Like most Americans, I spent a lot of time in front of the ol’ boob tube in my youth, but I haven’t had a television in my house for over fifteen years. Recently, I was feeling very out of touch. To put my finger back on the pulse of American culture, my friend suggested a “Netflix binge.” I didn’t have time, obviously, to watch every show that had been recommended to me in the last fifteen years, so I decided to watch only the first ten minutes of each one. All I can say is: The more things change, the more they stay the same.
How To Get Away With Murder
Students stumble through the woods at night. One of them yells: “Stop acting like a little bitch!” They have in their possession a bloody trophy that has been used to kill someone. They are trying to figure out what to do with it.
This one totally reminded me of that episode of The Brady Bunch when Bobby realizes he is the only one in the family who hasn’t won a trophy. He starts wearing a donkey mask around the house, then enters an ice-cream eating contest. He loses, but his family gives him a trophy anyway for his effort. Nothing new under the sun.
American Horror Story
A little girl with Down’s Syndrome stands in a dilapidated yard, looking up at an old mansion. A rock smashes through one of the windows. She turns around to see twin boys.
“Hey freak,” says one.
“Excuse me,” the girl replies. “You are going to die in there.”
The other boy says, “Shut your mouth or we’re going to kick your ass.”
The twins proceed to smash up the mansion with baseball bats until they discover a small suffering animal, bleeding out.
Yeah, I saw this the first time, America, when it was called Freaks and Geeks. Lindsay Weir is a “good girl” who starts hanging out with the “freaks.” On Halloween, they do crazy stuff, like egg people’s houses. They get fake IDs and cheat on tests. There are many hilarious scenes when Lindsay and her brother sit down to dinner with their embarrassing parents, who are still married and care about them. The twins will probably befriend the little girl and learn something about their capacity for love in the process. Next!
House of Cards
Brakes screech, glass shatters, a dog yelps in pain. A man in a suit crouches down and says, “It’s okay.” He looks into the camera: “There are two kinds of pain, the sort of pain that makes you strong, or useless pain, the sort of pain that is only suffering. I have no patience for useless things.” He strangles the dog.
Remember Comet, the family dog from Full House? He would sometimes eat Michelle’s ice cream when she wasn’t looking. A new riff on a classic theme. I get it.
Sons of Anarchy
Somewhere in a city, men are breaking into a building. They find some machine guns. One of them grabs a can of gasoline. A family is hiding out under the floorboards. Meanwhile, a Hell’s Angel guy goes into gas station to buy a box of condoms. A flirtatious female cashier recommends the larger box. They hear an explosion and look out the window. In the distance, a massive fire cloud rises into the sky. The family in the floorboards is now presumably being burned alive.
Just like that Friends episode when Monica and Rachel fight over the last condom in the apartment.
A man in suit gets into a car. A man in the back seat pops up and starts choking him with a thin metal wire. The man with the wire says: “Drive.” They end up in a forest, where the abductor pulls the driver out of the car, wraps the thin metal wire around his neck and drags him, with the wire, by the neck, into a building where he shows him several bodies of dead boys. Cut to: Somewhere in the warehouse, the man in the suit has been stripped naked and strapped to a gurney with Saran wrap. The abductor takes out a drill, powers it up, and starts jabbing it into the man’s face. The man is screaming, because he is still alive.
Totally reminds me of that episode of The Cosby Show when Denise gets a “D” in college and doesn’t want to tell her parents. There is a “D” in Dexter. And you know what, America? There is a “D” in “derivative” too.
Person of Interest
Watching this one was like going back in time: A gang on a subway starts to harass a homeless guy at the point of a gun. The homeless guy pulls one guy’s arm out of his socket, knees another in the balls, punches one in the throat, elbows another in the face, and then chokes another one.
This totally reminded me of that one episode of Growing Pains when Ben, swept up in the Christmas spirit, brings home a homeless teen who says her name is “Nancy Reagan,” especially the part when “Nancy Reagan” stabs Mike Seaver in the throat, pulls out a gun, shoots the family dog, kidnaps little Chrissie and takes her down to a warehouse by the river where she proceeds to make a bunch of child rape porn. Cut to: Cops poring over the bruised and broken body of Chrissie Seaver, which is shown gratuitously throughout the episode.
Wait, I think I am confusing that with every episode of CSI.
“Nancy Reagan” does plan to rob the house in Growing Pains, though! That part is true. I won’t spoil it by telling you whether the Seaver family’s warmth and hospitality ends up giving her second thoughts in the end.
Orange Is the New Black
A woman stands naked in a shower, shivering. Someone on the other side of the plastic curtain is telling her to hurry up. When she exits, a much larger woman on the other side of the curtain pulls her towel down and says, “Ooh, honey, you got some nice titties.” A song plays: The animal, the animal, trapped, trapped, the cage is full.
Alright, the jig is up. I can’t remember anything like this from back in the day. I know the incarceration rate in America is now the highest in the world, so maybe being in jail is “the new normal,” but I think if you are going to try to entertain me with something as depressing as people living an incarcerated existence, then you should at least throw in a Cell Block Tango and some very high kicks.
The Walking Dead
A cop shoots a little girl in the face.
No words. Clearly, it will take me a while to catch up with your cultural progress and increasingly sophisticated tastes, America. At least cops aren’t shooting kids for no reason in real life.
I was confused by this one: A man in a suit sips an Old Fashioned while writing something on a cocktail napkin. In the first five minutes, there was not a single gun; no one was jumped, punched, threatened, insulted, murdered, shot, burned, beaten, dragged, abducted, tortured, stabbed, humiliated, mutilated or raped. And there was not one character associated with the security state to sympathize with: no local investigators, no badges, no security clearance; no FBI, CIA, CTU, or Pentagon; no homeland security, crafty congressmen, soldiers, White House staff, prison guards, blue bloods, or blacklist.
The main character was a copywriter, with a family. But then by the five-minute mark, the protagonist had committed adultery, which I am told he continues to do in every episode for the next seven years, so I was like, “Oh.” Also, the woman he bangs in the first episode ends up dead. His wife: #metoo.
Yeeessss!!!! So, DJ is a widow now, and her BFF and sister move in to help her raise her kids! I didn’t watch it but let me guess: Kimmy starts mixing meth in the basement and selling it on the streets with the help of DJ’s son. Stephanie is a teacher having an illicit sexual relationship with her student. Michelle occasionally Skypes with them from Capitol Hill, where she is having an affair with the President. DJ comes up with a publicity stunt for her veterinary practice and makes Comet the first ever “trans” dog in America. While interviewing DJ on her morning show, Becca stops the segment due to breaking news: There has been a shooting at the kids’ school. Joey, a comedian-turned-cop, worked there, and he has died saving the children. Jesse’s band puts on a fundraiser for the school, the victims, and all first responders. Everyone cries, in utter shock, “What is going on? Who would do something like this? How could this happen? Why?” Danny shows up and gives everyone hugs. And everything old is new again.