Modern Love, Watchmen, and More!

The two versions of Miles (Paul Rudd) sit in a car in Living with Yourself

Welcome to What’s the Buzz, where members of our staff provide you with recommendations on a weekly basis. This week’s entries come from: Bryan O’Donnell, Caemeron Crain, John Bernardy, and Hawk Ripjaw.

Bryan: New York experimental band Battles released their fourth album, Juice B Crypts, on Oct. 8, 2019. The band is now down to two members—guitarst/keyboardist Ian Williams and drummer John Stanier—after the departure of guitarist/bassist Dave Konopka.

However, listening to this album, you wouldn’t think of Battles as merely a duo. For one thing, Juice B Crypts features a number of guest appearances, including Tune-Yards and Jon Anderson (the lead singer of Yes). But the album is packed with twists and turns, interesting hooks and different sounds (electronic groove, funk, hip-hop, etc.).

Opener “Ambulence” provides infectious grooves that get your head nodding. “Sugar Foot” is like two songs in one, splitting guest appearances between Taiwanese band Prairie WWWW and Jon Anderson. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Yes, so I’m really digging this tune. The trippy and majestic “Fort Greene Park” soars with keys, guitar, and the classic-Battles drums. Juice B Crypts concludes with “Last Supper on Shasta” (Parts 1 and 2), featuring Merrill Garbus from Tune-Yards, which ends up being a perfect fit.

Listening to Battles can sometimes feel like walking through a futuristic maze or trying to solve a neon light-up Rubik’s Cube. The more I listen to Juice B Crypts, the more secret passages I find. My favorite being the discovery that the final song, “Last Supper on Shasta Pt. 2” ends with a quiet piano section—and that section is a slower, quieter mirror to the beginning of the album’s opening track. So if you repeat the album immediately after the final song, it’s the perfect lead-in to the first song. I love stuff like that. This album can be great to have on in the background, and sooner than you’d think, you’ll realize you’ve listened to it 10 or so times. Check it out.

Caemeron: Modern Love premiered on Amazon Prime last week. Based on the NYTimes column of the same name, the series explores quirky relationships, if that’s the right way to put it, and does so in a way that (usually) avoids being saccharine. The stories are at least somewhat fictionalized (and honestly I’m not an avid enough reader of the column to tell you how or to what extent—I’m sure someone on the internet is) but their basis in truth is evident. These are fundamentally real stories, and fundamentally New York stories. As someone who lives in the city, I couldn’t help but feel it as its own character, pervading these disparate tales.

I don’t know if this will make sense to you or not if you haven’t lived here, but a lot of things are set in New York without feeling like it: Friends, for example. Seinfeld does in one way—these people definitely feel like New Yorkers—but doesn’t in another, as the city itself doesn’t quite feel like itself. The same goes for Sex and the City, which really should have a New York vibe given its name, but largely doesn’t. And then you have the shows that are supposed to be set here, but are actually filmed in Montreal or something, like Suits. Mr. Robot does a good job of presenting New York as it is, but it feels rare. So it’s nice to have this set of stories that truly feel in line with what it’s like to date in New York.

But Modern Love should be of interest to pretty much anybody. Each story explores something about the human condition and presents something interesting to think about. Of course, given that it is an anthology show, I liked some episodes better than others, and I expect you will too. What’s interesting to me is whether they’ll be the same ones—because they probably won’t be.

I thought the first episode of this series was excellent. Others I felt fell short of excellence, but the show remains worth watching throughout. And I’m not really one for love stories.

What appealed to me about Modern Love—besides its magnificent cast—was the quirk, and the show follows through on that. These aren’t schmaltzy romance stories, they are idiosyncratic tales. And if I have any critique, it is about those times when it started to feel schmaltzy, but I still think you should check it out.

John: There are a boatload of Watchmen podcasts, all bearing similar looks and names, and to cut through some of the confusion, I’ll be reviewing one of them every week of Watchmen’s run on HBO. Who knows, maybe you’ll meet your new favorite podcast along the way.

This week, I’m looking into Watchmen Podcast, from the DCTV Podcast network. The show has four female hosts, they can do theory but they like to stick to facts, and they know their DC lore so they regularly connect back to comics references. They started their look into the episode making a good one: not only is the opening scene a mirror to Superman’s origin, the scene takes place in a movie theater which equates it to the Batman origin as well. They talked about how welcome and overdue it was to have a show that can wake its viewers up to reality, using a superhero origin to teach us our country’s racist history.

Over the course of the episode, they ask if Don Johnson was really playing Night Owl in a new civilian identity or not, if Hooded Justice had superhuman powers, and the permutations of why there are multiple flags. One host asked one of my questions: if Sister Night’s kids are her old partner’s. They also go through questions like if the Chief was covering his tracks in the owlship. And about the 7K, say “everybody’s dancing to somebody’s tune”. They go into theories about the servants in the castle, talk about which characters are stepping into the tropes of which characters from the graphic novel, and express their interest in the world building already well on display in the first episode.

I like how the hosts weigh our culture and society into their analysis, especially how sharp they are at noticing show details. No host is reactionary to create false drama; it’s all literally a discussion that builds on all four hosts’ ideas. That’s a tough order with that many hosts sharing the air, but they do it so easily I almost missed what they were doing. I’m going to enjoy keeping up with this one.

HawkGemini Man doesn’t seem to be scratching any itches for fans of dual performances/clone movies, but there’s something potentially worthwhile from the subgenre right here on Netflix. Produced and written by Timothy Greenberg (The Daily Show), Living With Yourself is a surprising and envelope-pushing dark comedy with a great performance from Paul Rudd and…Paul Rudd.

The show focuses on Miles (Paul Rudd), an advertising executive who is struggling to keep afloat his job and his relationship with his wife Kate (Aisling Bea). His coworker, who is on a strange new hot streak in his attitude and performance, refers Miles to a spa. The spa claims to perform a procedure that will completely transform the downtrodden and depressed. “A new you,” if you will. Miles takes the plunge, and emerges with a fantastic sense of happiness, energy and peace that immediately betters his life. At the same time, Miles also wakes up in a shallow grave.

It turns out that the $50,000 procedure was not advertising in metaphor. The spa uses a form of cloning to recreate a client, down to every memory, but tinkering with them to make them “better” and dumping the original person in the ground. Now there are two versions of Miles and they both want to live his life.

Surprisingly, Living With Yourself is significantly less funny than you would expect from Paul Rudd, who is best known for his comedic timing and sarcastic characters. Depression and existential dread are palpable in the show, with the occasional thread of dark comedy. Old Miles is miserable at realizing the scam of the spa, and New Miles is crushed by the fact that he isn’t “real” and the love he feels for his wife isn’t technically his.

The episodes are often companion pieces to each other, switching between the perspectives of the two versions of Miles and how they experience the same event or go through life in their different ways. There’s an energy to the pacing that feels similar to the phenomenal Russian Doll (also on Netflix) and it’s engaging to see where the plot goes and how the two versions of Miles interact. That all leans on Paul Rudd’s performance, which thankfully is a career best. Rudd is immediately convincing as two separate versions of himself. There’s a difference in posture and facial scruff, but even some of the smaller nuances in the dual performance are convincing, along with some of the most convincing photography I’ve yet seen when both versions share the frame.

The show is a little heavier than I expected, but the weight is in the right place as it explores the challenges of stagnant living and depression. I haven’t finished the season yet, but there’s already a lot going on and I’m definitely going to stick with it.

Those are our recommendations this week. What would be yours? Let us know in the comments!

Written by TV Obsessive

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