Damn COVID-19 is a weird time. Here’s a mostly complete list of things I watched.
Ascendance of a Bookworm OVA
Great little fun side-story in the first half of the church agents trying to suss out information about Main. Great seeing the people in her community band together to send the suspicious looking outsiders off on wild goose chases or just outright lying/denying them info. Which I guess is to be expected when two adult men show up and start asking questions about where to find a frail 7 year old girl. This side story was particularly fun when in the first ep of S2 we saw the same time period from Main’s perspective and saw the two blokes in the background e.g. through the window. The second OVA part was also great, especially the scene where Benno and Main are conducting negotiations on another product Main has “invented” (continuing the great, effective use of the isekai genre of otherworldly knowledge)
Haikyuu S4- To the Top
I was shocked this was such a short season. Expected it to be a full 24-25 like S1+S2 given the directions of the story arc but got caught with the 1 cour length (well, split cour technically). The season was fine but was a lot of set up for future story stuff, without any real story progress. We got some great character stuff, especially for Hinata and a bit for Kageyama, but overall the season did leave me feeling a little short-changed by it. Especially given the season finished mid-game. Also the introduction of another female character who had to be a love interest for a secondary character from Karusuno felt a bit weak. Would have preferred to maybe see a bit more from the girls team as a whole given they were established to be better and probably are also in the same tournament the boys team is at. And then they’d be more than just potential accessories for the male characters. Was also shocked by the sudden character development episode/arc for the Team Manager about her history with track and field and problems in middle school and such. I really liked it though. I did not like the fact that the crowds at the tournament were booing. Aside from being a poor sports practice that should be stamped out in real life and not portrayed in fiction (in a positive way), it’s a high school tournament. Why are people booing children?
I flagged this last blog as something maybe worth checking out and I ended up binging the whole thing in a day while doing some work. Was a really fun show evolving the battle royale death match into an app based concept. My only concern, aside from the weird set up of the OP female lead as being just an obsessed love interest (which was toned down as the show went on), was how much stuff was set up for a longer story when there is certainly no chance for a sequel. Just advertising the manga/light novel I suppose. But I do wish there was a little more story development that was resolved in the anime. Also found it really fucking strange that they developed one of the MC’s friends who was kidnapped and then got psychic powers from the death game app… only to then be killed by the bad guy. Developing him as a character/friend of MC to make his abduction and death have impact makes sense. Giving him psychic powers as he joins the game, showing him to be potentially very strong and then killing him was weird.
Sora yori mo Tooi Basho
I remember writing this off as boring when it first aired maybe two years ago. Started watching it with some friends and I was both right and wrong. The last few episodes of this were amazing, with some incredible emotional moments between the four main protagonists both in regards to their own character development from children into… well… not adults but not children anymore. Plus the relationships between them. Like one learning how to deal with their mothers death, one learning how to deal with people letting them down, one learning how to open up to others etc. But there is a lot of pretty unexciting build up to get to those moments. Build up with is 100% essential for those moments to pay off (and literally bring some tears to your eyes) but does make it a bit of a hard sell if I’m honest. I would recommend giving it a chance but you need to be game to commit to the long haul and a slow burn.
Interspecies Reviews Bonus Note
Just a note that I finished this show and turns out that the election subplot actually did come back to be relevant in the last episode. As did a bunch of other stuff in terms of various people, in particular magic users, the main trio had interacted with in their brothel adventures related together in a weirdly fascinating glimpse into the larger fantasy world this show was set in. Like with the angel’s semen being harvested by a magic witch group to develop magic resistance stuff (not resolved as a story thread but damn it was interesting!)
This was a weird one to watch and I only got into it coz of COVID-19 and how much everyone was talking about it. Like the standard Netflix show it was super fascinating to watch ep to ep in big clumps, almost literally nothing stuck in my head afterwards. Other than it dragging out too long in the last few episodes.
