Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson) is a college-bound aspiring filmmaker. Her brother, Aaron (Mike Rianda), is a dino-loving pre-teen, her dad, Rick (Danny McBride), is an outdoorsman, and her mom, Linda (Maya Rudolph), is an upbeat first grade teacher. After fighting with her dad the night before she is supposed to head to college, Katie finds out that Rick’s plan to make it up to her is to take a cross-country trip with the family. Unfortunately, this is the same week when tech guy Mark Bowman (Eric Andre) announces an upgrade to his digital assistant PAL (Olivia Colman), that results in the robot uprising that is determined to end humanity. Eventually, the only humans who are not captured are the Mitchells, leaving them, along with two broken robots (Beck Bennett and Fred Armisen), as the only force that can save humanity.
As I have said multiple times in the past, I believe that the show Gravity Falls is one of the rare shows with no bad episodes. As such, anyone who worked heavily on the show should be assumed capable of delivering great work. Mike Rianda and Jeff Rowe, who both co-directed and co-wrote this movie, were both writers on that show. Add in the fact that the producers (and apparently partial joke writers) of this film were Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, writers of The Lego Movie, 21 Jump Street, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and you have a recipe for a good time.
Part of the success of this movie is that it balances sincere emotional moments with goofy comedy. You can believe that there is tension between Katie and Rick despite both of them often wanting to be on the same side. Katie is an artist who is constantly using computer technology in order to make films and Rick is completely computer illiterate and believes that filmmaking doesn’t provide secure employment. Their issues don’t feel forced at all because they both behave like a real parent and child, caring for each other but also not really understanding each others’ interests. Because of this, when the movie wants to tug at your heartstrings, it can do so in a way that hits you harder because it feels real.
As to the comedy, the movie has both the signatures of Gravity Falls and Lord and Miller, which is to say that it cashes in heavily on absurd lines that still somehow arise naturally. For example, and I’m only saying this because it was in the trailers, this movie genuinely manages to make a forty foot tall Furby shouting “LET THE DARK HARVEST BEGIN” in Furbish seem like a logical conclusion of a sequence of events. As the movie progresses, the humor gets more and more extreme and fast-paced, much like an avalanche of laughs. I’m not even positive how they manage to pull that off, but maybe that’s why I don’t have an Oscar.
The animation in this film is stylish, unique, and awesome. It’s an exaggerated use of cel-shading that I think is supposed to make the characters look like they were drawn in a 2-D cartoon style. Because the film is told from Katie’s perspective, the movie also repeatedly adds cute animations and musical cues that indicate her imagination is making everything more cinematic. It adds a nice touch, similar to the “pow” words and splash effects from Into the Spider-Verse.
The voice casting is naturally amazing. Abbi Jacobson pulls off a great emotional range. Danny McBride and Maya Rudolph are both amazing as the overprotective dad and the sensitive mom. Weirdly, though, I kept thinking that the characters seemed to be made for Nick Offerman and Megan Mullaly (outdoorsman and sometimes flighty weirdo). Olivia Colman is a hilariously unexpected choice for an evil A.I. Eric Andre is perfect as the flighty Silicon Valley “tech bro” who clearly doesn’t think about his decisions very hard.
Overall, this movie was amazing. Recommend it highly.
The gold standard for cartoon reboots comes to a glorious, glorious end.
Having spent a season fighting against the Fiendish Organization for World Larceny (F.O.W.L.), Scrooge McDuck (David Tennant) and family finally face off against the assembled forces of villainy. The stakes are not just the future of the McDuck family, but the future of adventure itself. IT. IS. MAGNIFICENT.
Anything else would be a spoiler.
Since it came out I have hailed this show as nothing short of brilliant and that did not change. I’m deeply disappointed with Disney’s decision to end this show after only three seasons, but I cannot help but be impressed with how much effort the team behind it put into this sendoff. Not only does it directly reference multiple shows from the Disney Afternoon lineup (DuckTales, Darkwing Duck, Rescue Rangers, TaleSpin, Goof Troop, The Wuzzles, Gummi Bears), it indirectly references essentially all of the other animated shows that Disney put on in the 1990s, including an insanely funny joke involving Keith David from Gargoyles.
The key to this finale is that it both pays tribute to the huge mythology that this show built and also to all of the history that inspired the show itself. It doesn’t just present an amazing adventure for our characters, it highlights why we love them so much and why we want to root for them. The theme of the show has always been about family, particularly about how family are the people that stand up for you not the people you share blood with, and this finale makes that take the center. It’s got a lot of solid emotional moments between all of the characters, but particularly ones involving Webby (Kate Micucci), a character who often seemed to feel like she was an outsider trying to join a family. I think that’s something that many shows often overlook when doing a finale, that it still needs to have the emotional core to keep us invested in our characters even though we’ve been on the journey with them this far. DuckTales nailed it.
I know that this is a kids show, but I will miss this series. It didn’t just try to hit nostalgia, it dove in and reminded us why nostalgia can be great, because it gives you a feeling of shared love between creator and viewer. It told us that whether it was the original comic books, the ‘87 series, the later comics, or even other shows that were just made by the same company, that we can all be bonded over our love of stories about good triumphing by being smarter than the smarties, tougher than the toughies, sharper than the sharpies, and earning it square.
Overall, I hope that they at least keep the Darkwing Duck show developing at Disney+ in this continuity, because even a few occasional cameos would help soften the blow. They probably won’t, but a man can dream.
Darkwing Duck, the terror that flaps in the night, gets the true reboot that the franchise deserves.
