Category Archives: watching wednesday

PCP: The Wire

Watching Wednesday #15 – Well, Wire Wins

Through The Wire

Wired for success

The short of it: Despite its obvious age, and the terrifying truth that the aughts are now a sign of age, The Wire’s vulnerable characters make this a sort of odd predecessor to Game of Thrones.

It’s the answer at everyone’s fingertips the moment social media asks about masterpieces of television or Twitter tosses out a poll about favorite shows.

And here I am, years and years later, just deciding to start it on a whim, despite the thousands of internet voices praising it every time I logged on.

No surprise here, it’s dope.

Now, I’d like to say that’s a bad joke on account of the dope-slinging focus in the first season, but the show’s heartbreaking depictions of both the addicts and the dealers make any joke about it far more bitter than I’d like. So for now, that’s just one of my more mediocre mannerisms.

The show’s good. It starts with this immediate jump into the life of the Baltimore Police Department– another victim of the streets to deal with and another soon-to-be-victim of the streets to comfort. Character names fly by, but the faces and voices stick.

 

PCP: Berserk, Vol. 1

Watching Wednesday #15 – Weeawoo

I Bes in the Zerk

The short of it: As striking as it is brutal (much like Guts), Berserk is a legend for a reason. Gorgeous depictions of terrifying tragedies make it hard to put down and harder to look away. 

Technically, you look at manga, which is close enough to watching. Whatever, it’s dope.

I’ve got this bad habit of comparisons, which, as a concept, are generally lazy. Thanks to the transitive property though, a revelation is revealed about this legendary series:

Berserk is Dark Souls.
Dark Souls is Berserk.
Catch-22 is Dark Souls.
Catch-22 is Berserk.

Alright, I’m not a math guy. There’s a reason I took algebra at a community college and there’s a reason I got a journalism degree and not one that involves non-data-driven numbers.

Alright, they’re the same reason. Maybe the writing skills I thought compensated for my lack of math ones aren’t quite as good as I thought.

The point is, I butchered that as bad as Guts butchers and is butchered. It’s too cruel too cool.

Note: Berserk’s occult cult status isn’t exaggerated. Knowing the story doesn’t spoil the ride or mystique. So far at least. 

PCP: True Detective

Watching Wednesday #14 – Wicked West (South)

Tru Dat

The short of it: Sometimes, the crowds are absolutely right. This show deserves every molecule of praise it’s received. 

After resubscribing to HBO for the Game of Thrones revival, I remembered that they only show one episode a week. So in a desperate attempt to kill the wait until the next dose of meaning in my life, I finally watched the first season of True Detective.

Gawddangit.

Eight hours later, I a.) miss Louisiana and b.) need to share this show with everyone.

If, like me, anyone hasn’t watched this show because they’re a big, dumb idiot–

It’s a pair of detectives trying to solve a mysterious occult murder from 1995, with Woody Harrelson is the good ol’ boy Marty Hart and Matthew McConaughey is the brilliant detective with an edge Rust Cohle.

The plot seems standard, but the one really impressive thing about the show is how well it nails everything.

Cary Joji Fukunaga’s direction is nothing short of flawless, peaking with a gorgeous, six minute tracking shot and sustaining the beautiful mystique of the rest of the series. Nic Pizzolatto’s writing is brilliant, despite the fact it took me an episode or two to accept the sheer edginess of some of the dialogue of Cohle. Thankfully, McConaughey’s portrayal saves it from descending into esoteric darkness.

Every setting is a perfect picture of southern Louisiana, from the dingy 90s police stations to the abandoned properties along the bayous. Characters’ accents are easily the most accurate accents I’ve ever heard, with bit characters nailing the dat and dey of Cajun-tinted English.

The intrigue of the occult-tinged murder only deepens as the clues and mysteries add up. It’s terrifying and puzzling– there’s a reason I burned through the series in one go. It demands it. The character progression is as satisfying as the progression on the murder cases.

In a word, it’s killer.

PCP: Futurama’s Commentary

Watching Wednesday #11 – Winging Wins

Futurama’s Commentary: Futured Enjoyment

The short of it: The quick wit and deep info hidden in the DVDs provide a whole new dimension of delight.

Now that I’ve mostly finished my game of IRL Tetris (bonus unpacking levels are all that’s left), I’m left with a fairly normal apartment. Except I’ve been without Internet since I moved in and will optimistically get it later today.

