Larks & Recs: The Lazarus Project, The Floor, Gilmore Girls, Barbie

People in a command center look up towards a screen in The Lazarus Project

Welcome back to Larks & Recs! I know it’s been a while, so let me remind you how this works. Each week, members of the TV Obsessive staff offer recommendations of things they’ve been into recently. Often, those will be TV shows. Sometimes, they’ll be films, songs, podcasts, or potato salad recipes. The field’s wide open! This week, Hawk Ripjaw recommends The Lazarus Project, Caemeron Crain recommends The Floor, Robin Moon has been rewatching Gilmore Girls, and Clay Dockery looks forward to the Oscars.

Getting Sucked into The Lazarus Project

Hawk: I absolutely love high-concept science fiction, and The Lazarus Project effectively scratches that specific itch. George is an extremely skilled analyst, and living his best life: he’s on track for his pitch to be picked up, his girlfriend Sarah is expecting a child, and they eventually get married. Then a new pandemic rears its head, and things begin to get grim, until George suddenly wakes up months earlier, on July 1. Everything—the successful pitch, the marriage, the pregnancy, the pandemic—hasn’t happened yet.

George is approached by a woman named Archie, who tells him that he is a mutant: one of a tiny, tiny fraction of humanity that is able to organically notice time loops, and that she is part of an organization called The Lazarus Project that monitors events leading to the end of the world and resets time back to a set checkpoint, like a video game, as many times as needed to prevent it. George joins The Lazarus Project, but as early as the second episode, things aren’t as clean as George would hope.

Right out of the gate, The Lazarus Project makes some very smart storytelling decisions: when George experiences his first reset and doesn’t know what’s going on, the show pumps the brakes on multiple resets in favor of a baffled George struggling through a new reality as his sanity spirals and Sarah drifts away. There’s a lot of time spent with George attempting to decipher his situation, becoming progressively more miserable, and it’s just the first reset.

In a previous checkpoint, George managed to save Sarah from getting shoved into traffic, and the terrorist (and former Lazarus Project operative) Rebrov detonated a nuclear bomb. In the newest reset, Rebrov has been captured and the blast averted, but Sarah is in a coma after George was not there to save her from falling into the road. Moreover, Sarah being shoved into traffic was a direct result of George acting pettily against the man pining after her.

This raises some complicated questions as to what qualifies for a reset: Archie maintains that only large-scale extinction events necessitate the reset, as doing so changes the course of the world given how many other lives it resets or even erases. It also means that resetting to save Sarah is not a viable option for the welfare of the world, now that Rebrov has been thwarted.

As the show goes on, George grapples with that dilemma, while working with The Lazarus Project to confront additional crises. It’s such a cool concept, and laid out so cleanly, with compelling direction and performances that make it a must-watch. Sadly, it’s not an easy show to track down, with Hulu Live or a cable subscription with TNT being the only current ways to watch it barring a la carte purchases of individual episodes, but if it’s available to you, it’s a great ride.

Checking Out The Floor

Caemeron: I’m a big fan of game shows. I will, potentially, even watch bad game shows, if I’m in the mood and there isn’t a good one to watch. So, recently, after I ran out of episodes of Celebrity Jeopardy!, I decided to check out this relatively new program on Fox called The Floor.

Looking into it, The Floor is apparently based on a show from The Netherlands, but I certainly didn’t know that when I clicked on it on Hulu, and I’m not sure how much it matters. The American version is hosted by Rob Lowe, and… well, I don’t care a lot about that either, even if I literally enjoy seeing him on my screen.

The enjoyment for me stems primarily from how the game works, which is a little complicated. First of all, there’s a floor, and each contestant has a space on the floor that they own. They’ve chosen areas of expertise, and that’s important to how the game works, because these determine the categories of competition.

We start with someone being randomly selected, and then they have to challenge someone in an adjacent square. Whoever wins takes over the other person’s area of the floor, and the ultimate goal is to take over the whole thing. But that’s not happening in a single episode.

Rather, there’s a prize for who has the most space at the end of each episode, in addition to the grand prize that will come at the end. So it’s all one contest that spans over the season, with mini-contests in each part of it. That makes The Floor something of a novelty in that it has a major serial aspect that carries over from week to week, while at the same time this structure would make it eminently binge-able if you were to wait to watch it until the season ends.

There are further wrinkles about when contestants keep their own category and when they take over their opponent’s, which add a level of strategy, since after each head-to-head the winner has to decide whether to challenge a further person or go back to the floor to await a challenge/defend their space.

Overall, this show is just a really good time, and now I’m looking forward to when the new episode comes out each week. I hope they keep this one going.