This is your spoiler warning. This episode is on YouTube right now. Here:
Within the reboot of DuckTales, Darkwing Duck is a television show from the 90s which starred a stuntman named Jim Starling (Original Darkwing voice Jim Cummings), famous for doing all his own stunts. Most of the world appears not to remember the series, but Launchpad McQuack (Beck Bennett) is a huge fan of the character. When Scrooge McDuck (David Tennant) tried to reboot the franchise with a film, the director, Alistair Borswan (Edgar Wright), cast a new actor who idolized Darkwing just as much as Launchpad, Drake Mallard (Chris Diamantopoulos). Starling went insane and tried to destroy the film, leading Mallard to adopt the actual identity of Darkwing Duck and stop him. He has since moved to St. Canard, the city which was the setting for the TV show, and set himself up as a real superhero. Or tried to, at least.
Launchpad takes Dewey Duck (Ben Schwartz) to go and do an interview with Drake as part of Dewey’s online show. They hope to see some crime fighting, but unfortunately new mayor of St. Canard Zan Owlson (Natasha Rothwell) has decreased crime to almost zero. Meanwhile, Scrooge, Huey (Danny Pudi), and Louie (Bobby Moynihan) all go to see a demonstration of a new technology by the great scientist Taurus Bulba (James Monroe Inglehart). Bulba shows them the RAMROD, a device that can seemingly make anything from nothing. A young girl tries to break into Taurus’s building, but is caught by Darkwing. The girl is revealed to be Gosalyn Waddlemeyer (Stephanie Beatriz), the granddaughter of Bulba’s missing partner. Her grandfather tried to warn Bulba of a flaw in the RAMROD then disappeared. Meanwhile, Huey discovers that the RAMROD actually pulls things in from other dimensions, meaning that it could potentially destroy all of reality if used too many times.
Darkwing confronts Bulba and it is revealed that Gosalyn’s grandfather is likely trapped in another dimension. Darkwing and Bulba fight, scarring Bulba. Bulba then uses the RAMROD to release four villains from the original Darkwing Duck show: Megavolt, Liquidator (both Keith Ferguson), Bushroot, and Quackerjack (Michael Bell). He also captures the triplets and traps Scrooge in a dimension resembling the 1987 DuckTales show. Bulba is confronted by Bradford Buzzard (Marc Evan Jackson), the leader of F.O.W.L., one of Scrooge’s chief enemies, but Bulba turns on him. Huey, Dewey, and Louie all escape with Bradford, discovering his identity as a F.O.W.L. leader in the process. Darkwing heads to fight the villains at Bulba’s layer and is defeated, but he is rescued by Launchpad and Gosalyn. Together, the three send the supervillains back to their own dimension, rescue Scrooge, and destroy the RAMROD. Gosalyn decides to become Darkwing’s partner and Launchpad agrees to join them by going back and forth from Duckburg to St. Canard.
If you watched the original Darkwing Duck, you probably recognize this as bearing a resemblance to the pilot for that series “Darkly Dawns the Duck.” In the original pilot, Taurus Bulba (Tim Curry) was a criminal mastermind who killed Gosalyn’s grandfather for his RAMROD device, which was a weapon then. In the original series, he resembled the Kingpin from Marvel Comics, whereas in this reboot he appears to be designed more as a supergenius in the vein of Lex Luthor. I think this is a great decision that matches the increased paranormality of the new DuckTales/Darkwing Duck compared to the original. While there were aliens and superpowers in the original, they were always treated as abnormal, whereas they are commonplace and expected in the new series.
I think one of the better decisions was to age up Gosalyn. Rather than just being a rambunctious tomboy, here she’s a focused young woman who is dedicated to finding her grandfather. Also, she chooses to sacrifice her chance at finding him at the end for the sake of the world, making her much more directly heroic. Having Stephanie Beatriz voice her is basically just icing on the cake of better characterization.
I will admit that the episode does suffer a little bit from focusing overly heavily on callbacks to the prior series, but it stands on its own pretty well. They don’t really explain too much about any of the villains that appear, although I guess it doesn’t take much to understand “electrical guy, plant guy, evil clown, and water guy.” Still, some of the funnier jokes in the episode actually require you to have a decent knowledge of the former show to really hit in full, so I do think they could have cut those down a bit. For example, the Solego circuit is a reference to the Disney Adventures crossover between TaleSpin, Goof Troop, Rescue Rangers, DuckTales, and Darkwing Duck. I recognized it because I had a subscription when I was 7, but that’s a real reach. I do appreciate the research they put into the episode to make the joke, though. Since they have put all of those characters in this season, if this is foreshadowing, it is amazing.
Overall, though, it does a great job of setting up the characters for their own adventures while still leaving crossovers open.
Lauren Lapkus and Nick Rutherford star in this tale of a couple trying to branch out.
Mal and Cal (Lapkus and Rutherford) are a couple that have been together for seven years, engaged for four, and have not yet set a date to get married. They go to the vow renewal of Malory’s parents (Beverly D’Angelo and John Kapelos) and find out that the couple have kept their marriage alive through being sexually adventurous. That evening, the pair go out to try and reinvigorate their relationship and end up deciding that they should have a threesome. They end up running into a very open young woman named Jesse (Lucy Hale), a gay strip club owner/dancer named Tyson (Beck Bennett), and a very helpful “masseuse” named April (Dree Hemingway) in their hunt to find the elusive “unicorn,” the person that is down for a threeway with a couple.
