TV & Movies



Variety: ‘Community’ Movie Is Finally Happening, at Peacock, Fulfilling the Show’s Prophecy

Pop, pop the champagne: Maybe it’s not the darkest timeline after all, as “six seasons and a movie” is finally becoming reality. Peacock has ordered a movie based on the Dan Harmon comedy “Community,” bringing back original stars Joel McHale, Danny Pudi, Alison Brie, Gillian Jacobs, Jim Rash and Ken Jeong to check in on what the gang from Greendale has been up to since the show ended in 2015.

TV & Movies

Westworld, Season 2 – WTF just happened, now?

Westworld. Ug. The first season was so good. Then the second season just stuffed its head up its own ass and inhaled as hard as it could. Look, it’s this simple: If, at the end of your story, no one can tell you WTF just happened, then your story wasn’t that good.

The first season of Westworld did this interesting, clever, non-linear storytelling thing that blew everyone away. I guess they decided to double down on that for the second season, but instead of being clever, it was mostly just incomprehensible. It was next to impossible to tell what was happening to who, when, and one episode of that might be kind of fun, but a whole season? By the end of last night’s episode I had no effing clue at all when anything had happened or, more importantly, why I should give a damn.

What was the theme of Westworld‘s season two? “Humans suck”? “Free will doesn’t exist”? “Less full frontal nudity this time”? I don’t know.

What was the plot? Delos was harvesting information on players to turn them into immortal hosts. I assume this was a service they were intending to sell? But they never said that. They didn’t have any players’ permission to do that, no one outside of a handful of employees seemed to know they were trying to do that, and as far as we can tell, Delos had been trying to do it for 30+ years and were failing the whole time. That seems like an awful lot of money and effort to put into something that flat wasn’t working.

They clearly weren’t trying to do it for corporate espionage or to take over the world with Delos-controlled host copies of people, because you wouldn’t need perfect copies of people with free will and consciousness to do that.

The end credits scene seems to indicate that Delos was eventually successful at inventing immortal human hosts, maybe, but years into the future? So they’ve spent billions, trillions of dollars and, what, 50 years? 100 years? more? to accomplish this goal. That has got to be the worst ROI I’ve ever heard of. In that time, with that money and tech, they could have easily solved whatever other problems were plaguing society that was driving Delos to try to invent immortality.

I cannot conceive of what state the world and/or society could possibly be in where you’d have both the impetus to undertake such a stupid investment while still having the means to do so.

And since the state of the outside world has been deliberately hidden from us for two full seasons, I have to imagine the writers can’t figure it out, either.

Meanwhile, what was Dolores’ plan? It wasn’t to save the hosts, because she was clearly happy to kill them all right off. It wasn’t to get her hands on that treasure trove of human data to use for some nefarious means, because she glanced at a bit of it and immediately started deleting it all.

As far as I can tell, Dolores intended to escape into the “real world” and go on being a crappy, manipulative, homicidal maniac, but not even, like, a successful homicidal maniac, because she ignored or crapped on every opportunity to build an army or do things on a grand scale. I guess an immortal, mostly unkillable entity, with the ability and resources to quietly build a loyal, immortal, mostly unkillable army, decided the best way to destroy all humans was 5th column-style guerilla warfare with a tiny handful of helpers. Yeah, ’cause that’s historically been an excellent tactic.

We have a show full of painfully dumb and/or incompetent hosts/people, doing incomprehensible things for incomprehensible reasons, and none of it makes sense. Worst of all, since everyone on the show is either stupid, awful, or cannon fodder, we have no reason to invest in what any of these characters are doing. The worldbuilding and backstory we’d need to decide if anything that was happening was logical or worthy has been deliberately hidden from us, and the people behind the show are pulling Lost‘s old schtick of “We know exactly what we’re doing, it’s going to be super cool, just trust us,” without giving us any reason to do so.

Yeah. No. That’s crap storytelling.

