According the the Mayan calendar, every so often, the collective intelligentsia that is State-Lines.com must emerge from it’s underground lair and see the light of day. If you calculate the frequency of blue and blood moons, and count the correct number of baktuns, you can predict these events. Or you can just wait. And if you’ve been waiting, today your patience is rewarded. Today we burst forth with a new purpose, and a new message. That message? 2015 is over, and you missed some things. These are those overlooked things.
Jonas Arca – The word Underrated
Underrated has not so seldom been used, as it has been during the current era, since the 1820’s, according to Google Books Ngram View which tracks word usage in books throughout history.
I can only speculate on the reason for this decline. Can we surmise that things are being properly rated at a rate never seen before in history? Perhaps. I choose to believe something more sinister is afoot. According to dictionary.reference.com, the term underrated originates from the period of 1615 to 1625. It just so happens that during that time period was the start of the Thirty Years’ War, and a certain well known group of Pilgrims, after a three-month voyage in a boat named the Mayflower, landed at Plymouth Rock. “May”and “flower”, meaning flower that blooms in May. You might be asking, “What does the decline in the usage of the word underrated – also a compound word I might add – and the Mayflower have to do with one another?” The landing of the Mayflower was a turning point in American history. Underrated is a term used to denote that something is not valued as highly as it should. The value of the U.S. dollar is at an all-time low. The reduction in use of the word underrated is obviously an attempt to divert attention away from the fact that we are living in dark times, like that of the Thirty Years’ War. When asked if the reduced usage is linked to a blatant attempt to distract us from the progress and prosperity that followed the creation of this country in order to maintain the status quo, Dr. Kevan Girnett, noted linguist and professor at South Virginia University replied, “Anything is possible.” At this point nothing is certain except the fact that underrated is underrated and no one to date can prove any of these assertions false.
Mike Doles – Mr Robot
A year in review only needs one thing, Mr. Robot. If you missed this show on the USA network this summer you missed a big thing. Think Breaking Bad or Lost. Inevitably someone will say, “You aren’t caught up yet?” What are you waiting for? One part American Psycho, one part Fight Club, and Hackers thrown in for good measure. That’s not even mentioning the stellar cast headlined by Rami Malek, great writing, and wonderful music. Top it off with a sprinkle of Christian Slater and you have the finest visual meal offered this summer to grace your pallet.
The show is about a socially awkward solo hacker and his recruitment into a larger group of like-minded enthusiasts and their anarchist leader looking to bring down a large multi-national conglomerate. Sounds like the potential to be mundane but it is anything but. Like all great shows the show runner has an end game in mind and is methodically running the game plan to the victory finish. Believe me if you want 2016 to have any value at all catch up on Mr. Robot season 1 and strap in for season 2.
Gil Gonzalez – Jessica Jones
So perhaps the original Netflix series Jessica Jones is not exactly under the radar, especially if you’re a fan of the comic book hero genre and one of the over 70 million subscribers to the online streaming service. Still, the show doesn’t carry top of mind awareness in the way The Walking Dead, Scandal, or other, more mainstream shows do.
In the interest of full disclosure, I was not a comic book kid, and I didn’t know the show existed until I read somewhere that Krysten Ritter had been cast in the title role. My first thought was how could the B in apartment 23 be a super hero, but Ritter made the role her own. She mixes her gruffy sass with a visible vulnerability that sheds light to ‘shattered but recovering’ character that is Jones. What really makes the show, however, is the brilliant performance by David Tennant as the antagonist Kilgrave. His portrayal of the mind-controlling villain is delightfully terrifying, and gives the show the dark and dramatic flavor that makes it so good.
Jessica Jones is not your every day super hero show. Although I’ve never seen an episode, I would say it’s the antithesis of Super Girl. The story lines in Jessica Jones are complex and touch on topics of rape, sexual slavery, and exploitation. The show also challenges us to think of what it would really be like to have super powers and what we’d do with them in a real, broken, and scary world. You have my permission to begin binge watching immediately.
Jarrett Haas – Tomorrowland
Rarely do I write from a place of anger, but, uh…. Here goes. How many times have you heard someone complain about a “lack of original ideas in Hollywood”? They may say “everything is a remake” or “not every movie needs a sequel.” Here’s the straight dish – The movie industry wants to make money. And the only reliable movies these days are reboots and sequels. No one wants to take a chance on a fresh idea because you bozos are too busy seeing “Paranormal Activity 7: This Time The Ghost Baby Did It – A Found Footage Headache Creator”. That’s why I beg you to go see original cinema in the theater, like this overlooked gem from 2015.
