Monday, June 29, 2015

Golan the Insatiable

How long did it take for me to get my boyfriend to write for the TV blog? Only about 6 months. I think I showed remarkable restraint! Please enjoy this offering about the new FOX cartoon series, Golan the Insatiable. --Maggie Cats

Golan the Insatiable is not your typical cartoon. Sure, there are the usual trappings of a family sitcom: A cozy Midwest town. An adorable precocious preteen daughter. Her older, more… shall we say “worldly” sister. Their single mom just trying to hold everything together.

This probably sounds familiar, but the title character, Golan the Insatiable, turns the premise on its head when he crash lands from an interdimensional portal and takes up residence in the family’s suburban home. A renegade demon lord exiled into a humdrum middle-American existence, he plots with the younger daughter Dylan to wreak havoc and return to his home.

Golan started out on the web, then became part of a cartoon anthology series, and has most recently segued into its own legit 30-minute animated series airing on Sunday nights. The fantastically imaginative concept started out as a series of short journal-style entries by Joshua “Worm” Miller on the web forum “Something Awful” between 2010 and 2012.

The journal features the earliest iteration of the characters, and the plot focuses mostly on Golan himself and the differences between his life in his Dungeons & Dragons-esque nightmare-dimension called “Gkruool” versus the USA everytown of Oak Grove, Minnesota. There are interesting distinctions between this rough and offensive early version and its later, tamer TV reiterations--most notably the Barbarian character “Yor” who is also stranded in our dimension. He’s loved by the citizens of Oak Grove just as universally as Golan is despised.

Golan evolved into a 2013 short series as part of Fox’s ADHD TV programming block alongside similarly adult animated shows like High School USA and Axe Cop. Miller himself voiced several characters, including Golan, but when the network scrapped the programming block, it seemed the adventures of Golan, Dylan (his preteen acolyte), and the Beekler family would also be over. While that wasn’t the case, the question is whether it should have been.

For just when it seemed like Golan had gone the way of the dodo, FOX instead conjured it back to life as part of its Sunday night animation lineup. The new Golan has undergone some changes--the Beekler family now consists only of single Mom Carole (sorry, affable loser Dad, Richard!), and daughters Dylan and Alexis. While Carole probably still writes erotic fan fiction about Golan, the Godlord’s perviness towards teen Alexis has been expunged from the plot--mostly likely deemed too objectionable by network producers.

For a 30 year-old, I watch a heck of a lot of animation. In this country, the medium has been relegated mostly to an “age ghetto” to use terminology, or the lowest common denominator. It’s no surprise then with each reiteration, Golan the Insatiable has become less edgy, more appealing to a wider audience, longer, and dumber. The Fox network execs are probably pushing Family Guy-style frat humor since that seems to be what “the people” want...or is it just what they think we want? In any event, the latest version of Golan now features Rob Riggle, former correspondent on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, as a more bro-tastic bratty Golan. In essence, Golan has become American Dad. Just, you know, a demon.

Demons have feelings too.

The concept has undergone some positive changes too -- Dylan, originally a teenage boy in Miller’s writing, has transformed into a goth elementary-schooler (voiced in the latest version by the immensely talented Aubrey Plaza of Parks and Recreation and Grumpy Cat fame). Most characters, such as the town Mayor or Keith Knudsen, Dylan’s sister’s boyfriend, get much more characterization in this new revision. Also, with the negative continuity of the show, the horrors that Golan and Dylan inflict on the small community are reset at the beginning of each new episode (so it’s okay if Dylan or Golan bludgeon 5th grade bully McKenzie B. to death, right?).

Finally, though being the tamest version of the Godlord himself, the new Golan occasionally works entertaining feats of Gkruoolian magic with humorous results -- he breathes life into a backpack in the pilot, for example, or in the third episode creates a “shamunculous”, a monster that feeds on shame.

Nevertheless, the latest episodes of the show are mere shadows of the stronger, edgier, and more tightly-written episodes from the ADHD version and the web series that spawned it. Let this be a lesson to the fanboys and girls of America -- be careful when asking for your favorite shows to come back on the air, you might just get what you wish for. And it will be transformed into a shamunculous.

Golan the Insatiable airs Sunday evenings on Fox at 9:30 p.m. EST. You can also catch all four aired episodes on the FOX website.

Thursday, June 18, 2015


What is it about us that makes us enjoy watching horrible people do horrible things? We like to think that we are civilized, but at the end of the day are we really any different than the Romans who would gather in a coliseum to watch two guy hack each other apart? Isn't that all reality television is?

Perhaps it's a bit of an overreach to compare ladies competing with each other to win the heart of a bachelor with gladiators disemboweling each other....but only a bit.

