Review: “This Is Us” – Season 1

Between life and death lies an infinite amount of moments. And there has never been a show more able to portray them than NBC’s “This Is Us”.

Last night, the finale of the first season aired and showed once again the magic in ordinariness.

“This Is Us”: A unique show

In “This Is Us”, the viewer gets to explore the lives of the Pearson family. It is not just a drama series, it goes way deeper than that: it is a life series, exploring different kinds of lives at the same time thus making it possible for each viewer to find a way to identify with the characters. Its title even reflects its uniqueness, as it literally applies to everyone – “us”.

Renewed for two seasons, we can gear up for more tears and laughs in the two years to come. But for now, we can reflect and think about the great moments we encountered in the past six months.

Pro of “This Is Us”: Great characters

For one, we met the Pearson family with Rebecca and Jack as single adults, couple, married couple, parents and obviously separated by death/remarried; Randall Pearson as the adopted black son fighting for perfection in his life when realizing he is living the perfect life; the twins Kate and Kevin Randall who are total extremes in appearance, but share much more anxieties than they are ready to reveal – even towards their loved ones. Thereby, the viewers get to see on the one hand, very simple characters, which on the other hand seem to bear much more depth in them than one realizes at the beginning of the series.

Then, we have amazing supporting parts like Randall’s other half Beth, his biological father William and Kate’s boyfriend/fiancé Toby. They fit perfectly in the picture, completing the apparently ordinary with the extraordinary.

Flashbacks in “This Is Us”

But that’s not all. Besides great characters and ensuing plotlines, “This is Us” uses time jumps to keep things interesting. In a lapse of almost 40 years, the viewers can uniquely travel through the timelines of the characters – better than Facebook could ever provide them with.

Whether it is an episode which fully plays out in the 1980s or one whose scenes jump between past and present like a ball in a ping-pong game, the last thing the viewer gets confronted with in this show is boredom.

“This Is Us”… or this is too much drama?

However, the drama is real and intense – sometimes way too much. This is a con, because the show has the ability to create a new genre instead: a series about human life, everyday-life and all the moments which make it special, but sometimes also hard to live. Therefore, some plot twists appear too forced, too much. For example the way too long and artificial extension of Kate revealing what happened to her father – which actually still did not take place. Obviously, the show plays with that and uses the suspense to keep the viewers excited for the following seasons. But the whole reveal took way too long and did not leave enough space for other interesting storylines including for instance Beth, Toby or even Miguel’s life stories which have not been explored yet at all.

Another example for those “too much drama”-twists would be the storyline of Jack becoming jealous of Ben who is playing with Rebecca in the band. The basic concept is interesting and as we have seen: It opens up possibilities for new stories, for instance to see Jack and Rebecca separated (even if we do not want to). But the way it actually turned out and that Ben really tried something with Rebecca was just too much of it all. The effect of Jack’s jealousy having its roots in his dissatisfaction with Rebecca and her life choices would have been much greater, if there had not been any reason to be jealous of someone in the first place (and it would have been much more realistic too, by the way!).

But being in the drama business, the series did not have much of a choice.

A duckling’s review of  “This Is Us” Season 1

Thus, for all of you ducklings who have not watched “This Is Us” yet – it is worth your time. But only, if you are really into drama and do not start crying easily, because even though the show gives you tons of moments to laugh, it opens up double as much possibilities to cry.

Review: “Nashville” – Season 5 Premiere

It’s been forever since we’ve got to see Rayna, Juliette and the whole gang on our screens. Now they’re back and the least one can say is: the 5th season of the country music drama series did not start softly.

Or let’s say more or less.

Summary

The 2-hour-premiere of the 5th season from “Nashville” which moved from ABC to CMT opens with a sequence which at first rather appears to be a flashback, but then turns out to be actually a flash-forward. Rayna is on the road with a glorious Mustang and gets depressed/sad when hearing a song being played by an old man at a gas station. This melancholic start gets shattered by the discovery of Juliette’s fate: No, there wasn’t just a “problem” with the plane, in which she sat in, it totally crashed and – in all Nashville-drama-style – Juliette Barnes was the only survivor. The only thing which kept her alive was the voice of the woman who found her.

Well, now that we and our emotions had a terrifying ride on a hell of a rollercoaster, we get back to the ground safely and move forward in time. Gunnar and Scarlett are back together as I guess the Ex-Exes? The James/Claybourne-patchwork-family finally appears to be happy, though let’s not forget that N°1 nag Maddie is back to being part of the gang so the “Don’t worry, be happy”-course line will rapidly change to “Oops, she’s back at it again”.  Our favorite couple, the star-crossed lovers Avery and Juliette, is also a thing again, but even though Juliette had amazing luck to survive, she is paralyzed and in a wheelchair which doesn’t make things exactly easy for anyone. And let’s not forget Will, who thanks to him standing up for himself in the finale of the 4th season, is suddenly cherished and courted by everyone – and that means TIP (Trouble In Paradise) for Kevin and him.