Tomorrowland is the brainchild of Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredible’s, Jurassic World) and Damon Lindelof (freaking LOST people!). It stars Hugh Laurie, a few excellent new comers, and GEORGE CLOONEY! It also boasts a plot that, at the risk of over using this word, feels fresh. I had no clue what would happen at any point in this movie and that was a wonderful feeling. Last and most importantly, this movie instills in the viewer a sense of wonder, a sense that anything can happen, and that’s what is missing in many of today’s flicks. Watch Tomorrowland with the eyes of a child, and when the beautiful ending comes on to screen, I promise your emotions will be moved. Seriously, go watch this movie. And if you don’t like it, you can always go back to “Captain America VS Thor and the Avengers that may not be under contract much longer.”
Julien Llerena – The Carmichael Show
The most revolutionary thing The Carmichael Show does with the multi-camera sitcom is not be revolutionary. As a delivery system for comedy, the sitcom is as perfect as you can get. The same characters in the same environment repeated every week. It’s the perfect type of candy. So perfect that it often disguises lazy laughs. Show creator, and the titular Carmichael, Jerrod Carmichael uses techniques from decades old sitcoms to boil the format to it’s purest form. Each of the 5 episodes of the first season deals with a topic directly in a mature manner. The over the top societal stereotypes that is the Carmichael family give wildly different views on topics ranging from gun control to religion. There are no Full House life lessons. Just understanding. The Carmichael family sit down and talk out their view points. The comedy comes from the clashing of ideologies. The most interesting being Jerrod himself, who enters each topic with an open mind. At it’s best an episode feels like the real Jerrod Carmichael is figuring out his own opinion through these different voices. He never seems concerned with judgement but only with the why. Why do you believe what you believe? This technique lets the show deal with controversy in a realistic manner. The Carmichael Show is what you wish family dinners felt like; funny, intelligent, and loving.
Chelsea Quinn – The Roast Battle
As someone who likes to be showered, in bed, and watching Gilmore Girls by 9pm most nights of the week, it would be safe to assume anything that has me on the Sunset Strip at 11:30 pm on a Tuesday night is something special. Every Tuesday night, at just around midnight, The Comedy Store hosts my new favorite show in Los Angeles: The Roast Battle. When friends ask me what it’s like I almost always say you have to be there to experience it, but for you, my lovely friends on the internet, I’ll try to explain it.
The Roast Battle is a place where a brand new comedian, still honing their craft can go up on the same stage as a well seasoned veteran – and the audience gives them the same attention, respect, and laughs (or boos if they’re unimpressed). Every night comedians battle head to head in what can be best described as a rap battle but instead of lyrics, they’re spitting jokes. And nothing is off-limits. I’ve heard jokes about dead parents, fat women, suicide attempts, terrorist attacks, and more. If you’re feeling worried, I get it. I was too. But once you’re in the room everyone’s love for the craft becomes abundantly clear and though a joke or two might cut deep, it’s all done in love. And if it’s not, the audience lets the comic know that kind of energy is not welcome.
Besides the madness happening on stage, The Roast Battle boasts a motley crew of characters. From the DJ who makes or breaks a battle with his genius drop ins, to the infamous “House Haters” who attack everyone equally, and The Wave, a group of comedians who do hilarious improv sketches after the best or the worst jokes to the panel of celebrity judges – there is never a dull moment.
If you’re in the LA area, I would put The Roast Battle at the top of your list of must-see’s. But for those of you who haven’t made it to the best coast yet, you can tune in to Periscope and see what all the hype is about. Then once you fall in love with the spectacle and maybe get caught up betting on the rankings, you can head over to the podcast “Verbal Violence” to get behind the scenes commentary. OH! And I can’t forget… A Roast Battle documentary short by Jason Reitman will even be debuting at Sundance in 2016!
So you missed out and that sucks but guess what the good news is? It’s still happening! So don’t be a dummy and make sure you tune in.
David Staples – The Secret Cabinet
My favorite under-the-radar item from 2015 was this tiny space movie called Star Wars: The Force Awakens. What? They fly under the radar several times in that movie. Fine.
The book The Secret Cabinet by Maureen Johnson should have gotten more attention this year. It is the third book in the Shade of London series. This is a young adult series about a teenaged American girl studying in London who gains the ability to see ghosts. The series is very good and sufficiently creepy without being over the top. And there are no stupid emo vampires or sissy werewolves. But there is a love triangle.
The Secret Cabinet raised the stakes for the whole series, though, with the characters exploring the blurred line between death, life, and afterlife. There were some VERY cool and creepy scenes, some very touching moments, and lots of growth for the existing characters. And it introduced a new “Big Bad” that upped the ante. The bad guy was terrifying and pushed the entire series to a whole new level. I read the whole book in just a couple of days because it was too good to put down. And it was one of those ones where, when you finish, you get mad that you have to wait a year until you get the next book.
Other series get more attention, not always rightfully so. I would say that Shades of London in general can hold its own with any popular YA series out there. And, unlike Hunger Games and Divergent, the third book in this series was not a disappointment. (Ooooooo burn.)
Thank you for jamming with us. Read our last jam session here.