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The Monthly Binge - Reviews





Welcome back to the Monthly Binge, a column where I talk about the shows I’ve binged lately. Last month was a bit chaotic at work so binging TV has been my lifeline. I hope you’ve found some great TV to pass the time as well. If you would like your binge review to be featured next month, fill out the form at the end. A very special thanks to Ivan, Luana, and LauraLoo for being our guest reviewers this month! Just a reminder - there will be spoilers here and in the comments. Read at your own risk.



My May Binges:



Show: Sharp Objects
Episodes: 1.01 - 1.08
Type: New to me
Rating: 2+, but only because the last 3 episodes were so good

Summary: An alcoholic reporter is sent back to her small hometown to investigate the murder of two young girls.
Best Reason to Watch: The ending...by far. In fact, skip the first 5 episodes and just watch the last three. It’s a doozy of an ending that left me glued to the screen and completely engrossed. Second best reason to watch - the acting.
Best Character: Frank, by default, because the only 2 characters I didn’t want to slap were Frank and Eileen and Frank was on screen longer than Eileen.

Best Episode: Milk (1.08) is the best when it comes to pacing and overall answers. Quality-wise, it wins. However, my favorite episode is Falling (1.07) because it is here that everything falls in place for Camille. She finally gets it and that is an amazing thing to watch.

Worst Episode: Episodes 1.01 - 1.04 may be the most boring TV episodes I have ever seen. My notes for these 4 episodes basically funnel down to “unbearably slow.” If I had to choose just one though, it would be Fix (1.03), which felt like the show was moving in reverse and added an unnecessary subplot.

Awards:
Best Relationship - Frank and Camille
Best Scene - Camille sacrifices herself for Amma by giving in to her mother
Most Cruel - Adora tells Camile that she never loved her
Best Twist - dollhouse creepiness
Most Sympathetic - John, who gets harassed while he’s grieving
Most Entertaining - Jackie, as Adora’s boozy best friend/minion and Camille’s staunch defender
Most Likely to Sell Her Soul to a Kardashian - Ashley
Most Likely to Sue for Defamation - small towns everywhere
Most Important - stay for the ending credits of the last episode. Seriously. The credits may be as long as a full-length action movie, but don’t fast forward them in the finale. You can, however, save 20 minutes of your life by fastforwarding through the other ones.

Best Quotes:
1. Jackie: “I mean it. You tackled those demons.” Camille: “My demons are not remotely tackled. They’re just mildly concussed.” Jackie: “Well, I’d say that’s better than the rest of us, isn’t it?”
2. Bob: “It was a man. I’d put money on it. The women around here, they don’t kill with their hands. They talk and you’re dead.”
3. Sheriff: “Well, I’m off to protect and serve.” Jackie, holding up her booze: “I’m off to mix and serve.”
4. Willis: “So let me guess. You were like a preacher’s daughter? Looks, money, and brains?” Camille: “Well, looks and money get you pretty far in this town.” Willis: “And brains?” Camille: “Well, that’ll get you out of this town.”
5. Adora: “We all have bad childhoods. At some point, you have to forget it, move on. Anything else is just selfish.”
6. Amma: “I know a girl like you. Not like you but…she says it doesn’t hurt because the cut’s already there under the skin. The knife just lets it out.” Camille: “Your friend sounds like an Afterschool Special.”
7. Willis: “Well, if you listen to all the talk around here, everyone’s some kind of crazy or evil.” Sheriff: “Only half of it’s true.” Willis: “That’s what I’m worried about. We’re looking at the wrong half.”

Overview:
This show was made for the Emmy’s. It was not made to entertain. The visuals are less than subtle, obsessively contrasting the innocent with the sordid and all the square symmetrical framing. If you remove the drawn-out, no dialogue, cinematic panning and the endless, 3-second flashbacks, this show would be about 120 minutes long instead of the 421 minutes it actually is. It’s a bloated piece of awards fare that would have been better as a 3-episode mini-series...but man, is that ending awesome! I rarely fear for a main character the way I did for Camille and that alone bumps the show up.

By the middle of episode 6, there’s actual movement on the mystery case and not just a portrait of how screwed up everyone in a small town can be. Then, in episode 7, Camille learns the truth. At that point, I couldn’t look away. It’s still very much an award-bait show, but it laser-focuses on the only part of the storyline I cared about and ratchets up the stakes and tension admirably. The middle of episode 7 to the middle of episode 8 was a wild ride and, while I did guess the main twists earlier, I had no idea if time would run out or not. The intensity of not knowing made it one of the better ends to a TV series for me and certainly one that will stick with me for a while.

