Friday, July 8, 2016

2015-16 TV Season Recap, Part One

Now it is time for one of my favorite entries of the year, and that is my annual TV season recap. Here are links to my 2013-14 and 2014-15 TV season recaps in case you missed them. This past year I stayed current with the most ongoing TV series than I ever have in quite some time. I will credit that to HBO Now being a wonderful app, and switching to no commercials on Hulu Plus is definitely worth a couple extra dollars a month and allowed me to use that time saved on investing in a couple other shows this season. Since I have really upped the amount of TV shows I am covering this season edition of the TV Season recap will be a four part piece. If you want to ride this out with me please check out the other installments:

Part 2 (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, The Jamz)
Part 3 (Game of Thrones, Leftovers, Ballers, Agent Carter)
Part 4 (Gotham, Arrow, Flash, Legends of Tomorrow)


South Park - For the first time in many, many years I have watched an entire season of South Park. For the last decade or so I would only watch an episode or two a season that was generating a lot of buzz online and I was fine with that. This past year however, a coworker who is an avid fan of the show kept recommending the new episodes to me, and since they are on Hulu and pretty quick watches at around 20 minutes each with no commercials it made for a low-term commitment. I am glad I stuck with it.

I believe this is one of the first seasons of South Park to feature a season-spanning story arc. This season we witness the rise, fall and rise of a character that comes to be known as PC Principal. Nearly each of the ten episodes this season is a winner as South Park Elementary finds itself under the rule of a new principal that is all about ‘checking your privilege.’ Like almost any other South Park episode I lost track of what they were spoofing, and had no idea what side they ultimately fell on, but it made for a hell of a fun watch the entire season. PC Principal is part of a frat house of fellow PC-brothers and watching Stan’s dad join the frat results in many classic moments for Stan’s dad, which is saying a lot actually. Also the long overdue episode spoofing Yelp gets super-high marks from me and has a must-see music video at the end of the episode. Grade: A

The Simpsons/Family Guy - I only got through about seven or eight episodes this season for both long running FOX animated series. I am nowhere near as big a fan of these shows I was around 10 years ago for Family Guy and 20 years ago for The Simpsons. Since both shows are quick watches though, I would occasionally throw in an episode in the background or to nod off to bed to and just to see if either of these shows were still capable of me enjoying them as much as I once did. The Simpsons had a couple of fun episodes including a Halloween-themed episode of the family getting lost in a scary amusement park, which was followed up by another smashing installment of their annual Treehouse of Horror episodes.

The iconic South Park manatees episode from several years ago, in combination with an awful spoof of 12 Angry Men from a few years back resulted in me really falling off the Family Guy wagon. I will still watch an occasional episode, and from what I have seen so far this season this show just does not have it anymore for me. The occasional joke still clicks for me, but of the eight episodes I have seen this season, the only one I actually enjoyed was where Stewie built a robot friend that turned against him. I guess the episode with Joe suffering a terrible accident and winding up nearly 100% paralyzed was not too shabby either. Since I did not make it all the way through either series this season it would be unfair to grade either so, Grade: n/a


American Grit - I usually avoid most reality shows unless it involves wrestling or wrestlers as hosts or competitors. Rest assured, I dug me some seasons of Tough Enough and Bullrun in the past! American Grit however is having the one and only John Cena hosting this competition where four teams of four compete in military themed obstacle courses and challenges to test their resolve and vigor. Each team is headed up by a military veteran, and the show pulls out all the reality show bag of tricks like having one incredibly unlikeable person you want to see eliminated right away and a couple of super-charismatic, down-to-earth folks you want to see rise above and win at all costs. I am looking at you Tony!

