Quick Review: Dollface

Dollface

Jordan Weiss

Were you one of the lucky people to see the incredible television series Man Seeking Woman? If so, Dollface is for you. It has a similar surreal style of comedy that seamlessly works into the overall world and narrative of the story.

The series revolves around a recently single woman trying to reconnect with her girlfriends. I love the strong female cast. It is a perspective that is often overlooked in media. The actors have great chemistry. There is a diverse set of personalities on the screen, making it easy to relate. The humor is excellent, and I love that the show does not fall into expected tropes. The second to last episode of the season is also a spoof / homage to The Wizard of Oz. That gives bonus points to anything in my book.

I have no complaints about Dollface. I enjoyed the Hulu series from start to finish. Heather and I were laughing together at scenes, making it an even better viewing experience. The show is refreshing, relevant, and well done. If you like the series, and have not seen Man Seeking Woman, be sure to check that one out too.

Brain Dump: Survivor

I am having a hard time getting last week's double episode of Survivor out of my head. It upset me a lot, and has me considering not watching the series anymore. I am disappointed in several of the players, the producers, and Jeff Probst. I have a million thoughts in my head and need a place to get them out. Warning: there will be spoilers for the episodes.

In episodes 8 and 9 of Survivor: Island of the Idols, one of the cast members (Kellee) breaks down crying about her experiences with one of the male contestants (Dan). She details his unwanted touching of her, and how it continues even after she has tried to stop him. This is something that has been highlighted in previous episodes also. During the double episode, we see her talking with another contestant (Missy). Both of them share a similar experience with the unwanted touching and uncomfortable experience. They discuss talking with the other women to vote off the offender. Several other women agree that they feel the same way and that he should be voted off. One of the older female contestants (Janet) takes it upon herself to completely drop her strategy for the game so that she can help protect her fellow women in the game. Strategy talks go on throughout the day, including Kellee looking to vote someone other than Dan off. Apparently, strategy is more important than feeling safe in the game. By the end of tribal council, Kellee is voted off instead of Dan. Janet is shocked. The next episode sees the contestants dealing with the fallout of what happened, including several of the women lying to Dan about what they said and reversing their stories about his behavior. There is a discussion that happens in the next tribal council around the issue, and the most intelligent, socially woke members of the game (Jamal) gets voted off after being the only one to seem to have any true grasp of the seriousness of what happened.

There are a number of reasons why I am upset by these episodes:

First, Dan should not have been allowed to continue in the game, and should not be there now. When Kellee is breaking down talking about the experience, the producer says if there are issues that need to be addressed, she should come to him so they can stop it. It is exactly what she is doing by talking about it to the producers, and the show should have addressed the issue right then. Instead, they allow things to continue, and simply give the equivalent of an HR harassment training off camera. In an interview after the episodes aired, Jeff Probst talked about how Survivor reflects reality, but that the difference is that the game allows people to be voted off. Somehow that takes the responsibility off the shoulders of the show itself? How far do they let things go before taking steps outside of a vote? What happens if someone is having an issue, but no one is willing to believe them? It is fucked up. It is not how anything like this should be handled. It was a disaster on the part of the producers and Jeff.

Second, the women who exaggerated what happened to them as a part of game play crossed a line. Sexual harassment / assault is not a game. It is serious. People deal with it constantly, and it is still hard to be heard in this day and age. Even when heard, there is little consequence for those who did the harassment / assault. It is disgusting that anyone would make that part of their game play. That is no way to advance such an important cause in front of millions of viewers.

Third, the tribal council that addressed the issue was a joke. Jeff talked about putting everything out there, but does a piss poor job of actually stating what happened. No one has the guts to come out and use concrete terms for the harassment  / assault. They skirt around the issue. Several of the contestants are clearly the kind of people that do not understand the complexities of an issue like this and try to brush it off. Jamal is the only one to speak up in an intelligent way. He has done the same for other issues around race this season. It is awesome to hear him talk about social justice issues. Too bad he gets voted out, so we will not have a voice of reason left. During the whole discussion, Dan is asked questions several times and simply wants to let it drop. He gives an apology that is not an apology, and like most men, is oblivious to his own behaviors. It is sad, but especially because it is framed as if it is going to be a deep, no bull type of discourse.

