Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

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March 2019

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Now Apocalypse Finds Amusement in Familiar Territory

Written by , Posted in Blog, Pop Culture, Reviews

The idea of yet another half-hour comedy about millennials in Los Angeles deserves an eye-roll no matter the quality of the show itself. The trope of being affluent and sad has been more than thoroughly fleshed out over the past decade. While Starz’s new series Now Apocalypse hardly reinvents the wheel, the show’s colorful aesthetics and charming cast make for a worthwhile experience.

Crafted by filmmaker Greg Araki, whose films were at the forefront of the New Queer Cinema movement of the 1990s, Now Apocalypse follows a group of twenty-somethings in Los Angeles, searching for meaning while smoking tons of weed and having lots of sex in the process. Ulysses Zane (Avan Jorgia) can’t shake the idea that something spooky is going on in the world as he’s repeatedly ghosted by a prospective fling. His roommate Ford Halstead (Beau Mirchoff) is trying to find a connection with his sort-of girlfriend Severine (Roxanne Mesquida) as he tries to make it as a writer, constantly struggling to survive the confines of the hookup culture which hardly rewards any genuine expression of emotion. Rounding out the main cast is Carly (Kelli Berglund), an actress who moonlights as a cam girl to make ends meet.

The supernatural undercurrents in Now Apocalypse play a backseat to general millennial stereotypes in the first few episodes, much to the show’s detriment. The scripts are quite clichéd, without the expected satire the premise seems to be going for. Cell phone dating apps have been around for years, spearheading the modern day hookup culture, but television as a whole hasn’t figured out much to say about it other than that being ghosted understandably sucks.

And yet, there’s something oddly alluring about Now Apocalypse. The show handles its numerous sex scenes gracefully, including gay and polyamorous hookups, and not as exploitative in service to a larger plot point. The main cast is eminently likable despite the lack of originality in their characters. Jorgia and Berglund are quite relatable as dreamy young souls trying to find their place in an unforgiving city. Mirchoff, essentially riffing off his previous role as Matty McKibbin on MTV’s Awkward, manages to garner sympathy even as a privileged jock who finds good fortune at every turn.

Quite simply, Now Apocalypse is a lot of fun. Like the actors, the sets are gorgeous to look at. The episodes are well-paced and always seem to leave you excited about what’s going to happen next. The show slowly ups its ante on absurdity without bogging down the rest of its narrative. It’s rare for a show to introduce a concept like sex-crazed lizards and get away with not immediately addressing them in the following episode, but Now Apocalypse keeps flowing without any pressing urgency.

It’s hard to say what kind of show Now Apocalypse will be moving forward, assuming it builds on the paranormal introduced early on. For now, the show is quite a fun ride, well worth a binge on a lazy day. It doesn’t exactly break a ton of new ground, but the cast is enjoyable enough for that not to be much of a concern. Starz has carved out an impressive niche of offbeat half-hour programs, and Now Apocalypse is a fine addition to its lineup.

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April 2015

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Authenticity Sets Outlander Apart From Other Historical Dramas

Written by , Posted in Blog, Pop Culture

Like many, I was skeptical of Outlander when Starz announced it was picking up the series. The comparisons to Game of Thrones were inevitable, though Diana Gabaldon’s time traveling historical romance series bears little in common with George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Starz could’ve easily tried to make itself another Spartacus, which wouldn’t have been fair to the source material.

We’re in a pretty unique era for fantasy dramas and period pieces with Outlander having its feet in both genres. Probably the only valid comparison between Outlander and Game of Thrones is that they’re both fantasy shows where fantasy isn’t a predominant driving force in the narrative. Time travel sets the plot of Outlander in motion, but it’s hardly a show about time travel just as Game of Thrones is more of a political story than one about dragons, white walkers, and faceless men (also worth noting that Gabaldon and Martin have appeared in two anthologies together, one of which was edited by Martin).

In retrospect, it was foolish to have ever doubted Ronald D. Moore, who managed to take a cheesy Star Wars knock off and remake it into one of the greatest shows of the 21st century with Battlestar Galactica. Moore pays all due respect to Outlander’s source material as he did with BSG, all whilst creating a show that sets itself apart from a very crowded field.

Outlander is a beautiful show to watch. The scenery almost plays like an infomercial for Scotland’s tourism department, filming on locations that really make you feel like you’re in the 1700s. Though only about half of the principal cast are Scottish, the accents could fool just about anyone.

The other thing that really sets Outlander apart is the reservation with which it handles its freedom as a premium cable show. It could have all the sex, gore, and foul language it wants and yet it’s pretty tame by cable standards. Moore knows that while those can be used to draw attention to a show, you don’t have to have nudity in every episode to make a compelling drama.

We’re living in a great time for shows like Outlander. The fact that the show is drawing plenty of hype when Game of Thrones’ own return come just a week after is a testament to its quality. Many of the posters advertising the show have a picture of Jamie along with the phrase “some like it Scot.” Very rarely does an advertisement hit its mark with such accuracy.

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