TV Show Review: The Grand Tour, Episode One

A while back, to big controversy, Top Gear was taken off the air. For those unfamiliar with the show, Top Gear was an extremely popular car show which featured the humor and personality of it’s three hosts: Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May. What had happened was that Jeremy Clarkson, feeling like the diva he is, decided to physically assault one of the producers. BBC, the station the show ran on, decided not to renew their contracts as a consequence. While I thought this was the right move ethically, reality is not quite so just. See, Jeremy Clarkson was the heart of that show and despite his misconduct, the audience of Top Gear generally did not care whether he misbehaved or not, they just wanted to see more of the man and his humor. Furthermore, James May and Richard Hammond declined to renew their contracts and jumped ship with Clarkson. BBC tried to keep the show going with different hosts, but without the three former hosts, there was really no show.

Fast forward to the present day and Clarkson, Hammond, and May have signed a deal with Amazon to create a show that airs only on Amazon’s streaming service through the internet. After watching the first episode, it is clear to me that a mountain of money was thrown at these three guys for this show.

There are number of things one can expect in this show. Firstly, you can expect wildly expensive super cars being driven around a track like bumper cars. That’s always fun. Sometimes they go on road trips driving through various exotic locales, which I’m sure they’ll do at some later episode. The car montages are also some of the best I’ve ever seen. There’s a lot for car lovers here.

I, however, am not a car guy. So what do I get out of the show? Well it’s an extremely hilarious show. For about an hour each episode, I get to watch three British guys insult each other, other countries, and other cars over and over again. For me, Top Gear wasn’t just a car show, it was a comedy. Celebrities came on to interview while Clarkson made fun of them. They would go on road trips while torturing each other and abandoning each other along the way. It was a fun show to watch and it’s clear to anyone that without these three, there is no show. Additionally, it is largely scripted, but it’s still fun.

So now the show is back with a different name and most importantly, the hosts are back. So how is the show? It is exactly like Top Gear, which is a good thing. If you were a fan of the show, welcome back. If you’re curious what all the hub bub is about, give it a watch and see how you like it.

The opening sequence of this first episode deserves a noteworthy mention. I cannot think of a better way to announce the return of these three, old British guys who love cars and love making fun of each other.

Score: 6.5/10

TV Show Review: Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, “Sichuan,” Season Eight Episode Three.

I am an unabashed fan of Anthony Bourdain television. I’ve pretty much watched every episode of every series Anthony Bourdain has been responsible for. Strangely enough, it never occurred to me to write anything about them… until now. This is largely because in this episode of Parts Unknown, Bourdain spends almost the entirety of this episode torturing his good friend, Eric Ripert.

For those who are unfamiliar with Ripert, Eric Ripert is the executive chef and part owner of Le Bernardin. Le Bernardin is a three Michelin starred restaurant in New York City that specializes in seafood. Accordingly, Eric Ripert is one of the most well known and respected French chefs in New York City, in North America, and in the western world. How wonderful is it then that we get to see him suffer for forty five minutes from spiciness and alcohol poisoning? And Bourdain does torture the hell out of Rupert in this episode to hilarious effect. They have a real bromance brewing and it’s really fun watching them make off color jokes and constantly make fun of each other.

Parts Unknown episodes generally try to give the flavor of a place with a heavy emphasis on food. Some episodes try to show the opposing views of an issue relevant to that location. That obviously does not happen here. There’s no general freedom to publicly criticize the government in China. Instead we just get some humorous scenes that show off some of the food in Sichuan. This was still really entertaining, even though I would have liked some commentary on the politics of the country and the opinion’s of Chinese citizens. On the other hand, there’s no point in asking for opinions if it means putting Chinese citizens at risk of “disappearing” or getting sent to jail. Especially if it’s just for a some travel and leisure show on CNN.

Anyways, it’s a fun episode and really educational. I’ve had a lot of authentic, Chinese style Chinese food (in contrast to American style Chinese food, e.g. Chinese takeout), and I’ve never been good at verbalizing the differences between Chinese and American food. This show definitely helped in expressing that difference. Most Americans I know who’ve tried authentic, traditional Chinese food generally find it disgusting because the goals of western cuisine and Chinese cuisine are different. Where Americans like the texture of battered, fried, fatty food to what many in this world would consider a disgusting degree, Chinese people like gelatinous, liquidy, chewy, and meaty food to a degree that many in this world would consider disgusting. This is why so many beloved Chinese dishes consist of sauce covered organs or other chewy parts of the animals (like pig ears, chicken feet, intestines, etc.).

