Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: the recurring feature that’s more like a newsletter in which I’ve jotted down capsule-sized notes about Stuff I Recently Watched at home. The last installment was eight months ago because I’ve found myself pretty easy to distract this year. Time flies when I’m going to bed earlier every night due to encroaching oldness, depriving myself of precious writing time, barely making a dent in my topical backlog, and therefore not yet forcing myself into a corner where I have to mine everything I do for creative writing fodder. Plan A for Thanksgiving weekend had been a combination of reading, writing, and watching. One of those three won out thanks to a confluence of unrelated factors, all involving TVs and streaming media.
Our household is not among the first ten million subscribers to the all-new all-shiny Disney+ streaming service. We’re proudly never early adopters of anything. We didn’t hop aboard the Netflix bandwagon until 2013 when our Doctor Who catch-up and the then-upcoming Marvel shows finally justified the price. So far Disney+ offers one (1) series we’re interested in, hundreds of movies I’ve already seen, and thousands of movies I’ve consciously avoided all my life. The price isn’t bad, but seven bucks for one TV show and the bottom half of the complete Don Knotts oeuvre is not a temptation, not even for FOMO’s sake.
But we know people who do have Disney+ subscriptions, such as the relative who hosted our Thanksgiving this year. He offered to queue up The Mandalorian for us. We were the first family members to arrive that morning. We figured why not. For five to seven minutes The Mandalorian was off to an interesting start, the tale of a masked wanderer hunting bounties and beating up barflies and trying not to stumble into Sarlacc pits held promise. The graphics were somewhat pretty, though hard to appreciate with so much glare on the TV screen from all the open windows.
Then other family members started showing up. And talking to each other. And letting their phones make noise, including amusing themselves with the occasional video, because the Kids These Days figure that just because you can watch videos anywhere means you absolutely must. With subtitles unhelpfully turned off and the audio drowned out by the sounds of life passing us by, we settled for admiring the pretty pictures. I have no idea what the characters played by Nick Nolte or Taika Waititi in the pilot sounded like, but they sure did look sculpted and styled and gussied up with computer details and whatnot. Any and all monsters were likewise impressive to glance at from afar, but needed their guttural roars and bellows and shrieks to really come alive. Or whatever sounds they were making. For all I know they could’ve been squeaking like mice or belching familiar tunes from The Star Wars Holiday Special.
We appreciated the mostly silent second episode two to a greater extent until dialogue became a thing again. All those poor Jawas, on the other hand….yikes. I used to collect their action figures because, well, because I could. My vast Jawa army now rests in a box out in the garage, biding its time and waiting to infest a spare shelf someday. It’s easy to forget in the original Episode IV they were Tatooine’s greedy scavenger underclass whose skill sets included pushy negotiations and the occasional droid torture. Once I remembered that, I was a little less repulsed by whatever death screams I could hear wafting their way through all that living room chatter.
And yes, we finally got to see for ourselves America’s newest sweetheart, the heavily hyped and misnamed Baby Yoda. If he coos like a real baby or makes any other noteworthy sounds, we wouldn’t know, but visually he (?) adequately typifies Gizmo and Glomer and Gazoo and Jack-Jack and Baby Herman and countless other cute, lovable, huggable, merchandisable tykes and mini-dudes from the adorable side of pop culture. I was more impressed by strong resemblances to li’l Daigoro from the classic Lone Wolf and Cub manga, peering wide-eyed over the edge of a very special baby cart at the surrounding wonders in silence while any and all comers underestimate the child and that foreboding armed guardian at their peril. A few of Itty-Bitty Yodie’s subtleties managed to sneak through the holiday fracas and evince light appreciation. If The Mandalorian is meant to be the Samurai Jack of a new generation, that isn’t a bad goal to set sights upon.
Sadly, I got tired of the sound being drowned out and stopped paying attention halfway through the third episode, though I inferred from the cool jetpack party at its climax that it was my loss. I also wasn’t impressed when the Disney+ app crashed halfway through and had to be rebooted. Eventually Anne and I will subscribe and catch up to that point and beyond — with the sound cranked up, rest assured, and hopefully after they’ve worked out such bugs — but the timing isn’t right for us yet. Maybe we’ll give it a try when those new Marvel shows start popping up. As Netflix realized for a time, they’re a special kind of money magnet.