Friends: “The One With All The Thanksgivings” – HBO Max Thanksgiving Special

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving surrounded by Friends.

SUMMARY

Ross (David Schwimmer) complains that he is getting divorced and evicted and therefore having the worst Thanksgiving ever. Chandler (Matthew Perry) counters that his parents announced they were getting divorced on Thanksgiving when he was a kid. Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) says that she has the worst Thanksgiving story, but when pressed she tells a tale of her losing an arm in the Civil War, revealing that she’s talking about a past life. Joey (Matt LeBlanc) doesn’t reveal his own worst Thanksgiving, instead having Phoebe reveal that Joey once got his head stuck in a turkey when he tried to scare Chandler. Monica (Courteney Cox), who needs the turkey, works with Phoebe to get it off, but they do end up scaring Chandler.

It was a thoughtful turkey prank, as you can see.

Monica tells the story of her worst Thanksgiving, when she and Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) were High School Seniors and Chandler and Ross came to visit from college. Monica had a crush on Chandler, but overheard him calling her fat, hurting her feelings. In the present, Chandler apologizes and Monica accepts, only for Rachel to reveal that to not be the worst Thanksgiving Monica had. Instead, she reveals that Monica lost weight just so she could have a chance to seduce Chandler and humiliate him for revenge. In the process of trying to act sexy with a knife, she cuts off Chandler’s toe. To make matters worse, she forgets to bring the toe to the hospital, leaving Chandler with only 9 tootsies. In the present, Chandler becomes angry at Monica, so Monica comes over to his apartment wearing a turkey on her head. She adds a fez, glasses, and a funny dance, leading Chandler to inadvertently admit he loves her for the first time. 

Imagine losing a toe… in that outfit.

END SUMMARY

In some ways this is the anti-Thanksgiving special because it’s about people focusing on their worst experiences as opposed to on the traditional themes of family, togetherness, or overeating. It also has everyone bringing up all of the bad experiences which can happen when you are dealing with loved ones over the holidays, including the revelations of divorces or resentment. However, it also ends with one of the most memorable moments in the show’s entire run and it stands out all the more because it’s contrasted by the other lousy memories. Maybe that’s part of the point of the episode and the holiday: It allows us to view the rest of the year and be thankful that all of the crappy things that happened to us are already over. In this, the Year of our clearly-very-pissed-off Lord 2020, it seems only appropriate to spend this holiday recognizing that we have at least survived the past year… so far. Hard to believe the year that started with massive wildfires on three continents and a possible war with Iran somehow did not get better from there.

Although our Friendsgivings are more digital this year.

This episode is one of the more prominent flashback episodes of Friends and has possibly the best gimmick ever with showing Chandler and Ross trying to be cool in the 1980s. In the first flashback, Chandler has an A Flock of Seagulls haircut, a thing that DID actually exist, kids. Fun fact: Mike Score, the guy who had the now-infamous hairstyle, was a hairdresser. The person who did Chandler’s hair was definitely not. In an even more deep-cut, the episode takes place in 1987, the year after A Flock of Seagulls dissolved. When we see Ross and Chandler a year later, in 1988, they’re dressed like Crockett and Tubbs from Miami Vice, which was at least still airing at the time. However, they both still look completely ridiculous in their Italian sports coats over t-shirts. We also get a flashback to Rachel before her nose job and Monica before she lost a lot of weight, but those had been done before and, honestly, don’t age great.

Ross went with a pornstache which also doesn’t age well.

The most memorable part of this episode is likely still the image of Monica dancing with a turkey on her head, but it’s almost overshadowed by the absolute cuteness of Chandler admitting his love to her. It’s a thing that you may have done in a relationship, where you just have that moment that perfectly encapsulates what you find amazing about the other person and you express your feelings completely naturally.

That’s how you get the ratings, baby.

Overall, I still love this episode and I look forward to it every Thanksgiving. 

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.

