Friends TV Show Review

159799           I feel like Friends is one of those tv shows that transcends its era. You know, the ones that are relatable and/or funny years later, despite looking and being dated. Kinda like the X-files. And the fact that some of its actors have become big Hollywood stars (wassap Jennifer Aniston), definitely helps keep it more relevant than it would be otherwise. As a result, despite having run for and over 10 years ago, it still remains in current pop-culture (or at least for my generation it does). Hence, I’ve decided to talk about it today.

Friends, for those of you unaware (seriously tho, is there anyone really unaware about this series?), is about a group of friends living in New York, New York USA during the 90s. The core group consisted of bossy cleanliness freak and mother-hen Monica Geller, played by Courtney Cox, her nerdy goofy and unlucky-in-love older brother Ross Geller, played by David Schwimmer, the fantastically ridiculous Phoebe Buffay, played by Lisa Kudrow, the sarcastic everyman Chandler Bing, played by Matthew Perry, the out-of-touch fashionista Rachel Green, played by Jennifer Aniston, and the ditzy but loveable Joey Tribbiani, played by Matt LeBlanc. All episodes revolve around the situations the characters find themselves in, and/or about their lives and their general direction and how the characters adapt/ navigate. Nothing ground-breaking per se, but definitely enjoyable.

For me, the biggest plus point among this series, is the friendship shown between the main characters. They all just get along so well and the interactions among them are fantastic. Each character is so different and has a different viewpoint. But they all respect each other and listen to each other and just hang out. Honestly, Friends has one of the best descriptions of friendship shown on television (living up to its name I suppose LOL). It’s super fun to watch. Adding to the entertainment, is the comedy in this show. Some of the dialogue in this show is hilarious. Like laugh out loud hilarious. And a huge credit to that, not only goes to the writing, but also to the actors. I strongly believe that this show is a testament to the fact that good writing and good actors can create an absolutely great pair (both elevate each other).

And coming to the actors, David Schwimmer in particular comes to mind. I’ve yet to see someone with as hilarious physical comedy as him as Ross. Ross’s physical comedy is absolutely top notch. Whether it be the “unagi” or the leather-pants-with-lotion scenes, he just kills it and always brings the laugh. Another really reliably funny “friend,” was Chandler. His sarcastic one-liners and general wittiness really livened up the show. In fact, each character had stand-out lines and scenes that still remain iconic. Whether it be Joey’s “How you doin?” or “Joey doesn’t share food,” or even Pheobe’s “Smelly Cat” song or “phalanges,” they’re all super entertaining. However, what was also great, was the way how the show could also be so relatable. I mean, we’ve all probably suffered through crappy jobs, heartbreaks, unexpected situations, etc. And the shows funny take on them was great (that said, not all of the situations are relatable or even realistic LOL).

That said, there are definitely a few things about the show that definitely make me side-eye it and are not so flattering. One that immediately comes to mind, is the flanderization of Joey’s character. When Joey initially started out in the show, he was ditzy, there’s no doubt about that. But even with his ditziness, he had some knowledge. It was believable that someone like Joey could exist: ditzy but with some understanding of how the world/ things work. However, as the show went on, the writers end up really dumbing down Joey, to the point where it just became unbelievable, and I mean that literally. He became so dumb. While I found his dumbness enjoyable at some times, it was often annoying because of how unrealistic it was (and what a drastic change it was from the earlier seasons).

The second thing that I really dislike, is the lack of any people of colour. The show features a predominantly white cast. Which, I guess while not ideal, is ok. Yet, even then, there are literally no POC characters. It was so rare to see any POC, not just in side character roles, but even as bystanders (extras). I mean, NYC is not just filled with white people you know. There’s people of all different races and yet Friends made it seem like NYC was just populated with white people. It was kinda jarring to realize and definitely made me side eye the show.

And finally, some story-lines were not enjoyable. In my opinion, to the point where they actually brought down the quality of the show. Case in point: the Ross-Rachel will-they-or-won’t-they relationship. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I am generally a fan of will-they-or-will-they-not relationships. I reviewed Bones a while ago, and in its earlier seasons, Bones was exactly that! Especially when it came to the relationship between the main leads. But in Friends, this plot was stretched way beyond the limit. To the point where I honestly did not care and just wanted it to end. Plus, it didn’t help that the two characters also behaved in some pretty unlikeable ways (Ross accidentally said Rachel’s name during his wedding vows to another woman…yikes!). And coming to Rachel, there was also an absolutely ludicrous “relationship” between her and Joey that made no sense whatsoever. Seriously. I’ve yet to meet a single person who doesn’t see that storyline as ridiculous.

However, despite its fault, Friends still remains pretty watchable. It reminds of me comfort food in some ways. Its certainly not the best show around. And there’s definitely been better shows made. Yet, even then, there’s just something so welcoming and comforting about it. If you’re sad, it makes you happy. If you’re bored, it gives you something to do. If you need to escape from life, it lets you. It’s just so consistently reliable, that you cannot help but get drawn into it.

My rating: watch it to enjoy a funny and likeable show, despite the fact that it has some faults and is quite dated

Ultimate Beastmaster TV Show Review

lB2bdrWiI have a confession to make: I’m a sucker for reality tv. Literally, put any sort of reality tv show on, and I will be game. And trashy reality tv in particular, is my ultimate guilty pleasure. In fact, back in the day, Jersey Shore was the first show I followed religiously. And I mean religiously! I’d watch each episode twice, often during my school free-periods, and even had a dedicated group of fellow show devotees with whom I’d discuss each episode. That said, I’m also into other, non-trashy reality tv shows (yes, they exist!). And Ultimate Beastmaster, is one of those.

Much like other competitive reality tv shows, Ultimate Beastmaster has competitors competing difficult obstacles in an effort to win a prize. The name of the show, actually comes from the fact that the obstacles are constructed within a gigantic man-made “beast,” so to speak. At the bottom of each obstacle is also a large pool of water, referred to as “beast blood,” in which if a competitor falls, they’re out of the competition. There are 4 levels that contestants must go through, to advance. Each level has its own timed obstacles, all with varied amounts of points that can be earned. Those with the most points, no falls into ‘beast blood,’ and least amount of time advance, and and one winner is declared at the end of level 4. And then during the penultimate episode, the winners of previous episodes compete for a shot at $10 000 USD and the title of “Ultimate Beastmaster.”

As far as competitive reality tv shows go, the format is pretty standard. It actually reminds me a bit of Wipeout and Takeshi’s Castle. However, unlike those shows, where the focus was largely on not only completing the course but also on humiliating challengers, Ultimate Beastmaster focuses solely on the athletic abilities of its contestants. Hence, each contestant for Ultimate Beastmaster is also insanely talented and athletic. Competitors range from crossfit trainers, to military men, to rock-climbers, to parkour fanatics, etc. Fittingly then, the competitors are also ‘beasts’ in their abilities (aka the title of the show).

It’s also worth noting that competitors come from six specific places: America, Brazil, Germany, Japan, Mexico, and South Korea. Each country has two competitors in each episode (except for the final episode which only has the winners of the previous episodes). Each country also has its own set of hosts. For America, its Terry Crews and Charissa Thompson, for Brazil its Rafinha Bastos and Anderson Silva, for Germany its Luke Mockridge and Hans Sarpei, for Japan its Yuji Kondo and Sayaka Akimoto, for Mexico its Luis Ernesto Franco and Ines Sainz, and for South Korea its Seo Kyung Suk and Park Keong Rim. The hosts provide commentary for each of their competitors, and even other competitors, often in their native language. Subtitles are provided for the non-English words (of if you use Netflix, you can have subtitles for all of the hosts!).

Personally, the hosts are actually one of my favourite things about this show. Not only do they add a fun factor to the show with their commentary and reactions, but I also enjoyed the sense of camaraderie they shared with the others. Terry Crews in particular was quite fun to watch as he interacted with others quite often (sometimes even going into their hosting stations LOL). Rafinha Bastos was also absolutely hilarious. In one episode, the Brazilian hosts thought that their competitor beat a German competitor, so they went into the German host’s booth to mock them and dance. But, what they didn’t realize, was that their candidate actually lost and the German advanced (LOL)! It was super funny to watch them stop mid-dancing after the German hosts let them know they lost.  Another time that stood out to me, was when a South Korean competitor was advancing and the South Korean hosts decided that it was too sad to see him fail, so they turned their backs to the screen (where he was performing), only for the competitor to succeed (LOL)! Both instances were played light-heartedly and for laughs and I quite enjoyed it!

The athletic aspect of the show is also incredibly awe-inspiring, especially the way some of the competitors competed. There’s just something about watching athletes in (or even out) of their zone, doing various challenging activities. One of my favourite things, was watching Brazilian climber Felipe Camargo climb during an obstacle. He performed with such finesse, it felt like I was watching a climbing documentary! I highly enjoyed the show!

My rating: Watch it to enjoy incredible feats of athleticism by incredibly talented competitors!

Bones TV Show Review

songs-bonesBones is one of those shows I had known about for a while but never really felt the urge to watch. However, that changed last year (or perhaps it was 2015, I don’t quite remember). After finishing the X-files for the umpteenth time and feeling lost without a show to watch, I chanced upon Bones. Netflix alleged that it was similar to X-files  and I having ended my last X-files binge and desperate for more, decided to take the plunge.