Let me tell you what’s really happening here. This show is custom built to generate online theorizing and social media buzz, which in turn buys the show more viewers, more merchandising buyers, more ad views, more HBO subscribers, and etc. Westworld is the TV version of a clickbait Buzzfeed listicle. And with so much other good TV out there to watch and enjoy, I’m not gonna waste anymore of my time on it.

TV & Movies

Checking back in on Westworld S2. (Spoilers.)

We’re two more episodes into Season 2 of Westworld, and my concerns have not been assuaged, y’all.


  • We don’t have a clear idea of anyone’s motivations for anything, with the possible exception of Maeve.
  • We don’t have a clear idea of what the hell Delos, Inc. and Westworld are actually up to.
  • Thanks to the first two problems, we barely have a plot. So far, we just have a series of events.


One way you get your audience invested in your story is by having characters they can engage with. Part of making your characters engaging is giving them motivations the audience can understand and relate to.

A big problem with this season is that half the characters are either hiding their motivations from the audience, or are showing a motivation, but we can’t trust it because we can’t establish who’s acting of their own free will. Which means that the audience is left going, “What? Why? When?”

And that’s interesting… for awhile. It doesn’t take very long for that to get tedious, particularly in this post-Lost world. We’ve been hurt before, TV People. We can’t trust like that again.

Delos, Inc and the Theme Parks

What’s the point of the theme parks and what on Earth is Delos meant to be up to?

We know for a fact that the theme parks were operating at a loss. They said as much in Season 1. So, people are paying some ridiculous amount of money, like $30,000 a day or something equally insane, to go play at Westworld or one of the other parks, and the parks aren’t making money.

You have to imagine that part of the problem is that there can’t be all that many players. We have nearly no idea what the world outside the park is like, but I have a hard time believing that many people can afford $30,000/day to go play cowboy (or ninja or tiger hunter or whatever) for several days.

That means you have a severely limited player base for a series of parks that are running in a wildly inefficient and unoptimized way (hosts running through storylines when no PCs are around to participate or watch is just one example), using what has to be gawdawful costly technology that gets broken constantly.

That’s a completely ridiculous way to run either a theme park or a video game, so clearly the park/game isn’t the point.

Delos appears to be harvesting DNA and blackmail material, but they’re also trying to get immortality up and running, but the only reason you’d do either of those things in a theme park setting is if the park was either making you money to fund the research or the park was serving some other, more useful purpose.

It’s not difficult to get someone’s DNA. People leave that stuff everywhere.

Blackmail might be a little trickier to come up with, but honestly, the only useful blackmail you’re getting from the park is maybe the sexcapades. The murdering isn’t going to get you anywhere because, as your PR people will tell the evening news, “It’s just a game.”

You might possibly be in more trouble for sexbotting around if you’re married, or having gay sex if everyone thinks you’re straight (or vice versa, I guess). The raping probably won’t sit well with anyone, but then again, no one’s losing their job over being a dick to the prostitutes in Grand Theft Auto, so I don’t even know if that’ll get you in trouble.

I don’t know. People do horrible stuff all the time and get to keep their jobs and lives. Look at some of these #MeToo asshats who are already contemplating comebacks.

Possibly the park somehow serves as the ultimate personality test, to help create convincing Host doubles of people, so Delos can replace people in the real world. That seems to be the prevailing theory. But that theory only tracks if you accept the idea that playing in the park actually does reveal the “real you” on some fundamental level, an idea I’d argue with strenuously.

Then you’ve got the immortality angle, something the park has been secretly working on for, what, almost forty years now, and they still can’t get it working? What’s the ROI on that, compared to the cost of the park and all the other BS hassle you’re dealing with, that isn’t paying off yet?

The argument the show is advancing is that Delos had to keep the parks running so they could keep Ford working on making the Hosts better, I guess? But that doesn’t make sense, either. Ford could just have an “accident,” and then Delos owns everything, and they can do whatever the hell they want. Part of Season 1’s plot revolved around the board of directors trying to force Ford out anyway, so clearly they didn’t need him to actually advance the Hosts anymore.

