Just watched all 103 episodes of “Person of Interest” in 30 days, AMA

Person of Interest!

“You are being watched,” said I to Our Heroes.

Once upon a time in 2011 I was in the mood to follow a TV show on CBS, of all channels — Person of Interest, the latest project from Jonathan Nolan, best known for writing or co-writing many of his brother Christopher’s films. The first seven episodes were one part above-average hard-boiled CBS procedural, one part very-near-future SF drama. Then the show began skipping weeks, returned without notice, and skipped more weeks. When I realized new episodes were airing, catching up was impossible because some miserly executive forbade it from being available On Demand, on CBS.com, or anywhere else for streaming after the fact. I gave up on following along as it aired, but vowed I’d catch up one day when the time was right.

At the end of 2013 our household joined the Netflix achievers. I added PoI to my queue as soon as I saw it was available, and looked forward to catching up at long last.

Then, because I’m old and forgetful and surround myself with far too many hobbies and to-do lists and internet distractions, seven years blinked by.

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Yes, There’s a Moment after “Da 5 Bloods” End Credits

Da 5 Bloods!

Five men in search of T’Challa.

Longtime MCC readers know the rule: every film I see in theaters gets its own entry. That rule hasn’t come up much lately because (previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover) our last theater experience was the first weekend of March. Entries about my home video consumption tend to be a no-fly zone for any kind of inbound traffic, but every so often I’ll ignore my blog stats and go for it anyway. Then again, that’s my approach to 90% of what I post here, so why hold my viewing habits to a tougher standard?

I do miss theaters. To a lesser degree I miss racking my brain for the occasional movie entry. I do go out on a limb for the occasional Netflix Original. And though I’ve only seen six previous Spike Lee films (that really should be higher), it seemed remiss to watch his new joint Da 5 Bloods and then do nothing else to engage with the experience.

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The 10 Best Episodes of “The Crown” So Far According to a Guy Who Barely Knows Royal Family Stuff

Olivia Colman and The Crown!

From Hot Fuzz to Broadchurch to The Night Manager to The Favourite and more, Olivia Colman has already been ruling for years.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: a while back I spent an entire weekend watching the first episodes of twenty different series across multiple platforms. That experience provided us a blueprint for our binge-watching over the subsequent months. I haven’t written about everything we’ve watched, but since that entry my wife Anne and I have gone through Netflix’s Unbelievable (harrowing and unforgettable), Wild Wild Country (surprising and at times Too Much, by which I mean too much padding, but altogether illuminating), the first two seasons of House of Cards (despite potentially tossing fifty cents into Kevin Spacey’s tin cup), a wholly unrelated and regrettable detour for Tiger King (now we get all the references, but at a steep cost to our souls), and, far less dishonorably, all three seasons of The Crown.

My brief thoughts on the latter’s pilot:

Some early reviews had led us to believe writer Peter Morgan’s longform follow-up to his Best Picture nominee “The Queen” amounted to “Royal Sexytime”. Perhaps later down the road, the sight of Queen Elizabeth II snogging Prince Philip may be lying in wait to drive us to the brink of horror, like that one Marvel miniseries that dared readers to visit Aunt May’s heyday as a horny teen. Mercifully the first chapter didn’t go there and seemed much like any other British costume drama, save a few expletives and the Eleventh Doctor’s bare butt. Bonus points for casting consummate professional Jared Harris to take over for Colin Firth as King George VI. A pity Elizabeth herself hardly figured into her own story at first. Presumably Claire Foy has more lines later?

Thankfully she did, except in scenes where she consigned herself to historically accurate silence for the sake of burying feelings like true British royalty. Thirty episodes later, we’re caught up with other viewers and ready for more. Until season four presumably hits the broadband waves later this year, all we can do for now is ruminate on what we have on hand.

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Leaping Off the “Tiger King” Circus Wagon

I Saw a Tiger!

Out-of-context snippet from Netflix’s sing-a-long lyrics-video version of Joe Exotic’s “I Saw a Tiger”. Follow the bouncing tiger cub head. Yes, really.

I’m sorry, I just…I can’t with this anymore.

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20 Pilots Down: A Special Graze-Watching Weekend

Queen Sono!

Bond? Bond who? Pearl Thusi and Loyiso Madinga in the action-spy series Queen Sono, which premiered on Netflix last Friday.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: months ago my wife Anne and I had blocked out this past weekend on our calendars for attending C2E2, but ultimately bowed out due to a confluence of funding issues and insufficient guest-list temptations. We kept the weekend free anyway, determined to do something with it, even if it amounted to little more than watching lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of TV for the sake of saving on travel and leisure costs. Sometimes when your brain’s being crunched more than usual at work during a time of year that’s historically, inevitably rough, taking days off from the rat race and other responsibilities for mental health is a helpful, virtually medicinal move to recharge these flawed, fleshly vehicles of ours.