The first night, I collapsed immediately and slept on the floor. The next night, I desperately searched for something to block out the sounds of an empty apartment and my upstairs neighbor’s sleep apnea. Not the DVD of The Godfather Pt. 2, since my cultural knowledge only covers about a third of the first one. Not the stack of blank CDs, since they’re blank. That left the already worn (shoutout Mediacom outages) Futurama Season Six DVD.
Since it has a few episodes I don’t like, I figured I’d slip on the commentary to tolerate the likes of Yo Leela Leela and Möbius Dick.

Billy West and John DiMaggio are the obvious and unsurprising stars. They shine in this commentary, even amongst the crowd of eight or nine writers/producers.

The producers aren’t exactly the nerds shoved into a corner though. David X. Cohen consistently brings up the little details that animators and writers lovingly slipped in to the show. Much like the Best Friends got me to appreciate the smaller details of games and design, the commentary really brings to light the care and effort put into every facet of the show. The slight transitions between 3D and 2D, the hidden background gags, and even the jokes on the forefront (“Clamps. CLAMPS!”) become magical.

Even when the commentary hits a snag, the meta commentary becomes hilarious. “Does Leela only have two eyelashes?” “She had three when we were on Fox.”

It’s a reminder that even in this future of streaming and cloud viewing, DVD editions of media hold an incredible amount of value.

PCP: Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure – Phantom Blood

Watching Wednesday #10 – Wallowing Weirdness

This is about the first arc (well, the first half arc) of the 2012 anime adaptation of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. 

The short of it: True to its name, this weird saga starts with a relatively calm story of boy and his adopted brother. The next 40 or so episodes add in the bizarreness that makes this series so endearing and captivating. 

It really is hard to beat this series’ own description. It’s a bizarre adventure. It’s Aladdin finding the lamp, Gulliver finding the island, Ishmael boarding the ship.

JJBA creates this aura of intrigue, where sense is tossed to the side, absurdity is the new normal, and every step forward opens up three more paths.

Oddly enough, the first few episodes seem to be spot-on parodies of most anime/manga tropes with how generic they seem. I’m still not completely sure if it’s JJBA’s influence or its earnestness that makes these (possibly) unintentional parodies so funny. They’re not boring by any means, but they are far more grounded than the rest of the show.

And keeping with generic starts, it’s premise is simple enough. A boy, Joseph Joestar, finds a brutal rivalry with his recently adopted brother, Dio Brando. This manages to slide into a centuries long blood feud that claims the lives of thousands, thanks to a mysterious mask that turns its wielder into a monstrous immortal vampire.

Dio’s unflinching evil is by far the most compelling part of the series, followed by Joseph’s unyielding goodness. I mean, there’s a reason Dio’s an Internet phenomenon.

JJBA is like the world’s greatest roller coaster. It starts with this slow standard roll up to the top of a massive hill, taking the viewer along these benchmarks of insanity. As the viewer gets accustomed to these spikes of weirdness, they’re introduced to a new one, and then a new one. Every step up normalizes this impossible world.

And then, once it reaches the stratosphere, it comes flying down in this exhilarating exhibition of gravity’s weakness.

Plus, JOOOOOOOJOOOOOOOOO.

 

PCP: Two Best Friends Play Silent Hill 2

Watching Wednesday #9 – Friends Forever

Two Best Friends Play Silent Hill 2: 2 spooky, 2 gud

The short of it: Although a bit less silly and a lot more informed, this playthrough demonstrates the other side of TBFP. While failing playthroughs of horrendous David Cage games are hilarious, the Best Friends have their brainy moments too. 

What’s that, imaginary inner critic that’s never satisfied? Upset there’s another Best Friends playthrough on PCP? Well suck it, this one’s also fantastic.

Silent Hill 2 can almost indisputably claim the crown of Greatest Survival Horror Game of All Time. This playthrough can do the same for the Best Mostly Serious TBFP Playthrough title.

Pat’s the star here, taking point on both the controls and the discussion. Years of admiration and research are evident as he manages to both informative and hype about the brilliant designs in the game.


The Best Friends have genuinely made me appreciate games a lot more. Whereas other channels kinda make me annoyed that I wasn’t recording for a funny moment, these guys make me like the little things I didn’t used to notice. Subtle gameplay nudges to direct the player, cool character designs, the concept of hype in general. It makes the medium so much more enjoyable.