Like X-filesBones details the lives of two ‘partners,’ FBI Agent Seeley Booth, played by David Boreanaz, and Forensic Anthropologist Dr. Temperance Brennan, played by Emily Deschanel. However, unlike the X-files, Bones doesn’t deal with exclusively paranormal phenomena and is actually based upon the best selling books of an actual forensic anthropologist, Dr. Kathy Reich. In an ironic twist, Dr. Brennan actually writes book about her forensic adventures using a character named Dr. Kathy Reich (LOL). As such, the show is a tad bit more ‘science-focused’ than other procedurals. Oh I forgot to mention, Bones is basically a police procedural in that each episode features a new mystery. However it also follows X-files method of having an over-arching story-line as well. Whereas X-files focused upon government conspiracies, Bones focuses more on the lives of its protagonists. To be honest, I think that’s where the similarities between the two shows end. Beyond that, they are quite different (although it amusing to note that Bones has actually referenced the X-files and other pop culture phenomena in its show before).

In essence, the show is about how Booth and Brennan (also called Bones by Booth, hence the name of the show), use the bones of murder victims to figure out how they died and bring the killers to justice. Booth heads up the Major Crimes branch at the Bureau, while Dr. Brennan works at the Jeffersonian Museum (based upon the real-life Smithsonian Museum in the United States), in its medico-legal lab. Booth finds the bodies and brings them to Bones, where then she and her science team use the bones/ body tissue, and surrounding particulates, to provide clues about the dead person/ how they died. Booth then interprets these clues to narrow down on a list of possible suspects and find the killer (Brennan actually assists him with this as she often participates in suspect interrogation and active field work). Brennan’s team consists of the following: Dr. Camille Saroyan, played by Tamara Taylor, a forensic pathologist who actually heads the medico-legal lab, Dr. Jack Hodgins, played by TJ Thyne, an entomologist, botanist, and geologist/mineralogist, Angela Montenegro, the in-house artist and computer expert, and a variety of other forensic interns/ assistants. As a result, the show, at least initially, was quite science-y at its centre. Brennan and her team would often sprout real life facts about bones, insects, etc. in order to determine time of death, cause of death, location of death, etc. However, as the show progressed, the science took more of a back seat.

The show has actually been on-air for about 12 years, having first aired in 2005. And the first few seasons of the show are quite different from the later seasons. In fact, the first season all but screams that it was filmed in the mid-2000s with its equipment, clothing style, look, etc. However, that doesn’t mean it was bad. It was quite enjoyable and still fun to watch. Yet, the long duration of the show has had an impact on the characters, particularly that of Dr. Brennan.

When the show first began, Brennan was shown to be this socially awkward scientist. Possessing a genius level intellect, she often had trouble with pop culture, often remarking, “I don’t know what that means,” when it came to simple stuff like Booth referencing the team work of Mulder and Scully from the X-files. Yet, despite her awkwardness, she was still ‘relatable,’ for a lack of a better word. She understood some common phenomena like ‘booty calls’ and wasn’t overly detached from the world. Despite her awkward social skills, she still had *some* skills. She was also more willing to accept mistakes, was super confident and independent, and spoke normally; a pretty likeable character. However, as the show progressed, her character changed. Instead of progressing and maturing, she began regressing. She became progressively more and more awkward, possesses almost little to no social skills, and is incredibly arrogant. Her speech patterns have also taken on this odd random word-elongation tone. Like I read somewhere else, the writers took out all the stuff that made her complex and instead just heightened her more annoying traits. Sometimes, I legitimately do not understand how people stand her.

Which brings me to another point: the writers in the show SUCK at showing vs. telling. They always do the latter. For example, we’re constantly told that Brennan has a good heart, that she’s BFFS with Angela, people love her, etc. But we’re rarely shown it, instead people just talk about it (and the audience is supposed to believe it I guess). In regards to Brennan having a good heart, there have been episodes that have shown just how much she cares. Particularly in the earlier seasons, there were some really, really great episodes where she showed A LOT of heart (particularly those that dealt with foster kids). Yet aside from those few, she’s actually quite insensitive in many others episodes and its difficult to believe the repetitions of her being this really good hearted person. Like I mentioned before, she actually comes across as an emotionally stilted jerk a lot of the times. And regarding her friendship with Angela, I don’t always see it either. Angela always mentions that she loves Brennan, but as of late, the friendship and love are sorta missing.  A lot of the time, Brennan just sprouts some logic or random anthropological facts while Angela doesn’t really understand it and talks about her own stuff. Or Angela talks about something and Brennan tends to just focus on her own stuff rather than talk about Angela’s issues. Honestly, these issues could easily be resolved, if instead of shoving down such dialogue, the writers just make scenes that show it instead. Showing stuff is always better than having  people remark upon it constantly (and yes, I do mean it happens quite consistently).

And finally, as Dr. Brennan is a forensic anthropologist foremost, the initial seasons of the shows actually focused upon this. While on active field duty with Booth, Brennan would often make anthropological observations about the societies/ tribes/ peoples they were dealing with and it was often fascinating. However, as of late, I’ve begun to find that the anthropological focus has diminished a bit. Brennan no longer makes anthropological observations about the cases. A lot of the time, she just sticks to examining the bones and dealing with some discussion she and Booth are having. Now this change isn’t the worst thing in the world, and the cases they investigate do remain quite interesting as the seasons progress. However, I definitely do miss the science-y and anthropological focus of the initial show. In my opinion, it was what made the show stand out among the many police procedurals that currently exist.

However, even these complaints, I still enjoy this show, at least for the most part. I think the earlier seasons are definitely most enjoyable than the later ones. However, the later ones are decent as well. Plus, the acting in this show is pretty great as well. All the actors, not just the leads, are pretty consistent performers. However, my favourite thing about the show, is the fact that it has some really, really beautiful episodes. Surprisingly, for all its flaws, sometimes the writers manage to hit the ball out of the park spectacularly. Some that particularly stand out, are 2×09 “Aliens in a Spaceship,” 3×13 “The Verdict in the Story,” 4×26 “The End in the Beginning,” 6×09 “The Doctor in the Photo,” and 8×16 “The Patriot in Purgatory,” among many others. I have actually watched these and other memorable episodes countless times, but their impact never lessons.

My rating: watch it to enjoy a crime procedural with a science-y touch and to witness some fantastic, heartfelt episodes.

A Series of Unfortunate Events TV Series Review

q9jqvvnrA Series of Unfortunate Events is a book series written by Daniel Handler under the pen-name of Lemony Snicket. However, unlike most pseudonyms, Lemony Snicket actually interacts with the book series and features as a part of the book’s universe. The book chronicles the lives of the rich Baudelaire orphans after their parent’s deaths. Lemony Snicket serves as a narrator and possess a personal connection to the Baudelaire’s. It turns out, he loved the Baudelaire mother, Beatrice, back when the two were still young. However, Beatrice ended up marrying Betrand, the Baudelaire father, rather than Lemony. Nonetheless, after hearing of her death, Lemony feels compelled to discover what happened to the Baudelaire children afterwards and hence the novel commences with him frequently remarking upon the terrible circumstances. Are you still with me?

The Baudelaire’s are made up of three children. Violet, the oldest at 14, is a genius inventor and often takes the leadership role in the various situations the children find themselves in. Klaus, the middle child at 12, is a voracious reader and has the ability to remember everything he’s read, the point where he can recite random quotations from random authors at verbatim. And finally, Sunny, is the youngest at 2(?). Although she can’t properly speak by the time the books begin, she is incredibly intelligent, possess the ability to understand complex situations and communicates with ‘babbles’ only her siblings understand. The trio lived happily with their well-off parents until a mysterious fire destroyed their house, presumably also killing their parents although no bodies were found. A local banker, Mr. Poe, is tasked with executing their parent’s will, which includes the huge inheritance the trio are to inherit once Violet comes to age. Despite being foolish and self-absorbed, Poe is also responsible for finding a new residence for the Baudelaire’s, as the parent’s will specified that the Baudelaire’s were to live with their closest living relative. And herein enters Count Olaf, the main antagonist, an actor with circus henchmen who is determined to get his hands on the Baudelaire fortune by any means possible, including murder.

There are 13 books in the series and each book deals with the children adapting to their new living situations, trying to get away from Count Olaf and his schemes to take over their fortune, and attempting to figure out their parent’s past/ present. The parents, it turns out, were spies (?) of some sort for the VFD (volunteer firefighters department?), a secret organization. Apparently, there was a schism in the organization wherein people split and took sides. The Baudelaire parents were obviously on the good side while Count Olaf was on the bad (yes, Count Olaf knew the parents from long ago). A lot of the people the Baudelaire’s encounter in the book are/were a part of the VFD, but despite their occurrence, the Baudelaire’s never do find out the full truth of their parent’s participation in the VFD. In fact, readers themselves never fully find out what the VFD is/for/does/did. Every new piece of information is given incomplete, through small vague clues, leading to eventual diversions to other topics/ parts of the truth.

