As a savvy and demanding public of cord cutters continues to fragment the entertainment industry, Netflix has attempted valiantly to reconnect these fragments with prestige shows featuring ever more obscure premises. For example my neighbor Sam is actually in contract with Netflix for a show called Guess What I had for Dinner Last Night? And although the shows thin premise will appeal to a demographic limited to the people in Sam’s immediate household, apparently Netflix’s business model has found a way to make it profitable. These are shows you’ll never see on network TV because, ummm, who sees network TV anymore. Well that and the gratuitous use of swear words.
As a man of serious leisure and humorous disposition, I’ve taken the time to catalogue and review this year’s offerings from Netflix so you may more productively spend your hard-earned discretionary time. Incidentally, if Netflix finds this presentation entertaining, they say they’ll finance a series called It’s Fun to Play Make Believe Featuring David Hardiman and His Imaginary Friends.
And so it is with lightly-bridled joy and many grains of salt I take great pleasure in presenting my review of new Netflix series.
I Married an Eggplant
After matrimonial laws are changed in Massachusetts, vegetarian Trudy Lessing marries a very special eggplant from her secret garden. All is not well however in the Garden of Trudy when Roger (the eggplant) develops second thoughts about their marriage when he discovers Trudy is a vegetarian and is eating all his brothers and sisters. In an effort to improve their relationship Trudy becomes a strict carnivore, but then runs afoul of her militant PETA friends. It’s just one thing after another as no good deed goes unpunished in this odd couple romance. In Season 2 Episode 8 Trudy discovers Roger spooning with a curvy cucumber which leads to a very awkward threesome. In the season finale the Animal and Plant Kingdom become one when Trudy gives birth to a well-adjusted baby “egg man.” And when a teary-eyed Roger first holds his little sprig of joy he sings, “You are the egg man, goo goo g’joob.”
Mr. Yada, owner of a popular Japanese noodle house, has 3 children whom he’s always calling for by their last names, “Yada, Yada, Yada.” In S1 E7 Mr. Yada is publicly disgraced when the health board finds shreds of a Hello Kitty backpack in a bowl of his signature donburi. He calls for his children, “Yada, Yada, Yada come here at once.” He discusses with them whether he should commit Hari-Kari or simply pay the modest fine and yada, yada, yada…2 episodes later Yada’s House of Noodles is rated #1 in the prefecture. Eventually the yada, yada, yada premise wears thin and three new characters are introduced, Hip, Hip and Hooray.
A Ming Dynasty spoof on Stranger Things. This 14th century period piece features ghoulish papery dragons that haunt the porcelain vase manufacturing plant where all the Ming Dynasty vases are made. An intrepid band of enterprising close-knit kids attempt to defeat the dragons with slingshots, firecrackers and their own cunning. This ambitious Netflix series is littered with the usual tropes: the goofy next door neighbor Mao-Tse-Kramer, the sassy mother-in-law who for no particular reason has a southern accent and an eerie little girl named Cho-Cho El whose left nostril is always seems to be bleeding.
By the second season everyone on Stranger Mings is busy building some kind of Great Wall to keep the Mongols out of China. Amazingly they get the Mongols to pay for it. In later episodes all the boys compete to become eunuchs so they can sing the high notes for Marco Polo at the annual Christmas Pageant.
The show didn’t quite satisfy me because a ½ hour later I wanted to watch another one.
Random is the New Order
No coherent theme in this farrago of a show. If you like arbitrary inconsistencies relating to nothing in particular, then Random is the New Order is for you. Filmed in that spasmodic, off-putting way that can mirror life, one haphazard episode features an army of alt-right bullfrogs operating a profitable petting zoo. Not to be outdone, in the next episode the Kardashians show up operating a heavy-petting zoo. Another show deals with the manufacture of those little plastic tables that support the middle of pizza boxes. Really arcane stuff.
Like Starbucks, this show is all over the place, but not in an “Enjoy your latte” kind of way.
Random is the New Order is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get and I didn’t get it at all.
The Four Doors
A sequel to the Tudors, the Four Doors is a roomier show more suited to a growing family as opposed to the Tudors which young couples find easier to get into.
