Umbrella Academy Season 1

Ken is Joined by Matthew, Phoebe, and Rachel discuss Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy.

Must See TV You’ve Never Heard Of

Breaking In (2011-2012)

What It Is: You’d be easily forgiven for never having even been aware of the existence of this short-lived sitcom, as it was one of oh so many shows that suffered under the poor decision-making of its network, FOX. The first season was only seven short episodes but more than enough to make an impression, on me at least, if nobody else. It was granted one more season before FOX gave it the axe, but not without a shady shell game of shuffling cast members, fundamentally changing the show’s character dynamics. I may one day give Season Two another chance, but regardless, that brief Season One will always hold a special place in my heart. 

Breaking In was a workplace sitcom of epic proportions, following the wild antics of the employees at Contra Security, a firm that assessed the effectiveness of various security systems by, you guessed it, breaking into them. So naturally, a great number of the firm’s employees possessed… colorful backgrounds: Cameron Price, hacker; Cash Sparks, robotics expert; and Melainie Garcia, safe-cracker; all reined in by former con-man and current boss, Christian Slater’s Oz. 

Why It’s Great: As if Christian Slater (Heathers, Mr. Robot) playing a quirky ex-con isn’t enough of a delight, he’s not the only reason why this show was great. Though admittedly, his highly humorous portrayal of the eccentric business owner is indubitably one of the highlights. He brings a nonchalant and charismatic charm to his otherwise socially deficient team, and one can’t help but feel like everything Oz says and does is just Christian Slater being Christian Slater. The man is infectiously snarky and intensely quotable. 

But on the whole, a sizable portion of the show’s appeal comes from the various character dynamics between the litany of weirdos therein. Everyone who works at Contra Security is inherently strange. It’s practically a job requirement that none of them quite fit in with normal people. Whether it’s Cameron’s disinterest, Cash’s nerdiness, or Melanie’s complete lack of normal life experience, something besides their more criminal inclinations has made misfits of them. Meaning that to many, Contra is the closest thing they have to home, or to family. And who can’t get behind a team of lovable misfits? 

The only civilian out of the main cast is Dutch, Melanie’s meat-head boyfriend, played by Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville, Impastor, Justice League: Unlimited). Because after seven years of required baldness as Lex Luthor, the man just really needed to jump straight into a fauxhawk. It’d be easy to push Dutch into a box (and that box would be labelled Jackass) but his layered and frankly hilarious characterization is one of the more entertaining parts of the show, fauxhawk notwithstanding. He’s big, he’s dumb, and he drives a ridiculous jeep with flames on the side but he is also… the greatest boyfriend of all time. His jackassery is only surpassed by his love for Melanie, a fact that he proves on multiple occasions, and with little to no prompting. Dutch was essentially Breaking In’s answer to toxic masculinity, proving to the most ridiculous extent possible, just how much a man didn’t have to be feminine to be wholesome. 

Plus there’s an episode where Mike Tyson plays himself so… 

Where You Can Find It: This one may be a bit more difficult to find than your average show. You can pay to watch it on Amazon Prime or you could pirate it from a vast number of disreputable websites (not that we would ever condone that 😉 ). 

What is Warrior Nun?

If you have Netflix, you probably saw the rolling ads a few weeks ago for a new Netflix Original called Warrior Nun. Or maybe you’re a normal person, whose Netflix algorithm isn’t totally fucked. 

It’s design aesthetics pop off, the concept is incredible, and it’s lore system is astounding.

But like, What is it? 

Warrior Nun is a YA series based on a popular Canadian Manga-style comic book. Or, best I can tell from skimming the wikipedia and comparing it to what I’ve just seen, very loosely based on the comic books. 

As for the story, we’ve all heard it before, a young girl is suddenly thrown into a world that is not her own. She’s witty, she’s sarcastic, and now, she’s got superpowers. In Ava’s case, it’s an ancient artifact called the Halo, which is actually an angel’s halo that’s been shoved into her back just after she died. This is, it’s important to note, an accident. Why is it important that it’s an accident? So rather than another girl hating her for no good reason, they get to hate her for reason: she’s the accidental chosen one. This can be done well in media, and I think it’s done alright in Warrior Nun, could be worse, it just distracts from the overall plot. 

Speaking of the plot, what is it? Well, we’ve got some demons to kill, that only Ava can see. They’ve got an evil corporation that has been seeking out religious relics for unknown yet nefarious purposes, and the potential murder of the last girl with the Halo. Oh, and also Ava maybe definitely got murdered by a nun. But all of this is sort of? Ancillary? To the actual plot? Which is like, Ava made a friend/love interest and she wants to run away with him? Or something? Unsure to his purpose. And why their relationship is so much more important than everything else. Ava running away from the plot in favor of her teenage love affair takes up five and a half episodes of a ten episode season. This wouldn’t be terrible, but I don’t really care about Ava, and I think that’s the main and only problem with the show. Even though she’s the main character, and on the surface she is integral to the plot, but she hardly interacts with it outside of explaining all of the exposition we can’t get any other way. 

