Netflix’s Spinning Out is the right kind of cringe

A Jonathan Van Ness figure skating cameo? Sign me up, I said.

Then, I stayed.

At first glimpse, Spinning Out looks to be another show about the unrealistic demands of sports moms chasing their dreams through their children. January Jones (Madmen) plays a former figure skating star whose daughters wake at grueling hours and have paid brutal physical tolls to perform in her stead. Her eldest daughter, Kat (Kaya Scodelario), exists in a state of constant worry and tension for herself and her younger sister, Serena (Willow Shields).

As an audience we watch Kat try and recover after a head injury on the ice nearly killed her during a routine. Early into the process of getting back on the ice, we learn that both Carol (January Jones) and Kat suffer from the effects of bipolar disorder. The series ebbs and flows with the choices each make separately to stay off their medication (Lithium, as is common for bipolar treatment) and get back on. The choice is between limitless manic energy that will ultimately end in a crash, or more balanced but “fuzzier” living.

Photo courtesy of IMDB

Both Kat and her mother are trying to live in a world where they are accepted for who they are while also apologizing for the illness that yanks who they are out from under them. Jones cuts a parental figure who is harsh at times, puts her daughters through hell when she is manic, but loves fiercely and tenderly when she is well. Scodelario shows the harsh edges of a girl in her early twenties trying to outdo her mother in her treatment and wellness. Her refrain is, “I will not be like you.” In reality, she follows a similar path – a path we are forced to watch in angst.

For me, this tension between the very real energy demands of life as a figure skater – or as a single mother – and the necessity to be in control of thoughts and actions is really where the show shines. Too many shows gloss over the lived effects of mental health episodes. Not here. Carol openly struggles with money because of her episodes. Mental health stigma dictates who the families tells about missed practices and family drama and what they say. Many of the episodes function within in the confines of the cage experienced by those who are sick and out of options. You’ll get a pit in your stomach. That’s how it should feel when mental health is being addressed realistically.

To undercut some of this angst, the turmoil of Spinning Out plays out in an idyllic background. The scenery is that of an Olympic village in Idaho, a beautiful ski lodge, figure skating routines that leave you breathless to watch. There’s a rich, misunderstood heir to play a romantic lead. There’s a black skiing love interest clumsily given some racial issues as a story line. There’s a sexual abuse scandal involving Kat’s sister brewing underneath the surface. If this all sounds like a fanfic run amok, it could have been, but the show’s creators took great care to acknowledge the absurdity of their world when necessary.

In its essence, this figure skating show is a drama-packed sports romantic comedy tackling the question of relating mental illness without downplaying the suffering of those involved. The connection and compassion I felt for Carol and Kat is a giant credit to Samantha Stratton, the show’s creator. Other issues portrayed well in the show are those of body shaming and food control, finding meaning outside of your job, the pressure of perfectionism and refusing to acknowledge reality, and how to choose oneself without being left behind.

Some call it “trashy,” but I think the show is more self-aware than meets the eye. Stratton and the showrunners created a show that draws you in with sparkle and keeps you around with substance. Watch the drama unfold while you cheer your favorite skater back into the rink.

Castle Rock is everything you hate about Stephen King novels.

Look, I love Bill Skaarsgard so much. He is hella spooky looking and does not match his name at all, but he is incredibly talented. So when I saw he was in another horror show (he formerly starred in the Netflix gore fest that was Hemlock Grove), I thought – sure – I’ll give him another try. I already watched three seasons of a different show that didn’t go anywhere with him in it, and this is only ten episodes!

Castle Rock is a Hulu original with so much potential. Castle Rock, Maine is the background for several of King’s works, including the Dead Zone, another of Stephen King’s novels turned show that fell wildly short of expectations. The premise is simple: Why is this town so cursed? The answering show is anything BUT simple. The main character of the show is a death row lawyer who supposedly killed his father after going missing for eleven days as a child (Andre Holland). The antagonist of the series is a kid kept in captivity for 27 years without aging (Skaarsgard). There is a kind mother with Alzheimer’s stuck without a sense of time (Sissy Spacek). A dead preacher. A prison run by a corrupt corporate entity. A woman with anxiety stemming from an “undiagnosed psychic affliction” (Melanie Lynskey). Buzzing in the background is literally the sound of the universe. The thread pulling the series together is a screenplay that was honestly just completely misdirected.

The show starts with a grizzly suicide, and the gory details continue from there. As King can spend pages of exposition on the bloody and macabre, so does the show give the gruesome in full force. All of those bones and sinews hint at a dark secret, an evil force wrenching its way through the town. We even get hints of the mythological through Spacek’s character as she fixates on memorizing the Norse gods.

