This American Life (TV Show Review)

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Most TV shows hook people with repetition. The Walking Dead gets their audience emotionally attached to a dumb luck person in a zombie apocalypse and then kills that person a few episodes later, or teases it. Things like Breaking Bad intrigue people because it’s terrible people doing terrible things to each other and, lets face it, most people aren’t anything like those involved. So to say the least: repeating the same things hasn’t ever appealed to me. So, I usually lose interest in TV shows and fall behind in whatever the latest social craze is about.

This American Life’s only repeat theme, so far, is their dedication to telling people’s lives through their own words. They record them for a few days. They interview them for a brief time. Then it’s wrapped up with a brief outcome of that segment of their life. It might sound boring, but the major difference is the types of lives people live and their struggles through common issues.

Most stories are uplifting or give some good insight into just other aspects of life that most wouldn’t be aware about. Like they interviewed the first man to get a genetic clone, but it was of his pet bull. You know? The thing with big horns? It showed how they basically struggled with the mortality, and reality, of their dead pet. Which lead into a episode called Escape. It was about a boy, now a man, who slowly loses all of his normal motor functions due to a rare terminal illness. The fellow struggled with his thoughts, family relations, talking, eating, trying to go for a walk, etc. It was nothing short of completely heart breaking.

The episodes flow seamlessly together and embody something grand; the enduring human spirit. Even if you find yourself not caring about what the people are talking about, or are irritated, it still explains in depth as to why they are the way they are and how they became that way. The attention to detail is finite and gives enough to explain how these issues are important to people. Like in the second season a couple started fighting over lawn care. I thought “well just mow the lawn and shut up.” Then they explained how it was for this man, who viewed something as simple as grass and how certain European influences dissuaded him from ever wanting to touch the lawn. I did find it kinda boring, but the insight was rather deep.

There are a lot of beautiful stories in This American Life. Then, at the same time, there’s a lot of oddities that make me just wonder “why?” Why are these people like this? Why are these people so stupid? Why are these two still together? Why do they do this to themselves? Then I remembered: because people are different. This show highlights the differences, the tragedies, their hopes, and everything in between. It’s a fantastic voyeuristic view into the thoughts, minds, and hearts of many while taking no punches at the people involved. Many of the stories will linger and others will quickly be forgotten like a bad day at work. Regardless this has great insight into the human adventure that is the modern day life.

Please watch at least a few episodes before making a judgment. It’s a trench of empathy that is endlessly captivating.

9.0/10
This American Life show is available on Showtime and Amazon Prime.

The radio show is available for free at This American Life.org.

Don’t Trust That B In Apartment 23 TV Show Review

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June Colburn lost her apartment and job. Now she needs a new place to stay. She sees a want ad for a new place with a lady named Chole. She goes, they hang out, and she moves in. After living with her for about 5 days she find out that Chole is, well, a giant B. She eats her food. She brings strange men in the house all the time, sleeps around, drinks too much, etc. So since she’s stuck her goal is to get signed on to a good job and MOVE OUT.

For the most part this is a female version of The Odd Couple. June is a head strong career woman and seems to be a fitness nut. Chole drinks, sleeps around, stays out too late, and takes questionable drugs. Its funny to watch someone completely spaz out and do it so shamelessly. Although most of the situations kinda spring between Chole trying to protect the almost infinitely innocent June from terrible people or trying to get her to interact with people. Which is strange because sometimes its a contradiction all to itself. While it contains a wide variety of humor, it has a habit never seeming to stop. Many episodes it’s punchline after punchline or if there is a brief moment it’s a setup for the next punchlines. This might make some peoples head spin, but all of it has good chuckles. Some of the jokes even try to break into the territory of breaking stereotypes. Like Eric Andre‘s delivery adds heaps to whatever joke he’s telling about casual racism. Like his character and June are in the theaters watching a movie. She won’t SHUT UP so he says “I hope everyone noticed that the black guy isn’t the one talking through the movie.”

The other kinda endearing part of it is that June really is a normal woman who’s just searching for her place in life. A lot of the other crazy comedy comes from her misadventures of being a total dork. It’s cute and sometimes cringe worthy to see someone bump along in life and still make it out OK. Now when someone decides to write a female character, or make her the main character, then they usually decides to tell said life story with a shitload of mellow drama. Thankfully this doesn’t have any of that. Each mishap is mostly something to make light of and theres even punchlines to Junes failings.

The character development is either spars for some characters or just all over the place. Like with June one episode she wants to be like Chole and at least sleep around. Then she finds out the difficult way that it really isn’t something she needs to get into. Then the next week shes TRYING IT AGAIN. Didn’t the character just learn from said mistake in the previous episode or did the writers forget it? Chole makes NO attempts to change or rectify her behavior, while making everyone else miserable, despite getting in trouble many times, usually in one episode. Then she tries to influence June to be, well, like her sometimes. Other times she seems so self absorbed that helping June be a city girl is the last thing on her mind. It’s really spatial, random, strange and something I didn’t care for with the series. Also this trait isn’t exclusive to these two characters and is mildly irritating to see. I know I’m complaining about character development like it’s a serious thing for a COMEDY, but you can see character development in everything. Like for example:Seinfeld‘s character development was steady over time, even if it did fluctuate between being douches and their normal version of their character(s).

The acting, for some, was terrible and then they all generally improved. Krysten Ritter was rude and crude right out of the shoot. She probably did the best out of all of them when the series aired. I’ve seen her in a few other things, but I don’t remember them and if thats the case she didn’t stand out. Either way coming off as someone who’s completely berserk is still entertaining especially since everyone seemed to keep a straight face while she was acting. Dreama Walker, who’s a total babe, plays the innocent and sweat country girl next door thing kinda well. I just wish she was in more movies, or even TV, because I honestly think this is the first time I’ve see her do anything. Michael Blaiklok has a talent for the stranger roles, as it seems. He excelled at being the creeper concerned neighbor. He was a great great in this and I honestly can see someone like his character existing. Sure it wasn’t a standout performance, considering Ritter and Ray Ford took the cake, but its still noteworthy. Eric Andre I usually don’t care for because his brand of surreal comedy is too obnoxious for me. However, he pulled off a normal/stressed coffee shop owner and was funny when the punchlines came. His comedic delivery was probably the best out of them all. James Van Der Beek has always been good in more serious roles. So the first few episodes he was in was kinda terrible. His delivery and execution was a little stale. However after I think episode 5 he really honed in on the flaky, self absorbed, celebrity and seems to sink his teeth into the character. He even lets the writers make fun of his fan base (see Dawson’s Creek) a number of times and not only does it show he’s a good sport about it all but proves he can do comedy roles. Ray Ford plays the sassy homosexual assistant of Van Der Beek. He’s plucky, he’s funny, he’s kinda strange, but I find his character endearing since he does seem to have more aspirations then most of the other characters.

Many people cry that Firefly was canceled. Well this is something for the comedy fans to harp about and how it was unjustly sacked. After two season it was axed and, in my opinion, it was one of the better shows on TV at the time. I can understand why ABC canceled it, considering it’s comedy was really douche-like compared to their normal shows. Also the considerable amount of flaws it had didn’t help it any. However if you want to see something kinda cute, strange, and cringe worthy many times over then please watch this. Its quality humor, if you can put aside it’s flaws.

7.5/10