Category Archives: comedy

The George Carlin Show (s.02, 1994-95)

In the 2nd season of The George Carlin’s Show George McGrady gets an ice-fishing hut; gets found by an adult son; hijacks a package from Chong; deceits a blind passenger; fancies waitress Sidney; is forced to make a life and death decision; gets in the middle between Harry and his wife; cleans his apartment and gets everybody sick; gets both of his ex-wives back into his life; buys a magazine for a kid; gets evicted; smiles; meets an old friend who is a priest; get a truth drug tested on him; and finds out truth about his dad. Sidney and Beck start dating early in the season and go through some ups and downs. George’s girlfriend appears out of the blue in episode 12, and that’s it.

Overall quality of the show remained on more or less the same level. However, unlike with season 1, some of the stuff here is actually funny. Admittedly, only a handful of scenes are worth any attention at all, and even all of them combined do not make watching this show a deserving undertaking, but still it counts for something.

The show in general is a sad example of an unwanted and therefore unsuccessful project; even though some of its components were good enough, others weren’t, and the resulting combination is below average. George Carlin is definitely much more interesting in his stand-ups.

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Roseanne (s.03, 1990-91)

In the 3rd season of Roseanne Becky takes a driving lesson, goes on a date with guy named Robert, starts dating a bad boy named Mark and keeps dating him against the will of her parents, ‘shows’ the finger, consistently acts out, briefly moves in with Jackie, ‘steals’ Darlene’s crush, wants a car, has a falling out with dad, gets a new haircut (without explanations), and almost sells one of her old school papers to Darlene. Roseanne does not get pregnant, talks to her daughters about sex, gets a new job in a mall restaurant, dresses up as a man on Halloween, throws Dan a surprise birthday party, gets jealous, participates in a career day, gets a new manager named Leon at work, almost goes to Vegas, becomes Crystal’s lamaz backup, gets evaluated at her job, and enjoys Mothers day. Dan lends some money to a friend, temporarily takes over at home, throws yet another poker party, worries about PMS, flanks Wednesday, fails to teach his daughters a lesson, freaks out about his father getting re-married, teaches DJ how to fight, gets a flu, gets upset about his bike, has a near-death experience, plays guitar on a barbecue, almost starts a new business with Ziggy. Darlene makes out for the first time (with Brian), loves her great-grandmother, lies to cover for her sister, understands her mother better, dresses up for Valentine’s day, gets two boys fighting over her, and almost goes to a spring dance with Barry. DJ has a box full of heads, mirrors his sister, gets bullied and then finds a brilliant way out, and gets a new friend Jerry. Jackie breaks up with Gary and quits the force, starts doing community theater, accidentally gets to play the primary part in Cyrano de Bergerac, and wants to become a massage therapist. Crystal discloses that she’s been seen Dan’s father, and that they are getting married. The family gets a microwave and a new bed, gets visited by Roseanne’s grandmother, meets the new neighbours, and puts everything’s at stake.

They also get a VCR for the 3rd time, if I’m not mistaken – almost as if they just forget about it every time. There are some worse downsides in this season, though, specifically – the decision not to pursue the ‘writing’ storyline and renunciation of the ‘beauty salon’ environment – both these things, which were pretty great findings of the 2nd season, are dismissed completely, as if they never even existed. Also, there are no episodes in this season that could compare to the brilliant ‘bathroom dream’ episode of the previous one.

However, there is plenty of funny episodes here as well, the best of them is probably the one about PMS surprise party. The new Roseanne’s job has given the show some interesting moments, too, and is likely to give even more. DJ gets increasingly more involved in the narrative, and not just as object at that, but as an equal-impact participant. Well, maybe not that equal yet, but it’s getting there. And, of course, the finale, which ended in a cliffhanger is rather promising, and I hope the writers won’t just sweep it under the carpet.

All in all the season is a little less fun that before, but is really entertaining and funny nonetheless.

Names and figures

The George Carlin Show (s.01, 1994)

The George Carlin Show is a sitcom about a New York cab driver George McGrady. The story takes off when he gets a dog, which he takes instead of large win, and meets a woman, who would later become his girlfriend. The 1st season revolves around his everyday activities: he mostly spends his time either driving a taxi, or sitting in the bar with his friends, including Harry the bookmaker, Jack the bartender, Sidney the waitress, Beck the plastic surgeon, and Frank the drinker.

When taking a look at the first sentence of the depiction above, one might ask a question: why is the series called after Carlin, if the hero’s last name is McGrady? The answer is simple, although it lies outside of the framework of the show: there was no idea behind it other than ‘hey, here’s a great comedian, let’s make a show with him!’ And maybe this is exactly the reason why it sucks so hard.

Even though Carlin is undoubtedly a good stend-upper, and there are some quality elements in the show (Alex Rocco’s acting is probably the most interesting of them), the overall result leaves much to be desired, to put it mildly. For starters, the humor is mediocre. Carlin’s rants may be good for a small scene, but in a narrative they just produce an impression of poorly placed. None of the characters, except maybe for Harry, is colorful enough to make a difference, and all together they just interfuse into a grey-ish common place. The stories are uninteresting, some of them are plain stupid.

The show all in all seems like a complete failure: there’s nothing original, or curious, and very little funny – at least not enough to make it worthwhile.

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Roseanne (s.02, 1989-90)

In Roseanne‘s 2nd season Roseanne bounces from one lousy job to another (telemarketing, a temp secretary with an architect, fast-food joint, bar) until she lands in a beauty salon, where she finds a decent bunch of people, which compensates somewhat for the degrading character of the job; takes a bath; throws a Thanksgiving party; goes to see her parents with Dan; tends to her father when he gets to the hospital; goes on a diet and starts exercising; gets hit by a car and then compensated for it; falls out with her sister and then falls back in; goes to IRS; has a birthday; and decides to go back to writing, a former passion of hers. Jackie applies to the police training and becomes a police woman; gets drunk in front of Becky; stays in charge while R. is out; starts dating a guy named Gary and almost marries him. Dan quarrels with R. on account of rising tension; holds a poker night with his friends; almost fixes a carburetor; has his friend Ziggy over; repairs his bike; does his taxes; tries to amend his relationship with Becky; and organizes a home office for his wife. Becky breaks the wind in public; starts dating Jimmy, but later falls out with him; passes on the hair routine; acts out; and gets drunk for the first time. Darlene advances in sports; writes a poem; and falls for a boy named Martin.

