I’ve been watching a mish-mash of TV shows this summer that I haven’t had the chance to review, so I thought I’d try to give some honest albeit quick thoughts on some of them here. So without further adieu, here are my random comments on the random TV shows that I’ve been watching recently:
Orange is the New Black
Wiki description: Orange Is the New Black revolves around Piper Chapman (Schilling), a woman from Connecticut, living in New York City who is sent to the women’s Litchfield, NY federal prison for 15 months for transporting a suitcase full of drug money for Alex Vause (Prepon), an international drug smuggler and Chapman’s former lover.
Why it’s great: The show is based off a memoir by Piper Chapman about her 15 months in prison. It’s a solid mix of comedy and drama. I’m definitely laughing out loud every episode, but it’s heartbreaking, too. Can you imagine living a very normal life and all of the sudden being arrested and having to leave your fiance to serve serious prison time? The show does a good job finding humor in the situation while still making prison seem horrible. The show’s tagline “Every sentence has a story” relates to the show’s reliance on flashbacks to depict how a different inmate came to Litchfield.
Room for improvement?: A good lesson for any writer, the flashbacks are only as interesting as the actual scenes portrayed within the flashbacks. OISTNB does a good job of keeping the flashbacks short and to the point, so even if they aren’t your favorite (my husband doesn’t care for them mostly) they are over before you know it. Some storylines are definitely better than others. They either make you like a character much more or make you kind of shrug. I’ve personally become more sucked in by the flashbacks as the show goes on.
The Wire: Season 3
Wiki Description: The Wire is an American television drama series set and produced in and around Baltimore, Maryland. Created and primarily written by author and former police reporter David Simon, the series was broadcast by the premium cable network HBO in the United States. The Wire premiered on June 2, 2002, and ended on March 9, 2008, comprising 60 episodes over five seasons.
Each season of The Wire focuses on a different facet of the city of Baltimore. In chronological order they are: the illegal drug trade, the seaport system, the city government and bureaucracy, the school system, and the print news media. The large cast consists mainly of character actors who are little known for their other roles. Simon has said that despite its presentation as a crime drama, the show is “really about the American city, and about how we live together. It’s about how institutions have an effect on individuals. Whether one is a cop, a longshoreman, a drug dealer, a politician, a judge or a lawyer, all are ultimately compromised and must contend with whatever institution to which they are committed
Why you should watch: Congratulations! You made it through Season 2. Your efforts will finally be rewarded. Did anyone seriously care about the whole dock storyline going on for the entire sophomore season? No? Ok, that’s what I thought. But we’re back to the streets in Season 3 with Avon’s crew. Thank goodness.
Room for improvement?: I’m about halfway through the season and so far I don’t think it’s as emotional as Season 1. In Season 1, we were closer to Avon’s crew and more invested in the good eggs that just happened to be drug dealers. In Season 3, the logistics of the drug business are cool. Baltimore is a hot mess and the cops are having to get creative. But with that, there is more focus spent on the police and less on the street crew, which I’ve always found to be more interesting. I’ll fess up: I’m not a big McNulty fan. Am I alone there?
Wiki Description: Battlestar Galactica share its premise that in a distant part of our galaxy, a human civilization has extended to a group of planets known as the Twelve Colonies, to which they have migrated from their ancestral homeworld of Kobol. The Twelve Colonies have been engaged in a lengthy war with a cybernetic race known as the Cylons, whose goal is the extermination of the human race. The Cylons offer peace to the humans, which proves to be a ruse. With the aid of a human named Baltar, the Cylons carry out a massive attack on the Twelve Colonies and on the Colonial Fleet of starships that protect them. These attacks devastate the Colonial Fleet, lay waste to the Colonies, and virtually destroy their populations. Scattered survivors flee into outer space aboard a ragtag array of available spaceships. Of the entire Colonial battle fleet, only the Battlestar Galactica, a gigantic battleship and spacecraft carrier, appears to have survived the Cylon attack. Under the leadership of Commander Adama, the Galactica and the pilots of “Viper fighters” lead a fugitive fleet of survivors in search of the fabled thirteenth colony known as Earth.