It was a fun ride as it went but also a bit sickening as it the focus on Joe Exotic’s group meant the humour/fascination was at the expense of some really down trodden people who’d not been dealt a fair hand in life. Also I’m a bit annoyed that it glazed over the very clear animal abuse that was happening at the hands of these people- like there was a scene where Joe Exotic grabbed a new born lion cub and forced it through a hole dug under a fence. Although I suspect it makes for a far less engaging or ‘morally grey’ content if we saw how much the ‘heroes’ of the story (Joe Exotic et al) fucked over the animals. And each other (i.e. Joe Exotic preying on vulnerable people was just brushed over and painted as a good thing as they got “opportunities” from it).
I cannot understand how Carol Baskin became the butt of a heap of jokes and memes. Of everything in the documentary, the one woman who gets any focus who’s goal is to stop the abuse of animals get dragged through the mud over her dodgy husbands disappearance decades earlier. Like we had Joe Exotic scooping up very young, straight men and bamboozling them with drugs and manipulation into sexual relationships with him. Basically grooming teenagers. We have the creepy “Doc” fellow (not a real doctor) with his weird harem shit and vague allusions to crazy shit like gas chambers for tiger cubs and such. (As an aside, I assume we didn’t get more ‘Doc’ coz he’s a sneaky fucker who looks super litigious). Then we briefly had the inspiration for Scarface at the beginning and this weird businessman bloke who had a dramatic Jet Ski riding shot at the end.
I loved the bit where the Libertarian bloke (young, white male of course, with requisite bad stubble ‘beard’) talked about how running Joe Exotic’s election campaign was the scariest thing in his life. Which I initially found hilarious as it highlighted how easy his life had been. And then insane when it was later revealed he literally saw Joe Exotic’s husband commit suicide via handgun from about 3m distance.
Otherwise it was a pretty great expose about how shitty some people can be and how shitty we are collectively for getting away with it.
The Mole (US) S2 (from ~2002?)
This show was fucking great. Possibly even better than the first iteration. Like the first challenge they had involved them having to answer 8 questions about each other and if they got 4 wrong then all their belonging would be thrown into a bonfire. And they got the first 4 questions wrong! So their shit was thrown into a bonfire, destroying all their personal belongings. (Later this was revealed to have been a ruse, which makes sense for modern TV but for 2002 TV I legit thought they’d destroyed people’s stuff).
I also liked how they iterated the game on S1 by offering exemptions instantly with the first challenge and having heaps more of them throughout. Like I think every episodes, if not every challenge, there was the opportunity for at least one (if not more) people to get an exemption from elimination. Which I think did a good job giving individuals a bit more agency to control the game beyond their own ability to learn/guess who the mole was. Although maybe it got a big extreme towards the middle of the season in terms of the number of possible exemptions. Am a bit sad they didn’t nail a mechanic to level disadvantages on other players (given this was the second and last of the good US Moles to my understanding).
I really liked the $50,000 bribe-to-leave twist. Was a great addition although as given (at Final 7 or 8) it made it too good a deal to refuse given it was offered to the person everyone voted they didn’t like. I also really liked the Evader Game challenge where one person had to grab five items while not being caught by another player. With the remaining players acting as look outs. Although I thought it was perhaps too much of an obstacle for the person going for the items to win, as shown by how easily they lost the first time and how they then got just beaten on the second round in a foot race.
The ending of the season dragged out a bit-like they had a bit in the finale where the final 3 were locked in separate rooms and each given a key, where the winners key would unlock the door and let them out. Adding onto the TV run time. Although it was amusing how the Mole, knowing their key obviously wouldn’t work, still played along with pretending to try it. Also thought it was quite funny how the reveal of the winner wasn’t even the peak of the show, it was the Mole reveal.
I was shocked that it was Bill. I seriously was expecting it to be Heather but in hindsight she was the same archetype as Kathryn from S1 so that would have been too obvious. Speaking of Kathryn, having her randomly appear as a cameo to deliver instructions and stay around for like 2 minutes was a weird waste of time and money. Also the random engagement between Heather and her boyfriend seemed kind of staged. I did also feel a bit sorry for Heather given her rotten run of luck in challenges, especially the last one where she got super lost in the wilderness. And good on Dorothy for winning I guess.