So the show gradually gets more established in regards to its format and primary tendencies – there is less of the silliness characteristic for the 1st season, the drama is deeper, while the comedy is just as light and warm. Overall quality has improved, if only a little bit. But there are some truly brilliant episodes, in particular the one about the bath and the trial (it’s the highlight of the season), but also the one about the thanksgiving, and the one about the Halloween. A number of episodes with the beauty salon also deserve a special mention as they introduce an interesting and consistent storyline with its own set of amusing characters and long-playing jokes. The characters are contemplated on a deeper level, which adds complexity to almost all of them. (DJ is still too young to impart a self-sustained driving force to the narrative)

The quality of execution remained pretty much on the same level. The humor is often very good, sometimes – excellent. Which says something, considering how much has changed in the society since then. All in all, Roseanne seems like a really great show, and is definitely worth watching further.

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Speechless (s.01, 2016-17)

Speechless is a comedy about the family of DiMayos that consists of wife Maya, husband Jimmy, and their three children – boys JJ and Ray, and girl named Dylan. JJ is a kid with disability, and so the family learned to survive in extra hardened circumstances; a lot in the life is build around assisting JJ. The story starts when they move to a new neighbourhood, where social services offer state-sponsored human aid; the children go the a new school, and the household is enriched with a guy named Kenneth, whose job is to help JJ with everything he might need. The 1st season is mostly about adjusting to the changed context of life, and includes a mind-boggling variety of stories. JJ learns to navigate through life without immediate help from the family; becomes a cheer-leader manager; tries alcohol for the first time; falls for a girl and gets rejected; tries sledge-hockey; breaks his chair; fights his addiction to chocolate; tries automatic board; goes to the mall by himself; learns to study without cheating; almost moves to Kenneth’s place; meets and older guy with the same disability; goes to prom; and finally, goes to camp for 10 weeks. Maya learns to live for herself; tries to get rid of Kenneth, but then warms up to him; composes her dead list; holds special needs moms party; looses a van; tries to charm the new insurance lady; meets her ex-fiance; throws Dylan a surprise party for birthday; doesn’t leave a ding on somebody else’s car; quarrels with Jimmy; has trouble letting go. Jimmy moves stuff from the old house; amends the entrance to the bathroom; determines his true role in the family; punches his old roommate in the face again; abuses his power; finds common ground with Kenneth; charms children at the career fair; has juice in the hospital; and plans a layover. Dylan wins a lot; messes with the neighbours; reflects on why she’s running; almost throws a race; likes a boy for the first time; and has a birthday. Kenneth learns his new profession; abuses preferential treatment; joins the snowflakes club; learns a lot of new handshakes; works a store-manager; and briefly acts as a judge. Ray joins astronomy club; develops a long-term walking plan; makes the family do training runs; joins the high society; looks for the keys; almost loses JJ; gets into pyramid scheme; hates the ‘R’ word; and makes plans for summer. The family proves that they are not jerks; plays paintball; has uncle Bill and his family for Thanksgiving; has a big Christmas; goes to road trip; falls ill; thinks about the future; and accompanies JJ to the camp.

The density of events in this 1st season is kind of ming-boggling: in every episode there’s a ton of stuff that is amusing, uplifting – downright fascinating. The execution is impeccable. The casting and acting – just brilliant. All the stories are interesting and significant; also, I totally love how the disabled people are represented in the show – just like normal ones, only with certain special needs, but otherwise no different from the rest of the world.

And most importantly – the show is absolutely hilarious. I mean, it’s really funny, – I haven’t laughed so hard in a really long while; this is definitely one of the funniest shows on TV these days, and maybe, ever. It is wonderful and amazing, and I would highly recommend you to watch it.

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Roseanne (s.01, 1988-89)

Roseanne is a sitcom classic. It’s about a working-class family, where the mother, i.e. Roseanne herself, works full-time on a plastics factory, while her husband Dan seeks part-time jobs as a contractor. They have 3 children – Becky, Darlene and boy named DJ (aka David Jacob, although full name is never used). Other notable characters on the show include Roseanne’s sister Jackie, who also works on the factory and visits the family house more often than Dan would like, and Chrystal, one of the Roseanne’s co-workers, as well as several others. Season 1 also features George Clooney as Booker, factory supervisor who briefly dates Jackie. This season’s stories include the one about the music contest (lost), the one about a guy buried in the bridge; the one where Darlene gets her 1st period; the one where Becky barters her first real boyfriend Chip for ‘bad boy’ (unsuccessfully); the one where Darlene has appendicitis; the one with tornado; the one about the death of a salesman; the one with Dan’s father visiting, as well as another – with Roseanne’s parents; and in the finale the workers of the factory call in quits.

I was rather sceptical about this show: it’s pretty mellow in the beginning, while I prefer edgy; it’s about family values, which I find trivial; Roseanne is a smart-mouth type, and I was too appalled by 2 Broke Girls, which I watched recently, and was suspicious on account of that; finally, it’s a typical example of the genre, and do not care for ‘typical’ very much. But pretty soon it turned out that mellow actually feels fine, when it’s well-written and sincerely played; that family values are not pushed as much as they are assumed, and there’s nothing wrong with that; that Roseanne is a wonderful character, much more complex and interesting than anything Whitney Cummings could’ve come up with; and though the show is quite typical, there’s nothing bad about it either, as long as the people involved are doing a good job, which in this case they do.

Admittedly, the actors enjoy themselves a bit too much while acting, especially in the first episodes, but even that is tolerable. And the events concerning the children, and the adults, and the relationships in the family, are genuine and therefore pleasant to watch. If nothing else, this show is worth watching for the sweet and kind family atmosphere that it creates, especially for those of us who never knew anything even remotely similar. Plus, it’s pretty curious to watch John Goodman in this part, not to mention Clooney, who is so young and so sweet, it’s just insane.

All in all, it was a warm and amiable experience, and I would surely like to get more of it.

