TV Minus the TV: Ballers is one giant Bud Light commercial and Hannibal gets futuristic
Welcome to TV Minus the TV, a column full of thoughts about TV shows watched on laptops published on the internet for you to read on your phone.
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Ballers #106, “Everything is Everything” by Bryce Rudow
Hannibal #308, “The Great Red Dragon” by Charles Bramesco
Ballers #106, “Everything is Everything”
This Bud’s For You, Not Me
BY BRYCE RUDOW (@brycetrudow)
About 1/3 of the way into this week’s episode of Ballers, Reggie and Vernon head over to Spencer’s to talk about Spencer’s pre-existing relationship with this Angie character who is blackmailing Vernon, and Spencer hands the two some beer. And it wasn’t until Reggie just so happened to position his bottle blatantly towards the camera that I realized that I have been treating this show unfairly. This isn’t Playmakers meets Entourage.
This is one long Bud Light commercial.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There are actually some pretty clever Bud Light commercials out there.
The only problem is that humor aside, Bud Light’s ‘ideal world’ looks something like this:
You can add in all the simulated drama you want – Ricky’s #81 monologue did show the apple hasn’t fallen too far from Denzel’s tree# – but at its core, this is a show that spends 90% of its time asking itself the same question Charles asks Ricky, “What if I wanted to be selfish and immature for a change?”
The MTV Cribs-esque tour of The Funhouse is a checklist of all the flights of fancy the Bud Light life entails: the game room, the full bar (which Ricky makes sure to point out “comes with the ladies” because #objectification), the love pond, the freak room, and of course, Ricky’s favorite spot in the entire house, the party room. Because it ain’t a home till you got that foam.
But have you ever really been to a foam party? It’s essentially a multi-hour game of “I hope you can’t get chlamydia via bubbles.” Only this show doesn’t want to think about that kind of thing right now, and they don’t want you to either. When The Rock finally approaches real human emotion and says, “The truth is, this whole thing really scares the shit out of me,” the show immediately makes a joke out of it, while also ensuring that it is heard by literally no one else in the show. It seems almost tragic to hear Stoney McPotts explicate Her so well – “You see, in trying to teach her how to love, he learns about his own self; how to forgive, how to move on, how to heal, that shit’s complex.” – on a show that embraces such id-driven simplicity.
So yeah, you could keep coming back to this show every Sunday “for the sheer beauty of watching these beautiful creatures run on the track,” but me, I’m more of a Charles. I just want to find professional and spiritual contentment while forging a lasting, trusting partnership with my beautiful wife. I just want to watch characters that have depth and a storyline that feels plausible. I just want to come home, baby. This place is nasty.
It’s about time I get back to who I really am.
Starting next week, I’ll be writing about Mr. Robot, the best new show of the summer. Start catching up now!
Hannibal #308, “The Great Red Dragon”
How To Do A Reboot
BY CHARLES BRAMESCO (@intothecrevasse)
Funny, profane, absurd, slick — Archer is all of this and more. But FX’s animated espionage comedy was also characterized by a bold fearlessness to reinvent itself. By the end of the fourth season, creator Adam Reed was feeling restless, worrying that the douchebag-secret-agent niche had played itself out. So he shrugged, threw the playbook in the trash, and started from scratch with season five, completely changing the premise of the show and rebranding it Archer: Vice.
In swapping the ‘60s-spy milieu for more of an ‘80s-coke-cartel vibe, Reed reinvigorated a series showing early signs of flagging in advanced age. He had successfully done what it feels like Sony tries to do with Spider-Man in every odd-numbered years: he took a known and loved set of characters and skillfully transplanted them into a new set of circumstances.
It’s much easier than it sounds, but Archer and now Hannibal have pulled it off flawlessly.
The end of last week’s “Digestivo” presented viewers with a thrilling change to the show’s pre-existing status quo, as Hannibal willingly surrendered to Jack Crawford and the boys at the FBI, and Will… we didn’t see what happens with Will. Because nothing really does happen to him.
Perhaps Fuller’s most dramatic gambit in the series to date, the time-jump brings viewers ahead three years into the future, where all of the characters have settled into new lives.# Will’s gained plenty, but lost something that is, to him, even more important. In the three-year interim, Will’s settled down with a lovely wife named Molly and welcomed her eleven-year-old into his life as a stepson. However, even as he’s eased into the safety and sense of peace that comes with the stability of domesticity, there’s a gnawing absence at the center of Will. He goes through the requisite inner turmoil when summoned back to aid the FBI in the apprehending of a new, theatrical serial killer dubbed the Tooth Fairy. But once he’s gotten his blessing from his wife, quivering in fear of a murderer that specifically targets happy families, Will allows himself to be fully absorbed by his work once again.
While tracking this new foe, familiar to those up on Hannibal lore as Francis Dolarhyde #, Will reverts to some old behaviors that took a serious mental toll on him not too long ago. While investigating the scene of the Tooth Fairy’s (so called for his tendency to sink some outsize novelty incisors into his victims once they’re good and dead) heinous slayings, Will can’t help but place himself in Dolarhyde’s place, imagining how he might’ve shot the infants in cold blood while their fading father used his dying breaths to stagger through the hall to protect them. The final shot of Will’s investigation scene unearths the theme of Will’s barely-suppressed maniacal urges from early seasons. He had been doing so well, but with blood-red angel wings extended behind him, he’s ready to relapse.
Where this all leaves Hannibal himself is the episode’s trickiest curveball. There’s a new serial killer, Will’s hot on his trail, and Hannibal has nowhere to wait but the sidelines. Even those of us who haven’t already seen Red Dragon know that the FBI’s gonna have to pull Hannibal out of prison for assistance on the job, Buffalo-Bill-style, but for now, he’s in an unusual stasis. Hannibal has little to do, subject mostly to the whims of those people around him. Just as Jack and Will agreed at the conclusion of last week’s episode, Hannibal’s still holding all the cards, and as such, the whims of the people around him mostly sync up with his own desires. He still gets to prepare fancy-pants dishes and pair them with equally delicious wordplay about the people he’s murdered. He sits down with visitors, and the only real difference between captive and non-captive get-togethers is the quality of table around which they sit.
As per usual, Hannibal and WIll have reaches similar points, each of them in a comfortable holding pattern but waiting for something that truly gets their blood pumping.
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