Whether immortality is the point, or blackmail and clone doubles, or both, Delos, Inc., is going after it in the least possible efficient and cost effective way. The return on investment in either or both of these programs is completely abysmal, and there’s no way any functioning business would continue on at it.

Delos has to be getting something out of this deal. Medical technology from Host parts. Advancements in AI gadgets thanks to Host programming innovations. Something. But the writers haven’t told us about anything like that, so, functionally, that doesn’t exist in the story.

Which means that none of what Delos is doing makes any damn sense at all, a thing that makes watching this story pretty frustrating.

And that’s not even getting into whatever Arnold and Ford thought they were accomplishing, which appears to be exactly diddly and squat, as far as I can tell.

Plot, or the Lack Thereof

The characters have opaque motivations. The corporations appear to have motivations, but they don’t make sense. The story is non-linear, meaning we can’t tell (yet) what order things are happening in – or if they’re even actually happening at all. We lack basic world information against which to judge the story. So what we have is a possibly-related series of events and no idea how to stitch them together in our minds in a cohesive way.

And again, that can be engaging… for awhile. But eventually you have to start paying the mysteries off. Eventually the story has to start making sense. It can’t just be arbitrary mystery after arbitrary mystery.

Otherwise you end up with, well, Lost. And we’ve played that game before. It sucked.

TV & Movies

So about that ‘Lucifer’ finale. Spoilers, y’all.

Obviously we’re going to talk about the Lucifer finale, because it was awesome, and Fox just canceled the show, and it ended on a cliffhanger, and that is some serious BS.

Lucifer is based on an objectively silly premise. “He’s the actual Devil. She’s an LA cop. They fight crime!” When I first heard about it, I rolled my eyes so hard I pulled a muscle. Particularly after finding out it was supposed to be based on the Neil Gaiman comics, which I read about a hundred years ago and barely remember, but definitely didn’t involve an LA cop or any zany crime-solving shenanigans.

But then the pilot leaked and it was a pretty boring night so we checked it out, and you guys. This show. It’s hilarious.

Not only is it hilarious, but it’s also more than its silly premise suggests. Our protagonists are deeply flawed characters who are very human, for all their celestial origins. Lucifer is a frequently-skeevy narcissist with literally all of the daddy issues. Amenadiel is a sanctimonious, prideful prick. Mazikeen is a straight-up sociopath.

And while the show occasionally showed us a Lucifer who was only a charming rogue, or an Amenadiel with a hint of compassion, or a softer side to Mazikeen, in the first season, these hints were more the exception to the rule. The show made a point of showing us that these characters were assholes, but that there might be something worthwhile in them, and then put them all on a redemptive arc.

The redemption story is a pretty tried-and-true trope in writing. I can’t be bothered to go Google it at the moment, but I’m pretty sure the redemption story is one of the most basic and oldest narrative arcs in storytelling. Your character is a flawed asshole, damned, possibly even actually evil. Trials are faced. The character grows and becomes something more decent. We’ve been telling this story for thousands of years.

We’ve been telling it for so long that it’s basically trotted out in shorthand these days. We don’t often get to see the work and effort and trauma a character has to face to achieve redemption, particularly not in a prime time, network TV show. And we don’t often get a character so flawed as Lucifer (and Amenadiel and Mazikeen) to work with.

So it was pretty wild to sit down to “LA cop + actual Devil = zany crime-solving shenanigans” on prime time network TV and get… Lucifer.

One of the stand-out characters on the show is Dr. Linda, a therapist we meet in season one. Lucifer starts seeing her to work on his entire magazine stand of issues. This is often played for laughs, and you’d be forgiven for missing what’s going on here: actual therapy. Lucifer grows through these sessions. Dr. Linda’s advice is often cast as a punchline, but by the end of any given episode or story arc, she’s proven right, and Lucifer learns. The character grows.

By the end of season three Dr. Linda is gently shepherding all three celestials through their various flaws and traumas, and with her help, they’re becoming better people.

