Netflix Review – The Lovebirds: It’s Pretty Fun, But Lacks Heart

It’s not The Big Sick, but the leads carry the movie.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani) and Leilani (Issa Rae) have been a couple for several years. After their arguments come to a head, the two agree to break up, only to hit a man on a bicycle (Nicholas X. Parsons) a few moments later. The man on the bicycle flees. They are then commandeered by a police officer (Paul Sparks), who runs down and then shoots the bicyclist. He flees, leaving two bystanders to discover Jibran and Leilani over the body. The bystanders call the police and, worried that they’ll be the suspects, the couple flees. Now they need to find the murderer and clear their names, while also dealing with their own awkward situation.

Admittedly, the clothing is pretty great.

END SUMMARY

I almost loved this movie. I really wanted to, if I’m being honest, because I loved the last collaboration between director Michael Showalter and Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick. But while that movie had the heart of a tragic relationship to fall back on to break up the comedy and nailed the tone of Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon (because they wrote it), this movie doesn’t quite pull it off. 

This movie had just a little more heart to it.

A big part of what this movie doesn’t get right is that we don’t get a lot of time with Jibran and Leilani as a couple before they’re fighting and breaking up, so we don’t ever really have a connection with them. I’m not saying that I needed an Up-style intro depicting the happy couple living together, but for a four year relationship, we really only get a short picture of them being together, going from the end of their apparent one-night stand which, within two-and-a-half minutes jumps to them fighting four years later. We then get six minutes of them fighting and breaking up. Less than nine minutes into the movie, the people we’re supposed to root for are not together and we spent most of that nine minutes just hearing them bicker, most of which was over nonsensical crap. Since this is a rom-com and we know they’re going to be back together at the end, I guess it’s good that most of their complaints are crap, aside from the marriage issue from the last thirty seconds of the fight. Again, it’s hard to root for people that we don’t know and don’t really have a reason to like, and the timing on this is so formulaic, I found multiple screenplay guides that describe it. 

Yeah, this is almost exactly the timing of this film.

Then there’s the plot, which appears to just borrow from other films whenever they had an idea for a scene that would be funnier with the addition of these two characters, going from weird torture to awkward shopping to police chase to Eyes Wide Shut. I’m pretty sure I followed the plot, but it was so dumb that missing out on it really wouldn’t have made a difference. 

I mean, Kumail is basically Tom Cruise.

The thing that almost makes this movie work, though, is that the leads are just that funny. No matter how weird or awkward or stupid the situation, they play off of each other perfectly. Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani are both charming, they’re both likable, they’re both attractive, and, even though the film is dialogue heavy, they actually do a good job of adding levels with their performances. Acting is, supposedly, reacting and they both nail it when dealing with each other. 

You can be in sync comedically, but out of sync romantically.

Overall, if you like either of the leads, you’ll like this movie. If you just want something on in the background to laugh at while you do other stuff, this movie’s a good choice. It’s got some pretty solid laughs at times, but there are much better comedies out there. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Netflix Review – The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. The Reverend (Interactive Special)

THEY ALIVE, DAMMIT!!! IT’S A MIRACLE!!!

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

It’s been a few years since the end of the show and Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) is a successful author and getting married to her English fiance Frederick (D–Censored for Surprise–e). Her former roommate Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess) is trying to get his film career started with the help of his manager, Jacqueline White (Jane Krakowski), and his former landlady Lillian Kaushtupper (Carol Kane). However, Kimmy finds a book in her backpack that forces her to once again deal with her nemesis and former captor the Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon “Sexual Dynamite” Hamm). 

I’m not saying you should pick Make Out, but… It’s Ellie Kemper.

END SUMMARY

I’ve enjoyed most of the Netflix Interactive specials so far, from Black Mirror’s film Bandersnatch to the Carmen Sandiego episode, although, honestly, the best thing they’ve put out in the format is probably Minecraft: Story Mode. However, in a lot of ways, this one is the most fun because it’s really just like an extra-long and meta-textual episode of Kimmy Schmidt

Lots of fourth wall breaks. Including one where they try to repair it.

