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Sunday, December 29, 2019

TV - The Good Place - Chapter 29 - The Brainy Bunch

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The Good Place
Chapter 29 - The Brainy Bunch
Season 3, Episode 3
October 4, 2018

Man, over-eager friendly Trever is even worse than evil Trevor. I could have happily gone the rest of my life without knowing the expression "dank memes".

Jason trying to get super-powers from a irradiated spider.

Michael and Trevor both not getting how to do the "Dick Tracy called..." thing is great.

An American writers room idea of what an American-themed restaurant in Australia would be like. That "Manifest Destiny package" is a steal at $30.

Janet dealing with not having her powers cracks me up. "I will go physically pick those up, I guess, and then walk them back here with my feet."

Sad to say I also wonder if we'll get a new SPACEBALLS with all these new STAR WARS movies...

Great confrontation with the Judge on the bridge. Did not see Trevor being casually tossed off like that coming.

"I mean, because of you, Byron Allen owns the Weather Channel now."
"Is that bad?"
"I don't know, but it's weird, man."

Podcast this time is Marc Evan Jackson in conversation with Kirby Howell-Baptiste (she plays Simone) and writer Dan Schofield. Talk of casting, watching incomplete versions of the episodes before the effects are done and more.

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Monday, December 23, 2019

TV - The Good Place - Chapters 27/28 - Everything Is Bonzer!

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The Good Place
Chapters 27/28 - Everything Is Bonzer!
Season 3, Episodes 1/2
September 27, 2018

Double episode with a lot of ground to cover for the season premiere.

Loved the doorman. "I haven't heard a joke in 8000 years. I still haven't."

A whole lot of information is presented efficiently in Michael's rescues, the humans making temporary progress, backsliding and then Michael coming in again to give them a nudge towards coming together.

Shawn must have really hated his time in a cocoon while playing a judge for it to become his go to punishment for his minions.

Loved the scene of Eleanor setting up Simone and Chidi in the MRI room.

It was good to see the gang apart and interacting with others, but better to have them together again by the end of this.

But here comes Trevor...

Podcast changes this time, with the first episode done in real-time for release on the day the episode is aired. This time Marc talks with Jameela Jamil and writer Jen Statsky. It's also available in video form ( Talk about when the decision to return to Earth was made and general nonsense.

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Sunday, December 22, 2019

TV - The Good Place - Chapter 26 - Somewhere Else

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The Good Place
Chapter 26 - Somewhere Else
Season 2, Episode 13
February 1, 2018

It was good to have a few minutes at the top of the episodes with the characters we've come to know interacting and advancing their relationships before the inevitable snap brought them back to square one.

God, Eleanor's Earth friends really are the worst.

"I came to apologize. There. I did it. I apologized."
"No, you didn't."
"Yes, I did, assface."

"Taylor Splift, the Taylor Swift reggae cover band."

Michael as a bartender just feels right, somehow...

A nice low-key ending which would have worked as a series closer if they didn't get the pick-up for two more.

Podcast is Marc Evan Jackson hosting the return of creator Michael Schur for his now traditional season finale interview. As usual wide ranging topics like getting Ted Danson back behind the bar and Kristen Bell carrying the episode. Plus an epic dubbed swearing streak.

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Friday, December 20, 2019

TV - The Good Place - Chapter 25 - The Burrito

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The Good Place
Chapter 25 - The Burrito
Season 2, Episode 12
January 25, 2018

The humans come out of the other end of the portal from the previous episode into the Judge's chambers, with some initial confusion over the role of the titular burrito. I liked the reveal of the actual Judge sneaking up behind them.

Have to admit, I'm not always sure that the Judge character always works for me, between the pop culture references and Maya Rudolph's sometimes bizarre acting choices. Really varies depending on my mood when I'm watching.

Catching up with Michael being interrogated by Shawn and Bad Janet. Michael's "In the words of one of my actual friends... Ya basic. It's a human insult. It's devastating. You're devastated right now." is a great callback.

Some of the names on the rooms that Tahani passed by are a nice reflection of her name-dropping.

The reveal that Janet had been imitating Bad Janet was surprising at the time, but kind of obvious in retrospect, which is always a sign of good writing.

And Michael and Janet arrive as the cavalry at the last minute.

On the podcast front, Kristen Bell returns for a solo interview with host Marc Evan Jackson, with a lot about working with Maya Rudolph and William Jackson Harper and other topics.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2019

TV - The Good Place - Chapter 24 - Rhonda, Diana, Jake, and Trent

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The Good Place
Chapter 24 - Rhonda, Diana, Jake, and Trent
Season 2, Episode 11
January 18, 2018

This is probably my favourite episode of the season, although it's a real close call, especially with this whole stretch of five episodes after the hiatus. Bodes well for the series ending final stretch after a similar hiatus.