The weekly challenge, called ‘evolutions’ had all kinds of unique twists and were pretty entertaining to watch, and the beast of an obstacle course three people competed in each episode seemed like a contemporary version of ‘the eliminator’ from American Gladiators. There were a lot of good moments of teams coming together to win competitions and obstacles, and just as entertaining to find some teams in certain weeks where things were just not clicking and falling apart. Love him or hate him, the charismatic John Cena made an excellent host and I was rooting along with him this season for all the competitors and he also excelled in great one-on-one pep talks that provided extra insight on all the competitors’ personal lives throughout the season. If American Gladiators meets boot camp drills sounds like a killer combo for you, then hopefully you will dig American Grit as much as I did! Grade: A

ESPN 30 for 30 2015-16 Season and Shorts - ESPN continues to deliver on their acclaimed 30 for 30 documentary series, where they collaborate with top Hollywood documentarians on making high-profile sports documentaries. I saw several from the past year, and I am kicking myself for not being able to watch the new four part 30 for 30, titled Made in America that is all about OJ Simpson which I absolutely want to see. Unfortunately I do not have cable, but Netflix streaming usually gets access to these about 30 to 60 days after they originally air.

I however did see Chasing Tyson, which chronicles the dream fight between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield that took nearly a decade of obstacles to happen, and the following bizarre shenanigans that ensued in the unbelievable rematch. Prince of Pennsylvania is the documentary version of the acclaimed indie film, Foxcatcher. This details the controversies behind the Foxcatcher wrestling team that results in the murder of Olympic Gold medalist, Dave Schultz. If you grew up a fan of football in the ‘90s then Four Falls of Buffalo gets my highest recommendations as it is all about the unfortunate Buffalo Bills losing four Super Bowls…in a row. As well produced, interviewed and detailed this documentary is, I could not help but get progressively depressed as it went along. I really like how it detailed probably the most identifiable moment of those four losses with Norwood missing the field goal that resulted in the Bills first Super Bowl loss, and how the whole Buffalo community rallied behind him and the Bills upon their return home in the most touching moment of the feature.

The ’85 Bears is the last main feature I will touch on, and it is the most recently aired of the four I have watched from the past year. 31 years after they won the Super Bowl and America still has not forgotten how good the ’85 Bears defense was that won them the Super Bowl. They will go down with the ’99 Ravens, 2002 Bucs and the 2015 Broncos as being the best defenses that overcame their underperforming offenses to win the Super Bowl. This documentary will help cement their legacy as it tracks down countless former ’85 Bears members like Mike Ditka, Mike Singletary, Buddy Ryan, ‘Refrigerator’ Perry, Steve McMichael and Jim McMahon, among others on how dominate they were that year. This documentary will also go down as having some of the final footage of the recently deceased-Buddy Ryan. The ’85 Bears periodically jumps back to a present day, ailing Buddy Ryan. He is receiving a visit from Mike Singletary as the two revisit old stomping ground and reminisces about the good ‘ol days and you can tell that the relationship between those two are special and genuine throughout. This feature concludes with a letter from Buddy Ryan to the Bears and there is a priceless shot of all the surviving Bears members reading it for the camera and getting their heartfelt reactions from it.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention Hulu posting nearly the entire 36 episode archive of 30 for 30 Shorts. These were made in collaboration with the old ESPN affiliated website, Grantland. Once every month or two Grantland would post a mini-documentary around 15 minutes long featuring a topic or moment in sports not quite worthy of a full-length feature, but had enough of its own 15 minutes of fame to be documented and remembered for 15 minutes. Some of these moments seem worthy of more than 15 minutes, where others seems about right. Some of my favorites of these 34 episodes include The Billion Dollar Game, which featured the only time a 16th seed coming ever-so-close of upsetting a 1 seed in March Madness. Another favorite is The Irrelevant Giant which is about the career of former football Giant John Tugle, who tragically had his career cut short, but has some fantastic memories from former teammates and coach, Bill Parcels. On a lighter note, some of these shorts serve as much needed moments of levity in sports focusing on a notorious sports-ball impersonator, the invention of the high-five and a infamous gag put on by Sports Illustrated that had many people fooled. If you were not following Grantland when these were released, they are all really quick watches and well worth taking a few afternoons to binge watch through. Grade: A+

Please join me soon for part two where I will be covering Netflix exclusives shows like Jessica Jones, Daredevil and The JAMZ!

Past TV/Web Series Blogs

2013-14 TV Season Recap
2014-15 TV Season Recap
Angry Videogame Nerd Vol 8
Angry Videogame Nerd Vol 7
Mortal Kombat: Legacy - Season 1
RedvsBlue - Seasons 1-13
Seinfeld Final Season
Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle

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