Unlike Bandersnatch, which was largely based around playing through it a number of times to get all of the various endings (including some that were only accessible on a second or third playthrough), Kimmy Schmidt decided to make it fairly easy to get through on the first viewing. Since the episode’s framing device is a choose-your-own-adventure book, whenever you have a choice, you typically either get it right or you get to a dead end and the show resets back to the divergent point so you can go forward. If anything, it’s actually more fun to make the wrong decisions throughout the episode so that you can see all of the hilarious alternate endings. Theoretically, you can get to the end and get one of what I think are 3 wrong endings, but it’s actually harder to NOT get the happy ending in this particular instance. 

The dress is the most crucial decision ever. EVER.

As to the episode itself, I’m impressed with how well they managed to keep the timing of the humor despite how often the episode has to stop for 10 seconds to give the viewer a chance to select the next scene. A lot of that is just that all of the actors in the show are amazingly talented comedians who have a natural sense of timing and tone, but also the writing is appropriately snappy.

So much talent in one room.

It also helps that this serves as the epilogue to the show that manages to, seemingly canonically, add an extra happy ending onto the tale of a woman who deserves it. Even though we have never met Kimmy’s fiance before now, D—– ——–e manages to be charming, hilarious, and just as weird as Kimmy, making it a match made in heaven. Titus and Jacqueline similarly get a nice final chapter to their story that feels earned. Lillian… well, she’s hilarious and doesn’t need another chapter. 

The reverend gets another chapter of being amazingly funny and horrible.

Overall, I really recommend it to anyone who watched the show. I will give you two tips: 1) Try to skip the intro song. You will be pleasantly surprised. 2) When you get the option to spare or kill someone… kill them all the ways you can. You will be VERY pleasantly surprised. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Netflix Review – Too Hot to Handle: Trashy As It Gets

Netflix gives us a reality show that does not deliver on its title.

SUMMARY

Ten single people who are known for their promiscuity are put on an island only to be told that they are in a competition for $100,000 that is dependent on them not doing anything sexual for the next four weeks. Every act they undertake will subtract from the total, including $3000 for a kiss. Meanwhile, the people are encouraged to look for deeper connections with their fellow competitors through a computer monitoring system, named Lana. The show is hosted by former Mayor of Night Vale Desiree Burch. 

If you think you see Jesus in the back row, you’re not the only one.

END SUMMARY

I was kind of hoping this would be the level of enjoyable trash that Netflix gave us with Love is Blind, but unfortunately this is back to the normal level of reality television. Most of the characters are not particularly likable, probably due to the fact that most of them are attractive enough that they’ve never had to develop actual personalities. There are some contestants that are more relatable and some that are more hateable, but they all rely on being dateable. 

Nicole, the Irish Girl is the best, but everyone already guessed that.

The main conflicts are usually between the group as a whole and some of the more reckless contestants, rather than just between individuals or teams, which creates an interesting dynamic. At the beginning, it is not announced who cause the losses of money, so we do see some interesting situations in which people try to blame each other or deny their guilt or frame others; however, that ultimately ends up falling to the wayside as it becomes more apparent that, despite the relative attractiveness and supposedly enhanced libidos of the people on the island, most of them don’t really have any difficulty in not having sex with strangers and, honestly, there’s not as much drama as you’d expect from a show like this. While the show tries to cover for this by having Desiree Burch provide color commentary, I think most of her “jokes” don’t really land. Given that I find her to be much funnier in interviews and other performances, I’m guessing it’s due to a combination of bad writers and boring subject matter. 

These two are most of the drama, but not in the fun way.

One of the more interesting things that they do in this show, though, is that they periodically have soul-enriching classes that some or all of the contestants participate in. Several of these are interesting, including classes about vulnerability or female empowerment, and I do appreciate a show with such a sex-charged premise encouraging self-care and therapy like this. 

The words workshop seems fun.

