). He had a pretty lousy season last year, but his batting average on balls in play was pretty awful, and well below his career average which indicates he was very unlucky. He also walked less frequently than usual. His defense is not going to be better, but offensively he is a decent candidate to bounce back. Garcia will only be 24 on opening day, and at one point showed a lot of potential. It’s easy to forget that an injury completely derailed his 2014 campaign 46 games in, so 2015 was really his first full season. He has serious issues with strikeouts, and completely flipping the script in that regard seems highly unlikely, but giving up on him at this point might be a little shortsighted. He at least should be given the first half of this season to see what he is.

And what about Fowler? He basically just came off a career year at age 30, on a team loaded with good pitching and hitting and in a park very kind to hitters. He had a good defensive season, but he has traditionally not been very good there. He spent the first part of his career in Colorado and yet had a career high in home runs in year 8 in Chicago. Unlike Garcia and Cabrera, most people don’t see him as having a better season in 2016.

All that added up makes you wonder if he is worth what would surely be a multi-year deal. Anything beyond two years is a huge risk. Even on a one year deal it’s hard to guarantee he would be more than a 4th OF if Cabrera and Garcia bounce back. The reward here doesn’t seem worth the risk. And I really hope this doesn’t happen.

The Newsletter Craze of 2015

Ben Brooks talked about the trend in 2015 of bloggers starting newsletters:

What is the biggest complaint that most people have? They hate email. They have too much of it. They never check it, etc, etc.

And yet newsletters are going to be helpful for writers and content makers? When they are just email, the thing people hate, and the thing people never check…

I was working on a blog post about this for the last few months, but it never got off the ground. Essentially though it, this was exactly the point I was planning to make. I am subscribed to a couple of newsletters now, they are basically extensions of existing blogs. They feature content that would make perfect sense on the blogs themselves. Instead though, I have to read them in my e-mail client, instead of in Pocket or on the website.

It is easy for these emails to get forgotten about, or buried if you don’t manage your email well. And many of them are the equivalent of about five blog posts so they can’t just be consumed in a minute or two. It is also more content that has to be produced at specific intervals. It just doesn’t seem like this can be worth it. It’s a subset of users who already read your content, why not just get more eyes on content in places where anyone can see it?

I am similar to Brooks in that being a part of this newsletter doesn’t somehow make me feel more special. It’s just another place I have to remember to look.

Alexei Ramirez’ White Sox Legacy

Alexei Ramirez signed last week with the San Diego Padres, meaning he won’t play his entire career as a member of the Chicago White Sox. This probably displeases Ramirez, and most certainly displeases White Sox fans. When you factor in that the deal was a modest one-year contract for $4 million, it makes Sox fans downright angry.

Ramirez debuted in 2008 and has been one of the better shortstops in baseball over that time, including some of the best defense around. But his decline had become apparent, and he is going to be 34 on opening day, not the best age for a defense first player.

This piece isn’t about whether or not he should have been brought back though, it’s about where his place in White Sox history lies.

The White Sox don’t have a huge collection of position players who stick out, and guys like Luke Appling, Eddie Collins and Ray Schalk all played before most current White Sox fans were born. Ramirez played 1226 games, which is less than all of the aforementioned guys, and more recent players like Paul Konerko, Frank Thomas, Harold Baines, Ozzie Guillen, Robin Ventura and others. But 1226 games is still good enough for 16th all-time. He played more games in a Sox uniform than Ray Durham, Magglio Ordonez, Carlos May, Bill Melton, Lance Johnson or many others.

He is actually 12th all-time in hits for the Sox, ahead of both Ventura and Carlton Fisk. One more season would have put him in the top 10. Although his power would come and go, he is still 18th all-time in home runs, just four behind Greg Walker. He is also 14th all-time in doubles.