Final Verdict: If plot and action matter to you, skip this show. Or better yet, skip the first 4-5 episodes. All you really need to know from them is that every single one of the characters has a dysfunctional life, they all make terrible choices, and they all have secrets.



Show: Sliders
Episodes: 1.01-1.05
Type: Under the radar
Rating: 4

Summary: Four people get sucked through a wormhole and end up on parallel worlds, each different from the next.
Best Reason to Watch: The alternate worlds make for a fun story with plenty of room to be creative. Some worlds work better than others but I enjoy the backstory to them all and how even a small change in history could turn a world upside down.
Best Character: In the 90’s, my favorite season 1 character was Quinn. Now it’s a toss up between Quinn and Arturo, depending on the episode. They balance each other out well.

Best Episode: Easy - of this batch of episodes, it is the Pilot, Part 2. The first part of the pilot does a good job of setting up the story but that means a lot of exposition that slows down the pace. It’s in the 2nd part of the 2-hour pilot that the action and the tension ratchet up. It also shows how much they can play with the concept. Details like the People’s Court were very clever and showing how the homeless guy was a Senator in a parallel world added depth to the world, even in small moments. The secondary characters were intriguing and I love that it is Wade who is the commander on the alternate Earth. I also think that of the first 5, this is the most tightly written with the least filler. Overall, this was my favorite world-building of the bunch.

Worst Episode: Summer of Love was a letdown to me, especially after the Russian and Asteroid worlds. It was much too scattered and the stakes felt a lot lower. Also, it’s the second time in a row that they split the characters up. In season 1, it tended to work better to have them all together. Plus, the 60’s just don’t do it for me.

Awards:
Best Scene - Arturo and Wade see the wormhole for the first time
Best Character Interaction - Arturo and Quinn
Best Recurring Character - Pavel
Worst Recurring Character - Bennish
Best World - Oil Boom World
Best Save - Mold...to make penicillin
Best Twist - Dead Dad walking through the door at the end of the pilot
Overall Dumbest Choices - Quinn, in most episodes he does something under the guise of heroism that’s actually just dumb and makes everything worse
Famous Last Words - Arturo: “Anywhere is better than here.”
Best Allusion Only if You Lived in the 80’s - People’s Court with Judge Wapner
The “Say What?” Award - Why is a Communist court swearing by God? That makes no sense at all.
The “I Owe You One” Award - I first got addicted to Sliders, but it also came on before another little sci-fi show called The X-Files. If it weren’t for Sliders and one of my middle school students, I may never have found my first sci-fi obsession. Thank you, Sliders, for introducing me to Mulder and Scully.

Best Quotes:
1. Wade to Quinn: “Hey, look at me. I have no regrets. Understand? Yeah, yeah, I miss my family and of course, I don’t want to die but I have done more and seen more since we started sliding than I ever imagined possible. I don’t know. Maybe I’m crazy but I really feel connected to all those other Wades out there. They’re all me. If I die here, at least I know they’re gonna go on.”
2. Arturo: “Mr. Bennish, if we survive, I promise you this. I will dedicate my life to isolating the gene that makes you so obnoxious and I will destroy it.”
3. Arturo: “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. I think I’ve just seen God and I could have sworn he was driving a Cadillac.”
4. Rembrandt: “Lord, Lord. You can take a man’s body and beat it. You can take his soul and try it, but to do this to a hamburger is just downright unkind.”
5. Doc: “You do know that if we fail tonight, the entire West Coast uprising will be extinguished. Everything, finished.” Wade, as the rebels look at her for inspiration: “Then, we won’t fail.”
6. Rembrandt: “You’re gonna have to explain this to the insurance boys, Q-Ball. You’re gonna have to tell them that my beautiful red sled is on another planet where it’s stuck in a freakin’ iceberg. They’re never gonna buy that when I put in my claim.”

Overview:
The first two seasons of Sliders remain one of my all-time favorite sci-fi TV shows. Sliders has a clever premise that allowed the writers to explore many different facets of history and life, yet didn’t have to adhere to all of the constructs that tend to sink time travel shows for me. In these 5 episodes, the show was still feeling its way with some earths working better than others. However it gave a glimpse of just how clever this show could be before it got stuck in “movie rip-off of the week” mode and then the morass that was the Kro-Maggs. When it was at its best, it reminded me of the sci-fi classic, The Twilight Zone, in that it could entertain as well as make you think. The ever-changing worlds let the characters face a wider range of issues, which led to making them more well-rounded and easier to relate to. It also tapped into the “what if’s” of history that I find fascinating. While my favorite episodes come later in the series, these were a pleasant walk down memory lane.

