As Philadelphia was blanketed in a half-foot of solid ice, I stayed inside and watched a bunch of things.
The Last Man on Earth (Fox)
This show gets overlooked, even by the gaggle of TV critics I follow on Twitter. That’s not too surprising. It’s odd, balancing a bleak, post-apocalyptic survivor tale with the absurd comedic stylings of creator/star Will Forte. While the show has always succeeded with its visual flare and calculated plotting, it suffered early in its run with some jarring tonal missteps, alienating many viewers in the process. Deep into its third season, however, The Last Man on Earth has hit its creative peak, artfully walking the tightrope between nihilism and optimism in a way that is unique by broadcast TV standards. Its ambition is contagious, most notably when it embraces its episodic format to create some of the best standalone 30-minute pull-away stories since Enlightened. RECOMMENDED
Crashing gets a few benefit-of-the-doubt points for its decent premise: a struggling comedian tries to make it in New York while couch-surfing in the homes of/getting advice from more established standups. But most of that good will is nullified by the bland vanilla-ness of star Pete Holmes. Each episode meanders for 30 minutes on about six minutes worth of story, a staple of Judd Apatow productions that I’m growing more and more annoyed with (re: Netflix’s Love). Holmes isn’t an unfunny guy, so there are a handful of redeemable moments in each episode, but anyone who isn’t interested in the niche world of alt-comedy will find it a slog. NOT RECOMMENDED
NOTE: Crashing is not to be confused with Crashing, the British comedy series from Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge about six kooky flatmates living in an abandoned hospital. It’s very silly but a lot more fun than this show.
Ghost in the Shell (not the Scarlett Johansson movie)
Look, I get it. Lots of people love anime, and for good enough reasons. It was revolutionary in using animation as way to explore adult themes, and visually speaking it is often stunning, especially in its locations and grand set-pieces. These are some of the reasons to admire Ghost in the Shell, along with the surrealistic, existential tone and the obvious influence it’s made on contemporary sci-fi (The Matrix ripped off a bunch of it). That said, it was simply too convoluted for me to enjoy. Nearly every line of cheesy dialogue (delivered by stiff actors) is a piece of exposition attempting to explain this dystopian future and all its rules and characters. It’s easy to tell it’s part of an extended universe established during its Manga run, but as a standalone viewing experience, it’s narratively incoherent. NOT RECOMMENDED
Weiner (steaming on Showtime)
Upon hearing about this movie, everyone has the exact same reaction: “Anthony Weiner? The congressman with the dick pics? I remember him! That didn’t happen too long ago. Do I really need to watch a documentary about it?” You might be surprised to hear that, yes, you should watch Weiner. (insert Weiner pun here. Maybe get on Weiner. I don’t know. The NY Post already took all the good ones). We’ll never know if all politicians are as egomaniacal as Anthony Weiner (probably, though), but Weiner’s compliance in this project, baring it all (*Weiner bares all!*) to spotlight the man behind the dong is an unprecedented maneuver. The film exposes (*Weiner exposed!*) how narcissism can, in equal measure, give someone the drive to fight for change in what they believe in, as well as the hubris to make the same damaging mistakes over and over again. The film has the breakneck pace of a great thriller while painting a portrait of a troubled guy who, in spite of everything, you can’t help but pull for. (*Pull for Weiner!*) RECOMMENDED
NOTE: Weiner is not to be confused with Wiener-Dog, streaming on Amazon Prime. I haven’t seen it, so there will be no sub-recommendation.
Life, Animated (streaming on Amazon Prime)
Another ultra-specific documentary, Life, Animated is the story of an autistic man (Owen Suskind) who uses his love of Disney movies to help communicate and find meaning in the world. Like the films Owen holds so dear, Life, Animated is guilty of over-sentimentality, but god damn is it effective. His ability to take a passion and use it to help channel his emotions and creativity is inspiring as hell. Pop it on for a cathartic happy-cry. RECOMMENDED
SNOW DAY LIGHTNING ROUND
– Making your own chili, RECOMMENDED. While a crockpot is not a suitable replacement for barbecue, it’s perfect for chili. The only skill needed for making crockpot chili is operating a can opener.
– “Blowing the stink off,” RECOMMENDED. Basically, getting outside before Cabin Fever sets in. The phrase was coined by my girlfriend’s mom, “the stink” referring to a day’s worth of showerless inactivity. When venturing into a snowstorm, don’t forget to walk like a penguin.
– Depending on a car in the city after a snowstorm, NOT RECOMMENDED. Digging yourself out and navigating the unplowed streets are the easy parts. The doozy is parking again once you get home with all the mounds of snow and ice piled up, along with assholes saving spots with cones and chairs. I’m so stressed about it I’m leaving work early every day this week to beat the rush.