All in TV

Afflicted Review (TV Series, 2018)

When I had cable, I made a bad habit out of binge watching medical realty shows on TLC and Discovery. I really could not get enough of shows about mystery illnesses, extreme surgeries, and rare conditions. The shows were utter trash--poorly edited, melodramatic for no reason, and filled with a false sense of artificial hope. Does it really matter if the subject revealed to be dead by the end of the special one time got dropped off in the shallow end of a pool and rolled around for bit? Not to be insensitive, but I'm not the one who decided to counteract 50 minutes of misery--hospital visits, medicinal montages, recollections of the worst moments in their lives, high risk surgery, blatant inaccessibility and suffering out in public--with a trip to the community center for poorly staged celebration of little triumphs.

The shows did at least attempt to impart medical knowledge in this package. The editing style was to create an entertaining or engaging show. You learned a little bit about their lives--hobbies, friends, lovers, families--but also learned about the history of the conditions, treatments, and state of research. The melodramatic scoring and forced personal triumph narrative were necessary evils to get nationwide exposure to these people and their medical conditions. The participants obviously agreed to be filmed, but I don't think they agreed to be treated like a modern day freak show. 

Afflicted is a documentary-style reality TV series on Netflix about people living with chronic illnesses. You can probably tell where I sit on the series by that introduction. It's terrible.

The Haunting of Hill House: A History

Yesterday, Netflix announced that Shirley Jackson's gothic masterpiece The Haunting of Hill House is coming to the streaming service as a 10 episode series. Mike Flanagan, the writer/director of Gerald's Game and Ouija: Origin of Evil, is the show runner. I'll be perfectly honest. I did not expect this. I don't know if there was an earlier announcement I missed, but I never could have anticipated The Haunting of Hill House would be adapted into such a long format.

The Haunting of Hill House is a touchstone of literary horror. Originally published in 1959, Shirley Jackson's masterful haunted house story is one of the rare horror novels to be a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction (1960). It is undeniably a gothic horror in the Victorian rather than Southern tradition, set in a sprawling mansion where scientific research standards are used to prove the existence of ghosts. The novel comes complete with a tragic and lonely heroine, doors that open and close on their own, locals who refuse to go anywhere near the mansion (especially at night), a phantom dog, and a dark secret in the attic. It is an especially sophisticated entry in the genre, as much a woman's journey of self-discovery as it is a terrifying text. 

Making It Review (TV, 2018)

I'm a reality TV junkie. Give me a talent show and I will watch it. Give me unscripted reality and I will...not change the channel, but maybe not actively invest in it. I'm old enough that my high school jazz band used to go hang out after rehearsals and watch the first season of Survivor. The viewing parties continued into the summer and tensions grew high over whether Richard really deserved to win with that attitude.

My tastes have softened considerably since then (although the aggression and shock value of the first few seasons of Real World will always hold a place in my heart) and I'd rather watch kind, talented people get a chance to show off what they can do with constructive feedback. This is more the Great British Bake Off or Chopped style. Bring the best who will do the show in, let them show off what they can do with clear skill even if they fail the challenge, and hand a nice prize to whoever performs the best.

Making It is NBC's craft version of this format and it's just a delight.

Kakegurui Review (TV Show, 2018)

I warned you to stay tuned for this during the Kakegurui anime review last week. 

The success of the Kakegurui manga and anime in 2017 led to the production of a 10-episode live action adaptation released in 2018. It's the same story, only told with real life actors and a whole lot less of the disturbing sexualization of teenagers from the cartoon.

Kakegurui is about an elite school ruled by gambling. The student government ranks students based on earnings and donations to the school, and only the best gamblers can keep themselves at the top. The bottom 100 students are treated as house pets, students who must do anything asked of them until they can pay their way out of debt through gambling. A new student, Yumeko, enters the school excited to play any and every game she can with ridiculous stakes. She drags new house pet Ryōta along as her tour guide, forcing him to witness some of the most absurd and depraved gambling you've ever imagined.

Kakegurui Review (Anime, 2017)

Kakegurui is a manga turned anime (turned live action series--stay tuned) about an elite school in Japan with an unusual set of rules. Your status is determined by your gambling abilities. The student council ranks students based on their winnings and donations to the school. Win your student-created casino games and you stay at the top of the class; lose, and you wind up as a house pet to the rest of the student body. House pets have to do whatever anyone else commands and can only free themselves by gambling their way out of debt.

Yumeko Jabami is a new transfer student to the school and she is eager to participate. She is partnered up with a new house pet, Ryōta Suzui, for a tour of the school that quickly turns into some of the highest stakes games in the history of the school. Yumeko is driven by the thrill of the game, not winning or losing, and always finds ways of pushing her opponents to bet more than they have on single rounds of increasingly convoluted games.

Unlike the United States, Japan has a successful market for one-off animated shorts. These are called OVAs (Original Video Animation). Where the US relegates short animated films to festivals and online services, Japan often airs these specials on television or in conjunction with theatrical releases of longer animation. The shows don't always go to series afterwards and there is no expectation that they will. 

Sometimes, these films do get adapted into series. Death Billiards is one such example.