He was far from a great hitter, but for a shortstop he was borderline great. He was definitely a better hitter than Ozzie or Aparicio were. He probably wasn’t as good of a fielder as Ozzie was though. And it’s hard to hold up against Appling’s sparkling career.

That all makes sense though. No one is going to call Alexei the greatest shortstop in White Sox history. With Appling and Aparicio in the discussion most people over the age of 45 would probably laugh at the mere mention of it, and they would be right. But it’s likely he pushes Ozzie or Buck Weaver off the Mount Rushmore of White Sox shortstops. And overall amongst position players who played a major chunk of their career in this millennium, only Konerko and Thomas contributed more.

The fact that he arrived after the 2005 team, and had a more meek personality than A.J. Pierzynski (both played 9 seasons and their offensive sstats are very similar) probably mask some of his contributions over the last 10 years. He isn’t a hall of famer, and he won’t have his number retired anytime soon, but he deserves to be remembered as one of the White Sox’s best shortstops ever, and a linchpin in the post-World Sseries decade.

Good luck in San Diego Alexei. Fans in Chicago will miss you.

Pygmy Reviews #67 – TV

Homeland – Season 5 (Showtime)

There has probably never been a show that has lasted five seasons that has been as up and down as Homeland has been. The first season remains in the pantheon of all-time great seasons of television. Unfortunately the second season was so horrifically bad that the show has never really recovered. The middle seasons blend together a bit for me so I don't remember exactly what happened when, but obviously I am fully aware of what happened on the most recent season. There are many who are calling this the best Homeland season in a while (do they mean since season 1?) but I am really not sure that is saying a lot.

I am in the camp that the Carrie Mathieson character had run it's course and the show was better off just focusing on Saul, Quinn and Dar Adaul. Instead we get more of Carrie doing thinks that probably should land her jail, but she just keeps failing up. There are the usual twists and turns throughout this season that make this show watchable, but every episode has a cliffhanger that fails to pay off in the next episode. Some of the biggest plots of the season end with resounding "thuds" and there are points in the middle that drag on way too long. If binged all at once instead of week-by-week it might be more enjoyable since the payoffs will come quicker. This show might feel a lot better on Netflix or Amazon where it would be released all at once. By slogging along for three months it just didn't feel rewarding at the end. This show could be great, but at the moment I am questioning coming back for season six.

The Affair – Season 2 (Showtime)

I am not sure if this fits under the category of "guilty pleasure" or not, but maybe it should. I don't know anyone else who watches this show. The initial draw for me was the cast, Dominic West (McNulty from The Wire), Maura Tierney (from NewsRadio and ER) and Joshua Jackson (from a bunch of bad movies of my youth). Ruth Wilson is the fourth member of the ensemble and perhaps the best of the bunch. Adding her to the my love of the cast is still what keeps me coming back. The twists of the plot and the unique story telling method (basically showing every one hour episode in 30 minute halves each with the perspective of a different character involved in the same story) are hooks as well, but in some ways the main "mystery" has dragged on for far too long.

It would also be interesting to know of how much of this original plot was planned from the very beginning and what has been manufactured as things go. Because so much of the show is flashbacks it's easy to paint your way out of a corner. The fact that the show bounces so much between characters from week to week also makes it easier to watch. But I am not sure how much longer they can drag out the initial mystery, and once that concludes how is the the show structured going forward? The flashbacks are creeping dangerously close to present day, so will the show just be a regular old drama then? I am definitely far from giving up on this because I enjoy West, Wilson and Tierney too much, but I am having a hard time seeing the long game at this point.

Kingdom – Season 2 (Audience)

This show didn't move forward a whole lot in season 2. I like the characters, but a show about this topic should be more tense and gritty than it is. There are no lack of stunning moments throughout the season, but they often seem to come out of nowhere in a "shock value" kind of way as opposed to the conclusion of carefully crafted tension and drama. The only real tension shows up during the fight scenes, which are few and far between for the most part. This is understandable because they are probably costly and difficult to shoot, but there is something wrong when that is all you can do. The football scenes in Friday Night Lights were great, but they weren't the only part of the show to look forward to.