Overall, I just didn’t think this show kept my interest as much as I wanted. Since it’s only 9 episodes, it’s not much of an investment, though. I also find it funny that one of the contestants was the guy who made the movie Counterfeiters that was famous for being shot on essentially no budget. I might review that in the future.  For now, here’s an op-ed from another viewer:

THE FACELESS OLD WOMAN THAT LIVES ON MY COUCH

I’ve recently heard myself say “getting attached to people is stupid.” This is the mindset that the contestants on the show supposedly had coming in, and supposedly the show is supposed to correct them of their impulse to screw around. This was what I struggled with while watching the show – on the one hand, I strongly believe that sex outside of a relationship or any emotional attachment isn’t wrong or unhealthy on its face, and in many ways it’s the opposite. In particular, the relative ease of dating around in modern society helps keep people from getting stuck in bad relationships. At the same time, sex *is* intimate and kind of a big deal in some ways! You’re letting someone into your personal space, sometimes feelings get kicked up, and it involves a degree of personal risk (especially during these pandemic times.) Like all good things, it’s possible to use it in ways that aren’t healthy.

Pictured: Intimacy without sex.

The show claims a self-improvement premise. Lana states that by preventing the contestants from having sex, she is forcing them to form deeper emotional connections. Couples are rewarded for developing such connections. In one of the various self-improvement workshops, the women discuss the value of their “yoni.” It can all reek a bit of purity culture. Are the couples spending more time communicating and having quality time together because they can’t do other stuff? I don’t really know, these things aren’t mutually exclusive. Some of the relationships on the show didn’t work out, even with this extra time spent building an emotional connection first.

GIRL POWER!!!!

The thing is, it’s kind of a compelling experiment if you’ve spent some time in your life where you had access to many other single people. (College and young adulthood, for a lot of people. And retirement communities.) It’s easy to burn out on the way people conduct themselves in that space. How would things be different if you were forced to go a bit more slowly? I think Chloe benefits from this the most, even though she breaks the rules and kisses both the men she’s interested in. She learned from the first kiss that she wasn’t really into Bryce after all. Shortly after the second, Kori chooses to go out with another girl, and while Chloe is hurt, it could have been arguably more painful if their relationship had gone further physically – which was discouraged by the rules of the show.

Chloe is the best non-Irish contestant.

What really matters are 1. your own needs and expectations, and whether your patterns are helping you to fulfill them and 2. whether you’re communicating with others about their expectations and proceeding in good faith. Chloe described the show to the Sun as “sexual rehabilitation,” and there’s nothing wrong with trying something different to break out of a pattern. I think it’s food for thought in that respect, even if I completely reject the idea that jumping into bed with a person precludes a meaningful emotional connection. But you probably could have figured that out without watching a reality show.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Netflix Review/Reader Request – She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (Seasons 1-5): Out with a Bang

The reboot of the beloved ‘80s classic comes to an epic end.

SUMMARY (Spoilers for Seasons 1-4)

On the magical planet Eternia, Adora (Aimee Carrero) was raised to lead the Horde, an evil army under the rule of Hordak (Keston John). After finding a magic sword that transformed her into the powerful warrior She-Ra, Adora realized that the Horde were the bad guys, and joined the Princess Rebellion. Along with her new friends Glimmer (Karen Fukuhara) and Bow (Marcus Scribner), as well as her horse Swift Wind (Adam Ray), she helped form an army of the most powerful princesses on the planet: Chlorokinetic Perfuma (Genesis Rodriguez), Hydrokinetic Mermista (Vella Lovell), Cryokinetic Frosta (Merit Leighton), Centrifugalkinetic Spinnerella (Noelle Stevenson), Net…tossingkinetic Netossa (Krystal Joy Brown), and later the technowizard Entrapta (Christine Woods) and the adorable Scorpia (Lauren Ash). Adora’s former best friend Catra (AJ Michalka) commands the Horde now, trying to take over Eternia. Unfortunately, it is revealed that Hordak is just the minion of a much greater threat, Horde Prime, and he has now found Eternia just as Adora loses her ability to turn into She-Ra. It’s up to the princesses to stop a galaxy-wide army of destruction.

SheRa - 1Cast
And she has a stick now. It’s a good stick.

END SUMMARY

So, as I said when I reviewed the first season, I wasn’t completely won over by this show. I particularly thought that the first season was too formulaic and repetitive and had way too many dei ex machina to keep me interested. It didn’t help that the only character I really felt had a compelling personality was Entrapta, because she was an amoral character who wasn’t portrayed as outright villainous. While I appreciated that the show was broad in terms of representation, I didn’t think a ton of it otherwise. I thought it got a little better over the next few seasons, but I still wouldn’t put it in the category of great animated kids shows like Avatar or Gravity Falls. However, I will give it this, when it finally came down to the line, the show stepped up.