It’s realizations likes this that make this show so interesting. There are few shows that are as successful at accurately conveying foreign places in a digestible, hour long program for American audiences. It’s just fun to learn about new places and see things that you would not see unless you purchased a plane ticket, flew over for a while, and knew someone who actually knew the nuances of the area and was willing to show you around. Thanks to Parts Unknown, I get to experience something similar with substantially less hassle.

Score: 8/10

TV Show Review: Legends of Tomorrow, Season Two Episodes One and Two

Legends tomorrow returns for a second season. Last season ended with the deaths of the Time Masters and a member of the Justice Society of America crashing the time machine and giving them a warning.

Season Two picks up about six months after that. The Justice Society of America person who showed up warns them not to go to the year of 1942, then seems to disappear from existence. Afterwards, the team gets in the ship and takes the place of the deceased Time Masters, chasing time criminals and trying to protect the timeline.

As with the first season, this is a fun show. It isn’t meant to be exact, nor is it meant to make a whole lot sense. If you think about it too hard, even within the context of a superhero world where time travel is possible, it all kind of falls apart. Their motivations, the in show logic of their actions, it’s all pretty nonsensical. Even still, if you just take it at face value, enjoy the explosions and the jokes and the running around history, mingling with famous historical figures, then you will have a good time.

Score: 7/10 Look forward to new characters, super nazi’s, and cameos from cast members of The Flash and Arrow. Speaking Nazi’s, I just love when the media portrays over the top Nazi’s, especially when they have super powers. There’s just something about a Nazi officer angrily screaming orders in German that I enjoy. Schnell! Nein!

TV Show Review: Arrow, Season Five Episodes One Through Three

Arrow returns to the CW for its fifth season and it already feels better than last season. Arrow, for lack a better description, is pretty much Batman with arrows. Sticking closer to the street level, crime fighting aspect of the show is largely why this episode feel so much better.

At the end of last season, they just defeated the magic using Damian Dark and saved the city. This season begins with the Arrow squad all but disbanded (except Felicity) and Oliver on his own again, balancing his time between fighting crime and being the mayor of Star City. New gangsters and criminals move in and Oliver must build a new team of crime fighting allies in order to oppose the new enemies in his city.

There are a lot of new faces this season and they each bring new life to the series. Some bring comic relief, some bring a little more drama. I won’t go into the new team members because there hasn’t been enough episodes to explore each one. However, you can be sure that each will get an episode for the purpose of character development.

What I didn’t like was the formulaic stuff. New mystery villain, shoots arrows. Maybe the big reveal will be something more rewarding and less cheesy than having someone die and then having another misleading red herring every episode that someone is going to die.

Score: 6.8/10 Good start to the season. Looking forward to seeing more team dynamics play out, maybe some scenes reminiscent of what Joss Whedon has done.

TV Show Review: Supernatural, Season Twelve Episode One, “Keep Calm Carry On”

Supernatural… is one of my guiltiest pleasures. I am not the target demographic; I am not a fourteen year old girl. I am quite the opposite actually. However, after years of watching this show, from the very first episode even, I still enjoy this series despite the campy-ness present. I think it’s because I’ve gotten used to the format of the show.

As with many shows, there’s a few over arching plots throughout the season, but what I love most about this show are the standalone episodes and monsters of the week. Many popular new series have a long seasons where every episode is relevant to the overarching plot and which are meant to be binged watched. In this sort of climate, it’s nice to just be able to tune into a show with no idea what’s going on in the season, and still have a good time.

If you haven’t been following the series, God and the Darkness made up and the world was saved. In return, the Darkness brought Sam and Dean’s mom back to life. Additionally, the British arm of the Men of Letters showed up and kidnapped Sam. Not much else happens in this episode as Dean, Castiel and Dean’s mom try to track down Sam. Oh, and Sam get’s tortured a bunch.

It’s a fine premiere and pretty much stick to the Supernatural formula, which is really what we want to see. What I really enjoy is that this is a very street level bad guy, who isn’t necessarily a bad guy. They aren’t fighting Death, or God, or the Darkness, or Satan. It’s just some British people and there’s something nice that it’s just an episode that deals with ground level characters. All that fighting omnipotent entities really took away from the weaker baddies they normally fight.

Score: 6/10