Tag Archives: Television

Stop Calling WandaVision Weird!

Gripes
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

WandaVision, currently airing on Disney+, is many things. It’s a superhero show. It’s a love story. It’s a fun romp through the pantheon of television history.

In a lot of ways, it’s what I’ve been asking of Marvel in many, many, many of our MCU-related podcasts, where I plead for the studio to focus on fewer Avengers, tell smaller-scale stories, and do something that feels distinct from the rest of the 20-plus entries in the franchise.

But there’s one thing that WandaVision is not: weird. It’s also not completely original (by design!), unique, or bizarre. And yet.

WandaVision Reviews

WandaVision can’t — and doesn’t — have it both ways. It can’t rely on its audience to recognize sitcom tropes, and then also exist apart from them. And I don’t believe the show is really trying to. I think it wants you to feel the timeworn plot patterns, spot the inspirations in the decor, ease into the comfort of the laugh track. From the show’s debut, any TV fan can tell that one episode is going to feel like the ’50s, with all those conventions, the next is going to take on the ’60s, and so on.

In fact, my biggest complaint about WandaVision is that sometimes the idea of it is more fun than actually sitting down to watch it. (Except for Vision’s magic show. That was great.) I get that Wanda has Bewitched-style powers, and she’s going to use them to get out of a scrape with The Boss and try to whip up a big dinner, and that it’s going to backfire. There is joy in watching it because of Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany’s performances, but the way it unfolds is not particularly refreshing. Even the idea of a classic sitcom parody is not, by itself, something especially new.

Of course, it’s not just a classic sitcom parody. But the way the story hints at something bigger going on is not weird, either. It’s straight out of The Truman Show.  Or Lost. I’ve only seen the three episodes that are available to the general public so far, but I know when I start each one that, a couple scenes in, there’s going to be some kind of hint that not everything is as it seems, and then at the end there’s going to be, well, an even bigger hint that not everything is as it seems. Maybe the show will change course and we’ll stop living in TV Land, or maybe the parts that exist outside the sitcom world will take up a bigger slice of the running time of each episode. Maybe she’ll have to fight The Powers That Be — the ones that made our heroes retreat into the imagined safety of a blissful TV marriage. Maybe that’ll involve more typical MCU-style hangars and control rooms. Or maybe not. But I have a feeling that, whatever the reveal is, it’s not going to be shocking. I will come back and sincerely apologize if this show does anything that genuinely surprises me.

So why do people keep calling it weird? I think there’s something else implied that isn’t being said. WandaVision is weird…for Marvel.  (It’s not even the weirdest recent Marvel property! Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse is weirder! It has a talking pig! Legion, as frustrating as I find it, is weirder! It has an astral plane!) While WandaVision sits comfortably within television tropes, it exists apart from the hardened Marvel formula.

At this point, Marvel shouldn’t be getting credit for moving one standard deviation away from its current status quo. It should’ve been at least this creative the whole time, if not moreso. Was it a long game — making movies so samey that they get oohs and ahhs the minute they decide to change course, even the tiniest bit? Probably not. But I hope this encourages the Marvel suits to take more, and bigger, risks across the board, and not just compartmentalize tiny nods to weirdness into a handful of episodes on Disney+. I want more talking pigs!

The 10 Best Revival Episodes of Futurama

SportsAlcohol.com cofounder Nathaniel moved to Brooklyn, as you do. His hobbies include cutting up rhubarb and laying down. His favorite things are the band Moon Hooch and custard from Shake Shack. Old ladies love his hair.
Nathaniel

I may be showing my age, but I’m pretty excited for Disenchantment, the new Netflix series created by Matt Groening (with an assortment of writers, animators, and voice actors from his previous shows). I was around for the glorious peak years of both The Simpsons (1991 through 1997ish I guess, don’t @ me) and Futurama (late 1999 through 2003), so the promise of a new Groening TV show rates very high on my personal hopes/expectations chart. It’s also why I’m unfazed by mixed reviews of the early episodes, as both of those previous shows offer a template for how this show might develop. Continue reading The 10 Best Revival Episodes of Futurama

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: The X-Files, Fuller House, and TV Revivals

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.

Have you guys noticed that no television shows actually die out these days? Whether they’ve been gone for a few months, a few seasons, or a few decades, almost everything gets revived, including recent resurrections of ’90s favorites like Full House (via Fuller House on Netflix) and The X-Files (via… The X-Files, again, on Fox). Marisa, Jesse, and Nathaniel watched all of the new X-Files and some of Fuller House (tune in to hear who watched all thirteen episodes!), then got together to discuss this trend: other examples and forms of TV revivals, whether it’s worth it for these shows or in general, and how we feel about the future of television revivals, reunions, and resurrections. Also, find out just how insulting Jesse can be to the memory of Full House!

How To Listen

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

Best of 2015!

