The Case Against Adnan Syed (HBO)♦♦♦
This 4 episode documentary just finished airing on HBO. For anyone who listened to Sarah Koenig’s brilliant 2014 “Serial” podcast which covered the same case, it is impossible not to make a comparison. The question of whether Adnan Syed was given a fair trial in his conviction for murdering his ex-girl friend, Hae Min Lee twenty years ago became very murky after the podcast and remain so after the documentary. So, if you listened to the podcast, should you still watch the documentary? If you don’t have HBO, don’t bother – you can read the analysis of the documentary to get the salient details. If you do have a subscription, there are some new and updated facts that are in the documentary that have nothing to do with cell phone towers. You will also get more insights into the victim and her family as well as those fighting for a new trial for Syed.
Included in the new information were several revelations in the final episode. New DNA tests show that Syed’s DNA is nowhere to be found on the samples taken from Lee’s body and car. In addition, questions were newly raised about the lack of Adnan’s fingerprints, the autopsy results and the location of the car. Adnan did not agree to a plea deal last fall and the day the documentary aired, he was refused a new trial on an appeal by the State. What this documentary does, as does the podcast, is raise questions about how this case was prosecuted and Syed’s innocence. There are no definitive answers but it is clear, from both of these series that there should be a new trial. If you were a fan of “Serial” and are an HBO subscriber, the series is worth checking out as it takes us to the present day and continues the story.
Better Things (FX S3) ♦♦♦♦
Better Things is back for Season 3. This “Dramedy” almost collapsed under the co-creater Louis C K’s firing between Season 1 and 2 due to his sexual misconduct accusations He was also the co-writer which left his partner, Pamela Adlon (also the star of the show) in a difficult situation in terms of how to continue on without such an important influence. She got through Season 2 and this season while heavy, is also very strong. In the end, Better Things is about family, aging, mother daughter relationships, and just how someone gets through every day with all the pressures of working and life.
Adlon plays Sam, a single mother of three and daughter of a woman who may be struggling with the early stages of dementia and lives next door. Sam’s oldest daughter is dropped off at college in the first episode of Season 3, only to drop out and be back by Episode 3. Her middle daughter appears to have some sexual identity issues along with a difficult relationship with her younger sister. The youngest wants to be treated like the oldest and all of this happens while Sam, an aging actress, has to fight for roles that are going to younger, prettier women. In addition, there are the other elements of aging that factor into the day by day struggle to get by.
Life for Sam continually gets crazier and seemingly heading toward a disaster when just in time something happens that brings this family together in a loving and often very funny series of events. Sam is an unconventional yet loving mother and you know that even though her life is a constant battle with brinksmanship, somehow things will be ok. In the meantime, there are a lot of very funny lines and situations we can all relate to!
Jane the Virgin (CW) ♦♦♦♦♦
Jane is back for her final season and I’m so going to miss this little ray of sunshine in my life each and every week. If you haven’t ever seen this “Telenovela” run, don’t walk to Neflix to watch the first few seasons as you won’t find another show on TV with as much heart and soul as this one. If you are unfamiliar with the Telenovela format (and I certainly was) it is like a soap opera on steroids with totally absurd events mixed with rich characters full of heart and Jane has this in spades.
Jane returns this season having to deal with her dead husband’s return to the life just as she is about to marry her long -term off and on again love who is also her baby daddy. This is nothing compared to all the other crazy things that initially started with Jane (a virgin) being accidentally impregnated at her annual gynecological exam. We have been promised that we’ll learn the identity of the narrator telling Jane’s story by the last show although I am pretty sure I know who it is. This individual is such an integral part of the show and knows the innermost thoughts and emotions of all the main characters and breathes life into them. In the meantime, I will savor each and every one of these final few episodes.
This is Us (NBC) ♦♦♦
This is Us finished up its third season this week with a twist (of course) that sends us well into the future of the Pearson clan. I’m not sure why I’m still watching this show which consistently pulls at your emotions through the use of various gimmicks. I’m so tired of Randall and Beth fighting (I”m totally with you on this one Deja!); I’m tired of Kevin’s substance abuse, I’m tired of nothing good happening to any of these people although in last night’s finale, one happy thing did occur and it was incredulous that it did. It was just ridiculous and I’m sure it will be controversial as it minimizes a life and death situation that many people experience. I won’t go into any more detail in case you haven’t seen it.
As I said, I’m not really sure why I still watch this and I may not return to it next season. It may be just that I didn’t have anything else to watch on Tuesday nights as I continually leave Network TV behind.
Billions (Showtime) ♦♦♦ 1/2
Another show that seems to be running its course with me is Billions. I thought the first two seasons were absolutely brilliant as Chuck (Paul Giamatti) and Bobby (Damien Lewis) played a complex and riveting cat and mouse game. 4 seasons in, however, this, like so many other Showtime series as slowed down. Once Bobby and and Chuck made up in Season 3, much of the tension went away. The introduction last year of Asia Kate Dillion, TV’s first gender non-conforming lead character, has helped provide a fresh storyline that has held my interest. In general, though, there are so many sub- plots that are complex and if you don’t pay attention, you could miss something important – or not. I’ll finish up this season and make a determination as to whether I go forward with it – if it goes forward.
A Fond Farewell to You’re the Worst (FX)
It ended the only way it could have (Spoiler Alert) without a wedding. Jimmy (Chris Geere) and Gretchen (Aya Cash) make up perhaps the most dysfunctional couple on TV and we have spent the entire fifth and final season hurtling toward a wedding between the two of them which seems doomed to disaster. Helping us prepare for that outcome are a number of flash forwards which not only suggest that Jimmy and Gretchen are not together but that their lives have taken a very dark turn. Thankfully, the writers of the show left us in a good place with this couple and have given us as sweet of an ending as is possible while remaining true to the characters. How could any of us ask for more of a finale? I loved the ending and will miss this show.