Category Archives: TV

Halt and Catch Fire Reaction, “A Connection Is Made”: Stronger at the Broken Places

Marisa
Gripes

Marisa

There are contrarians, there are iconoclasts, and then there is SportsAlcohol.com co-founder Marisa. A contraiclast? Her favorite Springsteen album came out this century, so she is basically a controversy machine.

Also, she is totally not a dude!
Marisa
Gripes

Halt and Catch Fire is an interesting way to take the temperature of our current television climate. It is a very, very good show, with all of the hallmarks of a prestige cable drama, and yet it’s nobody’s favorite. Still, we’ve been covering Halt and Catch Fire since the first season, and Marisa has always found something about it that spoke to her personally, so she decided to write about the individual episodes as it heads into its final stretch. Read her reaction to the previous episode, “Nowhere Man,” here

For most of us, our lives orbit around two loci: The place where we show our public selves, and the place where we get to be who we really are . Most often, those two places are work and home—but that’s not always the case, especially on Halt and Catch Fire. Cameron is unable to separate her work from who she is, for example, so her code follows her wherever she goes. Her public place is in Joe’s apartment, where she’s performing the part of Good Girlfriend; her Airstream is where, mostly alone, she gets to be the real Cameron and admit to herself that she’s not really as “sick of tech” as she claims.

Continue reading Halt and Catch Fire Reaction, “A Connection Is Made”: Stronger at the Broken Places

Halt and Catch Fire Reaction, “Nowhere Man”: It’s Friday

Marisa
Gripes

Marisa

There are contrarians, there are iconoclasts, and then there is SportsAlcohol.com co-founder Marisa. A contraiclast? Her favorite Springsteen album came out this century, so she is basically a controversy machine.

Also, she is totally not a dude!
Marisa
Gripes

Halt and Catch Fire is an interesting way to take the temperature of our current television climate. It is a very, very good show, with all of the hallmarks of a prestige cable drama, and yet it’s nobody’s favorite. Still, we’ve been covering Halt and Catch Fire since the first season, and Marisa has always found something about it that spoke to her personally, so she decided to write about the individual episodes as it heads into its final stretch. Read her reaction to the previous episode, “Tonya and Nancy,” here

I really wish I were doing another Gordon-focused reaction. I could easily live inside his little slice of the episode, in a world where he went out and saw Sneakers four times in the theater—because of course he did—and is still down for another viewing at home. I’m sure having a neurological illness makes it easier to justify doing what makes you happy, but he doesn’t: He just likes what he likes. I’d love to spend time discussing how, to Gordon, swing dancing and roller derby are the same thing, because they basically are; they both turn out to be fads with no longevity, and Gordon doesn’t buy in to fads because he’s committed to staying uncool.

But instead of living the normcore life with Gordon, I think I have to talk about Donna.

Continue reading Halt and Catch Fire Reaction, “Nowhere Man”: It’s Friday

Halt and Catch Fire Reaction, “Tonya and Nancy”: Folk Death

Marisa
Gripes

Marisa

There are contrarians, there are iconoclasts, and then there is SportsAlcohol.com co-founder Marisa. A contraiclast? Her favorite Springsteen album came out this century, so she is basically a controversy machine.

Also, she is totally not a dude!
Marisa
Gripes

Halt and Catch Fire is an interesting way to take the temperature of our current television climate. It is a very, very good show, with all of the hallmarks of a prestige cable drama, and yet it’s nobody’s favorite. Still, we’ve been covering Halt and Catch Fire since the first season, and Marisa has always found something about it that spoke to her personally, so she decided to write about the individual episodes as it heads into its final stretch. Read her reaction to the first three episodes here

Last time, I talked about how impressed I was with Halt and Catch Fire‘s ability to play with your expectations, setting up a Big Conflict, then pushing it off to the side in favor of something else. The title of this episode, “Tonya and Nancy,” promises much. Yet the big event that’s referenced barely makes a blip on the characters’ lives: Joanie actively tries to not watch the Olympics, while Joe and Gordon plan to view it at a small party that gets eclipsed by Cameron’s dramatic re-entrance into civilized society. (Hopefully Gordon and Anna Chlumsky’s Katie continue to watch, because I am HERE for that relationship, especially now that we know how bad at pool Gordon is. Although the series currently takes place the year of My Girl 2, which gives me weird, meta-concerns where I wonder if Katie knows about the My Girl movies. ) Tanya (Sasha Morfaw), Donna’s recently promoted employee, laments over a sushi lunch that her name will forever be entwined someone named Gillooly.