Young Justice: Outsiders (Season 3) : A Bit Too Much For a Season – HBO Max Review

Since DC Universe folded, I can finally see how Young Justice continued.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Two years after the events of Season Two, trafficking in metahumans (people with superpowers) has started to expand beyond just the Earth. The Justice League, unfortunately, is now under the control of the United Nations and their Secretary General, Lex Luthor (Mark Rolston). Finding the organization essentially depowered, Batman and Green Arrow (Bruce Greenwood and Alan Tudyk) resign along with all of their associates, aiming to go back to vigilantism. At the same time, Superboy, Tigress, Miss Martian, and Nightwing (Nolan North, Stephanie Lemelin, Danica McKellar, and Jesse McCartney) restart their covert team and infiltrate the country of Markovia, leading them to find two new superheroes in Prince Brion (Troy Baker) and the mysterious Halo (Zehra Fazal).  At the same time, the supervillain group The Light is enacting another plan to take over the world while the evil Darkseid (Michael-Leon Wooley) plots to take over the universe. 

We eventually get a team called the Outsiders, after a while.

END SUMMARY

So, while I appreciated the first two seasons of Young Justice for being very broad series depicting a large-scale DC comics universe, I appreciated that most of the episodes actually felt fairly self-contained and had a fairly focused main cast. This season threw that out the window. There are so many characters and plotlines going on and characters jumping between them that, by the start of the second half, there are three different superhero teams containing members of the original lineup, plus two different villain groups, plus a number of episode-based groups, plus a number of extras. A lot of the time, you just have to accept things like “this is a new female Green Arrow” or an extra Green Lantern and remember to look it up later. 

So. Many. Characters. And these are just the famous ones.

The number of plot threads can be a bit overwhelming because there are a lot of villains who are all attempting various plots in various ways and sometimes the heroes end up thwarting one plot as part of attempting to thwart an entirely separate one. I admit that it’s probably more accurate to how the DC universe works when you take all of the different comics into account, but it does sometimes make it a little harder to keep track of who started what and who is behind which evil deed. It doesn’t help that a lot of the plot threads kind of end up resolving in ways that just indicate they’re going to be continued in Season 4. I will admit that I appreciate the show’s ambition, I just worry that it limits the audience a bit.

There’s a big thing about Black Lightning being the only one with integrity.

The voice acting is amazing. It contains a number of seasoned voice actors, including some people who voice the characters in multiple incarnations (notably Greg Cipes, who voices Beast Boy, also plays him in Teen Titans). Sometimes they use this heavily to their advantage, such as having an episode that takes place in a Teen Titans Go! version of the Doom Patrol which uses the voice actors from Teen Titans. Many play multiple characters and you would have difficulty telling if it wasn’t made explicit. The animation is the same dark style as the first two seasons, but they have a number of more colorful characters in this season and it helps to make it seem a little less emo.

Like Halo, who literally glows.

Overall, if you liked the first two seasons, you should probably watch this one. Thankfully, it’s no longer on DC Universe so you can actually probably find someone with an HBO Max subscription to borrow. 

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.

Lovecraft Country: Or How To Love a Work and Hate Its Author at Once – HBO Max Review

HBO brings us a show about the horrors of racism and also monsters.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Atticus “Tic” Freeman (Jonathan Majors) is a Korean War vet in 1955 who discovers his father Montrose (Michael K. Williams) is missing. Atticus, his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance), and his friend Letitia “Leti” Lewis (Jurnee Smollett) set off to find Montrose in the town of Ardham, Massachusetts, the town that H.P. Lovecraft wrote as “Arkham.” They deal with a group of racist law enforcement officers and are going to be killed until the group encounters a herd of monsters. They discover that the town of Ardham is tied up in a secret society and a woman named Christina Braithwhite (Abbey Lee). Soon, Tic and Leti’s fate are tied up in the supernatural, as are the fates of Leti’s sister Ruby (Wunmi Mosaku), Tic’s aunt Hippolyta (Aunjanue Ellis), Hippolyta’s daughter Diana (Jada Harris), and Tic’s former lover Ji-Ah (Jamie Chung). 

It’s not a pleasant story.