Final Verdict: If you don’t mind 90’s CGI and a few bumps in the road, I highly recommend the first 2.5 seasons of this show. I guarantee there will be some worlds that stick with you and made even a few you wish you found yourself. This show was also made for fan fiction if that’s your thing.



Show: Community
Episodes: 1.01 - 1.05
Type: rewatch
Rating: 4+

Summary: A group of misfits at Greendale Community College wind up in the same study group and meta hilarity ensues.
Best Reason to Watch: This is one of the few comedies that can have me doubled over, gasping for breath in laughter.
Best Character: Abed is one of my favorite comedy characters of all time. His Asperger’s Syndrome makes him the odd guy out, often not understanding the basics of human interaction. To connect, he speaks through film and TV, skewering the other characters and, more importantly, the tropes of comedy. He says what the audience is thinking and makes us laugh in the process.

Best Episode: Introduction to Film (1.03) - Since Abed is my favorite character, it’s no surprise that the first episode that focuses on him is my favorite in this set. However, it is also the first episode that really tugged at my heartstrings too. What starts off as just another disagreement between Britta and Jeff slowly turns into a silent plea from Abed for his father to understand him. Things between them have gotten worse since his mother left and Abed thinks his father blames him for that. After seeing his film, both father and son connect. It’s both funny and tender, and that is a winning combination for me.

Worst Episode: Pilot (1.01) - While I do like the pilot, it had some rough patches. First off, it focuses on 2 of my 3 least favorite characters in season 1 - Jeff and Britta. Also, both of them are at their most obnoxious. The whole thing boils down to Jeff trying to be too cool for Greendale and Britta trying to be morally superior to everyone.

Awards:
Best Scene - Abed shows his dad his movie in an attempt to communicate with him
Best Character Interaction - Abed and Troy
Best Silent Conversation - the group deciding whether to let Jeff back in the group or not
Best Reactions - Spanish class to Pierce and Jeff’s bizarro presentation
Most Annoying - Vaughn
Most Surprising Pair - Jeff and Shirley’s friendship
Best Speech - Jeff in defense of Britta / Annie motivating Pierce
Most Over the Top - Abed trying to make Troy believe he’s an alien
Most Terrifying - the mascot for the Human Beings, which looks like a mime serial killer
Best Running Gag - the ending scenes with Troy and Abed

Best Quotes:
1. Jeff: “Gentlemen, I’m sure you suspected that Miss Perry was pretty odd before the recess but if you could have heard all the stuff she just told me in the shower, you would realize she is all the way out of her entire damn mind. She doesn’t want to succeed because she doesn’t think she can, so she goes out of her way to fail. That’s crazy, but do we really want to make it a crime to be crazy at Greendale? I mean look at us. I mean you two are arguing about status at a college that correspondence schools make fun of. Dean, you want so bad for this place to be Ivy League that you are putting us at risk of electrocution because everyone on this campus is nuts.”
2. Annie: “You sat in a room for 26 straight hours. Didn’t that bother you?” Abed: “Yeah, I was livid.” Annie: “Then why didn’t you leave?” Abed: “Because you asked me to stay and you said we were friends.”
3. Jeff, to a crying Annie: “This won’t work. The last time you did this, I saved a vial of your tears and I’ve been slowly building up an immunity.”
4. Britta: “You didn’t hurt my feelings, Shirley. I don’t need to go to the bathroom with other people. I was just trying to throw you a bone because I like you.” Shirley: “Oh, you can keep that bone. Listening to a story about a stranger p** me off and taking the stranger’s side? And then you can’t talk about your own business, but you insinuate my mama’s a robot because she and I want makeovers. That is the ladies’ room, Britta, a place where ladies go to share, listen, support each other, and discretely eliminate waste. And I like you too. I even like it you’re a little hard, but if you can’t learn to be soft in there, you need to pee alone.”
5. Jeff to Duncan: “You know, you have the savoir-faire of a hyena. How is it that you and James Bond come from the same island?”
6. Shirley: “They call me Tattle-ina. It’s a bumble bee nickname. It’s cute but it stings.”

