I want to begin this blog by saying that I’ve had The Thing for over a week and am still suffering from exhaustion and brain fog though most of the other symptoms have dissipated. Yes, I’m triple-v’d but also was trying to get back to living life. I’m having trouble writing, so hopefully, this is coherent as I’m trying to get SOMETHING on paper in my illness.
One of the good things that happened over the last couple of years and The Pause here in Ontario was my ability to watch tons of TV shows and movies. Before March 2020, I watched some shows/movies but not a lot as I was busy with all my jobs and creations. Also, further back in my previous life, I had family, kids, spouses, pets etc. and was always busy. However, as of March 2020, when isolation station kicked in, I lived alone, with no pets, no humans in my little studio apartment.
So I watched a crap ton of TV and movies as I couldn’t go anywhere or do anything. I was too distracted to write my novels, so worked more on my own TV shows and movie screenplays. I was too distracted to read a book all the way through, so kept my eyes on the screen.
I talk about a lot of the shows I watched on my Patreon.
Oh, and before I forget, I'm a finalist in the horror screenplay section of the Stowe Story Labs contest for my TV series, The Calling. Please cross all your fingers and toes that I'm going to make it to the finale! I'm so excited about this!
Today, I wanted to talk a little about two shows that I’m loving. As with ALL shows/movies that I watch, I avoid trailers and don’t read reviews and seldom even look up the actors so that I don't see spoilers. After this write-up, I’m going to go read reviews for both of the shows I’m discussing.
The first is Severance, a Ben Stiller project.
The Shrink Next Door
My gateway drug into Severance was actually The Shrink Next Door.
During the past couple of years, as I studied TV and screenwriting very intensely (again, I already have a degree in them), I joined a few groups and lists. One of the lists gave me a crap ton of screeners from HOUSE OF GUCCI to CYRANO, A MAN LIKE ME, and so many more, including THE SHRINK NEXT DOOR.
The screener for Shrink was only for the first episode, so in order to watch the rest of it, I would have to subscribe to Apple TV. So, I figured I’d get the one-week trial, binge Shrink and then cancel as the entire series had already dropped.
I binged Shrink and loved it and highly recommend it. I don’t want to talk about it as you need to watch it unpeel like an onion, especially if you know nothing about the case. Don’t google it; just watch it.
While I binged Shrink, I kept seeing trailers for Severance and since Severance was a Ben Stiller project, I really wanted to see it, so kept the Apple TV subscription.
A Ben Stiller Fan
Now, I’m the first to admit I’m a huge Ben Stiller fan. I’ve been there since the beginning, Ben! (Is it auspicious that as I'm proofing this article, I clicked around the TV and "Meet the Parents" is just starting, and of course, I have it on now!)
Back in the day, my first husband and I would settle in for Sunday night TV, which for a time included The Ben Stiller Show right after Married with Children. I’ve not seen a single episode of the TBSS since I watched them way back lo those many years ago and have no idea how they hold up.
Decades later, one of my sons did an internship at YTV here in Toronto and had tickets to a sneak peek of Tropic Thunder. He took me. I had no idea what Tropic Thunder was about, never saw an ad or anything, so didn’t know what it was or anything. I won a can of Booty Sweat before the show started. I’ve never opened it; the booty sweat has long evaporated.
I saw Tropic Thunder in the best way possible. No expectations, didn’t even know it was a Ben Stiller project.
When the movie began, I didn’t realize it was a comedy. The opening “commercials” made me scratch my head, and I didn’t know if I should laugh. Only when the head exploded in the jungle did I realize it was a spoof on Apocalypse Now (and so much more!), and then I got the joke and laughed my ass off. Tropic Thunder took over Young Frankenstein as my all-time favourite comedy ever. And I’m sorry if some people got offended, but Tropic Thunder picks on EVERYONE and HOLLYWOOD most of all! Look at the Big Picture, people…Never go full...
Zoolander and Dodgeball are also faves that make me laugh so hard whenever I catch parts on TV. Meet the Parents…yeah!
“If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball!” Patches O’Houlihan
Maybe I have a small six degrees of separation from Ben Stiller as I was a background performer in a couple of episodes of In the Dark, which he also produces.
At any rate, Ben Stiller might be an actor, might be a producer, might be a director, might be a writer in many of the entertainments that have amused me over the years. And even when he kind of misses, he’s still brilliant.
Now we have arrived at Severance.
This miniseries is on Apple TV and produced by Stiller. This is the first show for screenwriter/creator Dan Erickson (which gives me high hopes that maybe one day, I too might have a TV series!) and was five years in the making, partly because of That Which Won't Be Named. It stars Adam Scott, Patricia Arquette, Britt Lower and many others. I don’t want to say too many names as it will spoil some of the reveals so don’t look at the IMBD.
This show is dark comedy, science fiction, weird, and so good. Ben Stiller also directed many of the episodes.