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3rd Rock from the Sun (s.06, 2000-01)

In the 6th (and final) season of 3rd Rock from the Sun: Mary gets jealous of her sister (yes, she has one), has a crash on Don, goes to an archeological expedition, gets robbed, gets visited by her mother, and gets courted by a secret admirer. Tommy is absent most of the time, but he still goes on the road, loses Alyssa for good, chooses college, leaves for college, and gets replaced as an information officer. Sally opens a youth center with Harry, rebuilds Don (twice), falls for Tommy’s replacement, almost kills a psychic, mistakes Amishes for aliens, and becomes a TV weather girl. Harry becomes the first among the equals, works as a gofer, and dates “twins”. Dick almost marries Mary’s sister, ruins archeological expedition, learns about magic, buys into a timeshare, befriends Mary’s mother, looses ‘best alien’ competition, self-actualizes, turns rival into a monkey, and finally comes clean with Mary. The family visits a parallel dimension (where they live in New York), learns about national anthem, and wraps up the mission.

This is one of the most pathetic final seasons ever. It’s chaotic, full of contradictions, and worst of all – not funny. Admittedly, there are still some relatively good jokes, but very few – so few, in fact, they won’t constitute a one good episode if put together. The amount of completely random, sometimes downright ludicrous ideas and solutions is mind-boggling. The double episode with alternative universe is ingenious, but still not funny, not to mention complete lack of consistency with everything that happened on the show before. The finale is no more than okay, and probably not even that. All in all, it’s a fucking mess.

The reason for which is quite simple – there is no supervision. It’s like a carriage with horses: as long as there is a driver, it goes in accordance with a certain route, but when something happens to him, the horses are still going, but they can’t see the big picture and are bound to bustle about without understanding the past and unable to plan for the future.

By and large about the show: it makes sense to watch the first 3 seasons of it, – even though the 1st one is not there yet, it’s still pretty good, especially when compared to the later ones; starting with the season 4 it all gets worse and worse, slowing down a little bit during the 5th, but then collapsing entirely in the 6th. For a beginning so fine, the ending so miserable is mournful, but what can you do.

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Loaded (s.01, 2017)

Loaded is a British remake of an Israeli TV series Mesudarim (by Assaf Harel and Muli Segev) about a company of 4 childhood friends, who created a mobile gaming product, which gained popularity, and then sold it to an american company, thus becoming millionaires overnight. Josh was responsible for general technical development, Ewan managed primary coding, Leon handled business side of things, and Adam aka Watto was in charge of design and everything related. Now they have contractual obligations to work for the acquiring company (or they won’t get a lion’s share of their money), which is headed by the man whom everybody calls the Emperor, and represented in the field by Casey, his assistant, who also made the purchasing decision. At the same time the guys are trying to live their usual lives under the immense pressure of newly acquired fortune (and corresponding changes in status): Josh tries to win back his old girlfriend Abi and not let the money dictate their relationship; Leon buys a lot of expensive stuff, like helicopters, houses and boats; Ewan aspires to tackle his previously suppressed sexuality; and Watto mourns the punk in him, and wants to restore broken relationship with his mother. All these – while they are dealing with Casey who, contrary to their desires, wants to launch the sequel of the successful game.

This is a tragicomedy – some of the parts of the story are deep and dramatic, while others are pretty funny. Both fundamental elements are executed on a great professional level and blend together quite harmoniously. The characters are three-dimensional, including the secondary like (Casey and Abi, in particular), all of them are interesting to watch in development. The main theme (like big money inevitably change everything, even if you try really hard not to let them) is unfolded under strict laws of human psychology and logic of the development of events. All of the secondary themes (like Watto’s dog, cursed boat, Ewan’s water rendering engine) fall in line with main story arc complementing it where necessary.

The only 2 reservations I have are more of subjective nature rather than have anything to do with the quality of the show. First is: the final twist seemed superfluous to me, but that might be because I already made peace with Ewan’s decision by then, and the shift back was too abrupt. Second: I can’t help but feel jealous – even though I understand that what is depicted is true, and money do change everything, and more often in a bad way than in a good, but I still want to try and handle such issue on my own. Too bad I would probably never have a chance. Oh, well.

Apart from that, I don’t see how else the show can be challenged. By all accounts it is a great work of cinema, which I would like to see continued.

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3rd Rock from the Sun (s.05, 1999-2000)

In 5th season of 3rd Rock from the Sun Vicky’s baby turns out to be human, and she moves away, but then comes back to reunite with Big Giant Head and become the queen of the universe. Don gets a byke, gets into a bad accident and heals awfully quick; he also leads an operation on apprehending a videopirat, which later gets highjacked by the state force. Tommy spends a lot of time dreaming about sex, and even looses his virginity, but not with his girlfriend Alissa, who eventually breaks up with him; he takes part in a library poetry contest along with Sally and Hary; raises questions about sex education; becomes a beggar; compiles a new mission statement; gets a job in a fastfood joing; and becomes valedetorian. Sally learns about laundromats; freaks out on Valentine’s day; tackles her shoes problem; becomes an exemplary housewife; starts taking birth control pills; discovers that she’s no longer the strongest; befriends Tommy’s girlfriend; and plans a bank robbery. Harry gets insured; beggs for money with Tommy; starts dating a cop; spends some time in the hole; and almost starts a relationship because of Don’s radio receiver. Dick crashes his car and spends a lot of money on repair; becomes jelaous of Harrison Ford; fires Nina; preaches in choir; learns about charity; and then – about double dating; has a crush on Nina; enters the stock market; goes on a spring break; gets better at bluffing; organizes a strike; participates in a dance contest; falls into a hole in the woods; confuses aliens with gays; learns about sick leave; and discovers that he has a father. Mary wears a cape; films documentary about the family; fails at double dating; kisses ass of the new chancellor; and has a birthday. The family as a whole, besides participating in Mary’s documentary project, also goes to a mystery dinner retreat.

Consequent decline in quality, which I feared after watching season 4, did not happen, but stabilized on a more or less decent level; there were no shitty episodes, but there were very few of good ones, too. In fact, the only episodes worth mentioning separately are: the one about mistery dinner, the one about documentary, and the one about the hole, – interestingly enough, 2 of those were written by the same person, Valerie Watson. The rest of the season is mostly okay – sometimes funny, sometimes not so much, but good enough in general.