As someone who’s a bit too project-oriented when it comes to parceling out my free-time usage, naturally I spent days beforehand pondering what exactly to watch, which shows to binge or which movies to pull from various unwatched stacks, be they DVDs or streaming-media queues. Then I remembered an idea I’d had years ago: given the hundreds, potentially thousands of TV shows I’ve missed throughout my lifetime, why not have a marathon of first episodes only? Line up the pilots and premieres of various series and miniseries across the entertainment spectrum, watch them one by one, resist the urge to move on immediately to any episode 2 for the duration of the marathon, and see what happens? Create my own A/V sampler platter. A bandwidth buffet. A television Tour of Italy, for the shameless O.G. fans out there.

If “binge-watching” is sitting through several episodes of one show in a row, then sitting through one episode each of several shows might be “graze-watching”.

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Video Scorecard #22: Oscar Quest 2020 Animated Extra Credit

Klaus!

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night nor facing off against Disney and DreamWorks films for an Academy Award…

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. As usual I’ve been preoccupied with my annual bout of Oscar-mania to the consternation of MCC readers who show up here for any other reasons.(I promise we have a road trip miniseries coming soon, with some light travel, history, and a tribute to one astronaut. Honest!

Before tonight’s big Academy Awards ceremony on ABC, there’s one last category in which I managed to catch all the entrants thanks to the wonder of today’s sometimes generous streaming services. Thus we present in brief the three nominees for Best Animated Feature that I didn’t see in theaters:

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Video Scorecard #21: Oscar-Hopeful Mini-Documentaries 2020

Skateboard in a Warzone!

Now I kinda want skateboarding lessons too.

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. Picking up where the preceding installment left off, in which we covered this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Documentary Feature but took an intermission before proceeding with these, the currently accessible Best Documentary Short Film nominees:

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MCC Home Video Scorecard #20: Oscar-Hopeful Documentaries 2020

Honeyland!

In a fairer world the stars of Honeyland would be dividing up this year’s Oscars like this, not honeycombs.

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. In this batch: the past month’s worth of comfy-chair viewing as prep for next Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony. Every year I chase down all the Best Picture nominees whether I want to see them or not, and nearly always catch them all before the big day. (Sole exception in the past twenty years: when Ray was nominated, it was 100% rented out for weeks from every Blockbuster near our old apartment. Yes, it’s been a while.) But in recent times, I’ve also been exploring the fun to be had in chasing down other Oscar nominees for extra credit.

For the second year in a row I decided to see how many nominees I could watch from the Best Documentary Feature and Best Documentary Short Film categories, either free via legal means or via my existing streaming-service subscriptions. Last year I managed to catch nine of the ten nominees on time. The standoffish exception, National Geographic’s vertiginous climb-along Free Solo, aired the following Sunday night once they’d secured their statuette. This year I’ve managed to see eight available out of ten. Of the two holdouts, MTV has their very first nominee St. Louis Superman on lockdown for the time being, with some alleged special presentation in the works TBD; the other, The Cave, is another National Geographic entrant obligated to follow their stingy playbook.

My sincerest gratitude goes out to the rights-holders of the other eight, who actually want their works seen in this critical moment when people are most curious about them. First up are the four viewable nominees for Best Documentary Feature:

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MCC Home Video Scorecard #19: The Oscars 2020 Best Picture Home Game

Marriage Story!

I was tempted to caption it myself, but…nah. Another time.

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.

It’s Oscars season once again, which I began preparing for weeks ago after seeing film critics online buzzing back and forth about Netflix stepping up their game in the awards field. I watched three Netflix Originals back in December mostly because I was genuinely interested in them and partly because I knew they each stood a good chance of garnering some nominations, particularly in the Best Picture category. As it happens, two of the three made the list with ease, while the third one picked up three nods in other categories. A fourth Netflix Original is included in this entry for the opposite reason.

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The Road to Dragon Con: “The Dark Crystal” Puppet Parade

SkekUng!

SkekUng of the Garthim, a baddie due to make hhs grand return soon.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. 2019 marks the twentieth anniversary of our annual tradition, which began with our very first Wizard World Chicago. Apropos of our history, we’ll be honoring the occasion by combining two of our favorite shared pastimes: vacation and convention.

For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’ve been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we’re aiming for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness…

When we first began vacation brainstorming months ago, the Center for Puppetry Arts was among the top choices on my half of our list for specific reasons we’ll cover in the future. It’s a modest museum packed with puppets from around the world and across centuries, many of which you’d recognize from beloved movies and TV shows of your youth and mine. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area, and not just because they have their own free parking lot.

