So it seems that we’ve finally been thrown out of the dreary, grey drizzle of winter and suddenly chucked head-first into the blistering heat of summer; like leaving a car park in Stoke and being greeted by the uncomfortably stuffy gust of hot air that’s blown in your face upon traipsing unto the breach of Asda™ (other supermarkets are available).
At any rate, with regards to my viewing habits, I’m usually quite conservative when it comes to the amount of content I watch on Netflix or Amazon. I usually just amble or – if you’re feeling fancy – gallivant through a series, and maybe dip my eyeballs just a tad into the LCD swimming pool of online streaming entertainment to catch a glimpse of a series I’ve heard “good things” about (but beware the over-saturation of Netflix original-based chlorine; that stuff will sting!). Quickly collapsing swimming pool analogies aside, I have recently found myself ensconced and enveloped in series after series that I’ve ravenously absorbed, a desire to revisit two series I’ve only watched once, to watch a series given to me for Christmas, and finally to watch a couple of old series newly added to Netflix had left me in a maelstrom of content from which I couldn’t escape – nor did I want to. The storm over, all that is left of me is the abandoned yacht of Donald Crowhurst’s Teignmouth Electron – which therefore implies that this article is the logbook of insane gibberish that was found on-board. Oh well.
Black Mirror Series 4
Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed series 3, I have got to say that the show has really pushed beyond what audiences had originally expected of it. I thoroughly loved this series – particularly for how eclectic it was. The series runs The Full Gamut (The Full Gamut, in case you’ve never been there, is a small pub on the edge of Kettering) – from a fully fledged pastiche of Star Trek, through a black-and-white Kubrickian dystopia, via an Orwellian coming-of-age thriller, all the way to a collection of Lynchian vignettes.
What’s arguably most intriguing about this series is that it’s explored something that was toyed with in the series before; a “happy” ending. As is the custom in Black Mirror, usually it ends on a horrible, existential, soul-crushing, depressing note – leaving you with as much hope for humanity as listening to the Radiohead song ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out)’ at a funeral would. However, with series 3 episode ‘San Junipero’, although unsettling, the story ends in a rather unexpectedly uplifting manner; a manner that was almost more unsettling, like a school bully sincerely complimenting his victim’s haircut having just given him a wedgie and several dead arms. This time, half of the episodes end in a “happy” way – and I use “happy” in quotations deliberately. None of the “happy” endings are this pristine, angelic, pure “happiness”; it’s always tainted with melancholy, bitterness, horror, or conflicted feelings. The show seems to have adapted to the sceptic’s eye-rolling summation of each episode, “Lemme guess – it all goes wrong in the end?”. You’re made to cast doubts on the “hero” as much as you’re made to sympathise with the monsters – neither of which sits well with me, or anyone else who has watched the show. But by Glycon is it compelling.
Bring on series 5!
Westworld Season 1
Usually when hype for season two of a much-adored series that I haven’t seen starts to pop off on the old twitter-net, it sometimes compels me to catch up to see what all the palava is all about. With regards to Westworld and its second season, however, my watching of the prior season recently was merely serendipitous. My friend, knowing that I had expressed interest in watching the series eventually, had purchased the first season on DVD for me for Christmas. After finishing a couple of series during January through to the beginning of March, I decided to give it a go. And I really liked it.
What can only be described as a cross between Jurassic Park, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Blade Runner, Momento, The Truman Show, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Westworld is the allegory of Plato’s cave set in the world of the American wild west. With high-concept shows like this, there is a definite risk of the show…ahem… running out of STEAM *cue a single cough in an empty hall*. However, the show tangles you not only with its philosophical queries regarding consciousness, life, morality, and Essentialism, nor its manipulation of perspective and time, but also with the characters’ motives – both presented and hidden. Usually shows that juggle with a handful of main characters and their story-lines struggle to make each story line as interesting as each other. With Westworld, every main character’s story-line is intriguing – being both compelling and mysterious. Westworld also manages to achieve what most shows that are filled with questions fail to do. Whilst most shows, like
Whilst most shows, like Lost for example, seems to be spinning a thousand plates constantly, but ultimately lets most of them fall to the wayside (only on the left side, yeah that’s the Crip-side), leaving you with more questions than answers – and even the “answers” are left to interpretation, however Westworld does no such thing. Your questions are answered to sate your curiosity, and twists and revelations occur that you genuinely don’t expect. It satisfies as much as it surprises. Also, Anthony Hopkins, who plays the enigmatic ‘Ford’ (creator of the park of Westworld), is effortlessly captivating – playing a sort of morally-ambiguous Dumbledorian figure of serene control and poise. Times when you think that he’s lost power or seems to be caught on the back-foot are responded to by Ford with nothing more than a calm, mildly amused grin. He is always one step ahead and proves this time and time again. Great stuff.
