Big Little Lies Review: Wow does this show suck

HBO’s Big Little Lies starts with a view of the Bixby Bridge, so I’m thinking it can’t be that bad. I’m a sucker for anything set in California, it’s true. Bosch, 24, Goliath. I’ll like anything that’s set in LA. Except for NCSI: Los Angeles. I have standards.

This show doesn’t meet them. It’s garbage. Hot, hot, there must be an empty package of chicken in there and I should have emptied it before I left for work, garbage.

Did you see that movie Passengers? With Jennifer Lawrence and some beautiful guy? Remember how bad that was? How it was like, “Let’s make a movie about two beautiful people acting out some lines. Doesn’t matter what lines. Any lines. Add a space ship.” That’s Big Little Lies. But they swapped out the space ship for California and its Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon. Plus a Laura Dern character that is so stereotypical it makes, nah. Let’s not go there.

My theory is that Reese Witherspoon has never played a character with a personality that exists in the real world.Then again, you meet people in California who make you think, “Wow. That personality does exist. Hollywood didn’t just make it up.” Still, her character’s dialogue is so inauthentic that I can’t get past it to even care about her rolled ankle and her—get this—kid that is way smarter and more aware than a kid would normally be. Groundbreaking concept.

The first two episodes have this thing where they jump from the show to these interviews with the peripheral characters. We learn in the big reveal that they’re police interviews. Yeah, that’s the big reveal. They talk about someone who died but they don’t actually show you who died.

That’s supposed to be the thing? I’m supposed to wonder who died?

Did I mention someone choked a kid, and it might be another kid who’s psycho.

No, this show is terrible. The characters aren’t likable, hateable or interesting, which means they’re boring and you don’t care about them or the story they’re involved in. Which isn’t even really a story.

The only good thing about Big Little Lies is that the terrible character played by Laura Dern lives in the same house Nolan Ross lived in during season on of Revenge.

Oh, so this husband randomly loses his temper when talking about a kid losing his temper. That’s out of nowhere and there’s more of it in the second episode. It’s so forced. I can’t even write about this show anymore because it’s so bad. Life is too short.

MLB At Bat Has A Season To Forget

Oh, the promises were there in spades. When Apple announced its revamped and much improved Apple TV on September 9, 2015, MLB Advanced Media was there to showcase a brand new MLB At Bat app for tvOS. 2-in-1 viewing. 60 fps video. Tech Times loved it, and who could blame them? We all salivated over how we’d watch baseball in 2016.

So how’d that work out for ya?

Almost from day one, the new MLB At Bat app on Apple TV was an utter disaster. To understand how, let’s look at some of the best features of the previous app:
Hide scores. Hide scores let you toggle the scores on or off so you’d never be spoiled if you joined a game late.
Inning select. A simple click on the old Apple TV remove brought up a marked line for jumping from inning to inning. Couldn’t have been easier.
Game events. Likewise, keep clicking and you’d get a menu that let you jump from one big play to the next. Awesome for reviewing games.
Runs scored. A third click brought up the runs scored menu. Another great way to zip thru a ball game.

It wasn’t perfect. The previous generation Apple TV had some limitations. But it worked, reliably, and provided cool features that made it easy to watch the games you want.

Spring training streams aren’t always the greatest, whether it’s due to the inferior ballparks or what I am not sure. So when the Dodgers broke camp for a freeway exhibition against Anaheim at Dodger Stadium I was blown away by the new 60fps stream.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”><a href=”https://t.co/SFvNePHcXp”>https://t.co/SFvNePHcXp</a&gt; picture quality on the new AppleTV is as if I have a new TV. Motion is so smooth. Blown away.</p>&mdash; Kevin Watterson (@kwatt) <a href=”https://twitter.com/kwatt/status/715731575158259712″>April 1, 2016</a></blockquote> //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

I am not a fan of the way modern TVs display artificially smooth motion, but this was different. It didn’t look artificial. My TV is a Sharp Aquos from 2006, and At Bat made it look like a top-of-the-line debut model.

That was late March. I’ve seen a stream at 60fps once or twice since. Where it went, I have no idea. I don’t know if they had to downgrade the app to handle poor performance issues or if they simply gave up on it. But it’s gone.

You might be thinking, “Okay, Watterson, maybe you’re just so used to it that now you don’t even notice the 60fps.” Nope. Whenever I pull up a stream on my iPhone 6 I’m mesmerized again, because that is consistently 60fps.

That wasn’t so bad. You can’t really miss a feature you never had.

What made the “new” At Bat app such a pathetic fail is that all those features I listed above disappeared. Flat went missing. POOF. Only the inning selection has come back – in June, three months into the season and 10 months after the app was displayed at the AppleTV announcement – and that in a way that spoils the outcome of a game even if you’ve hidden the scores. The rest are gone and MLB support has given no indication when, if ever, they will return.

Speaking of hide scores, that took months for MLB to iron out, too.

If you tried to get an answer from At Bat support you would get a copy-paste response that it would report your concerns to their development team. Then it would delete your question from their support forums. Over and over again fans would ask, and over and over again they would get deleted.

On top of the missing and slow-to-arrive features, the app’s new UI is somewhat poor. Customers with premium access to home and away broadcast streams lose the option to chose in split-screen view. I don’t know how an app gets released with a UI that takes away premium features, features that we paid to have. That seems to me to be the opposite of what should happen.

