Review: What I’ve Been Watching on TV This Month - June 2018 (with bonus Queer Eye drinking game)
I watch a lot of TV, I make no apologies for this! I also have A LOT OF FEELINGS about it, so where better to share them than on my blog. Hopefully this will turn into a monthly post, talking about new releases and old shows I’ve been catching up on recently (and I’ll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum!) In June it’s been all about Netflix, there’s been some great binge-worthy releases this month, with second seasons coming for a few of my favourites. I was particularly thankful for this as I’ve been in quarantine thanks to a nasty virus. So, here’s what I’ve been watching in June:
Hannah Gadsby: “Nannette” - *****
Billed as a “Comedy Special” this hour-long show is that and so, so much more. Framed as a discussion as to why Gadsby has decided to give up comedy, she moves with grace between belly laughs and heart breaking personal revelations. She lays bare male privilege, how it feels to not fit perfectly in the nice little boxes society has created for what it is to be a woman and a lesbian, why self-deprecating humour can be personally harmful, and misconceptions about mental illness, partly through the lens of art history. As a fellow art history graduate I have to admit this was a particular highlight. Gadsby is smart, brutally honest and delivers a show that should be essential viewing for all. Is this the best thing I’ve ever watched on Netflix? Quite probably. Should you watch it? Most definitely.
Luke Cage, Season 2 - ****
Luke Cage is the third of Netflix’s Marvel shows to release a second season and given the quality of the first two sophomore efforts I was nervous about how good it would be. Both Daredevil and Jessica Jones’s second seasons were disappointing, as least partly due to the lack of the gloriously chilling bad guys that they boasted in their first outings (Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk and David Tennant as Kilgrave, respectively). Thankfully, Luke Cage bucks this trend, coming back even stronger (pun intended…) and has firmly established itself as the best of Netflix’s superhero offerings.
This season finds Luke battling two sinister villains, in the shape of the returning Mariah Dillard and a new Jamaican gangster, Bushmaster. Is there an opposite to a love triangle? If so, that’s what we have here. I appreciated that the show didn’t pander when it came to the accents and dialogue of the Jamaican characters, using the island’s Patois. It took a little bit of time to get your ear in but it was another layer that helped establish the sense of community amongst the characters.
Luke also has to deal with relationship problems, family issues and deciding what being a hero means to him now he has reluctantly accepted the mantle. Some of the other Marvel shows have become mired in their own dialogue at times but it never felt like there were wasted words in Luke Cage. Everything worked to further develop the characters or push on the various plotlines.
Performances were also good across the board with particular praise going to Alfre Woodard as Mariah Dillard, Theo Rossi as Shades, and Simone Missick as Misty Knight. Each showed new sides of their characters this season as they dealt with the problems and opportunities they faced, Mariah embracing the darkness within, Shades showing glimpses of a more emotional and honourable man at times, and Misty dealing with the loss of her arm during the Defenders mini-series. The cast overall has been well chosen and deliver sterling performances.
I really enjoyed the first season of Luke Cage but I think this is one instance where the sequel surpasses the original.
RuPaul’s Drag Race, Season 10 - *** (although nearly **)
I LOVE Drag Race, and I’m not usually a fan of reality TV. But this show manages to be entertaining, moving, hilarious and educational all in one bright and sequined package. So, it makes me sad to say that the most recent season has been my least favourite to date and I’m not just a little worried that Drag Race might have jumped the shark….
Firstly, I didn’t feel like I connected with any of the queens the way I have in previous seasons. There were quite a few I really liked, in particular Monet Exchange and Miz Cracker, but none that I loved the way I did in previous seasons. I think may be partly because this was the first season I watched as it aired (other that Allstars 3, but I was already invested in those queens) rather than bingeing the season in a few days. Also, while I really enjoyed the work that Monet and Cracker did, it felt like neither of them really reached their full potential over the course of the show. Both are undoubtedly talented but perhaps not quite ready yet for this stage.
