To Wade, Or To Dive?

Plus: We Recommend, The Great, and Hamilton

by Glen Weldon
Welcome! It was the week we lost a skilled comedic actor whom we hope has found some serenity, now. It was the week we learned what a whole hell of a lot of us are gonna be doing Friday night, July 3rd. And it was the week a groundbreaking comic book series that’s staunchly defied adaptation into any other medium, for decades, finally got … a voice cast

Opening Argument: To Wade, Or To Dive?

My husband and I, like millions of others, find ourselves looking to try out television series we’ve missed, over the years. You know – the ones your friends kept yammering about at dinner parties (remember dinner parties?), the ones that always topped the year-end Best-Of lists, the ones you figured you’d get around to, eventually. 

Well, um. Welcome to Eventually. 

Of course, your friends didn’t just tell you to try out Show X and leave it at that. No, they supplied you with a map, a game plan, an angle of attack. “Skip the first season,” they said. “It doesn’t really find itself until season two.”  (The Office US, Parks and Recreation, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Angel, Fringe, The Leftovers)

Or, “When the showrunner left, it became a shadow of itself. You can bail after season [X].” (The West Wing, Community, Gilmore Girls

Or, “Oy, season six. Skip to the musical episode, then to the one where she’s in the mental ward, then to the two-part season finale where Willow goes all Dark Phoenix, and then start season seven.” 

They’re just trying to be helpful. They’ve got your best interests in mind. They’re offering you a curated experience, based on their hard-won, first-hand knowledge.

We’ve just started Halt and Catch Fire, the show that has come to represent the principle of “Gets Better In Season Two” in the collective cultural conversation. So we could have taken everyone’s advice. We could have skipped season one, and dove right into season two.

But we didn’t. We waded into season one, replicating the experience of those who first tuned in back in 2014. We’re about five episodes in, the water’s up to our thighs. And we’re … fine? 

It’s not that I don’t trust … um, like literally everyone, who advised us to skip the first season. I’m grateful for their advice, for the field-time they clocked. It’s just that I don’t want to deny us the experience they had. The full experience.

When a show you’re watching suddenly reshuffles and rejiggers, when you can see it adapting on the fly, honing itself into a purer, more fully intentioned version of itself – that’s fun. And then when it finds itself? When it clicks? That’s an experience unique to the medium, a thrilling one, because it rewards the time and attention you’ve put in. I want us to experience that along with the show.

Right now, in season one, Lee Pace is going big. Mackenzie Davis is a pill. Scoot McNairy is fast becoming my favorite actor named after a thing my gramma used to say. And Kerry Bishé is … giving us more than she gave us in the pilot. Field for study there. I’ma keep my eye on that one.

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We Recommend:

It’s the Upper West Side in-joke that wouldn’t die. Nick Kroll and John Mulaney’s semi-lovable, mega-creepy pair of elderly Manhattanites, Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland, have done it all. Sketches, Broadway and now, inevitably, a podcast. But Oh, Hello: The P’dcast is more than just a leveraged extension of brand identity in a novel vertical. It’s a sly, deeply knowing satire of various podcasts and podcast formats, week by week.

I used to love the King’s Quest video games, with their blocky characters and blocky landscapes and maddeningly literal interface (ME (typing): “OPEN DOOR” GAME: “You do not see a door here.” ME: “THAT IS A DOOR. RIGHT THERE. THAT DOOR.” GAME: “I don’t understand.” ME: “DOOR DOOR DOOR OPEN DOOR.” GAME: “I don’t understand.”) I spent way too much of my teenage allowance repeatedly calling the Sierra Tip Line for solutions to things that weren’t even puzzles. (ME: “SLIDE PANEL” GAME: “You slide the panel to the left.” ME: “AAAAGH ALL THIS TIME GODDAMMIT IT’S A DOOR” GAME: “It really isn’t, though, meatbag.”). Guard Duty, which I played on the Nintendo Switch, has a lot of the charm of the Kings Quest games, in all their blocky glory, with muuuch less of the frustration.

The fascinating documentary Circus of Books, streaming on Netflix, is about a mild-mannered straight couple who ran a gay bookstore/porn emporium (empornium?) that became a fixture of West Hollywood (and American) gay life; it’s made by their daughter, who grew up having no idea what mom-and-pop were up to.

(Also: The Washington Post kindly asked me to describe how I’d spend my dream day in the District, so while I stand by these recommendations, they are, as the kids say, hyperlocal.)

What We Did This Week:

On Wednesday’s episode of PCHH we talked about the charmingly binge-able Netflix series Never Have I Ever.

On Friday’s PCHH we each selected a film from the year 2000 that’s worth a second look 20 years later – plus What’s Making Us Happy.

I reviewed Hulu’s The Great, which we’ll be talking about next week. (Spoiler: Its title is a reliable indicator of its merit!) 

Stephen wrote up a Tiny Desk (Home) Concert featuring Ashely McBryde.
Stephen also covered the week’s best (only?) happy surprise, Hamilton dropping on Disney + a year early, bypassing a theatrical release.
And he once again busted out my favorite Thompsonian annual tradition – suck it, Chicken Bowl! —  wherein he ranked this season’s SNL musical guests with the dispassionate precision of surgeon’s scalpel slicing away necrotic tissue.

What’s Making Us Happy

Every week on the show, we talk about some other things out in the world that have been giving us joy lately. Here they are:
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