Why you should watch: So this is really more my husband’s show, but it’s on and so I watch. I think the spiritual angle is what sets BG apart from other similarly positioned shows. There’s a lot of action and it’s basically all compelling. Good characters. Interesting motivations. No right answer situations.
Room for improvement?: Some interesting casting choices. I think it took a bit for me to settle into those. Occasionally the writers end or begin the show with sort of “off” text. For example, one episode ended with “And they have a plan.” Which is sort of melodramatic and tell-y, but whatever. Who am I to judge? It got the audience where they needed to go in a very short amount of time.
Wiki description: Awkward is an American teen comedy series created by Lauren Iungerich for MTV. The show’s central character is Jenna Hamilton (Ashley Rickards), a Palos Verdes, California, teenager who struggles with her identity, especially after an accident is misconstrued as a suicide attempt.
Why you should watch: So I know I’m a bit late to the party on this. I’ve watched random episodes of Awkward for awhile now, but had never sat down to really watch a season. Now, I’m studying Awkward to potentially do a spec script for the show, so I’ve begun with Season 1. It’s a show that manages to have a high concept inciting incident (a miscontstrued suicide “attempt”) yet still remain very character driven. The writing is very clever. Think Juno meets Veronica Mars? It’s hard not to love Jenna. And the writers certainly don’t hold back in their portrayal teen issues. I mean the first scene is basically Jenna randomly losing her virginty. Yeah…
Room for improvement?: I’ll let you know when I’m further along.
Freaks and Geeks
Wiki description: The show centers on teenage Lindsay Weir (Linda Cardellini) and her younger brother Sam (John Francis Daley), who both attend William McKinley High School during the 1980–1981 school year in the town of Chippewa, Michigan, a fictional suburb of Detroit (named after Chippewa Valley High School, which series creator Paul Feig attended).
Lindsay’s friends constitute the “freaks” — Daniel Desario (James Franco), Ken Miller (Seth Rogen), Nick Andopolis (Jason Segel), Kim Kelly (Busy Philipps) — and Sam’s friends constitute the “geeks” — Neal Schweiber (Samm Levine) and Bill Haverchuck (Martin Starr) — of the title. The Weirs’ parents, Harold (Joe Flaherty) and Jean (Becky Ann Baker), are featured in every episode. Millie Kentner (Sarah Hagan), Lindsay’s nerdy, highly religious former best friend, is a recurring character, as is Cindy Sanders (Natasha Melnick), the attractive, popular cheerleader on whom Sam has a crush.
The show’s starting point is Lindsay’s transition from her life as an academically proficient student, star “mathlete“, and proper young girl to an Army-jacket-wearing teenager who hangs out with troubled slackers. Her relationships with her new friends, and the friction they cause with her parents and with her own self-image, form one central strand of the show; the other follows Sam and his group of geeky friends as they navigate a different part of the social universe, and try to fit in.
Why you should watch: Ummm because it’s one of the best shows ever? I have never experienced the true injustice of having a show cancelled after one season until now. One season!! How is this possible, people? This show is so good. While the Freaks are awesomely portrayed (seriously, Busy Philipps totally steals the show as Kim Kelly), the Geeks were the heart of it for me. Sam Weir and friends had me cracking up every episode. There is a certain streaking episode that I literally about died during. Bill Haverchuck is one of the best characters to be created and the relationship betweeen his mom and a certain someone (no spoilers here) is subtley drawn and totally genius. I’m a hardcore Judd Apatow fan after this. I wish someone could throw this up on Kickstarter but everyone is too hold. Freaks and Geeks…you were taken from us too soon. RIP.
Room for Improvement?: Maybe if this show had more than one season, it would have had time to disappoint me, but alas, it was perfectly awesome. [Side note: I did start watching Undeclared after this–another Judd Apatow special. Still enjoyable, not quite as great. Bad intro.]
What about you? What are y’all watching this summer?