This Is Us
“Changes”
7.8/10

Dir. Ken Olin
Wri.: Elan Mastai

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When I think of the perfect episode of This Is Us, I picture myself like a grandmother passing down a family recipe that she never wrote down, but is nevertheless extremely picky about. It should have just enough Jack. It should make me cringe, but never for more than 40 seconds. It should have not a sprinkle, but a heaping tablespoon of Rebecca, even if she isn’t the main dish.

And, for me, the perfect This Is Us episode is one where Kevin is the focus.

Last week my major complaint with an otherwise solid episode of This is Us was about the pacing, and how the emotional payoff didn’t seem to arrive until late in the third act. This week’s episode, while perhaps less emotionally weighty than the first two of the season, fixed its pacing problems thanks to tight, intricate and never over-indulgent scripting by Elan Mastai. It’s admittedly very easy to do that with a Kevin episode because while his siblings have a tendency to internalize their trauma in ways that are harder to show onscreen, Kevin projects everything through physical, tangible actions, whether it’s through his addictions, over-working or his overly showy, generous nature. …


This Is Us
“Changes”
6.7/10

Dir. Anne Fletcher
Wri.: Kevin Falls

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Last week in my inaugural This Is Us recap/review, I remarked how This Is Us had, much to my relief, handled its new COVID reality pretty well, even if I might welcome the 90’s flashbacks that much more in order to give me some time away from the utter bummer that is our current reality. It’s been part of the show’s tendency to always pleasantly surprise me by being a little bit more self-aware than I give it credit for. This week, it presented the COVID context with much more confidence; after its conspicuous introduction in the premiere week that couldn’t help but verge on clumsy at times, covering up Rebecca’s episode in a so-so manner, the pandemic is now simply part of the Pearsons’ lives. Kate and Toby joke about what masks to wear to meet a prospective birth mother. Kevin works out in the garage. …


Hello! This is normally a space for TV and movie essays, but I’ve decided, in my COVID boredom, to start doing recaps! Now that This is Us is back on the air, I’ve decided to throw myself into my old habit of appointment viewing — and offer my thoughts on the episode the next day. In the two-hour premiere Forty, we get the show’s establishment of how it’s leaning into the COVID-reality, an exploration of new dynamics and, of course, one hell of a twist in the very last second of the episode. …


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It’s a bit of an edgelord take to declare that The Office (U.S. version) isn’t actually a good show. It might even be a bit of a meaningless critique to say that it hasn’t aged well. (“This hasn’t aged well” is the “This is overrated” of the current decade; it’s an easy, catch-all critique of something without having to be very specific or provide much proof). The Office (U.S.) as a whole, complete unit is seen as great because of its brilliant peaks, with its valleys long forgotten.

Once in a while, one brave human being will take to their keyboard to point out that Jim Halpert was actually the worst. His pranks were disruptive, he was judgmental toward Michael and, frankly, he wasn’t a particularly great husband or father. But a more specific criticism of Jim — Jim the character, the product of nine seasons full of writers rooms and production tweaks, not Jim the man — is that he is a Mary Sue. …


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Sometimes I think the true bottoming out of pop culture began when Chris Pratt lost weight. Not because he lost weight, but it was around that time.

Pratt was known for little more than his role as chubby goofball Andy Dwyer on Parks and Recreation when he was chosen for the lead role of Starlord in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. While Pratt had to undergo a way over-publicized body transformation for the role, it otherwise wasn’t hard to see why he was chosen. Through his portrayal of Dwyer, Pratt had carved himself out a cozy little place in the hearts of TV viewers. Andy was a sweet, dimwitted goofball, a devoted husband and a dependable best friend. Even his flaws — extreme irresponsibility and incomprehensible stupidity — were cute and the source of most of the series’ biggest laughs. Beyond the spectre of Parks and Rec, Pratt and every character he played were shoved down our collective throats as a loveable, carefree oaf who also happened to have a rockin’ bod. He became a light box office draw, and his character slowly started commanding more attention on the show that made him famous. …


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In 2018, Sterling K. Brown guest-starred in an episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine titled “The Box.” In it, Brown plays a dentist, one Jake and Captain Holt have deemed clearly guilty of murdering his partner, but who is holding up and keeping his cool under the pressure of the interrogation. He’s arrogant, he’s cold-hearted and he’s always one step ahead of the cops, and even when he admits to the murder, he’s boastful and sees himself as exceptional — it’s that exceptionalism that leads him to inadvertently confess in the first place.

The Season 4 finale of This is Us proves that Randall Pearson, the character that made Brown a primetime TV mainstay, might actually be a bigger psychopath. …


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It took me two years, but I finally fell out of love with Queer Eye. I no longer cry during episodes. I no longer find Jonathan Van Ness cute.

This time last year, I still enjoyed Queer Eye. At this point, I knew that there was a strong leftist critique against it, and I agreed with almost all those critiques. Queer Eye has never been activist media — it’s in the same vein as Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Hamilton. However, I also believed (and still believe) that all media is inherently capitalist, and trying to find media that isn’t problematic is usually a race to the bottom. …


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I can’t explain why, on a sleepy, Saturday afternoon trip to Blockbuster, my sixth-grade self picked out Saving Silverman as her weekend VHS choice. I had few limitations on what I watched as a kid, so having seen both American Pie and Varsity Blues at age nine convinced me that once I hit double-digits it was a literal sin to watch anything rated PG ever again. More curse words meant a higher quality movie. More nudity meant I was smarter.

Saving Silverman broke that. A movie filled with all the slapdash slapstick comedy and absurdly dated gender stereotypes that should have delighted my 11-year-old brain left me bordering on angry. It might have very well been the first time that I didn’t laugh at something that I knew was trying to make me laugh, and that I wasn’t won over by characters merely screaming and calling that comedy. …


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Sometime around my seventh birthday, I was sitting in Casey’s, one of the only “fun” restaurants in my hometown. Before me were a half-dozen or so TVs, most of which were airing baseball or the final remnants of playoff hockey. One, for some reason, was airing an episode — a new episode — of The Simpsons.

I knew it was new, because although I was only a first-grader, I’d seen every single episode of The Simpsons up until that point. Without any sound, I instantly knew that these were scenes I’d never watched before (you never forget Milhouse Van Houten recreating different types of sprinklers). …


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One of the more recent memes to spring up on Twitter — before all this nonsense about hexing the moon — was yet another wear attempt at a “gotcha” by film nerds. I’m talking, of course, about the “The movie villain / The actual villain” meme.

Some were funny, but most were tiresome. A few bothered me, mainly because I take movies and television too seriously. One was the assertion that Christian Hughes (Jack Reynor) was the “real villain” in Midsommar, despite the Harga being the “movie villain.”

It’s wrong for a few reasons; for one, the film already makes a case on the surface for Christian being the “villain” and the Harga simply being a means to an end. It’s up to the viewer to see beyond that. I can (kind of) understand a person not being able to think deeper, but for them to think that they’ve gotten one up on the filmmakers is a whole other issue. …

About

Bree Rody, professional hate-watcher

I have a lot of feelings about movies and TV shows that would be embarrassing if it weren’t 2020.

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