Feelin’ TV: August 7-13

There’s an episode of Netflix’s new comedy Friends from College where Lisa (Cobie Smulders) tells her husband Ethan (Keegan-Michael Key) that they need to talk when she gets home from her business trip. Ethan knows, as everyone does, that when someone says you “need to talk” that it rarely means anything good. When someone tells me that we need to talk, I get a sick feeling in my stomach until we’re able to get it over with. A year from now when I think about Friends from College, I’ll probably remember a few of the many laugh out loud moments, but mostly I’m going to remember how for 8 episodes, I had that same anxious feeling in my gut that I get when someone tells me that we need to talk.

The show follows the lives of Lisa and Ethan as they move from Michigan to New York City, where the rest of their friends (played by Fred Savage, Nat Faxon, Annie Parisse and Jae Suh Park) from their days at Harvard also happen to reside. The main cast is very good and they have a chemistry that makes you believe that they’ve known each other a long time. The scenes we get together with Key and Savage were particularly fun. But it’s also a series whose plot is driven by miscommunication, and that tends to be more frustrating to my taste than enjoyable. My favorite performance and the cast member I identified with most was Felix, the boyfriend of Max (Savage), played with surprising restraint by Billy Eichner. He’s amiable at first as he gets to know the college friends of his paramour, but he slowly becomes more and more exasperated as he witnesses the immature and destructive behavior of the group. At first, it’s a little disappointing as an Eichner fan to see his character be so subdued, but his gradual transformation to the Eichner we’ve come to know and love is tremendously satisfying, mostly because, at least for me, the main characters really started to grate on me too. That’s not to say that it isn’t an enjoyable show. There’s too much comedic talent involved for it not to be. But it definitely is less than the sum of its parts. Friends from College can be streamed on Netflix.

In case you were wondering, Netflix’s new series Ozark wasn’t produced by the Missouri Division of Tourism. The series promises to increase boat enthusiast traffic about as much as Deliverance raised the number of weekend canoe trips in Northern Georgia.  It paints a bleak picture of the picturesque lake in Southern Missouri and the people who call the area home. I can’t imagine that many Missourians, especially those south of St. Louis, would find much about the setting of Ozark to love. But I have a feeling that the other 49 states are going to love it.

Ozark tells the story of Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) and his wife Wendy (Laura Linney) and his two children as they relocate from Chicago to the Lake of the Ozarks, where Marty has the summer to launder 8 million dollars for a Mexican drug lord. If he succeeds, he’ll get more money to launder. If he fails, well, his family will suffer the consequences that befall people who cross Mexican drug lords. To put it simplistically, it’s Breaking Bad invading the world of Justified. It’s too good to be reduced to that, but it should give you a pretty good idea of the setting and the tone. Bateman, who is also credited as a producer and director on the project does great work as Byrde, a well-meaning family man in over his head who inadvertently ruins the lives of everyone he comes into contact with. It’s an interesting role for him as the nervous energy, unearned cockiness and barely contained exasperation we’re used to is present in his performance, but it’s in a role that isn’t at all comedic. Linney is as reliable as ever as the wife who has her own skeletons to deal with. Julia Garner steals every scene she’s in as Ruth, the young leader of an area family of small-time criminals. She did great work earlier this year in The Americans and she’s only gotten better here. It’s not a perfect show by any means. As mentioned before, it’s treatment of Southern Missouri natives is overly harsh and some obstacles to our antagonist’s success exist only to complicate things in a situation that was complicated enough to begin with. But if you loved Breaking Bad and can handle some darker material (which, of course you can, you loved Breaking Bad), it’s a good story that’s worth a viewing. Ozark is currently streaming on Netflix.

After a pretty poor start this week, Game of Thrones settled down and turned in a really solid table setting episode to carry us through the rest of the season. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one disappointed to see Eastwatch begin with Bronn and Jamie safely out of the water and down river from Daenerys and her dragons. While neither of those characters are on my list of characters I want to die, having the ending of last week’s cliffhanger end without any consequence of note was a pretty big letdown. Thankfully, the rest of the hour more than made up for that.

Last week’s sisterly reunion in Winterfell was sweet and all, but it felt a lot more like Arya was actually back when her and Sansa had a nice tense argument, just like old times. Sansa is headed down a dark path with Littlefinger having her ear. Here’s hoping she’ll realize where that road is taking her before she does something that hurts the other members of her family. Speaking of family, Gilly unearthed some big news this week involving Jon’s parentage. We’ve been all but told that Jon is indeed a Targaryen, but now it sounds like Rheagar and Lyanna Stark actually got married prior to his birth which would make Jon, not Daenerys, the next in the line of secession to the iron throne. The dynamic of the relationship between Snow and the Mother of Dragons will be fascinating when this all comes to light, especially if it turns out that Jon can ride dragons too. For now though, I’m looking forward to watching more of their tenuous alliance. We’re only 2 episodes from the end of Season 7 already. Sunday is this season’s equivalent of the 9th episode, so some pretty exciting things could be in store next week on Game of Thrones: The Avengers. Game of Thrones can be seen on the HBO GO and HBO NOW platforms. 

That’s all for this week. Next week we’ll have the highly anticipated series The Defenders from Netflix and the season 4 premiere of Halt and Catch fire to discuss, along with the penultimate episode of season 7 of GoT.

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