Tee Vee

Work continues to be a thing. The more senior architect in my area left the company recently, and it feels like I’ve been taking on at least some of his duties in his absence. This has meant that I’m involved in significantly more high-level planning conversations and discussions, leaving even less time for me to spend on actually dealing with coding-level things across my (increasing) teams. I suppose this is technically a good move for me, and it’s actually felt less stressful now than in the past because it has come with an increasing number of strong technical leads across my teams (and the other remaining amazing architects I have the pleasure of working with) that allow me to increasingly delegate team-level duties outward.

It’s weird, and I’m still not sure how much I really like not being an IC anymore, even though that change has been years. But it feels like it’s working. So it goes.

Other than work, life continues. We’ve been taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather to host cheese parties on our back deck, as well as taking opportunities for outdoor dining while they still exist (because the pandemic is still a thing despite what everyone else seems to think). Oakland trips over the weekend to grab food from various places and eat it out in Schenley Plaza (or similar), followed by bubble tea from Fuku, has also been a thing. So that’s been nice, at least.

I’m fully expecting the election this upcoming week to send me down another depressive spiral of despair, so before then, I figured I should make a post about something less negative.

A large part of my free time lately has been spent watching (old) TV shows. The biggest one recently was Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which was a recommendation from a friend, and it’s also become one of my all-time favorite shows. (How many does that make now? :P) I was immediately drawn to it because it’s a musical series (and Glee, despite its many, many, many flaws, still holds a special place in my heart because of that), and I’d previously seen many of the music videos online. But the show itself is… ridiculously, amazingly, unbelievably good. I feel like it approaches characters and relationships and sexuality and mental disorders in such a responsible and caring way, and it also is ridiculously fun, besides. (It’s also ridiculously cringe at parts, but uses that discomfort as a narrative tool so well that I couldn’t stop wanting more of it all, even the cringe parts.)

The music videos also hit very differently in context, which I don’t think I really appreciated (or thought I would appreciate) until I actually saw the first one I recognized. Not only do they all stand on their own as extremely well-done and entertaining pieces, they also are incredibly well-blended with the plot and episode and characters around them.

The show didn’t quite leave me a sobbing mess in the same way Schitt’s Creek sometimes did, but it deserves to be mentioned in the same breath anyway because it is truly a masterpiece, and I’m so thankful it got its full four-season run, because I think ending at any of the other points would have been an utter travesty given the character arcs and development.

I recommend checking it out, but if you don’t, you should at least look up some of the music on YouTube because it is glorious in its own right. Highlights for me include (in no particular order): A Diagnosis, I’ve Always Never Believed In You, No One Else Is Singing My Song, I Hate Everything But You, Let’s Generalize About Men, The End Of The Movie, The Moment Is Me, This Is My Movement, Let’s Have Intercourse, Face Your Fears, and I Gave You A UTI. (As I said, responsible and caring about sexuality. :P)

Speaking of music and musicals, I also finished watching through the two seasons of Smash today. I approached it with a small bit of context from seeing a couple of the songs on YouTube previously (primarily Rewrite This Story and Caught In The Storm, via YouTube recommendations after a bunch of Jeremy Jordan videos, but a few of the others as well), and with knowing that critics had largely panned the show and its plot and characters (but without knowing any details of those reviews). And I have to say… I was pleasantly surprised by the entire thing. The songs here also hit differently in context, and are tied in beautifully with the plots and characters. While I would generally say the first season of Glee was better than Smash as a whole, Smash is significantly more cohesive, consistent, and overall better than Glee as a whole (which quickly derailed during its second season and became unwatchable during its third and onward).

The consistency is particularly important to me, and Smash does switchups in a way that feel significantly more natural and believable. For example, in Glee, we always have “new songs” for the big competitions, often justified in the narrative in the flimsiest possible ways (“show up in New York with no songs written and write them, instrument them, and choreograph them the night before!”), while in Smash the “new song” was done in a narratively-consistent way (“hey, experienced songwriters who have been working on this already, you have a few hours to figure it out and finish it, and also stage it as identically to the opening number as possible to make it learnable, and also all the other show songs are ones we’ve seen already”). Not to mention that Smash also does a ton more original numbers, and they connect in-universe with the characters and stories much, much better than any original songs Glee ever did, even though those were supposed to be “from the heart” and “what’s going to win us Regionals”. It just flows better, as a show.

Catching up on the critics’ reviews afterward, I find myself agreeing with a lot of it (yes, I noticed that Katharine McPhee wasn’t the best at emoting, even while watching it myself, and yes, the show does a lot of “telling but not showing”), but actually disagreeing with most of it. No, both actresses were reasonable choices for Marilyn in different ways. No, Katharine McPhee is actually hella talented and can sing really damn well. No, some of the “super cringe” story elements (particularly with regard to Kyle) weren’t actually that bad. No, the “wandering plotlines” in the first season were not out of place because they gave each character a plot point and some focus. No, Dev actually served an important purpose in the first season.

Maybe I just watch TV for fun too much to be quite that critical of it, and can forgive a ton of plot or character issues as long as I’m enjoying myself and it all makes reasonable sense, for some definition of “enjoying myself” and “reasonable sense”.

I’ve also watched through Lower Decks, also at the recommendation of a friend, and also partially because we’re working our way through all of Star Trek (currently on season 7 of Deep Space Nine). It is… not good, which is maybe amusing given the paragraph immediately before this one. Season 1 was okay enough, I suppose, and had a lot of good moments (including one or two where I actually laughed; almost every appearance of the doggo in “Much Ado About Boimler” was gold), but it as a whole just feels too fast-paced and a lot of it feels like it falls flat for me. Season 2 just feels like a lot of really cheap jokes that don’t really land and also feel even more out of place in the Star Trek universe.

Contrast that to Better Off Ted, another comedy series that I think lands every episode and nearly every joke. It has some cringe-worthy moments, but as a whole it’s witty and funny and feels overall well-written. It seems like a huge shame that Better Off Ted only lasted two seasons, while Lower Decks is ongoing (four seasons, now), in the same way that it feels like a huge shame that Smash lasted two seasons while Glee did six.

I’ve also watched some other things that aren’t worth commenting on quite as much, and have purchased a couple more series on DVD that I’ll need to start soon (primarily Warehouse 13 and Community). I suppose that’ll be my entertainment for the next however many months, and what’ll help get me through the mess that is sure to be next week.

Anyway. Happy continued pandemic, everyone. :\

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