After years of living alone and even more years of borrowing someone else’s Crunchyroll account, I’ve finally started watching new stuff again. Mostly anime right now, since I don’t feel like wading into the intermittent cesspool that is Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, or whatever else I’ve got out there. So much TV and streaming-centric movie stuff has happened in the last decade and so much of it ran for so long that even thinking about trying to catch up on what I’ve missed or saved for later has me feeling fatigued. In the anime sphere, it’s a bit easier. Most shows feel like they take longer to come out, the overall runtimes/episode counts are shorter, and it’s also a bit easier to get recommendations from my friends since I’ve watched so much less anime than any other type of TV show. I can usually just ask for the top five shows from a few people and watch what comes out of that without needing to worry too much about whether or not my taste aligns with my friends’.Continue reading
Watch Me Convince Myself To Not Buy A New TV!
I’ve been thinking about updating a bunch of my electronics lately. I recently did it with my Switch in an effort to have a better experience playing games online and using the console in handheld mode, and my only regret is now I have to sort through the feelings that come up every time I think about giving it to one of my friends who doesn’t have one because my old Switch was my constant companion and frequently the sole source of comfort during the last few pandemic years. Plus, you know, all the fun I had with it before then, too. The drastic improvement in my user experience has inspired me to consider upgrading some of the other pieces of technology that are older than my Switch and far more worn, such as my TV, my stereo sytem, and my computer. I mean, I’m not particularly interestied in a smart TV and I never really felt the need for 4K quality, but then I got an OLED switch and I feel like I finally get why people are leaving their crappy old LCD TVs behind. Plus, most of my electronics were bought on a “Tax Refund” level budget, something I could only muster once a year and now I can actually budget ahead of time, set money aside, and save up for something I want in a timeframe measured by months instead of years. Suddenly, replacing my entire computer or just my monitors feels like a reasonable thing to consider.Continue reading
My Second Favorite Cop Show
While my friend and I were watching Pysch a couple of weeks ago, we got to talking about our mutual love for comedy, cop shows, and comedic cop shows. While we both obviously rated Psych as our favorite, we were both surprised to learn that our second favorite cop show was Castle. Me, because I want to be Richard Castle (a rich, eccentric millionaire writer with a nice apartment and the fortitude to not only write books but help the police solve crimes every week while pretending he’s doing research) and him because he’s like a broke, slightly funnier, and much less involved in crime solving version of Richard Castle. The distinction is probably the smallest one I’ll ever make, but we argued about it for half an hour, so it is clearly important to both of us.
It was interesting to see that we were basically in agreement on pretty much every point of the show. The only difference was our experiences with it. He watched it as it came out on TV and I purchased the DVDs. I’ve also made it further into the series he has, but that’s mostly because I had the DVDs and could watch on demand. Both of us eventually stopped before the end because the series started falling into that hole that long-running shows sometimes fall into, where more and more incredible things have to happen in order to keep the show new and relevant. He has no plans to continue watching it but I own the DVDs for every season and plan to get around to it at some point. We both enjoyed the earlier seasons more, when it was mostly protagonists flirting, hints at larger plot arcs, and the standard human stuff that goes on in everyday life.
The characters are great and Nathan Fillion is excellent in this show. I’ll admit that I’m a little biased because I’m a bit of a fan of his, but I think his style of acting fits the series very well, able to go from light-hearted comedic relief to intensely serious as the situation calls, all before wrapping it up with a touching little moment at the end with Castle’s mother, daughter, or his current love interest. In a single episode. The writing of the individual episodes manages it well, too. Despite the wide variety of emotions at play in a lot of the episodes, there is never a moment were it feels rushed or unduly chaotic. As I said, the writing runs into problems as the show goes on, but they do remarkably well for something that obviously hadn’t planned on running for as long as it did.
The extended cast is a lot of fun. Richard Castle’s mother and daughter provide excellent contrasts, allowing him to be the more serious one at times with his mother and the more playful one with his daughter. The three of them do an excellent job playing off of each other as they interchangeably help each other, give each other advice, and rein each other in. The other characters, mostly people from the police side of the show, help keep the show balanced by providing the main drama for each episode without completely losing touch with the more emotional side of the show.
The other protagonist, Detective Beckett, does an amazing job of calling Castle on his bullshit, keeping the police focused on their jobs rather than on Castle’s antics, and upstaging Castle almost every time he thinks he’s come out ahead. Unlike a lot of cop shows where the outsider protagonist constantly almost shames the police, Beckett proves herself easily Castle’s equal and much more likely his superior when it comes to investigation. There are a lot of times where he mostly just follows her around to flirt, make jokes, and accidentally stumble into a tense situation (or firefight) that she rescues him from. It is a refreshing change of pace when the damsel in distress is the male protagonist. He rescues her a couple of times, but it is mostly him tagging along and leaning on her. Beckett provides most of the plot arcs for the show and Castle’s are often just an accessory to hers. I enjoy the dynamic a little more than Psych’s where Shawn is constantly stealing the spotlight and setting up the story arcs. It feels a lot more realistic in Castle.
Eventually, though, the show loses the thread of its earlier seasons and starts trying to top itself, despite the fact that they more or less resolve the long-running character arcs and stories by season 5. They could have wrapped everything up neatly at that point, but they kept it going and things started to get a little messy. The plots started to get kind of convoluted, the season arcs felt like they were made simply to keep the show going, and the characters started throwing controversy into their personal lives just to give themselves plots for the season.
I feel like I encounter that a lot in TV shows these days. If a show does well for a few seasons, the network decides to milk it for all its worth. Scrubs Season 8 would have been great if they had just basically started the show over, letting all the old characters go except for a few who wanted to stick around and making it the start of something new instead of an attempt to continue something that almost everyone had left. The worst offender in my book is How I Met Your Mother. They had a nice, tight little plot that they wound up extending when they were given more seasons. That was fine, but continuing to extend it forever got very frustrating, since they wound up dancing around potentially ending the show at the end of the current season for a couple (or more) years.
