Schitt’s Creek: It Was Worth The Trip – Netflix Review

I finally got through the series and it definitely was time well spent.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy) is the multimillionaire owner of a video store empire. His wife, Moira (Catherine O’Hara), is a former soap opera actress and they have two spoiled adult children, David (Dan Levy) and Alexis (Annie Murphy). Unfortunately, the family discovers that their business manager has absconded with all of their money and has failed to pay their taxes in years, leaving them essentially penniless. Their only remaining asset is a town that Johnny bought for a young David as a joke: Schitt’s Creek. The family moves to Schitt’s creek and into the local run-down motel managed by Stevie Budd (Emily Hampshire). The very eccentric and nouveau riche Roses quickly start to find themselves in contact, and occasional conflict, with the locals, including idiot Mayor Roland Schitt (Chris Elliott), his wife Jocelyn (Jennifer Robertson), upbeat waitress Twyla (Sarah Levy), local garage owner Bob (John Hemphill), local veterinarian Ted Mullins (Dustin Milligan), councilwoman Ronnie (Karen Robinson), and later local businessman Patrick Brewer (Noah Reid). However, the town and the Roses both start to rub off on each other, and maybe everyone gets a little bit better.

That’s it. That’s the show.

END SUMMARY

I know I was late to this game, but I can say that, having watched the entire series, this show is absolutely worth the time to get through. I was told up front that the first season was weak, and it definitely was in retrospect, but the actors are so good that you can honestly get through the first few episodes based solely on that. A part of the slow start is that they were more focused at the beginning on the original pitch of the show, which was “what happens if you put a reality show family in a small town.” While that premise is funny, the show really starts to hit its stride when the main characters start to actually realize how crappy they are as people and genuinely start to change. It adds a level of sincerity and emotion to the show that allows for the humor to really impact the audience because it’s now contrasted by solid drama. 

Also, it has a Cabaret episode and it’s wonderful.

The amount of comic talent in this show is second to none. Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara have been together in multiple Christopher Guest movies and their chemistry continues on the small screen. While Johnny is often the straight man of the family, which suits Eugene Levy, O’Hara plays a ridiculously over-the-top former actress known for her eccentric grammar and pronunciation choices. If you think someone saying the word “baby” can’t be funny, she will prove you wrong. Dan Levy and Annie Murphy start off as being insufferably annoying, but quickly evolve into fun and compelling characters. It helps that David is usually accompanied by Stevie, whose deadpan snark is perfect with David’s melodrama, while Alexis is usually paired with Ted or Twyla, both of whom are so positive that they balance out Alexis’ general aloofness. All of the supporting characters help to round out the town, although I admit that I never quite got into Roland. He’s generally just too stupid to be enjoyable, which is only redeemed by the fact that Chris Elliott is naturally brilliant. 

They’re a fun group.

Aside from the cast, the strength of the show is that it manages to constantly subvert expectations in the absolute best ways. Any time that you think they’re about to fall into sitcom cliche, they manage to surprise you and turn it into something else that’s brilliant and funny. It seems like that’s one of the most consistent elements and it’s something that’s rare for any show. The fact that it only gets better as the show goes on is even more rare. 

They also have this scene, which is amazing.

Overall, just a great 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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Last Kids on Earth (Book 3): The Apocalypse Levels Up – Netflix Animation Review

This show keeps changing and that’s a good thing.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free for Season 3)

Jack Sullivan (Nick Wolfhard) is a teenager and one of the only survivors of an apocalypse that brings forth a horde of zombies and eldritch monsters. He soon joins up with his tech genius best friend Quint (Garland Whitt), former bully Dirk (Charles Demers), and his crush and ace warrior June (Montserrat Hernandez) in order to start taking out the bigger threats and make the apocalypse more bearable. They’re joined by the mutant dog Rover (Brian Drummond). Soon, they find out that other sentient monsters were pulled into our world, including the expert hunter Skaelka (Catherine O’Hara), wizard Bardle (Mark Hamill), chef… Chef (Bruce Campbell), and leader Thrull (Keith David). Thrull soon betrays the group in order to summon the dark goddess Rezzoch (Rosario Dawson), but Jack and crew manage to stop him. The world is a little bit safer, but Rezzoch is now looking for a new way in, and she will stop at nothing.

Admittedly, Rezzoch looks like Rorschach, which adds to the creepiness.