Decrease in Vicky’s presence was definitely a positive factor; the development of her storyline, which is also a Big Giant Head’s line, is a little cheesy, but all in all is quite alright. Introduction of new characters, in particular – Janice (played by Chyna), policewoman and Harry’s new girlfriend, was in match with the show in general – not a breakthrough, but far from being a disaster as well.

So, after the stormy season 4, the show managed to normalize its course to achieve the level of the 1st season, – it was more or less the same mixture of good and bad. Honestly, not the greatest of achievements, but, I suppose, avoiding complete catastrophy is probably the best that could have been done here.

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Friends from College (s.01, 2017)

Friends from College is a tragicomedy about 6 people who remained friends for circa 20 years since they all graduated Harvard. The story takes off when a couple of them, Ethan and Lisa, who lived for a long time outside New York, decided to move back to NYC, where the rest of the company has been dwelling. Ethan is a successful writer, who is now at a crossroads because people who read fiction are no longer interested in serious literature. Lisa, his wife, is a lawyer, and after moving she finds a job in a large firm, the atmosphere in which she starts to hate immediately. While Ethan and Lisa are trying to have a baby (and even go through an ordeal of IVF, depicted, by the way, in great detail), Ethan has a long-standing affair with Sam, one of their friends, who is married to a rich guy. Max works in a publishing house and represents Ethan’s interests; he dates a guy named Felix, and their relationship takes a toll after the company of friends reunites. Also, there’s Nick, an aging man with a trust fund, who had never had a job, and Marianne, a yoga instructor and amateur actress, who is the only person aware of the affair between Ethan and Sam. First season is concentrated on the complex network of relationships between all these people, and on the process of all the defects of those relationships escalating to the point of explosion.

On the one hand, the show deals with pretty serious subjects, like infidelity and unhealthy secrecy in general, the current state of fiction writing, inability to conceive a child, and how normal people can be led to follow the ugliest behaviour trends. On the other – in the intervals between all of that, and sometimes on top of those things, the writers manage to find humor, which is good, and serves to increase the plausibility of the situations at the same time. Most importantly – this mixture works, and pretty well at that. The show is serious, and it is funny, too; the characters are three-dimensional, all with valid backgrounds and intricate but understandable motivation; relationships between them are increasingly complicated, which sometimes makes it difficult to endure on emotional level, but is always interesting and often exciting.

Save for several questionable details (for example, sinking the car in the finale was an obvious move to relieve the tension, that was building up, without revealing the most painful conflict), and the fact that Nick and Marianne are not exactly as interesting to the writers as the rest of the gang, the show is pretty amazing. It has a very specific brand of darkness to it, one mixed with humor in a way that seems rather unique and therefore fascinating. The writing is great, that much I’m certain of.

The acting is pretty good, as well; and same goes to the technical execution of the story – at least I didn’t notice anything bad worth pointing out. All in all, it is a wonderful entertainment and a very, very decent work of cinema at the same time.

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3rd Rock from the Sun (s.04, 1998-99)

In 4th season of 3rd Rock from the Sun: Harry gets rescued from the freak show; Mary becomes a dean, but manages to retain the position only for so long; Sally looses her virginity, enjoys their relationship with Don for some time, but later breaks up with him after he proposes; Dick becomes psychologically dependent on fuzzy buddies; Sally dates a man whom she thinks belongs to mafia; Dick experiences a crush for a literature professor, but starts detesting her soon enough; Tommy finds a new girlfriend named Alissa; Sally almost poses nude for a magazine photo session; Dick and Sally briefly exchange bodies; the Solomons learn to do their taxes, and later reunite with their bigger family; Sally finds her own place; Harry plans to have a baby with Vicky; Dick becomes superstitious and does not get a grant; Tommy learns about hockey; Mary starts using a beeper; Dick learns how to use a computer; Tommy becomes a news anchor for a school newspaper; Dick almost gets dissected by an alien hunter; Sally and Don get back together – ish; Dick becomes competitive with another physics professor who wrote a book; the family experiences near-death situation(s); Tommy goes to a prom; and the mission gets visited by the Big Giant Head himself.

Sadly, the general level of the show has never been this low. Although there are still some pretty nice episodes, especially those featuring Kathy Bates and William Shatner, even them are not as exciting as the 2nd and even 3rd seasons used to be. On the other hand, there’s plenty of stories that range from silly to stupid, the most pathetic of them being: the one about mafia, the one about news, the one about body exchange, the one with all the superstitions, and the one with near-death situations. Key words for this season are strained and unfunny.

Most of the primary storylines of the season are fine, but once again – nothing really interesting. Resolution of the previous season’s cliffhanger is okay (shoulder shrug). Dick’s little crush is good enough; same goes for the Sally-Don development, although the writing could’ve been better. There was way too much of Vicky; her trashy presence has been adding a nice tinge before, but this kind of dosage serves no good. Tommy almost had no developments of his own; plus, connecting his girlfriend’s storyline to Dick’s professional competitiveness seems ingenious on the outside, but really only adds to the overall tenseness.

(Another thing: season 3 started with the story twist about the Big Giant Head’s niece being added to the team; she later left the family to wonder the Earth on her own. When the BGH actually visited himself in this season finale, there was not a single mention of that niece, which is a clear sign of control problems, as well as lack of harmony)

Most importantly, the humor leaves much to be desired. Most of the stuff happening during the season is just not funny, and against this background Dick’s eccentricity irritates more than it amuses. Maybe this dip in quality is related somehow to the fact that the Turners are not among the show writers anymore; I’m not sure if they even overseeing the project in season 4; the same thing happened to Dream On when Kaufamn and Crane abandoned the show in favour of Friends, – it turned to shit rather quickly.

The 4th season left me anxious and worried about what the final 2 seasons hold; I hope the situation will improve, but so far it seems like the show started to die.

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Four Kings (s.01*, 2006)

Four Kings is an attempt at a sitcom by the creators of Will & Grace, – Kohan and Mutchnick. It’s about 4 childhood friends, now in their late 20s, who started to live together in a large apartment after it was inherited by one of them from his grandmother. There is no continuous storyline, but rather a set of separate stories barely connected through the relationships within the group.

