The Too Much TV Roundup- June 9th

Well, this day was very different. I have an idea of how I want to rank certain programs, but there are two that I will not be ranking. The first, being the January 6th hearing that aired across most major networks. The second, will be explained below.

Before we get to the rankings:

Queer As Folk (Peacock)

English Audio Description Available?: Yes

In just a few days, as a resident of Orlando, the city beautiful will be commemorating the anniversary of the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub that took the lives of 49 individuals, almost all LGBT, who showed up at a gay nightclub on Latin night for what they thought would be full of dancing. Why I haven’t chosen to grade Queer As Folk, is because after watching the first two episodes, it is clear to me that this show was heavily influenced by this attack, as the first episode features a mass shooting at a gay nightclub that the majority of our mai cast is at.

I watched the episodes primarily to give those in my community some context as to what these episodes contained, as we seem to be heavily in a moment of awareness about mass shootings, as the country is still focused on the loss of life of elementary school children. The first episode of Queer As Folk is aware of the nature, and does carry a content warning. The second does not. The first episode spends most of the time, about the first 3/4ths of the episode introducing you to the main cast, which the critic in me did feel like a lot of new faces to have to learn about and follow in a short period of time. Gradually, these characters converge into a nightclub, and after showing us a little bit of fun, they show us the moment when one of the main cast is on stage in drag and looks out into the audience where he sees a man in a hoodie raise an assault rifle and begin firing into the crowd. The time spent in this scene is brief, and once the screaming starts, we cut to the aftermath. You hear a reporter talking about the tragedy, how the police have apprehended the shooter, and then you see people trying to get victims to the hospital in their own personal vehicles (something that happened with Pulse victims, as the hospital was not far down the street), to people wondering where their friends are, trying to find people, and family members rushing to the club. But instead of taking place in Orlando, this takes place in New Orleans.

As far as the second episode, the episode itself struggled with maintaining the kind of tone it wanted, trying to get us laughing, cringing, and crying all in the immediate aftermath, in a follow up episode that starts off with cast members masturbating but then also balances the depth of their lingering trauma by having one of the main cast continuing to see one of the victims who did not survive as a manifestation, like they are still there, with the bullet wound still visible. They have a planned memorial service that is at the center of this episode, something that some of the characters have mixed feelings about, as they believe that the organizer is just using this to sell out (something made more clear when that individual uses the memorial to announce they’re joining the cast of American Horror Story). It was this kind of tone deaf attempt to say something about capitalizing on tragedy, while also making a show about tragedy that is clearly influenced by tragedy, that makes me not want to give this show a grade. I may be a resident of the city beautiful, I may have donated my time to charities supporting Pulse victims, and attended memorial events, but I was not at that club, and it is not my story. But it is the story of many, and I believe it is their right to decide whether or not this show should exist, all I can do is present a glance at the content.

As far as the audio description, I did find it odd that the narrator took a moment of silence also when the names of the victims were read, instead of covering what those in the crowd were doing, or what the camera was showing us. It had to be showing something, it didn’t go dark. Despite the fact that I know they hired a survivor of pulse as a consultant, I do believe those nine names read are just symbolic representations of people, and not actual people who have died in a mass shooting. Taking a real life moment of silence during the audio description didn’t feel necessary. The purpose of the AD is to allow us to see what we cannot see, not necessarily to disparage or otherwise disgrace a true moment of depth and gravity.

For the reasons I listed above, I’m not sure if I will be watching the third episode or not right now, and I’m not sure I will be grading this episode. I don’t believe I’m the person to tell you that you should or should not watch this, which is rare for a critic to say. But knowing people, and having friends that lost friends and family members that day, I’m acutely aware of who exactly should be in this conversation, and whose voices do matter. Hopefully, those voices will be given a chance to speak on this series.

AAnd now, for the other things I watched…

1) Hacks (HBO MAX)

English Audio Description Available?: Yes

In the third episode, Ava still was being sued, and yet was still trying to earn back the trust she lost. It was a hilarious episode that introduced us to a brilliant new character, played wonderfully by Laura Metcalf, a tour manager named Weed that has nothing to do with pot, but has one liners for days. The episode culminated in a moment where Ava lost her dad’s ashes, and started to break down, and luckily by the end she was able to get them back. It was a great showcase for Hannah Ianbinder.

Episode Grade: A

2) Stranger Things (Netflix)

English Audio Description Available?: Yes

In the 6th episode, we touch base with every group. Hopper realizes that he and some Russian inmates are about to be fed to the demagorgon and crushes their souls with that reality. Joyce and Murray are alive after the plane crash and are hatching a plan to get Hopper out of jail. The California Kids are at Dustin’s girlfriend’s house trying to warn Eleven, who is still just getting a data dump of her past with the hopes of bringing her powers back. And the Hawkins gang are trying to keep Eddie away from Jason and his angry mob that believe Eddie has special powers after making a deal with the devil. The Hawkins kids also believe they know another way into the upside down.

Episode Grade: A

3) Pachenko (Apple Plus)

English Audio Description Available?: Yes

I still struggle with the same things I struggle with every week due to my blindness, and the structure of this audio description. The dubbing on this is not great. The voice acting is not great, and it is affecting my ability to emotionally connect with storylines and characters on a total level. It’s not that this show is bad, it’s not boring, I just wish I could experience it in a form that wasn’t this. To be fair, I did like Squid Game more than this, and that one didn’t have great voice actors consistently either. But, Pachenko also does literal translation, which means these voice actors are often putting things into English structure in sentences we would not normally say. And I think that adds to it.

Episode Grade: B+

4) The Weakest Link (NBC/Peacock/Hulu)

English Audio Description Available?: Not on hulu, where I watched it.

Just my usual game show love. I always find it hilarious that the strongest link never makes it to the final round.

Episode Grade: B+

5) Tokyo Vice (HBO MAX)

English Audio Description Available?: Yes

This show recently got a second season renewal. It’s sometimes great, and sometimes slow. The dubbing on this show is a lot better, when it happens. MOst of these actors are speaking English naturally though.

Episode Grade: B-

6) Winning Time (HBO)

English Audio Description Available? Yes

The struggle for Magic’s greatness was felt in his matchup against Dr J. But I still felt icky when after a characters mother dies, his first instinct is to kind of forcibly suck on the breast of this woman who clearly wasn’t super excited about this experience. I wish HBO had pulled the plug so i could feel like dropping this show, but I love basketball and I keep thinking this show will click for me. It’s not.

Episode Grade: C+

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