END SUMMARY

H.P. Lovecraft was, as I have stated in reviews of other adaptations of his work, a horrible racist. Not in the sense of “oh, it was the 1920s and everyone was racist,” but in the sense of people in the 1920s kept asking him to tone down his opinions on black people. Apologists will try to say his views were common, but not many people have literally published poems about the fact that black people are not human, just sin-filled beasts. Now, that doesn’t mean that he didn’t also create some of the most influential horror ideas of the 20th century, it just means that sometimes you have to appreciate the work of a person while also giving that person the finger for their general shittiness. Like how Roman Polanski should have gone to prison, but Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown were amazing. 

There’s a lot of hoods and robes in Lovecraft and I think that’s probably a warning sign.

This show, though, goes a step further by tying up the concepts and monsters from the Lovecraft Mythos directly with the horror of racism. It depicts the terrible treatment of black people by many of the white people throughout America, including things like the Tulsa massacre of 1921 and “sundown towns,” or places that ordered black people to leave the area after dark (usually maintained through violence even after such things became illegal), making you feel the helplessness and anger of the characters as they’re subject to it. Then, it usually adds in a layer of general horror, like facing down nigh-invincible monsters or unstoppable racial stereotypes brought to life, then adds a level of cosmic horror by making it apparent that all of humanity is but a blink in the eye of the universe. However, we see black people overcoming the horror, whether slaying the monster or traveling through time itself to take hold of their own infinite destinies, something that the protagonists in Lovecraft are almost never able to do. It’s almost as if the horror is something they’ve learned to overcome, unlike Lovecraft’s characters. 

So much cool imagery.

The performances are excellent, including both the main and supporting characters. Jurnee Smollett’s role as Letitia is particularly strong, having to bounce between sidekick, love interest, and heroine, as the story requires, while still being the same character. Jonathan Majors, while always having Atticus as the main protagonist, has to play him trying to figure out the rules of the new world into which he has been thrust and manages to keep him likable even when the plot might not. Aunjanue Ellis gets some of the more interesting character moments in the series, which truly allow her to showcase a wide number of her talents. Abbey Lee, while playing a character whose actions seem mostly inscrutable for much of the series, does a good job being the seemingly-less-antagonistic antagonist. 

It helps that she’s the whitest white person ever.

The direction of the show is superb, as is the cinematography. Possibly the only weakness of the show was that it, like Lovecraft, doesn’t always keep the rules of its universe consistent. Then again, maybe that’s part of the point and I just didn’t absorb it as fully as I would have liked. I will say that the writing is at its strongest when dealing with combining the elements of supernatural horror and historical horror, but it seems to be at its weakest when trying to weave all of the plot threads together. The ending seemed a bit off, but maybe that will all correct itself in the next season (which it greatly deserves).

Although, it gave us two of the most horrifying monsters in recent years.

Overall, a great show that everyone should watch.

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.

Doom Patrol: Insane Adult Superhero Comedy (Seasons 1 and 2) – HBO Max Mini-Review

If you haven’t given this a look, you’re missing out.

SUMMARY

Cliff Steele (Brendan Fraser/Riley Shanahan) was a professional racecar driver who was killed in an accident. He was revived in a robot body by Dr. Niles Caulder (Timothy Dalton), a scientist who leads a group of individuals that have tragic origins and fantastic powers. They include Crazy Jane (Diane Guerrero), a woman with 64 personalities and 64 superpowers, Rita Farr (April Bowlby), an actress whose body is elastic, and Larry Trainor (Matt Bomer/Matthew Zuk), a pilot who is possessed by a radioactive “negative spirit.” In the first season, Niles goes missing, and the team, along with Vic “Cyborg” Stone (Joivan Wade) has to rescue him from the powerful Mr. Nobody (Alan Tudyk). In the second season, the team has to deal with the arrival of Niles’ daughter, Dorothy Spinner (Abigail Shapiro), who is likely to end the world with her imaginary friend, the Candlemaker (Lex Lang). 

They’re weirdly photogenic for a group of “social outcasts.”

