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Today’s Reject: Mr. Robot

mrrobot-key-art

Why did we start watching: Mr. Max and I both work in the technology sector, so people have recommended this show to us like, a hundred times. We just flew through a rewatch of Better Call Saul so we needed something new to watch. I was open minded to tone/style.

What did we think it would be like: Breaking Bad but with hacktivism. The plot follows Elliot Alderson, a computer programmer who is recruited into working for an Anonymous-esque Internet vigilante group. I’ll admit that the first few episodes had a campy “fight the man” appeal.

When did we stop watching: Halfway through episode 5, right in the middle of the big mission to destroy Evil Corp’s backups. It takes guts to drop a show right in the middle of a cliffhanger, but we did it.

Why did we stop watching: Let me be clear: this show was not good to begin with. It was merely watchable. It became unwatchable when they stopped writing Elliot as a capable, if awkward, genius, and instead made him a whiny, flailing nerd. I think their intent was to give the main character some conflict to react to, but overshot into Ben Stiller “Everything goes wrong movie” territory. Also I started to sense that the mysterious “Mr. Robot” character would turn out to be a Fight Club style delusion.

Also literally everything about this show is heavy handed.

mrrobot

How secure am I in our choice? Pretty secure. If I had realized the episode titles were styled with file extensions I probably would have rejected it outright.

2017-04-30 20_53_02-List of Mr. Robot episodes - Wikipedia

Groooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooan.

What to watch instead:

This lovely montage of Kim Wexler from the second season of Better Call Saul. Because it is the standard against which all television should be judged.

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I’m a 30-something year old woman who watches too much TV…

…but I used to be 13 year old girl who watched too much TV. And back in the early 90s, I watched ALL the Snick shows. And like any flannel-wearing, wanna-be weirdo, I loved The Adventures of Pete and Pete. (Mandatory nostalgia-inducing YouTube of the opening theme):

 

And — true confession time — I may have loved Big Pete. I thought he was deep, complex, and sensitive — and I wasn’t the only one. All of my female friends (bespectacled, played a classical instrument outside of school, familiar with Watership Down — you know the type) – ADORED Big Pete. So much so that we (may have) developed crushes on several undeserving real-life red-haired nerds. But boy were we wrong.

Me and Mr. Max are currently rewatching The Adventures of Pete and Pete for the first time since childhood, and the truth is undeniable: Big Pete would make a terrible boyfriend. TERRIBLE. Ladies – steel yourself against those piercing blue eyes and take a second look at…. Little Pete. Yes, Little Pete. Sure, he’s young. But give him ten years and he’d be the perfect boyfriend. Here’s why:

5 REASONS YOU SHOULD WAIT FOR LITTLE PETE

1) Little Pete is full of Joie De Vivre, Big Pete = Big Wet Blanket
Big Pete mopes through so many episodes it’s impossible to list them all – he drags himself around the Hoover Dam, he stares winsomely across the football field… he even mopes in the opening credits.

In contrast, Little Pete exudes pure energy.

Sure, he’s loud and hyperactive. But he also has a rich and varied life, including meaningful friendships, a loving pet (Gary), and his very own radio show (ambitious!). He was the only one with the guts to answer the mysterious ringing payphone. Does Big Pete even have interests? Or friends (besides his ‘it’s complicated’ status with Ellen)? No. Big Pete does not know how to embrace life. He only knows how to complain. When you’re a 14 year old guy with good cheekbones, this might make you ‘cool.’ When you’re nearing 30, it makes you insufferable.

Sorry but it’s true.

2) Little Pete Knows How To DEAL
In the episode Don’t Tread on Pete, Big Pete finds out about a history test the lunch period before class. Okay, we’ve all been there. But Pete takes it a step further – he envisions life as the school janitor, another person who “failed to live up to his promise.” Because… he might get a B. (He says ‘fail’, but he’s an A student so we’re talking about a B overall). As Liz Lemon would say, this is a dealbreaker. An ideal mate needs to have some ability to deal with minor disappointment. Otherwise you end up with one of those House Hunters husbands who throws a shit fit about the size of the backyard pool.

You know who DOESN’T freak out about a B?

That’s right, Little Pete. He doesn’t whine, he just GETS IT DONE. He doesn’t panic about getting into “the college of his choice.” He fights back against injustice. He turns the tables in dodgeball. He mounts an organized rebellion against an oppressive bus driver. He resists the system. And he wins.

Do you want to date some establishment stooge or the leader of the rebellion? I know what choice I’d make.

3) Little Pete Doesn’t Whine About Hard Work

In Rangeboy, Big Pete’s dad gives him a job driving the ball picker upper thing at the family driving range. Big Pete is OMG SOooooooooo EMBARRASSED to do be doing this dead-end job that he wears a bear suit every day just to hide his identity.

