Thursday, April 13, 2023

There Are Different Standards For Cute People

I've been sitting on a post for a while now (Don't. Just... don't.) about TV shows I've been watching but the problem with posts like that is it takes a good while to finish a whole series and viewings tend to overlap. Or at least they do the way I watch TV. If I wait until a nice neat wrap-up moment, when I've finished everything and haven't started anything new, well, we'll be waiting for a long, long time, so I think I'm just going to get to it.

The shows I wanted to cover are:

  • Daisy Jones and the Six
  • Eden
  • Supernatural Academy
  • Locke & Key
  • Daria
  • Camp Camp

I might also cover a couple more if I have time but that looks like plenty for one post. 

Before we begin, I'd also like to mention (Complain about...) how awkward it is to find the history of what you've watched on both Netflix and Prime. They each have sections on the front page for your Watchlist and Currently Watching but to find the full history of everything you've seen you have to come out of the front end altogether and dig deep into the Account settings. 

I had to google how to find the history for both services before I could go back and check what I'd seen recently. Of course, that I couldn't just remember some of the shows without a prompt tells its own story...

Looking at the six shows above, the first thing to note is that four of them are animations. As I've said before, I seem to be watching more and more animated shows these days. There are a lot of them on both services and the quality is high. 

Every time this comes up, someone pops into the comments to recommend various anime shows I ought to be watching and I'm very grateful for that. The thing I'm increasingly finding, though, is that I don't really notice if what I'm watching is anime or just plain animation. I'm a lifelong animation fan but in a much more untutored way than I'm a comics fan or a science fiction fan or an mmorpg fan. I'm not sure the exact definitions or provenance matter all that much to me although I'm always up for an academic discussion on the differences.

I suspect this is going to run long so rather than ramble any more I'm just going to get on with it. I'm also not going to attempt any thematic linkage or overarching structure. I typed the list in the order the shows came up when I checked and I'm just going to go with that.

 Daisy Jones and the Six

If  we're talking about the fallibility of memory - and on this blog we always are - then this is a Grade A example. I read the book this series is based on back when it first came out in the UK a few years ago. At the time the author, Taylor Jenkins Reid, was unknown in this country. Now she has a string of best-sellers to her name.

My memory is very retentive when it comes to novels but it almost always needs a jump start. If you name a book I've read and ask me what it's about I probably won't be able to tell you, even if I only read it last week. If I pick up a copy, though, and glance at the cover and maybe the blurb on the back, a huge amount of detail will immediately flow back into my mind. It's a pattern that established itself back when I was studying literature, I think, based around having to write essays from specific prompts, and it's never really left me.

The same process usually kicks in when I watch TV or movie adaptations of books I've read. I may remember almost nothing going in but as soon as the characters appear and the narrative unfolds, everything comes rushing back. 

Not this time, it didn't.

I watched the whole show, originally framed as a complete-in-itself mini-series but now apparently the tentative first season of a maybe-continuing franchise, and I recognized literally nothing about it. Not the plot, not the characters, not the setting; nothing. That in itself was so odd it kept distracting me from the show itself, which was a shame because it's a pretty good one.

I'm going to have to read the book again to find out if it's an accurate translation of page to screen. I'm certainly not going to claim it's any kind of accurate description of the 1970s music scene or 1970s America or the alternative history of Fleetwood Mac or any of those things. I'm pretty sure it's not. What it most certainly is is a funny, camp, occasionally poignant romp that feels weirdly convincing in its earnest evocation of seventies and eighties TV mini-series. It's not so much a parody of the form as an homage.

The performances are pretty good. I found Daisy herself to be slightly - occasionally intensely - irritating, which is a compliment to the actor, Riley Keogh. I don't think you're supposed to like Daisy Jones. Sam Claflin as Billy Dunne was good when he was being gruff, not quite so good when he wasn't. 

The whole premise relies on the chemistry between the two of them, which was almost there but maybe not quite. I liked most of the supporting cast, especially Suki Waterhouse as the inexplicably English keyboardist. There were times when it felt like Spinal Tap lite and those were good times.

