Westworld (HBO). We moved a couple of months ago, and Charter insists our new condo is a business, not a home, so we went without cable for a couple weeks. While we survived on Hulu and Amazon, we missed the first episode of Westworld and had to wait for them to do a mini-marathon at Thanksgiving to see the pilot and the rest of the first season.
Westworld works if you never saw the 1973 Michael Crichton film, but if you did and know how Yul Brynner’s performance as the Gunslinger elevated it above the drecks of absurdity, then you can appreciate how “The Original” pilot toyed with our expectations.
You have to take the whole thing with a grain of salt to believe that the $40,000 per day people pay to romp in the park is enough to turn a profit, given how much damage the guests do to the hosts in a matter of minutes every day. But once you do the willing suspension of disbelief, there are games within games where the recurring question is whether people are players or pawns.
Plus, when you have the likes of Evan Rachel Woods, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Rodrigo Santoro, Ed Harris, and Anthony Hopkins, all elevating the science fiction elements like Brynner did way back then, you increase the chances of pulling it off.
The first season endgame was certainly ambitious, in that it layered twist upon twist. It was not simply one big shocker and done, although at this point I cannot envision how there gets to be a third season after what has been set up for season two. I will just have to find out.
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life (Netflix). The most important line on Lost was when Ben, leader of “The Others,” told Jack and the gang, “We are not the bad guys.” This turned out to be important, not only because it was true, but because it revealed that what was happening on the mysterious island was not a two-sided, but rather a three-sided game. Those who insisted on the former, tended to be disappointed with what followed.
Similarly, when I finished watching the first “season of the Gilmore Girls, sequel I had figured out that everything in “Winter,” “Spring,” and “Summer” was setting up the payoffs (such as they were) for “Fall.”
The final four words? Well, I had assumed it was going to be one sentence and not three, but at some point I had assumed that was how the series would come full circle. Who knew it would be when Rory was the same age that Lorelai was when Gilmore Girls began?
One thing I think all Gilmore Girls fans can agree on is that this sequel did well—very well indeed—by the memory of Richard Gilmore and actor Edward Hermann, who was a presence in all four parts. Beyond that, I was happiest that the pivotal emotion moment was—as it had to be—between Lorelai and her mother, even if it required Lorelai to be standing on the precipice of a wilderness on the other side of the continent for her to be able to do it.
I also enjoyed the appearances from cast members of the late-lamented Bunheads (no, I have still never watched ABC Family since they cancelled it), which included liking all the songs from Stars Hollow: The Musical. Not just because you had Broadway superstars Sutton Foster and Christian Borle totally invested in Taylor’s over-the-top songs, but because it was all setting up the emotional song that finally drives Lorelai to act.
I do not anticipate there being more “episodes” down the road, because I think the creators are enamored with the idea of what Rory does next being a big question for Millennials, the way my mother’s generation imagined what Scarlett O’Hara did after the final credits.
Designated Survivor (ABC). I figured this would be the show to make me scream at the television set, and I was right. Every time somebody questions the legitimacy of Tom Kirkman’s presidency—and there is plenty to question—I yell, “If he is not the president, then who is?”
If the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the 50 governors say this guy should not be president, then who is? Based on the U.S. Constitution, the answer should be Speaker of the House, except there isn’t one. There are only two House members left and they belong to different parties, and there is no vice president to break the tie because there is no Senate to confirm such an appointment.
The writers of Designated Survivor have been playing up the conservative paranoia about immigrants and Muslims (not to mention immigrant Muslims), and Kirkman saying he is an independent does not blind the audience to his obvious leftist leanings. It will be interesting to see where the episodes written post-election take the show.
P.S. Hairspray Live was way better than The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again! Maddie Baillio was fine as Tracy Turnblad and Derek Hough was a solid Corny Collins. Jennifer Hudson had her moments as Motormouth Maybelle, but Dove Cameron as Amber and Kristin Chenoweth as Velma Von Tussle were cream of the class. I did not buy Ariana Grande as Penny Pingleton, but the real weak Link was Garrett Clayton, who was more a wannabe Bobby Darin than an Elvis, and gave the love story zero chemistry.