SheRa - 2SheRa
Including updating She-Ra into what I think is a much, much better design, honestly. 

Season five of this show was pretty intense and took full advantage of all of the elaborate world-building and character development that had previously been put into the show. The fact that the show had already permanently killed off a major character and the fact that the series was coming to an end meant that, even though you probably know that the good guys are going to win, you actually didn’t know who would make it to the end. The season also reveals the reason why Horde Prime is more horrifying than his minion, because Horde Prime commands a slavish devotion from all of his followers, most of whom are clones of him. He is spoken of as if he is a god and clearly thinks of himself as being close to one. That makes it obvious that the heroes are going to end up having to take extreme measures to beat him. It gives the show a darker edge that really forces the characters to take stock of the reality that they’re in a war that may kill everyone they love. 

SheRa - 3Cast
They previously seemed to be way too well-adjusted towards the constant global war.

It helps that the season does play up the Catra/Adora relationship more than ever before. Since they have the most interesting dynamic in the show, having been best friends who now fight as mortal enemies, this really drives forward both their characters and also those around them. It also helps that the B-plotline of the resistance against Horde Prime’s assault on the planet is also very compelling, mostly because Horde Prime is not above tactics that Hordak probably would have thought too repulsive. 

SheRa - 4Catra
JUST KISS ALREADY!!!! – Every fan of this show.

Overall, I don’t know if the show really deserves to be up there in the annals of great kids animation, but I will say that the show consistently improved, and that’s more than almost any other series can claim. I cheered loudly during one of the ending scenes, something many shows can’t excite me enough to merit. Also, it pissed off a lot of people who deserve to be pissed off, and that always makes me smile.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Netflix Review – Dead to Me: Life’s Tough Then You Keep Living (Seasons 1-2)

Linda Cardellini and Christina Applegate star in this dark comedy.

SUMMARY (Spoilers for Season 1)

Jen Harding (Christina Applegate) is a realtor whose husband was recently killed by a hit-and-run. At a grief support group run by Pastor Wayne (Keong Sim), she meets Judy (Linda Cardellini), an artist and retirement home worker who claims she recently lost her fiance, Steve (James Marsden). The two soon strike up a friendship which somehow survives the revelation that Steve is alive and Judy even moves in with Jen and her two kids Charlie and Henry (Sam McCarthy and Luke Roessler). However, Jen is unaware that Judy is actually the one who killed her husband. As time goes by, the two keep getting caught up in each others’ problems, which just seem to get bigger and bigger.

DeadToMe - 1Cast
They look stressed.

END SUMMARY

I couldn’t get through the first episode of this show when the first season debuted. Sometimes you just aren’t in the mood for something and I wasn’t interested in a show that starts off with two characters bonding over losing loved ones and watching The Facts of Life. However, I gave it another try and I will admit that the show started to win me over. It’s pretty sad at the beginning, as most shows that deal with this kind of subject matter would be, but it starts to develop a kind of dark humor that manages to play out pretty well. It’s a kind of “odd couple” except that everything tends to revolve more around actual tragedies rather than sitcom scenarios.

DeadToMe - 2Grief
Ah, the classic “grief counseling” platonic meet cute.

Honestly, the show mostly works because the leads are just so strong together. Linda Cardellini and Christina Applegate really play up each other’s best traits whenever they’re on-screen together… which is a lot. Jen has anger issues and sarcasm, while Judy is mostly positive and able to play the straight man with a fairly compassionate bent. However, Judy also is the cause of most calamities, often because she is just a little bit crazy, as you would expect from someone who lies about her fiance dying in order to get into a grief counseling group. The supporting cast is also pretty strong, mostly James Marsden who plays both the dickish Steve and also Steve’s more amiable brother Ben. 

DeadToMe - 3Natalie
3 people who don’t watch the show have told me they knew Natalie Morales is in season 2.