I read somewhere that this elusive, purposeful holding of the full truth, was actually one of the themes of the book (i.e. the incomplete nature of the full truth). While I guess that explanation would help to solve the question of why the books remain so vague in its answers, I don’t really care. I just found it incredibly frustrating. I read this series way back, around the time the first book was published (early 2000s). Immediately, the dark comedic tone and mysterious story caught my attention and enthralled me. I faithfully read the books until the 10th book, after which I realized that the full truths of the story would never be revealed. The series contains 13 books, and while I normally don’t like reviewing or writing about things upon which I only have incomplete knowledge, I’m willing to make an exception in this case. I’m pretty proud of the fact that I managed to reach the 10th book because most people I know who’ve read the story have not finished it either, or even reached the 10th book. Despite the wonderful story and great suspense, the story is too frustrating and unfulfilling to follow, as the full truth is NEVER revealed. It’s just annoying to read a story only to realize that you’ll never actually know what happened.

Anyway, after that long recap, this post isn’t really about the books but about the tv series. This year, an original NetFlix production of the series was created and aired. Currently, only season 1 has aired and it has covered 4 books. Although I was quite frustrated by the books inability to answer its mysteries, I was still incredibly excited at the prospect of the show about them. The books are written well and do have engaging characters. The books had been attempted to be adapted for the big screen with a movie in 2004. But personally, I wasn’t a fan of it as I felt it rushed too many things. Hence, when I heard about the tv adaptation, I was excited because I felt a tv format would allow for greater detail and accuracy. To be happiness, that is exactly what happened.  The sets, stories, scenes, larger VFD mystery are all well done and plotted and remain fantastic. I honestly had not expected it to be as great as it was. That said, I do want to address a few things.

Firstly, I heard that there was some criticism over Neil Patrick Harris’s Count Olaf, with most people saying that he wasn’t scary enough. But to be honest, I don’t think that criticism holds. Yes sure Harris plays Count Olaf with more humour than his book counterpart, but that doesn’t detract from the scariness. His Olaf is still terrifying. There’s a menacing undercurrent to Olaf’s humour that comes through with Harris’s acting which prevents Olaf from coming across as too comedic. If anything, I think it enhances the character. Olaf fancies himself a great actor and Harris’s Olaf embodies that delusional identification with crazy costumes, weird voices, and general oddness. But he still manages to imbue Olaf with a scariness because his Olaf is also absolutely ruthless with his violent tendencies, devious tricks, and general horribleness. It’s more of a low-key threat, which I quite appreciate because I think it helps keep the tone of the show/ books.

Secondly, despite my earlier claim of accuracy in the show, I want to iterate that this doesn’t mean that everything is 100% accurate. If anything, it’s about 80% accurate, which is still quite accurate in the grand scheme of things. However, some characterizations are definitely off. Violet, played by Malina Weissman, is one of the few that come to mind. In the books, she functions as the fierce leader of the Baudelaire trio and often comes up with plans to save them. In the tv series however, her fierceness is quite downplayed and she comes across as more complacent than active. Instead, her role of leader is given to Klaus, played by Louis Hynes. On a similar note, Aunt Josephine’s character, is given more of a saint-washing, as in the books, she much more selfish and horrible.

Thirdly, I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity in casting. Don’t get me wrong, the majority of the cast was still white. But there were a few other people of colour in significant roles that I quite enjoyed. In particular, the Baudelaire’s guardians, Uncle Monty, a herpetologist, and Aunt Josephine, a formerly fierce but now cowardly woman, were played by Aasif Mandvi and Alfre Woodard respectively. Not to mention that Mr. Poe was played by K. Todd Freeman. Similarly, one of Olaf’s henchman, The Hook-handed Man, was played by Usman Ally. It’s always really nice to see diversity and although it could 100% be better, I felt that it was still a nice effort (although on a more introspective note, it’s sad how happy I get when there’s more than one POC because there should be more and standards should be higher).

Fourthly, I quite liked the way Lemony Snicket and his commentary were employed throughout show (through the use of Patrick Walburton as Lemony). It brought a uniqueness I did not expect and definitely helped to capture the dark humour of the books. Similarly, I enjoyed the red herring put by the show (deliberately being vague because it really is great LOL).

That said, I also read somewhere that this is a show to be savoured rather than binged and I completely agree. The books themselves are quite dark, but are prevented from being too depressing by Lemony Snicket’s commentary. The tv series doesn’t quite have that advantage at the same level. While Patrick Warburton is good at diffusing certain tense and dark scenes, they still leave the viewer unsettled and focused on the dark scene. If you watch too much of it, there’s chances that you’ll become very sad at the Baudelaire’s plight. However, if you savour each episode and take breaks, I think it would be more enjoyable because you wouldn’t be overtaken by sadness. I did the latter and quite enjoyed the series despite its macabre gothic tone.

My ratingWatch it if you’re a fan of the book series or if you’d like to watch a hopeless show with a sense of misplaced hopefulness.

Life in Pieces TV Show Review

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Life in Pieces had been on my radar for quite some while. However, it also wasn’t really quite high on the list of things I wanted to watch. So it sat there for a while. Recently, my friend watched the show and reviewed it (here’s the link!). She thought it was a decent enough comedy show. I figured, if she liked it, then I’d probably like it too. So on December 30th, my siblings and I sat down to binge watch the show.

The format of a show, showcasing four different stories within a larger connected family, was one that I immediately associated with Modern Family. As such, my expectations, going into the show, were that it would sort of be like Modern Family, wherein each individual adventure would eventually be tied up into a larger adventure with the entire family. Surprisingly, Life in Pieces didn’t go down that route. Instead, the show stuck of showing four, unrelated ‘pieces’ (LOL) of the various family member’s lives. In other words, we just got like little shorts of their lives (ironic because the name of the family in the show is Short). On that note, the show revolves around the members of the Short family, consisting of the retired former pilot father, John Short, the therapist mother, Joan Short, the oldest daughter and stay-at-home-mom, Heather Hughes and her doctor husband and three children, Tim Hughes, Tyler, Samantha, Sophie Hughes, the middle son, struggling artist Matt Short and his girlfriend Coleen Ortega, and the youngest son, Greg Short and his lawyer wife and newborn daughter, Jen Short and Lark Short. Also, unlike Modern FamilyLife in Pieces isn’t filmed as a mockumentary, its filmed as a general tv show.

Each episode deals with an issue the various family members face. So, for example, one of Greg and Jen’s ‘shorts’ dealt with them coming to terms with childbirth and the changes that result, such as sex. On the other hand, one of Heather’s shorts focused upon her family and her having a contest to see who generated the least amount of trash. However, the shorts also aren’t just limited to nuclear family members, as the individual stories do include a mix of members. In one of Heather’s shorts, she is angry at her son’s decisions to forgo a college education and Matt plays a pivotal role in reconciling her to that fact. Similarly, in one of Matt’s shorts, he is forced to invite his parents to his valentine’s day dinner with Colleen. Sometimes, like Modern Family, the show also has shorts that include the entire family. Hence, the mixup is always kept interesting.

That said, the show does have its fair amount of drawbacks. One of the biggest drawbacks for me, is the consistency of the comedy. This criticism actually also relates to one of my biggest likes from the show as well. Life in Pieces has some incredibly, incredibly funny scenes. I mean, there’s scenes that had my siblings and I rolling on the ground from laughing too much. However, there’s also a fair amount (far more than the funny scenes) of boring scenes where nothing happens. Well actually, stuff does happen, but its not funny or that enjoyable, just passable. Secondly, sometimes the show has a tendency to use cliche tropes, such as the protagonists forgoing an event in order to spend time with a lonely person. They don’t really detract from the show too much. But considering what a stellar cast this show boasts of, I think the show should aim higher and terminate cliche usage. I mean, Colin Hanks, James Brolin, Betsy Brandt, Thomas Sadoski, Dianne Wiest, Zoe Lister-Jones, Angelique Cabral and Dan Bakkedahl are hilariously talented. There’s so much more the writers could be doing with them.

On that note, their characters themselves aren’t also something new. They’re quite recognizable cliche types in quite a few aspects. Also, the content matter of the show also ranges. Some stories are definitely rated R (there was a scene where Greg has to insert a cold ice-filled glove into Jen’s vagina to sooth her post-childbirth) while others are a solid G (there’s an episode dedicated solely to Sophie’s inner monologue). Personally, I didn’t quite mind it, but if there are younger kids around watching, I’d definitely be a little cautious. On top of that, the stories themselves also range, from being somewhat realistic and believable to being completely weird, random, and unexpected. Though that might be more of a positive than a negative.

Personally, I quite enjoyed the show just because of the sheer strength of the comedy scenes. I mean, there’s not a ton of comedy scenes, but whenever there is one, it always kills (in a good way!). That’s actually one of the main reasons my siblings and I continued watching. Similarly, I actually quite enjoy watching the more outlandish moments that happen in the show. For some reason, I think they work really well for the show. Although, that might just be because the cast is so good at acting and pulling off even the most weirdest scenes. Nonetheless, I’m happy that the show has been renewed for season two and quite excited to see what happens next!

My rating: Watch it if you’re bored and want a decent-enough comedy show to watch.