I haven't figured out if we are supposed to be rooting for Alvie or not. He isn't a total "anti-hero", but he is not a lovable guy most of the time either. The women in this show are vastly underutilized, and although I am sure the way new female fighter Alicia is treated is pretty true to life it just seems like more could have been done there. Definitely not the step up you hope for in season 2, but enough to get me back for at least one more.

Getting On – Season 3 (HBO)

I didn't realize going into this that this as the final season. This was a weird show that never got a lot of traction from most people. It was rarely mentioned by critics and I never saw anyone else I follow on social media mention it anywhere. This dark comedy has never had any all that interesting story arcs, and there are plenty of awkward moments, but there is also something endearing about the people that work in the extended care unit in a crappy California hospital. It seems like a dumping ground for both staff and patients, and feels almost believable in the way that all these emotionally damaged people could all end up together. Laurie Metcalf, who plays the ward's doctor, is easily the most famous person in the cast, but the three main nurses are the scene stealers.

It's not unusual to bounce between empathy and joy in the hard luck of this rag tag bunch. The third and final season did a good job of both wrapping up the journey of this crew while also making it feel like like the characters grew, at least a little bit. Part of the reason this show doesn't get noticed more is because it's different, and not for everyone. But it's consistent across the 20 or so episodes of it's existence. Therefore it is definitely one of those shows that if you like the first couple of episodes, you will like the whole thing. It's an easy watch too, so if you have HBO GO/Now, give it a shot sometime.

CFB Playoff New Year’s Eve Disaster

The second college football playoff is half over. The two semifinal games are in the books, inexplicably played on New Year's Eve. More information trickled out over the last week about why these games were scheduled on New Year's Eve, including the news that ESPN desperately tried to move them to no avail.

Instead the rating's were down 30%, something some are trying to blame on two blowouts and programs (Clemson and Michigan St.) without enough national cachet. ESPN PR even tried to spin the ratings as positive, making references to the "highest rated New Year's Eve games ever", which of course is like talking about how someone entering the Indy 500 with a Model T would have finished with "the best Indy 500 time with a Model T in history". There was zero chance these games would not rank first and second in NYE bowl TV ratings, they are two of the three most important bowl games of the year.

No time zone could avoid the horror. While people on the east coast likely got home from work to see the second half of the first game, people on the west coast who were working a normal day likely missed all of the first game. The people on the east coast were then ringing in the New Year around the time the 2nd game was ending, while people on the west coast probably got to see most of it.

The horrible news for college football fans is that this problem isn't going away. Thanks to the leap year in 2016, NYE is moving to Saturday next time around, so this problem next year will at least be somewhat mitigated by the fact that most people will be off work. Perhaps that will convince them to move the games up an hour to 3 PM eastern? Regardless, the late game will still conflict with many people's plans.

For anyone who hasn't heard the news or clicked the links above, the reason for these games not being on New Year's Day is that the Sugar and Rose bowl were unwilling to budge from their contracted time slots. While that isn't defensible for the most part, it should not have been a deal breaker. For whatever reason the bowls (or whoever) refused ESPN's request to move them to Saturday January 2nd. Might it have pissed off some of the bowl that day? Sure, but the slate was pretty weak and the playoff should supersede them.

A better question though, why not move them to Wednesday December 30th? Again there were bowl games scheduled for then, but they could have been moved (and to be honest I think they were the bowl games normally played on NYE anyway). I can't imagine anyone was doing anything on the 30th. Think about it, almost everyone goes out on NYE, meaning that most of those people are probably staying in on the 30th. The weather is crappy in most of the country, people are in family-hangover mode from Christmas, TV shows are in re-runs, they could have owned the night. It made almost no sense to make this move.