END SUMMARY

I was skeptical about this show because it was originally shown as a spin-off of the show Titans on DC Universe. If you didn’t read my review of that, my opinion of that series was not positive. Doom Patrol, however, is an entirely different animal. While the show is still dark like Titans, this is a bitter, cynical dark comedy and it is done really well. Probably in an attempt to keep the series separate, the two shows have since been established to be in different continuities, although a “Doom Patrol” does still exist in the Titans universe. 

But that Doom Patrol is nowhere near as fun.

The show mostly duplicates the feel of Grant Morrison’s famous revival run on the comic book series. While the original Doom Patrol was a straightforward group of outcasts banded together as a superhero team, Morrison decided to age-up the series and make it more surreal and with more meta-commentary. He focused on making the universe in which the Doom Patrol operated bleaker and weirder than the average comic book being put out by DC at the time. Just how the comic’s nature differentiated itself from other contemporary series, so too does this show set itself apart from most of the other superhero shows on television right now. For example, a fun part of the first season is that the show is actually narrated by Alan Tudyk, who is both a genre-savvy character and also aware of his fictional nature. Not only is his commentary hilarious, but the fact that he’s narrating the events of a show in which he regularly appears also gives him an air of omnipotence, raising his threat-level as a villain. 

Dear every television producer: Alan Tudyk makes anything better.

While all of the main characters are pretty interesting and have wildly different personalities and motivations, the show’s ability to supply inventive guest characters is perhaps its greatest strength. Entire episodes typically revolve around the group making contact with some strange new entity, ranging from a donkey that can eat a town to a guy who can reshape reality by flexing his abs. Hell, there’s a recurring character that is a sentient cross-dressing, pan-sexual street. It’s populated by people who need sanctuary from the cruel world. The second season has focused less on guest characters and more on exploring the ramifications of what has happened to our central cast, but each episode has still featured a number of interesting worlds to explore and people to meet. This keeps the jokes and hilarious situations coming at a regular pace, which complements the dark nature of the world appropriately.

Yes, the street talks through signs.

Overall, just a really well done 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.

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.

Hulu/Cartoon Network/HBO Max Op-Ed: Why Everyone Should Watch Adventure Time

Come along with me to a show that managed to turn every cliche on its head.

SUMMARY

Welcome to the Land of Ooo, where magic thrives, princesses are plentiful, and heroes are born. Oh, it’s also Earth after a nuclear war wiped out almost all of humanity. Finn (Jeremy Shada) is the last human and a courageous hero with a love of adventure and fighting. His adopted brother is Jake (John DiMaggio), a magical shapeshifting dog who is laid-back and fairly lazy, mostly because his powers allow him to do almost anything. Finn and Jake act as protectors of the Candy Kingdom, which is ruled over by the supergenius nerd Princess Bubblegum (Hynden Walch). The pair often have to rescue her from the machinations of the Ice King (Tom Kenny), a magical king who is obsessed with kidnapping princesses. Finn is also friends with Marceline, the hard-rocking Vampire Queen (Olivia Olson). There’s also an adorable sentient computer named BMO (Niki Yang), the sarcastic Lumpy Space Princess (series creator Pendleton Ward), the fiery Flame Princess (Jessica DiCicco), Jake’s girlfriend Lady Rainicorn (Niki Yang), and an insane number of recurring characters.

Peppermint Butler, Cinnamon Bun, the Earl of Lemongrab, and Tree Trunks made the cut.

END SUMMARY

Adventure Time is the ultimate coming of age story, because it progresses in the same way that life tends to progress when going from childhood to the cusp of adulthood. This is embodied in Finn, who ages from 12 years old to 17 during the series and, apparently, 18 in the HBO Max revival that’s coming out this year. Likewise, the show itself starts off as a really simple and childish series about a magical land where dreams come true and heroes and villains are easily discernible. As the show goes on, though, everything starts to get more and more complicated, with the good guys revealed to be morally ambiguous and the bad guys revealed to be more sympathetic or having deeper motivations than we had previously been privy to. 

