The Man (Television Thoughts: A Teacher S01 E04, Hulu)

Episode Four of ‘A Teacher’ brings us deeper into Claire and Eric’s relationship. Or affair. And all I can say is, you are in danger, boy. In the beginning of the episode, we see Claire trying to establish ground rules. But we see that she is the first one to break it, to extend its parameters, just to suit her whims. Why? Is she a bored housewife who just wants some ‘spice’ in their life, and that could be understandable because she seems to be quite unhappy with her marriage. In her dalliance with Eric, we can see that she is in control, and perhaps that is what she is looking for. In the beginning, the audience is a little bit complicit with the affair – dare I say that I was rooting for it to happen because I thought it would make the characters happier. I don’t know if I feel that way after this episode. I don’t see an upside for Eric – he is madly in love with Claire, and you and I know that this will end in disastrous tears. He can exclaim to himself ‘I am the mf man,’ but I think we can all see he is on the losing end here    
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The Sky is Falling (Television Thoughts: Pilot, Big Sky, ABC)

I don’t know what compelled me to check out David E Kelley’s new show ‘Big Sky.’ I mean, it’s not like I was a fan of his previous shows like L.A. Law or Ally McBeal (I kinda hated that one, actually) Then I realized, yeah probably the allure of Ryan Philippe got me interested. He was promoting the show incessantly and before I knew it, there was the show, on Hulu, calling for me. I just answered the clamor.

What a bore. First of all, Philippe is wasted, with a bland character who probably had ten lines in the first episode, and it even looks like he is killed at the end. I am sure I am not the only one they lost there. The rest of the show is about kidnapping, human trafficking, about spoiled brats who got themselves in troubler because of bad decisions they made. I am out.

You’re An Education (Series Thoughts: A Teacher, Hulu, E01-03)

‘A Teacher’ is an uncomfortable watch – that’s my reaction as I finish watching the third season. It stars Kate Mara and Nick Robinson as a high school teacher and student, respectively. She has just started at an Austin area high school, he is the star soccer player. She is a bored housewife trying to have a baby, he has a sensitive demeanor unlike his other classmates. I can see where the attraction from both sides coem from. And of couirse, by the end of the third episode, the inevitable happens – they have sex.

yes, it’s a jarring concept, but the show makes you a little complicit with the affair. The two make such an attractive couple, and they are both great actors that I have to admit I was kind of rooting for the two of them to get together. And then I realize, yikes, she is his teacher, and we are reminded of the warning title in the beginning of the show that scenes of grooming can be uncomfortable to watch. The narrative is just starting, and yes, I am already hooked into finding out what happens next – the consequences, the heartbreak, the legal trouble they both get themselves into.

Call Me After The Kiss (Series Thoughts: We Are Who We Are, Right Here Right Now VIII, HBO)

It all ends with a kiss.

And we are instantly confused, or should we be? The last episode of the show gives us only Frasier and Cait, and that makes total sense because they are the show – we have been following their journey of who they are, and we get more questions than answers here, but in my opinion, we also get resolutions.

We see Cait’s family packing – Chicago first and then Okinawa? – and then we have Frasier and Cait going to Bologna to see Blood Orange. They take the train and end up somewhere in the middle of their journey, only to meet kids on their way to the concert. One of the kids is Luca, who we see connecting with Frasier with their mutual love of fashion. You can see in Cait’s eyes how she felt – am I gonna lose him to Luca? This gets exacerbated when they ‘lose’ each other once they got to the concert venue. But then Cait gets her own moment with the bartender. Somehow she ends up backstage meeting Blood Orange, and she gets ‘confronted’  when the bartender asks her ‘You are a trans guy, right?’ This scares her, and she runs away, running back to the train station to go home. Meanwhile, Frasier’s own moment comes when he kisses Luca, and he in turn has his own realization after that when Luca asks him to ‘one of the most beautiful places on earth,’ the arc at San Luca. He runs to the train station looking for Cait. He finds her inside the train and the two of them run back to San Luca. And then they kiss.

So does the show end with both of them ending up as a couple? There is ambiguity in that but I disagree. These are kids who have realizations on the same night, and they both ‘give up;’ what could have been to go back to each other. I think their kiss symbolizes the feeling of affection they have for each other – at that age, it was the only way they could express that overwhelming feeling for each other. We can look at this objectively because maybe we have already gone through our own journeys, but for these two, they are just feeling these feelings for the first time in their lives. There is confusion, but there’s also that euphoria that comes with all that.

I think this is still a bittersweet ending for me. When they get back to the base, they will probably part and who knows when they will see each other again. I started writing this because of parallels to ‘Call Me By Your Name’ and this excursion in Bologna reminds me of Elio and Oliver’s last trip to Bergamo before the train scene. There’s joy in the time they are together, but they both know they will leave each other the next morning.  