Two years from now (January 1st 2018) the Rose and Sugar host the semifinal games, so things are back to New Year's Day for at least one year. But then after that they go astray again. Hopefully by New Year's Eve 2018 they will have found a better solution because this is stupidity and arrogance at it's finest.

Pygmy Reviews #66 – TV

Fargo – Season 1 (FX)

I was very late to the party on this one. My DVR was missing a couple of episodes this year so I didn’t get around to it until just recently since I wanted to watch it before I watched season 2. I could take or leave the movie of the same name, so I didn’t really know how I would feel about the show. Let me start off by saying, I love the accents. I don’t know how accurate they are, but I don’t care, they are wonderful. The other great thing about these anthology style shows is their ability to grab recognizable faces for short gigs. Billy Bob Thornton is wonderful as the enigmatic contract killer. Bob Odenkirk plays a roll more fitting of his pre-Breaking Bad style.

After the first episode, things move a bit slow for a bit. Even binge watching it there felt like a lull early. It seemed crazy to think this story could drag out to 10 episodes, and watching it with a week in between must have been pretty rough. It is at least somewhat understood since the audience sees what happens in the first episode and most of the characters spend the whole rest of the time trying to figure it out. The interconnecting stories make this show strong though. And the payoff of the last few episodes felt very much worth the slog early on. There are enough twists,turns and sideplots to keep things interesting outside of even the main story, and Martin Freeman does a wonderful job playing main character Lester Nygaard. There is some graphic violence at times, so this show isn’t for everyone, but it was very good, and worth the praise it received.

You’re The Worst – Season 2 (FXX)

Season 1 of this black comedy was a surprise success. The pilot was mostly panned, but many critics who had seen multiple episodes told viewers to stick around. Most of them, me included, were glad they did. The result was the “love” story of two horrible people. The big question for season 2, now that they were a couple, was “where does it go from here?” The shows creative team took a totally new approach and mixed in some serious (topical) issues in with the off-the-wall humor.

The focus on mental illness and it’s effect on both the couple individually and their relationship is interesting. I did have some problems with it though. It was universally praised for focusing on such a “real” issue, but really didn’t go anyway near discussing treatment or it’s success rate. Instead it adopted the stubborn personally of it’s co-star and just awkwardly muddled through the problem until it was just magically fixed for now. It was interesting to see the symptoms, and how all the friends coped with it, but because the show didn’t really attack it in a educating or useful way it ended up feeling like something that got in the way of a hilarious show. Aya Cash and Chris Geere put on great performances once again though, and the supporting cast remains good as well. This is still a well put together show, but the much heralded second season arc fell a little flat in it’s closing. Despite that I am greatly looking forward to the third season, and this is still one of the better shows on TV.

Fargo – Season 2 (FX)

Two Fargo reviews at once because I binged watched both seasons in a row pretty much. I was told by many that season 2 was a big step up from season 1, but it’s difficult to say there was much, if any improvement. I think the near year and a half gap between the seasons led people to put a lot of love behind season 2, which had a much deeper cast, but that was almost it’s fault. Like the first season, the 2nd season is mostly about a crime the audience knows the details of, while the characters spend most of the season trying to figure it out. Lou is just as solid as any season 1 character, and he and Molly are the standouts respectively from the first two seasons. But Malvo and Lester were more interesting than anyone else is season two. And even though as a 30-something who loved Friday Night Lights, nostalgia aside Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst got a little old after a while. Without getting too far into spoiler territory, there were a lot of loose ends left out there, and lots of unanswered questions. Maybe some of them get answered in season 3 (season 1 and 2 were loosely tied together), but more likely this is meant to stand on it’s own. That is a problem with these anthology series though.

