You know what we could all use? A little bit of joy! So I came up with a few things about TV that make me really happy and I thought I’d share them. Just a few little things that have warmed my heart over the last couple of months.
–I’m a sucker for promos that link all of the shows on a network or streaming service. HBO did these a lot in the early 2000s, to the extent that they digitally added characters from one show to another. I clearly remember a Sopranos clip where they replaced Uncle Junior with Larry David and I was utterly delighted by that. The ones I’m enjoying now are the Amazon ads where the clips are cut to make it seem like characters from one show are reacting to another. I wish they’d actually go a little further with linking them (though the one where everybody is talking on the phone is pretty good), but every time I see one and they try to imply that Mrs. Maisel has a friendly relationship with The Boys, it makes me laugh.
–He’ll come up again later in the list, but I’m happy whenever I see Jason Mantzoukas. He reprised his Dennis Feinstein character for the recent Parks and Recreation special and he’s always hilarious. When you get an Adrian Pimento episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, baby, you know you’re in for a good time. He has this intense, menacing energy that should be more jarring on a network sitcom but somehow it works perfectly. And I have this theory that all Mantzoukas characters are just manifestations of Derek from The Good Place. When he achieved Maximum Derek and became a cosmic consciousness, he reached into other realities. So Pimento, Raffi, Feinstein, the Big Bad Wolf, Kyle, Dr. Steve, Jay Bilzerian – these are all people infused with some of that Derek energy. In my mind, it’s all leading up to a Crisis of Infinite Dereks.
–I didn’t watch Amazon’s Patriot until after the second season was released, or else I would have written about it more, but it’s one of my favorite shows of the last ten years. It’s about an undercover federal agent with PTSD on an unsanctioned mission that requires him to embed at a pipe company. Also he deals with his trauma through folk music. Incredibly literal folk music. It’s one of those shows where things just keep getting worse and more complicated and it’s excellent. It’s so funny. Please take some time and at least check out the pilot. Eighteen episodes and they’re like nothing you’ve ever seen.
–This is speculative rather than a thing that I’m enjoying right now, but they just announced that Timothy Olyphant is going to be on Season Two of The Mandalorian, and I am geeked. I liked Season One just fine – it was an OK to good exercise in shameless fan service that sometimes felt like Disney banging action figures together. And since we’re talking about it, I couldn’t possibly care less about the Boba Fett announcement for Season Two. Boba Fett is a toy, not a character. Literally the only thing about him is his cool armor, which is the armor that the Mandalorian already wears. The Mandalorian is if Boba Fett had a personality and did things. There’s no reason to bring the worse version of the lead character in. And yes, I know some people have reported that Olyphant is going to be Boba Fett or wear his armor or whatever and I don’t care about fansite speculation. The point is, Olyphant is one of my favorites who’s appeared in some of my favorite shows and him bringing his postmodern cowboy swagger to Star Wars is pretty rad. And there’s a big part of me that hopes we’re going to see Raylan Givens vs. Gus Fring. I don’t mind fan service when I’m the fan being serviced.
–FX’s vampire comedy What We Do In the Shadows is hilarious and you should be watching it, but the recent episode where Laszlo runs from a confrontation with an ancient enemy (played by Mark Hamill) and starts a new life running a bar in Tucson as Jackie Daytona is incredible. His only disguise is that he has a toothpick in his mouth and even when Hamill’s character comes to the bar, be can’t recognize Laszlo until he takes the toothpick out. Most of the episode is Jackie Daytona getting really involved with raising money for the local girls’ volleyball team and it’s completely absurd. Like if the “Cape Feare” episode of The Simpsons had spent maybe eighteen minutes of its runtime just getting into their day to day lives as The Thompsons.
I also want to note something else amazing about the new season. There was a bit where the vampires summoned the ghosts of their human selves (it’s very complicated), and Nadja’s ghost inhabited a doll. So now she has a talking doll possessed by her own ghost and it’s the weirdest thing. They do cutaway interviews together and it’s hilarious and upsetting every time. Just watch it, man.