This movie asks the important question: Is everyone having group sex except you? It’s similar to the trope of most high school or college sex comedies where everyone feels like they’re the only one that isn’t sexually active. The thing is, this is never really about having sex or having group sex or whether it’s a good idea or not; just having to ask the question means that you are feeling insecure about something. In the case of the film, it’s that Mal and Cal both are trying to avoid the fact that their relationship has grown extremely stagnant. They feel like the idea of having a threesome is the best way to breathe new life into their rut, but they instead find out that there are lots of things that they didn’t know about each other.
That’s actually the subtle thing The Unicorn does that separates it from other, similar, sex comedies. There are moments of genuine emotional honesty that come out as the two find out that there are always more layers to the other person than you would expect. Unfortunately, that also means that there are things that the other person didn’t feel comfortable sharing, and if you’ve been together for seven years, you should probably not have a ton of those. Everyone has secrets, to be sure, but most of the ones in this movie are just told to the other person to avoid an honest discussion, something that ends up overwhelming the pair as more and more come out. While Lapkus and Rutherford are both more naturally comical, they also pull off the dramatic scenes well.
The supporting cast are also excellent. Each of the potential partners that the couple tries to find are all a different kind of inappropriate for them. Hale plays Jesse as being fairly ambiguous as to what she actually wants, and the final scene with her plays out perfectly. Bennett is… well, Beck Bennett is just damned funny. Here, he thrives on being just the right kind of inappropriate. Hemingway is a combination of effortlessly sexy and naturally understanding and contemplative. They’re all interesting characters that evoke different things from our leads. However, at the end, it seems likely that no one would ever REALLY be the right person for them, because they were only ever trying to find a way to avoid dealing with reality. As such, the right person doesn’t exist, like a unicorn.
Overall, it’s a decent movie, but I wasn’t blown away by it.
The Gold Standard of Reboots continues upholding its standard.
SUMMARY (Spoilers for Seasons 1 and 2)
Welcome back to Duckburg, where birds are people, but also sometimes are birds. Seriously the opening shot of the series was a normal seagull being shooed off by an anthropomorphic bird. The most prominent citizens are Scrooge McDuck (David Tennant) and his family members: Huey, Dewey, and Louie Duck (Danny Pudi, Ben Schwartz, Bobby Moynihan), Donald Duck (Tony Anselmo), Webby Vanderquack (Kate Micucci), Bentina Beakley (Toks Olagundoye), and Launchpad McQuack (Beck Bennett).
In season one, the Duck/McDuck family worked together to defeat Scrooge’s most dangerous adversary Magica De Spell (Catherine Tate), only for the audience (but not the characters) to find out that Donald’s Sister Della (Paget Brewster), the mother of the triplets, was still alive and stranded on the moon.
In season two, Della finally makes it home, only for the Moonlanders, led by General Lunaris (Lance Reddick) to invade Earth. He is thwarted by the Ducks, Darkwing Duck (Chris Diamantopolous), and Scrooge’s rival Flintheart Glomgold (Keith Ferguson), but it turns out that this threat has forced an even greater evil power to escalate their plans: F.O.W.L. (the Fiendish Organization for World Larceny).
Now, the Ducks have set out to locate a collection of the lost treasures of Scrooge’s idol Isabella Finch while F.O.W.L. plots to get them first.
This has been a solid three-stage development for this show. The first season was mostly about acclimating the audience to the new world of DuckTales, which, while it still resembled its 1987 counterpart, had been updated in both tone and animation style to be more in line with Disney’s new animated series like Gravity Falls or Star vs. the Forces of Evil. It also abandoned the original series’ episodic nature and instead was a serial, which allowed the show to build up Magica’s threat gradually over the series, as well as the mystery of what happened to Della.
Season two didn’t expand the adventuring, but instead doubled down on expanding the series emotionally. It showed us the backgrounds of several of the characters from the last season and recontextualized their actions, which is a great storytelling device when done well (like the Ice King in Adventure Time) and expanded on the emotional loss felt by the Duck family over Della going missing. Then, when she returns, it’s not quite the happy reunion with her kids that she’d hoped for, because they’ve spent ten years without her. While they’re fighting giant golems or robots, the show still demonstrated that Della’s return was affecting everyone emotionally and that it was a gradual process to deal with it. It also gave us a little taste of nostalgia by bringing back the Three Caballeros and Darkwing Duck, which was basically a set-up for this season.
The theme for season three is “nostalgia.” It was advertised a while ago that the third season would contain almost every character from Disney’s ‘90s afternoon lineup and so far it has delivered on it and then some. I don’t want to say who has appeared so far, but I can say that making them canon to this show bodes well for future episodes. There’s even an episode which takes place in a ‘90s sitcom, just to make sure that everyone gets a full blast of that extreme pre-financial crisis optimism that is so hard to even remember now.
It’s the fact that the show was willing to be patient with their properties that makes it work. They didn’t bring Della back in season 1, nor was it just a “she’s back, everything’s normal now” situation. Season 2 gave us Darkwing Duck in an amazing reboot, but they only used him sparingly. Similarly, Season 3 is giving us several characters, but even when they appear it’s only ancillary to the storyline. It’s not overloading us on anything, instead just making us want it more. Really, I’m impressed with the restraint.
Overall, still love the show, recommend it highly.
Annie returns for another season of dealing with writing, work, and having a boyfriend whose personality is mostly “beard.”