Beating Again/ Falling for Innocence TV Show Review

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As some of you may remember, I recently began my K-drama journey with Descendants of the Sun. As my initial experience was positive and led to such high expectations, I had been on the prowl for another K-drama series to devour. However, my search took longer than expected because a) Netflix’s selection is not that big, or at least I do not know how to navigate it and b) I only looked for k-drama’s on Netflix for convenience’s sake which limited my pool. Enter Beating Again/ Falling for Innocence. The show is referred to on Netflix by the former, but is titled the latter on many other websites. Hence, I’m going with both titles. Anyways, truth be told, I was quite hesitant to begin the drama. I wasn’t a big fan of the general summary plot-line because I felt like the potential for exploitation/ manipulation of characters would be really big. In short, the show was about the male lead undergoing a heart transplant and falling in love with the girlfriend of his donor. In other words, ick. However, since the show was rated so highly and because I had really been craving a K-drama, I just swallowed all my feelings and put on the show. Although it wasn’t quite what I was expecting, it was still pretty good.

The show begins with an introduction to Kang Min Ho, played by Jung Kyung-Ho. He’s shown to be this ruthless and rude businessman. He works for an American multinational corporation, Gold Partners, and part of his job requires taking over bankrupt companies and selling them to others. Through his work, he fires people daily without any regard for them, i.e. he doesn’t care how hard they work or how much they need the job. Due to his callous behaviour, he doesn’t have many friends or really care about acquiring friends. His company sees him as a huge asset and his employees are terrified of him, to the point where they nickname him the ‘serial-killer.’ In other words, he fits the archetype of the ruthless businessman with no care for others. He’s willing to do anything and he just doesn’t give a damn about making money as his motive is something else.

At the same time, we’re introduced to Kim Soon-jung, enacted by Kim So-Yeon. She works as a secretary to the Chairman of a huge beauty company called Hermia. She’s an extremely efficient worker, incredibly loyal to her company, and cares for the well-being of all employees, even those working in the warehouse/ factories (her work is mostly within the headquarters). She’s a super nice woman and seems to enjoy her work. She’s engaged to a police detective, Ma Dong-wook (played by Jin Goo from DOTS!). Childhood sweethearts, the two adore each other and share a loving relationship.

The two leads interact when Min-Ho comes to take over Hermia. His goal is to destroy the company. Soon-jung halts his initial entrance to the company and after learning her name, Min-Ho makes it a goal to punish her/ ruin her life. This is also where his backstory comes out. Apparently, Min-Ho’s father had founded Hermia with the noble goal to have a company that would serve its employees and put them before the boss. However, due to a heart disease, Min-Ho’s father died early. Taking advantage of Min-Ho’s dad’s soft nature, his brother, Kang Hyun-Chul (played by Park Yeong-Gyu), forged some papers, making it seem like Min-Ho’s dad committed fraud and put Hyun-Chul in charge. Hyun-Chul, with the help of other headquarter employees, quickly take over, effectively betraying Min-Ho’s dad on his deathbed. Hyun-Chul also cuts off Min-Ho and his mother, making them penniless. Stunned by the events, Min-Ho’s mom commits suicide, leaving the 10 year-old Min-Ho an orphan. Hyun-Chul doesn’t care and just abandons the boy. Min-Ho swears to be a hard and strong businessman (unlike his father) and to destroy his uncle and Hermia, along with the other employees who betrayed his dad. Hence, he grows up, excels and gains employment with Gold Partner’s. However, in a sad twist, Min-Ho inherits his father’s heart disease, giving him only a few years to live. As a result, Min-Ho rises to the top quickly and acts ruthlessly in order to complete his revenge before he dies. By the time the show starts, Min-Ho is around 35 years old and has only a month left to live. Along with Soon-yung blocking his efforts, he also hates her because her father was one of the employees who betrayed his father and helped Hyun-Chul usurp the company.

As the show continues, we’re also introduced to Hermia’s Director of Legal Affairs,  Lee Joon-Hee, played by Yoon Hyun-Min. Joon-hee is friends with Soon-jung and Dong-wook and managed to rise to the position of Director at such a young age, because he was seen as Hyun-Chul’s lapdog. In other words, Joon-Hee did Hyun-Chul’s dirty legal work. For example, he handled felonies committed by judges, or the family members of judges, in order to get the judges favour’s when it came to handling legal conflicts against Hermia (aka biasing the judges and bribing them). Recognizing that his position as Director would be gone as soon as Hyun-Chul stepped down, Joon-Hee teams up with Gold Partners as a double agent, to bring down Hermia and become its next CEO. Having secretly been in love with Soon-Jung since childhood, he believes that once he becomes a rich and powerful man, he’ll be able to gain her love.

Anyways, in the plot-line, one of Hermia’s products is discovered to have unapproved ingredients, causing the company’s stock to fumble. At which point Min-Ho steps in, claiming that Gold Partners had bought most of the stocks and would shut down the company. Hyun-Chul refuses to give up Hermia and claims that they’ll pay back their investors (they’re bankrupt I think, or at least close to it). Min-Ho agrees, while secretly attempting to sway the investors to his side through secret meetings (as he only has one month to live). He enters Hermia as a Director, in order to ensure that they don’t do further illegal stuff to pay back. He also spitefully takes Soon-jung as his secretary and makes her do a crap load of things and stuff that makes it seems like she’s betraying the company (she’s not). Joon-hee helps Gold Partners secretly but pretends like he’s fighting against them in Hermia. Seeing Soon-jung stressed, Dong-wook finds out about the unapproved ingredient case and begins investigating, despite Soon-jung asking him not to. Meanwhile, Hyun-Chul figures out that Min-Ho only has a month to live and is able to take back all the investors Min-Ho had swayed. Angry that his revenge is falling, Min-ho yells at Soon-jung (thinking she ratted him out) and begins throwing things around in his anger. His heart starts acting up and he collapses into a table and is taken to the hospital by Soon-jung. Meanwhile, Dong-wook figures out who was responsible for the unapproved ingredients case and then gets killed in a hit-and-run case. He’s taken to the hospital and his heart is transferred into Min-ho. Min-ho awakes from his surgery and discovers some new habits/ thoughts of his. For example, he gains sudden urges to suck on lollipops (a habit Dong-wook had, to prevent himself from smoking) and tapping people on their noses (something Dong-wook also did). He also finds himself attracted to Soon-jung and having a greater moral compass. However, he’s also incredibly weirded out and worried by these changes.

The rest of the drama is about what happens to Hermia, how Min-ho changes/ his character development, the relationship between Min-ho and Soon-jung, the love triangle between them and Joon-Hee, and various other small side plots.

I had originally thought this drama to be a comedy and put it on. To my dismay, it’s quite melodramatic. There’s a lot of twists and turns and surprising suspense. That said, there is some comedy in the form of Min-Ho and his secretary/ friend, Oh Woo-Sik, played by Lee Si-eon. Min-Ho is HILARIOUS. There’s a scene where Soon-jung is taken captive by a thug and Min-Ho tries negotiating with the thug. He uses the same technique of distracting thugs using expensive watches that Dong-wook did, to the surprise of the police colleagues who are friends with Soon-jung and a part of the kidnapping situation. However, the thug doesn’t fall for the trick and instead the watch breaks. Min-ho, being Min-ho, FREAKS OUT and starts yelling at the thug about how expensive his watch was, etc. Somehow the thug lets Soon-jung go and gets into an altercation with Min-Ho. Dong-wook’s fighting abilities are somehow transferred to Min-Ho and he dodges and defeats the thug, to his own surprise. Min-Ho literally pauses and goes like, “holy shit, I dodged that!” and then once the thug is on the ground, Min-Ho screams again, takes off his shoe, and begins spanking the thug for ruining his watch (lmfaooo). And then while in the police station for questioning, he begins trying out more fighting moves, feeling cool (LOL). It’s seriously hilarious. His comedic moments literally MAKE the drama in my opinion. He’s amazing.

And the growth journey his character goes throughout the show is wonderful. One of my fears about the show was that his character would completely change to be like Dong-wook and that the reason he’d love Soon-jung is because he had Dong-wook’s heart. But he actually doesn’t change all that much. Sure he adapts some of Dong-wook’s habits and sayings, but he also remains Min-Ho. He remains the smart businessman, he remains the easily excited and angry guy and still acts rudely sometimes. But he also changes. He begins to feel empathy and sympathy. He realizes that the way he was living wasn’t sustainable anymore. He lived with the belief that it didn’t matter he didn’t have any friends or a personal life because he was going to die soon anyway. However, now with a new, prolonged life,  his old ways no longer applied and the loneliness got to him. Similarly, he recognized that in his greed for revenge, he was turning out to be the exact same person his despised uncle was. Also, when it came to his love for Soon-jung, once he realized he had Dong-wook’s heart, he tried to rationally sort out his feelings. He tried to figure out if his feelings toward her were from him (mind) or Dong-wook (heart). However, as his ‘experiment’ keeps failing, he realizes that it doesn’t matter because ultimately, both belong to him and that love is irrational itself. I really liked that message because a) I hadn’t expected it and b) it’s quite true. Love doesn’t always have a definite starting point and that there is no rational way to define love. It’s awkward and confusing and ridiculous and even absurd at times.

