Beat JENeration #002: Washing down OITNB 6 with Mamma Mia 2

*** I tried not to be spoiler-y, but I don’t know how sensitive you are. So beware if you care.***

I started watching Orange Is The New Black Season 6 last Friday afternoon and made it through about nine episodes before falling asleep and then returned to finish the final four on Saturday. But I wasn’t happy about it. It wasn’t more than a  chore, and when I finished, I was mad at Jenji Kohan.

Obviously, I don’t know Jenji Kohan, but I’m sure she’s lovely. I like her glasses and I like her shows, so to be clear, my resentment was more about the way she creates and runs a show than a personal attack. But to also be fair, this isn’t the first time she’s caused me internal strife. I grudge-watched the last four seasons of Weeds in much the same way I had just taken on OITNB. Because when you are blinded by love in the first couple of seasons, it’s hard to walk away once the relationship gets abusive. With Weeds, by the time I realized I didn’t like any of the characters I was too tangled up in their trajectory to make a clean break. I could only roll with Nancy & Co’s shenanigans, begrudgingly, for a funny line from Doug, and ultimately a deep seeded hope that we could all go back to Agrestic to swill our Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in a less tragic place. Swap Doug for Black Cindy and caffeination in Agrestic for hazing Piper at Camp and you see where I’m going. It would suggest this says more about my incapacity to find entertainment in a band of assholes, except that Shameless has equally as unlikeable dark characters, but I hit on that Season 8 binge pipe with full fervor over the rest of the weekend.

OITNB became problematic mid-Season 4. Piscatella was too much hateful rage and seriously, you cannot make me invest in characters just to illicit an emotional response as they keep seeing more and more damage. If I did math, I could show you were the equation between how much we identify with the humanity of characters vs how much evilness is thrust upon them went totally out of whack. Uncomfortably mean subject matter I can deal with, but never cartoonish villainy. The Riot Season was only tolerable when the women were working together. I watched for Flaca and Maritza and in all honesty their being separated made me cry more than Poussey’s death.

But I came back for Season 6 anyway. I kept watching for the good things:

  • Suzanne. Uzo Aduba’s acting is magic to watch. I can sleep at night knowing she’s on her meds and living her best pudding life.
  • Flaca rebuilding her world without her girl, Maritza.
  • Tova/Black Cindy singing “Secret Agent” from The Backyardigans. (This was the best kid show crossover since Gina from Sesame Street was on The Sopranos).
  • Pennsatucky coming into her own. Tiffany gives me hope, y’all.
  • Sophia. Out of all the Litchfield ladies, her heartbreaking choice to save herself was the most compelling.
  • Joe Caputo and Natalie Figueroa were humanized in a way I oddly approved of. See, just a little bit of dimension, it’s not that hard.
  • Frida Berlin is a legend! Even when I didn’t like her, I understood her motivation. It’s a testament to Dale Soules’ acting and the writing of a complex interesting character.

But the truth is the bad outweighed the good. 

  • The guards, CERT, MCI…all evil and flat. For all the mixed-bag compassion we got with C.O. McCullough’s PTSD storyline and Tamika Ward’s conflicting loyalty toward Taystee, it wasn’t enough.
  • Every moment the viewer is subjected to that piece of shit Luschek as comic relief. It’s insulting. He’s not a jester, he’s one of the bad guys — one without even a relatable backstory to soften the blow.
  • The Denning Sisters. Not even my love for Mackenzie Phillips could make me care about Barbara and Debbie and their ridiculous bickering.
  • Badison. Everything about her. Everything. Who thought she was good idea?
  • They did Taystee wrong and then sucker punched us all with Blanca. I can’t come back from that.

I don’t need to watch a fictional TV show to tell me that the world sucks right now. Watching Blanca walk into the hands of ICE — that was all I could take. Though I know there is a season 7 in the works for 2019, this was the finale for me. So, what do you do when you are angry at yourself for watching 13 episodes of a show that just upset your soul? You wash it down with a sequel to a movie musical you hate, but kind of love, and then hate that you kind of love it.

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, I have to admit was enjoyable for all the reasons I couldn’t enjoy OITNB.  It was totally the opposite. There were no amazing acting performances. No one even in the same league as Danielle Brooks or Laverne Cox. What we had was Pierce Brosnan phoning it in so hard-core that his American character had an Irish accent half the time. Not to mention no one gave pause to signing him up for another musical when the first movie taught us that James Bond cannot sing. But the pure joy of Colin Firth and Stellan Skargard in any scene made up for what I now consider minor faults. That Titanic pose during “Dancing Queen” was even better than Cher in the draggiest most fabulous version of “Fernando” ever.

There were parts in this movie when I laughed myself into silent screams of delight because it was so fluffy, insignificant and silly that I couldn’t stop myself.  There was zero message and yet I felt all the feels. Though when Meryl Streep shows up for a duet with her daughter — if you’re part of the dead moms club, this might be the one crux in an otherwise completely soft cloud of frivolity.  Other random thoughts:  I still refuse to believe that the hot Andy Garcia from Godfather III is the same Most Interesting Man in The World doppelgänger (btw nice casting on his brother).  Jeremy Irvine as a young Sam Carmichael is way hot, but he seemed to be having a problem keeping his American accent in check. But Hugh Skinner nailed his young Colin Firth acting duties.  Who thought Dominc Cooper could hold a solo? Christine Baranski is perfection. (Cybill is available on Prime and if you haven’t re/watched it, get on that). 

Mamma Mia 2 made it possible for me to carelessly sing Abba songs on the long drive home (yes, it was the night we realized we’re 11 miles away from the closest theatre accepting MoviePass) and sleep with a better attitude about the other people living on my planet. We may all be doomed, but as long as I can watch pretty people singing pop songs in bell bottoms, Jenji Kohan doesn’t win.