Themes

Now, let’s move on to what the first two episodes of the new season are all about. Love is of course a big theme with all the couples back together. But let’s not forget that all of our favorite country singers on TV are artists and that of course makes them seek their own selves. While Rayna is looking for her (old or new?) “Me” and finding that in her relationship with Deacon, Juliette is trying to understand how she was deserving of the luck to stay alive; Maddie of course is still very keen on pushing herself to be THE star whereas Scarlett seems to finally get that she isn’t always at the center of attention, meaning that not everyone does something in relation to her person. So, yeah, we have many possible developments originating from those two first episodes.

Review

  • Pros: Juliette finally gets a bigger and more interesting profile than only the country pop star and her eccentricities. Simultaneously, Deacon gets more attention as an artist instead of as a houseman, though at the end, he still gets undermined by Rayna, which brings us to the…
  • Cons: Rayna seems more out of balance due to the plane crash than Juliette, who was the one who had to live through it, and achieves to make it revolve around her and her music which actually leads to the idea of a concept album with her husband (wait, I thought she went on the road trip to find “herself” and not her being with Deacon?) and their bumpy road to their Happily Ever After. Too bad that Deacon doesn’t want to risk too much and simply  adheres to his wifey’s command…
  • Other notable aspects: Will is back to being a rocking country star, but the charming – ***cough: way too old*** – clothes designer threatens his happy, balanced love-life with former and present boyfriend Kevin. Well, Will: You can’t have it all. Speaking about former lovers: With Gunnar and Scarlett being – apparently happy – back together, the writers just had to find something to make their relationship stick out in the whole bundle of couples: Scarlett gets angry because she thinks Gunnar voluntarily chose women who were also part of her life to hurt her (Come on, writers: even for Scarlett, that’s kind of a far-fetched and irrational theory!), but decides then to move on. Let’s see for how long she’s on that trip…

So yeah, “Nashville”’s 5th season started with a (more or less) “bang” and plunged the every-reason-to-be-happy couples back into drama. Hey, let’s not omit the scary reveal of an existing Rayna-stalker at the end of the premiere…but I have the feeling it will not take long to find out who’s sitting behind the wheel and the shattered windshield.

Yellow Duckling’s Tip

My tip for you, little ducklings: Go for it. “Nashville” is back with its drama and there are stories to be told. We’re waiting – and that – BTW – also applies to the music which unfortunately came a little bit short in that premiere. But let’s see where the next episodes are headed. Have fun, y’all!

 

Review: The Big Bang Theory, Season 10 – even more (b)romance

…that all started with the big bang, bang!

We are already two episodes deep into the 10th season of probably one of the best comedy TV-series ever made and it is already making us wish for more.

Last Monday, “The Big Bang Theory” started its new season with the wedding ceremony of Leonard and Penny; this Monday, it continues with the developing plot of Howard, Leonard and Sheldon´s involvment in the military and the consequences of Bernadette´s pregnancy at work.

The Bromance which is one of the most important characteristics of this show is stronger than ever: Sheldon got even included into the symbolic wedding ceremony of Leonard and Penny and declared as “the third husband” during the season premiere. That the writers are able to keep this aspect of the show so long alive, makes it so much more enjoyable to watch.

But that´s not the only core element the writers keep bringing up in new ways. Summarized in a hilarious, speechless (!) scene of Sheldon, his beliefs, values and norms are being humorized in the 2nd episode of the season. Whether it´s the strict seperation of Star Wars and Star Trek history or his constant conviction of him being better than anybody else – also very comically brought out with his usage of the German word “Besserwisser” (Know-it-all) -, Dr. Dr. Sheldon Cooper doesn´t lose a single bit of annoyance and brilliance, even after nine years.

The aspect which pleases me the most however, is the new focus set on Bernadette. Even though she has been very important in the previous seasons, due to her pregnancy, she gets a whole new profile. Interestingly, it´s not really the fact that she is pregnant and will therefore become a mother which is being thematized, but much more what it means for career women to start a family without being discriminated because of it. The 2nd episode shows very clearly what fears women have to confront themselves with, while men get to pursue their career without a single worry. I sure hope this critical notch will be continued in the following episodes, as it makes not only the characters, but the TV-show itself stand much stronger.

My rating for the 10th season, little ducklings: fun and smart as ever.

 

Legend of Tarzan: A good Saturday night movie tip for you!

You don´t want to go out this weekend and you are looking for a new and good movie to watch? Then, I might suggest you go see “Legend of Tarzan”.

We may know him from our childhood as a hero, the man from the Jungle. We may know his story, how he grew up with gorillas, met the beautiful Jane and returned to civilization – his species. But what we don´t know is: that he is a legend.

And that requires to look into what happened after the commonly known tale.

Let´s move away from Disney: Tarzan is now an English aristocratic Lord and he likes it – at least he seems to at the beginning. In case you are going to watch the new blockbuster, you´ll understand very quickly why he´ll return to where he grew up in the Congo (I won´t spoil it for you). Following this decision, you will see action, romance and adventure and feel love, fear and danger.This movie moves you in all directions, shows you extremes and transforms your image of Tarzan as a slightly dumb comic figure into a strong, very intelligent man who builds the bridge between two worlds – the Wild and the Civilized.

Of course, no movie is perfect, including “Legend of Tarzan”. But it´s one of those films which are nice to watch and have everything everyone wants to see. Hence, my tip for you little ducklings: Have fun watching “Legend of Tarzan”!