Mike Milligan (played expertly by Bokeen Woodbine) is a ripe and interesting character. He could have been the focus of the show, and in a traditional series likely would have had a much bigger role by the end of the season, or in season 3. But ultimately he will just be cast aside for the next cast. Although that makes me sad, the casts for these first two seasons have been wonderfully constructed. At times things are a little slow, and the unanswered questions make the story feel incomplete, but this is still a very good show. Unlike a lot of people it doesn’t crack my top tier, but the accents alone make it worth watching.

Casual – Season 1 (Hulu)

I doubt I would have found/watched this show if I hadn’t signed up for Hulu Plus to see Fargo season 1. But good on Hulu for jamming the ads for it down my throat so that I would check it out. Michaela Watkins, who appears to be one of this decade’s “that girls”, stars as a recently separated mother of one who moves in with her single entrepreneurial brother while she gets her love life going again. Her teenage daughter is played in a very Jena Malone/Thora Birch kind of way by Tara Lynne Barr (never heard of her before). Watkins’ character tries online dating and random hookups all based on the advice of her serial dating brother who seems to know nothing about love. As more is revealed about their bizarre upbringing (including the introduction of their parents) it all makes a lot more sense. There are lots of uncomfortable scenes and exchanges, but not over the top uncomfortable like in Curb Your Enthusiasm.

The problem is that some of them are just awkward and not funny. At times this show feels like it has a You’re the Worst vibe to it, but not nearly as funny. It definitely feels like the more typical “dramedies” we are seeing from the streaming companies (e.g., Transparent, Master of None, etc.) Than the more traditional sitcom style. That is definitely a good move, but this show doesn’t hold up against the so many other good ones out there. I might be back for season 2 if I still have Hulu Plus, but I won’t go out of my way for it.

More  Watch Thoughts

Dan Moren of Macworld shares his six month  Watch thoughts:

Glances are likewise kind of sluggish, and having more than a few has made it largely unmanageable: there’s no indication of which Glance is where, which means swiping through a bunch of them to find the one you want, only to have to wait for it to update. In watchOS2 2, you can use Siri to open a Glance, but that feels a bit like using a crowbar to open a jar of pickles.

Glances are somewhat useless for all of the things mentioned above. The only one I use at all is Downcast, for controlling podcasts when my phone isn’t close by or is in my pocket. Sometimes when I get in the car and hit play on my Bluetooth adapter music starts instead of podcasts. If my phone is in my pocket it is easier to get podcasts playing on my  Watch. Otherwise, Moren nailed it. It’s too hard to remember the order and it take too long for mot of them to update for it to be truly great. It’s unclear why this background updating isn’t more reliable. Is it to save battery life?

Third-party complications, another of watchOS 2’s hallmark features, was something I was looking forward to greatly, but it’s ultimately ended up being a bit underwhelming. I installed Dark Sky’s, but most of the time it looks much like the built-in weather complication, and it doesn’t seem to update consistently, which means I have to load the app to get an accurate temperature reading…and then we’re back to waiting for that to load.

I was very excited about getting to add new things to my watch face. But like Dan I experienced similar issues with Dark Sky not showing me anything better than the stock Weather app and also failing to update on it’s own regularly. What makes it even worse is that there are just not that many third party complications so far. Based on the dozen or so apps I use, there are only like five that have complications and two of those are weather apps.

Six months into the Apple Watch, it seems clear to me that it’s a cool device, but it’s got a long way to go. I’m looking forward to seeing what watchOS 3 brings, but I’m starting to think that it will take until the second-generation Apple Watch for the whole thing to really come into its own. Because performance is definitely the biggest impediment right now, and there’s only so much that software engineering can do to make up for slow hardware.

Another home run comment from Moren. The  Watch is cool. It’s surprising comfortable and there are plenty of cool little things I enjoy about it.I probably wouldn’t really notice if I didn’t have it for a week, but maybe I have become so used to having it that I would notice it being gone. I am also in agreement that this is the “future”, but I have been saying for a while now, it is not the “present”. In five to ten years a device similar to this will have taken over for phones, the same way phones and tablets have taken over work that just used to happen on traditional computers.

