GLOW
Internet TV

Review: GLOW (season two) (Netflix)

Available on Netflix

TV shows and movies about female empowerment always seem to fail in some way as dramas. Maybe it’s because we generally expect everyone in a drama to be at each other’s throats or maybe it’s because we expect real-life to be full of failure, but anything in which everyone is heart-warmingly co-operative and in which the plucky underdog manages to triumph against the odds – and those who would oppress her – never feels truly authentic.

It doesn’t help that ’empowerment’ has been co-opted as by marketers for just about anything. What Women Want is ruined by many things – including Mel Gibson – but its relentless attempt to persuade you that Nike Women is really all about empowering women rather than extracting cash from them in exchange for over-priced trainers is downright nauseating. And that’s before we get onto anything in which stripping, pole-dancing, posing for naked calendars, beauty competitions et al are portrayed as actually completely liberating experiences, not exploitative, you sexist.

The first season of GLOW was therefore something of a rare beast. At first, little more than a sub-comedic drama set in the 80s world of women’s wrestling – being very loosely based on the genuine show Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling – it rapidly evolved into a hymn to ineptitude that sees failed actress Alison Brie (Community) working with equally failed schlock film director Marc Maron (Maron) to try to put together a viable pilot for a show about female wrestlers that, really, just isn’t that good. There are terrible storylines, all the women end up playing terrible stereotypes (eg suicide bombers, ‘welfare queens’, evil Russians, members of the Ku Klux Klan) and no one’s actually any good at wrestling or even acting. And at no point doesn’t anyone try to argue that what they’re doing will close the pay gap and end discrimination as we know it

The first season took a little while to get into gear, it has to be said. Mild guffaws, for sure, but it wasn’t until episode seven when they’re actually shooting the pilot that we got some genuine comedy and the season started to come together.

Alison Brie in GLOW
Zoya the Destroyer

Season two

So expectations were… mild for season two. More gentle comedy while a group of slightly diverse women learn to get along together while fighting one another?

Pretty much, yes. That’s what season two is. But let’s not knock that. There are worse ways to spend your time by far, and there is one episode of absolute genius, too.

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Strange Angel
US TV

Review: Strange Angel 1×1 (US: CBS All Access)

In the US: Thursdays, CBS All Access

Aleister Crowley’s one of those people who you assume must be fictional. Just take this sentence from the opening paragraph of his Wikipedia entry:

An English occultist, ceremonial magician, poet, painter, novelist, and mountaineer, he founded the religion of Thelema, identifying himself as the prophet entrusted with guiding humanity into the Æon of Horus in the early 20th century.

Bonkers, hey? Yet this Satanist-magician was real and if you’ve ever heard the phrase “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law,” you’ve heard the words of Crowley.

Also real was Jack Parsons, a US rocket scientist who helped to found the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and invented the first rocket engine to use a castable, composite rocket propellant. So far, so plausible, too. However, Parsons met Crowley in the late 30s and joined Thelema. He even ended up hanging around with L Ron Hubbard.

Bonkers, hey?

And now we have a biopic of Parsons that is actually all too easy to believe.

Bella Heathcote, Jack Reynor and Rupert Friend in Strange Angel
Bella Heathcote, Jack Reynor and Rupert Friend in Strange Angel

Do what thou wilt

The first episode introduces us to Parsons, who’s played with a certain glee by Sing Street‘s Jack Reynor – one of many members of an almost exclusively non-US cast. Parsons didn’t graduate college, as he needed a job during the Depression to look after his wife (Neighbours’ Bella Heathcote), so has been working in a chemicals factory instead. Nevertheless, he and buttoned-down Caltech student Peter Mark Kendall (Chicago Med, The Americans) have been working together to create a new kind of rocket that might even take man into space.

As we quickly find out, Parsons is something of a dreamer, being a reader of lurid stories that typically involve a Chinese, harem-owning, tiger-fighting king, although Heathcote isn’t quite so approving of his reading matter. Then into their lives comes furtive new neighbour Rupert Friend (Homeland). He encourages Reynor to live a little, “Do what thou wilt” being the only law that really counts. Before you know it, Reynor’s burgling houses, nearly drowning in a swimming pool, coming up with exciting new ideas for rocket propulsion, taking all kinds of risks, and nearly blowing up Caltech professors (Rade Šerbedžija) in an effort to get much-needed funding.

Then one night he follows Reynor to a local church and discovers him in a congregation, watching while Aleister Crowley (The Crown‘s Greg Wise) is busily sacrificing a naked virgin. Soon, stabbed to his and Heathcote’s door, is a satanic symbol. Are they in danger? Might they even want to join in?