And there we are. I have read articles that during the lockdown, Luca Guadigno has made a bible for these characters for a second season. That will be great, but maybe not necessary. The great thing about this show is how it told these character’s story in snapshots. The last kiss is a perfect ending, and maybe it should be left that way.  

At The Store (Television Thoughts: Supermarket Sweep, ABC)

The original syndicated version of ‘Supermarket Sweep’ is very near to my heart. When my mom started getting real sick, she and I would watch the show together every day. It was such a bonding moment for both of us because we used to do grocery shopping together. I remember every week we would go through all the supermarket circulars and scour what we be on sale that week – ‘oh chuck steak is on sale this week at Shoprite,’ and ‘Tide Detergent is the special at Pathmark this week!’ We would cut all the coupons and when we would go to the stores we knew exactly which aisles had which products, and often times would know the products better than some of the workers at the supermarket.  We always used to say that we would have been perfect contestants on the show. But my mom passed in 1991, and to this day, I still can’t really watch an episode of the old show without thinking of her. Even my love of supermarkets waned – after she passed, grocery shopping felt like a chore to me, and I have such impatience for it.

Still, I just had to check out ABC’s new reboot of the show, starring Leslie Jones. So it was a treat to see her say in the beginning of the show that she had such affinity for the show back in the day. I bet I wasn’t the only one who could relate to her.And the show has lost none of its zip, and I would even say that it is better under Jones’ hand. You cannot fake the kind of enthusiasm she shows, and you are instantly in the game with her. She is easily the best thing going for  the show. And surprise, I found myself still doing well with the questions part – I guess all those years with my mom at the grocery store still comes in handy. As a nostalgic trip, this is still bittersweet for me, and I found myself enjoying it immensely  

Call Me In The Mourning (Series Thoughts: Right Here Right Now VII, We Are Who We Are S01 E07, HBO)

CALL ME IN THE MOURNING

Here we are in the penultimate episode of this limited series and I am already getting separation anxiety. I really have emotionally connected to the show and the characters and would be sad to see them go. This week, we get a tragedy, and to be honest, I wasn’t totally surprised. I kind of had an idea this would happen, and of course saw the previous of a soldier dying so in my head I put two and two together. And I knew Richard would not take it well, and would blame Sarah. But we also see how everyone else reacted to the tragedy – how the guilt manifested to Jenny in  totally different way, how it solidified Danny’s ‘faith,’ how it brought together the young kids (minus Danny) to visit the house where they last partied.

And of course, how it affected Fraser. We could see him walking around the base aimlessly, ending up at the movie theater (That scene where he looks for Jonathan is reminiscent of Elio looking for Oliver as Sufjan Stevens ‘Futile Devices’ play) For me, it totally makes sense that he ends up at the movie theater because that’s where he saw Jonathan – he is larking back to a happy memory because he is so sad. And when he ends up at Jonathan’s apartment with Martha, all the emotions explode – his shock seeing Marta there, the curiousness when he goes in, the passion, the heady promise of something intimate when he gets in. I know this is a weird scene, but it is also alluring – we never really know where the scene would eventually end up. And when we see him running from it, we ask: is it because he realized that what he feels for Jonathan will be unrequited? Is it because he realizes he is too young for what was about to happen (he is fourteen years old, after all) or did he get scared about going all the way, whatever that way is. It makes total sense he reaches for Jim Beam when he finally got home – the confusion of it all will make anyone want to escape. What an exhilarating scene, I was speechless and out of breath. It was so real, and so true, and we have all been there, whether we care to admit or not.

And by the end of the episode, we are at a crossroad – will Sarah use her friend from Yale to have Richard and Jenny (and Caitlin) stationed somewhere else. It seems like Sarah knew all along about Jenny’s affair. How would this affect Fraser and Caitlin’s friendship?

Call Me When You’re A Rockstar (Series Thoughts: We Are Who We Are, S01 E 06, Right Here Right Now VI)

I know part of writing about ‘We Are Who We Are’ is looking for scenes that liken it to ‘Call Me By Your Name.’ But here we are on Episode 6, where the part of the episode feels like the movie itself. Fraser and Jonathan, finally. We see him picking up a book to give him, and he even writes a dedication with a wink-wink private joke between them. And then Sarah takes note of it and encourages Jonathan to spend more time with Fraser. So when Jonathan commands Fraser to go out, we don’t know. I mean, is Jonathan sincere, or just trying to get on the good side of his boss? Fraser, understandably is besotted. I am so familiar with what he is going through – playing Jonathan’s voice mail to him, for example. I mean, haven’t we done that ourselves. He even slips and tells Jonathan something about the outing as their ‘first date,’ and Jonathan just smiles. And of course, we also see Fraser’s crestfallen face when he realizes Jonathan also invites a young woman to dinner. Sure, I’ve been there as well. I can sense the euphoria when Fraser gets home, but also in the pit of my stomach, the dread. This will not end well, this infatuation. Most teen infatuations don’t.

