Happy holidays, everyone! I know Hanukkah is happening and Christmas is in five days, so I thought today I’d do a fun 2-for-1 special and review TWO shows in ONE post. Amazing, right? I recently have been catching up on shows I’ve either (a) missed or (b) been waiting to fully binge, and it has been quite the journey. Moving into 2021, we have some really exciting new projects coming out both on streaming and in theatres (hopefully), so I just want to be as prepared as possible. Yes, everything sucks right now, but read this and maybe it’ll inspire some of you. Or not. That’s fine.
Apple TV+ has been hitting the mark for me this year. When our family got a free year subscription, I was not anticipating much from the service. I already have Disney+ and Netflix (and HBO Max… thank you USC), so what could this one offer? Then I watched ‘The Morning Show’… and then I watched ‘Defending Jacob’… and now I have finally finished ‘Ted Lasso’. I’m well aware the service has a little ways to go, as do most of them, but these three shows, to me, make Apple TV+ a certified competitor moving into the new year. Okay, but enough of that. Let me know gloss over how much I loved ‘Ted Lasso’. In many ways, it’s not a genre-bending innovator of a comedy.
The prospect of an American being plopped into the customs of the United Kingdom is quite hilarious to me as it is. I also happen to love accents. On top of that, sport films and shows always end up having an incredibly wholesome and satisfying story. What makes ‘Ted Lasso’ so, well, fantastic, is the cast and their ability to play off of each other. Jason Sudeikis is a brilliant actor. He is, unfortunately, the only actor I recognized upon this first watch. As an American I guess I was skeptical how others would play off his comedic timing — that being said, Keeley (Juno Temple), Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham), and Nathan (Nick Mohammed) ended up stealing the show for me (shoutout to their Emmy nominationed too… they deserve it). From the moment the show started, I was laughing my a** off. The humor is just the right amount of stupid yet quick, such that it’s effective and intelligent in the end. The plot itself is also incredibly witty as well — spoilers! — with a scorned woman seeking revenge on her ex-husband by purposefully ruining his beloved football club. And who else would she do that with than the most blatantly stereotypical American man portrayed by Sudeikis? Every joke is timed out to the second. Every reaction and its correlating shot is planted perfectly right after a remark is made. I mean, I know other comedies exist, but ‘Ted Lasso’ combines the best of those shows and mixes it with the real-world implications of divorce, infidelity, alcoholism, anxiety, depression, and relationships. All in ten episodes. I laughed, cried, choked on a few laughs, and yelled out loud. The cast is brilliant. The writing is stellar. The themes are meaningful and quite poignant in 2020. I don’t have much else to say, other than go watch ‘Ted Lasso’ now. Borrow someone’s Apple TV+ if you have to. It’s worth it.
Alright, now I finished this season maybe 20 minutes ago, but y’all when I saw the second season of ‘The Mandalorian’ is insane and I loved every moment of it. I… have my opinions about the current state of the Star Wars universe (*cough* Kathleen, we won’t forget), and thank god for Favreau and Filoni for saving something called “storytelling”. When I think of Star Wars, I immediately think of “a space-age western”. The OT, and some of the PT, embodies this nostalgic perspective of Hollywood storytelling but projects it into the future, even if there are still obnoxious large buttons and radio systems. ‘The Mandalorian’ takes that approach and brings the original spark to life. Pedro Pascal, with a mask on nonetheless, is stellar and knows exactly how to evoke the cowboy-esque character. Anyway, this second season found us continuing the exploration for Baby Yoda’s (or, now Grogu’s) “kind” and the efforts to stop that by Moff Gideon (can we talk about how good Giancarlo Esposito is?) and the New Republic. I’m not surprised this season had the same stellar artwork and development as the first. Each episode brought a new setting or person to life in such colorful and imaginative ways. Even in darkly-lit canteens are caves, the immense characterization is pulpable. I also appreciate how immaculate the ships and crafts look throughout (especially the Razor Crest).
We can’t gloss over the many, many cameos and surprises throughout, though. I won’t mention names as to protect those who haven’t watched yet, but I was shocked how well-integrated and natural these occurrences unfolded on-screen. The universe expanded, which, to me, is the goal of the Star Wars universe. There shouldn’t be limits to these stories, and ‘The Mandalorian’ continues its efforts to both build the world around these characters but also build possibilities for the future (which we now know is being utilized quite well by Disney). Easily the last two or three episodes are the best, and the ending… whew, was it satisfying. As an avid fan of the series itself, this show is a restoration of its glory. I really liked ‘Rogue One’, and I was hoping Disney would make more projects in this vein. Slowly, I think, they are coming around to the fact that creativity should overrule box office sales. Often times, creative risks pay off in the form of box office sales. The world is changing, so who knows when we will see Star Wars on the big screen again, but as long as these new Disney+ projects provide similar perspectives and production as ‘The Mandalorian’, I think we are all in good hands. Hopefully.
That all being said, I hope everyone has been keeping safe and watching/reading new content. It is important to keep our spirits up, even though it is so easy lately to immediately go to the negative. I’m trying, that’s for sure. It’s a work in progress. But, it is shows like these that help restore my faith in the arts and the industry. I still need to finish ‘The Flight Attendant’ and watch ‘Mank’ and ‘Ma Rainey’, so I’ll let you know how those go as well.