Upon our visit they were the proud hosts of a temporary exhibit featuring numerous puppets from the 1982 Jim Henson/Frank Oz classic The Dark Crystal, which featured some of the most startlingly dramatic puppets of the decade. This exhibit is perfectly timed with the arrival of the all-new Netflix prequel series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, scheduled to premiere this Friday, August 30th. Also perfectly timed for both the new series and for Dragon Con, the Center is planning an event this Thursday night the 29th called “The Dark Crystal Ball: Gathering of Gelflings“, for which fans can gather in costume, mingle, imbibe, party, and so on. Deep, constructive preparation was well underway when we walked in on Tuesday.

Please allow me to shut up now and share photos of awesome puppets that were actually used in the actual making and filming of The Dark Crystal, for anyone who can’t be here in person while the exhibit lasts. Enjoy!

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Our Dark Summertime Binge: Seven “Black Mirror” Shards

Black Mirror!

Toby Kebbell watching his own lifelong YouTube channel inside his artificial second eyelids in a Black Mirror oldie.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: with weeks to go till vacation and no pressing obligations, my wife Anne and I have been bingeing a few different shows together, while I’ve done some additional grim watching on the side. Certainly not through careful planning on our part, each of the shows has had their own depressing and/or tragic aspects. As I wrote at the time, Veronica Mars season 4 fit right in once we finished the finale. The second season (part 1) of Hulu’s Light as a Feather broadened its scope and tightened up its ensemble interplay, but still had Death lurking around every corner. The Netflix documelodrama The Last Czars was a downbeat bummer in its subject matter as well as its various letdowns.

I’ve been selective about which new shows I add to my docket. I’ve skipped many a popular show over the years, which means I stay ostracized from all the best online discussion groups. Among those I’d been procrastinating till now was Black Mirror. The base concept of “Twilight Zone, but cutting-edge and extra nihilistic plus F-bombs” wasn’t an easy sell for me. Also, I heard about that first episode. My son, aghast at the repressed memory of it resurfacing, recommended I skip it and just watch the rest. The suggestion was wise and tempting.

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Our Dark Summertime Binge: Netflix’s “The Last Czars”

Last Czars!

Rasputin (Ben Cartwright) and Alexandra (Susanna Herbert) oblivious to Russia’s coming vicissitudes.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: with weeks to go till vacation and no pressing obligations, my wife Anne and I have been bingeing a few different shows together, while I’ve done some additional grim watching on the side. Certainly not through careful planning on our part, each of the shows has had their own depressing and/or tragic aspects. As I wrote at the time, Veronica Mars season 4 fit right in once we finished the finale. Shocking developments notwithstanding, it wasn’t the gloomiest show on our scorecard.

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Random Spoiler-y Thoughts on “Stranger Things” Season 3

Stranger Things!

Scoops Troop: they sling ice cream, do maths, and fight Commies. As you do.

Judging by my Twitter feed over the past week, America’s biggest July 4th sensation this year was Netflix’s release of Stranger Things‘s third season for a massive fan base eagerly waiting to follow the further adventures of the pluckiest teens ever to come out of the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana. As you can imagine, there was no shortage of pre-release coverage, articles, and advertisement here in the good Hoosier state. I’m getting better at finishing new seasons of streaming series as they’re dropped and had this one wrapped up Saturday afternoon. My thoughts didn’t quite streamline themselves into a narrative, but I did have a few.

Most of them are SPOILERS AHEAD, so there’s that. Some of this also won’t make sense to anyone who hasn’t watched it, especially if they’ve never seen an episode. This is virtually stream-of-consciousness, not a pro recap. It’s faster and more fun for me to get it out of my system this way.

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MCC Home Video Scorecard #16: Saluting the Oscar-Adjacent

Sorry to Bother You!

Sales and talking on phones? This job would crush me.

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. I could string together several entries out of the backlog I built up through 2018, but for now let’s settle for tackling a few recent catches from the past six weeks, when the Academy Awards were fresh in mind, whether relevant or tangential:

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MCC Home Video Scorecard #15: Oscar Quest 2019 Extra Credit

First Reformed.

Ethan Hawke isn’t a big fan of superhero films, but he’s perfectly okay with bold costumes.

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. In this batch as well as the previous one: the past few months’ worth of comfy-chair viewing as prep for this Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony, except this year I went overboard and decided to see how many the nominees I could catch from other categories, either free via legal means or via existing streaming-service subscriptions. As it turns out, quite a few, mostly documentaries but that’s not a bad thing.

But first, an Original Screenplay nominee I’d been curious to see for a while:

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MCC Home Video Scorecard #13: Our Oscar Quest 2018 Finale

Get Out!