Overall, if you like a good “unlikely pair” comedy and are willing to sit through a lot of very legitimately stressful moments to get to the laughs, then you’ll like this. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Netflix Review – John Henry: I Wasn’t Hammered Enough to Watch This

Terry Crews and Ludacris appear in this tale of redemption, but it doesn’t end up satisfying.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

John Henry (Terry Crews) is a former member of a Los Angeles gang run by his cousin, Hell (Ludacris). John Henry is now a pacifist living with his father BJ (Ken Foree) and he ends up getting dragged back into a conflict because he agrees to try and help Berta (Jamila Vasquez) and her brother Emilio (Joseph Julian Soria) escape from Hell’s human trafficking. There is a hammer, and it smashes things.

JohnHenry - 1Hammer
Terry Crews is definitely great casting to play John Henry, but not this one.

END SUMMARY

I really wish that I liked this movie because two actors I love are Terry Crews and Ken Foree, and Ludacris is always pretty fun in the The Fast and the Furious movies. Unfortunately, this movie was not well constructed, which ended up completely wasting most of the talent that was present. 

JohnHenry - 2Cast
And I loved her on Empire.

A big problem with the movie is that it tries to be way too cute with its soundtrack, combining Spaghetti Western orchestrals, rap music, and what I think is Flamenco, but I’m not good at musical genres, so I could be wrong. When musical genres are mixed well in a film, they can be amazing at highlighting the similarities of cultures, but here, they seem to just clash with what’s happening on screen. It doesn’t help that most of the music is so generic that the subtitles actually said “uplifting Western music” at multiple points. 

JohnHenry - 3Walk
“Slow Walk Western Music”

Another problem with the film is that there’s not a lot of actual action nor is there a lot of plot. The film tries to have some Tarantino-esque dialogue scenes that unfortunately remind me of why it’s so hard to make those scenes work if you’re not as talented at crafting character interactions as Quentin Tarantino. It also doesn’t help that most of the characters that have these dialogue scenes tend to punctuate them by dying, rendering any character development completely moot. The fact that the only one which I can really remember is a short one by Ken Foree about the fact that he lost the use of his legendary genitals to a stroke also speaks to the fact that they’re not particularly powerful scenes to begin with. 

JohnHenry - 4KenForee
He killed Zombies, he’ll kill you too.

Ludacris’s character suffers from the issue that he’s just not that threatening. He tries to come off as intimidating by using a blowtorch as his torture weapon of choice, but he also has the misfortune of having a literal gold and diamond crusted jaw on one side. It’s from an injury, but it looks less “threatening” and more “ridiculous.” It doesn’t help that his dialogue suffers from the same fault, sounding the kind of insane that holds a sign on a street corner about 5G Coronavirus than the kind of insane that eats your liver with fava beans and a nice chianti. 

JohnHenry - 5Ludacris
Seriously, you cannot intimidate me when you have that on your face. 

The best parts of the movie are Terry Crews and Ken Foree, although the movie often plays against Terry Crews’ strong points. John Henry is supposed to be a pacifist, but it seems more often that Crews was given the direction of “unemotional.” He mourns a dog at one point, but his sadness is the wrong kind of reserved, instead coming off as insincere. Since I’ve seen Terry Crews do this better on multiple occasions, I have to blame the film itself. Ken Foree, on the other hand, is probably the most memorable part of the movie. He’s a wheelchair bound wisecracking former-badass and even when he’s saying something stupid, it works from him. 

JohnHenry - 6Hammer
Also, let Terry Crews be funny. It works for him. Even a badass can be funny.

Overall, though, this movie just doesn’t have enough going for it. It either needed more action, more humor, better direction, or better dialogue… or maybe literally all of that. It just didn’t feel interesting, which is hard to believe for a movie where a guy smashes people in the face with a sledgehammer. It may not deserve the 0% it currently has on Rotten Tomatoes, but it definitely doesn’t live up to the tall tale that inspired its name.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Netflix Review – Hollywood: How It Didn’t Happen

Netflix makes a series set in a fictional Hollywood in a fictional America that tries to apologize for the real ones, poorly.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

