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What I'm Watching: Barry, Gravity Falls, Fishing With John, And a Note on Notes
On nine shows, three books, two movies, a podcast, and a new endeavor courtesy of Substack.
Bill Hader, Barry, HBO
Before we dig into what I watched and wrote about this week, I want to share a quick note on Notes. Substack recently made a status update-style feature for users called Substack Notes, and I’m pretty into it! I’m planning to use it for fun now and again, but also for mid-week updates that I can’t capture with a Sunday newsletter.
For example, there’s a show debuting between this week and next that I can’t mention here because it’s under a review embargo, i.e. an agreement between journalists and networks that we won’t talk about our opinions on the series until a set day and time. This happens often, so I end up telling y’all about shows I’m “watching” this week a couple of weeks after I actually saw them. With Substack Notes, though, I can drop that review mid-week so y’all will be able to see it in a timely fashion. These newsletters won’t be changing at all, but if you do opt into checking out Notes, you might see some stuff in both spots, plus some sillier posts over there, too.
With all of that being said, I mostly mention this because I don’t want y’all to be inundated with updates from me, so if that ever is the case and you’re getting lots of emails or push notifications about my Notes posts (so far I don’t think that’s a thing, but you never know), PLEASE reach out to me and I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Alright! With that out of the way, here’s the rundown on everything I watched, read, and wrote about this week:
I caught up on the Netflix teen rom-com Never Have I Ever this week, and I really think this show never misses a beat. Three seasons in and it’s still laugh-out-loud funny (so many memorable one-liners) and occasionally touching, with exciting romantic subplots that the show makes sure to never take too seriously. It’s definitely my favorite series Mindy Kaling has made so far.
Barry is back this week for its fourth and final season, and having seen seven episodes, I can confirm that this show never stops evolving. Bill Hader and Alec Berg’s pitch-black comedy is a masterpiece any way you slice it, and I admire how boldly it throws away its own rulebook season after season. That being said, I’m actually a bit mixed on the final stretch: here’s my review.
I’m on a quest to watch all five-ish TV shows in the Criterion Collection (yes, that is a callout), and I started this week with the one that was hardest to find: Fishing With John. I hadn’t heard of this show before starting my adventure and didn’t look up anything about it beforehand, which is perhaps the best way to experience this weird half-docuseries, half dry comedy about John Lurie fishing with celebrity guests. Robb Webb’s hilarious voiceover makes the whole thing work way better than it has any right to.
I finished Gravity Falls this week! It’s a cute, super-watchable all-ages mystery show that felt more like Golden Age Cartoon Network than a Disney Channel original, so I wasn’t surprised when I found out the show’s creator got a whole lot of pushback from the House of Mouse.
I’m rewatching the post-Laura Palmer part of Twin Peaks season two because it’s a slog that I’ve never been able to fully complete despite several tries, but I know I’ll be more fully able to appreciate The Return once I do. Surprise: these episodes are still bad, folks.
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After years spent catching part but not all of it on cable, I finally sat down to experience Fatal Attraction in all its influential ‘80s glory. There’s nothing I can say here that hasn’t been said better by Karina Longworth already, but I will admit I dug the movie overall. It feels more like a mean-spirited cautionary tale than anything based in reality, but still, I think it’s categorically impossible for an Adrian Lyne movie to be anything less than entertaining.
Speaking of Longworth, I’m still checking out the American Cinematheque theater series about her latest season of You Must Remember This, and the latest film accompaniment was Ken Russell’s 1991 film Whore (which you might also know from its more video store-friendly alternate title, If You Can’t Say It, Just See It). At the time of its release, this comedy-drama about a Los Angeles sex worker was billed as “the anti-Pretty Woman,” and it is – in the sense that it’s certainly not a good time at the movies. A tonal nightmare that remains watchable thanks to some stylish flourishes and a weird but charismatic performance from Theresa Russell, this is a movie I definitely wouldn’t have sought out if not for its inclusion on the unofficial YMRT syllabus.
I love checking out comics I know nothing about on Hoopla, and this week I was pleasantly surprised by one called The Hazards of Love Vol. 1: Bright World, by Stan Stanley. The story follows a teen who ends up sent to a disturbing realm where humans are basically made into indentured servants or food for powerful monster-like beings. It sounds weird, and it is, but it’s also engrossing and surprising and enjoyably creepy.
I’m also back on a YA kick, so if anyone has recommendations for young adult books that you loved despite not being in the target age group, shout them out in the replies! This week I finished The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han. Despite the fact that it has an eleventh-hour reveal that’s easily guessable from the book’s opening pages, it was exactly the kind of sunny, summer love YA story that I’ve enjoyed escaping into ever since I was a kid.
I also read a graphic nonfiction book called Lugosi: The Rise and Fall of Hollywood’s Dracula by Koren Shadmi. I previously read this author’s graphic biography of Rod Serling, and I came away from both with the same impression: these retellings seem extremely harsh on their subjects to the point of almost coming across as disrespectful. They frame both men’s lives as pitiful tragedies first and foremost. I certainly learned a lot about Bela Lugosi here, but that’s about all I can say for this one.
Odds and ends:
I’m covering a crapload of shows over at Slashfilm right now, and this week I once again had a ton of fun writing about Yellowjackets. Namely, I dug into a popular theory about how a certain character might have survived and put on my detective hat to investigate who might be stealing from the survivors.
If you missed last week’s Succession coverage and have just caught up on that shocker, I’ll re-up my two big pieces about episode three here and here. This week I wasn’t quite so ambitious with my scope; I just wrote about how damn mean everyone was to Kerry in episode four.
You can find more weekly TV coverage from me over at Slashfilm, including on Star Trek: Picard, Ted Lasso, and now Barry. If you’ve seen the two-episode premiere of the latter, I wrote a bit about the meaning of that eerie sound you might have noticed at a pivotal moment.
Podcast rec of the week: The Coldest Case In Laramie is a thorny and interesting true crime investigation from the team behind Serial. It’s almost reticent in its narration, but it’s clever and complex, and it ultimately becomes a story about the power of confirmation bias.
That’s all for me for now. If you’ve read this far, I commend you, and I also have to ask: what have you been watching lately?