When we finally DO get an answer to the mystery of the cursed town, the answer is not horrific or mythic in nature but wildly metaphysical and irrelevant to the rest of the plot line. Intense, unpleasant images in a horror setting demonstrate a wrongness and an evilness within the antagonist of the plot. When those images don’t serve as a plot device, the added scenes of gore give the impression of a prop department run by the kid who used to burn ants with a magnifying glass. The creative director behind Castle Rock guaranteed killed a shit ton of ants.

The incredibly high body count in the show supposedly stems from the misalignment within the kid from captivity. There is a death in every episode and at least twenty at the series’ height of gore in the first twist. Through the voice over dialogue of the dead warden (Terrry O’Quinn) the kid is played as the literal devil forcing the hand of the murderers. The voice of God is said to be behind his kidnapping and imprisonment. The writer chooses to leave it ambiguous as to whether or not his captor was divinely inspired or insane. Fine. I can handle that. But then that same voice of God turns out to be the sound of the universe that only some people can hear? Then it turns out that the kid creates violence through no fault of his own? Where did the original rumors of the sounds come from? Where did we get the idea that this kid was evil?

And while we are talking about the nonsensical plot given to Skaarsgard – the same “kid” is at one point supposed to be fortyish years old? Was Skaarsgard just incredibly poor casting or did they not know where the plot was going when they cast the show? For the central character of the plot, there are so many details missing. If the ending of the first season wasn’t enough to show that the writers didn’t treat Skaarsgard’s character with any care – the sloppy creation of him as a person is certainly enough to seal the sentiment.

I could do a similar discussion on the holes behind basically every character in the series. Henry Deaver is a man whose life obviously fell apart, but we get no information on how that came to be. We hear the rumors of him as a child, but don’t get any answers as to where his family thought he was the entire time he was missing. At one point, Henry blatantly asks his mother for answers and she refuses. I don’t think this was a character choice. I think this was a lack of imagination on the screenwriter’s part. The answer to that question reveals so much about Henry’s place in his family, and it is one of many answers the viewer is denied.

In my intense dislike of this show, I understand that I am in a minority opinion. There are mysteries and suspense and a sense of dread woven expertly into each episode. The stunts and the murders create a chaotic energy that draws viewers into the vortex of Castle Rock. I watched it not only because I wanted to review it, but because I wanted answers goddamnit. But when I got them, the emotional payoff fell so short of my expectations I turned an even more critical eye over the past ten hours of my life. When there are enigmatic shows like OA out for viewing pleasure, why would you settle for a show that barely answers the main question and doesn’t do it very creatively when it does? I’d say treat this like the majority of King’s canon. Skip.

Supernatural Drinking Game

Sip when:

  • Dean says, “Son of a bitch” or “awesome”
  • Bobby says, “idjit”
  • Someone mentions daddy issues
  • Sam gives Dean his bitchface or huffs
  • A female character looks at the boys like sex things
  • Dean objectifies a woman
  • Anyone on the show takes a drink

Drink when:

  • Anyone makes a really nerdy reference
    Nerdy Reference.gif
  • Sam or Dean get tossed across the room
  • Someone dies in the opening scene
  • Dean speaks with food in his mouth
  • Dean or Sam drop their weapon
  • Bobby is on screen without a hat
  • A monster gets their head chopped off
  • Someone gets possessed
  • Cas and Dean hold eye contact for a little too long

Chug or take a shot when:

  • One of the boys cries
    Single Man Tear.gif
  • An angel dies
  • A main character dies
  • Someone uses/mentions magic fingers
  • A love interest dies

TV Review: 4 Nerdy Fandoms you should totally give into.

Look, I get it. You’re super cool and would totally never stoop down to nerdom. But when you get over yourself and decide to let your inner kid take the reins on your TV watching habbits, start with these shows. Nerdom is filled with super passionate, hilarious fans that will show you how community can really unfold around the shows we love.

4. Star Trek

Star Trek was my gateway drug into the world of science fiction. I picked it up after I started dating my husband because he and his dad had watched it together. Star Trek is a place for you to explore the wonders of the Universe and the infinite possibilities of the world around us. It’s not a drama even though sometimes it’s dramatic. You won’t be watching for the cast members. You’ll be watching for the world and a future that’s easy to want for yourself.


courtesty of Stark Trek Wiki Online

My tips:

  • Watch it in chronological order for the series: Enterprise, Discovery, Star Trek, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager. The world building is intense when you watch all of the interwoven timelines unfold in order.
  • If you’re gonna pick one, pick Next Generation. It has the biggest tentacles in the sphere of the universe and is a perfect balance of cheesy graphics and imagination gone wild.

