Ghosts, Raised by Wolves, and Other Things to Please Your Faculties

The cast mulls around a room in Ghosts on CBS

Welcome back! There’s a lot of dour stuff going on out there, but let’s not focus on that. Each week you’ll find in this space a set of recommendations from our writers, ranging from TV and film to music and podcasts, or whatever else we might be into at the moment. These things may or may not be new to the world, but that’s not the point. What matters is what’s interesting, and what’s worth your time. This week’s entries include: Ghosts on CBS, Belfast, Raised by Wolves, and Why Can’t We (a book about The Cranberries).

TV Recommendation (via Mark Hamill): Ghosts

Clay Dockery: I don’t very often go from “there is no way I would ever watch that show” to binging every episode that they have made so far very quickly, but that is precisely what just happened to me with CBS’s new comedy, Ghosts. The show has been advertised ubiquitously and the general tone of the previews, along with the show airing on a network—and CBS at that—had made it seem “not for me.” But then everything changed when Mark Hamill started tweeting.

A tweet from Mark Hamill reads, "This IS a surprise to me (seems as though everything I like gets cancelled), but a WONDERFUL surprise indeed. @GhostsCBS is a delight: smart, witty, whimsical, very funny with a BRILLIANT cast that is beyond perfection!" followed by eight ghost emojis, a rofl emoji, #CongratulationsOnAWellDeservedRenewal and a thumbs-up emoji, as a retweet in response to GhostsCBS which had said "This may be no surprise to anyone who watches and loves #GhostsCBS, but we still found a way to surprise the cast with this good news---Ghosts is officially renewed for Season 2!"

Mark Hamill’s Twitter feed is a wonder unto itself. Hamill reigns supreme as the benevolent overlord of millions of followers but the entire space feels different than much of the rest of the internet, more positive and uplifting. Half of the time the tweets are people whimsically asking Hamill to do something fun or silly, which he does more often than not, and the rest of the time he seems to spend sending out love and good vibes to friends, actors, artists, and creators of all stripes.

Yesterday, as it was announced that Ghosts was picked up for a second season, Hamill decided to throw his weight behind the show and the fallout was amazing. Every actor and creator picked up the tweet and responded with joy that Hamill was thinking of them. But it didn’t stop there. He wound up responding to each person, personally noting what was great about their characters and performances. In the past when people would attack the young Star Wars sequel cast, Hamill and Carrie Fisher would go to bat for them, and that spirit was also a part of this unexpected barrage of creative exaltation.

So I decided to join the positive flow myself. My girlfriend and I sat down last night and put on the Ghosts pilot. It was cute and the main character, Samantha, was played by Rose McIver who I’ve loved in many things but never see often enough. I had been afraid that it would be a laugh track sitcom, but it wasn’t, so that was fun. The premise was neat but it seemed unlikely they could make it work with so many characters. But then we kept watching and it kept feeling more tightly put together. By the end of the night, we had watched every episode and can’t wait for more.

It isn’t exactly a complicated show and, much like the somehow very similar and yet almost antithetical What We Do in the Shadows, it is quite uninterested in really exploring why these supernatural things are happening. (WWDITS is also a Hamill favorite, perhaps he has a type.) But the characters really come together and each of them has started to shine. (Roman Zargoza’s character, a Native American named Sasapiss, is probably my favorite.)

Joe Port and Joe Wiseman have adapted the show and the characters from the original BBC version of Ghosts (which Hamill has now also watched and has sparked my interest in as well!) in a way that makes the show feel like its own thing while holding onto the humor at the core. It may not be great art but Ghosts is really great fun.

Film Recommendation: Belfast

Christopher Pilbeam: On Tuesday afternoon I saw Belfast at the cinema with a friend, and when we left our seats we were both gushing over what is obviously a directorial triumph for Kenneth Branagh, and an extraordinary feature film debut for 11 year old Jude Hill. We discussed at length our jealousy of the ease with which Branagh blends minutiae with profundity. Then we turned to the performances, noting that Colin Morgan’s borderline melodramatic villainy was particularly pleasing. Indeed, there are elements of melodrama throughout, which serve to emphasise the child’s-eye-view perspective; things that are frightening become fantastical, and the bursts of violence are so sudden as to appear nonsensical.

On a personal note, this feels like the perfect time in my life to have seen Belfast. On the one side of the movie there is the innocence of childhood, and on the other the melancholy and wisdom of old age—as a young adult I am somewhere between the two. The middle generation, Ma and Pa, are caught in overwhelming indecision, desperate to make the right choice before they suddenly run out of time. The specific conflict of this story is not one I have lived through, but this anxiety is nonetheless entirely relatable.

The lasting impression of Belfast was summed up quite succinctly by my friend: “that was a real movie”.

Book Recommendation: Why Can’t We

Daniel Siuba: This week I’ve been enjoying the newly released book, Why Can’t We, which tells the story of The Cranberries’ music through reviews and interviews from Ireland’s Hot Press Magazine. Curated by Stuart Clark, the book itself is gorgeous; it’s a larger format book with a plethora of studio photographs, candid pictures, scans of handwritten lyrics, and old promo flyers from the days when the band was called “The Cranberry Saw Us.” In addition to the plethora of magazine write-ups, there are also newly penned essays by the likes of Melodie McDaniel, who directed the “Linger” music video (her directorial debut), R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe, and Duran Duran’s Simon Le Bon, to name only a few.

At present, I’m only partly through the book. I could blow through it, but I want to savor the experience and, I think, avoid the inevitable, tragic end for as long as possible. So far, it’s been a fascinating ride, especially getting a glimpse of what it was like to be a young, unknown rock musician in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s in Limerick, Ireland. Early on, you see how the morale of the people of Limerick was affected by the success of its bands (or lack thereof), and you get a sense of how fast The Cranberries became famous. Also, as someone who writes about music and musicians, learning how Irish journalists reviewed shows and albums 30 years ago in Limerick is quite a treat. The writers are funny and sweet, but they aren’t afraid to bare their teeth when necessary; they’re honest, but fair. If you’re a fan of the Cranberries or love music history, I highly recommend this book.

The Cranberries in a black and white photo on the cover of Why Can't We, curated by Stuart Clark

Another TV Recommendation: Raised by Wolves

Caemeron Crain: Season 2 of Raised by Wolves premieres on HBO Max on February 3rd and I couldn’t be more excited. If you haven’t watched the first season, which was released in 2020, now would be a great time to catch up (and you can read along with Brien Allen’s coverage, which followed the original release schedule).

This show has everything! I mean, literally I find myself imagining its creation stemming from a room of writers who wanted to make a sci-fi show and when discussing possible premises just decided to do all of them. I know that’s not quite right, as the story originated with Aaron Guzikowski writing a screenplay, but I guess I’m still prone to conjecture that as things progressed more and more ideas just got lumped in.

The thing is: somehow it all works! There are androids, an apocalyptic war, religious prophecy, seemingly “devolved” human beings, virtual reality, flying serpents…I just constantly find myself thinking that this show is bananas but I love it.

It helps that the lead performances are so strong, in particular from Amanda Collin and Travis Fimmel. I can’t decide whose side I am on, exactly, or whose side I should be on, but that’s part of the fun.

Ridley Scott serves as an executive producer on the show and directed the first two episodes, which I will admit is part of what drew me to it in the first place.

If you like sci-fi you should check this one out, and then come back and follow along with us for Season 2! Things just get more complicated! It’s great.

What have you been into this week? Let us know in the comments!

Written by TV Obsessive

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