 

Man up, dude. It’s a job that doesn’t involve a nametag OR a hairnet. AND you get to drive a vehicle. AND it’s temporary.

Ladies, this is not the kind of guy who will support your dreams. He will not make dinner two nights a week so you can work late. He will not chop wood for a fire. He will not do his own laundry. He will get a man cold and stay home from work and complain for 2 weeks.

Meanwhile, Little Pete stayed awake for 11 whole days using sheer will. The choice is clear.

4) Little Pete knows how to express his emotions.

In Day of the Dot, Pete brushes off Ellen’s advances because he’s “not sure how he feels about her.” Then some letter jacketed sports douche sidles up to her and suddenly BP MUST HAVE HER. Weak. At the end of the episode, Pete comes through with a big romantic gesture in the middle of Ellen’s star performance in the marching band competition (which totally ruins it — way to support your girl’s dreams).

Little Pete doesn’t toy with people’s emotions. He loves Artie. He loves his family. When he doesn’t like someone, they know it. Honest. Uncomplicated. This is what you want. Not some game-playing bro who can’t decide if he actually likes you.

5) Little Pete Loves Music, Big Pete Plays Sports
Last but not least, a good boyfriend must appreciate music. Does BP like music? Maybe as much as any teenager does. But Little Pete LOVES music. He formed a band purely to protect the memory of his favorite song. Meanwhile, Big Pete….

Plays baseball. Just imagine years of married life with a baseball fan.

You heard me right: The series finale of The Killing sucked. Like, deeply. Mr. Max summarized our reaction best:

  • It was awful.
  • It was the worst.
  • It ruined everything.

We both love(d) the show, so this is a bit of a downer. In order to work through our sadness, we spent a long drive discussing exactly what went wrong and how it could be fixed. Warning: spoilers abound.

What Went Wrong Part 1: I got 99 Problems and Plot IS one of Them
I’ll start with the big one: letting Linden off via a huge, sloppy deus ex machina. I mean, are we really supposed to believe that the mayor – ANY mayor – has the ability to magically disappear a murder investigation? Because, I dunno… elections? And what about the police department? How can we be sure that no one — not even some snappy young detective ten years in the future — EVER reopens the case? What about if/when Skinner’s angry family demands their own autopsy? Or when they start doing DNA tests? For the love of pete, are we supposed to believe that ONE sentence from Billy Campbell is all it takes to get someone off the hook for murder?

Next, there’s the family stuff. Linden and the Colonel are dealing with similar mother-child issues. I get that they were trying to make a parallel here between these women, but the problem is that these issues feel a little TOO similar. It’s so literal that it’s just not believable.

Along the same lines, I was majorly disappointed by the side plot with Linden’s birth mother. I almost fell out of my chair when they had her deliver that cheesy dig, “I think we’re a lot alike.” Because… apparently Linden’s mom is a villain from a Batman movie?

As far as the military school storyline goes, they had an interesting idea but screwed it up towards the end. The “It’s his mom!” thing was lame. Having a criminal revealed as the person everyone first suspected is tired. And giving a character amnesia is lazy and feels like something out of Megan Draper’s bad soap opera in Mad Men.

Last but certainly not least, we can’t forget the cringetastic tacked-on romance between Linden and Holder. We both groaned aloud as soon as these two started smiling and flirting and exchanging awkward, completely out of character dialogue. Why??

Linden does not smile! No!

What Went Wrong Part 2: Truth is Stranger than Fan Fiction
A lot of the weak plot stuff could have been forgiven had they avoided the temptation to write wish-fulfillment fan fiction. But they just had to go there. They had to throw in an unrealistic romance (Holder and Linden), bring back an old character (Billy Campbell, for 30 seconds), show someone’s future kid as a cutesy mini-me (Holder’s kid…whatever her name was), and tie things up with a cheesy, unnecessary epilogue. Please stop listening to Internet fans, writers. It’s the road to perdition.

I Fixed It For You


Here’s how the ending should have gone down. We pick things up just after the (excellent and powerful) scene where Skinner’s car is being pulled from the lake.

Re: the military school plot: All 3 boys end up being involved in the crime. Main kid is motivated by hatred of his abusive father. The other two want to kill the mom because she rejected them. Main kid goes catatonic after killing the dad and can’t remember anything. Little sister is killed by accident or by the other kids, with ensuing angst. Colonel is NOT the main kid’s mom but does orchestrate the cover-up, relating it to her experience killing civilians in war. She gives some sort of impassioned speech about the meaning of it all before they haul everyone away.