3. Battlestar Galactica

For those of you who just think nerdy shows don’t have substance, Battlestar is for you. There are love triangles and mistaken identities and political battles interwoven to this intense universe where humans and cylons fight for dominance. The series only lasted five intense seasons, so you’ll binge it quickly.

Battlestar Galactica.jpg

My tips:

  • This Nerdist list of essential episodes is golden for those of you who want to skim.
  • Get to know the actors from this all star cast – once you watch you’ll recognize that they’re prolific in sci-fi and fantasy shows.

2. The X-Files

THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE. Seriously. I grew up an hour away from Roswell, New Mexico so the answer is yes I 100% believe in aliens. I’ve been to the Alien Museum there a few times just to browse. Judge me if you must. But don’t judge the X-Files by their extra terrestial antagonists. The show is much less about the aliens and much more about the government conspiracy to keep the truth quiet. Scully and Mulder follow the leaks and create an incredibly addictive dynamic.

The X Files

My tips:

  • This Den of Geek list of episodes that pertain to the overall story arc is exactly what you need. The X Files differs from some of the other shows listed in that it can run like a crime show serial at times. These episodes pertain to the overall arc of the eleven-seasoned show.
  • Don’t watch for the romantic interest. That’s just not what this show is about and you’ll drive yourself crazy.

1. Supernatural

Anyone who knows me knows that Supernatural is my absolutely favorite show. There are thirteen seasons and I’ve probably watched the whole thing four times through at least. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a Christian background and love the idea of angels and demons and monsters that go bump in the night. Maybe it’s because I identify with the main characters’ struggle against destiny and fate to create their own life. Maybe it’s because I seriously love the actors who play the cast. I’ll let you decide your own reason to love Supernatural.


My tips:

  • Start from the beginning and watch all the way through. The world in Supernatral unfolds as the main characters begin to understand more and more of the truth. You get to learn along with them.
  • Follow the actors on social. They love their fans and are hilarious. Also, they’re all do-gooders with big hearts and causes worth supporting.
  • The first three seasons are scary, but the horror vibes definitely fade over time. Enjoy the campy feel of the early 2000s while they last.

TV Review: Hannah Gadsby, Nanette

“I find myself wondering – where do the quiet gays go?”

Ten minutes into Nanette I sit in my living room giggling alone as Hannah Gadsby talks about being the type of lesbian who doesn’t exactly belong where the glitter’s at. No, she would rather be where the sound echoing in the room is a “teacup sliding into its saucer.” She’s not the type of woman who’s making fun of her hermit tendencies or really making fun of those big flashy Pride parades, either. It’s just a mismatch of stereotypes in a space where only certain stereotypes are accepted.


She continues in the same vain, talking about “[her] people” – lesbian women and their constant stream of “feedback.” I crack up as she tells a story about a woman asking her to come out as transgender. Hannah states simply, that was actually news to her, “I identify as tired.”

It’s in nestled in this little bit about feedback where the viewer gets the first indication that things maybe aren’t going to be what you expected of the Tasmanian’s 90 minute special. The first time Gadsby says, “But that’s why I have to quit comedy…” the idea is so absurd for the funny woman on stage that my immediate reaction was to gloss over it. But then she talks about the difference between humiliation and humility, about being expected to self-deprecate and the toll that takes on the psyche and suddenly I’m more than a little uncomfortable.

The first thought that comes to mind is not the nobler one for me. I question, “Well then why are you here?” and the second is an immediate correction – she’s here to be honest. I shift my expectations of the set and the discomfort goes away. In Nanette that is perhaps the biggest question asked of the audience. Can you put your expectations on hold for a moment and listen? Or did you come here for a comedy hour and the whiplash of earnest, personal truth too much for you?

To say that Gadsby doesn’t understand her audience in and of itself would be laughable. Like she says in the show – she’s a master of building tension and releasing it. Her quiet, tense delivery of her opinions on the world is woven with subtle facial tics and just-concealed laughter and anger. No, every ounce of uncomfortable drained out of you in the special is drained very much on purpose. In fact, my only real complaint about the content of the show is the fact that I think an audience that’s somewhat cornered into listening isn’t really a receptive audience at all. Consider this your warning so that you can be an incredibly receptive audience member: Nanette will make you laugh, but it is not a comedy special.

This is most clearly demonstrated in the way Gadsby goes back to each of her jokes from early on in the set and annihilates them with bouts of truth. An anecdote about a bigot whose girlfriend Gadsby hit on later becomes the harrowing story of assault. Jokes about “quite forgetting to come out to Grandma” and a sighing, but kind mother turn into a reflection on being raised as a straight girl in the hopes that Gadsby could possibly just change her mind because her mother “knew that the world wouldn’t change.”