But yeah, it was a super fun ride to watch and I’m glad some random person had put it all up on YouTube. Although again the “clues” for the audience to guess the Mole were utter horseshit.
She Ra and Princesses of Power S1-5
As part of a Discord group over the course of four Mondays I marathoned all four seasons of She Ra in the lead up to the release of the final season on Netflix. I also watched the first third of S5 but gave up when the stream was too laggy for it to be tolerable.
Was pleasantly surprised to learn that it wasn’t by the same people who made Voltron. Overall the show was a pretty solid watch, especially when one remembers that it is primarily aimed at young teens.
I found S1 to be a bit basic (heavy reuse of the transformation sequence) and a bit too episodic (find a new princess, solve a local problem, get them to join the princess alliance).
Across the series I was kind of shocked that the Evil Horde hadn’t just curb stomped the good guys. Like the Horde is a well oiled machine with like, logistics and a chain of command. The Princess Alliance is literally directed by prepubescent children and the strategy consists of sending the magic princesses in to win the fight. Sure that works on individual fights but in large scale conflicts that doesn’t work (as maybe reference in late S4/early S5 when one Princess complains how they always have to go rescue one place or another coz it’s always under attack and at risk of falling). My shockedness was mainly around how clearly incompetent the good guys were, rather than the fact the bad guys hadn’t won.
I did really like though how a decision to leave a person behind in a raid at the end of S1 led to the plot repercussions and advancement in S2+S3. Meant that everything bad that happened was due to a poorly planned, poorly executed plan the Princesses had in S1. Although I absolutely hated how the ‘science princess’ was completely amoral and pursued ‘science’ and ‘knowledge’ at all costs. Like had no qualms about the destruction and death caused by the Evil Horde, happy to work with them coz cool tech. Ugh. Very frustrating and shallow given the otherwise complex and representative characters that otherwise existed. (This was then given a ‘resolution’ in S5 where is was strongly implied she was highly autistic and changed sides coz the didn’t pick up the social cues they were her friends and were upset with her switching sides… great job leaning even more into the scientist stereotype I guess?)
S2+S3 also really were one season- were split into two seasons of six eps (as opposed to S1, S4 and S5 having 12-13 eps) so had the typical Netflix issue of lots of wheel spinning and resetting up characters and situations to then not have time to do much with it before the season ended.
S4 gave me the shits a bit because S3 ended with a huge, universe wide step forward in plot which was then not addressed again until the end of S4. It basically felt like the whole thing was wheel spinning sort of fleshing out characters (or in the case of Glimmer, slimming down which was pretty disappointing) but in reality was just retreading the ground/development of earlier seasons.
Was also entirely unshocked that King Micah was still alive. Was not a fan of the random musical episode. Was shocked and a big fan of the mid-S4 ep where the Horde absolutely destroyed the water princesses kingdom and basically took control of the majority of the planet through subsequent sea domination. Which led to some incredible tension as things developed in the last stretch of S4 episodes… until the very last episode reminded us of the S3 thing that made all of S4 pretty irrelevant.
The stuff with the past She-Ra Mara was also really interesting. I loved the content that it had but found the tool of the crazy old lady Razz a bit of overused in communicating it. Really hope that S5 gives some clearer and more in depth info about what happened to/with Mara. Otherwise it has currently not really gone anywhere to utilise like, the awesomeness of it.
Also the destruction of She Ra’s sword at the end of S4 and the ‘loss’ of She Ra seemed a bit silly given a few eps earlier we were clearly told that the sword was to control She Ra who was an already existing magic thing on Etheria. This meant the early S5 struggle of She Ra being “gone” was pretty thin. And the fact that nu-She Ra without the sword looked significantly different and seemed more powerful seemed liked a real missed opportunity by the writer. Like even the original She Ra design (very teenage vibe clothes) compared to nu-She Ra design (much more adult) was pointing towards this but the question about the original sword was never addressed.