Linden solves the case but also gets caught/arrested for killing Skinner. However, it turns out that others in the department knew about Skinner and did nothing. In order to protect themselves, the police cover up everything, including Linden’s involvement. The Chief of Police tells Linden she is being given a second chance. She has no choice but to take it.

The last episode ends with a callback to the first: Linden’s retirement party. We see cake plates being thrown away and Linden closing her office door. Someone murmurs that she is moving closer to her son. She drives to the airport and we see her hesitate, then look back one last time at the city of Seattle before boarding the plane. THE END.

And we came up with that in like 15 minutes in a car. While driving.
You can do better, writers!

Last week we wrapped up season 2 of the 2013 Epic X-Files Rewatch and – good news! – it’s waaaaay better than season 1. This season has got it all: a darker tone, slightly better acting from David Duchovny (I said slightly), and even some much-needed humor courtesy of offbeat writer Darin Morgan. Take note, my friends — this is the beginning of the show’s golden age.

Some important observations:

1. They didn’t fix the opening sequence

Lame first season openings are forgivable. New shows don’t usually have a big budget and there’s only so much you can do with footage from the pilot. You’d think the X-Files people would have taken the opportunity to snazz up the opening for season 2, but short of adding a little reverb on the score, they left it the same (i.e., BAD).

And WHAT is going on with the still images? It’s television, not a bar mitzvah slideshow.

Mr. Max still think the most egregious part is the descriptive overlaid text. Text should be used for credits, not a random word salad of related nouns. It’s like if Friends opened with this:

2. They got money for lighting but not for wardrobe
An important indicator of the show’s increased clout (and budget): moody set lighting. Money well spent because season 2 looks like a real one hour drama, not a New Zealand soap opera. Still no money for suits, though.

The costume department? Oh, you mean the dumpster behind Sears.

3. They made the aliens scary
In the pilot, Mulder described the aliens who abducted his sister as a mere “presence in the room,” which makes it sound like he’s talking about a fart or something. In Duane Barry, we learn that aliens are basically evil dentists.

Is there anything scarier?

4. Chris Carter had it bad for David Duchovny

In 99.9% of TV shows the female actress is the one who gets objectified. Even serious, well-written dramas usually have to have one scene per episode designed to showcase the sexiness of a leading lady. But The X-Files is different — instead of Gillian Anderson getting the piece of meat treatment, it’s David Duchovny. You can pretty much count on some kind of gratuitous Mulder semi-nudity in every episode.

I would love to know what Chris Carter’s justification was for setting this scene of expository dialogue between two FBI agents at a swimming pool. “I just think this would be happening poolside. Definitely.”

5. Smells like teen spirit the 90s

If you haven’t seen Humbug in the last 20 years, get ready for a major attack of 90s nostalgia. In this episode, Mulder and Scully investigate a murder in a circus community (info for young readers: in the 90s people thought circus freaks were cool and it was really counterculture to have more than one tattoo). I know this is going into a Portlandia-esque rant, but – dude. The 90s were totally a thing, amiright? Okay, now I feel old.

6. They shot their wad with the Krycek thing

Alex Krycek was introduced at the beginning of the second season as Mulder’s new partner, an energetic (and kinda dorky) young agent. Mulder treats him like an annoying gnat buzzing in his face but (natch) Krycek is actually a double agent working for the scary conspiracy guys.

The problem is that the audience learns this fact in the very first episode, and Krycek’s tenure with the FBI lasts about 3 weeks. For a show that dragged out the whole “Where is Samantha” thing for basically forever, I’m surprised they tied up Krycek’s plotline so quickly. Slow down, people. Slow down.

Full speed ahead to season 3! Here’s hoping they finally fix Mulder’s hair.

For everyone’s sake.

The Project Runway finale happened. It was a little boring. And I checked my e-mail a few times. But some interesting things did happen, like:

1) At the pre-final collection critique, the judges criticized Stanley for making old lady holiday party dresses. So he makes it young and sexy by…

putting the model’s hair down.

It’s like that scene in Not Another Teen Movie when they make over Janie by taking off her glasses and pulling out her ponytail.

I’m a miracle worker.

2) I liked Michelle’s collection, but I’m surprised they didn’t call her out about the costume elements. (Expected Michael Kors critique: “It looks a little like the 2013 Broadway production of The Hunger Games”). Patricia’s had, in my opinion, some truly standout artistic moments. But where were the designers with an edgy, street fashion perspective? That’s what made Jay Mccarroll’s collection so great — it was super creative and hip (like, actually hip. Not Nina’s idea of what hip is.)

The woman wore this.

3) The ending: After 3 seconds of Michelle looking happy and emotional – the natural, satisfying ending – we cut right to the PR Bitchfest Reunion Episode preview.

FAIL.