I’ve never really worked for long in any office settings, but I’ve worked long enough in one to know that I’d have to split my brain in two to survive such a stagnant, boring, life with insufferable co-workers and office politics. This show nails it!
The premise is about a chip that can be implanted in the brain to divide working life from personal life. One part of your personality doesn’t know about the other.
The opening credits themselves are likely up for some kind of award.
The show opens when Helly (Britt Lower) joins the office team run by Mark (Adam Scott). It feels a tiny bit like Squid Game in the sense that you know you are only seeing a tiny slice of some crazy Big Picture.
When you are working in the office, you are an Inie. When you are not in the office, you're an Outie. I keep thinking of belly buttons, but that's part of the dark darkness of comedy, banal office humour, and such.
There’s so much I want to talk about with this show, so many little clues, tongue in cheek, asides, but I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t had a chance to watch it yet. I’ll likely talk more in-depth after some time has passed, and more people have had a chance to see it.
That’s all I’ll say about this amazing show.
The first season just wrapped, and I have so many questions! I can’t wait for the next season.
Everyone must watch this show. The visuals, the music, the dialogue, the acting, the casting; all of it is perfect!
Joe vs Carole
The second show I want to give a little nod to is Joe VS Carole.
Like everyone else, I devoured Tiger King in a day or two back at the beginning of That Time We Stayed Home for Two Years
Then there was a lot of noise about various Tiger King projects being made. Tiger King 2, the update, came out.
And now, here in Toronto, Joe Vs. Carole is being shown one excruciating week at a time on Showcase. Much like with Dr. Death and Severance, we can’t binge-watch this thing, so we must wait each week.
I had no idea what to expect with Joe vs Carole. Would it be over the top? Would it be bullshit? True? Stupid? Funny? Serious? Would it riff on Tiger King? Would it make Carole sympathetic, as she sure isn’t in any of the Tiger King shows?
I love Kate McKinnon. Kate, Tina Fey, Leslie Jones and Wanda Sykes are my favourite female comedians.
Kate is executive producer and plays Carole Baskin.
I love Kate’s comedy because she always gives that sense she could snap at any minute. She always has a weird vibe to her. And boy, she brings it for Carole.
Joe vs Carole might be a dark comedy; it might be a straight gay story; I’m not sure what regular people think watching this show, but I’m loving it and here for it.
I had been curious how McKinnon would play Carole as Carole is a bonafide wackadoo who may or may not have murdered her husband. Since Carole is still very much alive and likely perched and ready for a lawsuit, I’m sure they had to be careful how to portray her. And Kate’s version is perfect. She’s a nutjob, she’s creepy, she definitely could have murdered her husband, or not…we don’t know and will never know.
The portrayal of Joe Exotic is very sympathetic so far, which I like, as we explore his past and how he came to be Tiger King. Joe’s lovers and workers are also very sympathetic. Last night’s episode included when Saff (?) got their arm eaten, and the former news anchor joins the team.
My only quibble with Joe Vs Carole is likely not one other people have. I’ll have to go read some reviews to see.
It’s not gritty.
When I watched Tiger King, I could smell those rancid cages and people, everyone was filthy, homemade tattoos, teeth were rotted and falling out; it was pure carny time, you would itch your arms while watching it thinking about all the fleas and flies that are crawling around, worrying something is scuttling through your hair.
This incarnation is too clean. Everyone is clean. Everyone has shiny white straight teeth. Joe played by John Cameron Mitchell is super clean, not nearly as skeezy as he likely is in real life though his acting is superb and on point. His wigs are clean and perfectly cut. I know a lot of what I’m trying to convey is a feeling or sense and these actors won’t have that as they aren’t real carny folk living the meth carny life for decades. So, it’s my own personal quibble and doesn’t really mean much to anyone but me. However, if the actors had rolled around in a few tiger cages before each take, maybe it would have shown.
I will say that William Fichtner (washed-up journalist Rick Kirkham) has the right vibe of a stinky, alcoholic with a flash of brilliance. I almost believed he smelled like tiger piss for a minute there. And when I went to look up how to spell William's name, I had no idea that was Kyle McLaughlin playing Howard Baskin!
The acting is really good in this weird take on the Tiger King story even if it might be too sympathetic for some people.
At any rate, I’m curious to see what else will be shown in Joe vs Carole, which so far, is a retelling of everything we already know, and that’s fine.
But Severance….oh my god, what is going to happen in Season 2? Will we get some answers to some questions? Well, we will but what kind of weirdass answers are they going to be! CAN’T WAIT!
Hey Mr. Stiller, how can I apply for the writer's room? I’d love to be in there for Severance Season 2!
Okay, crawling back to bed as it took hours to write this tiny blog. Oh, brain and energy, please return to me…Maybe I should open this old can of Booty Sweat…at least Meet the Parents is still on.