The show didn’t survive its 1st season – more than that, only a half of the episodes were even aired, – all for a good reason, which is simple: it’s no good. The 4 primary characters are too much alike and not interesting enough to make it work; at least 2 of them can be described as man-children; also, there’s no diversity, meaning no possibility of any kind of lasting tension between the heroes. The stories are nothing special: some of them are sitcom-y conditional, others are merely okay, but none are good enough to arouse excitement. Worst of all – it’s not funny. Some of the jokes are surely amusing, but very, very few, and never above that level, which is a death sentence for a comedy show.

In other words, it’s a complete failure on all accounts. Not nearly worth the time.

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3rd Rock from the Sun (s.03, 1997-98)

3rd Rock from the Sun‘s 3rd season starts with the status quo being re-established: the team comes back to Earth with one extra member, a Big Giant Head’s niece, who is to play the role of Dick’s wife. This immediately wracks his relationship with Mary, who was just about to marry him; a major part of the season is dedicated to the attempts at repairing it. Apart from that: Dick meets Mary’s parents, undergoes his first physical, gets fat, becomes a juror, becomes friends with Don, tries to reform a person out of jail, rides a wheelchair, prevents the capture of Earth by Venetians, learns about casual sex, discovers that physics is of no interest to anybody, almost founds a new forest civilization, and forgets to report on the mission. Sally almost settles together with Nina, goes to yoga class, dates a tortured artist, works for Mary as an assistant, visits gynecologist for the first time, almost gets a new car, and repeatedly gets on and off with Don. Tommy joins the band, gets dumped by August (who still sticks around), almost falls in love with Mary, fights Dick, finds somebody else’s wallet, retires from the mission for a while, and gets a haircut. Harry spends a lot of time with Tommy, learns how to live without TV, tends to the pet who tracked him across universe named Pickles, becomes a talk show host, and then – a bartender, makes Nina and at least one other woman fall in love with him, and has a thing with Vicky who re-appears several times. The finale is traditionally about an acute crisis, which ends in a cliffhanger.

The structure of the season is more or less the same: first there goes a double episode that is about resolution of the previous season’s finale, in the middle there’s another double episode with exciting and unusual story (within the framework of the show that is), and the finale is also a double episode that stands out; the intervals are filled with various stories, none of which can be called weak. Some are, of course, better than the others, but general level is quite decent.

The cross-cutting storylines with Dick and Mary on the one hand, and Sally and Don on the other (Wayne Knight, by the way, acquired nearly the same amount of presence as Jane Curtin who plays Mary), are internally consistent and interesting to follow – in fact, they impart quite tangible structure on otherwise rather hang-loose flesh of the show’s narrative.

The humor is mostly good enough, and sometimes really great. The season is also notable for appearance of John Cleese, one of the Monty Python founding fathers.

All in all, the show seems to be growing in terms of quality, consistency, and ingenuity, while remaining just as roughishly funny as it was from the beginning.

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Love (s.02, 2017)

In the 2nd season of Love: Gus and Mickey get back together, but avoid putting labels on their relationship; Mickey attends SLAA meetings, in which Gus offers her a little too much support; she stays off drugs and alcohol; Gus tries shrooms for the first time together with Berdie and Randy under Mickey’s supervision; the show Gus works on (“Witchita“) goes into hiatus due to an accident on the set; Gus continues to be a tutor for Arya and follows her to the shoot of an action movie in Atlanta; his period of absence almost causes the relationship to fly off the handle; while he’s away, Mickey runs into her ex, Dustin, and has a thing with him, but he puts too much hope in their casual hookup; Mickey’s company gets merged with a bigger one, and she manages to secure her job by bringing in a successful podcast; Gus blows an opportunity to write a script for a famous Korean director; Berdie continues her relationship with Randy, even though he in his 30s and he never had a job; in the finale Mickey finds herself in need of certainty, and she makes her choice, which nearly gets ruined by Dustin.

The development is in tune with everything that happened previously; the story evolves in a natural way, also incorporating some random events in a logical and consistent manner. It is emotionally rich and extremely interesting to follow. There are no signs of melodrama, quite the contrary, really, – the narrative is strong, healthy, and determined.

The execution is just as perfect as it was in season 1. The acting is particularly wonderful.

All in all, it’s an incredible show that creates a substantial, all-encompassing universe of discourse that is not only fascinating to watch unfold, – it’s a place I wouldn’t mind to live in, even considering all the downsides, which, of course, do exist. Like with every piece of cinema of this kind of quality, it’s hard to find enough suitable words to describe it. But it’s definitely one of the most enlightening discoveries of this year for me.

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3rd Rock from the Sun (s.02, 1996-97)

In the 2nd season of 3rd Rock from the Sun: Dick and Mary are in a continuous relationship that develops consistently from beginning to end and results in a marriage proposal; Dick becomes progressively more self-obsessed, on account of which he even leaves his job at university and works in a fast-food joint for some time; he also accidentally kills Mary’s fish, and gets her a dog instead. Sally breaks off her relationship with mr. Randall, dates a gay guy, who had mistaken her for a drag-queen, almost gets married to a Frenchman, and maintains on-and-off relationship with Don the police officer, which becomes more stable towards the season’s finale. Tommy temporarily transfers to a school for gifted children, but comes back soon enough, falls in love with the glee-club teacher, and almost dates a bad girl, but all in all continues his relationship with August. Harry runs for council, works as a security officer, plays Mrs. Dubchek while she’s out, and almost gives the family out to the authorities when he looses his memory during a tornado. The family tackles human holidays, including Thanksgiving and Christmas, sense of humor, and dreams, which brings the mission into system crisis in the finale.

As the concept evolves, it also matures, finds its own ground, becomes more reliable in terms of quality. Dick’s disposition, which irritated me at first because of its never-ending in-your-face dog-like cheerfulness, with time became more in tune with the rest of the show. The humor remains on a very good level. The dynamics of the Dick and Mary relationship is still interesting, and the same goes to the process of discovering various sides of human nature and social peculiarities.

Special effects became a little better, the transitions – more diverse, although still a little tacky. Wayne Knight’s role was significantly extended, which was a very good decision – the whole thing between his character and Sally is pretty great. The season featured such guest stars as Dennis Rodman, George Takei and Mark Hammil. Christine Baranski appeared in one episode, and produced quite an impression.