Gripes
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

It was the blurst of years, and SportsAlcohol.com was there for every second of it. If you missed any of our end-of-2015 coverage, here’s what we’ll keep with us going forward.

Movies

List: Best Movies of 2015

Podcast: Best Movies of 2015

Plus: Special consideration is given to MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, our almost-consensus pick for best movie of the year (because Jesse is a jerk).

Music

List: Best Albums of 2015

Podcast: Best Music of 2015

Playlist: Best Music of 2015 on Spotify

Plus: We (meaning Sara) appreciates some of the best songs of the year, including “Downtown” by Majical Cloudz, “Bored in the USA” by Father John Misty, and “Sapokanikan” by Joanna Newsom.

Television

List: The Best TV Shows of 2015

Plus: Sara discusses two of the best anti-heroes in this years’ prestige series, and Marisa argues for more stand-alone episodes, because nobody wants to watch 13-hour movies as much as showrunners want to create them.

Theater

Rob wrote about Hamilton, the best musical to hit Broadway in 2015 and probably many years hence.

See you at the end of 2016, suckers!

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: The Newsroom

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.

This week, we’ll be celebrating the best television of the year. But before we do that, let’s talk about The Newsroom. Aaron Sorkin’s anti-celebrated HBO drama ended its abbreviated run last night; Nathaniel, Maggie, and Jesse, who have seen every episode, watched it together and then sat down for a discussion, moderated by Marisa, about the episode and the series (with some long-distance questions from our upstate Sorkin correspondent Rob). We talk about what went right with The Newsroom, why Season 3 might have been its best season ever, and, oh yeah, why there was still so much about it that we found deeply frustrated. It’s a must-listen for anyone who watched The Newsroom, loved The Newsroom, hate-watched The Newsroom, or wants to hear periodic bursts of impromptu Newsroom fanfic.

How To Listen

    We are up to five different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

  • You can subscribe to our podcast using the rss feed.
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  • I don’t really know what Stitcher is, but we are also on Stitcher.
  • You can download the mp3 of this episode directly here.
  • If you are lazy, like a potshot at the irresponsibility of internet journalism, you can listen in the player below.

The SportsAlcohol Podcast: Sunday Morning Quaterbacking Saturday Night Live

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.

Many SportsAlcohol.com staffers and contributors are united in their hardcore Saturday Night Live fandom. The show, somewhat erratic even in its best years, has gone through some transitional pains over the last year or two, as beloved cast members have departed, new cast members have stepped in, and others have been let go. Season 40 began with yet more cast tinkering, especially around Weekend Update. Marisa, Jesse, Nathaniel, and Michael discussed the season premiere immediately after it aired, touching upon favorite cast members, the new guys, Chris Pratt’s hosting skills, Arianda Grande and the state of Saturday Night Live music booking in general, dream hosts for the upcoming season, and plenty more. We’ll be checking back in with Saturday Night Live periodically during the season, and offering plenty of more hot takes timed to its 40th anniversary season.

We are up to four different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:
You can subscribe to our podcast using the rss feed.
We are also finally on iTunes!
You can download the mp3 of this episode directly here.
As always, if you are very lazy, like Kristen Wiig recurring character lazy, you can just listen in the player below.

Photo credit: Dana Edelson/NBC

Halting ‘Halt and Catch Fire’

Ben self-identifies as a Slytherin, so it makes sense that he is a business school graduate. He really liked the movie Margin Call, so that makes him SportsAlcohol.com's de facto business correspondent. By business correspondent, we mean the expert in movies and television about business (we don't care about the strength of the dollar or whatever).

The only salient reason that AMC could give in its decision to renew Halt and Catch Fire, a deeply flawed, little watched show, is affluence. “Halt and Catch Fire was No. 3 among affluent viewers age 18-49, trailing only The Good Wife and Mad Men.” Sites that do viewer comparisons note that the ratings were close to other shows that AMC had decided to cancel. Go here if you want numbers, but the overarching number is this: Halt and Catch Fire had 1.3 million viewers.

As part of that number, the 0.4 percent of the U.S. population who watch this show, I received news of the renewal decision with a mixture of excitement and sadness because, while there is something in it that I find compelling, it is not a “good show.” It isn’t even a “good bad show”, and I watch plenty of those.

Someone on Twitter asked me if he should watch Halt and Catch Fire, and that question is impossible to answer without probing this question: Why would someone want to watch Halt and Catch Fire? Why did I watch it? And, by extension, what makes Halt and Catch Fire No. 3 among affluent viewers?

The reasons that I can think of are an affinity for business cases, an interest in startups and innovation, and a nostalgia for early computing. But, ultimately, it fails in creating a compelling work narrative. It is too much a business case and not enough of a business fantasy.

I will take those in four parts. And, yes, there will be spoilers for Halt as well as Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and a few others.

Continue reading Halting ‘Halt and Catch Fire’