"I'm telling you, Molotov cocktails work. Any time I had a problem, and I threw a Molotov cocktail, Boom! Right away, I had a different problem."

Tahani's fake American accent is a delight. Close behind is Janet trying to imitate Bad Janet.

I've always thought that Chidi's demon doppelganger Trent would figure into things eventually, but we're getting down to the wire on that particular Chekov's gun being fired.

We got several definitive Shawn lines in this one, including "I took the form of a
45-year-old white man for a reason. I can only fail up."

Man, that scene where Michael sacrifices himself and pushes Eleanor through the portal, just sublime, and coming after a chase scene instigated by a character throwing a Molotov cocktail, amazing what this show can do. I know the Emmys are a bit of a joke, but nominating Ted Danson for this year was one they got right.

Podcast this time is the naughty bitch himself talking with director of photography David Miller and set decorator Kim Wannop on all manners of topics in the behind the scenes production of the show.

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Monday, December 16, 2019

TV - The Good Place - Chapter 23 - Best Self

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The Good Place
Chapter 23 - Best Self
Season 2, Episode 10
January 11, 2018

Unusual episode in that, except for a brief appearance by Bad Janet, only the main six characters in the show appear.

"Top of the balloon. Ultimate shotgun."

It's common for my opinion of episodes of this show to only improve in retrospect, after seeing what they were laying the groundwork for, and that's more true of this episode than most. Now that we've seen some highlights from reboot 119, Michael's description of them is even more effective. Plus random lines like "You know the sound that a fork makes in the garbage disposal?" just come back in the most recent episode.

"I mean, look at us. A self-obsessed socialite, a ridiculous giraffe, an absurd British aristocrat, a narcissistic attention seeker."
"Are these all me?"
"Yes. I was gonna do eight for you, and one for everyone else."

Loved the human starter kit, the dance montage, and then the taking down of the neighbourhood.

"The real Bad Place was the friends we made along the way."

Podcast this time around is Marc talking with Manny Jacinto, writer Tyler Straessle and Tom Zawacki of the props department. Talk of the overwhelming experience of the Comicon panel for the show and a lot of the background details and jokes that the prop department works on.

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Saturday, December 14, 2019

TV - The Good Place - Chapter 22 - Leap to Faith

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The Good Place
Chapter 22 - Leap to Faith
Season 2, Episode 9
January 4, 2018

Shawn and Michael pick up where the previous episode left off, and I'll admit the first time I saw it I thought that they really were going to have Michael flip back to evil. I guess I'm just gullible that way...

Janet drunk on "mag-e-nets" is enjoyable, especially with the payoff later in the episode.

This had what is probably my favourite Tahani name drop: "Sure, Ben Affleck told me he'd matured as an artist after he directed Argo, but then, right on schedule, it was, 'Guess what, Tahani, I'm gonna be Batman'."

Also my favourite fake(?) britishism: "... has flipped on us like a ten-stone griddle chip. It's a large pancake. Come on, people, you can get these from context."

The comedy roast was invented in the Bad Place? That checks out.

Drunk Janet at the party. "Something something Vicky something something. Can I braid your hair?"

"Normally I would love hearing a man tell a woman she's crazy". You can tell how much the writers like scripting for the demons.

"Maximum Derek"

Podcast episode is Marc interviewing Ted Danson and editor Eric Kissack. Ted's calling in from vacation and sounds really mellow and relaxed. A lot of detail on the post-production side of things.

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TV - The Good Place - Chapter 21 - Derek

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The Good Place
Chapter 21 - Derek
Season 2, Episode 8
November 2, 2017

And continuing straight from the last episode with the introduction of Derek. A very different type of comedy for the show.

Tahani and Jason were pretty fun out on the picnic Michael set up to get them out of the way. "The Jag-u-ars are very good"

"Girl, you are a messy bench who loves drama and I am into it" (high five)

And after everything is settled, in comes Shawn...

Speaking of, podcast is Marc Evan Jackson in conversation with Jason Mantzoukas (he plays Derek) and Jeff Rosenberg (he plays second assistant director). Talk of improv and creating Derek's character (including translating lines into other languages and back to English). Lots of details on the ins and outs of Jeff's job in coordinating production.