The show starts with a slumber party, ends with war and an eldritch demon.

That’s what really makes this show special, because it takes a simple outlook of “good people vs. bad people,” then slowly destroys it, the way that people will need to have it destroyed at some point in their lives. Now, the show doesn’t say that there aren’t truly bad people out there in the world, in fact it makes a point of having a few characters that are just truly bad and never really get redeemed, but it does show that a lot of them have been made the way they are, or that they’re really trying to do the right thing and they just haven’t been able to. Similarly, seemingly good or innocent characters are shown to have selfish or stupid motivations. “People are complicated” is one of the hardest lessons to learn, because even when you know that fact, we often still want to group people into “good” and “bad.” However, that’s rarely ever the case, when you see what made them that way. 

Even Magic Man, a character who exists to be a jerk, gets some motivation.

One of the other great things about this show is how thoroughly it blends storytelling ideas from throughout history, although it’s almost entirely Western history. We see a lot of influences from fairy tales, because Ooo is a world where you can spontaneously stumble upon an old woman offering cursed apples or magic beans or maybe just a random princess trapped in a tower. The randomness of happenings in the world allow for shorter-form storytelling, because they eschew set-ups. We also see a number of episodes derived from mythologies ranging from Greek and Roman to Egyptian, where our characters are just pawns caught in the grasps of higher beings. Then, there are the more modern stories where the characters are playing video games or addressing fan fiction. By combining all of these influences, the show gains a more timeless quality and a greater level of relevance to almost any viewer.

I mean, ghost gladiators are timeless.

The animation and the voice action are highly stylized, but that also lets the show play with styles more and convey more visually than many shows could. It mostly does a good job in making body horror and grotesqueries look cartoonish enough that they’re not really scary. The show does frequently do horror storylines or episodes, ranging from possession to murder to existential horror, but despite the darkness, the show’s animation and the emotional resilience of the characters manage to keep it bearable for any viewer. It helps that the show’s storytelling is unbelievably streamlined, with each episode being 12 minutes and yet often feeling like you’ve watched a full normal episode of television. They do this by using a lot of quick cuts and clever visual storytelling tricks to convey massive amounts of information in a few seconds.

3 Seconds of knife rain and you know why the characters can’t go outside.

The main reason why I want more people to watch this, aside from helping any viewer with their emotional development, is that the show teaches a valuable lesson that most shows can’t teach because they don’t grow the way this show does: Even though life is complicated, you can always keep fighting to do the right thing. What is “right” will always change as you get more information, so it’s tempting to just not learn more, but it’s better to learn and grow and change yourself. The right thing isn’t usually the easy thing, particularly when you have to accept that you might have been wrong in the past, but the world works out better for everyone, including you, when you work to change it for the better. 

Also, maybe be honest about your feelings before it’s too late.

The downside to the show’s brilliant structure is that the beginning of the show is extremely childish and simple, with humor that often is in the same vein. In other words, some of the episodes just aren’t that fun to watch for adults until around Season 3. If you want to just spend 15 minutes to test if the show will be for you, I would recommend watching the Season 3 episode “What was Missing.” If you like it, give the show a try. If, after seeing that, you want to get into the show without having to go through all of the early episodes, I recommend the following episodes in Season 1:

“The Enchiridion,” “Ricardio the Heart Guy (it’s got George Takei),” “Evicted,” “What Have You Done?” and “His Hero.”

For Season 2:

“It Came From The Nightosphere,” “The Eyes,” “To Cut a Woman’s Hair,” “The Silent King,” “Guardians of Sunshine,” “Death in Bloom,” “Susan Strong,” “Heat Signature,” and “Mortal Folly/Mortal Recoil.” 

So, if you just watch those episodes, you get most of the show’s set-up, but you only need like 3 hours to do it. Once you get to Season 3, the show quickly starts to get much stronger, especially when you get to “What was Missing,” and “Holly Jolly Secrets,” an episode that I put on my list of the best episodes of television

Overall, this is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen and the fact that it’s still going brings me nothing but joy. Please give it a watch. 

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.