By far the weakest aspect of the show was the music, which is a fairly major problem for a show about a rock band who are #1 in the Billboard Hot 100 and headlining stadiums. There is an actual album of the music from the show. Pitchfork gave it a 6.6 which is at least a point more than I'd give it. It's not bad, just bland, but then, back in the late '70s, I'd have told you Fleetwood Mac were bland, too. I'd be wrong now, but I was right then.

For a supposed mini-series the ending was weird. It just seemed to stop. Overall, though, it was a fun road trip and I hope they do expand it into an ongoing series. I'd watch more.


Another mini-series. I watched this specifically because it was complete in itself and only four episodes long.  It's a post-collapse show about a human girl waking up in a world filled by robots. The animation is solid, the characters endearing, the plot rolls along, there's action, adventure, humor and pathos. It's cute. I liked it.

It's also quite incoherent at times. A lot of details make no sense. Why would robots farm apples and how could a human baby grow up into a healthy adult on a diet of nothing else? If the world is filled with nothing but robots with no apparent internal or external threats for the past thousand years, why is there a sinister security force and a surveillance culture that would do a police state proud? And if there is such a force, why is it so radically ineffectual? Seriously, Imperial Stormtroopers could do a better job than this lot.

It doesn't pay to pick holes in these things. If the execution is entertaining then give the premise a pass. My only real problem was with the ending, which I won't spoil. Suffice to say, be careful what you wish for. That's my takeaway.

Recommended for a quick watch. It's neat, complete and satisfying, provided you don't think too hard.


Supernatural Academy

This is the only show on the list I haven't finished watching but I'm throwing it in anyway. I really shouldn't because I only have two episodes left and it's always a risk trying to sum up a story before you know the ending but if I leave it for the next TV post I'll probably have forgotten all about it.

That's not to say Supernatural Academy is forgettable; more an observation on how quickly one show replaces another on the never-ending conveyor belt of content. It's actually fairly memorable for a Saturday Morning kind of show. 

It does feel a bit like a throwback in that respect, with its ensemble cast of sassy teens, each with their own signature power, but I don't recall many shows of that era having such strong, coherent narratives. It's very much a plot-driven affair, with a single throughline and very little in the way of side stories. It's not episodic at all, even though it employs an odd A/B structure, pairing episodes as though each set were some kind of chapter.  

I'm really enjoying it. The characters are all quite distinct, even if most are types or tropes. The script is strong and the voice acting is good, both carrying a little more than their share of the weight, since the visual detail is relatively light and the animation can be slightly stiff. It's particularly noticeable in some of the running scenes, which can feel a little jerky. 

None of that detracts from the pleasure I've had watching Mischa, Jessa and the Pack negotiate high school high jinks and world-threatening dramas. If anything, not being quite as slick as some digital animation can be adds to its charm. 

The show originally aired on Peacock and is currently on Netflix in the UK. It's based on a series of books by Jaymin Eve, which look a lot more racy than the adaptation. No second season has been confirmed as yet so I hope that ending I haven't seen doesn't turn out to be a cliffhanger. I'd definitely watch another season if someone wants to make one.

Locke & Key

On the matter of endings, a very controversial and troublesome topic these days, I hope it's not a spoiler to say that Locke & Key has a proper finish. There are three seasons, all of which I've seen, and the third ends with a wrap-up conclusive enough for a movie. They obviously either knew they weren't getting renewed or a three season arc was always the plan.

I went into this one somewhat grudgingly. In my mind it was a magical detective show with teen protagonists and a somewhat silly premise. I had it backed up on my watchlist with no real enthusiasm as a fall-back should I run out of better things to watch. Then I did.

Locke & Key is almost nothing like I thought it would be. About the only point of contact between my imagining and the actual show is the part about teen protagonists, but even there it's more along the lines of Stranger Things than Supernatural Academy. There are plenty of adult characters but, more importantly, the story doesn't really differentiate all that much between them; everyone's caught up in the same nightmare and age doesn't signify.

