Tag Archives: Linda Cardellini

An all-television post! “Dead to Me” a funny, harrowing, thrilling Netflix show about death. So far the “This is Us” season has been very solid, with the usual anchor character the only flaw. And Gary Gulman’s HBO special is super funny

Dead To Me

It’s been a while since I’ve done a TV post, but darn it we’re finally catching up on a bunch of shows and things we’d been meaning to get to, so I want to tell you all about it.

First, I’d heard lots of good things about “Dead to Me,” the Netflix show starring Christina Applegate (who’ll always be Kelly Bundy to me) and Linda Cardellini (who I’ve loved since “Freaks and Geeks”).

The premise sounds promising: Applegate is Jen, a real estate broker with two kids who is grieving over the recent death of her husband Ted, killed in a hit and run accident late at night, with the killer unknown to all.

Cardellini is Judy, a spacey, happy-seeming person who recently broke off an engagment and who has lots of deep, dark secrets lurking, including a huge one that’s revealed at the end of the first episode, setting the stage for all the action to come.

Judy befriends Jen at a grief support group, and they quickly become  super-close, as major secrets between them don’t seem to get in the way.

The storylines are fantastic, there are at least two or three laugh-out-loud moments each episode (including a GREAT scene with kids singing in a church choir all dressed in track suits), and Cardellini is so, so good as the mostly crazy and psychotic yet kind of endearing Judy.

The show doesn’t make a mockery of death, but it doesn’t take the subject too seriously. As Jen desperately searches for who killed her husband, she learns painful things about who he really was, and Judy is there every step of the way, helping and also, plotting.

Truly, both actresses elevate this show from merely good to great. And while the final scene of the season left me feeling a little cheated, I still can’t wait for Season 2.

“Dead to Me” is as good as you’ve heard. Ten episodes on Netflix, easily binge-able. Thank me later.

**OK so as I’ve written a few times over the years, I mostly love “This is Us,” the NBC show which requires you to have Kleenex near you at all times. It’s written with so much heart, most of the characters are very well-drawn, and more often than not I finish watching an episode satisfied.

So far this season (no spoilers from Tuesday night’s episode, I haven’t seen it yet) it’s been very good. Randall and Beth’s storylines continue to be the best part of the show (and Phylicia Rashad cameos are fantastic), I’m buying the troubles the family is having with the Philadelphia move, and I’m intrigued by Deja’s new relationship with teenage father Malik (although dude, who just blurts out “I have a daughter” to your new love interest’s dad upon first meeting? C’mon, man.)

I’m invested in the Uncle Nicki recovery storyline, and Kevin Pearson continues to be less annoying and needy and narcissistic than he was for the first few seasons; I no longer groan when he comes on the screen. I like the flashbacks to the Pearson kids’ childhoods, especially Randall’s first panic attack and how Kevin helped him. That was very sweet.

But there’s an anchor character who I can’t get past, who just gets worse and worse with every season.

It’s Kate. You know it’s Kate, I know it’s Kate. She’s a terrible character. Forget that every single Kate storyline, until she had baby Jack was about her weight problem. I’ve almost gotten used to the writers pigeonholing her that way.

It’s just that she is SO narcissistic. Everything is about her. A few weeks ago when Toby admitted he’s been working out like crazy and has gotten himself into amazing shape, somehow it was all “poor me” time for Kate, since she had put on weight since having a baby and how awful it is that her husband was able to get into shape.

Kate is an insufferable character, and I really wish the “This is Us” writers would put us out our misery and keep her involvement in the show to a minimum.

But like I said, otherwise “This is Us” has been terrific this season. (Oh yeah, the new neighbor of Toby and Kate’s, the dude who had a stroke and is kind of surly? That’s actually Lassiter, the bumbling cop, from “Psych,” and the actor had a stroke in real life. Completely unrecognizable to me, but my wife spotted him immediately.)

**Finally today, the comedian Gary Gulman has been popping up in my life a lot lately: He was on an episode of “This American Life,” he was featured on another podcast I love “Only a Game,” and one of my favorite sportswriters, Joe Posnanski, wrote a column about him too.