In the meantime though, watchOS2.0 was a major letdown. The promised new features are there, but underutilized. Just like past iOS features, without support from third-party developers the features go nowhere. The  Watch does feel like it works a little better, but most of the intriguing parts of 2.0 are being neglected, which means that 2.0 hasn’t changed the  Watch as significantly as every one predicted it though. Now I can only hope not to get roped into buying a new watch from Apple next year.


Why Die Hard is a Christmas Movie

The debate has been raging on the internet for years now, is the original Die Hard a Christmas movie? Many people feel strongly one way or the other (of course), but let’s solve this issue once and for all. There are certain movies, A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life and Home Alone, that almost no one would argue are considered Christmas movies. But let’s examine this further.

There seem to be two types of Christmas movies. There are those that are about Christmas, like Christmas Vacation and A Christmas Story, and then there are those that just include Christmas, like Home Alone and It’s a Wonderful Life.

There is little debate to be made about the former category. The movies that are literally about Christmas are never disputed as Christmas movies. No one is going to argue that Miracle on 34th Street is not a Christmas movie, that would be insane.

But what about the other category. It’s a Wonderful Life is probably the most famous Christmas movie of all time. It used to be shown dozens of times every December before NBC snatched up the exclusive rights. Poll people over the age of 50 about the best Christmas movie of all-time and more than 50% are going to say It’s A Wonderful Life. But why? Sure the climatic moment takes place on Christmas Eve, but this is a two hour plus movie that is 3/4th flashbacks. The ultimate lesson/result is that George Bailey is a great man who did good things for a lot of people and those people want to bail him out of a jam. If he was such a great man, would it have mattered that it was Christmas Eve? If this was a random Tuesday in March wouldn’t the people want to help him out just the same? This whole movie works whether it’s Christmas or not.

Home Alone works the same kind of way. Yes the family is vacationing because it’s Christmas. Yes the robbers are robbing his house because they assume most people are gone for the holidays, but the reality is that this could have happened the first week of January and the whole movie still works.

Now let’s examine Die Hard. The movie opens with John McClaine going to see his wife in California for Christmas. He goes to her work because they are having a Christmas party. That is the reason they are all still working, and the rest of the building is empty. Yes some of it was under construction, but not all of it. It is an afterwork party. If it wasn’t the holidays wouldn’t there be a lot more people in the building? Wouldn’t there be more than one person in the whole rest of the building? And if McClaine was visiting on a random day in July, would he have visited her office? Maybe. But without John McClaine being there this movie doesn’t work. The bad guys rob the place and get away. Maybe it’s a stretch to say Christmas makes this movie possible, but it’s at least part of what makes this story work.

Home Alone, at least for my generation, is pretty watchable any time of year, and people could argue that is what makes it not a Christmas movie. But if you showed It’s a Wonderful Life in July to someone who had never seen or heard of it before it’s unlikely they would say “Why are we watching this now, it’s a Christmas movie?”

So the bottom line is that Die Hard is as much of a Christmas movie as It’s a Wonderful Life or Home Alone. The fact that it is a violent action movie doesn’t exclude it. It’s a Wonderful Life has supernatural characteristics but no one would argue it should be excluded because it could be considered sci-fi. So the next time someone says Die Hard isn’t a Christmas movie, simply respond “Now I have a machine gun. Ho. Ho. Ho. ”

The Challenge Bloodlines Premiere

The latest season of MTV’s The Challenge kicked off last night. This year the show is Battle of the Bloodlines, where 14 members of the MTV shows Real World and Are You the One bring a relative with as a partner and compete as a two person team. The change was previous years is that there is a mix of girl/girl, guy/guy and girl/guy. Other than that, things are the usual mix of stupid drama and tough physical competitions. Here are a few thoughts after one episode:

