Some brief reviews of great shows you might’ve missed, and a few crappy ones I hope you did overlook…
Kidding…When you’ve seen as many movies and TV shows as I have, all you really want is something original every once and a while, and “Kidding” more than delivers. Jim Carrey gives the performance you didn’t know you wanted for him, as a long-time PBS Kids show host coming undone due to personal tragedy. The surface level topics on “Kidding” are all pure Showtime series trademarks (sassy drug-using kids with shit attitudes, closeted spouses, affairs, strange and graphic sex), but the series’s main theme is a great one: how do you be good in a world that seems to have completely lost interest in that concept? We see Carrey’s guileless, charitable hero go up against the modern forces of societal rot (apathy, greed, selfishness, an anti-hero loving culture), and you want to see him succeed, puppets and all. As an added bonus, it has one of the year’s most distinctive, and inventive visual styles. Grade for Season One: A
You…Sick, disturbing, and fascinating. No show I’ve watched this year has so thoroughly divided my loyalties, since the protagonist is actually a psychotic, dangerous stalker after a woman he truly believes he’s helping. Jeff (played by Penn Badgely, with a gaunt, feral quality that looks good on him) uses social media and other technology to spy on “Beck” (Elizabeth Lail), before eventually killing some of her nearest and dearest that Jeff unilaterally decides are very bad for her. Is he actually helping Beck? Just how crazy is he? Just how evil is he? Just how much danger is Beck really in?
If the questions aren’t answered by episode one, they surely are by the jaw-droppingly bold season finale. [This is one show that has the courage of its convictions to follow its villainous lead character all the way down.] One small problem: I didn’t fully understand his attraction to “Beck,” who is also being stalked, sexually harassed, or emotionally micromanaged by several other people throughout the season, including Shay Mitchell’s gorgeous, but toxic friend. That seems like an awful lot of attention for someone who seems a little generic. Grade for Season One: A-
The Purge…What a letdown to watch this relatively bland, thoroughly forgettable show after a sick masterwork like “You.” “The Purge” films have never really worked because of their hypocritical insistence on moralizing or straining hard to make societal commentary. They tease us with a good time of watching society lose its mind for a night, but then paradoxically fingerwag at anyone who wants to see what they paid for. They’re afraid to ever be truly dark, and the TV show is no exception. Also, most of the lead characters are joyless bores. About halfway through, I found myself rooting against most of the protagonists, especially when actors like Lee Tergesen, Lili Simmons, and William Baldwin are having such a great time as the villains. Grade for Season One: C-
Mayans MC…Yikes. Have you ever wanted to watch the shameless, repetitive melodrama of “Sons of Anarchy” but without charismatic actors, interesting characters, or fresh ideas? Grade for Season One: D
Deutschland 86…I don’t know, it’s hard to watch this show and not feel like you’re watching a worse version of “The Americans.” There’s nothing really “wrong” with it, but if you want a drab, bleak vision of 80’s communism, wouldn’t you rather get it from Philip and Elizabeth Jennings? Grade: C+