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Thursday, December 12, 2019

TV - The Good Place - Chapter 20 - Janet and Michael

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The Good Place
Chapter 20 - Janet and Michael
Season 2, Episode 7
October 26, 2017

Janet's turn in the spotlight this time, starting with a flashback to Michael stealing her from the Janet Warehouse and showing what happens when a Bad Janet tries to imitate a Good Janet. Great job by D'Arcy Carden and Ted Danson carrying this episode, where everyone else just has a short scene.

A very touching climax to the episode when Michael finally confronts his feelings. "The reason is friends" might very well be the pivotal moment in Michael's story arc, if not the whole series.

And, of course, the introduction of Derek in the final scene to set up the next episode. The character can be a bit (intentionally) annoying, but I enjoy him.

Podcast this time is Marc Evan Jackson (he plays Kevin on BROOKLYN NINE-NINE)  talking with D'Arcy Carden and director Dean Holland, with some discussion about the technical details on some of the visuals of this episode, like the Janet Warehouse and Janet spewing pennies.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2019

TV - The Good Place - Chapter 19 - The Trolley Problem

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The Good Place
Chapter 19 - The Trolley Problem
Season 2, Episode 6
October 19, 2017

One of the more explicitly philosophy and ethics focused episodes of the show.

"My name is Kierkegaard and my writing is impeccable, check out my teleological suspension of the ethical."

I liked Michael's analysis of Les Miserables.

The physical manifestation of the trolley problem was pretty intense, and I loved the little gleam of pleasure you could see Michael was taking in it before it's revealed he was torturing Chidi.

Eleanor's confrontation with Michael was fun, especially how she kept wavering on how much she shared his enjoyment. "I can't high five that, no matter how badly I want to".

The subplot of Janet starting to glitch because of the Tahani/Jason relationship had some interesting moments. "What has one thumb and wants to keep going? This not a lady."

And of course Eleanor's reaction to the endless shrimp machine.

Podcast is Jackson talking with William Jackson Harper and Dr. Todd May, a philosophical adviser for the show, with a wide-ranging conversation about ethics, philosophy raps and blood cannons.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

TV - The Good Place - Chapter 18 - Existential Crisis

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The Good Place
Chapter 18 - Existential Crisis
Season 2, Episode 5
October 12, 2017

First episode of the new status quo, the humans aware they're in a fake Good Place and working with Michael and Janet to keep it secret. Like most status quos on this show, it doesn't last nearly as long as I expected it to. On the one hand I like the dense storytelling, on the other hand I think would have happily watched another dozen episodes set in this part of the story.

Vicky and her lackeys bragging about their torture plans is great. Plus Vicky's "from now on make all your memos one page, max, with pictures".

Michael's breakdown was well done, and all the little things in his "mid-life crisis" (like the tattoo which is Chinese for Japan) cracked me up.

Eleanor's breakdown over the family of toothbrushes is almost the perfect distillation of the show's mix of heart and silliness.

Podcast this time has M. (he plays S.) talking with writer Andrew Law and actor Marques Ray (demon Quinston Timeclock) about the episode, including the actual animals brought in for the party scene.

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Monday, December 09, 2019

TV - The Good Place - Chapter 17 - Team Cockroach

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The Good Place
Chapter 17 - Team Cockroach
Season 2, Episode 4
October 5, 2017

After several technically quite tricky episodes, we almost get a bottle episode, set mostly in Eleanor's house, except for the Tahani death flashback and the scene in the town square. Very few special effects shots, too, except for Michael's floating computer screen. It's very much a plot and character heavy episode.

Loved Eleanor realizing just how disgusting the "lazy river of chowder" is.

Never caught Jason's line about "a gun range in a Jacksonville bus station" when talking about his trust of bowties before. DUUUUVAL!

"I just have twelve more Jaguars question..."

This is really well done, seeing how everyone eventually gets convinced to go along with Michael's new plan.

Vicky finally gets her spotlight in the final version of the neighbourhood.

Podcast episode for this chapter is Shawn (he's played by Marc Evan Jackson) talking with writers' assistant Lizzy Pace, editor Matt Freund and composer David Schwartz. Lots of behind the scenes talk on the technical work that goes into various stages of show production.

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Sunday, December 08, 2019

SECTION ZERO vol. 1 by Kesel/Grummett

by Tom Grummett and Karl Kesel

So, way back in 2000, a bunch of creators known for super-hero work at DC and Marvel planned to launch a new publisher for their creator-owned work, Gorilla Comics. Apparently some financing fell through, so the creators ended up self financing and publishing through Image, still with the Gorilla Comics imprint. Some of the announced books finished as planned (SHOCKROCKETS by Stuart Immonen and Kurt Busiek), some finished through other publishers (EMPIRE by Barry Kitson and Mark Waid) and others remained incomplete (CRIMSON PLAGUE by George Perez).