At the end of the last season, Annie (Aidy Bryant) quits her job after fighting with her boss Gabe (John Cameron “Angry Inch” Mitchell), her mother Vera (Julia Sweeney) heads to Vancouver to take some alone time after stressing over her father Bill’s cancer (Daniel Stern), and she confronts her stalker (Beck Bennett). As this season starts, Annie and her boyfriend, Ryan (Luka Jones), deal with both of them being unemployed as she tries to get a new job writing, only to find out it’s harder than she expected. She eventually takes her job back from Gabe, with Amadi’s help (Ian Owens), and tries to advance herself within the institution, but finds that Ryan is not helping that. Meanwhile, her roommate Fran (Lolly Adefope) is dealing with being single for the first time in a while.
Now, as with last time, I didn’t think that I was the best person to comment fully on this show. Unlike last time, I thought her breakdown needed to go in front of mine. So I present to you, the Faceless Old Woman that Lives on my Sofa:
The Faceless Old Woman’s Review
There was a lot I loved in this season that I’m not going to go into detail about (some great development for Ruthie, Amadi, Fran, and Vera, John Cameron Mitchell singing Moonage Daydream!!)
A lot of what makes this show great is the attention to detail. Like when Annie gets chub rub from walking around a women’s empowerment conference all day. Or when she needs to charge her phone after camping and leans over an entire family in a restaurant to use an outlet. Or when Annie goes to a hospital and people keep trying to give her directions but she still keeps getting lost, because hospitals are fucking mazes. It’s all of these little things that make the show feel real and relatable.
The “little things” are also where Ryan falls short in his relationship with Annie, even as he attempts to play a real boyfriend who isn’t embarrassed to go out in public with her. He’ll go to a work party with her that he doesn’t really like, but he’ll definitely use that fact later in an argument when he’s not getting what he wants. He’ll give her a gift, but it’s a pillow for her so she can actually sleep at his house, which had been an issue for…months, now? He’ll say “I love you” but he doesn’t actually listen to her when she says that she needs space or that her work is important to her. Also he has a gun??? That he’ll brandish in alarmingly irresponsible ways???
(I wish I could pretend that gun bit was outlandish but I know people who have dated men like that. Specifically, I can think of at least two women I know who have found a gun while sleeping in a guy’s bed. Like, under the pillow. I digress.)
The point is, that Ryan is the kind of guy who is willing to go through the motions of “boyfriend’ but isn’t capable of being a full partner. These things can seem like momentary misunderstandings or minor incompatibilities, but when there are a lot of them, they’re pointing to bigger things.
Ryan can often come off as a slightly clueless but well-intentioned goof in this season. Amadi says, “Yeah, he’s dumb. But he’s got a great heart.” But the moment Ryan says to Annie, in the midst of a work party where she’s having fun and making important professional connections, that he’s made “an executive decision” that they’re going to leave – you remember, “Oh, right. This guy isn’t just stupid. He’s a selfish asshole.” As they’re fighting over the fact that Ryan told his coworker that he and Annie had sex in the office, Ryan says “I just spent, like, two hours at this stupid party for you.” A person whose expectation is “nice thing I did for you is a transaction and you owe me” is a walking red flag.
In the season finale, Ryan says, “You just tell me what to do, and I will do it. I’ll do whatever you want.”
And fortunately for us, the audience, Annie says, “Yeah, but I don’t wanna have to tell you what to do.” She says she doesn’t want to be his mom and she wants a real partner. It brings to mind the various discussions feminists are having re: emotional labor. If you haven’t read the essay by the guy who left dishes by the sink, let me clue you in: it’s stressful and unsustainable if your partner constantly has to be “the manager” of life’s details or “the adult” or “the better half” of the relationship.
Ryan asks her if they can work it out, like they did with the back fence.
A lot of times, when you’re in a bad situation, everyone can see the totality of its shittiness but you. Until something clicks into place and you can see things the way they really are. Hopefully sooner rather than later. Now, after Ryan’s attempts to improve, he reminds Annie of where he started – with a complete lack of respect for her, and her going along with whatever he asked.
“Our very solid foundation for our relationship?” she retorts.
“I’m past that.” Ryan says.
“Yeah, well I’m not.”
She realizes that she’s stuck with Ryan because it feels easier than facing the possibility of putting herself out there and dealing with rejection from men.
There are different reasons we all stay in relationships that aren’t good for us, but they mostly boil down to: What if I leave and I’ve made a huge mistake? You’re calculating whether all these problems are really as bad as an indefinite period of “being alone.” It’s partially our society’s obsession with being partnered (see: the wedding industry.) But it’s also our very real loneliness.
At the end of episode two of this season, Annie and Fran are at a show and listen to a heartfelt cover of God Only Knows by the Beach Boys. Both are visibly emotional at the performance; Fran because she’s newly heartbroken and single and pretending that doesn’t bother her. I’d like to think Annie was also having a moment of, I want to have the level of feeling this song is conveying and I just…don’t. That is its own kind of loneliness: being partnered but lacking the depth of feeling you’re craving.
Back in the season finale, Ryan asks in disbelief, “What are you gonna do now, you’re gonna go date other guys?”
“Yeah. That’s exactly what I’m going to do.” Annie says. She’s added the little things up.
Joker on the Sofa Review
In the first season, Annie started to try and move forward with her life by speaking honestly about how she felt for what may have been the first time. She found her voice and told everyone “I’m fat and I don’t give a damn what you think.” However, throughout much of this season she’s forced to walk a lot of that back because it turns out that the world is still kind of crap even if you have talent. Despite having what everyone acknowledges as being an excellent voice in her writing, her attempts to write for herself fail almost immediately, as do her attempts to get a job in a creative field that pays, and she’s forced to ask for her job back. Fortunately, her ambition has led Gabe to take her more seriously and try to nurture her talent, including trying to help her find a way to say something when she isn’t sure what she wants to say.