UnREAL is a scripted drama about the behind-the-scenes action on a Bachelor-style reality show called Everlasting. The characters are all generally kind of awful, but somehow it still works. Usually when a show is full of horrible people it doesn't interest me--but in this case the characters are all believably horrible. Meaning we understand the reasons for the choices they make. And in the case of Rachel, a producer on the show responsible for getting those money moments (literally), she at least feels really bad about the manipulation, the lies, and encouraging the worst in others.

She hates the job...but she's just so good at it.

From the Lifetime website:
Set against the backdrop of the hit dating competition show "Everlasting," "UnREAL" is led by flawed heroine Rachel Goldberg, a young producer whose sole job is to manipulate her relationships with, and among, the contestants to get the vital dramatic and outrageous footage that the program’s dispassionate executive producer, Quinn King, demands. What ensues is an eye-opening look at what happens in the outrageous world of unscripted television, where being a contestant can be vicious and being a producer a whole other reality.
It's all kind of a train wreck, but in the best way possible. It's well made, and well acted, and addictive. Just like the shows it parodies, the subject matter of UnREAL is tawdry--most of the characters clearly have some kind of disorder--and you'll feel like a total voyeur after each episode. But isn't that point? You're not watching Lifetime to make yourself a better person. You're watching it for the drama. And UnREAL delivers that in spades.

"We're selling true love here, people! TRUE LOVE!"

UnREAL airs Mondays at 10 p.m. EST on Lifetime.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015


For your reading pleasure, here is a guest post from Mac about the Netflix original series, Sense8. I have heard a bit about it, but mostly I just sit around wondering how to pronounce the title. But after reading Mac's review, I don't think it's worth devoting any more brain power to this or any other question related to the show. --Maggie Cats

Sense8 is a Netflix Original directed by the Wachowskis (of The Matrix Trilogy fame). It's definitely the show for you if you like your social commentary like I like my pancakes... flat and chopped up into bite-sized pieces.

It's billed as a show about eight strangers forcibly connected mind to mind. None of this matters very much in the show. An honest billing would be, "this is a thin metaphor for the fact that life would be better if we were all in each other's heads."

The eight characters vacillate rapidly between three different states; the first is a nonchalance in the middle of what they assume to be incredibly vivid hallucinations of the lives of people around the planet. The second is panicking because they earlier experienced a hallucination. And the third is just kinda going about their business, completely ignoring the fact that they've been hallucinating on-and-off for days now.

The actual interaction between characters is incredibly minimal, and typically done more for a gag or a "hey isn't this a head trip" rather than anything which might advance what little story there is. We are flat-out told that there is some sort of shadowy organization that wants to chop up all of their brains, but that's most of what we know by now. Only one of the characters so far seems actually affected by this worldwide manhunt, even though another character should be on their radar. Seven of the eight have not the first idea what is happening to them; the last one has been told some stuff, but not very much, and how much he believes and understands is even less.

So in essence, it's eight different, pointless little stories being told all around the globe, filled with ham-fisted representations, like an entire police department that refers to one of their own number literally as a traitor for saving the life of a black kid. No joke, a black cop uses the actual word "traitor" to describe a patrol cop who found a wounded black teenager and brought him to a hospital.
 In their defense, the show IS set in Chicago.
With eight almost entirely unrelated stories to get through, very few of which have any impact on the tie-the-show-together story, no one story actually progresses very far during any particular episode. I have so far slogged through five episodes, and near as I can tell two whole days have passed on this planet. Beyond which, even inside each story, plot progresses at Dragon Ball Z pace. One young man lives in Nairobi. At one point he is walked at gunpoint from his own van to someone else's. No dialogue is spoken. No important clues are revealed in the background. Nothing happens but four men walking in a line. It takes five of his own scenes, cross-cut amongst scenes of the other seven main characters, for him to travel from van to van, so basically that's half an episode.
 His walking is over nine thousand.
I'm not myself a fan of letting shows play in the background while I do other things, but the literal only way I can recommend this show is if you simply need white noise to fill your home. I guess if you occasionally get calls from Rachel Maddow accusing you of being too liberal, you're prolly the target audience for their flagrantly masturbatory progressive propaganda, but I myself am left of center and I think they went way too far with their world of "everyone who disagrees with me is evil." 
I hesitate to say something is bad just because I don't like it, and I try to be tolerant of people who just want to sit there having their own beliefs reinforced. However, as far as I'm concerned there's a line, like the difference between Renaissance art and pornography, and you cross that line once you start demonizing your enemies. Saying "every gay person is wonderful" is a little flat, but technically not objectionable. Saying "literally every cop wants all black people dead" is too far.

And the Asian chick is a martial arts master. Because of course she is.