What I’d heard of Gulman I thought was funny, so I decided to check out his new HBO special, called “The Great Depresh.”

And it’s really great. Gulman has lived with depression since he was a kid, and a few years ago it spiraled out of his control, leading him to a black hole of sadness he didn’t think he’d recover from.  Gulman talks about it in raw honesty, even saying in a segment with his mom that Gulman making a kids book in school called “The Lonely Tree” at age 7 should’ve been a sign.

But trust me, “The Great Depresh” is really funny. Gulman does hilarious bits on his life in high school basketball and why it was the perfect sport for him (I embedded a clip of it above), why Millenials are so much better than us Gen X’ers because they’re better hydrated, and a very funny segment on milk-carton kids from the 1980s.

Gulman is a comedian who’s been around a long time but is only becoming moderately famous in the last few years, as he’s recovered from his crippling illness (There’s even a scene in “The Great Depresh” with him and another comic dispelling the myth that great comedy only comes from personal misery).

The special is really, really good. It’s on HBO all month and on Demand.

“Green Book” a hugely entertaining, cracklingly good movie. The hockey save of the year (from Russia). And an obscene law in Texas gets a school employed fired, for not pledging loyalty to Israel

It’s good to have a wife, for many, many reasons. One of those reasons is that when she sees a promo for a new movie coming out in a few months that she positively KNOWS I’ll want to see, and probably like, she files that away and tells me about it at the appropriate time.

Which was a few weeks ago, when we planned to have a rare date night away from our beloved boys. She said we should definitely go see “Green Book,” the based-on-a-true-story tale of a white nightclub bouncer from New York City named Tony Vallelonga driving an African-American musician/piano player named Don Shirley through the deep South on a concert tour, and all the adventures they get into along the way.

“Green Book” stars Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali, and it’s truly a fabulous film. The acting is superb (even the sadly-underused Linda Cardellini, as Tony’s wife, is great), the script is cracklingly good and funny (my favorite line has to be, when spotting a KFC near Louisville, Tony cracks “Come on! We can eat Kentucky Fried Chicken in Kentucky! How many times are you gonna get that chance!”), and the plot points, while certainly easy to see coming, still make you care about what happens.

In one sense “Green Book” is a typical mismatched buddy road-trip movie; Tony is all Bronx accented, tough-guy, never use a napkin and never stop smoking 1960s Italian stereotype, while Dr. Shirley is so refined and debonair he’s puzzled by so much of what Tony says and does.

But the movie goes deeper in exploring the racial problems of the time, and showing us the human sides (finally!) of Dr. Shirley, as he slowly lets his guard down and communicates with Tony. Mortensen is great but I think he has the easier role; Shirley is complicated with skeletons in his past we don’t know about, and Ali, as he did in “Moonlight” is superb in acting without saying much.

By the end, when we see a major stumbling block at the duo’s last concert, you really feel like the two men have bonded over something real.

“Green Book” isn’t a perfect movie, but it’s filled with joy and humor, and don’t we need as much of that as we can get this holiday season?

Highly, highly recommend this movie. As usual, my wife was right: It’s great.

Next up today, been too long since I’ve had some hockey on this blog, and I saw a goalie save over the weekend that I could not believe.

It didn’t come from the NHL but the KHL in Russia, where New York Islanders prospect Ilya Sorokin made the save of the year, or maybe of the decade, in a game.
Watch it above, and then watch it again and try to figure out how the heck he did this. The best angle is at the :20 mark; how the hell did he reach back with his arm that far?

Amazing, amazing save.

 

**Finally today, I am steaming mad about this story. I’ve ranted before in this space about the increasing intolerance American politicians/legislators are showing toward anyone not pledging 100 percent fealty toward Israel, and denouncing and even criminalizing dissent to our “favorite ally.”

But some of this behavior has gone so, so far out of bounds it boggles my mind that it continues. Just the mere idea of supporting any cause or group that opposes Israel is so disgusting to these legislators, they need to make all kinds of unconstitutional laws against it.

Let me introduce to you the Pflugerville, Tex. school district, and one of their district elementary school speech pathologists, Mrs. Bahia Amawi.

