TV

Can We Talk ‘About American Horror Story: Roanoke’?

Last night was the first episode of American Horror Story: Roanoke that I actually enjoyed. Admittedly, this isn’t saying much, because it’s only the third episode and I still complained that it ended way too early. But I was genuinely scared, grossed out and very curious about this season by the episode’s end. And yet I’m still certain that I still have absolutely no idea where Roanoke is going.

This AHS season has been different for obvious reasons- “nobody knew” the theme beforehand (those TMZ photos kind of ruined everything), this time around it’s a show within a show, and Evan Peters has yet to show up. Ryan Murphy has hinted that in episode six “the show has a huge turn,” which sort of ruins the surprise, but I’ll let it slide. I’m desperate for any information at this point.

Another thing that seems different this year- is everyone on the same page of not completely loving it? People are still watching, but they’re complaining about the short episodes, increasingly boring testimonials and well, lack of Evan Peters. We’re about a third of the way through now, and usually the predictions would be full steam ahead at this point; everyone had a guess about who Murder House‘s Rubber Man was, and the 10 Commandments Killer from Hotel was figured out pretty quickly. To contrast, I’m not buying any of the theories I’ve seen for Roanoke so far. It’s a stretch to say that they’re filming on location at the Murder House, and if the twist is that they’re going to show us some behind-the-scenes production moments then I’m a little unimpressed. Give me something to think about other than those pig boys!

When I say ‘can we talk about Roanoke,’ I mean seriously- can we talk about it? I’m starved for answers, ideas and discussions. Usually, there are too many theories that end up ruining a big twist (sorry Mr. Robot), but part of the fun of watching AHS is being completely wrong about where it’s going next. Three weeks until the big twist in episode six, and I’m hoping to be surprised, or else I’ll have to go back to guessing how Jon and Arya are going to reunite on Game of Thrones.

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Fall TV Week: Wednesday Horror Story

I don’t know if anyone has realized this, but there’s like, a lot of shows on TV right now. There’s not as much as Tuesday, but the 10 PM Wednesday block is stacked. Though, I now know I should have used my time turner to watch Designated Survivor live instead of My Roanoke Nightmare. American Horror Story: I Couldn’t Live-Tweet A Good Show.

Speechless, Wednesdays at 8:30 on ABC
It’s fun to see how many new “kooky white family” Pilots air each season. Imagine the pitch:

We need groundbreaking television! Guys… I think I have it. Please, tell us! So there’s this family right? Great. What Else. And they’re like, a super kooky white family. Brilliant. Keep Going. But here’s the twist. They’re getting a divorce/are superheroes/it’s the 80’s/they’re serial killers, etc. etc. etc.

You get it. Speechless sort of fits into the “kooky white family” trope, so it really wasn’t high on my list, but with all the early praise I had to tune in. And I’m glad I did, because unlike most kooky white family shows, it actually is groundbreaking. The DiMeo’s are tough but sweet, and I was genuinely stunned when I found out that Micah Fowler actually has cerebral palsy rather than just playing it. No offense Artie Abrams, but that’s a big deal. Speechless begs the age-old question: if you’re a family sitcom that’s not on Wednesdays on ABC, do you even try?

black-ish, Wednesdays at 9:30 on ABC
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The Johnson’s are the best, even despite the fact that this premiere was one long commercial for Disney World, planned for no reason other than the fact that the show airs on ABC (sidenote: nothing will beat the meta Full House Disney World special, where DJ imagines Steve as Aladdin, which is funny because he was the character’s voice actor). Regardless of the plot setup this episode had me laughing out loud, from Bow walking around with Mickey hands and feet eating a turkey leg to Charlie describing how he’s lived in the office for two months because his house is haunted. The family lesson about having fun together is cheesy as hell, but I still got a little choked up watching them enjoy the fireworks over Cinderella’s castle. C’mon, I’m not a robot.

American Horror Story: Roanoke, Wednesdays at 10 on FX
Womp. That’s how I feel about this season. I get that it’s a horror anthology show in it’s sixth season and you have to maintain some surprise and introduce new elements to keep the audience entertained. But repeating familiar plots has never hurt this show before (we’re all fine with having two Evan Peters ghosts roaming haunted buildings in LA), so changing the format this late in the game feels a little unnecessary. I’m assuming, and hoping, that there’s going to be a huge twist at the end that reveals My Roanoke Nightmare is Billie Dean Howard’s new TV show, or the talking heads are coverups for some horrifying conspiracy, or we find out it’s just a fever dream Matt Bomer is recounting to his therapist, Darren Criss. But for now, I don’t care about any of the characters because they all seemingly live to tell the tale. I’m not watching reruns of Discovery Channel’s A Haunting for a reason. Just give Lily Rabe more to do, and show me Evan Peters already. Also, I kind of miss the theme song.