Continue reading Halt and Catch Fire Reaction, “Tonya and Nancy”: Folk Death

Halt and Catch Fire Reaction, “So It Goes,” “Signal to Noise,” and “Miscellaneous”: Live Through This

Marisa
Gripes

Marisa

There are contrarians, there are iconoclasts, and then there is SportsAlcohol.com co-founder Marisa. A contraiclast? Her favorite Springsteen album came out this century, so she is basically a controversy machine.

Also, she is totally not a dude!
Marisa
Gripes

Halt and Catch Fire is an interesting way to take the temperature of our current television climate. It is a very, very good show, with all of the hallmarks of a prestige cable drama, and yet it’s nobody’s favorite. Still, we’ve been covering Halt and Catch Fire since the first season, and Marisa has always found something about it that spoke to her personally, so she decided (a little late) to write about the individual episodes as it heads into its final stretch, starting with a quick catch-up of the season so far.

So, how did we get here? The conventional wisdom is that the show got better once it stopped being a Mad Men ripoff and found its own footing. That opinion says more about the watcher than the show itself. To me, it never really bore more than a surface-level resemblance to Mad Men. Sure, it was a period drama in a business setting, and maybe Joe got a slice of the backstory pie that was out of proportion to how much his character warrants. (Joe is the way he is because of…daddy issues? Snooze.) But Joe was never really a Don Draper, because Don Draper is widely recognized as a remarkable talent in the advertising world at the start of Mad Men, and Joe can rarely catch a break. He’s not an anti-hero in the he can’t accomplish anything major, good or bad.

Neither can the rest of them, even though all of the ingredients are there for them to achieve greatness. Together, they have the vision (Joe), programming talent (Cameron), engineering and hardware know-how (Gordon), and business sense/capital (Donna) to really launch a successful tech company—and they often have the right, world-changing idea at the right time. The show keeps bringing them to the precipice of runaway success. And yet, while they’ve managed in three seasons to amass some individual accomplishments, their volatile interpersonal dynamic keeps them from getting to that next level, because they need to work together to get there. And they can’t. But they know that, if they were able to somehow work on a project together and pull it off, the benefits would be immeasurable. But, again, they can’t. But they’re still drawn to each other, until they blow each other up again, retreat to their separate corners, and start the cycle anew. That push/pull dynamic, which has been there since the first season, is the whole reason for Halt and Catch Fire’s existence, and separates it from Mad Men, where Don was affected by the other characters, but not entirely dependent on them.

Continue reading Halt and Catch Fire Reaction, “So It Goes,” “Signal to Noise,” and “Miscellaneous”: Live Through This

In The End, Twin Peaks Denied Us More Good Times Together

Evan Rytlewski

Evan Rytlewski

Music Editor at Shepherd Express
With writing credits that include The AV Club, Pitchfork, and SportsAlcohol.com, Evan is the coolest guy in Milwaukee. In addition to running the music section of his local alt-weekly, he also hosts a radio show about the scene. If his twitter banner is to believed, T-Pain tweeted at him once, which I can't even.
Evan Rytlewski

Latest posts by Evan Rytlewski (see all)

It took Dale Cooper 25 years, 15 episodes and one extended detour in Las Vegas to return to Twin Peaks, and he didn’t stay long.

[Spoilers follow!]

In Sunday’s twisty final installments of David Lynch’s magnum opus (stop kidding yourself if you’re holding out hopes for a fourth season), a revived Cooper rushes to the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department just in time for a boss battle against a floating orb of evil right out of an NES game. You’d have thought he’d stick around to at least give Hawk a firm hand shake, maybe put an affectionate hand on Albert’s shoulder or learn all about Wally. Instead, he didn’t even stop for a slice of cherry pie (apparently nobody told him about RR2Go). Fresh from his hard-earned escape from the spirit world, Cooper… rushed right back to the spirit world.