The second issue is that a bigger budget and sticking too rigidly to an established format for the challenges has somehow left the experience feeling emptier. The queens will have to make ball outfits, do an acting challenge, record their own sections for a RuPaul song, make an advert, participate in Snatch Game….. It’s all beginning to feel far too familiar and could do with a shake-up. Not least because it also means the girls coming into the show now know too well what to expect and as the presentation becomes glossier, so do their performances and they already know how to play the game.
This was never more apparent than in this year’s finale when so many of the queens tried to one up Sasha Velour’s rose petal revealing performance from last year. The only problem being that rather than working to emphasise the emotion and passion of the performance, the props and effects became more about pure spectacle which ended up leaving me cold. This was particularly true of Asia’s ill-advised choice of trying to release butterflies from her costume mid-lipsync, a trick that ended up being a bit weird and massively underwhelming. I can only imagine what it would have been like for those in the audience who didn’t benefit from TV close-ups.
Finally, the most disappointing part of this season was that it was a little too obvious from the start who was going to win this year. And by ‘a little too’ I mean ‘blatantly’. I take nothing away from Aquaria, she’s very talented and served up some truly stunning lewks, but she also managed to escape criticism several times too many. Several girls were taken to bits for lewks that were mostly bodysuits and there were a few times that was definitely true of Aquaria too. And in the episode Miz Cracker was eliminated, almost everything she was criticised on was also true of Aquaria. They could have made at least a little attempt to hide their favouritism!
That favouritism was definitely evident in the finale too. Putting both Aquaria and Eureka through to the final lipsync was obviously an attempt to avoid the backlash of them saving just Aquaria when it was evident Eureka performed at least as well if not better. Unfortunately, this led to the stage being too busy for the final lipsync, making it an unsatisfactory experience for all. Sorry, that turned into a bit of a rant! I really hope that the producers learn some lessons from this season and can recapture some of the glory of previous years. I’ll almost certainly tune in again next year in the hope things might improve, in the meantime I’ll be rewatching the golden times of seasons four to six (perhaps the producers should too…..)
GLOW, Season 2 - ****
When I first started watching GLOW I was expecting it to be a full-on sit-com with broad comedy and bright but shallow storylines, but the reality was a pleasant surprise. A show filled with interesting and well-drawn female characters dealing with real issues behind the scenes of their fanciful wrestling show. The stories are told with an honesty, humour and sympathy for the women portrayed that perhaps stems from the fact that the writing and directing staff of the show are predominantly women.
Season 2 picks up as the women come back from a break after filming their pilot, the show having been picked up for a season on a local channel. This season the women face handsy TV Execs, chauvinism, immigration problems, how to deal with having fans, divorce, awakening sexualities, injuries, and family disappointed alongside the politics and odd dynamics of a bunch of misfits putting together a TV show.
I really enjoyed the first season of GLOW, but it somehow it left me with a feeling of wanting. Wanting more episodes, sure, but also wanting just something a bit more. I appreciated the quality of all the constituent parts, from the writing to the costumes to the acting (I love you Alison Brie!) But I guess I never felt that they quite all meshed together to reach their full potential. Thankfully in season two whatever issue there was has gone. This was a wonderfully satisfying piece of television. I put on the first episode on a Friday, to watch just the one, and had finished the season by Sunday lunchtime!
I won’t spoil the end of the season, I’ll simply say that by the end we see the women moving on to a new stage with their show. It’s a storyline that I can see providing plenty of drama and amusement next year and I can’t wait. It hasn’t officially been commissioned for a third season yet, but I’ll have my fingers crossed that an announcement comes soon.
Queer Eye, Season 2 - ****
This post has become something of an ode to some of my favourite TV shows, so it’s fitting that I finish up by talking about the second season of the new incarnation of Queer Eye. The original show was a long-time favourite of mine, I was first introduced to it by a dear friend, Cassy Lee, on a trip to visit her in California. I have fond memories of sitting in her lounge bingeing on episodes she’d recorded to VHS (YES! VHS!) I would regularly watch it with my brother when I returned home, loving the guys from the O.G. Fab 5.