In some crowds, you got to always keep one eye open.

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. In this batch: we prepare for Sunday night’s Academy Awards ceremony starring ABC’s Best Pal Jimmy Kimmel, the perfect representative for the Year of #MeToo on Bizarro World, with brief notes on our final Best Picture nominee (and one of the best), along with all the nominees I could catch in other categories before I ran out of time.

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MCC Home Video Scorecard #12: Year-End Title Dump, 2017 Edition

Bob Newby!

Bob Newby, worthiest descendant of the House of Gamgee.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: the recurring feature that’s me jotting down capsule-sized notes about Stuff I Recently Watched at home. In this batch: once again this ostensibly regular feature wound up saved for a rainy day, only to be held in reserve through any number of downpours and snowstorms. I’m already several viewings into a 2018 edition, which means it’s now or never for my 2017 catch-up. I’m a little annoyed at how much time I devoted to Netflix shows throughout the third and fourth quarters of the year, but if I’d watched a lot of movies instead, then this entry would be three times longer and take at least twice as long to write, thus making all the easier to procrastinate into 2019 and beyond. Or all the easier never to write. But I grow weary of finding reasons not to write. One of my many reasons for creating a blog nearly six years was to find reasons not never to write.

Hence: on with the writing! And the viewings! And the writing about the viewings! Double bonus points if I’m not the only one who reads what I write about what view!

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Thoughts on Netflix’s Marvel’s “The Defenders”

Defenders!

That magical moment when Our Heroes meet but aren’t sure they can take orders from the Stupendous Scarfman.

Let the record show The Defenders is an exceedingly rare event, by which I mean it’s a Netflix series I finished watching within a week of release. Normally it takes me six to eight weeks to catch up with the cool kids. Don’t ask which of my work days suffered most from accomplishing that.

It helps that season 1 is only eight episodes, much more tightly edited, averaging 45-50 minutes each — a more concise spectacle than the padding and plodding that frequently dragged the other series to the 60- to 65-minute mark for indulgent purposes. I hadn’t planned to bulldoze my way through like this, but we have a convention this weekend where we know fans will be chatting about this brand new show to pass the time in the long lines. I’d rather not have to keep cutting them off with yelps of “AHHH! SPOILERS!” while stuffing my head into my carryall so I can’t hear them.

Additional motivation struck me when episode 3 — the one where all four main characters have their first rendezvous — turned out to be such an addictive, headlong rush of comic-book excitement in the mighty Marvel manner, despite the mandatory but middling Hallway Fight. Differently impressive was part 4, directed by ace TV veteran Phil Abraham (The Sopranos, Mad Men), basically a bottle episode in which Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist finally share moments, snipe, posture, threaten to walk, connect, and subtly weave all the threads and tones from their respective, disparate corners of the Marvel Netflix Universe into a coherent tapestry over a sumptuous if mostly ignored Chinese dinner. The characters’ flaws were laid bare with self-aware candor, the overlaps between their shows were extricated, dumplings were shared, and both humor and personal drama each found their entry points.

Results after those episodes were, uh, a bit more varied. The short version: generally a wild ride, but not without its sudden bumps and occasional missing pieces of track.

Fair warning: major spoilers lie beyond not only for The Defenders but for the preceding shows as well. If you haven’t watched those other five seasons first, parts of this show will be incomprehensible. That’s a disappointment to anyone who prefers self-contained stories to these interlocking continuities that marketing departments love to pieces nowadays, but that’s how the super-hero game is played on screens nowadays, for better or worse.

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C2E2 2017 Photos, Part 4 of 4: Who We Met and What We Did

Mike Colter!

Behold the smooth moves of Marvel’s next big thing, POWER MAN AND DOUGHY GUY.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! The eighth annual Chicago Comic and Entertainment Exposition (“C2E2″) just wrapped another three-day extravaganza of comic books, actors, creators, toys, props, publishers, freebies, Funko Pops, anime we don’t recognize, and walking and walking and walking and walking…

Another year, another C2E2. Another ostensible three-hour drive from Indianapolis to Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center. Another two days of nonstop excitement and occasional consternation, of fun fan interaction and occasional physical breakdown as our aging bodies struggle to keep up with our youthful enthusiasm. Another list of reasons to leave the house for the sake of celebrating the engaging interests that give us reasons never to leave the house.

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Late Thoughts on “Iron Fist” and the Comedy That Could’ve Been

Iron Fist!

Y’like super-hero tales with costumes and exotic locales? Ha. SUCKER.

Netflix’s Marvel’s Iron Fist, based on the kung-fu super-hero I’ve followed off and on since childhood, is the first time I’ve watched a TV series and wondered to myself if it might’ve worked better as a mid-’90s Pauly Shore vehicle.

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