Stranger Things

Now that Game of Thrones is over, I can spend more of my energy hating on Stranger Things. I used to feel badly that this kid annoyed the shit out of me. But now I feel vindicated. What a little asshole.

“…people everywhere should be on the lookout for Stranger Things star Gaten Matarazzo, who has just begun production on an eight-episode Netflix prank series targeting our most laugh-ready of societal victims: People just trying to find a damn job.”

The AV Club

https://news.avclub.com/gaten-matarazzos-cool-new-netflix-prank-show-is-all-abo-1835529125

I tried watching Stranger Things in the beginning, and couldn’t stand it. Never mind the blatant smarminess of 80s era Speilberg. It’s the hype around how accurately it captures the times that I think is bullshit.

I lived in the Midwest during the early 80s and so my credentials to nitpick this show are impeccable.

No one under 19 listened to the Clash in Indianapolis, let alone any of the podunk towns outside of it. They still don’t for that matter.

Second, the slang. No one EVER said “chill”. They didn’t even use that word in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” We didn’t call each other “douchebag” or “mouth breather” (no one Tweeted either). In those parts, being a douchebag and mouth breather are socially acceptable. So they’re not insults. If anything, you were a pussy, a fucker, or a dick. Or a butthole, if your parents were in earshot.

Lastly, kids with BMX bikes wouldn’t be caught dead riding with kids on Schwinns and Huffys. You can fight me on this one.

You Will

Remember those AT&T commercials back in the early ’90s that predicted a techno nirvana just around the corner? They were narrated by Tom Selleck who asked a question like, “have you ever renewed your license…from an ATM?” Then he’d answer his question with, “You will.”

They showed everyday situations in the not-too-distance. There weren’t any flying cars or people in jumpsuits. See, nothing to fear here. If anything, their vision of the future was…mundane.

In hindsight, that’s why those commercials were so sinister. It’s 26 years later, and many of their predictions came true, though they missed the one about AT&T going out of business.

One of the commercials asked “have you ever had a meeting…at the beach?” They show a guy in linen pants joining a video call. In 1993, that seemed like an awesome idea. Today, it is a horrible reality. I have had plenty of trips ruined by some asshole insisting on having a meeting despite knowing I was on vacation.

What if they had dialed up the realism in those ads just a little bit more? It might go something like this…

“Have you ever gotten into a pissing match…with the president of the United States? You will.”

“Have you ever sent your mom flowers…from the toilet? You will.”

“Have you ever seen…a goatse? You will.”

If only we knew then, what we know now. I don’t think any of us would have gone so willingly into the abyss that is the hellscape we live in now.

Thanks AT&T. You did.

Dead to Me

This week’s theme seems to be watching shows with “dead” in the title. We just finished binging Netflix’s “Dead to Me”. It was recommended to me by a friend whose taste I trust.

I loved the show. It’s the best thing Netflix has put out, besides the John Mulaney specials. The story reminds me of “A Simple Plan,” with Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton, and Bridget Fonda. Both stories are about covering your ass, only to have it blow up in your face later.

“A Simpel Plan” is one of my favorite movies and books and yet it makes me really uneasy. Most of the time, when you see a flawed protagonists, you think, “ah, those are extraordinary circumstances, I’d do things differently.” But with “Dead to Me” and “A Simple Plan”, I can’t say with any certainty that I would have done anything differently than the main characters. A lot of the bad choices make sense in the heat of the moment.

“Dead to Me” is a dark dark comedy. There are no jokes in it, all the laughs come from the stark reality of watching Jen, Christina Applegate, go through one fresh hell after another. Linda Cardellini’s Judy character is an interesting twist because she always plays someone serious and thoughtful (even in “Scooby Doo”).

It’s so well written and full of plausible plot twists. They wrapped up season 1 really well, so waiting a year doesn’t feel so bad, unlike “Barry” on HBO.

Lastly, I love the cast choice for Jen’s mother in law played by the actress on Seinfeld George calls pretentious. It is one of the all-time greatest moments of that series. It’s from the episode “The Truth” from season 3. Who hasn’t wanted to do exactly this at some point in their life?

Take his wife, please!