Another of the unfinished ones was the highlight of the line, SECTION ZERO by Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett. Having worked together for several years on Superman and Superboy comics at DC, here they did their own creation based on their interests, commonly pitched as "if The X-Files was created by Jack Kirby". Back then they only got three issues out. There have been some moves towards a revival over the years, including a short lived webcomic. Eventually they had a successful crowd-funding campaign, which led to a hardcover collection completing the original story, which was later serialized in six issues at Image, which has just been reprinted in this mass market edition. This has the preview story from CRIMSON PLAGUE #1 and first three issues, slightly modified from the original and three issues of new material.

The book is about a group of adventurers in the Challengers Of The Unknown / Fantastic Four school who are the latest iteration of a long-running UN-backed group that secretly investigates phenomena in the broad categories of Fortean, urban legend and supermarket tabloid fodder (back then, before tabloids became mostly celebrity gossip). The original three issues were a lot of fun, quickly moving through an adventure while exploring a wide world of weird. I was very sorry to see it end so quickly, and happy to hear it was coming back (and with more on the way next year with SECTION ZERO 1959).

The new material is very clearly not exactly how the story would have gone back in 2000, with a time jump 18 years forwards a dozen pages into the new material. I get the feeling that the story contained in these issues probably would have carried the series up to somewhere between #12 and #18 if the series had been able to continue back in 2000, and without the time jump. So the story is much more dense, with several new characters introduced and the main storyline wrapped up, ready for new adventures. The actual story set up in the original prologue is only tangentially related to the actual story here, with a one-page epilogue promising more on that line later.

The series is still a lot of fun. Kesel is exactly up my alley when he's doing the his modern take on classic comic storytelling in the Kirby lane, and I love Grummett's clear storytelling and creative character designs, especially when inked by Kesel. Hope that this time around they're able to continue exploring this world for a good long while.

The book also has an impressive selection of covers and pin-ups by guest artists, including the original Gorilla Comics artists, plus artists like Walter Simonson, José Luis García-López, Dave Gibbons, Jerry Ordway and others. A good showcase of the strength of the character designs.

TV - The Good Place - Chapter 16 - Dance Dance Resolution

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The Good Place
Chapter 16 - Dance Dance Resolution
Season 2, Episode 3
September 28, 2017

And the hits just keep coming, with yet another complex story that only works if you get the best from everyone involved. The first half of this episode flashes through the highlights of 799 neighbourhoods and over 300 years. You have to admire the amount of work they did for some gags that were on screen for less than ten seconds (or, as we'll see, didn't make the screen at all).

I liked the bit where you see Michael and Bambadjan celebrating as Eleanor calls Tahani a "mean giraffe", giving them fuel for the chaos sequence. The kind of behind the scenes at the torture they couldn't show in season one. And of course the actual mean giraffes...

"A three-hour spoken word jazz opera". Loved Janet at the drums and Vicky's reaction to not getting to play her triangle.

The scene with Janet pleading when Michael reboots her, followed by the later montage of reboots, is an all-time series highlight.

Montage of Eleanor soulmates, including Tahani, Glenn and a dog, is great. Followed by the montage of Elanor realizations, then Eleanor declarations. Never knew montages could work so well.

"Jason figured it out? Jason? This is a real low point. Yeah, this one hurts". That was a perfect place to end the highlights reel and move to the final neighbourhood.

Seriously, how was all that just eight minutes?

Vicky blackmailing Michael, and her Australian accent, she's about as far from "real Eleanor" as you can get now.

That clam chowder fountain has to be one of the most disgusting things ever on TV.

Maribeth Monroe does a great job of selling that Mindy's had over 300 years of this, without ever getting her cocaine. Wonder what that's like in the edited version.

Jason's stories of life in Jacksonville are always just so weird and sad. And how he still thinks he's in the Good Place even after Michael tells him the truth.

Podcast episode is Marc Evan Jackson (he plays Shawn) talking with Jameela Jamil (she plays Tahani) and writer Megan Amram (she plays the violin player next season). Talk of shooting all the reboots, some of the unused ones (including one where Jason is a mime, in full makeup, and something about a chainsaw and a dog), Megan working her aversion to clam chowder into the script, and talk of all the puns in the show, especially on the restaurant names.

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Saturday, December 07, 2019

TV - The Good Place - Chapters 14/15 - Everything Is Great!