It’s 1946-1947 and WWII Veteran Jack Castello (David Corenswet) and his pregnant wife Henrietta (Maude Apatow) move to Hollywood so that Jack can try to be an actor. After they start going broke, Jack takes a job working at a gas station for Ernie West (Dylan McDermot). It turns out that the gas station is a front for a male escort service, so Jack finds himself servicing various men and women, including Avis Amberg (Patti LuPone), the wife of Ace Studios head Ace Amberg (Rob Reiner). Avis helps give Jack a leg up in his career and soon he is trying to make it for real in Hollywood. At the same time, director Raymond Ainsley (Darren Criss) is trying to get a movie made written by black screenwriter (and Jack’s fellow escort) Archie Coleman (Jeremy Pope). Raymond’s girlfriend, Camille (Laura Harrier), is also an up-and-coming actress who finds herself stuck in bit parts due to her race. Roy Fitzgerald, AKA Rock Hudson (Jake Picking), also tries to break into Hollywood with the help of agent Henry Willson (Jim Parsons), who has an in with Ace Studios executives Dick Samuels (Joe Mantello) and Ellen Kincaid (Holland Taylor). Everyone’s trying to live their dreams, even though they’re fighting each other to get to the top.

Hollywood - 1Cast
Samara Weaving plays Patti LuPone’s daughter and that’s… that’s not bad.

END SUMMARY

It would be great if this series was the kind of story that it seems like it was going to be at the beginning. People come to Hollywood, thinking they’re going to be a huge success, only for the reality to set in and everyone ends up having to compromise in order to make it. However, the show quickly, and I mean around episode 2, subverts this and instead starts to give all of these people happy endings and make their dreams come true. Moreover, it does it in a way that is completely unrealistic, usually having people just quickly sidestep racial, sexual, gender, or other social issues that would have been a major issue in 1946. This might not have been so bad if all of the characters were fictional and this was a fake version of Hollywood, but instead the series decides to incorporate various figures from the Golden Age of Hollywood and then completely ignore their actual stories. They say it’s supposed to be “rewriting” the story of Hollywood, but it doesn’t do that so much as depart entirely from the reality that the first half of the series creates. 

Hollywood - 2Hotel
Also, falling in love with your prostitute is already a movie.

What’s most annoying about this, to me, is that the series wants you to be sure that you know this is what they are doing. The focus of the plot is making a biopic film about Peg Entwhistle, an actress who gained some notoriety because she jumped to her death off of the Hollywoodland sign in 1932. However, as the series goes on, the story of what actually happened is changed until it has a completely different, happier ending than the tragic true story. The show tries to use this device to excuse its alteration of history, but ultimately, it just ends up making sure that nobody ever really has any kind of actual character development or pays any type of price for their actions. Every character is redeemed and gets a happy ending (except for the lawyer). Most of the things that would require some solid scenes to justify, like completely altering the relationship between two characters in a fundamental way, occurs almost entirely off-screen, something I’m told is common for shows made by Ryan Murphy. It feels like a cheat in all the small steps, so the big steps don’t feel earned.

Hollywood - 3Sign
Everyone’s on top of the wo- sign. 

The thing that wrecks the series is not having an alternate history where people get over racism and sexism and homophobia more easily than they did in the real world, but the fact that the show starts off by saying that all of these things DO exist, then just ignores them in favor of a happy ending. There’s no mention of the violence that often opposed progressive social movements, beyond a few theaters getting some extra security. Also, the issues are limited almost exclusively to the South, which is kind of forgetting that there are a lot of racists North of the Mason-Dixon, particularly before the 1960s. Considering that armed people are, in 2020, protesting having to stay at home and doing so with guns, I somehow find it difficult to believe that 1950 was only going to offer a few short boos to an interracial gay couple, as happens in the film (for perspective, interracial marriage was illegal in all but 7 states in 1948, and gay marriage was illegal for most of my lifespan thus far in most states, including mine). Pretending that there weren’t a lot of people who would violently back up their bigotry is forgiving a lot of sins. I’m not saying you need to focus on them, but you can either A) tell a story that isn’t grounded in reality or B) at least acknowledge that decisions have consequences, many of which are going to be negative. Also, there’s something uncomfortable in a series where almost every characters’ success starts with them having sex with someone in power.

Hollywood - 4Parsons
Also, Henry Willson rapes his clients and his total punishment is to go to AA. Seriously.

I will say that all of the performances in the show are amazing. Everyone plays the part they were told to play and, honestly, it almost makes it worthwhile, but in the end the show just couldn’t live up to the premise. I’d say if there’s anything else on your watchlist, get that out of the way first. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.