I also really enjoyed the relationship Min-Ho had with Dong-wook’s father, the Hermia Factory Chief, Ma Tae-Soek. It was kind of like a surrogate father-son relationship. Tae-soek lost his real son, but gained a new sort-of son, same with Min-ho except vice-versa. Tae-soek also shared an incredibly warm relationship with his ex-daughter-in-law-to-be Soon-jung. In one touching scene, he goes to Soon-jung and tells her to let go of Dong-wook and move on. He makes her understand that life goes on and she can’t shut herself off from love. I just, I found that so moving and sweet. He does the same for Min-ho and gives him ideas on how to woo Soon-jung. The trio had all lost people (Soon-jung was also an orphan) and ended up making their own family of sorts.

On that note, the acting was also really good in this show. Kyung-Ho was ridiculously good in this show. He emoted so well and shined in all of his scenes. He was so good as the ruthless businessman. There’s a scene where Woo-sik asks Min-Ho why he sleeps on the sofa despite being so rich and Min-Ho replies that lying down in the bed aggravates his heart and that he’ll only lie down once he’s dead and finished his revenge. It was kind of chilling how softly and resignedly, but determinedly Kyung-Ho enacted that scene. A very layered performance. And his comedy scenes where hilarious! He’s not afraid to make unattractive faces or anything and as a result, his comedy scenes are so funny! He just acts up so much, you cannot help but laugh at his ridiculousness. Here’s a screen-cap of his antics after a breakup (LOL). And his little bromance with Woo-sik was hilarious as well. The two acted really well across each other. So-Yeon also acts really well as Soon-jung. It’s very easy to see how everyone falls in love with her. I liked how So-Yeon kept her reined in and didn’t make Soon-jung too happy or positive. She felt like a real person, as far as K-dramas go LOL. Plus, she was a really great female lead, you really (or at least I did) root for her to get her happy ending because she deserves it so much. And the side actors/ characters were great as well. Woo-sik’s character actually had his own little love story with one of Dong-wook’s detective friend, Na Ok-Hyun, played by Jo Eun-Ji. Although they regrettably didn’t have that many scenes together, I enjoyed their scenes together immensely! Everyone acted very well!

Along with acting, the soundtrack for this show was really great as well! There’s this ringtone/ song by Toy called “Whenever,” that played a large role in the show as it was the song Dong-wook used to propose to Soon-jung and was the song that Min-ho couldn’t stop listening too after his surgery (I’m in the same boat as Min-ho, it’s so catchy and I can’t stop listening to it!). It was super catchy and worked really well with various scenes. There were also other songs, like this guitar song, that were quite pleasing to the ear and helped amplify situations. Really enjoyed it.

Similarly, the cinamatography was top-notch as well. I’m beginning to think that its a constant of all k-dramas. As I’m still a newbie, I cannot say it for sure. But as my k-drama journey continues, I’ll keep this in mind.

What I didn’t like, however, was part of the storyline. It was actually pretty dark with quite a few deaths and dramatic moments. And the whole Hermia plot was extended too much. I mean, the story does move along pretty fast, but problems keep cropping up. For example, Min-Ho eventually takes over Hermia with the goal of restoring it, but then has to face the exact same strategies he used to bankrupt Hermia. I mean, in theory it sounds like a good idea. And I did enjoy the scene where Min-ho breaks down and feels like Hermia being attacked by Gold Partners again is like his karma. But it just stretched on too long. And to be honest, some of the business stuff was kinda confusing and even boring at times. I would’ve much rather had a more concise business battle, rather than a rehash of similar things. I also was a little confused on how Joon-Hee’s character became the main antagonist. He always had a crush on Soon-jung and believed that if he became rich, he could get her love. Actually, no his turn did make sense, but not the extent he went through. He ended up becoming absolutely ruthless in his quest, and after a while, it just didn’t make sense to me. Why was he going to the extent he was? What was his goal? His original goal was to get Soon-jung but she already said no to him. And then his goal was to make Min-ho go down. But in that goal, he was ready to sacrifice everything? In Min-ho’s case, it made sense because he was going to die so he didn’t have anything to lose. But Joon-Hee was still living. He was being promoted when he was with Gold Partners. Was it just a self-esteem issue? Was it because he needed to justify his dad’s death? I guess what I’m saying is, his turn to the antagonist made sense. But his actions, namely his intent and fervour to destroy the company didn’t quite.

Also, I really wasn’t a fan of the way Min-ho behaved around Soon-jung, in terms of physicality. When he hated her, he had the tendency to jerk her around by grabbing her hand or whatever and dragging her to where he wanter her to be. When he fell in love with her, he would often try to hug her forcefully. Soon-jung wasn’t really appreciative of the jerking around and she did get annoyed by it, but she never said anything either. As he was her boss, I guess she thought if she complained, she could get fired. But even after the two get together as a couple, she doesn’t necessarily say anything. And Min-ho is the same. He never apologizes for his forceful handling of her. I just, I really wasn’t a fan of it. It ruined some of their sweeter scenes. For example, when Min-ho realizes that Soon-jung needs to cry and grieve for all that she’s lost, he forcefully hugs her in an effort to get her to release her feelings. She tries pulling back and asserts that she’s fine. But Min-ho just grips her tighter and claims that he needs the reassurance. It’s after that, she finally lets herself go and begins to cry and mourn for everything that went down in her life. I mean, it is a sweet scene. But just the forceful hug sorta ruined some of the sweetness of it.

Similarly, the ending of the show was lukewarm as well. In term of logic, it just sucked horribly. There was no real resolution to the Hermia conflict or Min-ho’s plot. All we got was Min-ho in the hospital, when the screen fading to the sky and then an epilogue where Woo-sick and Ok-Hyun got married with Min-Ho and Soon-jung as the best man and bridesmaid respectively. I wanted a more real resolution. The only reason the ending was somewhat warm (good), was because of the end Min-Ho and Soon-jung scene. It was incredibly cute and saved the ending from being absolutely horrible. But even then, it was an incredibly unsatisfying ending to what was an enjoyable drama.

My rating: watch it for the comicalness that is Min-ho and be prepared to enjoy his character growth, along with witnessing the wonderful acting of Kyung-ho and So-yeon, but remember that this is not a comedy show and so expect a lot of deaths and dark scenes.

The Crown TV Series Review

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It’s difficult for me to start this review today, because I know that my words will not do justice to the show. But I feel like it’s necessary for me to write anyway because failure to write about this show is akin to letting it down as well. So let’s get on with it.

The Crown is a Netflix series that premiered November 2016 and consists of 10 hour-long episodes, at least in the first season. It purports to tell the story of Queen Elizabeth II’s succession to the Crown in 1952 and also details some of the politics surrounding the early years of her reign. Simply put, it is a biography of sorts. As such, it showcases events like the abdication crisis of 1936, the death of George VI, PM Churchill’s resignation, Princess Margaret-Peter Townsend scandal, and the marriage of the Queen and Prince Philip (and the ensuing marital strifes).

In terms of reviewing, I’m going to break it down and not write a whole lot. There is way too much for me to unpack in each individual episode so attempting to analyze the entire series in a single post is absurd. As such, I’ll touch upon a few things.

Firstly, in terms of cinamatography, it’s top-notch. As some of you may know, I’m a really, really visual person. So this means, that not only am I attracted to and enthralled by lavish attention to details in depictions, but I’m also very particular about it as well. To my delight, the series excelled in it. Each scene was laid out in a really great way and directed very well as well. And the accuracy in the clothing worn by the various members of the Royal Family was surreal. As a history buff, I have poured over photographs showcasing the Queen’s early years. Hence, I got really, really excited every time I recognized some of the Queen’s outfits and just how much detail was put into each one. For example, her wedding day look has been matched by the creators, right down to the hairstyle.

Which also brings me to the actors. Queen Elizabeth II was portrayed by Claire Foy who did a tremendous job. Throughout the show, the Crown is referred to as a burden, and Foy did a magnificent job showing how difficult it was to balance being the Crown and being a person, i.e. mother, wife, sister. As the show pointed out, the monarch is not supposed to be an opinionated, loud, entertaining person, it is merely a symbol, an impartial figurehead who unites the people. Foy also has really great chemistry with Matt Smith who plays Prince Philip. There are moments where the two characters don’t even say anything but you can still feel the love or tension between them. Matt also did a phenomenal job playing Prince Philip as the resentful consort. On that note, I really appreciated how the writers did not shy away from showing him as the racist and asshole person he is. Similarly, the supporting Royal Family cast acts really well as well. However, the stand-out performance, in my opinion, was John Lithgow as Sir Winston Churchill. The first time Lithgow appeared on screen, I got chills because it felt like I was really seeing Churchill in the flesh. Which is also quite a feat considering the fact that Lithgow is an American! In the role, he disappears and only Churchill remains; a fabulous performance!

On that note, I think I should also talk about the writer’s, or rather writer, for a second. The show is written by Peter Morgan who also wrote the award-winning film, The Queen. Morgan is a fantastic writer and the subtlety he instills in each episode the the various dialogues is a treat to watch. And the show doesn’t just address the history of the Queen and her family. It also depicts the history of England itself and the political struggles the political parties face, along with the Queen. The script, in my opinion, plays quite a large role in how the show comes across. In other words, the strong script elevates the show and the actors.