The upside to this season, aside from being slightly longer, is that it does put Annie in a number of different positions from the previous one. We get to see her having to apologize to her parents for her behavior, we get to see her try to introduce people to her boyfriend, and we get to see her try to be adventurous in her new relationship. It allows us to explore more of her character and, frankly, some of the situations are just hilarious. Like meeting Fran’s family who all know that Annie slept with Fran’s brother and are very explicit about it, something that embarrasses her immensely.
The downside is that the Annie we have in this season isn’t much more assertive than she was in the last season. Hell, for part of the season, she’s acting a lot like she did at the beginning of the series, seeming desperate for approval despite the fact that she seemed like she was over that. It’s really annoying to see a character kind of devolve, even if it might be accurate to life. Progress isn’t linear, but it feels like after confronting her troll, Annie kind of devolves and loses herself for an episode or two, which is made more clear by her refusal to acknowledge Ryan’s obvious faults (as my counterpart already stated).
I will also say that Ruthie’s character was expanded in interesting ways in this season, mostly by making her scary and seemingly borderline insane. Every time she’s on-screen I question not only how she maintains her position, but how she is allowed to have contact with normal humans. It’s explained that she was adopted by Gabe and his partner, but her behavior goes far beyond what even being the boss’s child should let her get away with. I mean, she straight-up gropes Annie at one point and it’s laughed off. If Patti Harrison weren’t so damned fun and charming, it’d be even harder to understand.
Overall, I thought that the season was fine, but I never really got much more out of it than the last season. However, the ending gave me hope that a more definitive change is coming for Annie.
Aidy Bryant stars as a journalist who wants to change everything about her life without changing her appearance.
Annie Easton (Aidy Bryant) is a Journalist who is stuck working on a magazine’s calendar despite her excellent writing skills. She has a boyfriend (of sorts) named Ryan (Luka Jones) who routinely hides her to keep others from knowing about their relationship. Her father (Daniel “Home Alone” Stern) has cancer and her mother (Julia “It’s Pat” Sweeney) is overbearing and critical. Her boss, Gabe (John Cameron Mitchell) is dismissive and condemnatory of overweight people. Her roommate, Fran (Lolly Adefope), is supportive but also very self-centered. Annie finally gets a break, but having a spotlight just means more people to criticize her, including one very dedicated internet troll.
Annie is fat and at no point does the show try to beat around that particular bush. At two points during the first episode, a woman (Katie Wee) who advertises as a personal trainer tries to convince Annie to hire her by using every trick in the book that society uses against fat people: “You actually have a really small frame,” “You weren’t meant to carry around all of this extra weight,” “You could be so pretty,””You don’t have to settle for [your body],” and a number of ways of saying that fat people are essentially diseased. Naturally, when Annie finally gets frustrated with her put-downs and says “f*ck you,” the woman responds with “I was just trying to help you, you fat bitch.” Annie walks away and smiles as the song “Pretty Ugly” by Tierra Whack plays, with the chorus “Don’t worry ’bout me, I’m doing good, I’m doing great, alright.”
And that’s pretty much the summary for the show: Annie just wants to be okay with who she is. She’s a fat woman, and no one seems to be able to see that as anything other than a problem that needs to be fixed. At the beginning of the series, Annie has a number of problems, but all of them are the result of not having self-esteem from years of being shamed for her body, as opposed to actual problems that derive from her weight. She lets Ryan treat her like crap (he won’t buy a second pillow, makes her sneak out the back door, and won’t use condoms), her boss be cruel to her, her mother belittle her, and even random strangers take shots at her, all because she’s been told that she’s not right the way that she is. However, throughout the season she starts gaining confidence until finally at least one of her critics is forced to admit that they’re jealous of the fact that she can feel confident as she is.
The music for the show is brilliant and almost always matches the theme perfectly. The acting is amazing, with both great regulars and excellent guest stars. The writing is, to me, sometimes a little inconsistent, but it never falls below “good” and often settles around “great.” It never feels trite or overdone, and there are some great quotes, particularly from Gabe. Overall, I liked this show a lot.
However, I didn’t think that I could quite do justice to how well I thought this show handled its subject matter, I asked for a guest author to give her opinion. I hereby pass the mic to The Faceless Old Woman Who Lives On My Couch and go make a cocktail.
THE FACELESS OLD WOMAN WHO LIVES ON MY COUCH
I’d been meaning to read the memoir the series is based on for some time. I’ve missed Lindy West’s voice since she quit Twitter a few years ago. She’s still writing but without that social media pipeline I don’t see her articles as often, either. I adore Aidy Bryant and having the two of them working together is just a dream come true. The show is exceptionally and at times painfully good at illustrating the frustrations of being fat, being a woman, and especially being a fat woman.
It’s set in Portland, Oregon, previously repped in comedy television in Portlandia. (Portlandia creator Carrie Brownstein directs Episode 2 of Shrill.) Whereas Portlandia was a surreal but loving lampoon of the liberal Elysium, Shrill digs a little deeper into the reality of living in a place where everyone thinks they’re a really good ally, and in that respect I think it’s a great addition to the small family of shows set in the City of Roses. I’ve never lived in Portland, but anyone who’s spent a lot of time in liberal circles knows someone who’s said something like, “Do I look like the establishment? I’m wearing fucking nail polish!” (John Cameron Mitchell is perfect in this series.)
