Because everything else in the news is pissing me off, I’ll post these drive-by reviews of some shows I’ve been streaming lately:
“Smile” (Amazon Prime). I love a good horror movie. The key word being “good.” “Smile” is not good. It is actually quite bad, but just short of bad enough to be enjoyed as a hate watch. Take every horror film made in the last 30 years, extract all the tropes, stir them together vigorously, and you have a movie like “Smile.” I would list a few amusing examples, but they would all amount to spoilers. Maybe that doesn’t matter, since every little twist and jump scare can be seen miles in advance. Ditto with the ending. I suspect ChatGPT had a hand in the screenplay. It’s that predictable. Dave Bob says keep moving. Nothing to see here, except Kevin Bacon’s daughter Sosie trying her best to turn shit into gold.
“Dear Edward.” (Apple +) Who’s ready for some grief! I mean a big barrel o’ grief, since every character has recently lost a loved one in the same plane crash. That includes the eponymous Edward, a 12-year-old with adorable hair who is the sole survivor of said crash, which also took out his entire family.
So, a lot of trauma to explore. A lot of grief-counseling sessions to sit through. A fair amount of conflicted flirting, too, because all the surviving characters are attractive and only human and, you know, life goes on. Or does it? This show wallows in sadness, to the extent that it all goes a bit flat after five or six episodes. Think “This Is Us,” only with the Grief-o-Meter turned up to 11. It’s all unrelenting angst set to the plaintive strains of an acoustic guitar. Some people love this kind of thing. I don’t.
“Cunk on Earth” (Netflix) My unlikely favorite in this batch of shows. Philomena Cunk (played by British comedian Diane Morgan) explores the history of the world as a David Attenborough-style documentarian – if Attenborough were a nice-looking woman and absolutely clueless about pretty much everything. Her deadpan interviews with actual historians are less cringe-worthy than you’d think, because the experts treat each stupid question with a patient gravity one might reserve for a particularly dim child. And the writing is sharp enough that many of those stupid questions actually land as incisive satire.
“The Reluctant Traveler” (Apple +) Eugene Levy is the last celebrity you’d imagine as a globe-trotting tourist, which is why he’s out there driving a team of sled dogs, or floating in a frozen lake, or riding a horse through the Arizona desert. Levy’s arched eyebrows and deadpan demeanor are initially pretty funny, but the schtick gets old by the end of episode three.
See, he’s supposed to be way outside his comfort zone, but for each adventure he’s based at a world-class resort – all of which tend to be well within any comfort zone you can imagine. I’ve loved Levy throughout his career, going back to SCTV in the ‘80s, but this doesn’t seem like the best use of his comedic talents. The premise isn’t quite enough to carry the show through a full season.
“The Consultant” (Prime Video) This could have been a dark satire about workplace politics, or the imploding tech industry, or the travails of having a supernaturally-toxic boss. It flirts with all those things, then veers from one to the next without much rhyme or reason.
Christopher Waltz plays Regus Patoff, an impeccably dressed monster who somehow gains control of a failing game company. Think of the worst boss you’ve ever had and multiply it by 100.
Then there are hints at supernatural forces. Is he supposed to be the Devil himself? If so, you never quite know the nature of his game – and neither do the writers. At various times in the eight-part series, he appears to be an international trafficker of body parts, or a supremely confident con man, or maybe just a cruelly effective consultant. I rolled my eyes and so will you. Selling out to a seductive Satan is a cliche that should have died with “The Devil’s Advocate” in 1997.