The whole turn of events was bullshit. It was handled in the worst way possible. I think CBS and the Survivor execs believe they deserve some kind of accolade for handling the situation the way they did and giving airtime to it all. Why else make it a double episode with a viewer warning at the beginning? They are as oblivious as everyone else who lets people like Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and Louis C.K. get away with their heinous actions for so long. In the last few years, we have made progress. We still need to make so much more.

Impressions: Disney+

Disney+ launched a week ago, and with it came a slew of reviews and hot takes from all over the internet. Is it worth the price? Will it be a Netflix killer? Can it bake the perfect loaf of bread? At this point, it feels like a mixed bag.

The Pros:

  • Lots of classic Disney material and a decent selection of recent releases.
  • Apps for most major hardware.
  • 4K UHD content available for those who can take advantage.
  • No ads.
  • Great for kids and family content.

The Cons:

  • Not a lot of new original content, and the stuff that is there is just okay.
  • No watched indicator on already seen content.
  • The add to watchlist button always shows + even when the content is already added.
  • Some of the content listed is not even available now. Certain movies say that they will not be available until the end of 2020. It is misleading to have them listed in with all the content. Make a separate section for things coming soon (and not so soon).
  • Some content is split into separate series instead of one show (i.e. Forky Has a Question and Spark Shorts).
  • No rating system for better recommendations.
  • No mature content.
  • The bundled services are all separate apps instead of being incorporated all in one (e.g. channels in Amazon Video).

I am not someone who rewatches a lot of content, so Disney+ does not have a lot to offer me. The price is low enough where it does not matter though, so it will sit there and be sporadically used. I am excited for some of the upcoming original shows, but given how hollow The Mandalorian feels right now, I am leery of future offerings. I am frustrated by the little issues in the app, but am sure that will all be tweaked in time. If you have kids that want to watch the same stuff over and over, this is probably a no brainer. If you prefer binge watching shows and are looking for new content, then this is not the place to be. Netflix has a ton of great original content, and right now Disney+ cannot compete when it comes to my viewing preference and experience.

The Witcher [Trailer]

I hope this show does not let me down, because I am so excited for it.

The Japanese Dilemma

Amazon is currently running several sales throughout its digital comics storefront based on the Halloween season. One of the sales is a bunch of spooky manga. I ended up buying the first several volumes of many of the series. Gleipnir was one of the selections on sale. With four volumes available, I bought and read them all in the last couple days. It has brought up a dilemma I face periodically. When it comes to manga and anime, I love the massively diverse offering of content coming out of Japan. You would be hard pressed to find anywhere else with a range of material that can go from a series about tennis to a series about monster collecting to a series about cooking. But then, I start running into the common elements that turn me off from the material.

Gleipnir is a prime example. The concept revolves around a kid who can transform into a bear mascot. One day it just happens, and he is unaware of how or why. Soon he teams up with a girl who is looking for her sister, who can also transform into a monster. They learn that the mascot can be unzipped and worn, allowing her to control him from the inside. The team quickly learn that the transformations are coming from an alien who crash landed on Earth and is looking for his companions who are all imprinted on coins. It is a bizarre concept with lots of potential. But the potential is ruined by the creepy amount of fan service and the abrupt pacing. I run into the same thing when trying to watch anime. Many times I have to walk away from a show without finishing.

It is not all like that. I have read plenty of Hunter x Hunter and enjoyed it. Anime series like Your Lie in April, Kids on the Slope, Parasyte -Maxim-, and Baccano! were all excellent. It is just hard for me to find the series that I will enjoy. I cannot trust popular opinion. I recently tried watching Cowboy Bebop, and could not finish. The music was awesome, but the pacing and depiction of women in the series were too much to get past. I have had the same reaction to other popular series. I am stuck wanting to immerse myself in more anime and manga to find the true gems, but I also have to deal with all the disappointments. It is a dilemma that I will probably be dealing with for years to come.

