Veeps, Saul, Lynch, Jail, & Federer FTW | What We’re Watching

I better post this column quick, before a reader jumps in to ruin the perfect unanimity of “What We’re Watching” this week! Of course our gang reads—matter of fact, LJ Executive Editor Meredith Schwartz just confided that she was reading a book that made her so angry she didn’t want to sully the “What We’re Reading” column with a takedown—but this time the whole gang is watching and discussing what they’re watching on the telly (or tablet). I’m inspired by Irving’s write-up to take a chance on HBO’s Veep, by  Mahnaz’s enthusiasm for Orange Is the New Black to go on a tangerine (make that pumpkin) binge; Kiera’s appreciation of the art of David Lynch to travel back to Twin Peaks; and amused by Amanda’s Federer fealty to the point that I might even watch a match! (drops mic.) And I fangirl all over the amazing acting in AMC’s Better Call Saul, it’s a win-win/watch-watch situation.

Irving Cumberbatch, Art Director, LJ
As MSNBC cable news host Chris Matthews once said of Barack Obama’s 2004 Democratic National Convention speech, “I get a thrill up my leg!” That thrill for me comes every time I hear the familiar strains of the theme song for the HBO series Veep. This show marries two of my greatest loves, politics and comedy. This wink-wink satire on the travails of U.S. President Selina Meyer and her merry band of sycophants has been bumbling along for the past six seasons. The title role of Selina is played to devastating effect by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Her character originally started out as the beleaguered vice president, often forgotten and always misunderstood by her boss, whether it’s being left out of cabinet meetings, shunted off to the obligatory ribbon cutting, or given a dead-end Clean Jobs Bill to shepherd. She endured these indignities and more during her three years as vice president. After the sitting president steps down to care for his ailing wife, Selina ascends to the presidency. Once in office, she travels to Iran; advocates a controversial Families First Bill that goes down in flames in Congress; then there was a congressional hearing to determine whether or not Selina hired lobbyists to get the bill to fail. All of this and more occurred during the span of her short one-year term while also running for reelection.

The current Season 6 picks up months after Selina has lost her bid, and now the former president has to deal with the aftermath. She’s forced to downsize from the White House residence to living in a Manhattan brownstone, which she shares with her much put-upon lesbian daughter and her daughter’s taciturn lover, and setting up an office in nearby Washington Heights. This season Selina has had to suffer through the indignities of having her wax figure placed next to Gerald Ford. Attempts to quash a Washington Post exposé on her tumultuous presidency backfires on her. She is essentially forced to beg, borrow, and steal for donations to help fund her presidential library. The discovery that her deceased father cheated on her mother for years with his secretary leads Selina to realize that she has married her father in the form of her serial cheating ex-husband. Oh, and she’s going to be a grandmother.

Louis-Dreyfus has an uncanny ability to convey her character’s lack of self-awareness. The more insecure her character becomes, the sharper and more dismissive her retorts. Selina’s withering glances are their own soliloquy. A simple hand gesture can help to punctuate what could otherwise be considered an innocuous throwaway line. The supporting cast is top-notch. A special shout-out to her bagman Gary (Kent Davison), who is at her side whether it’s to provide support, hand lotion, or a tampon. Veep is at times subversive, vulgar, and just downright cruel. Did I mention this is my favorite comedy on television right now?  Between the backroom deals, boldface lobbying, and naked desperation for power, this satire is not so far removed from what appears to be the current state of affairs in our nation’s capital.

Mahnaz Dar, Assistant Managing Editor, LJS
The Fourth of July may be about red, white, and blue, but for me, it was more orange and black. I spent the long weekend bingeing on everyone’s favorite prison drama, Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black. The latest Season 5 takes place over the course of about three days, with the prisoners at Litchfield engaged in a riot. Season 4 took a dark turn. The prison came under private management, and a white guard killed a black inmate during a protest. Now erupting in anger, the prisoners are fighting back, taking several guards hostage. The show takes on serious themes such as the Black Lives Matter movement and how the privatization of these institutions ultimately dehumanizes those incarcerated. There are plenty of bizarre and whimsical moments, too, and at times the show borders on grotesque as it blends the hilarious and the more serious, such as when the inmates force the hostage guards to take part in an America’s Got Talent–esque competition (yes, complete with a strip show!).

