Picard and a TV round-up

I watch … a lot of things. Including several hours of television a week. I was always this way but dadhood changed the game.

I need to keep an eye on kids who are watching kid stuff on my big beautiful television while trying not to watch the same episode of Abbie’s Flying Fairy School for the 500th time.

So what happens in my house is I have AirPods and an iPad Pro and plenty of things to keep me entertained thanks to this new golden age of nerd-centric television.

Here are a few quick hits.

Season 3 and Picard is finally the show that Star Trek: The Next Generation fans all wanted Picard to be. If you grew up with TNG, like I did, then you finally get a show that gets Jean Luc Picard on the bridge of a Starfleet ship and surrounds him, mostly, with cast members from the original show.

It’s a season of television that looks like a movie-level production and hits, so far, all the right nostalgic beats. People might call that fan service, but I would argue that like Star Trek: Brave New Worlds, it’s not fan service to make the thing that fans of the thing expect.

There is a lot of online talk about spinning out this show with a Captain Liam Shaw series. I’m not opposed to it, and his character (who’s basic level is: ‘I’m a jerk and I hate all of you’) is a unique new role in the Star Trek ensemble. Odo was maybe closest to this but he had a heart of gold, I’m still not convinced, even though they have softened him in the last two episodes, that Shaw won’t just sell everyone out the minute he gets a chance.

And quite frankly, I hope he does.

Actually, as I’m typing this I think I just figured out who Captain Shaw is in the Star Trek universe — Frank Grimes. If you don’t know the reference please go find the Simpsons episode and check it out. But his reactions to Picard and Riker and very much, “How can you keep breaking all the rules and then somehow spin that nonsense into gold?”

I may start saying ‘Grimey’ every time Captain Shaw pops up on screen. The online chatter is that everyone wants a Shaw spin-off. I will only allow this if you bring back Wesley Crusher and make him the head of engineering. I would prefer someone just hand Will Weaton the keys to the Enterprise but my guess is that remains unlikely.

Anyway, every episode of this season is a treat and a love letter to Star Trek fans of a certain age. It’s as good as a cup of hot earl grey tea.

Quick Hits

I know everyone is excited about Ted Lasso and for me the show remains one of the very best sitcom / dramedy things on television. But I need you all to go check out Shrinking.

Shrinking is Ted Lasso but with psychiatrists in California instead of footballers in England. In some ways, as Ted Lasso ends Apple TV managed to find the perfect show to carry the baton.

No surprise, given that most of the Ted Lasso team is behind Shrinking. A show that starts with its main character in both a deep depression and a mental health crisis should not be this much fun. But it’s light and breezy and it became one of the shows I couldn’t wait for each week.

Bill Lawrence, who created (co-created?) Shrinking and Ted Lasso also created Scrubs way back in the 1990s. If these shows connect with you I hope you check out Scrubs. It was a high-quality sitcom all the way to the end.

I’m running through the first season of Perry Mason. I’m not sure that I care all that much about the central mystery. I gave up on it after the pilot came out because I wasn’t emotionally in a place where I could watch something about a murdered baby. However, I’m better this time around and I think it’s intriguing. Mainly though, I’m staying with it because it’s visually stunning. The folks doing this are from Boardwalk Empire and the shows share a similar look. They also — at least so far in the first three or four episodes — share a similar problem. The main character is often not the most compelling person in the show.

The Mandalorian endures. I don’t agree with two of the takes I’ve heard so far from this season.

A: That the creators committed a grievous sin by reuniting Grogu and Mando in an episode of a spin-off show. To me, that’s the kind of complaint people make so they can be relevant on social media. I want you to show me the Star Wars fan who was only watching The Mandalorian and declined to watch the spin-off on the same streaming network that they were already paying for. This person does not exist. Please stop.

B. That The Mandalorian has taken a dip in quality. Four episodes in and I think it’s as good as it’s ever been. This is to say that I think everything Marvel does is a work of staggering genius and I think most of Star Wars is silly nonsense for babies. Please, if you read these missives from me, adjust your expectations accordingly.

C. Only lightly kidding there. But, given the reactions to lots of different things, we may be at a point where the audience really is exhausted with Star Wars and superheroes. Just taking Star Wars and live-action this season of Mando begins after Disney gave us two previous seasons, a season of Boba Fett, a season of Andor, and a season of Obi-Wan Kenobi. That doesn’t count new cartoons and old movies. Even if the audience wants more how do storytellers give them something that’s entertaining but also isn’t just a complete rehash of something they have already seen?

Or to put it another way: Why does this season of Picard hit me so hard? Because it’s the first time in 30 years I feel like I’m watching the actual thing I wanted: More Star Trek: The Next Generation.

If it had not been gone for so long, I would not have missed it, nor would I be having such a great time with the new version of it. How do you fix that?

Maybe just by giving people a road sign. Hey, we have a story we are telling and it ends in Season 6.

That’s a dangerous way to do it, but these types of shows aren’t really murder-of-the-week things. Given their structure, each season theoretically is supposed to be building to one big story that ultimately ends. It may not be the worst thing, three or four years in, to tell people how much longer the journey will take.

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