Welcome to What’s the Buzz, 25YL’s feature where members of our staff provide you with recommendations on a weekly basis. In our internet age, there is so much out there to think about watching, reading, listening to, etc., that it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, filter out the noise, or find those diamonds in the rough. But have no fear! We’re here to help you do that thing I just described with three different metaphors. Each week a rotating cast of writers will offer their recommendations based on things they have discovered. They won’t always be new to the world, but they’ll be new to us, or we hope new to you. This week, Hawk Ripjaw is watching Color Out of Space, John Bernardy is listening to There’s A Podcast All Right, and Vincent Greene recommends both The Expanse and Letterkenny.
The Expanse: A Whole New World, Just Waiting to be Discovered
Vincent: The Expanse is an American television series created by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby. It was adapted from the science fiction novel of the same name written by James S. A. Corey. An interesting fact about the author of the novel—it is actually a pair of writers by the names of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck who combined their middle names and the initials of Abraham’s daughter to create the pen name James S. A. Corey.
The Expanse originally aired on the Syfy channel for three seasons before being canceled and resurrected by Jeff Bezos over at Amazon. Thank goodness for that because this show really has legs. It is brimming with complicated characters that are living life in the harshest of places. It lives up to its name completely, it is a vast universe.
So to the main premise of The Expanse I won’t cover in too much detail here. I would hate to spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. It is set in the future, where humanity has colonized not just Mars but has also expanded out into the far reaches of the solar system.
The U.N is in control of the Earth, finding themselves atop of the political hierarchy in this New World Order. Mars has become an independent body and is constantly at odds with its former colonial forebearers. The relationship between Mars and Earth is rife with cold war rhetoric, with both sides vying for control in an increasingly volatile Solar System.
Whereas Earth and Mars are busying themselves with their seemingly never-ending power struggle, there are ones that find themselves on the outside looking in. The group of people that call the outer reaches their home, otherwise known as Belters, are the marginalized cast in this stellar society—the ones that feel forgotten and ignored, which causes a lot of resentment from them, leading to the rise of extremists and terrorist organizations such as the O.P.A. (Outer Planets Alliance).
When it begins, the story centers around three storylines, focusing on United Nations Security Council member Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo), Detective Josephus Miller (Thomas Jane) and ship’s officer James Holden (Stephen Strait) along with his ragtag crew—who find themselves unwittingly at the center of a massive conspiracy. This conspiracy that they slowly start to unravel risks the fragile peace that binds the system together.
The Expanse begins in a slow and steady manner but progresses very quickly in Season 2 and doesn’t slow down from then on. The stories get bolder and bigger, the characters become more real and relatable. The show is massive in scale but has an ability to highlight the small human moments also.
It is a sprawling story that is ever-expanding. It has near-unlimited potential for growth on every level. It is a brave story that makes brave creative decisions at the toughest of times. The Expanse is a huge universe just waiting to be explored by a wider audience. So go forth brave travelers and be the interstellar explorers that uncover this brave new world.
There’s a Podcast All Right
John: There’s A Podcast All Right is a welcome new addition to the Twin Peaks podcast landscape.
Hosts Goldie, Janna, and Katy have put out regular character-centric episodes since February. So far they’ve covered Josie, Lucy, and Audrey (while also doing a Twin Peaks Day special), and I recommend you listen to all of them.
They don’t dive headlong into theory-crafting as much as they treat these characters as people and extrapolate on how they became the person who made the choices we see in the show. It’s an interesting angle, and I like that the hosts are all female (they’re the only current show with that demographic, though There Will Be Drinking and Is It Future Or Is It Podcast? also have all-female hosts).
Who did these ladies discuss today? Wally Brando, and it is a joy of a podcast. So much laughter was had, both from the hosts and on my side.
They talked about the pace of the monologue—they suspect that “Mark Frost wrote it, and David Lynch slowed it down”—and how far Wally has really travelled.
They also discuss the influence from Lucy’s sister Gwen on Wally, parentage by Dick Tremayne, and James probably being a role model, as well as Micheal Cera’s casting adding a level to how we feel about the character.
They didn’t break the monologue down line by line (if you want that, you can find it here) but they did cover everything else. They looked into how much of (and why) the fascination with Marlon Brando—and the Wild Ones—existed, and even dove into the math problem of Wally’s birthday.
An amusing running joke kept popping up that Wally’s arrival at the Sheriff’s station is something that happens every week, rather than just this once.
Also brought up is the online theory that Wally’s an actor substituting for a miscarriage Lucy had in the past, but most of the episode focuses on the welcome lightheartedness of the scene as compared to the intensity of scenes surrounding it.
Then they apply Wally to a Cosmo Quiz—my favorite part is the answer to “Is he ambitious?”—before coming up with an actually perfect match for him.
In a time when we’re all stressed out more than normal, this was a healing hour that I recommend to all Peaks fans that are in front of me, behind me, sometimes to my left, and sometimes to my right.
Color Out of Space
Hawk: Director Richard Stanley is a certified madman, in the best way: his awesome genre-bending Hardware put him on the map, and the story behind his doomed The Island of Dr. Moreau is a grand one involving studio interference, a shaman and sabotage. He’s been out of the industry for years, but his comeback is a very effective and entertaining adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s Color Out of Space.