The finale of the season is quite brilliant; it brings the show on a whole new level. It’s a wonderfully written story, ingenious, totally fascinating, execution, which looks very differently from the rest of the series so far. This double episode is a reason in itself to watch the show, even though the season in general is not exactly perfect.

On the other hand, I have to say that the solution to the last season’s final entanglement (with Dick being replaced) was really weak – almost as if the writers regretted the twist altogether and just wanted to get rid of it.

But even that doesn’t really spoil the show, which demonstrates an impressive growth through-out the season.

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Love (s.01, 2016)

Love is a light tragicomedy about the onset and development of a romantic relationship between Mickey, a girl with multiple issues who works as an assistant to a radio psychologist, and Gus, a young man working as an on-stage tutor for a serialized show about witches who dreams to become a writer. Both of them had their share of unsuccessful relationship, and when they met it didn’t seem all that different from their previous experience. Mickey, who has problems with drugs and alcohol, didn’t consider Gus seriously at first, because he was so out of her usual pattern, and even tried to hurl him together with her roommate Berdie (their date went extraordinarily bad), but eventually realized that he is exactly what she needs in life – a nice guy who won’t hurt her because of lack of empathy. In the midst of this development Gus sold a script he wrote to the producers, almost becoming a full-fledged writer, but many things went wrong, and he barely managed to keep his tutoring job; he also had a thing with one of the actresses on the show, and it didn’t go all that well either. So even though Mickey fell for him a little too hard, and almost ruined the whole thing with her intensity, in the end the hope prevailed.

This show resembles Man Seeking Woman a little bit, but is concentrated on one relationship, and doesn’t have anything surreal about it. It is light, very well thought-out and nicely written. The story is balanced and interesting. Supporting storylines intertwine with the main one in a perfectly harmonious manner: they don’t demand too much attention, and manage to stay comprehensive at the same time; the whole composition is quite amazing. There are a lot of wonderful ideas and solutions: title songs parties, for one thing, are really great, Mickey’s trip with Andy Dick was awesome, but really there’s a ton of peculiar, fascinating stuff like that.

The execution is pretty much perfect; there was nothing that called my attention in a negative way. I loved the acting; both leads were wonderful – but Jacobs had a more demanding role, and she performed brilliantly. The opening titles animation is also super cool.

There is a lot to love about the show, and I haven’t seen anything at all to dislike about it. I enjoyed this 1st season a great deal.

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3rd Rock from the Sun (s.01, 1996)

3rd Rock from the Sun is a sitcom about a group of aliens who were sent to Earth to investigate and research the human race. They disguise themselves as a family of 4, with Dick Solomon, the High Commander, playing the role of the father; Sally Solomon, the security officer, pretending to be his sister; Tommy, the information officer, taking the form of his teenage son; and Harry, the 4th member of the crew, tagging along as Dick’s brother. Over the course of the season they try to figure out what drives humans by intentionally experiencing various things (having a friend, being a woman, being in a relationship, lying, etc.) Dick starts working as a university professor of physics and quite soon falls in love with dr. Mary Albright, an anthropology professor, with whom he happened to share an office. Tommy goes to school and after a while starts dating a girl named August. Each one of them has their share of adventures; all eventually take a strong liking of the Earth and the earthlings, so when at the end of their first year the mission is deemed a failure and a replacement is sent, it comes as a sort of shock.

I gotta say, this stuff is pretty funny, which is the most important thing for a sitcom. The show derives its humor mostly from situations, as it is supposed to. The scripts are pretty well-written, which helps a lot. All 4 primary cast members are really great: John Lithgow is pretty wild, although he can be a little too much sometimes; Kristen Johnston is funny and hot at the same time, and that’s not a combination you see very often; Joseph Gordon-Levitt apparently was talented from the birth; French Stewart is truly something else; however, the thing I loved the most about this show is the dynamics between Dick and dr. Albright (played by Jane Curtin).

On the other hand, it’s a 1990s sitcom, with expected peculiarities, a lot of which do not sell very well in nowadays. The offscreen laughter is tiresome, as well as the overall tempo – by the end of the season I was more often irritated than I was amused, even though the quality level remained the same. As most of the comedies back then, the show was rather cheap, but what’s worse is that it looked cheap, especially when it came to the transitions between the scenes – those are just pathetic.

First season of the show is notable among other things for appearances of John Mahoney (Marty Crane from Frasier) and Wayne Knight (Newman from Seinfeld).

All things considered, this is a pretty fine comedy, and I would definitely want the find out how the things would develop further on.

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2 Broke Girls (s.01, 2011-12)

2 Broke Girls is a sitcom about two girls, one of whom (Max) has been struggling for all her life, and the other (Caroline) has been entitled and rich but now is just as broke because her father was arrested for embezzling and his money were taken away. Now they both are waitressing in the same shitty diner in Brooklyn, trying to achieve a dream of turning Max’s talent for baking cupcakes into a successful business. In order to accumulate enough funds for that they engage into various activities. Other characters on the show include Han, owner and manager of the diner, Earl, the black cashier, Oleg, the sleazy cook, and Sophie, the neighbour and a friend who has a cleaning company.

Now, don’t be confused: even though this is formally a situational comedy, you will not find any funny situations here. Most of them are infinitely stupid, that’s true, but contrary to the writers’ belief, it doesn’t make them amusing. To be fair, the writers probably know that – somewhere deep in their giftless souls, – because the humor of the show does not rely on situations, but rather on puns, witty remarks and jokes, that are being produced by the characters constantly. And I mean that literally: those fucking jokes are pouring in like they have a horn of abundance somewhere in their closet, it’s a never-ceasing stream of terrible humor that may drive you mad if you binge-watch the season like I did. I was pretty depressed at the time, and could’ve used a good laugh, but instead of playing down my sorrows this shitstorm intensified the dark mood I was in, because stupidity is unbearable to me, especially on this scale.

Between The Big Bang Theory, which has gotten pretty bad in the last several season, Mom, that was never that good but at least had a zing in the beginning, and this show I’m convinced now more than ever that sitcom is pretty much dead. There are still some rather good shows out there that can be attributed to the genre (like Modern Family), but they are obviously living out their last days, and all the new great comedies have digressed very far from the limitations of genre.