And finally, the soundtrack for this show is amazing. I cannot get enough of the main title/ duck shoot song. I’m not quite sure who composed the latter, either Hans Zimmer or Rupert Gregson-Williams, but either way, it’s phenomenal and so versatile. For example, it was used to highlight the changes that were coming in Elizabeth’s life and her steps toward embracing them (i.e. becoming Queen eventually). Yet, the song was also effectively used to highlight the chaos that came after King George VI’s death. Just wonderfully amazing really.

I really enjoyed watching and highly recommend the show. Plus, season 2 has already been confirmed!

My rating: Definitely watch it if you’re a history (and political) buff, anglophile or Royal Family enthusiast!

No Tomorrow TV Show Review

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My goal for this blog was to only review things that had finished or when I had completely finished them. So for example, I haven’t reviewed the show X-files on this blog yet, despite being a HUGE fan, because I have still to watch the last movie and the recent revival episodes. Which brings me to this post. I’m breaking tradition (well, it was a burgeoning tradition at least) and reviewing a show that is currently still airing. I’ve decided that I can always write more reviews on the show as it airs, if that makes any sense. So today’s topic of review, is the TV show No Tomorrow.

No Tomorrow actually popped up on my Netflix and seemed curious. I googled it and was surprised to discover that it was actually rated quite highly, both among TV critics and normal viewers. With nothing to lose and a bit to gain (I had been lacking in having a show to watch when bored or eating), I decided to take the plunge and watch it.

Broadly speaking, the show is about a woman named Evie, played by Tori Anderson, who discovers that her dream man is an end-of-days nut. Xavier, played by Joshua Sasse, is convinced that the apocalypse is “nigh” and that in about 8 months, an astroid will hit Earth and the world will end. He claims to have done the math and in an effort to live life to the fullest, before everyone inevitably dies, he lives his days fulfilling his “apocolyst.” Basically, the list contains everything he’s ever wanted to do (which includes both having adventures but also owning up for his past regrets). Although Evie is rightfully initially kinda creeped out by Xavier, she eventually comes around and gets inspired to create her own apocolyst. Which, as she points out, doesn’t necessarily mean that she believes the world is going to end. Along with Evie and Xavier, the show also features an ensemble of unique, funny and great supporting characters.

There’s Hank, played by Jonathan Langdon, who is Evie’s best friend (along with being the best friend of Evie’s ex-boyfriend) and is himself an end-of-days paranoid. Except, his end-of-days theory doesn’t involve an astroid; it involves the Russians bombing the world and the world leaders saving themselves (in a bunker in which Hank is determined to get into). There’s Kareema, played by Sarayu Blue, who is Evie’s co-worker and friend and lives a very exciting life (consisting of partying wildly, having her own pansexuals group, and generally being cool). Kareema, doesn’t believe in the end-of-days either, but she is intrigued by the idea of an apocolyst and starts her own (although her’s contains stuff like helping others LOL). There’s also Evie’s ex-boyfriend Timothy, played by Jesse Rath, who is a published columnist and has a difficult time with getting over Evie and entering the dating pool again. And finally there’s Deidre, played by Amy Pietz, who is Evie’s boss who has a major crush on Hank but has difficulty expressing it because of corporate rules (Hank works in the same place).

Firstly, I actually really like the diversity in the show. It could definitely be more diversified through the inclusion of more people of colour, but in general, it’s actually nice to see. You have three white characters and then three people of colour (Hank is black, Kareema is South Asian I think and Timothy is mixed). And the best part, in my opinion, is that their race doesn’t significantly alter their characters. In other words, their characters are completely normal and not stereotyped; you can easily imagine them being a different ethnicity. Often, I find that when shows include people of colour, the characters are stereotyped to an extent. So for example, within The Big Bang Theory, you have Raj, who is stereotyped as Indian through the usage of an exaggerated Indian accent and shown as having the least luck with women. Similarly, in Glee, the token black girl (Mercedes) was characterized as being sassy while the asian characters (Tina and Mike) were depicted as nerds. These stereotypes are harmful, annoying, and over-used. Not all Indians have an accent or have trouble with dates. Not all black girls are sassy and not all asians are nerds. People of colour are people, normal people like everyone and No Tomorrow makes that clear.

On that note, the characters themselves are pretty interesting and dimensional, for the most part. Evie is incredibly relatable. A nice girl trying to get through life, but who also keeps strict boundaries for herself. For example, she doesn’t party often, doesn’t interrupt people and sticks to the status quo. However, through the help of Xavier and her apocolyst, she grows and learns to let go of some of her boundaries while keeping others and recognizing their importance. In other words, she doesn’t completely change herself for or because of Xavier. She does it for herself, through a little pushing from other characters sometimes. Similarly, Xavier isn’t just some maniac, free-spirited, fun loving guy. He’s more grounded than that. He realizes that the world sees him as crazy and that not all of his ideas are really great ideas. That said, due to the limited amount of screen time for the other supporting characters, their characters do have the tendency to come across as one-dimensional at times. For example, Evie’s boss Deidre sort of fits into the box of the intimidating boss lady who struggles to be vulnerable; key word being ‘sort-of.’ Similarly, Timothy comes across as a sort of typical insecure geek at times. He writes for a tech magazine and is a published columnist but still struggles when it comes to asking girls out. Although, I do think it’s necessary to point out that he’s only like that sometimes. In other words, he doesn’t always easily fit into the mould of an insecure geek and actually goes out and does other stuff as well. Kareema and Hank fall into similar categories as well. The characters are pretty dimensional, but suffer from a lack of screen time in developing their dimensionality (is that even a word LOL?). Yet, they are still understandable and enjoyable to watch

And finally, I quite enjoy the story. It definitely has it’s cliche romantic-comedy moments, but it also goes in other unexpected directions. For example, after being broken up, Evie and Timothy end up matching on a soul-mate app. Both of them wonder if this is a sign. In other sitcoms, you can easily expect to see three scenarios: 1. Evie and Timothy take this as a sign and end up together again 2. Timothy rejects Evie which makes her reconsider their relationship 3. Evie rejects Timothy again which sends him downwards. All three are common tropes I’ve witnessed in other shows. However, they don’t happen in the show. Instead, the show subverts a cliche moment and then undergoes a different one. In other words, it has some cliche moments but not others.

On the whole, I’m quite enjoying watching this show. The only thing that sucks, is that currently only 5 episodes have aired and hence the story and characters are still developing. Well actually, the latter isn’t that bad at all. It’s just the limited amount of episodes that sucks. I’m very excited for the show to resume and for more episodes to be produced and to see what happens next!

My rating: go watch it for a fun, light hearted romantic comedy with a twist!

Don’t Trust the B– in Apt 23 TV Show Review

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What’s this? A picture prefacing my review? Whaaat? Don’t worry, it’s still me, Guptasaab, and not some other poster. I realized (SUPER belatedly) that it was ironic that despite being such a visual person, I hadn’t posted any pictures on this site. Visuals are what attract me in the first place, so what was I doing posting without any visuals? How did I even attract any readers? Any who, I’ve decided to remedy my mistake and hence the huge picture of the show I’m reviewing today.

Anyways, onto the show! I had heard about Don’t Trust the B– in Apt 23 (DTtB) way back when it first premiered, in 2012, but I never watched it simply because it didn’t seem like my cup of tea. I never really watched Dawson’s Creek and the other actors were unknowns for me as well, so it just never really pinged on my to-watch radar. However, a few weeks ago, my co-worker discovered this show on Netflix and recommended it to me. So I decided to take her advice and watch the show.

Briefly, the show is centred around three characters: June, the lead who rooms with the B– in Apt 23, Chloe, the B– herself, and James Van Der Beek, playing a fictional version of himself. In the introductory episode, we’re introduced to the three characters and the basic story-line. June is a small-town girl from the Midwest (Indiana) who moves to New York for her job, which she ends up losing in the first episode itself. Needing a place to stay, she answers Chloe’s ad for a roommate, and hence ends up rooming with her. Naive, positive, and nice, June is basically your average nice girl-next-door. She’s only been with one guy (her fiance), was top of her class in grad school, believes that everyone has some good in them, likes helping people out, and lives a very scheduled and responsible (somewhat boring) life. In other words, she sorta fits into the archetype of the naive, country girl coming to the city for the first time and realizing that there’s more to life than just being honest, trusting, and kind. On the other end of the spectrum is Chloe.

Chloe is actually a little difficult to describe. When the show first started, I thought she was a literal psychopath. As the show continued, I grew to like her and sorta understand her and realize that perhaps she wasn’t quite a psycho. However, in the true grey fashion of life, Chloe is quite the grey character herself (in other words, she’s more of a sociopath than psychopath). Chloe lives a party girl lifestyle that she finances through scams, which often involve a lot of lying and messing around with people’s lives. As you can surmise, she’s also portrayed as being a little immoral, being a fan of unbridled drinking and irresponsible partying 24/7. In other words, she’s not the most virtuous character or your typical protagonist. Yet, despite these traits, Chloe is also very loyal to her friends and does try to help them out in her own way. In the first episode, it turns out that Chloe’s ad for a roommate was a scam in itself (a scam she had apparently pulled off numerous times successfully), as she intended to scare June into leaving the apartment, while keeping all her extra rent money (she over-charged June purposely). However, when June outsmarts her, she grows a soft spot for her and in a show of loyalty and ‘kindness’, she has sex with June’s ex-fiance in order to show June what a serial cheater her ex-fiance is. That example kinda also perfectly summarizes Chloe, nice, in her own way, but also very selfish with sociopathic tendencies.