Liz French, Senior Editor, LJ Reviews
I was never a hard-core Breaking Bad fan (ducks under her desk). I’ve seen some episodes and know the general trajectory, and I definitely perked up when Giancarlo Esposito, aka Gustavo Fring, came on the scene. I was also amused by Bob Odenkirk’s character, the slimy lawyer Saul Goodman. He was sort of comically bad while the title character, Walter White, played by Bryan Cranston, was just bad bad. So I was interested when Better Call Saul, the “prequel” to Breaking Bad, was announced, and even more intrigued when Esposito joined the cast. I discussed the show with my colleague Mahnaz and pretty soon I was hooked. I have yet to watch this season’s finale, but the show is soooo good! The writing is excellent, and Odenkirk is devastating in it as he turns from freewheeling Jimmy McGill into Saul. Michael McKean, who plays his agoraphobic (and more) brother Chuck, also a lawyer, deserves at least six Emmy Awards. Ditto Mark Margolis, who reprises (pre-reprises?) his role as Hector Salamanca, a nasty drug dealer, and Jonathan Banks, who as Mike Ehrmantraut, should get  special citation for conveying so much yet saying so little. He’s like Mount Rushmore. There are females in the show, though not so many (nor as complex) as in Breaking. Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler, “Jimmy’s” love interest of sorts, is all coiled efficiency; Tina Parker as Francesca Liddy is a goofy receptionist. It’s mostly a boy’s club though, and I worry about any of the characters, male or female, who did not appear in Breaking Bad. What happened to Nacho, Kim, Chuck? I fear they came to a Bad end.

Kiera Parrott, Reviews Director, LJS
My husband and I have been digging the new season of Twin Peaks—a show over 25 years in the making! It’s pure David Lynch—puzzling, beautiful, frustrating, and addictive. It’s best appreciated if you’ve already seen the original first two seasons and watched the feature film, Fire Walk with Me. But if you’re expecting a conventional continuation of the narrative, you’re likely to be disappointed—or just plain confused. My advice: don’t go into it looking for structure. Experience it the way you would a work of modern art. Let the sights, sounds, and textures of performance wash over you. It’s more felt than understood explicitly. So far my favorite episode is “Part 8: Gotta Light?” It’s a stunning piece of television. Just when you think nothing new could possibly be done in this medium, Lynch comes back and blows your mind again.

Amanda Mastrull, Assistant Editor, LJ Reviews
I spent last Saturday watching the Wimbledon tennis tournament. That probably doesn’t surprise anyone who knows me, given how much I love tennis, but this year the event feels particularly special. Roger Federer, my favorite player, started this season with a dream run after six months off resting an injury during the latter half of 2016. So far he’s won all of the main hard court tournaments (the Australian Open and the Sunshine Double of Indian Wells and Miami) and one of two grass court tournaments in the run-up to Wimbledon. Given that resurgence and his history, he has a real chance at his eighth Wimbledon title this year. I watched a few matches on Saturday, July 8, (there’s no play on the middle Sunday), but it was Federer’s match I really wanted to see. He played Mischa Zverev, whom he’s never lost to, and won in straight sets. Zverev is an old-school serve and volley player, which made for some interesting net play, but I was very happy to see Federer come out on top. He looks sharp and is on form (his backhand though), and I’m hopeful he’ll go all the way. His future in the draw isn’t the easiest: following a straight sets win over Grigor Dimitrov on July 10, today he faces Milos Raonic in the quarterfinals. He lost to Raonic in the semifinals last year. If he wins, he’ll face Novak Djokovic (who beat him in the 2014 and 2015 finals) or Tomas Berdych in the semifinals. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on those matches. As for TV viewing this weekend, here’s hoping that I’ll be taking in Federer’s victory in the men’s final on Sunday.

 

 

 

 

 

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Liz French About Liz French

Library Journal Senior Editor Liz French edits nonfiction and women's fiction reviews at LJ and also compiles the "What We're Reading" and "Classic Returns" columns for LJ online. She's inordinately interested in what you're reading as well. Email: efrench@mediasourceinc.com, Twitter: @lizefrench

Comments

  1. Kell Brigan says:

    Re. Twin Peaks. Recently I spent $35 sending every book, magazine or bit of TP swag I had in my possession to the David Lynch Foundation, along with a little note about “misogyny.” As far as I can figure, everything I was intrigued by in the original series was there only as a sleaze delivery device. The sequel is pure masturbatory, murderous misogyny. This observation is usually ignored and countered with claims that I can’t handle abstraction or surrealism, to which I respond, “BS.” Women are gleefully murdered in the new TP, all the while running around nude being happy prostitutes. The only remotely sane woman is a paper doll moronic FBI agent who exists solely for the male agents to objectify. We’ve been lied to, folks. David Lynch hates women. David Lynch LOATHES women. (And, Mark Frost is selling his soul solely for cash.)

  2. Andrew says:

    Better Call Saul is a brilliant watch. Not to ruin the unanimity, but please give Silicon Valley a shot is you haven’t already

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