In talking to other fat women about this show, there’s a conflict between appreciating the show’s relatability and representation of the difficulties many people have with being fat, and the deep desire for a fat lady character to just have nice things for once.
On the “nice things” end, Annie does have a kickass wardrobe and apartment. Part of me is like “how would Annie have such a nice apartment with only one roommate if she worked as a blogger at an alt weekly, how could she afford all these cute plus size clothes, these things are expensive!” On the other hand, I’m also thinking “how awesome is it to have a fat leading lady who isn’t wearing a loudly printed potato sack?!” The wardrobe, the apartment, the various locations in Portland make a rich and colorful world for the show. The fat-friendly pool party scene is a major high point.
Annie’s job creates problems for her because she isn’t satisfied with the assignments she gets and her boss is extremely fatphobic. However, the biggest point of frustration for viewers is probably Annie’s shitty love interest, Ryan. Ryan is the quintessential Portland f*ckboy: disheveled beard, cohosts a shitty podcast, needs his mom to take care of him, doesn’t want his friends to know you exist, can’t commit to anything but texts nonstop if you aren’t around when he wants you. A lot of people can relate to dating a guy like this, but the rotten cherry on this garbage sundae of a human is that he pressured her into having unprotected sex with him, multiple times. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people can relate to that too. As a result, Annie has an abortion in the first episode. (Which is handled very well! It’s not a big deal!) (Side note on the morning-after pill subplot here: the evidence isn’t conclusive on whether it’s less effective on folks over 175 lbs, you should definitely still take the pill if you’re in a situation, but it’s still probably a poor choice for routine birth control. Talk to your doctor.)
Ryan seemingly has no qualities that would explain why anyone would date him despite his faults. He’s not smart, charismatic, or handsome, nor does he play in a band. All of Annie’s friends know he is trash. We, the viewers, know he is trash. Annie thinks he’s “better than nothing.”
I think some people are very tired of the narrative of the fat woman who has no self-esteem, and that’s extremely fair. I think the show finds a good balance in that Annie is learning how to stand up for herself at work, how to navigate her mother’s good-intentioned fat-shaming, and even confronts a vicious internet troll (a fantastic cameo from Beck Bennett). In her relationship with Ryan she also makes this sort of progress, but more slowly. I think this is, truly, very real when you’re attached to someone and you’ve envisioned them in your head as a future spouse. It’s hard to unwrap your head from that attachment, and you find yourself pushing away anyone who tries to clue you in. The show introduced another, really wonderful love interest for Annie midway through, and here’s hoping we see him again. But Annie’s just getting started and sometimes things get worse before they get better.
Darkwing Duck, the terror that flaps in the night, is getting a dark and gritty reboot that no one asked for… especially not Darkwing Duck.
This is your spoiler warning. This episode is on Amazon right now. Spend the 2 dollars. It’s worth it.
Within the reboot of DuckTales, Darkwing Duck is a television show from the 90s which starred a stuntman named Jim Starling (Original Darkwing voice Jim Cummings), famous for doing all his own stunts. Most of the world appears not to remember the series, but Launchpad McQuack (Beck Bennett) is a huge fan of the character. His passion is so great that it tends to infect others with an affection for the show. It’s also mentioned repeatedly that the show ended on a cliffhanger.
Jim Starling, the former Darkwing Duck star, is signing autographs. Launchpad, along with another nameless die-hard Darkwing fan (Chris Diamantopoulos) tries to get an autograph, aided by Dewey Duck (Ben Schwartz), but keeps fainting from nerves. When Dewey tries to tag the pair in a photo, he discovers that Darkwing Duck is trending online, because they’re making a movie of the series. Believing that he’s naturally going to be asked to reprise the role, Starling heads to the studio making the movie, which happens to be McDuck Studios owned by Scrooge McDuck (David Tennant).
Scrooge and the director of the Darkwing Duck film, Alistair Boorswan (Edgar Freaking Wright!!!), are having creative issues. When Louie, Launchpad, and Starling bust into the meeting, they’re shown the trailer, which portrays it as a grim and gritty reboot which satirizes a number of terrible superhero movies. Everyone agrees that this movie is terrible, including Scrooge, who puts Dewey in charge of directing the finale of the film. Starling is willing to be in it anyway, only to be surprised when the fan from earlier is introduced as the actor now playing Darkwing Duck in the movie. Starling attacks him, resulting in his and Launchpad’s expulsion from the studio. Starling talks Launchpad into helping him get back in so they can get him in the movie, with Launchpad trying to lock the new actor in his trailer. They fight briefly, but it’s revealed that the actor was inspired his entire life by Darkwing Duck and, while he knows the movie’s bad, wants nothing more than to try and help give another generation of kids the same hero he had. He and Launchpad quickly become best friends. The actor tries to confront Starling and suggests they work together to make the movie great, but Starling refuses to let anyone else be Darkwing Duck. He locks the actor in a closet and goes on set to film the finale.
When told that Darkwing surrenders in the last scene, Starling refuses to follow commands and instead starts wrecking the props, before grabbing the fully functional lightning gun that the film’s villain Megavolt (Keith Ferguson) was using and attacking the crew. The actor, now dressed in his Darkwing Duck costume, shows up to stop him. The two fight, with Starling growing increasingly more insane and villainous, until finally Launchpad tries to convince them to stop. A prop starts to collapse, and after the actor tries to save him, Starling jumps in and saves them both, sacrificing himself.