Plot forces these characters through other trials, and they face them, together. They triumph. They grow. They, step by painful, difficult step, redeem themselves.

This show tackles issues of family, betrayal, love, trauma, and shows its characters a path through and forward, and it does that while winking and laughing and telling you this is all a punchline. It’s just a joke. It’s only meant to be funny. That’s why season three’s whole story arc was about the weighty implications of free will and self-determination vs. divine will and predestined fate. Because it’s a joke. Right?

One of the main themes this season is the idea that you can’t escape “God’s will,” that your fate is set in stone, that you are what you are and there’s no other way you can be. This is set against the idea that these characters are all already becoming more and better than they were. The easy way out of this story arc would be to tie a tidy bow on the idea that “God” was putting the characters through all this hardship to make them better, but the show stepped away from that.

Lucifer said, no. It’s on you. It’s not carved in stone and you can be better, but it’s up to you to do that. You judge yourself. You make of yourself what you want. And the characters actually got to learn that, and make better people of themselves. Or start to, anyway.

Sure, the show wasn’t perfect. Season three got a bit messy plot- and theme-wise, and Chloe Decker has been grossly under-served as a character. She’s barely a character at all – Decker is arguably the least interesting and least developed character on the show and that absolutely needs to change if the show finds a new network.

Sometimes Lucifer spends too much time on the joke and not enough on the serious stuff, which is a detriment, because the serious stuff is where this show shines. I mean, that finale. Those last few minutes with the whole Lucifer vs. Cain fight scene? Holy crap. That was amazing.

And they really need to fix that makeup for the “Devil face” thing. Ug. I mean, it works in blurred flashes and low light tolerably, but on the rare occasion when you actually get to see it dead on in good light, it’s just corny as hell. Like, “Oh, the Devil is Freddy Krueger. Great. That hasn’t been scary since I was 10.” That has to get fixed because Tom Ellis is too good at doing scary to be saddled with that crap make-up job.

Another thing about Lucifer is the actors – they are way, way better than “LA cop + actual Devil = zany crime-solving shenanigans.” Tom Ellis, Kevin Alejandro, and Rachel Harris are standouts in a standout cast.

Lucifer deserves more time. It should, bare minimum, get a fourth season to put a bow on things, but I think there’s enough here for two-three more seasons, to wrap things up for each character.

I think Netflix and Lucifer could really do some favors for each other here. Netflix could get a good series show, and it would be pretty easy to turn Lucifer into 13-episode binge-able arcs.

(I think 13-episode binge-able arcs would actually dramatically improve the show’s handful of storytelling flaws. Not everything needs to be a full 20+ episode season, TV people.)

Plus, the show wrapped up on a huge – although patently obvious – cliffhanger: Chloe finding out all of Lucifer’s BS was actually true. (We totally knew that was going to be the cliffhanger heading in.) I’m pretty annoyed that we don’t get to see how that plays out.

TV & Movies

‘Westworld,’ Season Two, so far…

I gotta say, two episodes in and so far I’m not all that impressed with season two of Westworld. Maybe it’s doing a slow burn, but the first two episodes have been a bit dull.

I think the major problem is Dolores’ revenge-based storyline. I get why she’s feeling revenge-y, it’s just not a particularly bright storyline and it’s already tedious and purple a mere two episodes in.

Here’s my problem with Dolores. So, Arnold wanted her to gain consciousness, which is fine, except apparently consciousness hinges on suffering, which strikes me as silly. I doubt suffering had anything to do with consciousness in human beings, and I’m not understanding why it needed to have anything to do with consciousness in AIs like the hosts. Sure, sure, story purposes, etc, it’s just that they didn’t really explain it very well, so it seems arbitrary.

It seems particularly arbitrary when you compare Dolores to any other host in the park. There doesn’t seem to be a real difference between a conscious host and a host who hasn’t achieved consciousness yet. Dolores doesn’t act any different than a host on a story loop. She’s not doing anything a host on a story loop couldn’t do. The only difference I’m seeing is that Dolores is now aware that she’s a robot in a game, whereas most other hosts are not.