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The Good Place - Chapters 14/15 - Everything Is Great!
Season 2, Episodes 1/2
September 20, 2017

And eight long months later...

Season opens with a double sized episode actually structured as one, as opposed to the doubling up of two distinct episodes done in the first season launch and finale.

It's a tough ask to follow up on one of the best episodes of television ever, but this does a pretty good job. It's a virtuoso level of storytelling, following each of the cast from the moment of their reboot into the fake Good Place, with the intersecting storylines each advancing the overall story slightly more.

Seeing the new tortures that Michael designed for each of the four is fun, and helps to reframe everything he did in the first season. The new torture for Chidi, being forced to choose between two soulmates and then having the choice yanked from him just as he was about to decide, really works well. And Tahani's dealing with her new soulmate, short and non-materialistic, was funny. Cargo pants and crocs, same as Glenn. That should have given it away right there.

The Vicky storyline is really entertaining, and like many things on this show ended up being a lot more important to later plot developments than you might think on first viewing. Loved her giving her character a limp.

And the final confrontation leading to the reboot is a nice abbreviated callback to the previous episode.

Michael reaching into Janet's throat is a good example of the way they sometimes take advantage of the impossible visuals the setting allows in casual ways.

The podcast has Marc Evan Jackson with episode writers Jen Statsky and Joe Mande and director Trent O’Donnell.  Lots of talk about how the episode structure worked and the decisions about how long they could keep the characters in the dark. But most important, the origin of "Ya Basic".

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TV - The Good Place - Chapter 13 - Michael's Gambit

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The Good Place
Chapter 13 - Michael's Gambit
Season 1, Episode 13
January 19, 2017

And this is what it all builds up to. Not to be hyperbolic, but I think this might be a contender for my favourite episode of any TV show anywhere. Unless they really pull off something amazing for the series finale next month to bump it to number two.

I wonder how many people who watch the series now get to come in cold enough to really feel the revelation? I still try to be circumspect in recommending the series outside of places where spoilers are warned and expected, but I'd have to think that something is going to seep in to most people before they watch it (even that fact that there is a revelation is almost too much to know).  I'm probably going to watch the last season of GAME OF THRONES in the next month, and I haven't been able to avoid major spoilers about that (advantage there, I go in expecting to be disappointed, so anything I like is a bonus). TGP isn't quite in the cultural zeitgeist like GoT, but I've seen enough "THIS is The Bad Place" memes to know it's not unavoidable.

Anyway, open with a flashback to Michael getting his promotion, with just enough to maintain the ruse for the viewer that he's from The Good Place while still planting some seeds of doubt with the drab 1961 office set.

It's hard to pick out scenes to highlight in this one since it's such an intricately constructed watch, with so many iconic moments that recast everything we've seen before and inform everything we've seen since.

The two minutes between when Eleanor has her revelation and she reveals it to the others (and the viewers) is just delicious. The Bambadjan interruption in the middle of it ("Michael! I just found an obscure precedent in the rules that might just save everyone." "Buzz off, Bambadjan! Don't need it.") is just so wonderfully done when you look at it in retrospect, especially Michael's reaction. I can still remember the first time I watched it being faked out and thinking that "obscure precedent" was going to be the big reveal of the episode.

From there on it's just non-stop. Michael's laugh and confession, Vicky's reaction to losing her big scene, Tahani realizing why she's there, Chidi's (first) almond milk confession, "Ya Basic" and the first reset, the small differences in the reset neighbourhood and of course the note. How is this all in a 22-minute episode? Jeremy Bearimy?

And of course one advantage people watching it now have is that they don't have to wait 244 days for the next chapter. Although I also wonder if that's an advantage. I probably watched this at least ten times in those 244 days, and it got better with every viewing. I'm not sure if I'd have the patience to wait even for the Fremulon logo to finish before going on to the next chapter if it was available.

Podcast episode is, of course, Marc Evan Jackson (he plays Shawn) talking to creator, writer and director Michael Schur for a full hour and still only scratching the surface of this episode. If you only listen to one episode of the podcast, this is it (again, until the series finale podcast which may eclipse it).

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Friday, December 06, 2019

TV - The Good Place - Chapter 12 - Mindy St. Claire

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The Good Place
Chapter 12 - Mindy St. Claire
Season 1, Episode 12
January 19, 2017

We get to see the previously described death of Eleanor, right down to the Lonely Gal margarita mix and Celebrity Baby Plastic Surgery Disasters magazine (right next to a magazine with Tahani on the cover).