There are already good theories pinging across the internet that explain the gist of the finale, or at least take a little bit of the initial sting out of its irresolution. It seems Lynch was trying to tell an even bigger, much more ambitious story than those first 14 episodes let on. Yet for all the big themes that consumed the series — the fluid nature of evil, the inadequacy of good intentions, repetition compulsion — what people will ultimately remember the most about Twin Peaks: The Return is its audacity to deny fans what they wanted. Here’s a sprawling, Berlin Alexanderplatz-sized work that made time for a minutes-long shot of a bartender sweeping but that still refused us many of the reunions we’d spent decades longing for. One of the initial fan complaints about the feature film revival Fire Walk With Me was it hardly had any Cooper in it, due to Kyle MacLachlan’s limited availability. The Return, ironically, offered magnitudes of Kyle MacLachlan, yet somehow the old Coop we remember — not Dougie, not Richard — still hardly got any screen time.

Of all the extended reunions we never got to enjoy — Cooper and Audrey, Cooper and the Bookhouse Boys, Cooper and the Double R — one’s absence felt especially conspicuous. For most of the revival, FBI Director Gordon Cole, played by Lynch himself, served as a stand-in for Cooper, an avatar of decency and determination who’s oblivious to his own eccentricities. The camaraderie between the FBI agents was always a highlight of the franchise, and given how so much of the new series tracked Gordon’s search for Cooper, all signs pointed to the old friends sharing at least a little one-on-one time as a narrative reward. But though they’re both present for the series’ climatic smackdown, Cooper never paused to catch up. We never got to see them share that curtain call Cooper alluded to.

Instead, we’re left with the bastardized “reunion” between the two in the season’s fourth episode, when a confounded Gordon meets Cooper’s doppelgänger for the first time through prison glass. For my money, it’s the most moving scene of a season that offered so many. So much of the coverage of The Return focused on Kyle MacLachlan’s bravado performances, and rightly so, but here Lynch carries the scene. Who knew he could act like this? Gordon fights to maintain a neutral face while making sense of the monster in front of him: his beady eyes, his halted speech, his robotic conversation. “Gordon, I really, really missed spending time with you,” the dark Cooper intones, with all the emotion of an answering machine. Gordon plays along, though his voice can’t disguise a tinge of a tremor: “Yes, Coop. I too have missed our good times together.”

There’s terror on Cole’s face — how could there not be, given what he’s witnessing — but there’s something else, too: grief. His eyelids are red and heavy as he processes the disappointment that his long-missing friend is still gone. When the fake Cooper flashes him the old thumbs up, Gordon reciprocates to maintain the ruse, but he seems sickened by the act. It’s as if he’s betraying part of himself.

Gordon was always an impressive comic creation, but for a few scenes he becomes not only the show’s most sympathetic character, but an audience surrogate. Like Gordon, we waited 25 years to see our old friend again. Instead, we were greeted by something else — something terrifying, fascinating and confusing. The season was filled with scenes like this, moments that awed us with their creativity and gave us the titillation of seeing something truly new, but that leave behind a sense of loss over what we weren’t seeing. And while it’s tempting for fans frustrated by the finale to write off Lynch’s oblique storytelling as a kind of callousness, that’s never been the case. Lynch was right there on screen. He doesn’t just understand what we wanted to see; he grieves with us that we never got to see it.

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Riverdale!

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

If you’re anything like us, it seems like everyone you know is watching Riverdale, this spring’s CW-aired reimagining of the classic Archie Comics characters. Marisa, real-life Archie doppelganger Nathaniel (seriously, you should see him in his Riverdale High t-shirt), Jesse, and YA expert Maggie all watched Season 1, including the recent season finale, then got together to discuss the show: as the teen soap du jour, as an adaptation of Archie Comics, and how it compares to the 2001 feature film Josie and the Pussycats. We talk about Archie! Jughead! Betty! Veronica! Plus even Reggie! And all the boring adults! Join us as we examine Riverdale Season 1 from all kinds of angles, from deep Archie fandom (Nathaniel) to YA fiction to thinking this version of Archie Andrews is very, very stupid (Marisa and Jesse).

How To Listen

We are now up to SIX (6) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: The End of Girls

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Lena Dunham’s divisive thinkpiece magnet Girls ended its six-season HBO run on Sunday, to a renewed frenzy of media attention. Several of SportsAlcohol.com’s regular podcasters have watched the entire series as it aired, so Marisa, Sara, Nathaniel, and Jesse got together to watch the finale and discuss the show. Our conversation touches upon issues such as:

  • Friendship
  • Every major character, and why it might be reductive to call any of them “the worst”
  • But seriously, why does Jesse like Marnie so much?
  • The series as a whole and how it ended
  • Storylines we didn’t fall in love with
  • What was realistic… and what wasn’t, especially if you know anything about writing workshops
  • What this TV show did that other shows haven’t really done before
  • Something something problematic

Basically, this episode is a must for any Girls fans still mourning the loss of their favorite show — or, for that matter, for any hatewatchers wishing someone could tell you what the fuss was about.

