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.