Indeed, one of the central characters, Bode Locke, is barely a teenager at all. I think he's thirteen but he looks younger. Played very well by Connor Jessup, like all the central cast he's very convincing, especially considering what he's tasked with playing in Season Three.

It's a well-acted show for the most part, although a few of the supporting characters seem a bit unconvincing. It does have a very large dramatis personae, with Wikipedia listing almost thirty "Main" and "Recurring" characters. Not all of them get the space to grow or the opportunity to make much of an impact.

Tonally, Locke & Key is a horror show. This took me by surprise, although it wouldn't have if I'd read the credits in advance. I knew it was based on a comic-book but I didn't know that comic was written by Joe Hill, aka Stephen King's son and a noted horror author in his own right. 

The show works off a very odd and largely incoherent premise involving other dimensions, demonic possession and extremely ill-defined magical powers. To call  the set-up quirky would be doing a disservice to quirks. The whole thing seems to have been precariously built around the pun in the title, a foundation most ill-prepared to support the weight of three seasons and twenty-eight episodes.

Strangely, all of that works very much in its favor. The highest of high concept frameworks allows the plot to proceed without any impediment of explanation. Characters and powers appear and disappear as the plot requires and everyone reacts to even the most impossible revelations with admirable sang-froid, which is just as well. I'm pretty sure if as many people in real life discovered that magic was real as happens here, it would be the top global news story and the small New England seaside town where the show is set would be either locked down or filled with crazies, rubberneckers and journalists within hours.

If you park your disbelief at the door, however, Locke & Key is a highly entertaining thrill ride alongside a bunch of mostly likeable characters, involving a good deal of unusual imagery and a take on magic you probably won't have seen before. It was much better than I was expecting and although I appreciated the tidy and formal ending, I'd rather have had another season.


Daria is an old show. A quintessentially millennial show. A classic show. Another animated show. It's long been a show I thought of with both fondness and respect but until this year I hadn't actually seen much of it.

It was originally made for and shown on MTV, back when MTV did stuff like this. In the UK I believe it aired on Channel 4. I only caught a few episodes back then but it made an impression. The main reason I remember it so fondly, however, is that - as I've mentioned a few times - I played through the whole of Baldur's Gate using a voice-pack that replaced everything my character said with a sample taken from the show.

For that reason, I tended to think of Daria as a series of one-liners, which isn't wholly unfair but which undersells its power and reach. It begins as a dust-dry sardonic comedy filled with snark, sarcasm and wit, as befits a project borne out of the meta-irony of Mike Judge's oft-misunderstood Beavis and Butthead, where the character of Daria first appeared, but over the course of five seasons and sixty-five episodes it develops into something much more nuanced and bittersweet.

The five season arc, if it can be described that way, shows some characters sticking with the same one-note tropes from beginning to end while others show novelistic character growth. Daria, her best friend, Jane Lane and Daria's younger sister, Quinn, all develop adolescent self-knowledge in a most convincing way, while others - Stacy and Sandi of the Fashion Club or Jodie Landon, class president and reluctant African-American role model, for example - offer less overt but still poignant glimpses into their inner lives.

The writing is always sharp and the show is very funny at times but as the seasons pass, the humor becomes bleaker, the situations more awkward. High school may not be the best time of your life but who's to say college or adulthood will be any better? There are moments when the whole thing risks veering off an existential cliff, particularly in some of the scenes between Daria, Jane and Tom, the boy they both - unfortunately - share feelings for, but somehow the writers and cast always just about manage to pull things back from the brink of despair.

It's not quite Bojack Horseman - The High School Years but it pushes some of the same buttons, albeit not as hard and not for as long. There was supposed to be a spin-off series in development a couple of years back, called Daria and Jodie but it's been re-titled: now it's just called Jodie. Also, it's not a series any more, it's a movie.

Written out of her own story. It's no more than Daria would expect.

Camp Camp

And finally, Camp Camp. I don't have all that much to say about this one, other than I enjoyed it, I'm glad I found it but I have no idea why I started watching it. I think I saw it was short and I had a quarter of an hour to fill. Once I was in, though, I was, as they say, hooked.