Designated Survivor, Wednesdays at 10 on ABC
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I am EXCITED about this show. All caps excited. I was a little young to get into 24 when it was on, but there’s something in the air and I think it’s this show uniting America as one nation under President Kirkman. I typically don’t care about fictional politics unless they’re Selina Meyer’s on Veep, but I’ve been fully obsessed with the presidential hierarchy for years so I feel like they just made this show for me. There was so much going on but my early guess is that the army general wants to kill Kiefer Sutherland because his son has been illegally selling drugs to teenage terrorists and somehow Maggie Q is involved because she seemed pretty chill for someone who just witnessed her friends/family/husband (?) die. This show is going to get so juicy and I cannot wait.

Mr. Robot, Season Finale also at 10 on USA
Ugh, I love Mr. Robot. But not this episode. Rami Malek is fantastic, and he deserved that Emmy. But not for long, winding conversations with Tyrell Wellick, who I was thrilled was barely in the season because his storylines put me to sleep. Last season’s reveal of who Mr. Robot really was was shocking, and Elliott & Mr. Robot’s dynamic this season has been interesting, but it’s not the same. There were so many  questions that needed answering, so many things at risk, so many and now I’m just fully confused. Is Stage Two getting Elliott to fall in love with Tyrell? I didn’t even catch the end-credits scene because I was glad the episode was over, and while I’m intrigued for what the Trenton/Mobley/Leon story means, I also still have no idea what any of it means. And I’m going to forget everything by next year.

Thank God It’s Thursday.

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‘It’s Always Sunny’ On Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

I just finished Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and though that too much longer than it should have, I’m definitely not alone in feeling that this season was a huge improvement from last year- which is saying a lot, considering it’s what gave us Peeno Noir and the world’s catchiest theme song. I didn’t think UKS could get much better, but I should know never to underestimate Tina Fey (and so should Taylor Swift).

There was something really fresh and 30 Rock-ish about the writing this season, especially in Kimmy’s little “what the huh?” and weird gags like Titus putting a mannequin arm up his sleeve so he could hold Mikey’s hand while eating a sandwich. But another thing I found myself realizing as I watched this season was how Kimmy and her friends reminded me of another wacky group living in semi-squalor who are kind of just not good people: the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia gang. Obviously, the UKS group is not as villainous- they’ve never gotten addicted to crack just to get welfare or tried to pick up girls at an abortion rally. But both shows have put humorous twists on serious topics- racism, sexism, gentrification. Even observing character to character, Kimmy is basically a non-violent Charlie Kelly, right? She’s not quite a sociopath but couldn’t the self-absorbed Jacqueline easily go toe to toe with Dennis Reynolds? And are you not surprised Frank didn’t think of making tenants live in a tug-boat basement before Lillian did?

Let’s look at the facts. This season, Jacqueline gives her son an ADHD drug so they don’t have to spend time together, and then trashes a store with him to give him back his joy. Later, she ruins someone’s Lupus Awareness Awareness benefit by having all the married men meet their mistresses at her benefit, just so she can reclaim her top-dog status. Kimmy and Dong have sex in the back of a cop car, and he gets deported. Titus goes to the funeral of a colleague, where they’re literally dumping the body into the East River. Kimmy watches fellow mole-woman Gretchen do coke with a “junkyard Elmo.” Tina Fey shows up as an alcoholic therapist who drinks on the job. These people are kind of screwed up, and yet it’s funny as hell to watch.

Life’s similar at Paddy’s Pub, where the Philadelphia characters are somehow not in jail after all this time. They’re bad people, and it’s really entertaining because after 12 years they haven’t changed at all. I’m personally not bothered by their craziness (it’s a commentary on society, guyssss) but for some viewers they’re just too mean. You’re not rooting for them, because you hope their schemes don’t work- you don’t want them to get away with tricking the Health Inspector, because it’s disgusting, but you can’t look away either. Life is good for Charlie, Mac, Dennis and Dee, because they’re skating by and fine with it, but it isn’t for everyone else. You’re just left hoping you never run into anyone like them on the street.

On Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, life is always sunny, for everyone. Jacqueline trashes a store, but it’s to bond with her son. The benefit she ruins is ultimately so she can raise money for her Native American tribe. That funeral Titus goes to- Ice T and the crew of Law and Order: SVU are there to pay their respects, and Ice T plays the saxophone. Gretchen becomes the leader of her own cult, which ends up being a positive, and Leah Remini joins. Tina Fey’s Dr. Andrea actually does end up helping Kimmy. Even Dong’s deportation ends up being just a minor setback. I’m sure he’ll return somehow, because that’s how life works on Kimmy. Nothing that terrible ever really happens, and it works for the audience, too. We’re rooting for them the whole time.

Tina Fey and Robert Carlock have created a world where bad things happen, and bad things are done, but through Kimmy’s bright-eyed view on the world it all comes across as harmless and in good fun. It’s not one of the darkest shows on TV (though looming ahead for next season is Kimmy’s divorce from the imprisoned Reverend), and of course it draws similarities to other shows, but it gets away with achieving something positive. Talking about serious subjects, while keeping it light, and keeping you laughing is no easy task, but Kimmy pulls it off. It’s the worst, laziest pun I could come up with, but that really is unbreakable.

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