Overview:
Like another one of my favorite comedies, Galavant, the magic of Community lies in its ability to poke fun of itself and not take itself too seriously. Whether it is in the form of Abed’s meta one-liners or something as absurd as a rickety desk fort, Community really makes me laugh. I literally spit water out on my keyboard in one scene of this rewatch. Yet, in almost every episode, there are moments that also tug at your heartstrings. These first few episodes do a good job of highlighting each of the main characters, giving you a solid idea of who they are and what motivates them. They are unique enough to stand out but they also harbor their own insecurities, making them relatable instead of stereotypes. I really like how season 1 mixes them up so that they all play off one another instead of only focusing on Jeff and Britta’s relationship.

Final Verdict: Check out this show.



Show: iZombie
Episodes: 5.04 - 5.08
Type: continuation
Rating: 3

Summary: Things in New Seattle get more intense as extremists on both sides - human and zombie - plan for genocide, while the US government debates on whether or not to just nuke the whole place.
Best Reason to Watch: Because it is the final season of a 5-season show and who doesn’t want to know how it ends?
Best Character: Major - giving Major a plot that does not revolve around Liv and gives him the chance to be both the voice of reason and a leader that takes action is doing wonders for his character. I haven’t liked him this much since the beginning.

Best Episode: Death Moves Pretty Fast (1.05) wins for one reason: Blaine finally gets his. I’ve been waiting for this for 4 seasons now. It’s about time someone calls Blaine out for being the murderous, vain, douche that he is. Not that Al is much fun, but she gets the job done. This is also the first time that I saw the Dead Enders as a credible threat. Generally, they are more eye rolling and obnoxious than dangerous, but messing with the brain tubes was clever.

Worst Episode: The Scratchmaker (1.06) - Personally, I found both 1.06 and 1.07 dull, but The Scratchmaker also brings back one of my least favorite characters, Stacey Boss. Ugh! Do we really need him again? I also was not a fan of the Blaine voice-overs or hearing about Blaine’s perspective at all. He’s a murderer. Case closed. Plus, the brain of the week didn’t come into play until halfway through the episode, robbing us of most of the comedy.

Awards:
Best Scene - Major takes down Justin mid-rant
Best Character Interaction - Liv and Ravi, always
Most Fun Fight Sequence - Blaine kicks the Dead Enders’ butt to samba music
Most Fun Character - doped up Clive
Most Fun Interrogation - Liv and Ravi while Clive is out of commission
Best, if Evil, Plan - giving all the zombies Alzheimer dementia brain
Biggest Suck - Dolly Durkins is terrible to her zombie son, Murphy. No Mother-of-the-Year awards for her.
Best Bluff - Major makes Stacey Boss think he doesn’t need brains to get him to supply them at a cheaper rate
Biggest/Least Necessary Surprise - Liv’s mom is back to tell Liv who her father is

Best Quotes:
1. Jake: “It’s hard to prepare gourmet meals when your taste buds are shot.” Liv: “Beethoven was deaf. Suck it up.”
2. Liv: “Horses disrupted feet. Trains disrupted the horse. Smart drugs will disrupt the mind itself. Imagine, Ravi, the new normal. Synthetically enhanced brains processing a massively expanded sensorium wired into a worldwide data net with cybernetically empowered superbodies.” Ravi: “Got it. The future will be obnoxious.”
3. Liv: “We might lose faith sometimes, but we can’t give up on family. It might be the most important thing we’ve got.”
4. Mom: “You don’t talk to me like that, like you’re the aggrieved party here. You left your brother to die without any kind of explanation.” Liv: “Well surely by now you’ve figured out why I did what I did. I would have turned him into a zombie and that may seem almost normal now, but at the time, I wasn’t sure that that was the best option.”
5. Michelle, after putting Clive down as the father of her baby: “Look at you. You’re here. You brought me snacks and flowers and crosswords.” Clive: “Sudokus, but I’m happy to go back.” Michelle: “Of course you are and that’s why I wrote your name in on that form. You’re the man women want as the father of their child because in the worst case, there’s no doubt that Clive Babinaeux is going to show up and be a rock…”
6. Justin: “Look, Major. I love you. I do. I tried to support you but you took it too far. You were willing to sacrifice zombies for humans. How could you be so naive? You, Liv, there is no middle ground, Major. It’s us or them. It’s time to pick sides. You’re a zombie. I recommend you get on board the team.” Major: “I picked a side - good humans, good zombies, side by side.” Justin: “That’s not a side. That’s blowing out a candle, making a wish.”
7. Liv: “It’s all data, Ravi. I mean you could design a system. You’d have a mechanism to gather crime data, physical evidence, testimony, relationships, motive. A smart algorithm analyzes and voila.” Ravi: “Congratulations, you just invented the police.”