END SUMMARY

When this show first came out, I compared it to the other then-recent “kids in the apocalypse” show, Daybreak. Well, this show has now gotten two more seasons with awesome new regulars while Daybreak got cancelled, so I guess we know who won. Honestly, I wish they’d continued both, but I admit that this show has kept things fresh as it keeps going. 

Adding Keith David as a behemoth was a good choice.

A big part of why it still works is that they’ve given each of the characters deeper arcs that expand on their initial characterization. Jack gamifies the world and tries to make everyone happy because he is afraid of being left behind. June keeps people at a distance because she’s focused on her missing family. Dirk, who is accustomed to being the biggest guy around, now finds himself outclassed by the monsters and wants to regain his position. Quint is nervous about keeping everyone happy because he thinks people only want him for what he can do, not who he is. These feel like real people with real flaws and their interactions are all heightened by desperation. 

They really only work as a team.

The monsters are also amazing. They’re simpler characters in some ways, each mostly matching a traditional fantasy archetype, but that makes it all the more interesting when they reveal something that subverts your expectations. The fact that they all have great voice actors is a huge bonus. The show has used the fact that their main characters are mostly genre savvy as a way to work in pop culture references, but with the presence of actual sci-fi/fantasy/horror legends on the cast, you knew that some in-jokes were made. Campbell and Hamill have a great interaction in this season that made me laugh for a solid minute only because it was the joke that had to be made. 

Though O’Hara gets some good lines, too.

Overall, solid series for kids and adults, glad it’s still going.

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 – Last Kids on Earth (Book 2): The Apocalypse Gets Complicated

The kid-friendly apocalypse returns with Keith David, Bruce Campbell, and Mark Hamill.

SUMMARY (Spoilers for Book 1)

It was a normal day, up until a bunch of portals to other dimensions opened up and allowed a number of nightmarish horrors onto the Earth… or at least around Wakefield, Indiana. Zombies, mutant insects, giant eldritch abominations, you name it, it’s destroying the town. Many people escaped, many more were turned into zombies, but four kids were trapped in the town: Video gamer and natural leader Jack Sullivan (Nick Wolfhard), bully and strongman Dirk Savage (Charles Demers), action girl June Del Toro (Montserrat Hernandez), and tech nerd Quint Baker (Garland Whitt). Together with their pet mega-dog Rover, they managed to defeat the giant alpha monster Blarg.

LKoE - 1Blarg
Blarg’s the big one.

Now, the four have to deal with the fact that there are a number of humanoid and sentient monsters who have come here from other dimensions who are trying to find their way home. They’re led by the warrior Thrull (Keith David) and include such members as the Chef (Bruce Campbell), the gruff Bardle (Mark Hamill “Applause”), and the deadly Skaelka (Catherine O’Hara). Unfortunately, it seems that an evil being called Rezzoch (Rosario Dawson), is also trying to find her way to Earth.

END SUMMARY

I have to give the show credit for completely changing the structure of the show during the second season. First off, the show is now made up of episodes rather than just a single film. This gives the show more time to do subplots and b-plots which help when you have a cast of this size, particularly now that there are other characters they can interact with. Second, rather than just being a survival story in the dystopia, now the characters have a set of goals involved in preventing the arrival of Rezzoch. 

LKoE - 2Chef
Bruce Campbell handles apocalyptic evil like a champ.

The four person group dynamic is an old one and it plays out well here. They map roughly onto the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles model, with the leader (Jack), the “does machines” guy (Quint), the cool but rude (June), and the idiot (Dirk). I also appreciate that they have a lot of moments where they each step outside of their expected model. They also do play up some more of the realities of being teenagers who are now living in the apocalypse, even though they are still handling it better than most people would.

LKoE - 3Charge
Most people wouldn’t charge the building-sized monster on foot.

Overall, it’s a pretty solid show… also, it has Keith David, Mark Hamill, and Bruce Campbell.

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 – A Series of Unfortunate Events (Spoiler-Free)

Netflix spent three seasons adapting one of the most dark and interesting children’s series ever written.