Reality Check: Netflix

I am not a consistent viewer of Survivor, but Heather and I decided to watch the current season as it airs on CBS All Access. It is amazing to me how well the show can still hold my attention after all these years. The game has changed over time, becoming more meta as people who grew up and obsessed over the show are now contestants. It is a great example of the power of reality television competitions when done correctly. It got me thinking about the way Netflix has stepped up in the genre over the last several years. We have not watched everything the service has to offer, but there are plenty of shows available that we enjoyed. Here is a quick run down of some of the Netflix reality competitions that are worth checking out:

  • Nailed It! - This show will not be for everyone. Nicole Byer is a loud personality as a host. Personally, I love her boisterous addition to the show. With several seasons, a holiday special, and three international spin-offs, this amateur baking competition is a blast. The contestants create some truly awful finished products, but it is also a treat to celebrate with the bakers who come close to the intended results.
  • Blown Away - My familiarity with glass blowing encompasses one visit to a glass museum in Seattle, so a competition show built around the art of glass blowing was fascinating. I learned a lot about the process, and enjoyed seeing the contestants create magnificent works of art throughout the season.
  • Sugar Rush - Like Nailed It!, this show features different contestants on every episode. The teams compete in three rounds of baking, attempting to bank as much time as possible for the final cake creation round. The tension between speed and quality plays out with different results from episode to episode. It is awesome to see the variety of confections created by the teams, and season two tweaked the show in little ways to streamline and make it even better.
  • Instant Hotel - An Australian show that features teams competing for the best rental experience as they stay in each other's instant hotels, this show leaves a lot of the power in the hands of the contestants. I love seeing the different areas of Australia, and the competitors and their homes range from fascinating to frightening. The series has definitely made me want to visit Australia sooner than later, and I would absolutely be willing to stay in some of the places featured on the show.
  • Zumbo's Just Desserts - This show is worth it just to see the amazing creations that Adriano Zumbo comes up with, but the appeal does not end there. Another Australian show, this competition highlights excellent baking skills and fun accents. It is lighthearted and heartwarming all in one bright package.
  • Interior Design Masters - I do not know much about interior design. This British competition made me sure of that fact. And though I did not always see what the judges saw, I loved the variety of challenges presented throughout the season and the passion that the competitors brought to their designs.
  • The Final Table - There are not a lot of cooking competitions that compete at the level of Top Chef, but The Final Table attempts it. With a wide set of international contests and an amazing line up of judges, the competition delivers both on skill and highlighting food from around the world. It also introduced Heather and I to Grant Achatz and his restaurant, Alinea, in Chicago. We went several months after seeing the show, and enjoyed the most amazing eating experiences of our lives.
  • Hyperdrive - I might just be living under a rock, but I have never seen a competition like Hyperdrive. Expert drift racers from around the world compete on an incredible course that evolves throughout the season. I was blown away by the skill of the drivers, and on the edge of my seat until the very end of the competition. If you like fast cars and dangerous driving, this is the show for you.
  • Rhythm + Flow - I did not feel like every round of this hip-hop competition was fair to the contestants (i.e. the rap battles), but by the end, the rappers delivered some excellent performances. I had a hard time putting up with Cardi B as a judge, but Chance The Rapper made up for her weird rambles. Perhaps the biggest testament to the show, I am definitely interested in checking out future material from several of the competitors.
  • Flinch - Set on a farm in Ireland, Flinch is a competition that tests the natural resolve of the contestants. Each week pits a set of new competitors against one another to see who will flinch in the face of the changing challenges. From swinging appliances to popping balloons to live animals, the setups are weird and wide ranging. Even better, the reactions of the contestants will have you laughing hard. The whole show is dumb, but at the same time, it is a lot of fun. Heather was especially skeptical of this one, but we both had a good time watching it.