Here’s a dump of short reviews for the miniseries I’ve watched while Safer at Home is still going on and on and on. Autoplay has come in handy when there is nothing else to do.
Community (2009 – 2015)
Rating: A. The Dean’s List!
DEAN-A-LING-A-LING! Not my first rodeo with Community and certainly not the last. I didn’t technically complete this viewing- I stopped somewhere in Season 5. I just want my friends to be together forever!
I always, always recommend Community to people and I found myself bringing up the show a few times when lockdown hit. Mostly because it’s a show that is enjoyable when it’s watched, but it also serves as good noise value, so it suits a lot of needs. I love every episode of the series, but there are a few where nothing really happens, except for smart ass comments or Troy’s moments of brilliance (according to himself)- it’s a good show to put on when you’re folding laundry or cooking. It has a perfect balance of lowbrow humor and cleverness that’s hard to find.
Even though it has that appeal, I sit down and watch this show. Every episode. It’s brilliant. It’s in my top five shows of all time, like right behind Deadwood and Angel. Like Angel and Buffy, the concept episodes are the highlights and in Community you get a good handful of those each season. I’d say if in the first three minutes, something weird happens, an atypical genre is established, someone from Breaking Bad appears, or if the cast isn’t traditionally human (don’t ask, just watch), you need to plunk your ass down and watch.
If you do take the time, just know that Community was always on the verge of being canceled and having its budget cut, so they were kind of in a “No fucks given, let’s be weird” attitude. Appreciate the creativity in this show. We rarely get one with this kind of heart.
Westworld, Season 3 (2020)
If you haven’t been watching Westworld from the beginning or are considering getting into it now, I’ll be honest with you- after seeing this season, I don’t think it’s worth spending your time on. Like Season 2, Season 3 starts off hot, goes a bit cold, and runs a bit long even though this season was two episodes shorter. With the exception of Season 1, the series has a bad habit of overwriting itself with red herrings, plot holes, and ideas that don’t necessarily get enough development. In Season 3, we get a huge leap in the worldbuilding outside the park that’s visually stunning, only to realize that Dolores is still leading a rebellion, Maeve is still on a hunt for her daughter, the Man in Black has been replaced by Vincent Cassel, and Teddy’s character has been absorbed by Aaron Paul. Like Ford, I just want to see these characters and ideas evolve a little bit more every time I see them.
Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich (2020)
It’s about to get a little dark in here. Weirdly, I watched this about two weeks before Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested. One of the biggest news stories of the past few years is the downfall of entrepreneur, rapist, and sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. This four-part documentary series maps his history of sex trafficking from when he was first reported in the 90’s up until his recent “suicide” with highly detailed accounts from his victims and their lawyers, as well as several agents, officers, and journalists- people who did their homework and due diligence to put Epstein behind bars and bring him to justice, only to have years of work and unanswered questions get swept under the rug. Deals were made under tables; politicians moved up on the ladder; Epstein lived a largely privileged life and was able to get away with pretty much everything.
This series made me angry. It is one of the most heartbreaking and frustrating works I have ever watched and that’s putting it lightly. It’s a series that doesn’t just expose an abhorrent person, but the flaws and corruption of the US, a country that boasts itself on liberty and justice for all- everyone with enough money, that is.
As I said before, this series is heavy. At times, stories are told in very graphic detail. It’s not fun. I was angry watching this. But it is absolutely necessary to watch for several reasons- we need to become aware of how sexual assault is silenced and the stigma that survivors face, even though they aren’t in the wrong. We need to be made aware of how young women are targeted and groomed, so we can identify it when it’s happening in front of us. We need to be made aware of how difficult and confusing it is for sexual assault survivors to come to terms with what happened to them and how they are affected by emotional, physical, and mental trauma. Most importantly, we need to watch this to understand how the system doesn’t support this demographic so we can learn how to fix it. This documentary series puts forth a valiant effort in explaining sexual assault, rape, and trafficking from legal’s, survivor’s, and law enforcement’s points of view- the people who did everything right and still, the system failed them.
So if you, too, think those things are important or want to be more educated on the topic, watch it. Watch it and get mad. You might want a palette cleanser after this (see: What We Do In The Shadows.) If you’re unfamiliar with the case or have been living under a rock for the past two years and are wondering who the hell Ghilaine Maxwell is, yeah, I’d say watch this. (PS- Epstein most certainly didn’t kill himself.)
Did you go to McDonald’s a lot in the 90’s to play Monopoly, get two out of three pieces, then kept buying McDonald’s to get the third? My family did too and we never got anything except my meal. Looking back, I guess we should have known that the game was fixed. I’d say watch this after you watch the Epstein series, because while some of the uninterviewed members of Florida law enforcement did some really infuriating things in that one, the Florida branch of the FBI did the McDonald’s scandal totally right. This serves as a fun game of Clue. It’s even hilarious at times; like, it’s questionable how they were able to get away with it for so long when there were so many silly people involved. Star of the Series: Freaking Doug.