The game alone is immersive, and the commentary’s almost hushed tone make this playthrough atmospheric. The deep fog and creepy environments add to this level of tense fascination. The guys’ resolution to keep quiet during the cutscenes amplifies the utter bizarreness of it all- the stilted performances and weird pacing of the conversations make it unsettling in a hard to nail down way. Of course, having Pat explain why certain actors sound they way they do or what certain things mean in the Silent Hill mythos answer the dozens of questions that are inevitable in a playthrough of this game.

It’s like watching a puzzle being put together with narration. Every step is another, “Ah!” as the picture gets clearer and clearer. Sure, occasionally they’ll force a wrong piece in it, but the explanation works well enough that it’s either interesting or funny enough to pass.

PCP: Inside Gaming’s Chaser

Watching Wednesday #8 – What a Whiff

Inside Gaming’s Chaser:

The short of it: Before evolving into Funhaus, Inside Gaming provided some of the best tightly edited gameplay on YouTube. Add in an overdose of humor of both the dark and fart variety and a godawful game, you’ve got one of the enjoyable trainwrecks on the web.

The current-Funhaus-former-Inside Gaming’s history is kind of funny, bouncing from a Halo specific show into a gaming news show into a mix of news and brief gameplay to a primarily gaming channel with a hint of news. Fortunately, all these shifts have had little impact on the quality of their content, whatever it may be.

Every few months, I find myself looking back at some specific playthroughs and silly videos that genuinely made me laugh. Top among those videos are Inside Gaming’s playthroughs of the best worst games of the mid 2000s. And the top of those is arguably their playthrough of Chaser, a mediocre game that somehow manages to surprise players with how many ways it can be bad.

It’d be amusing enough to watch the game quickly devolve into a mess of bad design and worse implementation, but with Bruce and James behind the mic and Kovic behind the controls, it’s a downward spiral of game with the peak of game commentary.

Sure, their style of editing cuts out all the bits that are unfunny or boring. Instead of minimizing the strength of the overall commentary though, this strengthens it. By distilling it to their high points, the guys’ indirectly challenge the commentary of any other gameplay channel on YouTube. Yes, we know how brilliantly funny they are, but their condensed and cohesive playthroughs reveal the weaknesses of most other commenters.

PCP: YouTube Live

Watching Wednesday #7 – Weak Watching

YouTube Live: Live, Die, Replay

The short of it: It’s the fast food of media consumption: easy, quick, and someone else does it all for you. 

Alright, this is gonna be a weird one. Well, maybe not weird, but unorthodox. It’s not nearly as weird as my lame clause comma statement format, but still.

So I’ve become a huge fan of this whole creepily-automatic, “24/7 LIVESTREAM TV SHOW PLAY NOW” that pops up on YouTube Live. It’s everything from Fox News to Animal Fights to Family Guy. And it’s that last one that’s been occupying my free time.

It’s a bit of a twofold guilty pleasure. For one, it’s all pretty much garbage in terms of content (at least, for me, there’s like Nat Geo and fancy learnin’ stuff I ain’t clicking on). And it’s like lazy pirating, where I don’t like the content enough to seek it out on my own.

Look, I love Family Guy. Season one is absurdly good for a pilot season, and season two continues that trend. Although season three reveals that petering off into absurdity (c wut I did thur) that derails the next decade, it’s still a fantastic collection of humor and character.

Then it got worse.

But somehow, it got better. Despite a lack of a showrunner or truly funny character, the show reclaimed itself as a staple of network humor with its grasp of absurd and classic humor. Something as simple as one character greeting a background character is complimented by an extended meta-humor joke, resulting in a show that manages to both laugh with and at itself.

The end result is some random YouTube channel under an obnoxious name, either John Smith or PETER GRIFFIN LOL LIKE FAMILY GUY, streaming the latest episodes of the show. Despite being a chronological deposition of Family Guy’s humor, these channels end up being the most enjoyable background noise available. It’s like white guy white noise– there’s a cutaway you can chuckle at before the show cuts back to some trite “Character X discovers they can do Y” plot.

Basically, this is the best way to enjoy a show that started as both a copy of and modernized rival of The Simpsons.