Double Trouble was a fine character but was overhyped to me by the people I was watching with given how little they ended up doing… although their switching sides when Glimmer offered them more money (or whatever) was a cool twist. Like Flutterina was clearly a plant and her turning out to be Double Trouble was like, impossibly obvious.
Oh and the redemption story for Catra followed by the queer-romance being made canon between her and Adora reeked a bit of pandering. Like, Catra has objectively done terrible and evil things and is not redeemable. She trapped Glimmers mother in an alternate pocket dimension (another plot thread that wasn’t quite resolved either in S5…)
Although I did laugh in S5 when one of the pirnceses )Mermista?) made a comment how they were constantly going from one pace to another saving it lats minute from being over run with their magic power. Really highlighted (I think accidentally) how incompetent the ‘good guys’ were.
Honestly, despite me starting this by saying that it was good when considering it was aimed at kids; I think a lot of these problems stem from the fact that it is aimed at kids but doesn’t respect them as being able to follow and understand longer plot threads or more nuanced/complex themes. (See: Avatar The Last Airbender for a show that did this incredibly well).
Although on the flip side, the Netflix model and the 4 week binge meant that I as an adult struggled to remember details so maybe expecting some story complexity/awesomeness to go with the great underlying concepts and characters is too much. Meanwhile with S5 I watched maybe the first third of it a day after it was released, then had a two week gap while I waited for it to appear on some less-than-legitimate-places (coz I got sick of my garbage internet lagging streams) and then struggled to finish the last chunk of S5. Like my literal only note I made was in regards to the lack of She Ra sword resolution/clarity.
Honestly, I find it more interesting that in two weeks the uhh… online water body full of buccaneers… didn’t have anyone upload the S5 eps. Wonder how many people were into the show. And if this signifies a generational shift within tech generations where the younger audience this is aimed at, with the proliferation of streaming, don’t have the same default desire to… share directly with their peers…
RWBY Vol 1-3
The same group of people I binged She Ra with I am also binging RWBY with. And man am I glad we did. I’d always written off RWBY as a stupid, US hack attempt to emulate anime and knew that the initial reception of S1 following the cool trailers (especially the Ruby one of slaughtering wolves).
I was super wrong. RWBY is great.
Volume 1 is a bit wobbly as it is pretty childish and the meh art style and cheap animation looks pretty garbage. Like the shadow people for background characters and the fairly boring story arc of the characters going through a Sorting-Hate-esque process to get sorted for the Hunter School (although, even worse than the Harry Potter Sorting Hat). There’s a few ok looking fights but we don’t know who like, any of the people are or what they’re fighting for so they have no stakes. So after Vol 1 I wasn’t sold
But then Volume 2 gets much better animation which make the artstyle work much better. The better budget after the success of S1 showed. The food fight scene looked prettty cool, although I think it went too long for something that didn’t really progress the plot or develop the charcaters in a new way.
And then they started tying in the previously random trailer (e.g. Yang destroying a night club) content plus the random S1 content to a coherent, larger storyline which I loved. Qrow came along and he’s fucking cool and hot and OP as hell (even if his VA is a piece of human garbage). Penny as a OP robot girl and Ruby friend was also pretty interesting and was great development for the larger plot/world. Jeanne was a bit of an idiot in regards to Pyrhha (goddamn I hoped they fucked at some point) and the school dance but eventually twigged and became pretty cool. Although the dancing in the dress was animated a bit weird. Then a pretty cool arc where they physically explored the area around where they lived, developed a heap of lore and had an emotionally impactful and cool train fight saving their city. With a pretty cool teacher dude supervising them
The in Vol 3 it hit the School Tournament arc which was again some pretty cool character development and show off of different people… right up until the mid-point when Yang (appeared to) go crazy and randomly break a dude’s leg. Then shit gets crazy with more incredible world building that results in the deaths of like, three major characters (damn I’m so sad for Pyrha in particular, such a terrible choice/position and bitter death) and this magic silver flare reveal for Ruby. While their school (and much of the city) is destroyed and shit goes terrible. An incredibly end to the 3 volume arc.