By far, this is the worst TV comedy I’ve ever seen. I recommend to stay away from it.

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Man Seeking Woman (s.03, 2017)

In 3rd and final season of Man Seeking Woman the man finally finds his woman. Josh starts dating Lucy (and Lucy starts dating Josh); over the course of the season their relationship goes through various ordeals, big and small, and eventually climaxes in a wedding.

Of course, the show preserves its wonderful house style; all the stories are full of beautiful absurdities, exaggerations, ingenious cinema references, mind-boggling offshoots, and smart insights about everything.

It’s funny (as it always was); very well-written (even though Simon Rich did not participate in the process), exceptionally well-played, and, surely enough, the direction matches all those things perfectly.

(Here are the things I particularly loved about the season (this is only the tip of the iceberg, though): the Mathelda story; Mike’s secrets; Luciland; the seeing of unsuccessful people; how Liz can tell what’s good and what sucks.)

This is a marvelous comedy, a great show, with lots of merits and nearly no drawbacks at all. I’m really glad it happened to the world.

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Adam Ruins Everything (s.02, 2017)

In season 2 of Adam Ruins Everything Adam Conover keeps debunking various fallacies and delusions with same fervour and energy as always. Subjects of these season include pregnancy, weight loss, antibiotics, matching sites, personality tests, fine arts, school historic stereotypes (such as Columbus, or King Tut), education, doing taxes, why manufacturing is in China, conspiracy theories (specifically, moon landing), placebo effect, MSG, detox treatments, truth behind Orson Wells’ War of the Worlds radio play, problems of modern science, as well as such US-distinctive topics as US medical system, US student loans system, mount Rushmore, Hawaii, American lawn, design of an American suburb, poisoned candy on Halloween, 401(k), and food expiration dates. Episode #8 is dedicated to correction of mistakes made previously by Adam and other writers for the show – unwittingly, of course. Somewhere in the middle of the season Adam acquires a girlfriend, whom he met online, and the evolution of their relationship is intertwined with all the educational stuff.

There is much less of Emily, and even less than that – of her husband Murph; but they both still act as a target recipient from time to time. (The sister only appeared in the first episode for several seconds) As a rule, though, most of the stories have a one-off recipient (not to diminish the execution, – it’s quite amazing in all cases). Melinda the girlfriend serves as a partial substitution to Emily, in terms of sustenance of the narrative consistency, and it also has its own flavour; I’m not too fond of this storyline, because it seems like it was designed to last exactly until the end of the season, and I feel like it hurts the fidelity of the show; but, on the other hand, it’s very entertaining.

I didn’t like very much the most obvious novelty of the season, behind the scenes segment, that most of the episodes have, and that constitutes, basically, a brief formal interview with an expert who previously consulted Adam on one of the episode’s topics. In most cases it’s not very substantial, and at the same time it breaks the rhythm of the episode, which feels unpleasant, – it doesn’t seem to me like this effect is worth the amount of knowledge recounted during those moments.

Despite those few clouds, the sky of the show is crystal clear otherwise. The writing is incredibly smart and subtle, not to mention funny – depictions of historic figures and archetypes, for example, are totally hilarious, and that’s just the tip of  the iceberg. And, of course, the show is extremely informative – I definitely learned a couple of things I never knew before, – and it’s the most entertaining non-fiction I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot). I recommend it with confidence.

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Man Seeking Woman (s.02, 2016)

In 2nd season of Man Seeking Woman Josh continues his life quest in search of truly meaningful relationship. He goes through several girlfriends, which gives him experience if not success. His friendship with Mike gets tested. Soon into the season he realizes that his temp job stopped being temp quite a long time ago, and makes a conscious decision to pursue whatever career he has at the moment by agreeing to take an office manager position. Then he meets Rosa, – she becomes a major influence in his life, altering its very path.

As before, all the stories are filled with bizarre, surreal, or simply weird solutions, all of which harmoniously fit into the whole picture. Besides an introduction of a cross-cutting plotline, there is another significant and curious difference from the 1st season: unlike before, in 2nd season the narration is being conveyed through characters other than Josh, namely his sister Liz, his friend Mike, and Rosa. On the one hand, expansion means movement, which equals to evolution when it comes to movies, and development is a good thing in general; on the other – the expansion goes broadwise, which is a sign that tells us: the source of material the writers have at their disposal is not everlasting. To be fair, it’s an easy conclusion to draw: we already know that there’s nothing after season 3, and the quality of execution leaves no doubt – it’s not because of that.

However, for season 2 abundance of wonderful ideas and solutions seems to be an intrinsic quality. Some of those ideas are absolutely brilliant: “I’m cool with it” and “Sad day for robot fighting” are first examples to come to mind, but really the show basically consists of amazing stuff like that.

The acting is in complete agreement with every other aspect of execution, – of which, by the way, every single one is if not perfect than pretty close to perfection. All in all, the show in its every episode produces an impression of professional work of cinema that is exceptional and great on all levels.

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Ballers (s.03, 2017)

In Ballers‘ 3rd season Spencer and Joe are Brent’s partners in the firm, but he still remains their boss in everything but the name, so when he says “Las Vegas”, the guys simply have to jump. Brent simply wanted a casino of his own, but what Spencer came up with instead was a thousand times more ambitious. It wasn’t a brand new idea – to bring NFL team to Las Vegas, make it their home – but no one succeeded before. Spencer, however, turned a lot of soil to make that happen, and brough together people crucial for the project. It all started to look rather promising, which became the reason for both their failures and their enthusiasm: they even decided to sell the company and put all the money into the deal, but a competing crew upset their plans. And when something like that happens, the attack does not stay unretaliated for long.

There’s actually a little more to the story: while all that was happening, Spencer and Joe managed to perform their duties in almost the same fashion as usual; Ricky and Charles both have their own storylines, and Vernon also has a semi-independent line that intertwines with the main one quite tightly; but I didn’t want to spoil a nicely rounded annotation.