In episode 4, all of the warrior nuns other than Ava go out on a super secret mission to reclaim some artifacts, and that’s when it hit me. This is the show I would rather be watching. Bad ass warrior nuns with Chain Mail Masks that fuckin slap doing cool ninja moves to recover historic magical artifacts is easily one of the coolest plot lines you could have pitched me. But then you’re going to make me sit through all of Ava’s storyline, if it can be called that, and not even really try to put in the effort of connecting it to the main story for more than half of the show, instead just give us a half-baked chosen-one-by-accident plotline that we’ve seen a thousand times.

This brings me to easily the best character in the entire show. Shotgun Mary. I want to know everything about her! Who is she? What was her relationship with the last Halo warrior girl? Why does she get shotguns? Why is she the best?

The good news is, it’s not totally unsalvageable. The style is great, the side characters are wonderful, and the concept is phenomenal. All they gotta do is reign Ava’s story back into the plot before it’s too late. Which, it should be noted, they do. Halfway through episode six, Ava’s little boyfriend just ditches her because she’s got weird powers (Thus proving my theory that he was totally useless as a character and plot point.) and then this shit really gets going. Warrior Nun ramps it up, and now I’m finally interested in this goddamn show. I promise, if the concept and aesthetics interest you, it is worth slogging through the first half (ugh, such a high percentage.) and if you’re a sloppy gay like me, you might even notice some very obvious tension between two of the girls. I won’t say who, spoilers, but I really hope this isn’t going to turn out to be more queerbait and they’ll actually do something about it.

Must see TV You’ve Never Heard Of

In Peak TV, It’s Easy to Fall Through the Cracks

Miranda (2009-2015)

What It Is: If you live outside the UK you’ve likely never heard of this 20-episode sitcom, and you’re only slightly more likely to have heard of it’s creator, Miranda Hart (Spy, Emma). But you’d be doing yourself a disservice to keep it that way. Not only is Ms. Hart wildly funny and a true master of physical comedy, all 4 seasons of her self-insert sitcom, Miranda, are not only a marvelous depiction of Peter Pan syndrome, but also disturbingly relatable to any person who has ever felt socially awkward. 

The series follows Miranda (who seems never to have been given a last name) as she struggles to adapt to the morays of adult life; whether those be attending her mother’s horrifically themed parties, managing her joke shop with her best friend Stevie Sutton, or using her wiles to attract the attentions of handsome chef, Gary Preston. And there’s really not much more to the plot than that. It’s a true sitcom in the purest sense, playing off of the classic multi-camera setup and fourth wall locales for that classic “filmed in front of a live studio audience” feel. 

Why It’s Great: There are so many wonderful things I could say about Miranda that I find it difficult to narrow them down. But certainly the first is Miranda Hart herself. She is the exact opposite of what film & TV has trained you to expect from a leading lady. She’s tall, she’s wide, she’s wacky, gets called ‘Sir’ far more often than she would like, and is an absolute disaster of a human being. 

Yet as the show progresses, even the more socially competent of Miranda’s friends and family are gradually revealed to have their own failings and less than ideal idiosyncrasies, playing into the shows ultimate message, that when it comes right down to it, we’re all a little bit terrible at being adults. Her mother, Penny, is a well-regarded upper-middle-class socialite (if such a thing exists), and is completely emotionally tone-deaf. Her best friend, Stevie, is a tiny business dynamo with a can-do attitude, and more nervous energy that she can productively channel all the time. 

But the dynamic most heavily at the center of the show is inevitably Miranda’s relationship with the tall drink of vitamin water that is Gary Preston. So rarely can a sitcom say that it’s main couple are compelling, funny, realistic, and well-developed all at the same time. Gary, played by the incomparable Tom Ellis, (who you actually might have heard of now that he’s widely known as the titular character of Lucifer), is a gorgeous chef who’s always standing by with baked goods (even if he does insist on doing things like making cakes out of beetroot). 

Everything about Gary and Miranda’s romance is refreshing, even besides the flipped trope of a socially awkward weirdo ending up with the beautiful girl. Their on-again off-again, will-they won’t-they romance isn’t simply a conceit of the genre either. It consistently works to maneuver them to a point where a relationship between the two would not only be plausible but healthy and balanced. There is no moment of realization that ‘love had been there the whole time,’ simply two friends who’ve always wondered if they could possibly be something more, growing together and loving each other. 

But at the end of the day, I think the truly best thing about Miranda (both the character and the show) is the sense of childlike fun at their cores. Miranda (the character, not the show) isn’t interested in abiding by the adult rulebook, she’d rather do fun things that make her happy, asserting that if adults “had even the slightest, in-the-moment joy of a child” then the world would be a far better place. 

Miranda speaks to the kid that never actually grew up inside of all of us. Watching it makes the word “bottom” suddenly hilarious, and makes the idea of playing Biscuit Blizzard (a game you can play with the common household items: a box of cookies and a blow dryer) almost impossible to turn down. As the world grows increasingly scarier and TV grows increasingly darker for the sake of putting buzz words like “innovative” and “edgy” in their blurbs, it’s nice to sit back for a half hour and relish in being weird. 

Where You Can Find It: Currently, you can stream Miranda on Hulu, Amazon Prime (free with ads or an iMDB TV subscription) as well as on AcornTV. I’d really only recommend that final option if you’re just really into British and Australian television, in which case, you’ve probably already seen this show, haven’t you.