I like Reign. I like how the show is early-modern Gossip Girl, flagrantly unconcerned with history except as a stage for teen jealousies and romances. I like how everyone wears pretty dresses. And I especially like the Very Serious face that Adelaide Kane, as Mary Queen of Scots, pulls whenever she has to make a Morally Difficult Decision. There’s an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where Faith, the evil vampire slayer, swaps bodies with Buffy, and Faith (in Buffy’s body) practices her impression of Buffy by looking sternly into a mirror and saying, “You can’t do that, it’s wrong.” I think of this exaggerated performance of tough virtue every time I watch Reign. Read more↴
When the first episode of iZombie opens Liv Moore is a perky, successful junior doctor planning her wedding. It only takes until the title sequence, though, and she’s single and spending all her time alone, doing nothing, except for when she’s at her dead-end job in the morgue. Liv Moore is a graduate without a future (she’s also been bitten by a zombie). This closed-down, anhedonic, listlessness seems like a characteristically millennial experience – as opposed to the stereotypical rebelliousness of baby bombers, or the ironic, detached disaffection of generation X (the enforced “flexibility” which comes from Liv taking on aspects of the personalities of the murder victims whose brains she eats is another dramatization of a quintessentially millennial experience). I like the show for its portrayal of this millennial position, and more for its sympathy to it, in particular its concern to defend millennial anhedonia against the passion of edgy, soi-dissant countercultural, “cool.”
I read this stupid blog post about how millennials are apparently “uncool,” and obviously it’s hella dumb, but it did make me think that if millennials are indeed rejecting the norm of “cool,” good for them. “Coolness” has long since become a means of normalisation, commodification, and oppression, and iZombie nicely illustrates that. Read more↴
I started writing my weekly music posts to generate some #content, or, to put it another way, to try and get back into the habit of posting here with something low stakes where I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about running out of stuff to write about (because there’s always new music being released). I was also planning to do the same with posts about TV, although the “there’s always something new to write about” doesn’t work quite so well, unless you’re writing episodic criticism (and you probably shouldn’t be — the single episode is rarely a useful critical unit). Still, I did write a few things about TV last year, and I’ll write more this year (one of the things that’s slowed me down is that I want to write about Empire, but I also think that show is interesting enough that I want to take my time and write something a bit more substantive about it). But in the spirit of low-stakes content, and as we’re in the mid-season lull, I thought I’d write a bit what I thought about some new shows.
The new show I like most is Quantico. Read more↴
Canada’s premiere supernatural drama Lost Girl came to an end last week, more, it has to be said, with a whimper than a bang. The last episode was the resolution of a storyline involving the mysterious dark plots of Bo’s dad (who turned out to be Hades), a storyline that the show has been vaguely teasing since the end of season 2. But this kind of long-running plotline has never been the show’s strong point; it’s “worldbuilding,” for want of a better word, has always been rather incoherent and perfunctory, like a bad RPG quest where an NPC shows up and says “you’ve never heard of me before but I’m here to tell you that this random object you’ve never heard of either is VERY IMPORTANT and you need to go and fetch it.” Much better was the episode a couple of weeks ago, which was a Wizard of Oz pastiche, or a few weeks before that, a flashback set in a high school for valkyries. Or the classic second season episode in which all the characters swapped bodies, or the episode where characters swapped bodies and also were in a belle-époque alternate universe. The show was at its best, in other words, when it was embracing the tropes or formulae popular in fanfiction. Read more↴
Blunt Talk and You’re the Worst are both shows where the premise depends on our cynicism about redemption narratives. Blunt Talk begins with Patrick Stewart’s character Walter Blunt standing on top of a police car drunkenly declaiming Shakespeare. This sets up a parody of the now-familiar PR-ed apology and public appeal for forgiveness, including a stirring avowal of the importance of journalism (which leads to a staged outside broadcast from a fake hurricane in a porn studio forced to rent out its space because of Los Angeles’s mandatory condom laws’ effect on the porn business) and attendance at alcoholics anonymous (with a last minute switch to Sex Addicts Anonymous for Walter and Gamblers Anonymous for his manservant Harry. “That’s a good idea; you love gambling,” says Walter). But when this sex-addict adventure goes south leaving Walter and Harry mournfully discussing loneliness in a suburban boat, the show reveals that it might be taking the redemption narrative more seriously. Read more↴
As it seems like no-one with more theological training is interested, it falls on me to consider the religious significance of Black Jesus. The curious thing about the show is that its biblical references are pervasive but ambient, half-meant rather than specific analogies. Much of the first season involves Jesus and his friends attempting to establish a community garden, and of course there are many biblical gardens this could be referencing, but the show never settles on any particular one. Or, maybe more obviously, one of Jesus’s friends is called “Fish,” and the one woman in his circle is called “Mags,” but the show is never clear on how far it wants us to take the analogy with Mary Magdalene (she’s not a prostitute, but she does get involved in a lot of Instagram beef; are we to read that as making her a sinful woman?). Read more↴