Also the Schnee’s are fucking hot. At least the daughters are. Loved when hot older sister Winter fought hot uncle Qrow XD. Oh and the Coffee themed older student group is cool. And the other students shown during the tournament arc did show off a lot of cool ideas form the creators. Although I feel sorry for the two extra blokes needed to round out Sun and Neptune’s team of 4 coz they’re irrelevant.
This has been o my list of things to watch for ages and I don’t remember why. I found the first couple eps interesting enough, the middle pretty fun but the end a bit of a drag.
I think the highlight for me was the Angel vs Angfel fight in the hotel room because, due to in universe mechanics, they were trying to incapacitate but not kill each other. Because if they were killed they could re-summon back and keep fighting. Ultimately ended up with a fuck tone of dead bodies beftween the three angels bloodied strewn across the room. The other big moment was when the Preacher accidentally sent a kid to Hell… and tried to get away with it.
There were a few interesting ideas in here- the alcoholic, immortal Vampire being hunted by Vampire Hunters (which didn’t really go anywhere), the weird/crazy Big Businessman (who goes through a weird roller coaster of turning to God and then randomly murdering a bunch of people for no clear reason), to a young and inexperienced Mayor trying to save the dying town (who is then inexplicably fed to the aforementioned Vampire by his love interest…). Plus stuff with Young Jesse has some serious anger management issues in the flashback and this weird 1800s era plot line with an Indian Cowboy fellow that is disconnected and looping on itself. But nothing really goes anywhere satisfying and in the final episode the whole town is literally blown up in a methane explosion, rendering the whole thing moot. To my understanding, this was because it was a ‘prequel’ of sorts to the comic material the show is based on.
So the show was fine I guess, no real desire to continue on to S2 though.
Friday Night Lights S1
This has been on the list of things to watch for years. So many recommendations about it being great. I couldn’t finish the first episode. It was so, so slow and so, so obvious what was going to happen.
What We Do In The Shadows S1
Loved the movie, struggled through the first 3 eps of the TV show and it just didn’t grab me. Didn’t really find the jokes that funny or the characters that engaging. Also one of the actors was in the IT Crowd and is permanently burned into my brain as that character (the incompetent second boss)
Brooklyn 99 S4
Was fine but while I finished it during COViD-19, I’d basically watched a couple episodes every 2-3 months so can’t really remember much. It was pretty funny but I feel isn’t as fun as the earlier stuff. I remember an arc with a bad ass lady cop who turned out to be crooked, and literally no other content from the season. Maybe Jake and Holt were in witness relocation in Florida at the beginning?
Altered Carbon S2
Meh. S1 was great but this was pretty boring. Can’t really explain why but there just didn’t really seem to be any building on top of what was done in S1. If anything they seemed to just backtrack on stuff from there.
Survivor Winners at War + Survivor Cagayan
I thoroughly enjoyed Survivors Winners at War, to the point that when I locked in on Tony as the winner I rapidly watched all of Survivor Cagayan so that I could fully understand and enjoy Tony’s arc.
As with Aus All Stars I have a lot of notes episode by episode that meander from broad meta ideas/questions to very time specific observations. So I think I’ll do a separate post about those.
This has been the unexpected gem of COVID-19. I saw a couple YouTube videos talking about ‘the worst reality show of all time’, including one by JonTron. Then the Dom & Colin podcast put out a one off special featuring Mario Lanza from Survivor Historians talking about the show. Much to my surprise, the podcast completely flipped my attitude to the concept of the show and I found myself super interested to watch it.
And it’s fucking great. Easily in the upper echelon of early US Survivor and The Mole of greatest reality TV ever. But where those are great due to the competition/conflict between great characters; Kid Nation is great because of how fucking wholesome it was.