As she puts it, her jokes (which consist of two parts, the set up and the punch line) turn into stories (which consist of a beginning, middle and an end). She emphasizes that “we learn from the part of the story that we focus on” and refuses to let her reality be shaped by the half-truths that make a joke so memorable and funny but are formulas without resolutions in real life application. Once again, “I have to quite comedy because….” rings out into the packed theatre and the temptation to squirm in your seat gets a little stronger.

The next chunk of the show demonstrates just how intelligent Gadsby really is. A story about a fan who has qualms with Gadsby’s medication for depression and anxiety turns into an art history lesson that assaults the ideas of the patriarchy ruling higher art and the messages given to women everywhere by our attitudes toward the artists. The power of this section is best demonstrated by the way in which Gadsby uses Picasso’s affair with a seventeen-year-old (while he was 42) to demonstrate the mottled view that we’ve allowed our greatest artists to take on women. Picasso claimed the affair was perfect, “I was in my prime, she was in her prime.” Gadsby rightly points out that a seventeen-year-old girl is never in her prime – and the idea that she could be is one used by older men to justify taking advantage of youth and naivete.

As the art history lesson distills into a quiet tension in the audience, Gadsby makes several heartfelt confessions that stem from living in a world where men make the rules and filters for how she is perceived. She talks about being sexually assaulted as a child, about the assault when she was just a teen, about being raped in her twenties. The admissions are brutal, and Gadsby has no problem pointing out to the white males in the audience that they have a responsibility to do something about what’s going on and to own the tension she’s thrown their way.

As a survivor she is unflinchingly honest about how these attacks on her body have broken the world around her almost irrevocably. When she last says, “that’s why I must quit comedy,” I shake my head because I can see the chunk its taken from her own healing and her own heart. But in the face of her bravery, I also hope that quitting comedy doesn’t mean quitting her story. Because it’s so relevant in a society finally coming alive to the heaps of damage we pour on our children by asking them to be “normal” and finally acknowledging that the cost for being different is too damn high.

So watch the show. Watch it and hear from a woman who’s lived a life well in the face of a world that never wanted her to make it through. Laugh at her quiet humor. Learn from her rage and her wisdom. Go back and collect all the quotes I didn’t have room for here. And think about this truth from her in the meantime.

“We don’t have sunflowers because Van Gough suffered. We have sunflowers because Van Gough had a brother who loved him.”

Nanette is available for viewing on Netflix.

TV Review: Supernatural S13 E16 – #Scoobynatural

For my complete thoughts and a few adult reactions to the show check out the video above ^

Rating: 10/10

Photo credit: The CW

Can a show be both respectful and irreverent all at once? Supernatural’s long awaited crossover with Gen Y’s childhood favorite Scooby Doo did just that. From Reddit feeds to Twitter live tweets, even viewers who had dropped out of the Supernatural fandom came back to watch last week’s episode. In fact, it had the highest ratings since the Season 13 premiere.


Here’s my top five reasons why this was TV’s final hour:

  1. Dean’s absolutely not innocent crush on Daphne and his hatred for Fred
    The reminder that once upon a time we all believed that girls and boys slept in separate beds and Fred and Daphne were just magically together no matter what was hilarious in conjunction with Dean’s weird cartoon obsession. The attempted touches, the blatant flirtation, the constant cock blocks by Fred – the writers did a great job of milking that dynamic without going over the top.
  2. Velma’s thing for Sam and his broad shoulders
    “I should have known that Velma would be down, it’s always the quiet ones.” – Dean
    I think that pretty much sums up the hilarity of ever-grumpy, shy Sam getting a little too much attention from the other resident nerd.
  3. The ultimate combo of sentimentality and brutal reality
    When Dean and Sam arrive at the malt shop in the show, the viewers got their first real taste of the Scooby gang’s innocence. They’re celebrating Scooby’s inheritance. But Sam, so tethered to his own world brings up cancer and the newspaper not having any words. Yes, Sam we get it – but that’s not what Scooby Doo is for!
  4. Cas teaming up with Shaggy and Scooby Doo
    Popular online is the best line of the night “I once commanded armies, and now I’m partnered with a scruffy philistine and a talking dog.” Cas’ willingness as this super powerful being to protect the innocence of his cartoon friends is just the warmest and the fuzziest.
  5. Scooby gang’s existential crisis
    Though fixed by the guilty Supernatural trio, the “reality” of ghosts and monsters and all the things that go bump in the night completely rocks the world of the team famous for debunking mysteries. The panic, the pain, the confusion – “I could have been hunting dracula??” – are all part of the meltdown caused by a little TMI. Hey, as kids we needed the safe haven of mysteries without the bite of blood or gore. The Scooby Gang gave that to us.


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