Amawi, is a U.S. citizen who received a master’s degree in speech pathology in 1999 and, since then, has specialized in evaluations for young children with language difficulties. Amawi was born in Austria and has lived in the U.S. for the last 30 years, fluently speaks three languages (English, German, and Arabic), and has four U.S.-born American children of her own.

So, clearly, she’s an American. But Amawi, despite having no blemishes to her work record, is no longer employed by the district.

According to this story in The Intercept and other media reports, Amawi has been told that she can no longer work with the public school district, after she refused to sign an oath vowing that she “does not” and “will not” engage in a boycott of Israel or “otherwise tak[e] any action that is intended to inflict economic harm” on that foreign nation. A lawsuit on her behalf was filed early Monday morning in a federal court in the Western District of Texas, alleging a violation of her First Amendment right of free speech.

That’s right, in the standard contract Amawi has signed every year since 2009, there’s now a clause in the school contract requiring Amawi to refrain from buying any goods or services, or doing any business with (on her own personal time, of course) any organization or company that advocates boycotting Israel.

According to The Intercept, “that language would bar Amawi not only from refraining from buying goods from companies located within Israel, but also from any Israeli companies operating in the occupied West Bank (“an Israeli-controlled territory”). The oath given to Amawi would also likely prohibit her even from advocating such a boycott given that such speech could be seen as “intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or limit commercial relations with Israel.”

“They decide to protect another country’s economy versus protecting our constitutional rights,” Amawi said.

This is OBSCENE. Amawi can choose to boycott companies who oppose America, but not Israel.

These kinds of laws, I’m horrified to report, now exist in more than 20 U.S. states. Absolutely, positively offensive that the rush to embrace Israel by American politicians has led to a complete stifling of Americans’ individual rights and freedoms to support or encourage any kind of protest movement they want.

Seriously, read this story and explain to me how this law can be justified. I hope Amawi wins her lawsuit.

 

Thirty-five, with a “Freaks and Geeks” present. And a hilarious book of kids’ letters from camp

Turned 35 on Tuesday. Didn’t sweat this birthday as much as some others. Sure, I felt sad a little that I’m getting older, and that I’m no longer in the coveted advertisers’ 18-34 demographic, and I’m now just as close to 40 as I am to 30 (and as you read this, I’m one day closer!).

My day was made by many things, including so many warm wishes from friends and family (I swear, every birthday turns into a “This is Your Life” it seems; people from different stops along the journey check in, and it’s wonderful), a terrific dinner with my wife, and some great presents.

My favorite gift? A wonderful one from my wife. She knows what a huge fan I was of the late, great television show “Freaks and Geeks.” And so I got the “Freaks and Geeks” ultimate DVD collection, with all 18 episodes on tape, plus director’s commentaries and all kinds of cool other stuff.

If you’ve never seen “Freaks and Geeks,” I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s about high school kids in 1980, and it’s by far the most realistic show about high school I’ve ever seen. So many of the kids on F&G have become stars, like Linda Cardellini (she was on “ER”), Jason Segel (in movies and “How I Met Your Mother”), Seth Rogen (“Knocked Up” and a bunch of other movies”) and James Franco (“Spiderman” and many others.)

The writing is so dead-on perfect, the acting is great, and the realism of the show drips through in every scene.

Highly recommend checking it out on Netflix or whereever you can find it.

**Sometimes you see a new book come out and the idea is so perfect, you’re like “Why hasn’t anyone thought of that before?”

Heard about Diane Falanga’s new book on “CBS Sunday Morning” this week. It’s called “P.S. I Hate it Here: Kids’ Letters from Camp.” She’s gathered hundreds of real letters from people across the country, all telling about the horrible and wonderful adventures at camp.

There are great ones in here, with nuggets like “the rash on my penis (spelled “P-Nus” in the book) has gone away, so I can run now.,” and “Kenny has a new rifle. He let me hold it.”

My favorite letter had this P.S.:”Nick, the riflery teacher from last year, got fired for inhaling crack and camp. He also went to jail.”

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