The conceit of the show is that 40 kids aged between 8-15 are put in an abandoned old west mining city and told to build a society/town from scratch. That sounds like a trainwreck and terrible thing to do to kids. But it’s not for a few reasons. Firstly, these aren’t normal kids. They are all super talented, cream of the crop kids. Whether they are mathletes or pageant queens or music prodigies; they are all really smart and talented and (importantly) mature beyond their years. So this was basically a young leadership summer camp that was filmed for TV, which makes it seem not as crazy as one might initially think. Secondly this was filmed in 2007 when reality TV was well known culturally but hadn’t quite jumped the shark into being highly manipulative and crappy to the contestants (and the viewers). So there isn’t crazy production stuff, beyond the general forcing of conversation/action into a direction that makes for an episode of TV (see: old town diary).
I think a big part of why this show worked so well was that there were simultaneously three levels of competitive co-operation going on that forced everyone (well, mostly everyone) to work together and contribute. And come to amicable and quick solutions to conflict or issues (well, mostly).
So the town had 40 kids and they were then broken up into four groups or ‘districts’ of ten (red, blue, yellow, green). Each district had a leader who formed the four person town council.
The town was then broken up into four class levels- Upper Class (free time, lots of money), Merchants (run the shops, some money), Cooks (…cook food, a bit of money) and Laborers (clean everything including toilets and go get water and all the shit jobs, extremely little money). The shops the Merchants ran were the economy of the town and sold stuff the kids would want- from candy to soda to musical instrument to books to clothes etc. (Unsure how the prices were set- sometime they appeared to be done by Production and other times the Merchants themselves seemed to set them). So not only did being in abetter class get you less crappy chores, it gave you more money to spent on cool/interesting/delicious things from the shops.
To determine which District got each Class they would do some sort of team challenge. All the challenges varied wildly and were generally pretty interesting. But this class division formed one level of intra-district cooperation and inter-distrcit competition. Further augmented by the Upper Class free-time giving those people the option to help out on any of the tasks (or do nothing) and people being allowed to help other districts with their tasks (particularly pertinent for getting water and doing the cooking, especially when the young/lazy yellow district were Cooks and no-one wanted shit food).
But these challenges always had a twist where not only did they individually have to compete but they collectively had some sort of overall goal they needed to meet in order to get some sort of reward/benefit for the whole town e.g. extra toilets, a library of books to read, a microwave for the kitchen etc. So while competing, they also had to band together to some degree. Because this ‘make the whole town functional an dbearable to live in’ was the second lair of intra-town collaboration/competition that mad everyone work together.
Then on the third level, the four person town council would award a ‘gold star’ worth $20,000 to the individual who’d been the best that episode cycle (2-3 days I think). Which, generally, meant it went to someone who’d been putting in lots of hard work and effort to help people in some way (whether through physical contributions or cheering people up or building harmony or whatever). So people wanted to compete for that. Then as the show continued this was further complicated by the Town Council positions becoming challengeable/electable ones so people started having to collaborate and be nice to each other to have a chance to get onto the Council.
It was a really clever construction, once you get past the initial (and fair) reaction of “why the fuck are the segregating people by ‘colour’ and ‘class’ immediately? That’s fucking crazy!”
Me being me, my favourite thing was the Town Council politics. Mainly as basically every person involved with the council did a terrible job wielding power (and/or losing power). It is entirely fair that an 11 year old child has no experience being a leader, let alone an effective one, but that didn’t make it any less funny when Mike from the Red District was the classic medicore white man who could not lead people out of a paperbag. He could not deal with people questioning him or, god forbid, challenging him and got real aggro (especially with Greg) when anyone didn’t kowtow to his direction.
At the same time, while I hated Taylor from Yellow District with a passion as an ineffective and lazy person/leader; I had mad respect for her in securing the majority five girls in yellow district (they had one boy quit the show giving the girls a 5-4 numbers advantage) through letting them be lazy and a cool clique with her, which meant that she was guaranteed to stay elected despite the fact the vast majority of the town (like the other 33 people) hated her and very strongly wanted her off the council. Then her challenger Zac managed to get one of the girls to flip and, after being a horrific leader, Taylor became and even worse general townsperson.