I will add a layer to my comparisons, though, and say that I wonder if it was a conscious thing to have Fraser and Jonathan’s outing as a homage to ‘Brokeback Mountain.’ I mean, there’s so much subtext here.

Elsewhere, we see Caitlin trying to bond with her dad, as she slowly realizes who she really is. It’s really rewarding for the story line to see that journey, as we have been with her from the beginning as well.

Call Me By My Nigerian Name (Series Thoughts: We Are Who We Are, S01 E05, Right Here Right Now V)

In my opinion, a great episode, probably my favorite so far this season in terms of having the narratives move forward. The stories are told in a languid manner, and so subtle that you sometimes don’t even realize it is telling you a story, or moving the narrative forward. 

At the show’s core is the friendship between Fraser and Caitlin. It is ever deepening, as they bond over moments big and small – Caitlin holding Fraser’s penis as he pees, or when Caitlin finally buzzes her hair. They are both giddy at the prospect, and Fraser is hesitant at first, but they realize its importance and symbolism after it is done. As such, their giddiness is about it is infectious. I as a viewer was first saying ,’No!’ then laughign with them afterwards. When Caitlin finally makes a move meeting with harper, he is there to take her. When Caitlin gets ‘called out’ by Giulia, we see her reaching for him, but he is involved with his own storyline of looking for his own identity. It’s dizzyingly fascinating. 

I don’t know about you, though, but I gasped when Maggie and Jenny kissed. I truly did not see it coming. When you analyze the timeline, this episode is months after when they first meet, so clearly the affair has been going on. I don’t know where the connection formed from – loneliness? inattentiveness of their partners? I wonder where this will go. 

With regards to the obligatory compare with CMBYN weekly reference, at first I was at a loss looking for one. Sure, I could use the bicycle scenes, how it is used to propel the stories in both, but looking at the episode deeper I found a bigger connection – between Elio and Fraser. I found their flirtations with both Oliver and Jonathan similar – look at Fraser’s puppy dog eyes when he sees Jonathan, doesn’t it remind you of earlier Elio/Oliver scenes?

All these things make me love the series more. 

Call Me After The Wedding (Series Thoughts, We Are Who We Are S01 E04, HBO)

To be honest, I keep going back and forth on Episode Four, ‘Right Here Right Now IV.’ At first, I am thinking it’s a throw-away episode – not much happens, and the main episode does not really propel the main narrative forward. But then as I think about it more, there are very subtle things that you kind of miss, but very essential.

First of all, the relationship between Fraser and Cait. It’s gotten very strong, and they understand each other. In the middle of the whole celebration of the episode with the wedding and the house party, you can sense an underlying sense of melancholy between the two of them. Yes, they probably feel like outcasts in the midst of this crowd. But when they both look at each other, you know that they find strength in each other, and with each other. When Fraser tells her that he kissed another girl, she replies by saying ‘Don’t ever do that again,’ even though you know their relationship is not really like that.

I just wish I knew these characters more. I hardly know Craig and we are supposed to feel – what? – about him going to war and leaving a young bride behind. And didn’t the last episode end with the guys almost beating up Fraser? And the first scene is all of them sharing a bag of Ruffles potato chips. These little inconsistencies kind of bother me.

And for my requisite compare to CMBYN thought – honestly, I thought it was tough, but I found one – the puking scene. Elio pukes when he goes out his last night with Oliver, and both Fraser and Sam puke here as well. And there’s a goodbye the day after in both instances.

Sing Out, Louise! (Series Thoughts: Sing On, Netflix)

There is this karaoke contraption called the ‘Magic Mike’ that is very popular in Asia. It’s a microphone you connect to your television set, and there you can take your pick of songs wherein the contraption plays the instrumental tracks for you to sing to. At the end of each song, the machine calculates a score based on your performance. This score is based on how well you sang it, by that it measures if you were on time hitting the notes, and how much you were correct in spacing said notes. It’s kind of deceptive, you just need to follow the bouncing ball, so to speak, and you can ace the songs.

I bet you that’s where the creators got the premise for ‘Sing On,’ a singing competition series from Netflix. Apparently, they already have Spanish and German versions of the show, and now have launched the US version with Titus Burgess as host. He is a fun host, slightly campy without getting too threatening for the hetero crowd.

And the show is a fun one, short and breezy at thirty minutes, more or less, per episode. They have gotten some interesting contestants who are for the most part game for the concept. It’s harmless, and perfect for times when you can’t decide what to watch, and want something where you don’t have to think much.