Michelle and I play catch-up this week with Mad Men and My Favorite Murder. Michelle also tries two new Netflix additions: To the Bone and Friends From College, while I binge vegan YouTube videos and fondly remember Linkin Park.

Lane

1. Mad Men

I’m currently between binges right now. I’m watching Casual and The Bold Type but those only debut once a week! What to do? Well, the last 4 or 5 summers I’ve tried to get into Mad Men. I’ve really tried, guys. But man is it tough. I’ve watched the first season a couple times and it doesn’t stick. I should like this show. It’s beautifully crafted. But, I can never find a character to get behind. I should be able to watch a show and not rely on characters, but it’s hard.

This year I began with the last 2 episodes of season 1, then skipped to the last 3 episodes of season 2 (I’ve seen the beginning of season 2, 3 years ago in a similar attempt. A force-binge, if you will). I think I’m into it! It helps that I have very warm feelings for Jon Hamm (Baby Driver), Elisabeth Moss (A Handmaid’s Tale), and January Jones (her Instagram!). I’m trying to revel in the misogyny, focus more on the history, and place all of my hope with Peggy. I’ll keep y’all updated and hopefully finish the show this year? #lifegoals

2. This guy’s vegan YouTube videos

I’ve watched a lot of vegan YouTube videos. They give me meal prep inspo and general inspo for clean eating, etc. BUT they’re pretty annoying. They feature some skinny white girl who chops fruits and veggies for hours, owns a Vitamix, and shops at the farmer’s market. This guy, Josef, came up on my recommended videos as $5 Vegan Meal from the Dollar Store. It immediately appealed to me because, well, I shop at the Dollar Store. He’s vegan but he definitely doesn’t eat healthy 100% of the time. He’s pretty funny and I’ve enjoyed this much-needed palate cleanser. Enjoy the whole series: vegan meals from Taco Bell and Burger King too.

3. Linkin Park

(Adding this one in on Friday morning.) Yesterday, it was announced that Chester Bennington, lead singer of Linkin Park, committed suicide and passed away. Linkin Park was extremely formative for my musical tastes, friendship, and fandom. Hybrid Theory and Meteora were huge, alongside the Live in Texas DVD, and (of course) the Jay-Z mash up album, Collision Course (and the accompanying DVD). I listened to Meteora this morning and, while, it isn’t my taste as a twenty-something adult, it brought back great memories. I still love singing/screaming along with Chester. LP 4ever.

Michelle

1. My Favorite Murder

Lately, I’ve neglected my subscriptions to podcasts due to time and a new schedule I’m still getting used to. This week I decided it was time to catch up. One of my favorite podcasts out there, My Favorite Murder, was my choice on catch up. The true-crime podcast from friends Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff tackles stories of murder, violent crimes, and more. It’s stylistically set up like two friends who are just having a conversational about their favorite topic, and as someone who enjoys this same topic, it’s beyond inviting. They tackle the heinous, brutal stories of famous and unknown murders, but also look at how unjust most of the punishments and finales of the stories are. They also read stories submitted by listeners that describe murders that happened within their hometowns, and it’s an exciting point in each episode. I was beyond a few episodes (20) so I spent this week catching up. The show is getting a lot of buzz again after some celebrities have mentioned their adoration of the show, so now is the time to hop along for the ride. If you love things like Serial, Making of a Murderer, The Jinx, etc., this is definitely a fun podcast to dive into.

2. To the Bone

Netflix debuted an original movie about a young woman struggling with years of anorexia and the efforts to get better through treatment. Starring Lily Collins, To the Bone is reminiscent of the shock factors and dark narrative tones of 13 Reasons Why, yet doesn’t feel as driven by them. It’s a tough film to watch, especially if you’ve experienced a battle with eating disorders. However, it never pushes you away from learning more about Ellen’s story.

Something I appreciated the most about this film is how it doesn’t just center on her story. There’s shared screen time and storytelling from Ellen’s treatment friends, her dysfunctional homes, her identity as an artist, and her relationship with her doctor (Keanu Reeves). To the Bone reflects on the effects of eating disorders, mental illness, addictions, etc. on everyone involved. It doesn’t present this as something triggered by a mean comment or low self-esteem. It shows it as a real life issue, something that shouldn’t be shrugged off or dismissed. Rather, it proposes ways to identify these issues, how to approach them if someone you know is struggling, how to work as a team, and most importantly, how to continue to love through the darkness. It’s not the best film, but it’s charming and special in it’s own right. I’d suggest checking it out if you can sit through some pretty explicit moments and hard to swallow scenes. Lily Collins deserves a lot of credit and praise for this role, and I hope the streaming service affiliation won’t harm her chances of receiving any nomination consideration.

3. Friends from College

friends-from-college-3

Another original series from Netflix, Friends from College tells the story of six friends from college who reunite when two of them move back to NYC. After twenty years of friendship, the crew seems to always get together and have a great time regardless of the drama and trials of life as spouses, parents, resistant adults, and more. In my opinion, the trailer was weak and not at all selling of the show, but I convinced myself to check it out because of it’s semi-decent cast of strong comedic performers. Keegan Michael Key, Cobie Smulders, Fred Savage, Billy Eichner, and more fill the cast but it’s not enough to bring the show up. With so many quality shows out now, it’s hard to stay afloat if you’re not delivering. The writing on this show falls flat, the actors feel like they are stretching their range rather than naturally approaching their characters, the jokes are juvenile and dry, but the music is great. Each episode ends with a 90s track to hold on to the “glory days” as our characters are desperately trying to achieve. Artists like The Sundays, Mazzy Star (I screamed when they used “Fade Into You” as I would), Oasis, and other familiar sounds. It’s often complemented with more modern hits to help emphasize the power struggle between who they were and who they are. Each character reeks of one dimensional cliches: struggling writer who can’t find inspiration with his life so he sleeps with her best friend, careered woman trying to save her relationship with having a baby, womanizing slacker who never wants to grow up, wannabe artist with no direction, and more.

Without fully trashing the show, I will highlight how organic the competitive nature between friends translates on screen. Even when the performance is over the top, it nails the inevitable competitive spirit friends from the past have with one another. There is one line in particular that actually made me cry with laughter and it comes from Key’s character Ethan. As the crew arrive at Sam’s lavish Connecticut home, Ethan takes one look and says “It’s like we’re in a Black Mirror episode.” I can’t help but feel embarrassed for the characters and for the show. Try it out, let me know what you think. Maybe I missed something, but I just didn’t feel good about this series”.

Honorable Mentions: Game of Thrones returns and Lana Del Rey’s Lust for Life