There was then an extra dynamic with the Council and the Challenges- if the whole town met the extra goal they would be presented with a choice of prizes and (generally) the Council would then have to pick which on to go for. And it was always a choice between a popular, immediate choice (think- pizzas, at-cost-laundromat-machine, hot air balloon ride) vs long term choice (extra toilets, water pumps that were frost immune, library books etc). I think only two challenges were failed and from memory every time bar once the Council chose the long term option. Which often meant that the children were quite upset.
Funnily enough, their choices were justified two fold. The one time they chose the ‘fun’ choice it was a free gaming arcade. Which then immediately caused problems as the town en masse (including some Council members) neglected their jobs to go play air hockey and DDR and whatever else. So they ran out of water and had no meals prepared and had lots of intra-personal conflict when the Town Council had to padlock/bar access. The second ‘benefit’ of their sensible choices was that, unbeknowost to them, every sesnsible choice equipped them with a tool or skill to help them complete the very final challenge which would earn them three, super-stars valued at $50,000. For example they had to fill a big jar with hot spaghetti sauce which would have been near impossible without the microwave.
While Mike and Taylor were the stand out leadership failures, pretty much no-one except the two Green District leaders (Laurel and Michael). Guylan deposed Mike in the first election 9-1 (poor Mike) and the proved to be an ineffectual consensus style leader who couldn’t handle responsibility. So he then quite at the next election and let DK replace him; who then had a few weird things about him (going crazy with Greg and Blaine against Michael, having problems with the ‘tendons in his knees’ conveniently in front of the camera for a key challenge moment).
Anjay was the initial Blue leader and while he did a good job on paper he was a terrible communicator and was pretty easily bossed around by the other leaders, plus people in his district didn’t respect him (probably because he wasn’t white. which is their fault not his). He barely survived the first election against the snide Olivia and then was beaten handily by the town jerk/bully Greg in the second election. Basically his objective performance in achieving goals as a leader was good, but his subjective performance in managing his people was terrible.
Zac who deposed Taylor did a pretty good job despite having to deal with Taylor refusing to do any work after losing the election (…or before the election for that matter). He made a strategically good decision in the district swap period to get some physical strength on the Yellow District for challenges (who were otherwise the smallest and youngest by far due to those being who Taylor chose in the initial allocations) but was ultimately deposed by Blaine the very next day in the election because Blaine turned out to be a great person and worker away from Greg.
Unfortunately for the town, great Blaine was short-lived because in the same election Greg deposed Anjay, as the Blue district hated Anjay for trading out their second strongest person for nor benefit (Anjay himself admitted it was good for the town but not the district splitting up Greg and Blaine).
I don’t know how to describe Greg, other than to point out that he was the oldest, biggest and strongest person on the show. Also the one with the most anger management issues (except maybe Jared) and disrespect for authority/others. Interviews with Michael and Sophia years afterwards had both of them pointing out that Greg literally made people feel unsafe and should have been removed by the producers.
But yeah, was quite shocking/funny when the bully Greg, his sidekick Blaine and the yes-man DK ended up on the Council for the last stretch of episodes. They did not do a good job and what good they did was definitely due to Michael. He threw up his hand last minute against Laurel, who everyone agreed was doing a great job, and then won 7-3 because the Green people thought it’d be good to switch things up. And so we started with a TC of 2 boys, 2 girls (and some minorities- Indian, redhead etc) to ending with four boys (3 white). Great stuff.
In hindsight I’m surprised that at every election no more than one person challenged and no-one who had previously challenged/been on the council challenged again. I assume some sort of behind the scenes production restrictions i.e. don’t want to complicate the voting beyond simple first-past-the-post.
