What I’m Watching: a mix of silliness and serious

The show I’m most excited about at the moment is Fleishman is in Trouble on Disney+. I read the book a couple of years ago and loved it. I was interesting to see how it would translate to the screen, and then I read that the novel’s author Taffy Brodesser-Akner was writing it and I saw the cast, and I really started looking forward to it.

It’s really really good. I’m enjoying so much. I have one episode left and I know I’m going to be sad when it’s over. It starts off being about recently divorced Toby Fleishman trying to cope when his ex-wife leaves their children at his apartment in the middle of the night and then disappears. Then it’s opens up to be about Toby and Rachel’s love story, how it began and how it ended; and about Toby’s friends love lives, it ends up being about work and money and values and acceptance and burnout and the brutality of motherhood and everything in between.

It’s visually interesting and uses what you see on screen in a clever, playful way. That doesn’t often happen with literary adaptations. The gorgeous trick with the narrator is less surprising on screen, though there are tv shows that use an unseen narrator rather than a voice-over. The one that springs to mind is Love Life, which has two ten-episode series on Netflix and covers similar ground – love, marriage, divorce, having babies, living in New York, etc. It has a wider scope and a half-hour format which means it is less intense than Fleishman is in Trouble, and the granularity is one of the things that I really like about Fleishman.

The casting is perfect. Although it’s interesting seeing actors that I first saw playing teenagers, now playing 40-somethings. It’s a bit of a head trip. I also did some googling and discovered that Adam Brody (Seth) and Claire Danes (Rachel) were born in the same year, even though they played teenagers ten years apart. Claires Danes was actually 15 when she played Angela Chase while Adam Brody was 23 was The OC started. (His character in Fleishman is also called Seth and if you squint, it could be a grown-up Seth Cohen.)

I watched Extraordinary Disney+ a little while ago. It’s about a world where everyone gets superpowers on their 18th birthday, or almost everyone. It’s a bit like a Channel 4 show but made with more money. (I mean that as a compliment – Channel 4 is my favourite.) The show focuses on one 25-year-old who hasn’t got her power yet. She’s very keen to get her power even though they don’t really seem to improve most people’s lives. People don’t get to choose what they get and some powers are definitely better than others. It’s fun and has some great one-liners. Siobhan McSweeney plays the quintessential Irish mam. She’s very loving and also an absolute head-wrecker. It’s not quite as dark or risqué as it thinks it, it’s definitely still a Disney show at its core.

Of course it made me think of that other superpower comedy, the wonderful Misfits which could get very dark at times. While the characters in Misfits were all teenagers, the characters in Extraordinary are in their mid-twenties, but still trying to figure themselves out and work out what they want to do with their lives. I think the age where tv characters are still confused and chaotic is getting older. In another show on Disney+, How I Met Your Father, the main character is a few years older than the characters of the show it spun off from. Ted in How I Met Your Mother is 27 at the start of the show, Sophie in How I Met Your Father turns 30 in the first series. It’s only a three year difference but it’s a significant three years. Particularly because it’s unlikely Sophie will get nine seasons to reveal the father.

Treason is a drama about MI-5 agents. It also features Russian spies, double agents and the CIA. It’s twisty and exciting. It stars Charlie Cox and Ciarán Hynes and features lots of shots of the London skyline. (I haven’t seen Kin yet but I’m sure it’s exactly the same with London replaced by Dublin. I tried to watch Kin to see how the two compared but it’s not on the RTÉ player anymore.) It’s on Netflix and consists of five pacy, dramatic episodes. It does have a good solid resolution but I’d quite like to see a second series. There are a few threads left dangling. It’s all very serious, proper grown-ups with proper jobs and life and death situations. It’s a decent thriller if you like that sort of thing. Also Alex Kingston is in it and she’s always great.

I also recently finished the first series of Girls5eva which is now on Netflix. It doesn’t not deal with life and death situations. It’s very silly but in a really enjoyable way. A lot of tv is made about young people, particularly comedies. It’s really nice to see 40-something women figuring themselves out, chasing their dreams, making mistakes and having a great time doing it. The way it depicts the group at the height of their fame is a good cure for 90s nostalgia and it also takes a swipe at how ridiculous fame is in the 2020s as well.


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