The Day Today
The news is awful. After watching something pleasing – perhaps a food show or a film that gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling in your solar plexus – you flick over and see a news anchor explaining to you how a million babies died in an explosion and that two earthquakes merged with a tornado and meteorologists claim that the phenomenon probably had something to do with the US election, Russia, and can access your private information at will. You then ascend your stairs to your bedroom, get into your bed, and stare into the darkness – trying to process what you’ve just heard. “But at least the new Lucio changes in Overwatch makes wall riding easier” you say, trying to reassure yourself. The reality, however, is kind of worse. Bad news like this is more ubiquitous that Twitch streamers listening to lo-fi hip-hop. As a result, when you watch the news and find out that a million babies died in a privacy intruding, vote meddling, earthquake-tornado, you just sigh and switch over to the next channel. You know the state of the world is mental when horrific news almost bores you in how tragically constant it is. What can you do?
When there is little hope, one can always turn to humour, irony, and whimsy; three fires that, if treated with respect, protected, and nurtured correctly, can not only brighten the darkest of days, but keep most of the monsters at bay as well. Luckily for me, I own a DVD of Chris Morris’ underrated series The Day Today. A re-watch was desperately needed.
For the uninitiated, The Day Today is a satirical parody of a UK news programme. It’s not like The Daily Show or even The Colbert Report. It’s like what you’d get if Monty Python did the News at Ten; wonderful, delightful, surrealistic gibberish. For example, some of the headlines read out on the show: “Portillo’s teeth removed to boost pound”, “Exploded cardinal preaches sermon from fish tank”, “Headmaster suspended for using big-faced child as satellite dish”, and of course “bouncing elephantiasis woman destroys central Portsmouth”. The show also includes “live” satellite feeds, reports, man on the street segments (the segment being called ‘Speak Your Brains’), sports news (with Alan Partridge no less), bizarre weather updates, insane OTT graphic stings, and even economic news concerning the stock market – also conveying the beautiful gobbledegook that permeates throughout every episode (“There was better news for EdgeWedgeLedgeBudge, who mustered two point forty one, up eighty eight very slightly. But Oxy-Mcgee flew back a ninth, despite a creeping bid from Connected Breath Dumps, at four”). Glorious stuff.
In this era of Trump’s post-truth nonsense, The Day Today is worryingly prescient and increasingly more important. My only wish is that Chris Morris & Co would have their own ten o’clock news where a new episode is aired every day. Yes, I would be deliberately uninformed but I suppose that’s better than being unwittingly misinformed. Isn’t it?
One Punch Man
I’m not an anime guy. I was severely put off of the whole “scene” by anime/manga obsessives in the last few years of secondary school and throughout college when it was conveyed to me that A) Anime is cool because it is Japanese, B) Western entertainment is inferior because it isn’t Japanese, and C) If you don’t watch anime, you’re not cool. When I was shown episodes of various anime series, I found them rather cheesy, OTT, and bland in how similar they were to one another. I knew that somewhere, in that rather alienating ocean of anime, there were bound to be a few series I would enjoy, however, I would have no clue where to start. The dismissive and condescending way in which one anime/manga obsessive in college reacted when I informed her that my favourite shows were The Office and Curb Your Enthusiasm didn’t welcome me into that world much either. In short, because anime is such a meme, I find it difficult watching anime and taking it seriously, because I would constantly think “This is SO anime. Look at the all the anime going on!” (which, I know is my problem). However, a friend of mine said that I might enjoy One Punch Man. Three episodes in, so far I can concede she’s right.
One Punch Man is about a superhero who is the most powerful being on earth – capable of destroying all of his foes with just a single punch. However, he’s just a bored, apathetic, average Joe who only saves the world for fun. For him, saving the world is the type of fun that’s more akin to going out of your way to step on an ultra crunchy leaf on the street than fun where you go skydiving or zorbing or something. It has just enough self-awareness and irony to boost me over the first hurdle I have when watching anime; it knows it’s an anime, it pokes fun at anime tropes and narratives, and it parodies the melodramatic dialogue that some anime tend to have. Essentially, it’s lampooning Dragonball Z.
So far, so good.
Monty Python’s Flying Circus
I’m only a couple of episodes in but already I love it. We all know the sketches (Pro tip: don’t ever say that something was “unexpected” around dads of a certain age. Nor should you begin a sentence with the word “space” either – albeit for non-Monty Python related reasons. Thank me later).
I’ve always wanted to watch it and now I know why. Its incessantly surreal, irreverent, satirical, ironic, post-modern, non-sequitur-based humour is right up my bowling alley, and – in the world of memes and internet culture’s taste for the weird and absurd – fits right along-side Youtube channels, creators, and TV series like Kyle Mooney, Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared, Jack Stauber, Funhaus, Cow Chop, Tim & Eric, HowtoBasic, TVFilthyFrank , iDubbbzTV, and H3H3Productions to name a few.
Half of the sketches work, and half of them don’t but the half that don’t work probably work in the way Monty Python wants it to work. In other words, the half that don’t work don’t work simply because they are too weird and you have no clue what’s going on – but I feel that Monty Python want you to be laughing or bewildered in equal measure anyway. In this sense the show utterly works. But I’ve only skirted the borders of the show’s trippy forest so far. Who knows if I’ll make it through to the other side with my sanity still intact. I’ll keep you posted. Ten-four.