Things We Love is a place for the contributors of Really Late Reviews to let you know what we’ve been enjoying in pop culture this month. From vampire web series to Hollywood podcasts to Netflix’s original programming, Things We Love is a way to discover some new gems and re-discover some old favorites.
What’s the best show of the summer? Well, okay, it’s probably gonna end up being “Rectify” (once we’ve had a few more episodes to evaluate this season), but for me at this particular moment the title belongs to the wonderful web series “Carmilla.” Based on a 19th century vampire novel, the show follows a group of friends as they deal with sinister supernatural happenings at Silas University. The first season was already a total joy, with dialogue the recalls (and often surpasses) “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in its use of rapid-fire quips, gently twisted humor and a cast of immensely lovable characters. And the long tradition of opposites-attract romantic comedy proved to be alive and well with Laura and Carmilla, whose journey from enemies to a thoroughly adorable couple over the course of the season was delightful.
The second season has been even better, though, with Laura, Carmilla, and company forced to confront the fact that their heroic actions at the end of season one have had a host of…shall we say unintended consequences? That, plus the introduction of Mattie (Carmilla’s evil yet delightful sister), has made for an even more enjoyable series than ever before. The whole thing is up on YouTube, and I highly recommend taking a couple of days to catch up. If you’re on Twitter, be sure to follow all the characters’ accounts as well: “Carmilla“‘s use of social media is top-notch, and adds so much to the experience of watching the show. But regardless, be sure to check it out, because it’s just awesome.
“Veronica Mars” novels The Thousand Dollar Tan Line and Mr. Kiss and Tell
“Veronica Mars” has and always will be one of my favorite TV shows. The show told stories of the seedy underbelly of Neptune, California, as the titular Veronica solved cases big (her best friend’s murder) and small (lost dogs, cheating spouses, the works). The show ran for three seasons in the mid-2000’s, following Veronica through high school and her first year of college before its untimely cancellation by The CW in 2007. Millions of dollars and a record-breaking Kickstarter campaign later, the show continued with a feature film in 2014, picking up with Veronica and co. ten years later at their high school reunion. Rob Thomas, “Veronica Mars” creator, also revealed that he would be co-writing two canonical novels after the film, The Thousand Dollar Tan Line and Mr. Kiss and Tell, that would continue Veronica’s story in Neptune after the film.
The novels contain all the wit and charm of the television show, solving a central mystery while also exploring the other characters in the “Veronica Mars” world. Events in the film that didn’t get time to expand get narrative breathing room. Eli “Weevil” Navarro’s run-in with Celeste Kane, and the discovery that evidence was planted at the scene to make him look guilty, gets the full treatment in Mr. Kiss and Tell. Weevil’s story also ties into the Neptune’s sheriff race and the complicated relationships between the rich and the poor in the bifurcated town. The novels are also a chance to just hang out with lovable, complex characters and be immersed in a really good mystery. (Also there’s Logan and they kiss and it’s all very dreamy and stuff) For fans of the show and for fans of well-written crime/noir novels, The Thousand Dollar Tan Line and Mr. Kiss and Tell are engrossing, intelligent and all-around memorable reads.
“You Must Remember This”
The past few weeks I have been getting lost in tales of a Old Hollywood glamour, tragedy and all-around good gossip with the podcast “You Must Remember This.” I discovered it the old fashioned way: by seeing Twitter recommendations (okay, not so old fashioned after all) and since then it’s all I’ve been listening to. Charles Manson’s Hollywood explores the cultural climate, the celebrities Manson came into contact with and those who followed him. Host Karina Longworth delves deep into the pop culture landscape of the time, painting a picture vast in scope. Longworth is the kind of narrator who makes you want to pour a glass of wine and indulge in these tales. Sadly my podcast time is usually while walking places/grocery shopping/cooking (sometimes there is wine).
Falling into a “You Must Remember” hole I’ve found out the details of stories I only knew the common facts (or misconceptions) about including Judy Garland’s life and death, Mia Farrow’s love life pre Woody Allen, what really happened to Frances Farmer and Bette Davis’ wartime role. There is a treasure trove of scandal awaiting!
“30 Rock” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
Since my summer days have been filled with kid stuff and book revisions, my pop culture landscape has looked odd over the past few months. I know I should catch up on the TV shows I’ve missed – “The Americans” or “Hannibal” or whatever the next new thing is. I still have the season finale of “Fargo” sitting on my Apple TV unwatched. I bought the first season of “Homicide: Life on the Streets” and haven’t yet opened it.
With my brain being so active most of the time, when I do find a moment to relax with a TV show, I’ve been gravitating to comfort food, old favorites. I’m on a Tina Fey kick right now. I watched every single episode of “30 Rock” over again, which was so much fun. I loved seeing the show evolve at a quick pace (For the record, the early years? Sort of OK for kids. Later on? Send them into another room). That show is utter genius and never had a bad season. I’ve since moved on to rewatching “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” so the theme song and “Peeno Noir” are playing on a loop in my brain.
Experimenting with Netflix’s Personalized Recommendations
In July, I finally started watching the shows Netflix has suggested I try and which I have ignored for a while. As a result, I finally had a dedicated “let me watch as many TV shows as possible” night. Netflix recommended the following shows: “Call the Midwife,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “Rules of Engagement” and “When Calls the Heart,” and all of these shows suited me in different ways.
“Call the Midwife” fit my love for all things produced by the BBC, while “The Dick Van Dyke Show” provided a lot of laughs but with jokes that were clean and witty. “Rules of Engagement”’s humor was not as clean and was a pretty formulaic sitcom at times, but the show did do a great job at portraying real situations in relationships, like finance and family planning discussions. Finally, “When Calls the Heart” met both my enjoyment for Hallmark and period pieces. I had a blast exploring Netflix’s suggestions: not all of them were on the mark, but many times the choices were a perfect match.