Everything we cant stop loving, hating, and thinking about this week in pop culture.
Christopher Saunders/Amazon Prime Video
- The Olympics shitshow.
- The sort-of marvelous return of Mrs. Maisel.
- Pop culture was hella ageist this week.
- Wont stop talking about Abbott Elementary.
- Mom and dads big night out.
What is life now but a cyclical, zombie-like float from the work area to the couch area, where a parade of nightly TV binges tangle with each other until they are confused, nonsensical braids of disparate plots and characters fused together as one?
It is with this muddled mindset that I sat to watch the first two episodes of the new season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which were given to critics early and debuted on Amazon this weekend. I must say, I wasnt braced for Midge Maisel to be in her Anna Delvey era.
Maybe Im just tuned into that interpretation because were in TVs Golden Age of mediocre girlboss/scam queen shows. Of course, season 4 of Maisel was in production long before this trend across streaming services spread faster than an Amy Sherman-Palladino character speaks. But at the start of this season, Midge is once again down on her luck, and shes doing some swindles! And, as will be familiar to anyone who just finished watching Inventing Anna on Netflix, were meant to root for her as she does or to at least understand why.
Shes lying to her father-in-law in order to delay paying back an apartment loan, as she has no money. She shuffles around her Upper West Side neighborhood, running a con where she convinces all the local shops to double her line of credit on the promise of all the business shell eventually bring them. Jobless and broke, she still finesses her way back into her fancy apartment with all its trappings and local amenities.
If youll recall, at the end of season 3, which aired way back in 2019 (if we were ever so young), Mrs. Maisels skyrocketing comedy career suffered a catastrophic flameout when she was very publicly fired from her gig opening for singer Shy Baldwin. Things look bleak, and shes not going to accept those circumstances. Thats life. Shit happens. You should be a bigger man and just let it go, she says during a standup set soon after. Well, Im a woman, so fuck that. A great line, and possibly the entire thesis for this current glut of scammer series.
The impulse to add this perhaps unnecessary read of the first two episodes probably comes from the fact that theres not much else new to say about the series. After setting the show and the character forth on a pretty thrilling trajectory for the first three seasons, this new one is a complete reset. As in, Midge Maisel is in exactly the same situation she was when we first met her: single, desperate, and obstinately pursuing a career in comedy even though she cant land a gig or respect.
Watching season 4 of Mrs. Maisel is like watching the series from the beginning againa thrill to those who have adored the frantic, dazzling energy of the series, or the instigator of a full-blown allergy attack for those who found the show to be grating, cloying, and chaotic.
The main difference this time around is that there is So. Much. Plot. Beyond Midges career woes, theres Susies implication in insurance fraud, her seedy financial arrangement with Joel, Joels efforts to open a nightclub in Chinatown with criminal landlords, his secret new relationship, Abes new job at the Village Voice, Susies lingering business with Sophie Lennon, and the insistence on somehow, for some reason, shoehorning Joels parents into all of this.
The shows biggest critics, especially ones who refuse to embrace it for what it is, find it exhausting. That is reasonable! Every scene is a cannon blast of rapid-fire dialogue, often screamed at each other, delivered while running around, through, or over something.
The line readings are impeccable and precise. The physical comedy is outstanding, perhaps even unrivaled. Yet we are people who have been lulled into an existence of hibernation. A pandemic has flattened the extremes of daily life into a mainline of monotony. I am a person who has to come to terms with, when he checks his pedometer app, routinely being told that he has taken approximately 70 steps that day. Seeing Midge Maisel monologue in hysterics on the phone while stumbling through a bedroom, rolling over furniture, and spinning around is a jolt to the system.
Thats also, of course, the pleasure of this series. Its so vibrant and kinetic. Especially after these last two years, its a joy to bask in a production so big, ambitious, and unabashedly expensive. The premiere episode has this massive sequence set at Coney Island, where almost the entire cast speedwalks while arguing in long, continuous tracking shots, culminating with a madcap argument shouted at each other from different carriages on the Wonder Wheel.
Its an undeniable triumph. Or its unbelievably irritating. Only you know where you land on that spectrum, but give credit to the aesthetic that this series fastidiously honed: you absolutely know.
This week, pop culture was hellbent on sending a cruel message to millennials: Newsflash, you are old.
Oh, we were feeling ourselves on Sunday night, living our best lives dancing to hits from the likes of Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, and Mary J. Blige during the Super Bowl Halftime Show like it was the eighth grade dance and the planning committee had sprung for the three-liter bottles of Mountain Dew. This is the best halftime show ever, we thought, as those among us with kids ignored the childrens perplexed stares and secondhand embarrassment.
Finally, not one of those Super Bowl shows for old people, we thought, allowing just enough fun to be had and time to pass before acknowledging the wrinkled, gray-haired elephant in the room, the one with chronic heartburn and bad knees. Shit. Were the old people.
Rudely, that pummeling factoid of reality came at us about as often as Joe Burrow was sacked in the big game. (Look at me making a sports reference!)
Then it was announced that there would be a new Star Trek film featuring the Chris Pine-led cast. Makes sense! It was just yesterday we were first introduced to him as Captain Kirk. But, as reporter Adam B. Vary pointed outquite rudely, I might addits been 13 years since the franchise rebooted in 2009. A child born that year would now be at their version of the eighth grade dance we were all just reminiscing about.
Back at the Olympics, in what has been heralded as an absolutely massive moment for Old Millennials, a 36-year-old and a 40-year-old won a snowboarding gold medal for Team USA. The wonderment over it is only slightly more offensive than when a 19-year-old spins across the ice in figure skating and the announcers salute the miracle that such an athlete is still going at their advanced age.
Then there was the vibes piece. If you dont know what the vibes piece is that went viral this week on social media, then I must thank you for proving my point about us being old. The article, from The Cut, was titled A Vibe Shift Is Coming. Will Any of Us Survive It? Besides the urgent issue of staying alive, the article begged several other provocative questions, such as what the hell is a vibe shift. Or even, What is a vibe?
Generously, the article is a fascinating bit of cultural anthropology about human behavior and trends in our current fraught time. Points are made. Points that went so far above so many of our heads that Jeff Bezos waved at them from his little rocket. Reading the whole thing is a valuable experience. After all, they say the best way to learn a foreign language is to immerse yourself in it.
I understand that anxiety over aging is an unhealthy preoccupation, yet I cant help it if its also my primary concern. I try to focus on other things. How long can I go on not knowing what an NFT is? Was the Lindsay Lohan Super Bowl commercial really a win for her? How dare The Gilded Age air tits instead of butts as its first gratuitous nude scene?
But, sadly, as I sit here marveling at the harrowing speed and effortlessness with which I can consume an entire sleeve of Ritz crackers, it all goes back to being oldand hoping that, like Mary J., I still got it.
Yall can have your traumatizing Sundays spent at Euphoria High, because for me there is only one school worth caring about, spending an entire week marveling at the brilliance of the most recent episode, and heralding as the next great entry into the canon of television excellence. Abbott Elementary is the best thing airing on TV right now.
How do we get an Emmy for Sheryl Lee Ralph, Janelle James, and Lisa Ann Walter all at the same time?
Severance: It takes a second to get into, but then youre really in. (Fri. on Apple TV+)
Dog: Channing Tatum and a dog on a road trip gets an absolute yes from me. (Fri. in theaters)
Law & Order: For some of us, theres no sweeter sound in the world than dun- dun. After 12 years, the original artist is back. (Thurs. on NBC)
Uncharted: Very glad, after seeing critics reviews, to not have to care about this movie based on a video game. (Fri. in theaters)