An honest look at adolescence and a beloved game show are this week’s picks.
On Monday, Apple announced its newest venture, a long-awaited streaming television and film service called "Apple TV+." The company unveiled it at a flashy conference, using celebrities like Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey to sell audiences on the product, which will be available later this year.
The most curious part of the service is that it's all original content. This will be great in terms of getting original ideas into the marketplace, but I have questions about the viability of such a service when Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and others offer programs and films audiences already know they love, in addition to original content.
I also have questions about Apple's control over the content. Reports in 2018 suggested Apple wanted to limit the adult content on the platform, namely nudity and crass language. That's one thing, but there are other reported demands — like telling M. Night Shyamalan to remove crucifixes from an upcoming thriller because they want to avoid religious and political content.
Family-friendly content is wonderful and should have a place on any streaming service, but tailoring content to this extent seems like the end results will be rather boring. What interesting stories can you tell that that don't ruffle any political feathers these days? (Political, in this case, also referring to stories of race, class, etc., because they are all intertwined.) I fear that this service will be more of a "look at how famous these creators are" thing than something of substance.
Thankfully, even if it stinks, there are still dozens of streaming services with great content to watch.
“Eighth Grade” (2018)
Amazon Prime Video, R, 93 minutes
Our film reviewer, Pam Nadon, already talked about “Eighth Grade” upon its release. Her review is great to read if you want a professional and analytical opinion, so I’m not going to touch any of that stuff (and you should). Instead, here’s a list of awkward stuff I did in middle school:
- I had a crush on a girl who will remain nameless to protect the innocent. (It is NOT “The Princess Bride” girl, if you were wondering.) In an attempt to impress her, I wrote down the lyrics to a newly-released song — thinking she would not have heard it yet? My thought process was and is unclear — in poem format and pretended they were my own words, or something. That song was “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt. I gave it to her after a group outing for ice cream by saying “Uh, here, have this.” She texted me later asking her why I gave her a page of James Blunt lyrics. I had no great answer.
- Somehow, this girl and I actually ended up dating for a brief period after The James Blunt Incident. Our first few dates were to the local movie theater. (RIP, Olney 9 Cinemas, you sticky, wonderful place.) After the second one, in which we saw “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” I decided the time was right to go for a kiss — my first kiss. Except I didn’t want to do it in front of my friends, who had decided to be jerks and sit right behind us in the theater. So I convinced my date to wait in the theater until they left. Which took a while. So pretty much everyone else had left, too. And they had started cleaning the theater. To summarize: I had my first kiss in front of some movie theater janitors. Quite romantic. We didn’t last long as an item. Still friends, though.
- Once, I was working as an umpire for a youth baseball league, and it started storming like the world was ending. I was too young to drive, my parents couldn’t pick me up and there was no pavilion at these particular fields, so I had to hide in a portable toilet for an hour until my mom was able to get there and take me home. It was embarrassing and gross.
- I participated in a lunchroom-wide food fight. Wasn’t my idea, to be clear, but it’s possible I threw a slushie and maybe some rogue lunch meat during the fracas and helped sing “Happy Birthday” as a signal to everyone that shit was about to go down. It was fun until I was hungry and regretful. The assistant principal tried to get our group to snitch. He was out of luck. Snitches get stitches.
- I refused to wear pink because I thought it was too girly. Then someone told me I would look good in pink. I proceeded to wear pink all the time.
- I set my MySpace profile to play “Kryptonite” by Three Doors Down upon arrival. Of all the things on this list, this one might make me cringe the most today.
Watching “Eighth Grade” feels like all of these moments put together and more. The pool scene, the mall scene, the lightning quick transitions from a normal conversation to an extremely crude one, the time capsules. All of it hits home. Writer/director Bo Burnham and star Elsie Fisher completely knocked it out of the park here. When I first watched this movie, I called it the best anxiety attack I have ever had, and I stand by that.
Watch it, then show it to your kids. Better yet, watch it with them, so you can sympathize and empathize with what is one of the worst periods of life for everyone to experience.
Netflix, TV-G, 20 minutes, 45 episodes
There is no better feeling in the world than getting a “Final Jeopardy” question right on “Jeopardy!”
OK, maybe one — you know the one — but that’s it. And it’s close.
For me, watching “Jeopardy!” with my family at the end of a long day was the perfect way to relax. (“Friends” straight into “Jeopardy!” if we’re being real.) Not only did it allow for my confidence in my intellect to shine through — when I was a child, I would run around the house saying I was “a genius” — but it was an opportunity to learn about topics I knew nothing about. I think this is why I am a decent-to-good bar trivia player today.
I watched in awe as champions went on lengthy winning streak, namely Ken Jennings, the best Jeopardy! Champion. (I will be taking no questions on this opinion at this time, thank you for your cooperation.) I watched for his knowledge and game strategies. I laughed at his increasingly inane character anecdotes. I watched his opponents become demoralized as they realized they had no chance in hell of beating him. It was inspiring stuff. I tried taking the show’s online tests a few times, but was never selected to advance.
Jennings isn’t in Netflix’s offerings of the show. What they do offer is five specialty tournaments: A kids week, a teen tournament, a teachers tournament, a college championship and a tournament of champions. There’s something for all ages, in other words. Am I going to pretend to know why the show is suddenly on streaming services when you can watch it every night on basic cable? No. But I am glad it is available. Younger generations can now appreciate the legacy it may soon leave behind.
When debonair host Alex Trebek announced March 6 he has stage 4 pancreatic cancer, it crushed me. Jennings told the New York Times that he saw Trebek as a Walter Cronkite-esque figure, a calming voice for the nation to listen to, collectively, as it winds down each evening. Trebek may not be a journalist, but he’s a premier orator. He’s stately, quick-witted and brings gravitas to the proceedings that makes “Jeopardy!” feel like more than a dumb game show where the hook is, “Uh, it’s hard and also contestants have to answer in the form of a question for some reason.”
Also one time he stopped a burglary in his underwear after tearing his Achilles tendon. It is honestly so important to never forget that.
Best wishes to Trebek — who is continuing to film the show after his diagnosis — and to all upcoming contestants.