While the final fight was filmed, it’s revealed that Dewey recorded over it with a video of himself dancing. Scrooge declares that there will never be a Darkwing Duck movie. The actor is saddened that he can’t bring Darkwing Duck to a new generation, but Launchpad tells him he should just do it for real. The actor, revealed to be none other than Drake Mallard, agrees to give it a shot. Unbeknownst to the rest of the cast, it’s revealed that Jim Starling survived the explosion, but now is insane, with the colors being washed out of his costume to reveal that he is now Darkwing’s arch-nemesis: NEGADUCK.
When I first reviewed DuckTales, I mentioned that I consider it one of the more successful reboots I’ve ever seen. It takes everything that was good about the original, adds in some more source and expanded universe material, but also updates, enhances, expands, and, let’s be honest, sometimes corrects the source material (particularly some of the female characters). It strikes the perfect balance between nostalgia and originality, while also being clever and funny. This episode exemplifies that balance even better than the rest of the series.
The concept of Darkwing Duck as a show within the show was an interesting way to reintroduce the character, though it seemed like it mostly closed the door on the actual character ever appearing in the series. However, it seems like, in retrospect, much of this was a carefully planned build-up to this episode. When the original surprise announcement that Darkwing Duck would appear in the new series was made, one of the producers, Frank Angones (who is the best at Twitter), mentioned that it was difficult to introduce Darkwing Duck, because once you put Darkwing in an episode, he just naturally becomes the focus. Despite, or perhaps because of this, they put relatively little of Darkwing Duck in the first season, limiting it to a single scene in a cold open, a fun gag about the catchy closing theme song to the show, and a bobblehead that said “let’s get dangerous.” It was extremely restrained, making this episode even more impactful.
The brilliance of this episode is that it is a reboot of a character within a reboot of a series and the episode is a parody of bad reboots. The most obvious part is the “trailer” for the film, which contains explicit references to the gratuitous slo-mo pearls falling from Batman v. Superman as well as the strange flaming letters scene from Daredevil, both of which have been mocked by everyone who has seen the films. The movie that Alistair Boorswan is making is dark and desaturated, much like Batman v. Superman, and Boorswan’s primary concern is conveying his dark and edgy “study of man’s inhumanity towards man.” Boorswan doesn’t actually care about what made Darkwing Duck good, only about his “artistic vision.” He also dislikes even presenting a heroic character as heroic, thinking that making someone darker and more morally compromised makes them automatically better. I’m not saying that’s a shot at DC films, except that of course I’m saying that. Meanwhile, Scrooge himself is a parody of studio interference in film, being so out of touch that he admits he didn’t see a movie since 1938 and says that “color’s all the rage nowadays.” He then gives the movie to Dewey, who tries to insert a musical number just because he likes it.
The core to this episode, though, is Drake Mallard. In the original series, Darkwing Duck was a hero because he wanted to be one. Sure, he wasn’t perfect, often egotistical, fame-hungry, histrionic, and sometimes just flat-out selfish, but he did have a strong moral center and a desire to be a hero. In this series, Drake Mallard is a hero because he wants to give children something to look up to, the way that he looked up to Darkwing Duck. This is the strongest rebuttal to the type of movie that this episode was satirizing: A movie where the heroes aren’t really heroic. This version of Darkwing wants to inspire the good in the world, rather than just combat the bad, like the well-written versions of Superman, Captain America, Spider-Man, or even Batman. These heroes are supposed to show us what we can do if we believe in fighting for justice and they’re not tied to a person but to an ideal because people fail, ideals don’t. This isn’t a new concept – hell, it’s one of the books of Plato’s Republic – but that’s why even if we have the “grittier, more realistic” heroes, it’s still important to have heroes out there who are focused on inspiring and presenting a better version of the world to fight for. Real heroes make us want to be better.
Just a few more notes: Much like in Into the Spiderverse, the focus in this episode is on the hero always getting back up when they get knocked down. It’s genuinely moving to watch Drake continue to take a hilarious beating and keep fighting to protect everyone, and that’s one of the few things that anyone can relate to: the desire to just fight one more time for what’s right. It’s also appropriate that this would happen in a show featuring David Tennant, a man famous for being such a superfan of a character that inspired him that he grew up to be one of, if not THE, best versions of that character. If you don’t know what character I mean, please read this.
Overall, I loved this episode, if that’s not obvious. I think it gave us a bunch of solid gags, the set-up to a whole bunch of potential storylines and maybe even a spin-off, and it reminded me of why I love some superheroes over others. Plus, it got me to re-read part of the Republic, so that’s fun.
They might solve a mystery or re-write history. DuckTales re-boot!
People constantly complain about reboots, but it’s not like they’re a guaranteed failure. I preferred the new Battlestar Galactica to the original, there have been who knows how many amazing film and television versions of Batman, and From Dusk ‘Til Dawn even did a solid job going from film to television. Hell, I think that Scooby Doo’s best incarnation was the 12th. Still, there’s no denying that, a lot of the time, it feels like reboots are just cash grabs aiming for our nostalgia wallets. Because of that, every time a show comes out that’s just a reboot of an old property, I’m inherently suspicious. So, when they first announced that a new DuckTales was coming out, I didn’t put a huge amount of faith in it.
As time went by, though, I admitted that I started to get excited. First, they announced the cast for the show by having them sing an acapella version of the theme song. This both showcased the insane level of talent they managed to grab and also showed that they were paying their respects to the past series.
