Saturday, October 01, 2016

September was a rough month. These 5 TV shows got me through it.

Oh how irony always comes back to bite us. Here is something I tweeted on the morning of September 1:

Naturally, September 2016 turned out to be a pretty astoundingly shitty month for me. The short version is that I watched my job completely burn to ashes in the span of about three weeks, which is remarkable considering I spent ten months there thinking it was a pretty great place to work - until suddenly it wasn't. It was uncomfortable to work there knowing I was pretty close to escaping, and then unbearably uncomfortable after I gave my notice.

To be honest, if I hadn't had the distraction of fall TV premiere week and all of the rest of September's new TV offerings, I'm not exactly sure what I would have done with myself. Curled into the fetal position and cried maybe? Anyway, here are five TV shows that got me through a pretty brutal 30 day stretch.

Halt and Catch Fire

Hoo boy. There were times when this excellent third season of "Halt and Catch Fire" hit way too close to home. In fact the terrific seventh episode, "The Threshold" - probably the best episode "Halt" has ever done - in which Cameron finally lost hold of Mutiny when all the other shareholders outvote her in deciding to take the company public, aired right in the middle of me giving my two weeks notice at work and the company informing me I "no longer needed to finish out my time there".

Though it was a significantly more devastating version of what I went through, I empathized strongly with Cameron's vision for what Mutiny could be at its most powerful and effective form socially, as she was surrounded by people who were desperately greedy and wanted only to go for an instant cash grab without considering its long term impact on the network's beating heart of users. At the time I'm writing this, we don't yet know what the fallout of Cameron leaving Mutiny (at least temporarily) will be, or what taking Mutiny public will actually mean for Donna, Gordon, Bos, et al. Nor do I exactly know what my real next, non-temporary step is. But as long as I don't get married on impulse or find my way woven back into the web of Joe MacMillan, I'll know I'm making better decisions than Cameron.

One Mississippi

On the off chance that Tig Notaro, who I love, ever happened to see this, I would hope she doesn't take offense to what I'm about to say next but: Notaro's fantastic new Amazon series "One Mississippi," and the real life of Notaro herself, are a pretty good example of what an actual shitty couple of months look like. An autobiographical story about a woman returning home for her mother's funeral and then staying there to reconnect to her roots, the series managed to portray a protagonist who should have no reason to want to believe in the goodness of life and the world, and yet knows that the only hope she ever has for finding it again is returning to a place she deliberately left because she didn't fit in. Digging into her past isn't all fun and games, with Tig and her brother realizing their late mother had a secret other family for their entire adolescence, and Tig finally forcing her stepfather Bill to confront the reality that her uncle molested her as a child. But dammit if Tig doesn't end the first season on the best terms she's ever been on with the ever-icy Bill, with a renewed discovery of who she is and what she wants out of life, and realizing how we can at least pretend we know how to get through the days on this weird rock. For me, "One Mississippi" was both much needed dry laughs and desperately needed perspective.

Saved by the Bell

What the hell is "Saved by the Bell" doing on the list, you might ask? Well if you've been following me on Twitter, you know that I've been rewatching the entire "Saved by the Bell" Cinematic Universe, from Miss Bliss through to The College Years. Rewatching "Saved by the Bell" wasn't really an enjoyable experience, but if offered an important moment of clarity for me: at the times when I struggle to figure out what the hell adulthood is all about and I wish I could just go back to the carefree days of childhood, "Saved by the Bell" reentered my life as a harsh, glaring reminder that childhood - and all the powerlessness that comes with it - actually kinda sucks, and that nostalgia is the dumbest emotion.


It's been a pretty good fall for new sitcoms thus far ("American Housewife" has not premiered yet, nor have some of ABC's other dire-looking midseason offerings) but "Speechless" is hands down the funniest of all of them. You would have a hard time telling that the pilot or second episode of this show was not actually a season 4 "Speechless" episode because the cast has gelled so instantaneously you'd think they had been doing this for years. "Speechless" is the rare example of a comedy where the main characters a) are funny, b) know they are funny, and c) the combination of A and B do not make the characters seem obnoxious. Sure there are things the DiMeo family does that do make them a little obnoxious and unlikeable, but you're willing to give them see leeway because life has obviously dealt them a few cards short of blackjack. But they respond to their setbacks with a sense of humour at its most charmingly sarcastic, in a way that reminds me of bantering with my own funny family. When life gave the DiMeos lemons, "Speechless" skipped right over the lemonade and found a way to make margaritas instead.


And finally, we have the show that reminded me "hey, if you think this job sucks, remember when you used to work at Target Canada, one of the most poorly run corporations in the history of capitalism?" And yet through what is probably its most serious storylines yet - the entire Cloud 9 staff walking out because store manager Glenn was fired for having the basic human decency to give new mom Cheyenne maternity leave, against company policy - "Superstore" has retained all of its mundane joy and zest for life that made it so charming and likeable in the first season, even though its setting was ostensibly a pretty grim final resting place for a lot of the people who work there. Anyway, it's nice to see storylines on TV about unionizing and little guys standing up for what's right.