  • The mixture of gender on team is going to make things interesting. The first game was very physical and the guy/guy teams had a definite advantage. It is going to be very interesting to see how this plays out as things go along. I am sure there will be challenges where the playing field is more even, but even still I worry that the guy/guy teams have too much of advantage. I am hoping they have some sort of physical games later where strength/size are a disadvantage to sort of even the playing field.
  • It will be interesting to see if the Pit (or whatever it’s called) will always just be one-on-one of if at some point there will be full two-on-two eliminations.
  • Along those same lines it’s unclear whether it will alternate girl/guy eliminations each week, or if it will always just hinge on who the last place team is. In other words, if episode 2 is a guys elimination week, but a girls team finishes last, does that mean it’s the lowest team with a guy that get’s thrown in? That could be yet another twist that is coming.
  • Experience is usually a big help, but with so many newer competitors (half of the cast is completely new), plus there are/were 4 other rookies (so 18 total out of 28) that longtimers Bananas, Aneesa, Cara Maria, Nany, Leroy and Camilla might have the usual advantage. Especially because many from that group don’t get along.
  • Bananas and his cousin Vince look like the strongest male couple early. Not hugely surprising. Bananas has won a lot, and knows the ins and outs of this game better than anyone. As long as he can keep his cousin in check they are in good shape. The fact that they so dominated the first game despite essentially facing a team of five players was very impressive.
  • Hard to say who the weakest all guy team is. Tony/Shane got into a physical altercation on the first episode so it’s hard to see them holding together until the end.
  • None of the girl/girl teams stood out in the first episode. There are few of the super athletic females in this game at all, and none of them on are all female teams. Nany/Nicole has some promise despite almost losing the first game, but they have to keep their emotions in check.
  • Christina/Emily seemed like the weakest all girl team and they are already gone.
  • Of the mixed teams, Cohutta/Jill look really strong so far. Cohutta is level headed and underrated physically. Jill seems very similar and that will help them play smart. If I had to bet on a mixed team to make the finals it would be them. Cara Maria has been here a lot of times, which gives her a big advantage over most of the people on this season. So her and Jamie are a team to watch.
  • Leroy/Candice sure looked like they are in trouble after the first episode. Leroy is such a beast though, and there are probably times where he will be able to singlehandedly save them. But Candice in an elimination could be dicey. I don’t know enough about KellyAnn/Anthony yet, but their lack of screen time early could indicate they are going to be around for a while.
  • One strategy I would take, if it’s a guys elimination week and Leroy/Candice finish last I would take the opportunity to throw in Bananas/Vince, Cory/Mitch or Dario/Raphy. Those three teams look strong, but Leroy is good enough to beat any of them.

Pygmy Reviews #65 – TV

Ballers – Season 1 (HBO)

One Line Description: A former football star in Miami tries to guide the current crop of stars while enjoying the glamour of South Beach.

This show must have literally been pitched as “Entourage, but in the NFL and without an actual entourage”. The fact that many of the people involved behind the scenes of Entourage are part of this show makes it easy to understand how it got that way. There are plenty of cameos of celebrities and athletes playing themselves, gratuitous nudity whenever possible, beautiful women everywhere and tons of guys living out most guys’ fantasies. There were some who said it was weird Dwayne Johnson would take a role like this. So much of it works because of his size and his real-life status as a former athlete/famous person. There isn’t much to do here beyond that and Johnson doesn’t seem to add a ton of the role acting-wise. That aspect of things makes it feel even more like Entourage, because that show was notorious for having almost zero “acting”. But I also loved that show. And so far I love this show. It’s not going to win any awards, or break any new ground, but it’s fun. There is tons of money getting throw around, and all the above comparisons to Entourage make it great. Bill Simmons always said he thought Entourage could just live forever by introducing someone new to follow every few years. That is essentially what has happened here. Now it’s in Miami, about athletes instead of actors, but all the stuff everyone loved. If you were an Entourage fan, this show is for you. If you hated it, you’ll hate this.