The only other interesting kid I haven’t touched on is Jared. Some crazy jewish kid who had the classic ‘knows how to say smart things and people believe him’. Got a bit irked with his bs-ing about physics and quantum effects in the back few episodes (legit believed we’d already invented teleportation or something) but given he was like 9 it’s fine. Most people latch on to Jared because in ep1 he declares a bad event in the town was ‘the wosrt thing in three years that happened’ to him. Begging the obious question- what happened 3 years ago. But I loved the kid (initially) because the post/mid credit scene was 9 times out of 10 him doing something weird/stupid: like failing to sit in a hammock or trying to stand on a barrel that was laying on its siude (and thus rolling around). Also post-show gossip apparently had him getting in heaps of physical fist fights with the other kids. So like, while I’m unsure with Mike this was definitely a kid on the spectrum who wasn’t getting the type of help he needed.
Oh also there was one kid (Cody?) who left about halfway through coz he was homesick for his 11 year old girlfriend. If giving up potential thousands of dollars of prize money at that age isn’t an incredible sign of undying love (or irresponsible adult advisors) then I dunno what is! I can only assume they are still together and happily married.
Oh and Sophia was a boss. On the Green district and apparently the only person who knew how to cook. Often did ‘weird’ shit which was basically just to fill in time and keep cameras on her e.g. roping off a section of land and saying no-one else could use it; just to make drama as everyone decided they wanted to walk across that bit of land. In the last couple eps she ended up as Town Sheriff and was functionally King when the Town Journal pulled the Council off overnight and for a challenge. Disappointingly she then chose the ‘fun’ prize of the hot air balloon ride over the ‘smart’ prize of a literal permanent monument to forever commemorate the show. (As an aside, as a former Hot Air Balloon pilot I’d love to see what exactly the ‘flight’ was coz the took off and landed in their little town and… well… Balloons can’t steer so either that was some extremely lucky weather and wind conditions or something dodgy happened.
Oh and there was one girl, Divad, who tried to be a right wing capitalist cuck by taking the free food provided in the kitchen and trying to on-sell it to her fellow townspeople to make money (to buy candy and shit). With some very poor rationale (“If you don’t want to open and eat an whole can of free peaches, you cna just give me money and eat one peach”). Which did not fly well with the rest of the kids who generally believed in fairness and not stealing communal resources. Damn communists! Also apparently she burnt herself with cooking oil and then her mum tried to sue to fuck out of Production for negligence… except she was on camera saying a) it wasn’t a problem and b) she does it all the time. And as such production basically cut her entirely out of the show except for those two lines.
Should note, there were 40 kids and only three of them quit over the ~13 episode span. So a whole lot of them were barely on screen and didn’t get any sort of story or characterisation. If you weren’t a Council Member or a contender for the gold star that week; you basically got no screentime.
The only thing I didn’t like about this show was the Town Journal. Basically at the start of every episode the Council members would go to the old church and read the next entry in a journal allegedly from the original settlers in the 1800s. Which just so happened to give some conveniently timed instruction or advice related to a problem the town had (e.g. we need to clean up the garbage or it’s Sunday so you need to do something religious or time to mix up the District members). It basically set up the problem for the episode the kids would then have to grapple with and solve. Either by articulating a problem that was already there (e.g. people don’t go to bed early and thus are tired and grumpy and bad workers in the morning- maybe have a curfew) or just straight up forcing them to do something that would cause problems (the aforementioned forced religious service). As a mechanism for a reality TV show it’s fine, but I just couldn’t stand how everyone played it straight faced that this was legitimately a journal from 200 years prior. All I needed was a fucking wink at the camera and it would have been great. I laughed so hard when in the finally the kids insisted the Host burn the book after the Class/Job allocation board mysteriously caught fire and burned down on the last (or second last) night.
Other random thing- the kids weren’t supplied with toothbrushes/toothpastes/dental care stuff despite half of them having braces, which cost thousands of fucking dollars (probably tens of thousands in the US healthcare system). I’m fucking shocked that got the parental tick of approval.
I’ve talked a lot about this show and have barely scratched the surface. And while I’ve focused on the conflict/silly stuff; the heart of the show is definitely how often the kids put aside their differences and come together to work towards the mutual goal of making a better place to live. You go in expecting to see a train wreck of borderline child abuse but find what is perhaps the most wholesome TV show ever made. I cannot highly recommend it enough.