Shawn playing the judge and Bad Janet are a formidable team. "I rule the fart inadmissible as evidence."

And then we meet Mindy in the medium place.

A little while ago my DVR picked up some repeats on a free preview of the Family Channel. I watched part of this one, and it was weird to see Mindy's lift story carefully edited to remove any mention of cocaine. I wonder if that's also the version of this show they get in The Medium Place...

Man, that screen of Eleanor's biggest point drops is some fun reading for the freeze framers.

Bad Janet in walkie talkie mode always cracks me up.

Jason sure does find a lot of reasons to use Molotov cocktails.

Janet's "ride or die protocol" is adorable.

And everything is finally set up for the big season finale.

Podcast this time is Marc talking with Mindy herself, Maribeth Monroe visual effects supervisor David Niednagel. Lots of talk about how they get those effects done on a TV timeline and budget.

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TV - The Good Place - Chapter 11 - What's My Motivation

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The Good Place
Chapter 11 - What's My Motivation
Season 1, Episode 11
January 12, 2017

I really do love "real Eleanor" and Chidi's egg scene. "I love you too, egg".

Jason and Pillboi and finally finding out how Jason died.  "We'll just get married and then no one can testify against us".

Michael finds out about Jason. Well, pretends to find out about Jason. Now there are no more secrets, none at all...

And the existence of a "Medium Place" is confirmed.

And finally, enter Shawn.

Speaking of Shawn, podcast this time is Marc (he plays Shawn) talking with episode writer Andrew Law and costume designer Kirston Mann. Talk of Michael's iconic feature bowtie, the inspirations for Janet and Bad Janet's looks, Eleanor's Good Place look vs. her Arizona look and creating the chaos sequence zig-zag outfits.

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TV - The Good Place - Chapter 10 - Chidi's Choice

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The Good Place
Chapter 10 - Chidi's Choice
Season 1, Episode 10
January 5, 2017

That was a rough two month wait...

Man, Tahani is harsh when confronting Jason. But not inaccurate.

Eleanor when she thinks "real Eleanor" is coming on to her "well, hooking up with someone with the exact same name is kind of a fun narcissistic fantasy"

Young Chidi filibustering recess is a classic bit. And his death scene is surprising.

I like the quick switching of who may or may not be soulmates with whom. Sort of taking classic sitcom plot complications but accelerating them and treating them in a more sophisticated manner.

"Deirdre and Margaret", ran for 16 years, they did nearly 30 episodes.

It feels more like the show now that we finally have Tahani in the loop on all of the secrets. Yep, that's right, no more secrets to be revealed...

Oh, man, so much to love in the Jason/Janet wedding. Jason's ripping off his tuxedo sleeves, Eleanor's reactions, the wedding vows, Janet not able to eat the wedding cake (both a callback and setting up an important future bit).

Chidi's reaction at the end when he finally decided to make a choice and sees that events have completely changed around him while he was deciding.

Podcast this time is MEJ interviewing William Jackson Harper and episode writer Demi Adejuyigbe. I liked the bit talking about what props they'd like to take from the show, with William having a pair of Chidi's loafers (which he makes clear he asked if he could take)

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TV - The Good Place - Chapter 9 - ...Someone Like Me as a Member

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The Good Place
Chapter 9 - ...Someone Like Me as a Member
Season 1, Episode 9
November 3, 2016

The show really moves into high gear with this episode. Loved Trevor and the Bad Place crew, and Vicky playing "Real Eleanor" is so perfect that I kind of find it hard to believe that the Vicky we come to know in later seasons could have pulled it off.

There's something very odd about Kristen Bell playing high school Eleanor. That was a great little flashback sequence about her refusal to join groups.

Payoff to all the weird little things in Eleanor's house being exactly what real Eleanor liked, and the hidden switch for the stairs.

First Bad Janet, in a short but memorable bit. I especially like Tahani and Michael's exchange "What is even the purpose of a Janet who behaves in such a manner?" "Unclear."

Man, that dinner is, intentionally, torture.

Bad Place crew party is off the hook. Nixon Tapes karaoke. I remember thinking at the time that Michael getting into "Who Let The Dogs Out" was a bit out of character, but I guess it was just him letting the mask slip a bit.

Michael making his stand against Trevor is a great scene, even knowing it's staged.

And of course Tahani finally figures out Jason's secret, which was a painful way to go into a two-month hiatus. Fortunately no one in the future will have to experience that torture.

Podcast this time is Marc in conversation with Tiya Sircar (Real Eleanor/Vicky) and writer Jen Statsky. Tiya talks about her original audition for the Tahani role, playing "Real Eleanor" without knowing the twist and filming the later Vicky reveal, and Vicky-as-Trump in later seasons. Lots of discussion about how the writing process on the show works.