Jack Reynor, Rade Šerbedžija and Peter Mark Kendall in Strange Angel
Jack Reynor, Rade Šerbedžija and Peter Mark Kendall in Strange Angel

Happy satanists

For such a potentially exciting and lurid subject matter, this sure is tame stuff. Exploding mini-rockets are the most exciting parts of something that could have been a Satanic sexfest on AMC where it was originally pitched, but here feels like it’s a group of neighbours in a gated community getting shocked by an Ann Summers party.

There is some great attention to period detail, as well as rocket science, surprisingly enough. The cast fit their parts well, even if Wise is vastly too handsome to be Crowley. But if you were expecting something a bit more exotic, the first episode avoids every opportunity presented to it and the trailer for the rest of the season suggests two women kissing is about as exciting as it’s going to get.

All of which means that this is going to be at most a vaguely interesting biopic about a probably far more interesting man. I’d give it a miss if I were you.

The Americans
International TV

What have you been watching? Including The Americans

It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend anything you’ve been watching this week

June’s here, which means the summer TV season is beginning in the US (and the winter season in Australia). It’s quite a long season mind, with new shows starting all the way through to August (those that dare brave TMINE’s holiday wrath, anyway), so brace yourself for lots of new shows over the next few months. Woo hoo!

Elsewhere, as well as mopping up the whole of the first season of Netflix’s Safe in one go, I’ve reviewed the first episodes of Reverie (US: NBC) and Picnic at Hanging Rock (Australia: Showcase; UK: BBC Two). I’ll be covering the first couple of episodes (at least) of movie spin-off Mystery Road (Australia: ABC) this week and I might even manage to watch Dietland (US: AMC; UK: Amazon), too, given the first two episodes are already available in the UK. Anything after that will be a bonus (eg Cobrai Kai, Movie Monday) – in particular, Succession (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic) looks dull and worthy, despite the presence of Brian Cox (the other one), but I’ll try to squeeze it in, at least.

However, I definitely won’t be watching Ryan Murphy’s trans-friendly 80s New York drama Pose (US: FX) because of the golden TMINE motto: “Tough on musicals, tough on the cause of musicals.”

However, the remnants of the spring season are still with us, so after the jump, Bron/Broen (The Bridge), Legion and Westworld, as well as the series finale of the already-missed The Americans.

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Musashi
International TV

What have you been watching? Including Krypton, Killing Eve and The Good Fight

It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend anything you’ve been watching this week

As suspected, the weather gods have been having some yucks this week, haven’t they? On top of that, the bank holiday and my slightly unpredictable workload means that I didn’t quite get round to reviewing everything I’d intended to. Sigh.

But I have at least now watched all of Safe, so I’ll be reviewing that soon, maybe even tomorrow, and I should have time to play proper catch-up with a few other series this weekend, too, including Foxtel (Australia)’s Picnic at Hanging Rock and ABC (Australia)’s Mystery Road, which starts on Sunday. Tabula Rasa might even get that promised viewing and since I’ve seen a couple of movies at the cinema, as well, Movie Monday might be making at appearance, too. Plus I might even finish watching the first season of Cobra Kai.

Let’s not over-promise, though, even if the regular viewing list is about to plummet to virtually nothing, thanks to the end of the spring season in the US. Indeed, after the jump, as well as the latest episodes of The Americans, Bron/Broen (The Bridge), Legion and Westworld, I’ll be talking about the season finales of The Good Fight, Killing Eve and Krypton. 0See you in a mo as we watch that viewing list get cut in half…

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SEAL Team
International TV

What have you been watching? Including SEAL Team, Bron/Broen (The Bridge), Killing Eve and Westworld

It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend anything you’ve been watching this week

Sigh. Failed again. So I haven’t watched any of the three episodes of Starz’s Vida that have aired so far; I’m only four episodes through Netflix’s Safe; I’ve not got any further with Walter Presents’ Tabula Rasa; and I’d just about forgotten All Night exists. Oh dear.

But I did watch Carter (Canada: Bravo; UK: Alibi), so that’s something at least, hey?

Given that it’s YA Bank Holiday Weekend in the UK this weekend, I think I could end up either:

  • Watching none of them
  • Watching all of them.

My suspicion is that it’ll be something in between, with Safe getting a review and maybe Vida and All Night getting a whistlestop tour next WHYBW. But let’s see what the weather gods bring us.

After the jump, let’s talk about all the lovely reliable regular shows: The Americans, Bron/Broen (The Bridge), The Good Fight, Krypton, Legion, and Westworld, as well as the season finale of SEAL Team and two episodes of Killing Eve, now I’ve played catch-up. If only I were as reliable as TV, hey?

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including SEAL Team, Bron/Broen (The Bridge), Killing Eve and Westworld”