The Weekly Buzz

The Weekly Buzz column is a timeline of my favorite pop culture events of the week. 

9/9: One Mississippi Season 2 Premiere (Amazon)

Tig Notaro’s One Mississippi is not so much underrated as under the radar. Following a darkly brilliant first season, the show’s sophomore run is even more settled and cohesive. The slow burn between Tig and “straight” Kate is compelling enough to keep even casual viewers invested thanks to the crackling chemistry of leads: Notaro and real-life wife Stephanie Allynne.

The show, though billed as a comedy, is not afraid to tackle tough topics. Season 1 was a devastating portrait of grief and its lingering effects. Season 2 addresses the casualness of sexual assault, the racial history of the south, and anti-LGBT discrimination. Heavy stuff, to be sure, but Notaro’s dry humor and sarcastic wit add levity. As do the various imaginative sequences including a can’t-miss rendition of “Ring of Keys” from Broadway’s Fun Home.

Artistically, the show captures the naturalistic beauty of the southern landscape. The fictional small town of Bay Saint Lucille feels lived-in and its inhabitants authentic. The show’s critique of southern conservatism is pointed, but honest. And, the music is expertly selected to complement each scene. I would call the series a complicated love letter to the south.

My biggest complaint is that the run-time is too brief. Each season consists of 6 20-minute episodes. I recommend binging both seasons back to back if you’re a newbie; I had to wait a whole year in between.

Stylistically, the show is comparable to Aziz Ansari’s Master of None. Some of the acting is stilted, but the lead is loveable and the storyline captures a raw sense of realism not typically found in scripted series.

9/12: The Mindy Project Season 6 Premiere (Hulu)

I loved the Mindy Project during the first three seasons. It was fresh, funny, and had a clear idea of what it wanted to be: a romantic comedy that commented on romantic comedy tropes.

I stopped watching after the first few episodes of season 5. Character arcs became repetitive and characterization became caricature. Mindy went from authentically flawed but lovable to downright unlikeable. And, actor turnover made it difficult to pin down a central cast to invest in.

I am going to finish the series because I still believe in it, and I am hoping the characters I cared about for so long finally get their happy endings.

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9/13: Younger Season 4 Finale (TV Land)

I binged Younger over the summer and fell in love with its unabashed feminism and surprising sex-positivity (on TV Land!). Plus, as a writer, it’s helpful to see the fictionalized inner workings of the publishing world.

The unlikely premise (40-year-old Liza pretends to be 26 in order to get around publishing biz ageism) somehow works thanks to vampire goddess Sutton Foster. It’s good to see Hilary Duff on screen again playing the divisive character Kelsey Peters (I mostly like Kelsey, my wife hates her). Liza’s lesbian roommate Maggie is a wisecracking delight. The obligatory love triangle doesn’t disappoint. And, there’s a lot of unexpected emotional depth.

If you’re on the fence and you like light shows with female leads, give it a chance. The “millennials are awful” jokes are too on the nose, but I’m starting to think they’re meant to be that way now…?

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9/13: Broad City Season 4 Premiere (Comedy Central)

The Broad City babes are back with an origin story! Want to see Abbi and Ilana’s friendship from the beginning? Of course you do. The premiere episode was full of callbacks, laughs, and surprises.

Though some people were critical of the episode’s atypical structure, I was excited to see the show experiment with form. The alternative timelines evoked one of my favorite Community episodes “Remedial Chaos Theory.” So watch both if you’re into that sort of thing.

 

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The Weekly Buzz

The Weekly Buzz column is a timeline of my favorite pop culture events of the week. 

It has been a helluva week on my pop culture radar! When the spring TV schedule ended, B & I were starving for something to fill the void/distract us from moving. Well, we definitely got what we wished for as the majority of our summer shows dropped within the last week. We went from 0 to 60 real quick, and now, dare I say, we have too much to keep up with! Here are the highlights.

6/9: Taylor Swift’s entire catalog back on Spotify, Google Play, and Amazon Music

-When T-Swift first removed her music from streaming services, it ruined the symbiosis of my TS playlist (only Tegan & Sara + Taylor Swift songs). I had all of her CDs at one time, but that medium is largely obsolete and terribly inconvenient. I want to mix country crooner baby Tay with subversive pop-powerhouse Swift. It’s all about balance like the combination of salty and sweet snacks. So Swift’s return to Spotify was a delightful surprise, almost better than Christmas.