–I can’t account for why I enjoy ABC’s miniature golf obstacle course show Holey Moley as much as I do, but it genuinely tickles me. I like people falling in water. I like Rob Riggle’s unhinged color commentary. I like the unexplainable inserts featuring Steph Curry and the holes where golfers can choose either Steph or a robot to take a shot on their behalf. It’s the dumbest thing and they clearly show a season over three evenings of work, and it makes me so happy.
–I talk about the reboot of DuckTales a lot and I will still say that it’s the best action comedy on TV and often legitimately touching. The first batch of Season Three episodes just hit and they’ve been such a good blend of standalones and mythology episodes. And one episode that was both standalone and literal mythology which features Scrooge and family wrestling in Valhalla for the fate of the earth. And by “wrestling”, I mean WWE wrestling, complete with Dewey becoming Daniel Bryant. We’re getting a really fun focus on the oft-overlooked Huey (Danny Pudi) this season including a world class Astro Boy homage. They introduced Daisy Duck this season and gave her a personality beyond “Donald’s girlfriend”. The Rescue Rangers turned up, along with Goofy. And there was a fantastic Bond-themed episode that brought in Steelbeak, a Darkwing Duck villain from the original series. The aforementioned Jason Mantzoukas voiced the bad guy, and that tells you everything you need to know about Steelbeak. (Which, by the way, is a good move. Steelbeak was originally played as a mastermind. But he has a physical deformity. In Bond terms, that makes him a henchman. And Mantzoukas played him as the loudest and dumbest henchman you can imagine.) There’s a break before more new episodes hit later this year, but the first two seasons are on Disney+ and even if, like me, you’re too old to have any connection to the original, it’s absolutely wonderful.
–Is there a better character on TV than Better Call Saul’s Kim Wexler? That question was hypothetical, because there isn’t. Rhea Seehorn’s Kim quickly became the most emotionally involving character in the series. Partly because of excellent writing and a superlative performance and partly because she’s the most prominent Saul character who doesn’t appear in Breaking Bad. We know what’s next for Jimmy, Mike, and Gus (among others), but Kim’s future hasn’t been written. And for the most part, it’s not like we necessarily had to worry that she was going to die – she was safely insulated from the mayhem going down with the cartel. But this season changed that and put her life in direct jeopardy. She ended a dangerous situation with the sheer power of her lawyering, but the season finale seems to put everybody involved with Lalo Salamanca in a very dangerous position.
But even beyond that, which I will obsess over until the final season next year, Kim is such a fascinating character. It would be so easy for her to be Jimmy’s Jiminy Cricket, always pointing him in the right direction. But she’s occasionally seduced by his shady side, whether it be running scams on drunks or increasingly taking some less than ethical shortcuts on the legal side. But there’s still this conflict every time and it’s maybe the best portrayal of moral conflict we’ve seen in a long time. On a show where everybody is incredible, Kim is the standout and we only want the best for her. And also her own spinoff when all is said and done.
–We were lucky to be alive when Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was airing on Netflix. But you already know that. What you may not know is that the interactive series finale Kimmy vs. The Reverend is now available and it’s pretty great. I wasn’t completely sold on the gimmick at first because my obsessiveness is going to require me to go through it multiple times until I’ve seen every piece of footage, but the setup is actually pretty forgiving. An objectively wrong choice brings you back to the divergence point, which means that if you initially choose for Kimmy to make conversation with the Reverend, you get twice the Jon Hamm silliness. It’s great to see all my favorites again (though the choices I made my first time through caused me to miss Amy Sedaris altogether, which was a shame) and the jokes are as dense and brilliantly silly as ever.
There we go – hopefully that brought some joy into your life. Let me know what’s making you happy in the comments. Or keep it to yourself like a miser.