Revisiting Gilmore Girls

Robin: Recently, I’ve been rewatching Gilmore Girls! I’d only ever seen it once through before, and that was in 2020, so a rewatch was due. Centered around a warm cast of quirky, quick-talking characters in the cozy small town of Stars Hollow, Gilmore Girls is the ultimate comfort show. Amy Sherman-Palladino, the show’s creator, portrays familial, friendship, and relationship dynamics in such a nuanced and realistic way. No person is without fault in any given situation or conflict (except Luke, he’s perfect and has never done anything wrong in his life), but they always remain easy to sympathize with. It is truly one of the best written shows I’ve ever seen.

Currently, I just finished Season 3, but it’s already been interesting to see how my opinion or interpretation of the plot and characters has altered the second time around. For example, I was SO mad at Jess when he was leaving the show at the end of Season 3 the first time I watched it—the way I remembered it, he was way grumpier and treated Rory far worse. But actually, he was a lot easier to sympathize with than I thought. Sure, he’s a troubled kid who doesn’t deal with it well, but you can see he really cares about Rory and Luke, and is hurting too much to nurture those relationships healthily. Also, I like Richard more this time! Previously, I found him boring and not as relevant to the story as Emily (who is an absolute powerhouse), but there’s a lot more to him on a rewatch; he has some real nice subtlety to his performance, heartfelt warmth in his interactions with Rory, and provides a nice contrast to Emily and Lorelai’s explosive encounters.

I am very much looking forward to rewatching the rest, especially now I’m about to start Season 4, aka the beginning of Rory’s descent into becoming quite insufferable. So that’s certainly going to be interesting! Regardless of the later story choices in the show that I don’t agree with (did someone say secret daughter?), I’m excited to continue to immerse myself in the familiar and reassuring world of Gilmore Girls.

Luke serves Rory and Lorelai at his diner
The WB/Screenshot

Previewing the Oscars with Barbie

Clay: The Academy Awards nominations were announced this week and the usual conversations have been raging. Who was snubbed? Will there be any surprises? And so on. Rather than engage with those issues specifically, or give a category by category breakdown, I thought it would be a bit of a Lark to go movie by movie over the next several weeks, share some thoughts on how I felt about the film as a whole, make some predictions, and talk about how I think the nominees from the film will affect the 96th Academy Awards as a television show.

This week: Barbie

Greta Gerwig’s Barbie was the absolute juggernaut of the summer. The movie was the highest grossing of the year, making well over a billion dollars. And due to Gerwig and producer/star Margot Robbie, the movie also turned out to be a surprising critical success. It is a fun, visually compelling, surprisingly poignant film. It’s unusual for the Oscars actually to bestow any attention or honors on such a movie. So, of course, whether they have actually done so is the biggest storyline coming out of the nominations.

Barbie came in with 8 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, but Gerwig and Robbie didn’t wind up getting nominated for Best Director or Best Actress, while Ryan Gosling, Ken himself, picked up an expected (and deserved) nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Which mirrors the plot of the movie—Ken takes over Barbieland because of the Patriarchy—in ways that make it almost seem like an intentional move by the academy. All of the controversy also leaves the surprising nomination for America Ferrera in Best Supporting Actress as an afterthought, which would have been a really fun thing to celebrate had the other circumstances not been as strange.

Margot Robbie as Barbie points a finger into the air as she drives her pink car
Warner Bros. Pictures/Screenshot

What this really leaves is a winning situation for actual broadcast of the Oscars. Robbie and Gerwig will still be there, as they both do have other nominations for the film. Robbie is one of the film’s Producers, and was a driving force in getting it made. While Gerwig has, along with her partner, a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. For their original film that happens to be based on an iconic brand. At this point it seems exceptionally unlikely that the film will pick up any of those top line awards though. But by having the stars at the ceremony and the film at least in the running for different awards throughout the night, it really does seem like there will be a different feel (and from ABC’s perspective, the potential for more ratings) than at least the past 10 years of Oscar telecasts.

The only award that I think Barbie is the frontrunner for is Best Original Song, where Billie Eilish’s “What Was I Made For?” seems likely to beat the other songs, including Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt (and Gosling) for “I’m Just Ken.” It wouldn’t shock me to see Barbie pull in the Costume or Production Design awards; I just think there are other contenders with a better shot. It would shock me if the movie won in any of the big categories though.

The irony, and the ecstasy, is that the telecast is probably better off this way. They get the press of the controversy, they get the viewers from having the film in Best Picture contention and then they get to play it safe by giving the major awards to other movies. Which is too bad in many ways, but not unexpected or even all that unfair. (As much as I enjoyed Barbie, this was an exceptional year for movies and I am rooting for several of the others in those “big” categories.) But both the main omissions still sting, Gerwig and Robbie set the entire tone for the films of the year and both did exceptional work with material that could have gone awry. Luckily the Barbie movie itself will always be there to turn to when we experience our own inescapable thoughts of death.

Written by TV Obsessive

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