I’ve been watching a lot of various Law & Orders over the past month or so, going back to the very first season of the mothership, when it still felt a bit edgy and experimental. The pilot, if you’ve never seen it, is as gritty as the final season was polished, and includes the only instance of onscreen defibrillation on a woman not wearing a bra I’ve ever seen. The funniest thing is how little I remember of individual episodes around very specific moments that are indelibly etched on my brain: Logan punching the councilor, Carmichael’s amazing looks of disdain, Paul Sorvino’s fur hat, Bobby Goren. Also of note: how the tenor of the show’s relationship to NYC changed after 9/11, how McCoy’s hippie liberal attitudes calcified as he aged and his lady ADAs didn’t, Borgia’s egregiously brutal exit, Bobby Goren. There are still about seven hundred seasons left in my rewatch, and at least as many potential write-ups bubbling in the back of my head.
At the other end of the pseudo-medieval spectrum from Galavant:
ROBIN HOOD (2010, movie, Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett)
To be blunt: if it weren’t for a gifset of Oscar Isaac looking ridiculously attractive as Prince King John, I’d have skipped this movie forever. I’ve poked fun at Crowe’s pretensions but genuinely find him a compelling actor most of the time. I even like his singing! Unfortunately he’s stuck in Full Dour for the duration here and it is boring as hell. No joke, it took almost an hour to watch the first twenty minutes because I kept wandering out of the room. There’s also a cast of roughly seven hundred dudes to every woman allowed to walk and talk at the same time, and by half an hour in I was wondering what fantastical miracles of reproduction they achieved to sustain any European population past the 12th century (Hollywood’s really into medieval mpreg, amirite?).
The movie suffers from a reverse Return of the King right at the outset, with three or four distinctly separate openings that barely hang together. It feels more like the opening scenes from a couple of different miniseries cobbled together with Ye Semi-Olde Englishe Gothice PowerPointe slides outlining key historical context because the movie doesn’t trust itself or the audience enough. And then the movie abandons two-thirds of them so it can wallow in the most boring army camp of all time and introduce a bunch more scheming dudes in another part of the woods! Worse, those abandoned plot threads (the struggles between Prince King John and Eleanor of Aquitaine, along with Cate Blanchett’s fierce Marian) comprise the most interesting parts of the movie. There are also a number of minor moments that would have helped elevate the whole thing for me: the artificiality and fickleness of Richard’s relationship to his soldiers and subjects and vice versa. The approaching-sly insinuations about his sexuality. The strange disguises the men of the greenwood employ that hint at the profound societal divide and the tenuousness of so-called civilization. The mechanics of Marian’s survival in a village abandoned by “able” men and plundered by crown, church, and outlaw. Court intrigues! I would have gladly watched two-plus hours of John’s wife and mistress jockeying for position, John’s nobles rebelling against his self-interest and greed, and John and Eleanor wounding each other with barbed tongues.
Alas, the movie’s biggest flaw, aside from the artless direction and unearned emotional payoffs, is that it thinks we’ll be most interested in Russell Crowe’s impostor Robin and in its attempts at equating 12th century feudal inequities with modern-day American class and power struggles with a decidedly libertarian bent. I mean, the latter is actually super interesting, but this is about the most ineffective treatment of that idea since, oh, Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood. I will thank Russell Crowe’s singing for how much folk music was included in the movie, though. Easily the most enjoyable element of the entire thing.
I’d watch again for Oscar Isaac’s
artfully obscured bits, but probably only until my crush on him fades. ★☆☆☆☆
In other unearned emotional payoffs:
THE UNDOING OF A LADY (2009, book / romance, Nicola Cornick)
I jumped into this book without reading any of the previous books in the series and really shouldn’t have. The main couple’s relationship was frustratingly rushed, and the progression of each from strong attraction to realizing they were in love didn’t have much emotional impact for me. The secondary characters kind of blended together (so many couples!) and the resolution of the main mystery (which came out of nowhere! I thought this was a standard can’t-deny-our-urges book when all of a sudden someone was murdered, and then not really investigated) didn’t make sense. I gather from context that most of the story was the culmination of events from a prior book. Still, I read the whole thing and enjoyed quite a bit of it. The town’s charming. I probably won’t try the rest of the series. ★★☆☆☆
And a pleasant surprise!
SUPERSTORE (2015-16, TV / NBC, America Ferrara and Ben Feldman)
Binged the first four episodes of this over the weekend and it’s getting a season pass. Cute, friendly, fun workplace comedy in the vein of The Office, with weirdos galore. Unlike The Office it manages a middle America feel that doesn’t feel gratuitously unkind, though there are some low blows. I’m kind of hoping that the central will-they-won’t-they couple won’t in the short- and long-term. America Ferrara plays a nice twist on the uptight, upright workplace expert; Mark McKinney does the weirdest voice I’ve heard from him since Kids in the Hall; and although I didn’t watch Mad Men, I’m on Tumblr enough to be grateful to this show for letting me look at Ben Feldman without thinking about body horror. ★★★★☆