Tiger King (2020)
Lighter stuff but still Florida! I feel like I’ve learned so much about Florida since going into lockdown. The Tiger King wave peaked pretty early so I’ll keep this short. It was absolutely entertaining and distracting for when it came out. But I didn’t really learn anything and that’s usually why I look for after watching something that claims to be a documentary. It and its subsequent coverage doesn’t focus on the animals enough and the exploitation of living creatures (both four-legged and two-legged) is fucking wrong. They’re all shitty people with the exception of some of the workers. Don’t go to these “zoos” and look up where your money is going before supporting it.
When They See Us (2019)
Ok, we are back to more infuriating failures of law enforcement. Director Ava DuVernay brings us a fictionalized version of The Exonerated 5 which is probably very close to truth, knowing her work. This is the tale of five young Black high school students in the early 90’s, who were wrongfully arrested, persecuted, and convicted of sexually assaulting a jogger in Central Park. This series will make you feel a full range of emotions- and like how I walked away from the Epstein one, this one made me furious. DuVernay has an excellent way of managing all five men, time jumps, prosecutors, and unjust processes. And I don’t consider her work in this biased, considering how poorly the New York district attorney and NYPD handled this case- the five are rightfully portrayed as boys who were forced to become men and wrongfully had time taken away from them, which I found to be the most emotional aspects. If you thought When They See Us was at all biased or “liberal propaganda”… you’re probably just racist.
This was also an unintentionally topical viewing- we watched this the week before George Floyd was killed. I’m trying not to dawdle on my soapbox for too long, but it’s frustrating how much just hasn’t changed for young Black men who are wrongfully accused of breaking the law and subjected to brutality as a result. Donate money, demand change.
Another series about national security/law enforcement doing things all wrong. I’m sensing a trend I didn’t quite plan for. Hrm. I hope I’m not on a list or something. Welp. This was another one where the FBI royally screwed things up, except this time it’s not in Florida. Somewhere in the outskirts of Waco, there once lived a group of Bible enthusiasts called the led by David Koresh. For the most part, they were peaceful, minus all the guns they were hoarding. Also, the several underage girls and other women that Koresh was impregnating. Yeah. That’s no bueno.
This is told from the perspectives of both the FBI and the Brand Davidians, coming from the accounts of Gary Noesner (Michael Shannon), the lead agent at the time, and David Thibodeau (Rory Culkin), a young man who was under Koresh’s influence. As a result, it feels incredibly factual while also allowing the subjects to retain their humanity. I preferred seeing things from the FBI’s side, as I trusted Noesner’s details, being an investigator and negotiator and all.
Can our country try, I dunno, conflict resolution or negotiating or just anything other than jumping to conclusions and bringing out the tanks? Because that’s obviously not working. It didn’t work 20 years ago and it’s not working now.
The Last Dance (2020)
I’m also realizing the amount of 90’s content I’ve consumed. Wow. I’m not a huge basketball fan, but I do remember bits and pieces of the Michael Jordan-era. For me, just knowing him as a name and being told he was a legend and… not really watching basketball (listen, my house was a TENNIS house!), it was really fascinating to watch heard accounts of his childhood and also see him handle his fame and become a human through this series.
I don’t know enough about the sport to really talk about this one as a basketball fan, but as a fan of being a fan- I straight-up love the 90’s because it was the last decade before we had smartphones and you had to physically be somewhere to participate. You had to really love the thing you were waiting for. You had to make time for it, to physically go and camp out in line to buy tickets, or go five hours early to get a good standing spot. It took a huge amount of effort.
And people loved Jordan. It’s amazing how so much of the world was able to bond over this one person’s abilities. Of course, this series is going to favor him over everyone else and show him in a positive light… but after everything he’s done, I don’t think I blame them. He’s had quite an effect on the world.
What We Do in the Shadows (2019 – Ongoing)
Rating: B+ for BAT!
This show is so weird. What We Do in the Shadows is based off the film by Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords… both of which I haven’t watched yet, but I enjoy their other work so (coughMoanacough), and yeah. Vampires on Staten Island in an Office-style documentary series. Why not? I didn’t really know what to expect with this one- it’s basically vampires who have been around for hundreds of years struggling with everyday human tasks like laundry, email chains, and commuting to work. But unlike those mundane human tasks, it’s really funny. I used this as a palette cleanser for the Epstein series, so I don’t have anything else to add except it was really refreshing after all that weight. The naivety of vampires, the costumes, the accents- it’s all incredibly endearing.