And finally, we have James playing himself. James character is hilarious. He’s very self-obsessed, desperate to revive his career, but also a good friend to the girls (best friends with Chloe in fact).

The rest of the show is about the adventures the two girls and James have. Throughout the show, Chloe teaches June to live a little. June goes on many adventures with Chloe, learns to let loose from time to time, be a little more confident, and accept that life is more than a little grey. And June, for her part, teaches Chloe to be a little bit more caring and self-aware. Written down, it sounds pretty cliche and I guess the show can be a little cliche. But, in my opinion, it’s still pretty fresh just because Chloe still remains such a bitch and June still remains a strict good girl; the two never manage to change each other completely and accept that.

Which brings me to the characters and actors. June is perpetually trying to look on the positive side of things and believes in being honest and seeing the good in others. Predictably, she gets a little grating to watch. I’m not a fan of super goody-good characters in the first place, so June could get a little too preachy for me at times. That said, there were also some really enjoyable and nice things about June. For one thing, I loved her passion over getting a job. Too ashamed to go back home to her parents, June begins working as a barista in order to finance herself in New York, but also never leaves her dream of working on Wall Street. She sends her resume everywhere, goes to companies to try and talk to people, and even attempts to network using Chloe’s methods. No matter what happens, she remains focused on getting her dream job. As a recent grad whose had some difficulty in the employment arena, watching June’s struggle and hustle was kind of inspiring. And I also really liked how June was unapologetic about who she was; well, sometimes she was. She was a dork and she almost embraced it. There were a few moments where even I felt embarrassed for her, but she never did and sorta just owned it. She was also a good foil to Chloe’s craziness (often being the only one who literally saw and pointed out the insanity that was Chloe and her ideas/ lifestyle). That said, June was also really annoying a lot of the time. To be honest, I’m not sure if it was just the actor or if it was the character. Which is why I’m also torn on my view of the actor. June was portrayed by Dreama Walker. I have never seen Dreama Walker in anything before and so this was my first introduction to her. I just, I find her kind of annoying. Maybe it was the way she was styled? Or the way she spoke? Or just the way June was, but I just found her so incredibly annoying. I actually forwarded quite a few scenes of June’s, to be honest. But, as mentioned earlier, I’m not sure if my annoyance stemmed from her as an actor/ person specifically, or if it stemmed from June. You know what they say about actors who portray negative roles so brilliantly that people begin sending them hate mail? Maybe that’s what happened with Dreama and I? Maybe she played June to be such an annoying do-good-er that I actually ended up finding her, Dreama, annoying? Or maybe Dreama is just an annoying actress? Like I said, I have no idea and I’m torn. Either way, June was annoying but with glimpses of inspiration. So either Dreama was annoying with glimpses of great acting, or she was a really good actor in general. I’m leaning toward the latter but not sure since my annoyance of her blocks me from thinking objectively.

Yet, no matter how indecisive I was about June/Dreama, I wasn’t nearly as confused when it came to Chloe/ Krysten Ritter. Chloe, as a character, is literally insane. And I mean literally, she actually went to psycho-camp as a child and resents her wheelchair-bound mother for never taking her horse-back riding or to dancing classes as a child (?!?). I mean, even written down, it’s easy to spot the insanity that characterizes Chloe. While June can be compared to an angel, Chloe could be termed a demon. But, despite that, as the show goes on, Chloe is actually pretty inspiring as well and super fun to watch. Out of all the characters, I never forwarded through any of Chloe’s scenes. She was definitely crazy (constantly sub-letting James Van Der Beek’s apartment behind his back when he was out of town so she could make some extra cash, and making most of her income through entertaining UN Delegates during the United Nations meeting), but she was also nice and loyal to her friends and not completely crazy. I just, it’s difficult to describe her. She’s definitely a bitch, but she’s a nice bitch, if that makes any sense. And I think a lot of the credit for her coming across as this nice crazy person vs. this insane bitch, goes not only to the writing of the show, but also to the actress portraying her, Krysten Ritter. Krysten Ritter does a really good job at making Chloe be this girl you want to be friends with, rather than being this girl you hate for being so mean. She plays Chloe effortlessly and in such a fun manner. I really think she was the shining beacon in this show. Had there been any other actor, it would’ve been really easy to hate Chloe and/or dislike her for how immoral and insane she could be. But Krysten Ritter played Chloe on such a fine line between crazy bitch and fun friend, that you couldn’t help but like her. That said, my review on Krysten Ritter may be tainted due to my previous awareness of her. I had actually heard of her and have seen her acting before in other things (wassap Jessica Jones!). So, I could definitely be playing up just how amazing she was as Chloe, but I do wanna reiterate, she was really good in DTtB. Many of other critics have praised her as well and my friend liked her too. So while I am biased, I’m not that biased.

And finally, coming to James. James was just something else. I had never watched Dawson’s Creek (have no desire to do so either) but I had heard of him. So seeing him play himself in this show was definitely quite the experience (in a good way!). He played such a self-obsessed person, it was actually hilarious. For example, when talking to a homeless kid while volunteering at the soup kitchen, which he only does to get a photo-op in People magazine in the first place (LOL), he only thinks about how the food he’s eating at the soup kitchen is disgusting, while the kid talking to him is telling him his sad story about being homeless. It’s actually hilarious in how self-obssessed he is. And to be honest, seeing him do such a role actually made me appreciate the real James Van Der Beek. I think it takes courage to play the worst version of yourself on TV. But then again, I think he also got lucky in that the writing for the show always shied away from making him completely horrible and instead made him horrible in a funny manner rather than in an insulting manner.

Which I think is a good segue into talking about the writing for the show and it’s storyline. I’ve already discussed the storyline and it’s nothing really ground-breaking. But despite its simplistic outline, I think the writing in the show is pretty good. Despite the cliche and over-used trope of two opposite characters living together, I think the show managed to keep it pretty fresh (probably because it was written by a woman!). The writing was pretty witty and the twists put on some cliche situations were hilarious. It’s a different type of humour though. Rather than laugh-out-loud funny that was Community, DTtB’s humour is more subtle. Not every scene was hilarious and not every funny scene managed to elicit real laughing, but it was still really enjoyable to watch and I definitely snorted, rolled-my-eyes, and smiled throughout each episode. And I really enjoyed the side characters that supported the cast. Luther, James’s assistant, was just absolutely hilarious. And Eli, the girls’ perverted neighbour was definitely interesting and funny. And the various cameo’s by various actors were definitely comical as well. Much like James, they all played fictional versions of themselves. It was super entertaining.

However, I would definitely caution people before watching it because I think it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I know others have not found the show as funny as I did. And even I did not find the show to be especially humorous. It was just a really nice little show to watch when bored. And while I think the show could’ve gone on for a season or two more, I think it’s also okay that the show ended after two seasons. There’s only so many things you can do with such a concept and I feel like the character’s would’ve eventually become stale or at least their pairing would’ve. Even as I was watching the show, Chloe was consistently the draw for me, even over June and James (Chloe and James together were especially great). So I wasn’t too put off by the fact it ended after two short seasons. As I mentioned earlier, I enjoyed the show for the little cute thing it was.

My rating: watch it when you want to have a quick tv-show binge session and want to watch a cute, little, fun show, and to witness the fun crazy life of a fun crazy sociopath.

Descendants of the Sun TV Show Review

After years of urging from my sister and cousin, I decided to take the plunge and watch a K-drama (short for Korean drama). I had initially checked out a few scenes from a few K-dramas and found them super cliche and cringeworthy, so I tended to stay away from them. However, I’d heard some really great things about Descendants of the Sun (DotS) and with no other show to watch, I put it on. Because of my previous encounter with Korean dramas, I was actually pretty hesitant to begin watching. However, all my worries were eased within few minutes of starting the show. As a result, I’ve decided to review this show (with spoilers of course).

Briefly put, DotS is about the lives of two individuals (with some focus on other cast members), Korean Special Forces Captain Yoo Shi Jin and doctor Kang Mo Yeon. Shi Jin is a part of the ultra-exclusive Alpha force, whose missions are kept so secret, that the rest of the country barely knows they exist and each member goes into battle without dog-tags (so if they die in battle, their identities remain hidden). Despite the high-pressure environment, Shi Jin is an incredibly easy-going, fun-loving, funny guy, who is also coincidentally SUPER athletic and good-looking. Mo Yeon, on the other hand, is a gifted and hard-working cardiothoracic surgeon who isn’t afraid to speak her mind and do what she thinks is right. DotS is about how the two meet and come together, despite contrasting ideologies (in other words, fate brings them together).