Lifetime seems to think that this kind of pathetic backbiting is why people want to watch this show. Not, you know, to see creative people making cool stuff and being challenged.

Other things that Lifetime thinks we enjoy include:

Challenges that are so whack in terms of time estimates that every contestant is flailing the entire time. What’s next: Survivor: Sisyphus?

Having the crew prod people into saying snippy things in the interviews so everyone comes off as mean and jerky. Protagonists are so passé, you know?

TEAM challenges?! Team challenges. Does anyone like these? At all?

In summary, my advice is:

More this:

 

Less this:

I had big plans for the holidays this year: celebrations in multiple cities, hot beverages of all kinds, a hike in the snow…

But no. Instead I woke up on Christmas Eve with more than the usual amount of malaise and a cough that tasted like a coral reef. I was still convinced I could get over it, so we went forward with our cross-state travel (well, Mr. Max did. I mostly slept in the car with a blanket over my face).

We were supposed to visit with metropolitan-based family on Christmas morning, but by then even I (a person who “ doesn’t get sick”) had to admit that I was really, really, really, sick. Like, too sick open presents. Or move. Or drink.

Instead I slept all day, drifting in and out of fever spells. When I woke up, the TV revealed the silver lining of my unfortunate flu:

The perfect excuse to finally see the Meredith Baxter TV movie that practically defines Television For Women.


A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story is the true-life (according to the title cards) tale of Betty Broderick, the wife of high-powered San Diego attorney Dan Broderick. As a wealthy power couple, the Brodericks are all about swanky balls and country club memberships, and less about, you know, sanity.

Within the first half an hour, Betty ruins Christmas because she got a bad present (a giant diamond ring that’s the WRONG KIND apparently).

Dan responds,  “It’s Christmas. If your Mom wants to behave like a spoiled brat, let’s let her.” Because that’s what you do in front of your children.

It isn’t long before Dan starts palling around with his young new secretary in a convertible.

Dan threatens to leave, and in response Betty burns his clothing in a pile in the front yard. Sensing that this will not end well, Dan moves out, and Betty goes off the deep end in a way that is only plausible in a Lifetime movie.

(I couldn’t get a screenshot of this so I’ll just tell you: she smears a frosted cake on his wardrobe and bed. Points for creativity, right?)

Dan gets a restraining order, but it doesn’t stop Betty’s reign of terror. She starts leaving obscene messages on Dan’s answering machine, drops their kids off in the middle of the night to “live with him,” breaks into the house and spray paints the walls…

…drives a truck into the side of the house, and generally continues to aggressively harass Dan for “ruining her life.” Eventually, she gets a gun and you probably know the rest.


In case you don’t, she totally blows away Dan and his new wife.

And that’s basically the movie, plus the framing device of a still-crazy Betty talking to the camera from jail.

You might be wondering: who exactly is the protagonist? I know the question crossed my mind a few times.

It’s not Dan (because he’s a sleazy lawyer dude who’s sleeping with his secretary). And Betty’s like, a crazy murderer, so it really shouldn’t be her. But since she’s always on-screen, ranting and monologuing, you almost begin to root for her. Even though she’s crazy and actually phenomenally unlikable.

And that is the magic of Lifetime.


Her Final Fury: Betty Broderick, The Last Chapter

You might think that a TV movie that begins with a couple arguing and ends with murder and handcuffs completes a natural story arc. But that doesn’t stop Lifetime! There’s actually a sequel — descriptively titled Her Final Fury — and it’s (almost) as good as the original.

Unlike most movie sequels, Her Final Fury actually includes the last ten minutes or so of the regular movie. Why? No idea, but Mr. Max says this detail is his favorite part of either (or both?) movie(s).

Shortly after the murder happens (um, again), we see an unnamed suburban couple gossiping about the case in their front yard. “Did you hear who killed her husband?” whisper-shouts the wife with way too much excitement. I love the randomness of this scene. I guess it’s supposed to show us that the murder is big news in town? At least among this particular couple?


The rest of the movie takes place, more or less, in boring courtroom drama land. Betty doesn’t have a lot to do except hang out in jail so the lady prosecutor becomes the de facto protagonist. The first trial ends in a hung jury, but the dedicated prosecutor is undeterred and immediately signs on for trial #2.

Even behind bars, Betty’s up to her usual antics — threatening her older daughter for testifying against her, ranting to the press, and hiring a PR firm to craft her “image.” Eventually, there’s a showdown on the stand between lady prosecutor and crazy Betty. Betty’s no match for the sharp (and powersuited) lady prosecutor, and she’s finally convicted and sent to jail for a long, long time.


Come on Lifetime, it’s been 20 years. Aren’t we ready for Her Final FINAL Fury: The Parole Hearings?