How To Listen

We are now up to SIX (6) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

The Top Ten Best Girls Episodes

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

The editorial core of SportsAlcohol.com is full of love for Girls, Lena Dunham’s half-hour dramedy series that just last night ended its final season on HBO. We’ll have a podcast up this week discussing the full scope of the show, from its characters to its style to the cultural conversations it inspired, but first I wanted to put together a very personal list of my ten favorite episodes of this show – my favorite show on the air, until last night (because it ceased to be on the air, not because the finale let me down). Let us know what I overlooked in the comments. Actually, I’ll let you know right now that I was sad not to include “Dead Inside” (Season 3), “Goodbye Tour” (Season 6), “Home Birth” (Season 4), “Video Games” (Season 2), and “Vagina Panic” (Season 1), among others.
Continue reading The Top Ten Best Girls Episodes

T2 Trainspotting, Legion, and the Line Between Style and Something Else

Marisa
Gripes

Marisa

There are contrarians, there are iconoclasts, and then there is SportsAlcohol.com co-founder Marisa. A contraiclast? Her favorite Springsteen album came out this century, so she is basically a controversy machine.

Also, she is totally not a dude!
Marisa
Gripes

Since the release of T2 Trainspotting, we’ve been exploring the work of Danny Boyle. In our conversations here, as well as elsewhere in other corners of the internet that pay as much attention to the director as we do, the question has come up of just how much of a journeyman director Boyle is. We go more in depth in our Danny Boyle podcast, but it seems like he has a lot of the hallmarks of your typical director-for-hire. He works fast, and often, and in a lot of different genres. But then there’s the question of his style—with lots of flashy, music-video touches—and whether that counts for or against him in the general artistic scheme of things.

To me, Boyle has always been something more than a journeyman. That’s because, for all of his directorial flourishes, he always makes me feel something. T2 is essentially a get-rich-quick-scheme movie, but it really got the feeling of getting older, and the (sometimes misguided) nostalgia of what it’s like to think back on your younger years and the doors you’ve shut behind you as you age—along with the ways that younger people (mostly Veronika) feel so untouched by that kind of regret.

Even the showier parts of the first Trainspotting hit me on some sort of emotional level, even if it’s for a quick laugh (“the worst toilet in Scotland”). I’ve never done heroin, but I got it when I saw Renton sink into the floor to the calm, dulcet tones of Lou Reed.

I know that being able to hit the emotion button might not actually be the line between journeyman and auteur, but I was thinking about Boyle when I was watching another style-rich bit of media: FX’s Legion.  I quite enjoyed Legion.  Like everyone else, I liked the vibe, the sort of future-as-imagined-in-the-mango-and-avocado-colored-1970s look to everything. There were groovy astral planes and out-of-nowhere dance sequences and one beyond-amazing performance by Aubrey Plaza that really went for it.

But, as much as I appreciated it, at the same time it didn’t make me feel anything. The kitchen explodes around David’s head, and, yeah, it looked cool. (They must’ve thought so, too, because they show that moment a million times in a million different ways.) They break out into Bollywood or Bond-ian song or dance, and, yeah, it was neat. But nothing really made me stop dead in my tracks and say, “Oh, damn!” In a show that, in the parlance of Buster, really gets off on being withholding, when the season was over there was no revelation as startling as the big reveal in Danny Boyle’s Sunshine. After the credits roll, I thought, “Oh, this is what people feel when they accuse my favorite directors of being all style with nothing going on underneath.”
Did I feel any differently about David’s character at the end of the season than I did at the beginning? Not really. I understood more what his deal was—after all, every character explained what his deal was to every other character, over and over—but I wish it was more deeply felt. There was one intriguing moment when he looks over at Lenny and says, “Who am I without you?” It could’ve been really powerful, but it was tossed off in favor of more mutant/D3 conflict I didn’t really care about. Even the central romance happened so quickly, I didn’t really believe at first that Syd’s intentions were genuine. I could go for a big, swoony mutant romance, but I just didn’t feel it, and all the pristine, mid-century-modern white rooms in the world couldn’t get me to buy into it 100%.