Ultimately, if you’re looking for a fun cop show that’s good for a watch, check out Castle. You’ll enjoy it, have a good time, and chances are good that you’ll like it well enough to watch all of it. I’m just really bad at finishing things if I wind up stopping them. I suggest taking your time and trying to be consistent rather than binging it like I did.
Steven Universe is the Best
Where do I even begin.
I’ve watched the series all the way through four times since this summer. First time through was in “streaming” order, the default order available on Amazon’s video streaming service (you’ve gotta buy the “seasons,” but they’re worth it). The second time was in the correct order, based on continuity. The third time was with my roommates. The fourth time was because I was impatient, unable to calmly wait for new episodes to come out. Every time I watched it, I felt like there was more to unpack. After four times, I can definitely say there’s more to this show than I can comfortably cover in a blog post, so I’m going to apologize up front for what a mess this might be.
I love the music. I first became familiar with Rebecca Sugar (the show’s creator) through her work on Adventure Time and, when I found out she was the person behind the song from the “Stakes” mini-series, “Everything Stays,” I bought all of Steven Universe from amazon and started watching it as soon as I’d stopped crying. Music is such an integral part of this show, that I’m not sure any review or discussion of the show can even half-assedly cover the show without going into it. The theme song is catchy and the scenes appearing on the screen throughout it are heart-warming and colorful. In the very first episode, the protagonist, a young human child (Steven), unabashedly signs the commercial jingle for his favorite ice cream treat. The episode ends with a portion of a bright, yet rather sad song whose entirety we do not get until the second season (or until you went ahead and bought the soundtrack or looked it up on Spotify). The second episode begins and ends the same way, but we discover that Steven’s love of music came from his father who was in a band before he met Steven’s mother.
Throughout the entire series, music comes in at critical junctures, giving us a window into the interior lives of the characters or communicating something they’ve been struggling to verbalize. We see one of the Crystal Gems named Amethyst–an alien race that are nigh-immortal but came to Earth long ago–sing a song with Steven about leaving home because they don’t feel like they belong. We eventually see Garnet sing a song about the strength of working together. Pearl sings several songs, many of them focusing on relaying information or expressing an emotion she’s been hiding for a long time following the passing of Steven’s Mother (who gave up her corporeal form in order to give birth to Steven). Steven sings songs for every possible reason from communication to encouragement to the simple joy of singing with someone. Steven’s dad, Greg (my personal favorite character and someone I aspire to be), sings songs to his son whenever he tells him about the past. Music touches every part of this show and really captures the heart and soul of the characters. Everyone I know who has gotten into this show has subsequently looked up the music on their own. I am not joking when I say I got Spotify just to have access to the album everywhere I wanted to listen to it. I also literally just bought it right before writing this sentence because I realized I couldn’t listen to it in the car because I’m super frugal when it comes to using cellular data. There’s so much amazing music, but I can’t really go into specifics without risking spoilers because it is so tied to each episode. The music alone is reason enough to check the show out.
The characters are so incredibly real and Steven redeems every character from a show you watched growing up whose power was hokey sentimentalism. He is sentimental, kind, incredibly sweet, unbelievably caring, and one of the most emotionally mature characters I’ve ever seen in a TV show, at least at the end. He still messes up, of course, but watching him grow throughout the series is incredibly rewarding and good inspiration for learning to work through your own problems. I won’t share any of the other characters’ growth because watching them change over the course of the series is a huge part of the show. Just as they grow in strength, they develop emotionally. The plot is just as much about emotional growth and learning to deal with your emotional troubles as it is about Steven Universe learning to become a Crystal Gem and what happens between the Crystal Gems and their estranged homeworld.
The supporting characters don’t feel like supporting characters because they’re just as three-dimensional and vibrant as the main characters. They even manage to make a pink lion with no speaking lines a fully fledged character with a detailed emotional life. The world is full and unique to the story. There’s a wonderful number of references to things that match our world despite there being a huge number of things that also separate it from our world. The stories are touching and deal with real conflict, and not just the violent kind. Sure, there are monsters they beat down, but the more difficult conflicts for Steven to handle are people who refuse his help due to their own pride or the people he wants to rescue but cannot. The most heart-wrenching episodes include an episode where the conflict Steven faces is when he has to decide to not save someone in order to take care of himself. Every villain has their reasons and even the worst of them eventually earns a measure of sympathy. You eventually get a sense that there’s something bigger going on, something beyond the characters you’ve seen. That there’s someone else out there who made the decisions that eventually created the bitter hatred and sadness you see playing out in these episodes.
As much as I love the show, I feel I should caution you. Since the show hasn’t finished yet, and the recent episode releases have been rather inconsistent and random, don’t dive right into it if you’re struggling with some unresolved emotional burdens or something big and sad has gone on. While this show can be incredibly cathartic, there are a lot of emotional issues that haven’t been resolved yet and basically leave you feeling sad and somewhat mournful. The tone is melancholic and, despite the fact that many of the sad moments end happily, not all of them have been resolved yet. Still, though, I suggest watching it. Definitely cautiously, and definitely a bit more slowly, but the catharsis and the wonderful feelings you get from watching something amazingly well made are worth it.
There’s so much more I want to say, but I think I’ve said everything that’s important. Watch this show. Take the time to make sure you’re watching it in order (which has been much easier now that you can buy actual DVDs of Season 1 and it is Season 1 that is out of order on all streaming services) and don’t watch more than a few episodes in a sitting. Let the show digest a bit between sittings and you’ll enjoy it even more.