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Thursday, December 05, 2019

TV - The Good Place - Chapter 8 - Most Improved Player

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The Good Place
Chapter 8 - Most Improved Player
Season 1, Episode 8
October 27, 2016

Rebooting Janet and the cactus gag is hilarious, especially as the number and variety of cacti in Michael's office explodes.

The list of things that get you sent to the Bad Place is interesting. "Did you ever reheat fish in an office microwave?"

I love the cube detecting a lie when Michael says Tahani's been a big help.

The questioning of Jason takes on a whole other level when you learn Michael's secret.

Adam Scott is great as Trevor, just annoying in so many ways.

Chidi being decisive is a great moment. And the revelation of the "real Eleanor" at the end is one of the best cliffhangers the show has had.

Podcast for this chapter is Marc Evan Jackson talking with Ted Danson and writer Dan Schofield. It runs pretty far afield of the actual episode, and Ted is very clearly as nice a guy as everyone has been saying he is for the last seven episodes.

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Sunday, December 01, 2019

Random Realities 2019.12.01

Back again, still a lot less frequently than I'd like, but more than I expected. This time, a 30 year old fanzine that remains a visual delight, a podcast I enjoy about music I'm mostly unfamiliar with, a re-watch of an uneven but interesting TV show and a plan to get back into prose.

On the Fanzine Cover Files, let's take a look at AMAZING HEROES #164 [1989]. This time around it's a Swimsuit Special, the third annual appearance of the feature. It started as about a 50 page section of the magazine, and by this year had grown to over 100 pages. The year after this it was promoted to a separate publication instead of being part of the regular AH numbering (and without the timely regular AH news, coming comics and reviews features), lasting for three issues. After AH was cancelled the publisher Fantagraphics sold the name to another publisher, Spoof Comics, who published two more Swimsuit issues, but I've never seen those. If the regular AMAZING HEROES INTERVIEWS issues published by Spoof I saw are indicative I doubt I'm missing much.

The specials are all surprisingly fun. While a few artists always go for the predictable cheesecake (or to a lesser extent beefcake) poses, with "swimsuits" only slightly more revealing than the normal costumes the characters wear, most of them go for something clever or funny, either with their own characters in different situations or taking the opportunity to do fan art for characters they wouldn't normally draw. The cover this time is Mitch O'Connell drawing Bettie Page, or a reasonable facsimile. O'Connell was bringing his retro-advertising style to a lot of covers and pin-ups in comics around this time, and it looks really sharp and eye-catching here.

A lot of other great images, most never seen anywhere else, are inside. José Luis García-López is a highlight, a rare chance to see him outside of the confines of DC comic with a well-rendered science fiction image. Mike Mignola does a very different view of Darkseid. Donna Barr does a great Desert Peach page, a bit of a callback to one of the classic Peach stories. Evan Dorkin is a regular in these books, with always detailed and funny gags with his characters (most of which I think he's included in various reprints). Charles Vess does a pretty stunning tribute to Rupert The Bear artist Alfred Bestall and Eric Shanower does the same for Winsor McCay's Little Nemo (something he'd return to in his work a few times over the years).  And literally over a hundred more. It's a great cross-section of the world of American comics in the late 1980s.

On the podcast recommendation front, I'm a recent recruit to the Who Cares About The Rock Hall podcast, hosted by Kristen Studard and Joe Kwaczala. Joe is an avid follower of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (the ephemeral Hall, not the Cleveland based museum) while Kristen is apathetic about it. Well, initially she is. As the podcast has gone on over the last year and a half she's gotten oddly more knowledgeable about the Hall, more invested in the inductions and more hostile towards the whole megillah.

I started listening it to it recently because Jimmy Pardo, of the previously recommended Never Not Funny, was a guest on a few episodes. Those episodes were about Iron Maiden and a fantasy draft the 2020 nominations. I enjoyed those quite a bit, so I looked through the back catalog for other guests or musical acts I was interested in (the standard episode is that they take an un-inducted musical act and discuss their career with a guest who has some interest in that act, with an eye towards whether that act should or will eventually be inducted into the Hall. Other episodes look at the current nominations, current inductees or past induction ceremonies and other Hall topics). After listening to a few that I had a particular interest in I kept enjoying it enough that I widened my episode selection, and pretty soon was listening to every episode. It'll take a while to catch up, but it'll be worth it. It's a lot of fun, even if you don't know anything about the particular focus of each episode, and has been a good way for me to learn about a lot of music from that last 30 years, where I have a lot of gaps in my knowledge (for the most part my musical tastes ossified back in 1990, so most eligible but un-inducted acts aren't that familiar to me). I admit that when I go to listen to a few songs from those acts I'm usually not sold on them, but I do walk away with more appreciation for their history and influence.