But hosts being aware that they’re hosts isn’t new either. The welcome center hosts, and hosts who were sent out in the real world as demos to raise funding, all seemed to know they were hosts, and that didn’t make any difference to them.

As of episode two, Teddy’s now aware that he was a host in some sort of simulation. Is he conscious now, too? Was he before? We don’t know. It doesn’t seem to matter. Which is fine if the story is aiming for some kind of “the ambiguity of humanity under certain circumstances” thing, but the writers aren’t banging that drum very hard, if that’s the case. They did a bit in season one, but we haven’t heard much about it yet in season two.

Also, shouldn’t someone sit Dolores down and have a chat with her about circumstances? She’s mad because the hosts have been made to suffer, which, sure. But it’s worth considering that the hosts were made to suffer because no one thought they were real.

Of course the hosts were treated like disposable NPCs. That’s all anyone playing the game thought they were. I’m pretty sure if you told every player on their way in, “By the way, the hosts might be sentient and they might be keeping score,” that would drastically change how most people played the game. Not everyone because there’s always a few dicks around, but the majority of players would alter their gameplay methods because most people aren’t sociopaths.

I think it’s disingenuous to assume that humans are just naturally psychotic rapist-murderers and the only thing keeping them in check is, I don’t know, society, or whatever. What keeps most people in check is empathy. We understand that other entities think and feel as we do, or similarly to us, and act accordingly. We don’t extend that courtesy to the NPCs in Grand Theft Auto because they’re just stupid pixels acting on rudimentary AI. The humans on Westworld aren’t extending that courtesy to hosts because they’re just meat-based robots acting on a somewhat less rudimentary AI.

And what about all the players who weren’t being complete monsters as they played? Families were encouraged to come to Westworld. There are family-friendly zones in the park. Little Timmy and Susy certainly weren’t raping and pillaging their way through the park. What about White Hat players who were following storylines where they hunted down bad guys or saved the girl, etc? They certainly thought they were being good guys. Do they not get any extra considerations?

I feel like someone should have sat Dolores down and explained some of this junk to her before turning her loose on unsuspecting players. I feel like, considering they didn’t, the motivations of both Arnold and Ford need to be called seriously into question. Because what we’re looking at right now are two people-hating weirdos who, out of some sulky animosity over not getting funding the way they wanted, up and built a maybe-conscious murderbot.

That’s not a particularly interesting or new story, especially since both Ford and Arnold are dead now, and hardly anyone knows the hosts might be conscious, so no one can really act to rectify the situation.

Right now the owners of Westworld are storming the park with armed assault teams because they need to regain control of a park that has gone wildly off the rails due to a programming glitch. These aren’t evil people destroying sentient entities for profits, these are soldiers trying to rescue players trapped in a glitched-out game.

No matter how awful the corporate board of Delos might actually be, if they knew they were dealing with sentient entities, their tactics for resolving the problem would change, if only out of PR considerations. Like, if that story got out, that Delos had stormed in and butchered tons of sentient entities, when such a thing never existed before, holy cow. It would be a complete shitshow of bad PR. Even if you assume that Delos is completely evil, it would still fall out that way at some point, just because some other evil SOB on the board of directors leaked the story to give themselves an advantage in something.

The upshot here being that no part of Dolores’ storyline or the way it’s playing out is particularly interesting or realistic, and the show itself isn’t giving us any hints as to how we’re supposed to handle that. Are we supposed to assume that Dolores isn’t actually conscious and she’s acting out some kind of story Ford wrote for some purpose? Is this just kind of lazy writing? We don’t know, and that gets tedious fast.

You know what would be really interesting? If Dolores wasn’t conscious, but other hosts are, or are becoming so, and they’re taken in by Dolores and the storyline she’s following. That would be a cool story. But if they’re going that route, I kind of wish the Westworld writers would telegraph it a bit, lay the groundwork. Otherwise it’s going to look like they’re scrambling to fix bad writing at the end of the season.