Red Oaks – Season 1 (Amazon)

One Line Description: A college student takes a job as a tennis pro at a country club in the ’80s.

The nostalgia shows are going strong these days, with The Goldbergs doing it really well, and Fresh Off the Boat not utilizing it as much as I thought they would. Red Oaks is another show set in the 1980s, and feels like the country club version of the movie Adventureland. The characters are a little mixed up but this feels heavily inspired by that movie. The premise is the draw here, and it delivers for the most part, but it’s far from great. The episodes are consistent in quality, minus a bizarre episode near the middle of the season that I am still trying to digest, but the show doesn’t seem to have risen in quality much over the course of the season. The head tennis pro is by far the funniest guy in the show, and I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t have a more prominent role in season 2. The main character is an awkward 19 year old (David) with no car who manages to have multiple hot girls interested in him. The cast isn’t deep at all, and goes to David’s parents (played by Richard Kind and Jennifer Grey) more often than they should need to. (Sidenote on Grey: she looks pretty fabulous for 55). Paul Reiser nails his role as the rich club president, who isn’t a bad guy every second, and his human side are some of the best moments of the early episodes. The head valet Wheeler is probably the strongest of the younger workers. Overall the show is alright. It doesn’t have a ton of laugh out loud moments, but it was an easy watch (10 less than 30 minute episodes) and had it’s moments. I’ll be back for season 2, but if you don’t get into it by episode 4, don’t expect a lot of improvement.

Public Morals – Season 1

One Line Description: 1960’s New York cops bounce between doing right and wrong while battling organized crime.

I wanted badly to like this show. I like Edward Burns both as an actor and filmmaker. I like movies/shows that are period pieces. I like movies/shows that are about organized crime. But this show was not good. I watched every episode hoping at some point it would have a breakthrough, but even the season finale left me completely unsatisfied with the story. This is a show about a police unit in 1960s New York who is dealing with warring factions of organized crime. But the cops are dirty too, and seem to break as many laws as the criminals they are chasing, then seem to try to do enough “nice” things outside of work to make up for it. There is tons of attempts at hooks, like a couple of the cops being related directly to the mobsters. There is the power struggle between father and son within the crime syndicate. But in the end it seems like just one TV trope after another here. It’s like someone read “How to Make a TV Show For Dummies” and copied it play by play. There was a lot of wasted potential here too because the cast is solid enough to carry a show like this, but it just falls majorly flat. I won’t be back for season 2.

Master of None – Season 1

One Line Description: The story of a 30 year old trying to make it as an actor in New York while battling reality and his heritage.

Netflix keeps churning out new shows, and has hit another (season 1 at least) home run. Aziz Ansari (from Parks and Recreation) plays an Indian would-be actor that is somewhat based on himself. He even cast his own real-life parents as their TV counterparts. Each episode seems to have a theme of sorts, but a lot of the show is just a great mix of comedy/drama that feels like real-life in the most perfect way. So many shows have tried and failed to simulate what real-life is like, and none has been nearly as good as this. Eventually Aziz enters a relationship, and it could not be a more perfect pairing. The chemistry he has with his on-screen girlfriend is amazing and it feels like two people that anyone could know. The show definitely zigs when you think it will zag, but that is what makes it so good. The unpredictable comedic moments mixed with the unusually unpredictable dramatic moments are just wonderful. Aziz’s character learns so much about the world as the show progresses, which makes him seem even more real, in his naiveté. The supporting cast is solid, and his real life father is a scene stealer most of the time. When the season ends it feels like the best 3.5 hour movie you have ever seen. That is a bit concerning though. Because Netflix shows have had issues maintaining quality. House of Cards went in the toilet after season 1, and Orange is the New Black has dropped off as well. Master of None has a lot more to build off, but it might be hard to match the bar set in first season. Regardless, it’s hard to imagine a better 10 hours of television this year.