Okay, truth be told, I tend to look at this show askance, because it’s sometimes too fast and aggressive, and I do not tolerate this behaviour model very well. But I have to say that the only thing that is different in season 3 in comparison with previous seasons is actually making the show better – it’s the sense of purpose that became part of the narrative when the idea of the Las Vegas team (and related construction and stuff) emerged. From that moment on everything was about that goal, even the things that existed before and had no connection to it whatsoever. This specific purpose only lasted until the end of the season, sadly, but it may give rise to another one – the finale’s cliffhanger was ambiguous enough to contain that opportunity too, among others.

Everything else remained pretty much as it was before, in good and in bad: the whole thing still strikingly resembles Entourage; there’s too much emphasis on low pleasures of life; more importantly, the dialog is often formalistic, empty, or descriptive, – which are different shades of lame; but at the same time, it’s full of well-elaborated (and well-executed) situations; it embraces the modernity quite successfully; the acting is great, etc. Shares of good and shitty seem to be more or less equal here, which makes it watchable in general, but without much

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Man Seeking Woman (s.01, 2015)

Man Seeking Woman is a comedy about a young man in his quest for love. After his girlfriend Maggie broke up with him, Josh was at a loss for a while, but soon, with help from his friend Mike and his sister Liz, he started making his first faltering steps in the field of dating. He went through a number of relationships, different in length, quality and essence, but each time something went wrong and he ended up alone. A hallmark of the show (which, by the way, is based on the book by Simon Rich, series’ creator) is that its universe of discourse resembles the real world very much, but also contains utterly surreal elements that are adroitly merged with the environment so that the whole thing seems consistent in style and level of drama, but has obvious conflicts in the core, which is the source of the most of the humor in this show.

The show is pretty great: all the stories, however surreal, are amazingly consistent when it comes to the logic of the events development, which makes it extremely interesting to watch. It is also fun, because the writers’ fantasy is truly without borders; however, with humor it’s a little bit different. A major portion of it is derived from situations that are more awkward than funny, – it’s a specific type of comedy, and its presence in the humor mixture of this show is quite significant. Don’t get me wrong – there’s plenty of stuff there to laugh at, and good quality too, but that thing imparts a certain mood.

The stories do not directly hail from each other, there are pretty huge gaps between them, and sometimes they remain unfilled; and, of course, none of the surreal excursions stuck: rather than being real events, those are more like filters, or masks, applied to reality for a short time to contort it and later dismissed with no consequences.

All in all, the show feels pretty exciting; it’s entertaining, it’s exquisitely stylish, and it’s sufficient amount fun.

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Vicious (s.02 + A Year, 2015-16)

Second and last season of Vicious keeps on describing the same situation as before: 2 elderly queens living together for half a century, their relationship with each other, with their friends, neighbours and family. Ash remains a part of the circle; he came with a girlfriend in the first episode, proposed to her a little later; and it was the rejection that he faced that forced Freddy and Stuart to re-evaluate the type of relationship they have. Most of the subsequent narration is dedicated to their wedding with excursions into Violet’s story (who became a victim of a scam), and Ash’s.

It should also be noted that there is a double episode special called A Year. It follows the story 1 more year after the events of the show’s finale, and is divided into 4 chapters, each depicting one of the seasons. It’s not very different from the show itself and basically winds up the plot.

In comparison with season 1 the show became even louder and cocky due to new visual design: somehow it correlates with the show’s inner essence, but, weirdly enough, does not make it any more pleasant to watch. Same goes for the deviations from the genre: in season 2 there is a lot of exterior scenes, and a whole lot of new, circumstantial characters, which definitely makes the narrative much more vivid, but not harmonious; if anything, it adds a note of nervousness to the whole thing. The way the writers handled new characters shows that they didn’t have a lot of ideas about them except that there should be more people – most of the heroes are easy to forget simply because none of the stays for long, even when it’s appropriate (like with Ash’s girlfriend).

The humor is exactly as it was – crude, slapstick, tendentious. There were less dog-themed jokes (thank god), but otherwise it’s pretty much the same thing. What’s different, though, is how sentimental the story became. Over the course of the season, and then during the special, it gradually became almost a melodrama – and almost here is only because it didn’t have enough time to hatch properly. All in all it’s a tear-jerker alright.

So what can be said about Vicious? It’s a weird and undesired bastard of comedy that strives to be 2 completely opposite things simultaneously, and dies out after finally realizing how impossible of a task it is. It may be worth watching for McKellen’s fans, but should probably be avoided even by them.

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Episodes (s.05, 2017)

Fifth season of Episodes is the final one. Sean and Beverly are stuck working on a comedy they hate under the guidance of a man they despise. Matt is hosting The Box, a senseless but entertaining TV show produced by Merc; they hate each other, but keep good appearance. Carol is wallowing in depression and self-pity as she has no job, no money, and no hope; Beverly keeps trying to bolster her spirit, but with little success. After a sex scandal blown way out of proportion Matt gets fired from the show, but the network revises that decision pretty quickly after the ratings of the show rise by 30% as a direct result of the event. Besides a longed-for opportunity to rub it into Merc’s face, Matt gets a guaranteed 13 episodes of his own show from the network, and so he and Sean and Beverly start thinking about some entirely new project.

I love it when a story development is designed so meticulously as Crane & Klarik do for Episodes. It is quite obvious that even though the length of the journey could have been different (with correspondingly changed level of detail), but all the landmarks were conceived a long time ago exactly the way they’ve been executed later. The clarity of the story is astonishing; the way they managed to keep it highly dramatic and funny at the same time, with great harmony among the components, is truly masterful. In that respect, by the way, 5th season is better than the previous, which ended in a very gloom place.

This show is interesting in how it’s an exceptionally delicate and delicious combination of purely fictional elements and those that have direct correspondence in real reality: it is not the first work of this sort in cinema, but it is definitely one of the best so far. The writing in general is pretty much perfect, both in concept and in dialogs. I can say with absolute certainty that every minute of it was a pleasure.

The finale deserves a separate conversation, really, but all I can do is mention it. It is not just strong, it is truly surprising (which, to be honest, I did not expect), and would throw you into emotional lowland only to elevate you to a highest peak the next minute. This is probably the best show’s finale I’ve ever seen; it is surely bright, fascinating, remarkable.

Cannot recommend more.

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