The story begins with Shi Jin and his deputy leader (and also best friend), Seo Dae Young, freeing captured South Korean army men from a hostage situation begun by three North Korean soldiers. Of course the two men easily overpower and win, without any significant bloodshed. On their day off, the two are busy playing shooting games at carnivals (in their civilian attire of course) when the two witness and become part of a robbery. They catch the criminal and send him to the hospital (accidentally, because they are the good guys after all). The criminal, Kim Gi Boum, is actually a young kid who steals to support himself in his gang. Not able to afford the crazy hospital bills, he flees the hospital, and his attending doctor just happens to be the beautiful Kang Mo Yeon. As Gi Boum had stolen Dae Young’s phone, the two soldiers turn up in the hospital looking for him and the phone. They meet Mo Yeon who is incredibly suspicious over them and refuses to hand over the phone. Shi Jin is immediately smitten by her looks but after a few comical moments, the two men leave to go and find Gi Boum. They find Gi Boum being beaten up by his gang and end up rescuing him (it turns out at Dae Young was also a poor street gang kid once, who eventually ended up going to the army and completing his GED). Due to his beat up state, the two soldiers take Gi Boum back to the hospital where Mo Yeon’s suspicion grows and things escalate to the point where she threatens to call the police.

In the midst of these happenings, we’re introduced to another character, Yoon Myung Jo. The daughter of the Special Forces Commander, Myung Jo is an army surgeon who actually completed her residency alongside Mo Yeon (the two ladies also fought over a boy during that time so their relationship is initially quite strained). In order to get out of dating Shi Jin (her father wanted the two to hook up), she approaches Dae Young and in exchange for a favour, the two spread the rumour about them dating, in order to ward off Shi Jin. Eventually, the two begin dating for real and love each other. However, because of Dae Young’s less than stellar background and lower army position, her father objects to their relationship and in order keep his job, Dae Young breaks up with Myung Jo, devastating the both of them. However, despite this messy relationship, the two continue to love each other. For Myung Jo, this translates to her keeping tabs on Dae Young’s activities (super stalker-y LOL).

Anyways, back to the plot-line. Due to the missing phone situation, Myung Jo assumed that it was actually Dae Young who was in the hospital and so she comes to the hospital as well. She ends up verifying Shi Jin and Dae Young’s identities as Korean soldiers and leaves (Mo Yeon had refused to believe them). Taking his chance, Shi Jin asks her out and she agrees. However, their dates are continually interrupted by their jobs and the secretive nature of Shi Jin’s duties (Mo Yeon desperately wants to know what Shi Jin does on his missions/ where he goes but he can’t tell her due to the rules). Eventually, Mo Yeon breaks it off with Shi Jin due to their differing ideologies (she saves lives for a living, regardless of who it is, and he kills people to save lives) and the two go their separate ways.  Shi Jin is assigned to a peace-keeping mission in the fictional country of Urk and Mo Yeon advances in her career, becoming a professor and the face of the hospital where she works. Things progress, with the two losing contact due to their geological separation and break-up. However, when Mo Yeon turns down and attacks the hospital director, Han, for making sexual advances upon her, she is sent to Urk as a ‘volunteer’ doctor on the behalf of the hospital (basically she’s punished by the director).

In Urk, the two, Shi Jin and Mo Yeon, meet again and become closer. They go on a number of adventures together and face off together in various dangerous situations (literally, it’s like the danger never ends LOL). They face active mines, earthquakes, dangerous political situations, health scares and even a gun/ child trafficker. Through each encounter, their love for each other grows stronger and eventually, the two begin dating again. The show ends with happy ending for all the characters, well kind off; that’s all I’ll say for now because a lot of other stuff happens in the middle.

In terms of story, I actually found the story to be a sort of mixed bag. There were some really good mature moments that definitely helped steer the show away from being cringe-worthy. For example, I actually really enjoyed how forthcoming the two leads were when it came to their relationship, at least initially. Mo Yeon practically begged Shi Jin to tell her what he did career-wise, but he straight up told her that he couldn’t and wouldn’t, but that he still desperately wanted to be with her. Same with Mo Yeon, she was steadfast regarding her principles and let him know that no matter how much she liked him, she couldn’t deal with their differing ideologies. I think it’s so rare for tv couples to have these sort of conversations right out of the box and be so honest with each other. And it wasn’t just them, the other side characters had some really great moments too.

That said, despite the refreshing, mature conversations, there were also a lot of contrived and cliche moments that took away from the show. One extremely visible example of this, is the dangerous situations the two leads continually faced. I mean, I understand two or three dangerous situations, but in this show, we had around five/six dangerous situations, all happening within the span of two-ish months. It just felt so contrived, you could literally tell that the writers were just brainstorming dangerous situations to put the leads in so their relationship could be tested. Similarly, the medical aspect of the show left a lot to be wanting. I’m no medical expert. However (LOL), a lot of my cousins are studying to be doctors and I have seen a lot of medical dramas, so I like to think I have some sort of knowledge about medicine and treating people. So whenever the medical sequences popped up on screen, I’d find myself confused at some of their story-lines and actions. And it wasn’t just the medical aspect that was illogical, there were other awkward story-lines as well. If anything, I’d probably have to say that the storyline (and maybe music) were the weakest link of the show.

A lot of moments dragged on and some story-lines didn’t have the emotional impact they were supposed to. For example, one of the doctors, Lee Chi Hoon goes into this sort of personal breakdown regarding his career choice because he backed out of helping a patient in order to save his life. I read another review where the reviewer mentioned that this storyline could’ve been a really good look at the vulnerability of being a doctor and it really surprised me because I didn’t even think of that. The entire time I was watching the character’s arc, I was incredibly bored because I had no idea why the writers were spending so much time on such a boring plot. However, as the other reviewer pointed out, the arc was supposed to be impactful and insightful, but it just fell flat and weak. I felt like that was the case for much of the story-line. Some of it was really great and fun to watch while other moments dragged on and were too cliche.

What propped up the show, in my opinion, was lead actor Song Joong-ki and the bromance between his character and Dae Young, played by Jin Goo. Joong-ki is INCREDIBLY good-looking in this show and brings so much COOLNESS to his character. When the show first started, I actually felt that he looked a little girly, but as the show went on, I literally could not stop staring at him. He infused such depth into Captain Yoon Shi Jin and made him so charming, likeable and just plain amazing. Shi Jin was an honourable and responsible soldier who didn’t shy away from making though decisions and firmly took responsibility for his actions. He just came across as such a great, stand-up guy. It was super easy to understand why Mo Yeon fell for him. And the bromance between the two male leads was adorable. Their friendship was characterized with deep trust, loyalty and respect for each other. When Dae Young was suffering post his break-up, Shi Jin tried to make him feel better. Similarly, when Shi Jin was punished for taking a decision, Dae Young assured him that he trusted and believed in Shi Jin’s judgement. It was really wonderful to see such a supportive, encouraging partnership. Of course, it also helped that their characters were incredibly hilarious together (Here’s a gif-set of them together). Similarly, Jin Goo is a pretty strong actor (he did a WONDERFUL job making the outwardly tough Dae Young actually be this soft, sweet marshmellow on the inside) and when combined with Joong-ki spectacular acting skills, the results were great and entertaining as expected.

On that note, I actually didn’t find the chemistry between Joong-ki and Song Hye-kyo, who played Mo Yeon, to be particularly outstanding. I mean, the two looked decent and acted decently across each other, but there wasn’t any of that sort magnetic pull between the two. If anything, I sometimes felt that Goo and Kim Ji-won, who played Myung Jo, actually had better chemistry and a more compelling story-line at times too. The two deeply loved each other and struggled to find their way back to each other, with the two of them trying to sacrifice themselves for the happiness of the other. I felt like their storyline was also less contrived, despite having the more cliche plot-line. Again, the story-line really was a mixed bag. However, despite the uneven story-line, there were some really entertaining characters in the show. I’ve already raved about Shi Jin and Dae Young to an extent, but even the side characters were great. I particularly enjoyed the comical moments enacted by Lee Seung-joon, who played senior doctor Song. His character was so vain but enjoyable, especially in his scenes with the other doctors. Speaking of whom, the interactions between the hospital doctors in Urk were really enjoyable, they all shared a nice camaraderie which made for a nice watching experience. I find myself to be a sucker for fun friend relationships and the distinct group relationships between the doctors and soldiers were something that appealed to me and delivered in content.

Similarly, I definitely have to rave about the quality of film-making for this show. It was shot so beautifully and wonderfully. The fictional country of Urk was filmed in Greece so you can imagine how beautiful all the scenes of Urk/ Greece are. And there were quite a few artistic shots that I particularly enjoyed. For example, the show begins with this look at the night sky with the stars glowing, with the camera slowly zooming back to show that our glimpse of the night sky is actually from a hole within a soldier’s helmet (symbolism!!). I’m not really describing it well, but it was definitely something that took me off guard and elicited a positive reaction from me when I first watched it. I heard somewhere (although I’m not completely sure) that the show had a budget of a few million (?) and it’s definitely visible throughout the cinamatography. I’m a really visual person so I think the cinamatography was a big positive for me and definitely elevated the show.

So all in all, I think DotS was a pretty good introductory K-drama. While it wasn’t perfect, it was pretty enjoyable. It has definitely set a high bar for other k-dramas, but because my initial watching experience was so positive, I’m going to continue (or at least attempt to continue) this k-drama watching spree of mine.

My rating: Watch it for the hotness that is Song Joong-ki, the bromance, and cinamatography. Don’t expect much from the story-line, but still be prepared to desire to enter the world of k-dramas!

 

***also, if any of you manage to get to the end, I sincerely thank you. I know this piece really isn’t one of my bests and it definitely took a long time for me to write and get it out. The writer’s block was insane.