So try a few random episodes based on your tastes and see if it appeals to you, and soon maybe you'll be talking about FYEs and FYNs and the NomCom and their giant hoagies.

Obviously a lot of my TV interest for the last little while has been THE GOOD PLACE, with my rewatch leading up to the final four episodes on-going. On a related note, shortly before that I finished a watch/re-watch of LOST, the 2004-2010 show. It comes up occasionally on the Good Place podcast, with creator Michael Schur in particular mentioning a few times that when creating his show he talked occasionally to LOST co-creator Damon Lindelof about some of the experiences he had with that show and THE LEFTOVERS, which both have some structural similarities to THE GOOD PLACE (all three are in the general category of  "mystery box shows" and have a similar use of flashbacks to fill in background and reinforce the modern day narrative).

I'd also been wanting to revisit the show for a while, and that seems to be something in the cultural zeitgeist for a bit,  with several podcasts and on-line articles about it popping up. For me, I watched most of the show when it was new, but I missed at least a dozen of the 121 episodes, and watched others out of order as re-runs. Back then it wasn't quite as easy to catch up to missing episodes, so sometimes when I decided to watch the show after missing a few weeks I'd just find quick on-line summaries of what I missed. And note that while some of the missing episodes were for scheduling reasons, others were because I found it to be a very uneven show, and would regularly give it up in disgust, only to be drawn back in by a general interest and a lack of anything else worth watching.

So I finally got down to watching the entire thing, some for the first time ever and all in order for the first time. For the most part I watched two or three episodes a day, usually with at least a few hours between episodes, never back-to-back episodes. That seemed to be a pretty good pace, which kept up the forward momentum of the plot, and usually wiped out the bad taste that the less interesting episodes left quickly. Certainly a better pace than the original weekly release, with gaps as long as eight months between seasons, and conversely overlong double episodes as season finales. There were still a few long stretches where nothing much was happening and I considered giving up, but ultimately I made it to the end.

Ah, the end. Like I said, there does seem to be some sort of critical re-evaluation of LOST. I haven't really looked into it in depth, so I'm not sure if the consensus that the ending sucked has changed. It certainly hasn't for me. The only thing I can say is that it's not as bad as the culmination of two months of viewing as it was of six years. For the most part my feelings are the same as they ever were, but milder. The whole parallel universe purgatory of the final season still feels like a bit of a cop-out, and the resolution of the island plot needed some important stuff to be established much earlier to be satisfying (I used to think maybe some crucial stuff came in episodes I missed, but that turned out no to be the case). Anyway, it was still an interesting show, and probably a show more important to the evolution of American television in this century than anyone realized at the time, maybe worth the time to watch it, but could have been much stronger if it was half as many episodes and had some clue as to where it was going from the start, instead of making it up as it went along and treading water for much of the time.

I think I might even try another re-watch in a few years, maybe a more leisurely one and with one of the many LOST re-watch podcasts to accompany it. Are any of them well recommended?

I have to say, lately I've been regretting that I don't make nearly as much time for prose reading, either fiction or non-fiction, as I did in the past. Not sure why that is. I think I'm going to try to change that in the near future. I've got a few different tactics I'm going to try.

One is that I'm going to try to take at least a half-hour a day to re-read something I already know I love. I've certainly got enough old books sitting on shelves and in boxes that I know have given my great pleasure in the past. I mean, I read Isaac Asimov's Foundation novels at least three times each in the first decade that I read them, and I think it's been at least fifteen years since I read any of them. So maybe those, Douglas Adams' Hitchhikers books, a few others, those should get me back into the habit.

I think I'll also try to get into the habit of listening to audiobooks. Now that they're much more readily available and convenient, I think they might be something I can enjoy, given how much I enjoy podcasts. I can get a huge variety of them from the Toronto Library on their Libby app on physically on standalone readers. I think for this I'll try to concentrate on non-fiction, maybe another half-hour or so a day.

If those two go well, I'm going to try to spend a little time this month working up a list of maybe a hundred books I want to read next year. I don't expect that's remotely possible, but if I can get even a third of that it'll be a lot better than I've managed in quite a while. Recommendations welcome.
Weblog by BobH [bobh1970 at gmail dot com]