Several people whose opinion I trust(ed) have told to me to check out “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” because I like comedy so much. Oh my god, I could barely make it through the first episode. I hated it so much, words couldn’t describe it. Thank God, Emily Nussbaum, TV critic from the “New Yorker” did it for me.

Everyone overacted in the episode I saw. Like “Madman”, its a reproduction of a reproduction. The creators appear to be modernizing the past as it should have been instead of portraying it the way it probably was. What’s next? A remake of “I Dream of Jeannie” with some stupid twist like a secret dominatrix lair in her bottle?

I wanted to like Mrs. Maisel because I wanted to find a show I liked period. It has a great cast and the premise (though I haven’t seen Tony Shaloub this cliched since “Wings”). To say it’s edgy is to misunderstand the term. Instead, it’s horribly precocious and pretentious. But that’s not the worst thing about it. It’s phony, sterile, and predictable like a Dan Brown book.

I remember when everyone was reading “The Da Vinci Code”. They talked about it like they had been reading some illuminated manuscript they discovered in the catacombs of the Vatican.

We were out to dinner with a bunch of friends who had all read it. Everyone was sharing parts they loved. I finally chimed in, and per my usual, ruined the moment, and said, “doesn’t it bother any of you that Langdon pretty much solves everything on the first try?” Pause, and everyone went back to gushing over the book like it wasn’t fiction “I had no idea Opus Dei existed.”

The Da Vinci Code and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel remind me of Michael Crichton’s books – a tired hero trope with a veneer of research. It’s like someone took some Elmer’s glue and stuck a hardcover version of a better book over a ratty pulp paperback.

I’m glad to see scripted television come back, but the glut of reality TV and user generated content on YouTube has lowered the bar that even mediocre and unoriginal are good enough to escape real criticism.

Q in my Queue

Quincy | Netflix Official Site

Quincy | Netflix Official Site

This documentary profiles music and culture icon Quincy Jones, offering unprecedented access to his private life and stories from his unparalleled career.

Source: www.netflix.com/title/80102952


I started watching this last night on Netflix. it’s decent, as far as documentaries go. It’s worth watching just to see the depth and breadth of Quincy Jone’s work. His name is on everything from the 60s through 80s.

Spot on

We’ve been binge watching HBO’s “Silicon Valley” since it became available on iTunes last week. I love this show. It’s so spot on in many ways, especially the characters.

Having lived out here off and on for the past 20 years, I’ve seen pretty much every archetype and lived through many of the scenarios depicted in the show. Some of those situations can only be funny if you’ve lived through them.

There are, and have been plenty of shows that try to capture what Silicon Valley is like, but this one gets it right because of Mike Judge not only pays attention to the details, but the right ones. He nailed “Office Space” 15 years ago, because the characters were stuck in the shitshow. They seem above it all, but they can’t, or won’t get out. That sounds like most of us.

Office life, like Silicon Valley, takes itself too way too seriously. It’s the people that buy into wholesale that seem to thrive even if they aren’t really getting ahead. Some asshole getting ahead while the rest of toil is universal theme a lot of us can relate to.

Cutting the cord

I thought about cutting cable and starting fresh with our recent move. Not so easy. First, I switched to the other guys for broadband (not interested in giving free pub). I only wanted Internet, but couldn’t find a fast enough package that didn’t include television, so I took it anyhow. Meantime, the hard part of giving up cable isn’t TV withdrawal, but a whole new set of issues I didn’t anticipate.

I bought an Apple TV, but it doesn’t get Amazon Video. I have to use a Playstation with its obnoxious controller to watch things like “Alpha House”. The Apple TV is pretty cool, watching movings from the iTunes store comes with a 20-40 minute download penalty while Amazon streams, but can choke on buffering.

I know, this sounds like First World Problems, but on-demand all the time is a pain in the ass. The beauty of TV is you plunk down on the couch, turn it on and someone else does the driving. The paradox of choice just makes me anxious and I revert back to a steady stream of infomercials.

Nothing is more frustrating than paying 3 bucks for a TV show episode, only to find it for free on one of the 50 different online media services.

Lastly, everybody pretty much has the same selection of shit movies. Sure, I can pay $14 for some recent stuff, but when you’re already paying $9 here and $70 bucks there, you’d like to see some decent selection. I’m in luck if I want to see “Step Brothers” because it’s always on Netflix, Amazon, and Comedy Central.