The story takes some careful liberties with the source short story, centering Nathan (Nicolas Cage) moving his wife Theresa (Joely Richardson) and children Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur), Benny (Brendan Meyer) and Jack (Julian Hilliard) to a farm following Theresa’s cancer diagnosis. One night, a meteorite crashes in their front yard and begins emanating a strange glow referred to as the Color. The Color begins to infect the farm: strange flora and fauna begin to develop, the young Jack falls into a trance and is drawn to something in their well, and Nathan begins exhibiting bursts of rage. Hydrologist Ward (Elliot Knight) notices there is something very wrong with the water, and things only get more sinister from there as the Color continues to progress.
Now, I am a card-carrying Nic Cage fanboy; I love how eccentric he is in real life, and he’s by far one of the most interesting actors in the business. His trademark “Cage freakouts,” in which he absolutely cuts loose for a gonzo meltdown, are what really set his acting style apart. As the malignant force overtakes the farm, it invades Cage’s character’s mind and occasionally transforms him into a reactive, aggressive a-hole, allowing Cage to tap into an energy he hasn’t enjoyed since Vampire’s Kiss, down to him even occasionally utilizing his deliciously bizarre accent from the ’80s movie.
The movie also knows to pull back from the goofiness when it needs to (but still finds the right balance with a goofy bit role from Tommy Chong doing exactly what you may expect), incorporating genuine moments of horror and heavy sadness. The second half in particular, while punctuated with Cage’s antics, is drenched in a sense of inescapable doom.
Also worth noting is some seriously effective body horror that appears to be a careful blend of practical and CGI effects. In keeping with the spirit of Lovecraft, it mostly takes the “less is more” approach to revealing horrific sights, abstaining from showing too much too early and letting the audience’s imagination fester as long as possible.
Lovecraft is difficult to do correctly, but Color Out of Space is a smashing success. Richard Stanley clearly has a passion for Lovecraft and a respect and understanding of the writer’s style. As this is to be the first of Stanley’s proposed “Lovecraft Trilogy,” there’s still a lot of good content on the horizon if he’s allowed to continue his vision.
Letterkenny: It’s Comedy Gold and Its Time You Figured It Out
Vincent: Letterkenny is a Canadian sitcom created by Jared Kesso. It was developed for television by Kesso and his creative partner Jacob Tierney after finding initial success as a YouTube web series. It would later be picked up by Crave with Kesso and Tierney taking up much of the writing work. It is set in the small Ontario town of Letterkenny, which is loosely based on Kesso’s hometown of Listowel, Ontario. The show mainly centers around Kesso’s Wayne and his sister Katy (Michelle Mylett) and their two friends, Darryl (Nathan Dales) and Dan. (K. Trevor Wilson)
Although the majority of the narrative of this hilariously dry and quick-witted comedy focuses on the quartet it also begins to branch out to encompass the other residents of Letterkenny. We soon discover that this small town is filled with a myriad of gloriously strange and eccentric characters. Each new character is more crazed than the last in the best possible way.
It has similar aesthetic and lunacy of a show like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia but even though they look similar they vary wildly at times. One difference being the group of friends in Letterkenny is far less volatile than the proprietors of Paddy’s Pub.
The style of humor is also something that sets it apart from its American counterpart. Whereas It’s Always Sunny goes for the brash in your face, nearly psychotic kind of heavy metal type of comedy, Letterkenny, on the other hand, goes for a more dry tone, with hints of social commentary just peppered about it, hidden amongst the small town hickness of it all.
Kesso and Tierney very cleverly make their stance on matters crystal clear in an oh so sneaky way. They hide the intelligence in plain view, just like the leads of the show, and there is a lot more than meets the eye to the creators of Letterkenny. They do such a clever job of concealing the serious within the funny. For what is ostensibly a very silly sitcom, it is not without its fair share of smarts.
As Letterkenny progresses it delves deeper into the wider range of inhabitants that call this rural town home. My favorite has to be the ice-hockey playing pair Reilly (Dylan Playfair) and Jonesy.(Andrew Herr), the two completely in-sync friends who make up for their lack of brains with their enthusiasm for everything, except leg day that is.
The two young jocks carry a fair share of the narrative burden as the story broadens. Kesso and Tierney were quick to see how talented the pair are at playing off one another. The bigger the workload the duo gets the better they are—practice makes perfect and they really have perfected the roles of Reilly and Jonesy. Their back and forths are some of the funniest parts of the entire show.
There are a whole host of brilliantly weird supporting characters, from the little more than confused Glen played by Tierney himself to the swinging couple the McMurray’s, and last but not least Stewart (Tyler Johnston), the local manic goth who is backed up by his group of fervent supporters, none more so than his slightly obsessive friend Roald.(Evan Stern). The depth in comedic talent for such a small show is staggering.
One of my favorite parts about Letterkenny is it has to be the only show in history that usually introduces a character by having them brawl with our protagonists. It is a hilarious reoccurring joke that is always done to perfection. Throughout the brawls (of which there are many), Letterkenny is an extremely fun experience with a heart of gold. It is sharp, hilarious, constantly improving, and on the same level as many top American sitcoms. Even though the story grows in scope each season at the heart of it all Letterkenny is a story about a town with a population of 5,000 people and these are their problems.
Those are our recommendations this week! What are yours? Let us know in the comments!