SUMMARY

A Series of Unfortunate Events follows the lives of the three Baudelaire Orphans: Violet, Klaus, and Sunny (Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes, Presley Smith/Tara Strong). Violet is a brilliant inventor and engineer, Klaus is a polymath with a love of reading, and Sunny… is a baby that bites things hard. After their parents are killed in a fire, the three are sent to live with their distant relative, the evil Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris), a terrible actor who would never have been allowed to play Doogie Howser. Throughout the series, the Baudelaires try to find a place to hide safely from Count Olaf and his troupe of evil actors while making their way through the macabre world in which the series is set. All of the events are narrated from the future by Lemony Snicket (Patrick Warburton).

asoue - 1cast
Real talk: Why is it so hard to get cast photos lately?

END SUMMARY

The series is basically divided into two types of adventures: Either the children are taken in by an eccentric/flat-out insane caretaker and attacked by a disguised Olaf or they’re on the run from Olaf and forced to hide in some insane location. The key is that nothing in this world quite operates on real logic, instead operating on the principle that basically everyone is off-kilter and, in most cases, anachronistic. The main characters are often the only sane people within any situation, pointing out that what most of the supporting characters are doing is either stupid or crazy, but, being children, they’re constantly ignored.

asoue - 2medicalschool
Running gag is that these disguises actually fool people.

The setting for the series is intensely gothic, much in the style of Tim Burton or Barry Sonnenfeld… but more the latter because he’s the one that produces the show. Colors are largely muted, buildings tend to be in the gothic style, and the music often is best described as “eerie as hell.” The time-period for the series is completely nonsensical, with black-and-white movies and telegraph lines being commonplace, while also having jokes about streaming internet services.

asoue - 3gothic
Every building in the show was designed by Edgar Allen Poe.

The tone is one of the darkest forms of comedy that you can put in a show ostensibly for children. People die frequently in this show, often in horrifying ways, and yet the spin on their deaths is usually very comical, because most of the characters refuse to react to death rationally. It also helps that Lemony Snicket is constantly adding levity and sarcasm into the series by addressing the audience directly with some off-the-cuff and off-the-wall observation. Since Snicket’s observations were one of the signature elements of the book series, it’s nice that they managed to work it into the show fairly organically.

asoue - 4lemonysnicket
He’s basically riffing on his own show.

The acting in the show is phenomenal, although the way that the dialogue is presented will turn some people off. Neil Patrick Harris is a standout, matching Jim Carrey’s fabulous performance from the film adaptation, while still managing not to duplicate it too much. Harris sings the great theme song to the series “Look Away” which he sings in a different voice whenever he portrays a character in the episode, with the lyrics changing from book to book. They also find some excuses for Harris to let out his broadway side, something that, while it does make it harder to believe Olaf is a terrible actor, is too entertaining to pass up.

asoue - 5broadway
Out-of-Character? A little. Out-Freaking-Standing? Definitely.

The downsides, if they are downsides, of the show are that, because of the nature of the medium, there are fewer of the wonderful ambiguities and hidden messages that permeated the books. Things that in the book series were left up to the reader to deduce are almost all made explicit. Additionally, some of the added scenes and characters are actually more positive than the rest of the tone of the show, possibly because it’s just so depressing to watch something that’s absurdist and, largely, hopeless. Frankly, it didn’t bother me, but I have heard a few fans of the books complaining.

However, there are two things this show does differently than most series that I really hope lead to its success. First, the villains are the ones shunning knowledge, while the heroes are the ones who seek it. A problem with the recurring trope of a criminal mastermind is that you have to make the villain the smart one, which often results in them making the hero a brawny dumbass. Think Lex Luthor versus Superman or Loki versus Thor (though neither Superman nor Thor are stupid, they’re not as smart as their opponents). This show 100% goes the other way, saying that the act of reading, learning, and exploring inherently makes someone more empathetic and therefore more ethical. Btw, studies suggest that this is generally true, reading makes you more empathetic (though not always as everyone thinks).

asoue - 6sivana
Scientist bad. Big Muscled Guy good. 

Second, the show ends up pointing out one of the most difficult truths in the world: People aren’t all good or all bad. People are almost all morally ambiguous, falling somewhere on the scale between “hero” and “villain” or, within the series, between “volunteer” and “villain.” Everyone tends to think they’re a hero of their own story, but that’s likely the product of their own moral relativism: we define good as what we do, rather than defining good as good and then doing it. The show does a great job of exploring this concept.

Overall, I loved this series and I’m sad that it’s over. It’s only 25 episodes, total, so you should take a weekend or a week to watch it.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection 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.