6/9: Wynonna Earp Season 2 premiere (Syfy)

-Wynonna Earp’s first season was, above all, fun. Despite low ratings and lukewarm reviews from critics, the show developed a cult-following that is entirely to thank for its second season. Wynonna Earp is a genre show fronted by whiskey-drinking, glowing gun-slinging badass Wynonna (Wyatt Earp’s great great granddaughter). There are curses and demons and lesbians (wearing bullet-proof vests) and Doc Holliday’s mustache. Quippy one-liners, female protagonists, and supernatural elements place the show somewhere between Carmilla and Buffy. Written and developed by Emily Andras of Canadian faves Lost Girl and Instant Star, the show is full of self-awareness and heart. The first season was not high art, but it was entertaining and binge-worthy (catch up on Netflix). Strong acting and writing largely compensated for the rushed/convoluted plot and obligatory first season table setting.

-The sophomore season premiere, however, felt a lot more settled. The episode entitled “Steel Bars and Stone Walls” had high stakes and a tighter story arc, taking everything fans loved about season 1, shading it in, and polishing it up. Wynonna Earp is not even a guilty pleasure, it is THE show I look forward to every week. Not only is the show so damn enjoyable, but the showrunner and the actors engage with fans on social media and are committed to diversity and subverting tropes (bury your gays, anyone?).

6/9: Orange is the New Black Season 5 premiere (Netflix)

-After last season’s shaky storytelling and questionable decisions (did I mention bury your gays already?), I was a bit apprehensive to dive back into OITNB. While the first three seasons combined comedy and drama to tell nuanced stories of women in prison, season four felt like misery porn (dead baby mice, fight club, rape).

-I didn’t love the season 5 premiere. The running joke about mass shootings fell flat and some of the characters are becoming caricatures (notably the white supremacists and meth heads). I think OITNB’s is buckling under the pressure of its popularity, giffable content, and social media success. A lot of the jokes were unfunny simply because I could see the gears turning in the writer’s room. It felt constructed as if they were writing to the audience and not simply trying to tell a story. While the comedy has always been heightened to the point of absurdity, there was a depth and subversiveness in early seasons. The first season’s chicken obsession and lemon detox cleanse were hilarious and heartbreaking moments because they felt emotionally honest. There were still funny and powerful moments in the Season 5 premiere, don’t get me wrong, and I am not completely giving up on the show, but some of the jokes landed like they were waiting for a laugh track, and that took me out of it.

6/10: Orphan Black Season 5 premiere (BBC America)

-Have not watched yet! Will do and review soon. For a show whose main lesbian has been dying since season 1 and seemingly killed off its other lesbian character until last season’s reveal, Orphan Black has skirted the BYG trope (for now).

6/12: American Ninja Warrior Season 9 premiere (NBC)

-The summer prime time staple full of feel-good moments, tear-jerking life stories, and overcoming (literal and figurative) obstacles is back, this time with more badass female competitors. Jessie Graff for the win!

6/14: Selena Gomez releases “Bad Liar” music video

-Probably one of the best things I have ever seen. The song itself is a departure from Gomez’s typical top 40 pop (I’d even call it Spektor-lite), but it’s just as catchy. The music video has a compelling narrative and a sleek 70’s aesthetic. Selena Gomez plays a teenage girl, her father, her mother, and her crush. Sounds confusing, right? It’s a trip you don’t want to miss.

6/14: The Handmaid’s Tale Season 1 finale (Hulu)

-Wow, glad that’s over. Honestly, one of the most emotionally taxing shows I have ever watched, especially in this political climate. The phenomenal acting, artistic direction (those striking red hoods), and character complexity put The Handmaid’s Tale on course to win all the awards. This was a good show, like really good. Was it fun? Definitely not. It was dark, tense, and heavy which made it immensely powerful. I recommend pacing yourself on this one, a binge would be ill advised.

6/15: L Word reunion photo shoot (EW, People)

-For your entertainment. Fingers crossed for a revival that rectifies that awful final season and also brings Carmen back.

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6/16: Melodrama-Lorde

-I am listening to Lorde’s long-awaited sophomore album as I write. I’ve listened to it about three times already so that should tell you something. Standouts so far: The Louvre, Liability, Hard Feelings/Loveless, Sober II (Melodrama), Writer in the Dark, Liability (Reprise), and Perfect Places. The album has a clear story arc similar to Lorde’s debut Pure Heroine. While her fist album captured the teenage experience, Melodrama is about growing up and the loss of innocence/mourning/heartbreak that comes with it. The album has Lorde’s signature electropop sound, but adds a sorrowful piano to the mix. The lyrics are lonely, but not sad; longing, yet still hopeful. Glad you’re back, Lorde!

 

There you have it: everything from this week that I consider the B’s Knees. Thanks for reading.

-B.