Then, they announced that Lin-Manuel Miranda would appear in the series as Gizmoduck, cementing the return of one of the more beloved creations of the original cartoon and having him voiced by a genius composer and playwright. They announced that Tony Anselmo would be voicing Donald Duck, giving the show ties to the regular Disney canon. They released a copy of the show’s intro sequence which was a combination of the original Carl Barks Uncle Scrooge comics with the original cartoon, but updated and redesigned, with the same theme song only a little jazzier. Oh, and they dropped the bombshell during Comic Con, just a month before the show was set to premiere, that Darkwing Duck would make an appearance, a character that people have been begging to get more of for 20 years.
At this point, I was just worried that this was all going to fall apart. Then, they did the last thing I would have expected: They put the pilot on YouTube. Not behind a paywall, not for a limited time, they just put the pilot “Woo-oo!” online, and IT WAS FANTASTIC. Watch it right now!
“Woo-oo!” was a great first episode. It introduced us to the characters, emphasized all the differences between their current and previous incarnations, and put in a ton of wonderful nostalgia references while also being funny and original in its plot. Huey, Dewey, and Louie now had different voices, looks, and personalities, with Huey (Danny Pudi) being the closest to the original version but nerdier, Louie (Bobby Moynihan) having abandoned even the outfit from his previous incarnation and being the greedy one, and Dewey (Ben Schwartz) being a blend of old and new traits and a fame seeker. Scrooge McDuck (David “I’m the f*cking Doctor” Tennant) is now a jaded old man who wishes to rekindle the exciting, adventurous days of his youth. Launchpad (Beck Bennett) is a little dumber than his original version, but still an adorable doofus and an optimist. Donald Duck is pretty much the same, but plays a much bigger role in the series.
Then, there’s Webby Vanderquack (Kate “from Garfunkle and Oates” Micucci) and Mrs. Beakley (Toks “I’m so f*cking amazing” Olagundoye). These two were basically redone from the ground up. Rather than being the young girl who carries around her doll all the time, this Webby is smart, skilled, and more athletic than any of the boys, but is socially awkward due to living in a mansion alone. Mrs. Beakley, rather than being just a live-in nanny with relatively few other character traits, is a retired version of Agent 99 from Get Smart. I’m not even joking, they have an episode that tells you that’s who she’s supposed to be.
The first half of “Woo-oo!” showed us that, in this new universe, magic is real, Scrooge is an almost Batman-level combatant and adventurer, and that he and Donald had a falling out in the past. Flintheart Glomgold (Keith Ferguson) returns as one of Scrooge’s enemies and is shown being even more over-the-top Scottish, almost as a mockery of the fact that his nationality was changed in the original series from South African (because Apartheid). He’s also much more of a comic foil to Scrooge than a serious rival, but his brutality is raised a few levels in this version. In the second half, the group goes on an adventure to Atlantis and, upon returning, the boys and Donald move in with Scrooge.
Now, this would normally be where the Pilot just acts as a set-up for the rest of the series, but, at the last minute, Dewey moves a piece of a painting seen earlier, revealing the figure of a young female duck. Dewey, shocked, says “Mom?” as the episode ends. Yes, at the last second, the show drops the biggest two surprises on us it could. First, they’re actually going to address what happened to Della Duck. Second, holy hell, THIS SHOW IS A SERIAL. There are going to be actual story arcs throughout the series. Again, this is in the last 15 seconds of the episode and it is huge.
The rest of the season was a little mixed. Some episodes were amazing and had fantastic guest stars, but others didn’t really use the characters well, and I was getting a little worried that they were too hit-and-miss. However, the whole time, they were also building up plot-lines and characters, including setting up Magica De Spell (Catherine “I was the best Tennant companion” Tate) as the big bad of the season. Then, we got to the penultimate episode, “The Last Crash of the Sunchaser” which not only had one of the most intense sequences in animated history, but had an ending that led me to sit in stunned silence trying to grapple with what I had just witnessed.
Then, we get to the finale and it took a bit to get going but, once it kicked into gear with Magica De Spell as the villain du jour, it was a hell of a ride. Probably the single best thing was that they had Donald Duck swallow a “Barksian voice modulator” which made him talk like Don Cheadle. He then proceeded to deliver some both hilarious and bad-ass lines (which were turned into hilarious ones by the fact that DONALD DUCK was saying them). The season ends, however, with several plot-lines still up in the air, giving them plenty to work with in the next year.
The main thing that really makes this reboot stand out is that showrunners Matt Youngberg and Francisco Angones basically went through all of the previous incarnations, from the comics to the show to even other Disney cartoons from the 80s and 90s, and kept what was timeless. They didn’t go out of their way to avoid doing things like the old show, they celebrated the things the show did well while correcting the things it didn’t. They tried new things, to be sure, some of which worked better than others, but they gave the show a feel that, while still DuckTales, was still unique. They gave us nostalgia, but they never really relied on it too much and they always made any reference still work even if you didn’t know it.
They also knew that too much nostalgia could overpower the work they were doing, so they did it gently. They did re-introduce Darkwing Duck, but now he’s a character on a show within a show. However, they go out of the way to point out that the actor who played Darkwing did his own stunts, so they have left the door open to have the actor become the superhero in future episodes. This was the right way to do things, because, if you put Darkwing Duck directly into the series, there would be too much pressure to keep putting him in it and any episode he was in would be focused on him.
Overall, I think this is one of the best reboots I’ve ever seen. Check it out, guys!