Legion by FX 1×01 Scene : David Dream / Dance (Serge Gainsbourg) from Chromatic BloodBloodBlood on Vimeo.

And let’s go back to those dance sequences as an example. Legion showrunner Noah Hawley told Vulture that the musical number in the first episode of Legion (above) was supposed to signal how David and Syd are kicking off their big romance. (“What signals falling in love?” he told the website. “Well, it makes you want to sing and dance!”) And yet watching it, I don’t feel swept away. I feel analyzing the depths of David’s mental illness. I feel nothing from Syd. Boyle has a departing-reality-and-falling-in-love musical number, too. It’s in A Life Less Ordinary, one of his worst movies. In our podcast, we talked about how the musical number itself is hampered by the fact that Cameron Diaz can’t sing. And yet, despite all of its flaws, I can feel the love. I’m charmed in some way. It’s a fantasy, but it’s not a fever dream. (Sadly, it is not online, but if I were Diaz, I’d make sure it stayed off Vevo, too. If you’re really curious, fast-forward to the one-hour mark here, but you have to play it at 1.25 speed to get it right. Or just ask Jesse to watch it with you.)

Then again, I’ve always had my problems with Noah Hawley. There’s just something that’s so not fun about him. I was really into the first season of Fargo, but the second season really fell off this cliff into slow-moving ponderousness that sucked all the air out of the series. (But, ugh, I’m back on board for S3, because he’s borrowing Boyle’s ace-in-the-hole Marisa-bait, Ewan McGregor.) If Boyle could squeeze in a silly anti-Catholic karaoke-heist scene into his meditation on middle age, couldn’t Hawley have breathed a little bit more life into his no-touching romance? Get a bit of the old Pushing Daisies spirit in there?

I know that Legion comes with its own backlash insurance, where you can’t really watch an individual episode and think, “Well, that was a lot of nothing,” because it’s all a big slow-burn puzzle, right, and you have to see it through to the end to find out if you liked the previous episodes. Now that I’ve watched it through to the end (and enjoyed quite a bit of it despite my griping), I can say that it did not all build to one amazing ending that made every head-scratching moment worthwhile. (It’s weird that the show can make an ice-cube-man in an astral plane make sense, but it’s not clear why Melanie won’t let David go rescue his sister. I also remember one episode where Jesse was all, “Wait, why are they all camping in a forest?”) So I know not everyone shares my impatience with Hawley, but these types of cul-de-sacs and re-reveals hit my personal pet peeve button of having episodes that always run long, even when there’s not really enough meat in them to justify it. For that matter, when it ended, Jesse was like, “I think I would’ve gotten just as much out of this if it was a two-hour X-Men movie,” and I don’t really disagree.

In that way, Legion has a lot in common with a show I like very much, but don’t love: Mr. Robot. It also indulges in long episodes,  when I think cutting them would make them stronger. It also has a heightened style that distinguishes it from anything else on TV. Both shows have a certain emotional remove. And, most importantly, both shows are both smart, but seem to think that they’re genius.

It’s personally frustrating to me, because if these shows focused less on the smart and more on the heart, I could see them joining my very favorite things ever. Until then, I’m glad I have Danny Boyle movies to remind me that heightened style isn’t always so empty and cold.

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Checking in with Saturday Night Live in the Trump Era

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

A few of SportsAlcohol.com’s founding editors are longtime Saturday Night Live viewers and fans, so we like to occasionally get together and check in with how the show is doing. SNL is getting record ratings this season, with special guest stars like Alec Baldwin doing his Donald Trump impression and Melissa McCarthy dropping by to play Sean Spicer. We discuss those sketches and more: what this political engagement means for a larger-than-average core cast, how Weekend Update is faring in the Funny News landscape, how this year’s group of hosts has measured up, and what sketches we feel have been overlooked in all of the political hubbub. This conversation, recorded immediately following the most recent, Baldwin-hosted episode, is a must-listen for any SNL fan.

How To Listen

We are now up to SIX (6) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

And if you love this and want to hear some of our classic archival thoughts on Saturday Night Live, check out these previous episodes:

The Season 40 Opener
That Time Trump Hosted While Running for President
SNL at the Movies