Watch season one of Family Guy. But also watch the latest as a testament to how unimportant thinking is between laughing.

 

PCP: Injustice: Gods Among Us

Watching Wednesday #5 – Wowin’ Whacks

Injustice: Gods Among Us: God Among Storymodes

The short of it: Injustice manages to do what Warner Bros. and DC couldn’t do with billions upon billions of dollars and dozens of stars. It gives classic characters that have been done to death life again with its character-driven story. 

There’s lot of stories under the DC banner– some are brilliant studies of what it means to be human, some are flopping insults to fans. After the lukewarm  Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, it seemed like DC’s fighting games were doomed to mediocrity. And then a God was born.

That’s overly dramatic, but a metagame/metahuman joke wouldn’t have made as much sense. The point is, with the release of Injustice: Gods Among Us, Netherrealm and DC created a new standard for fighting games. Whereas Mortal Kombat X created an devent story by killing off old characters and introducing interesting new ones, it could hardly be considered character-driven. Injustice dedicates itself to the description.

The game (and preceding comics) comes up with a plot that manages to turn both Superman and Lex Luthor into more than the Flanderized forms of themselves in most other media. It’s the familiar story of the fallen hero. After being tricked into committing the Herculean crime of killing his wife and daughter (triggering a nuke in Metropolis in the process), Superman turns to judge, jury, executioner for the world’s criminals– and heroes. The heroes that try to stand up to Superman’s domination of democracy are brutally cut down by the god-emperor. Batman is the sole living opponent to Supes’ iron-fisted rule; he uses an interdismensional transporter to pull Justice League members from a universe where the League stopped the plot/nuke.

The game does lack of characterization for the typical villains; fortunately, its depiction of struggles of the former heroes turned to villainous pawns is enough to satisfy the bad guy side of things. Sure, Sinestro is still kinda lame, but The Flash’s growing uncertainty about whether or not he’s on the right side is fascinating. And it’s fun– the wit and charm from the animated series is present in the game’s burner lines after matches conclude.

Now, of course, being that this is a video game, it should go into Fun Fridayz. But I’ve never played Injustice. Hell, I’ve haven’t played a Netherrealm game since MK9. And I was bloody terrible at that; combos and timing escape me. I watched the game’s cutscenes in movie format thanks to some YouTube heroes.

Check it out:

This vidyagamemoviewhatever is super. It’s like a league of justice. It’s Batman. Whatever, it’s just dope.

PCP: Big Quint

Watching Wednesday #4 – WOOH WOOH

BIGQUINT INDEED: Big Ain’t Big Enough

The short of it: Big Quint’s genuine reactions manage to amplify and simplify the high and low points of albums. His emphasis on what sounds good is a different kind of review with the same value as the kind that picks apart ever snare. 

Big Quint’s a murderer.

Two chairs lost their lives trying to support Quint’s ample frame as he bounced along to the newest hip-hop– Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. is the latest to snap the legs of a chair.

Quint’s channel is a pretty straightforward reaction channel– not my favorite kind of content, but it’s one that has its place in the annals of YouTube. He gives an intro, reacts to the music, cuts about halfway for a snack break/monologue, then resumes, before giving his final opinion on the album or track.

Fortunately for us, Quint’s truly just a fan of music. He’s honest with his opinions and genuine with his reactions; his reactions are often his first time listening to an album. Unlike other reviews or reactions from more technical critics, Quint lets his ears do the thinking for him. If it bangs it bangs, if it doesn’t it doesn’t.

Every month or so, I revisit his reaction to J. Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive, an album I already loved before watching Quint’s reaction.

 

I do the same with Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo; every once in a while, I use Quint’s videos to remind myself of how damn good these albums are. I enjoyed them when I listened to them, sure, but for Ye, I had trouble digesting it after all the Taylor Swift nonsense and some of the worse lines on the album (bleach).

But then there’s Quint, bouncing along, chuckling at the dumb stuff but still vibing out to the beautiful production and braggadocious lyrics.

I guess it’s just a reminder of how wrapped up in ourselves and society we can get, and how we can subconsciously make ourselves enjoy things else. Yeah, we need critical analysis and discussion about the finer points of music and artists. But at the same time, man, why can’t we just lose it when we hear that drop on G.O.M.D or Father Stretch My Hands? Thankfully, we got Quint to remind us to snap and shout along with dope music.