The Secret Life of Plastic Plants
A docudrama that exposes the inner life of inanimate foliage. We meet a fichus plant stuck in a middle-age crisis because he’s doesn’t know how to grow. In fact he can’t grow, he’s manufactured. In S2 E4 a gorgeous plastic rose is crestfallen when an admirer mistakes her for the real thing and after sniffing her non-existent bouquet remarks, “Well maybe she looks the part, but she smells like a Wal*Mart beach ball.”
A Netflix Original, the Secret Life of Plastic Plants is more genuinely fake than you can imagine. Sometimes you don’t know whether you should dust them off or eat them up. It’s as if the entire cast of stationary plants has won the Mannequin Challenge – and they’re not happy about it. In Season 15 Episode 6 Pinocchio stops by to give the plasticized greenery a pep talk, but the artificial foliage is onto him when the wooden boy’s nose grows 8 inches after he tells them they have a great future in front of them.
Shouldn’t that be on the Inside of My Body?
A lighthearted look at emergency room trauma centers.
Next of Kin
The creepy town of Moreau, just outside Dollywood, has a ghastly secret: 2 centuries of inbreeding – and not just with people either. But with all kinds of things including what Granny calls “woodsy varmints.” In Moreau every citizen is able to transfuse each other and it’s never necessary to cross-match anyone for organ donations – everyone is a match. They’re just one big happy extended family. Well almost. In S1 E4 of Next of Kin Daisy Mae steals cousin Willy’s moonshine distillery and becomes an outlaw in-law. Mail service in Moreau is doubly difficult because everyone has the same last name of Twitty. When a long-lost relative comes to town the gene pool gets even deeper.
Be Careful What You Wish For: The Story of the Unfortunate Boy Who Wished He was an Oscar-Mayer Wiener
The dialogue from the opening scene in the inaugural show sets the stage for this Wes Craven produced series.
An apparitional genie asks little Rodney, “Let me get this straight. So you wish you were an Oscar-Mayer Wiener?”
And the overly excited boy exclaims, “That is what I truly want to be.”
The genie queries him again on his soon to be irrevocable wish, “Well why exactly do you want to be an Oscar-Mayer wiener?”
To which the boy has a ready answer: “Cuz, if I was an Oscar-Mayer wiener, everyone would be in love with me.”
And poof, the genie complies and the boy is transformed.
Clearly, years of indifferent foster care have warped Rodney and caused him to turn to the cold shoulder of processed meats for affection.
In S2 E3 a general question is posed by the genie (voiced by Morgan Freeman) to Rodney who by now has been an Oscar-Mayer wiener for 2 years, “Hey Rodney, what kind of kids eat Armour Hot Dogs?”
The forlorn wiener boy responds with an edgy rant, “Fat kids, skinny kids, kids who climb on rocks. Tough kids, sissy kids; even kids with Chicken Pox love hot dogs, Armour Hot Dogs. The dogs kids love to bite.”
Jesus, Enough Already. We Don’t Need Another Show About the Sick Minds of Serial Killers
This normalizing series puts the lid on the scores of other sensationalistic shows that explore the pathology of serial killers…and the women who love them. Instead it’s a very boring show completely devoid of pseudo-celebrating the aberrant mentalities of career murderers. However, in a tip of the hat to this overdone genre, in the season finale Amanda plans a killing spree at a nail salon, but opts instead to become an Oscar-Mayer Wiener because that is what she truly wants to be. And from this powerful act of courage, she single-handedly changes the self-identifying acronym from LGBTQ to LGBTQO-MW.
The Night Chicago Died
How Netflix dared to create a series based on one hit wonder Paper Lace’s 1974 #1 song The Night Chicago Died is beyond me. They might as well have created a show called If You Like Pina Colada? – based on Rupert Holmes sappy 1979 paean to rediscovering love with the one you already love. And to those who know the song’s actual title is Escape, I don’t know what to say except that some things are better left unsaid.
I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek at Netflix upcoming offerings. But as all good things must come to an end, I have to go now and get back to the real world. You see my imaginary friends and I are meeting at Hogwarts later today for a tour given by no less than Dumbledore himself.