It was a hard show to watch, not because of anything about the subject matter but because it originally aired on the web channel Rooster Teeth and doesn't follow a typical TV pattern. Amazon have tried to package it in a more traditional format for Prime but haven't made a very good job of doing it. I watched every episode there in the order they were listed, only to discover later it was neither all of them nor in the correct sequence.

I tracked the rest down on YouTube and I've now seen the lot, albeit not necessarily in the order they were intended to be viewed. It doesn't matter all that much because, while there is a storyline of a sort, there's no strong, central narrative. On the other hand, it doesn't not matter at all because most of the main characters do exhibit a kind of growth, eventually and incrementally, and it is possible, over time, to become quite attached to them, which would be a lot harder if you saw the episodes out of order.

That's something I certainly wouldn't have expected at the start. Camp Camp crashes in as a brash, loud, chaotic comedy with one-note characterization and an aggressive sense of humor. Like most sitcoms that stick around a while, though, the characters slowly establish a presence that outweighs the situation in which they find themselves and in doing so turn into real people.

Even if they're cartoons. Screw animation - Camp Camp is definitely a cartoon. It's like a Viz strip come to life, if Viz was an American comic. The Viz comparison comes to mind not least because there's a lot of swearing, although weirdly there's also a lot of euphemism, too. 

After a while I figured out that someone must be counting the actual cuss words so as to stay below some arbitrary certification quota. It means in any given episode, Gwen might say "Fuck" once and "Freakin'" five times. Which, okay, is a thing someone might do, only not quite the way it's done here.

It doesn't matter because Camp Camp is in no way a realistic show. There are ghosts in it for a start. And a platypus. What it is is funny. And smart. Go watch it. If you can find it. It's already not on Prime any more.

And that's more than enough for today. Anything else I was going to include will just have to go unrecorded. I'll be back with another of these just as soon as I've watched something new. It might be on DVD next time, though. Unlikely as it might seem, I seem to be running out of new things to watch on my streaming services and I'm freaked if I'm going to subscribe to any more!


  1. I've mentioned this before, but I had a very different reaction to Locke & Key. I never really bought into it, and it at least SEEMED to me like even it's own mythos/lore veered back and forth. But I confess that might have been me not paying enough attention. I still feel that Bode was the actual villain.

    But what really confused me was the Echos vs.... the non-Echos. Like in round 1 the Echo was the big bad and the non-Echoes were minions but then it turned around and the Echoes ended up being henchmen for the non-Echoes.

    Some shows, for whatever reason, I just can't let go and just watch. I constantly complained about how that many people turning up dead in a tiny town like that (same place the show Haven was shot, by the way! I kept expecting to see Emily Rose walking down the street) would've caused a greater ruckus. I mean what about poor old popcorn guy? Sure he was insensitive and as politically incorrect as you could possibly get but for sure SOMEONE would've noticed he was missing!

    1. I think most fantasy series with contemporary settings have gaping logic holes that stretch and tear into chasms the longer the show goes on but even taking that into account, Locke & Key is stunningly illogical and unrealistic within the paramaters of realism of a fantasy TV show. Just about nothing in it makes any sense whatsoever. I could make a list and all of the things you mention would be on it plus a couple of dozen more.

      For example, how did the British character, Scot Cavendish, come to be studying at a high school in a small town in New England? Where does he live and who is he living with? As far as I can remember it's never explained and rarely mentioned. There's one short scene where he says something about comig to America for some kind of life experience but how that came about or how it's sustained is a mystery.

      I can explain the Echo/Non-Echo thing, though. It's nothing to do with whether they're Echoes or not. It's who they're echoes of.

      In Season One, Ellie creates the Echo of her boyfriend, Lucas, who was killed while possessed by a demon. The echo she creates is an echo of that version of Lucas, so its efectively an echo of a demon (Lucas is stil in there somwhere and is eventually brought back as himself, but that's a side issue.)