Overview:
You know when a show wants to get bigger and better for its final season and suddenly throws in a bunch of random subplots. That’s what these episodes feel like. Instead of sticking with its winning formula of great brain characters, these iZombie episodes went long on epic and short on fun. It makes the season feel cluttered and overcrowded, both introducing a bunch of new characters and bringing back old ones that should have stayed gone. We already have a nuclear threat, a human genocide plan, and a zombie extinction plan. Did we have to throw in Liv meeting her insane absentee father as well? He would have been just as superfluous as the Zombie Big Bad without Liv hemming and hawing over backstory, too. Major gets some good stuff to work with here, but Liv seems to be shunted off or stuck in an addict dad storyline that may work in the end but, for now, is tiresome.

Final Verdict: I look forward to finishing the series, but mostly in spite of these episodes.



Reader Reviews:



Luana
Show: Flack
Episode: 1.01 - 2.02
Best Reason to Watch: Seeing Anna Paquin as London's Olivia Pope is more than enough for me
Best Character: Eve
Best Episode: Brand Barron (2.02), there's not much I could say without spoiling it, but Robyn is trying to stop hating herself and be better but she continues to struggle.
Worst Episode: Anthony (1.01), not bad by any means but with this first episode I just thought it would be a fun show to pass the time, and it's much more than that.
Overview: I love Anna Paquin and the idea of seeing her as a fixer had me sold immediately. I found it by chance (no idea why I didn't know about it sooner) and it turns out to be, not only addictively entertaining, but also a great character study on the messy trials of being a "functional" addict.





Ivan
Show: Leverage
Episodes: 77
Best Reason to Watch: If you like a modern take on the Robin Hood tale, this is for you.
Best Character: Parker, her growth throughout the series is one to watch, perfectly encapsulated in the Series Finale.
Best Episode: The Grave Danger Job (4.07), this episode to this day gives me chills! This episode is the reason I will forever wish everyone sees this show.
Worst Episode: The Scheherazade Job (3.04), this episode left a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth because of the last scene.
Overview: Found family, these are the first words that come to mind when I think of this show. The relationship between a crew who'd never work together becoming family is one to marvel at and I can't recommend this show enough. There hasn't been one like it before. Sometimes bad guys make the best good guys.”



Ivan
Show: Psych
Episodes: 120 plus the movie.
Best Reason to Watch: The characters, without them the show wouldn't work.
Best Character: Shawn Spencer, his arc throughout the show is great. He never loses who he is but he definitely becomes more grounded.
Best Episode: Mr. Yin Presents... (4.16) This show, without question, is insanely funny, but this episode was one of the most serious ones. It was still the show we fell in love with, but the tone was very dire. It still gives me chills when I think about it.
Worst Episode: Right Turn or Left For Dead (7.08). One thing I could always count on with this show is feeling happy, and this episode was not that. This episode was very somber and depressing and for that, I never will love it.
Overview: This is one of the best shows, period. The bromance, the hijinks, the romance - it has everything. Shawn and Gus' bromance is the best bromance I have ever seen, barely any other has beaten it. Even the theme song is meta and no one can hate this, so it is well worth it to watch this gem of a show.



LauraLoo77
Show: Work In Progress
Episodes: 1.01 - 1.08
Best Reason to Watch: The characters, especially Chris. Oh my lord. He is EVERYTHING.
Best Character: Hands down it has to be Chris. He is just the sweetest, most precious human being. Unfortunately for me, Abby is also up there as she was immensely relatable despite all of her intense flaws. I also really like Campbell and King.
Best Episode - 3, 2, 1 (1.08). Despite the finale wrecking me in every way, it was masterfully done and it made me clamour for another season, so it did its job well.
Overview: The acting is absolutely flawless, the dialogue intense and intriguing, the representation palpable and mesmerizing. An extremely captivating thrill ride from beginning to end, I felt the entire range of emotions while watching. It's a simple premise but it works so incredibly well due to the unique presentation of its cast of characters and experiences they share. If you like dramedies like BoJack Horseman, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Looking, Please Like Me, One Day at a Time, or others like it, you will LOVE this one.



Your Turn:

If you would like to share your thoughts on what you’re binging, comment below or fill out this form. I will randomly choose a few to share in next month’s column. Please make sure that you have watched 5 or more episodes and that it is not the current season of a show covered by SpoilerTV.







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