When I heard that a new version was being made, I was pretty unsure about how I felt. Could these new guys really live up to my original Queer Eye heroes? Turns out the answer was a resounding yes! My Maw and I watched the first season together, mainlining the first five episodes in one evening. There were tears! There was laughter! There were French tucks for everyone! I’ve rewatched those first episodes several times since, especially my favourites. And was over the moon to hear that a second season was coming so soon.
The second season sees they guys bring their individual brands of fabulous to help eight new individuals in and around Atlanta, including a woman and a trans man for the first time. Those two ended up being my favourite episodes of the season, featuring two wonderful people with equally big hearts.
Tammye, a woman who lives in the small town of Gay, Georgia, is a woman who gives to her family and community in spades, without thinking enough of her own needs. She also has a gay son who she admits that she wasn’t always supportive enough of, letting her religion dictate too much in relation to her feelings. She’d since realised her error and rebuilt her relationship with her son. Sadly, they distance hadn’t completely been removed and this ends up being almost a double make-over episode, bringing further along the road.
In the fifth episode we visit Skyler, a trans man who has recently received his top surgery. This is undoubtedly the most emotional of this seasons’ episodes (I think I’d cried 5 times by about 6 minutes in), but it is also one that is also a little problematic. This is, of course, partly due to the time available, giving appropriate time to Skyler’s complex story of heartbreak and triumph in a 45-minute episode, while also covering the make-over aspect is impossible. It’s also due to the somewhat heavy handed way that issues are dealt with at times, perhaps not giving enough respect to Skyler’s experiences. A scene where Tan asks Skyler some awkward overly-obvious questions springs to mind. I imagine that some of this was pointedly added as a way to begin educating audience members who are not currently familiar with trans issues, but it does overall make for slightly uncomfortable viewing, in what is otherwise an episode that champions understanding and acceptance.
Other episodes I particularly enjoyed this season were the second, about helping William propose to his girlfriend, the third, providing Leo, a bartender, with more self-confidence, and the final episode, making over a young mayor with great ideas about inclusion and bringing communities together. The only episode that left me a bit cold was the sixth episode, where the subject of the make-over just seemed like a bit of an ass!
One of the main things I enjoyed about this second run of episodes was the increased screen time for interior designer, Bobby Berk. The transformations he orchestrates are outstanding, plus he’s genuinely hilarious. No one delivers a punny or innuendo-laced joke like Bobby! I’d say he’s my favourite, but sometimes that goes to whoever is onscreen at the time. They are all awesome. In fact, I sometimes wish the Fab 5 could make over the whole world, and making it just that bit more fabulous for all. Failing that, maybe come to Scotland and help me out?
In honour of this wonderful show I’ve put together a drinking game, I just couldn’t resist once the idea popped into my head….
Queer Eye Drinking Game
Take a sip if:
- Tan rolls back someone’s sleeves for them
- Bobby makes a joke that’s punny/innuendo-filled
- Karamo mentions a person’s ‘truth’ or ‘authentic self’
- Antoni brandishes a knife in the kitchen
- Jonathan talks about giving someone a fade
- Tan gives someone a French tuck
- Bobby appears with a power tool
- Karamo wears a patterned jacket
- Antoni smells or tastes something he probably shouldn’t
- Jonathan twirls/wiggles his butt/hugs someone multiple times
- The Fab 5 try on someone’s clothes
- One of the Fab 5 mentions slim-fit/skinny jeans
- One of the Fab 5 mention who their own life experiences have shaped them
- Someone starts to well-up/cry
Finish your drink if:
- Jonathan pretends he’s in a nature documentary/does a British accent
- Karamo gives someone a thirsty look
- Tan is over protective of his hair
- Bobby gets the person they are making over to help out with the renovations
- Antoni introduces the person to a new kitchen utensil/gadget
- One of the Fab 5 learns something from the person they are making over