      In Season Three, Eden (My favorite character, btw.) creates an Echo of Gideon, the redcoat from the Revolutionary War, who also died while possessed by a demon. Again, he returns as a demonically possessed Echo, but crucially he is a vastly more powerful and important Demon in the demonic hierarchy than the demon who possessed Lucas, who we mostly know as either Dodge or Gabe. Dodge does explain at one point that the Gideon Demon is "like a god" in their universe. She's very afraid of him and for good reason.

      All the other Echoes are echoes of humans who died with no demons possessing them, so they are bottom of the Echo pecking order and get to be ordered about by any Demon who happens to be passing. At least, that's how I figured it to be. Of course, none of that makes any more logical sense than the rest of it but I think it does at least have a degree of internal consistency.

      I'm curious as to why you think Bode would be the actual villain, though. I mean, he's irresponsible, reckless and selfish, but he's barely more than a child. Other than when he's possessed by Dodge, I don't recall him doing anything genuinely bad, let alone evil.

    2. Bode freed Dodge! And generally kept doing things that seemed to enable the bad guys. You call it irresponsible but I think he had an invisible mustache he was twirling all the time. Also he stole an ice cream cone... remember? He used the door key to get to the ice cream parlor, then said he'd be 'right back' with the money for it but never went back! Villain!! :) But mostly I'm just kidding because I generally dislike pre-teen kids in shows like this.

      I must be mis-remembering; I didn't think Gideon was an Echo. That was my confusion; I thought he came through the omega door. Again, I probably wasn't paying enough attention.

      But now, riddle me this. Gabe was one of the Savinis before the Lockes moved back to town, right? That was the implication. And yet Dodge was trapped in the well house. So how does that work?

    3. Okay, I can explain the Gideon/Echo thing right away but Gabe puzzled me too. I had to go check IMDB for his first appearance and rewatch the relevant section to work out exactly what happened.

      At the start of Season 3, Eden, the only known demonically possessed survivor from Season 2, still has the Well Key and also the Anywhere Key. How convenient! She uses it to call up the Echo of Gideon, which is not quite as out of left field as it seems because she has made several comments at various points about what a badass he sounds. I think the plan is for him to act as her enforcer in her plot for world domination, which lasts about 30 seconds before he picks her up and throws her down the well.

      If Eden had been an Echo, of course, she would have been fine (Although equally of course she wouldn't have been able to enter the Well House in the first place) but she's a demonically-possessed human so she just dies. Before Gideon kills her, though, Eden, again conveniently, uses the Anywhere Key to open a door out of the Well House, which is still open after she vanishes down the well. Gideon takes both keys and leaves through the door to wherever.

      As for Gabe, he is not an original member of the Savinis. Their membership, when they appear in Episode One, is Scot, Doug and the extremely underwritten and underused Zadie. Gabe doesn't appear until Episode 2, when he turns up as the lobster monster, revealing his identity when he removes the head. Scot, in a single throwaway line, explains that Gabe is a transfer student they pressed into service as the monster by offers of friendship.

      It's a couple of seconds, easy to miss. I remember being puzzled about who Gabe was in a later episode, when he suddenly starts attaching himself to Kinsey. And that's a thing about the whole show - anything the plot needs to happen, happens. It is - mostly -explained but the explanations are glossed over so quickly they barely register, which is probably because very few of them would stand up to any kind of interrogation. I mean, again, as with Scot, if Gabe is a transfer student, why does no-one ever ask or even mention anything about how he got there, why he transferred, where's he living and who are his guardians? Or is it so normal in New England for 16 and 17 year old high school students to drop in and out of education and live and move around like independent adults that no-one notices or cares? Actually, all of the "kids" act like adults all of the time and Bode, the kid, acts like a mid-late teen. And all the adults just seem to accept it. As, I guess, did I! I mean, the whole thing doesn't work, otherwise.

      It is nonsense but I found it entertaining nonsense. In the end I wanted to go along with it, so I made the necessary accommodations with reality. Looking back, I'm surprised they bothered to cover as many plot holes as they did.

  2. I would watch the hell out of that live-action Daria movie. Thanks for linking that.


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