All of this sits beside the app’s incredibly inconsistent performance. For the first few months of the season it would freeze almost nightly between 8:30 and 9:00 p.m. That eventually got resolved but I’m not sure if there have been any nights when it hasn’t crashed at least once. It crashed once while I was writing this column.

How did this happen? There’s a concept in development called MVP (minimum viable product). I won’t go into it but it basically says release your product at its earliest viable state and iterate, iterate, iterate. MLBAM clearly had access to the new tVOS long before anyone else, yet their flagship app seemed to be released to paying customers as an MVP. At best it was an MVP. I’d actually say from my experience it felt more like a beta.

If I were cynical I’d point out that MLB was forced to offer MLB.tv subscriptions at a lower price this year and say maybe this is why the app was so bad. Why bother refining a product you’re not able to charge full price for? But I’m not that cynical.

Missing features that customers paid for. Miserable performance. MLB Advanced Media owes its paying customers an apology for the product it gave them on Apple TV in 2016.

Save Yourself From The Exorcist

Ok let’s go on The Exorcist. I own the movie and wasn’t that impressed. I’m really down on this thing where FOX is bringing movies into TV shows. But hey it’s online and not locked behind a stupid paywall like CBS. I’m sure CBS has some great shows but if I miss them on their original air date I’m sure as hell not going to pay to watch them.

I’m curious if this will try to be a horror TV show. I think that would be very tough to bring on a weekly basis.

When I watch shows on something other than Amazon, I really miss the Amazon x-ray feature. Especially premieres.

Did they make this guy talking outside the church look like a clown on purpose? I don’t get the whole clowns thing but it’s pretty creepy.

Thinking. I loved Bates Motel, and that was a movie adapted to TV. Too bad A&E canceled Longmire and I pledged never to watch the channel again. Except for The First 48. I’m a hypocrite.

It’s hard to hear this dialogue. The background noises are too loud. It’s also very dark. Hard to see faces.

They’re clearly holding back the first shot of a possessed kid tied to a bed. It better be worth the reveal.

Marcus loves himself some Marcus. He’s quite poetic. It feels like a movie character, actually.

Plenty creepy!

This couple obviously has something we don’t know. What is it? A death? Feels like death of a child? When will they show us?

This is completely failing to keep my interest. But This Is Us and Pitch have shown that we need to stick around to the end of a pilot.

So there is something inside they’re house and that’s supposed to be interesting. “It’s a demon.” Well okay then. It’s trying to take your daughter? Well that sounds awful!

The thing with the crow was stupid as hell. I’m embarrassed that it happened.

I stopped paying attention. This show is crap.

Pitch Hits The Zone

I don’t have many expectations for Pitch. FOX has been buying ads during MLB.tv inning breaks that feature its baseball broadcasting talent. That makes me immediately suspicious that it simply made up a show to draw eyes to remind that it has the MLB post season.

Given the way ratings suffered the past several seasons, that might not be a bad strategy. Any new TV show has a pretty good chance of failing miserably, so why not spend your pilot money on something that could boost your (very, very expensive) live sports programming?

Okay, let’s see how this goes.

(The Exorcist is a new show? I’m concerned that TV is spiraling down the movie industry’s rat hole of recycled ideas. Let’s not.)

Of course the show about the first female player in baseball history starts with a shot of her legs getting out of bed. Come on, try a little bit here.

Greeting cards from Ellen and Hillary Clinton, product placement from Callaway and Nike. Headphones that don’t say beats but sure look like them. Maybe I was too narrow in what I thought FOX wanted to promote.

Hey it’s Colin Cowherd with a hot take.

It took three minutes for the main character to speak.

You know who would have been great in this dad role? My guy Shemar Moore. He might not be old enough though.

The Padres GM has made an appearance. In real life he is on a one-month suspension for hiding injury records.

If we get the same stereotypical crap here that we got from the military guy in Designated Survivor. Whether it’s players or this dreadful agent/publicist character or whatever it’s gonna get old. Fast.

The number 43 is a great touch.

While we’re here, can we talk about the Padres uniforms?

Actually, Kim Kardashian is very talented. I will go to bat on this.

Hey they’re gonna play the Dodgers! This is great!

What is this live video thing? Is it part of the show or a commercial? Oh god it’s a Kohls commercial. This is hot garbage. And it might be the future of TV.

One thing to think about here is the main character is an athlete, so she’s going to act like an athlete. The public version of most athletes would make a terrible TV character, so that’s something to keep in mind. We’ll have to draw a distinction between how the character is written when she’s in “athlete mode” and when she’s not.

But one thing that doesn’t have to be acting is the TV broadcast characters. They should just be able to do their thing, right? That’s what FOX hired them for! I don’t think Joe Buck did. Reminder: I love Joe Buck.

Couldn’t they have cast a southpaw? 🙂

Where have I seen this kid actress? I she the one in Mistresses? I’ll have to look it up. I looked it up. She is. She’s outstanding on Mistresses – well-written and well acted.

Let’s get back to the product placement issue. That’s what we’re used to in sports now. You can’t look anywhere without a logo. So I guess it adds some realism. And this George Clooney commercial about a coffee maker? That was filmed at the Warner Bros. lot.

Oh come on you can’t use real Dodgers? Actually I bet FOX would have gotten way more promotion if it had been able to get Vin Scully. Not only would it be awesome, but Vin was friends with Jackie Robinson so it would be fitting.

Hey this is like watching the Twins pitch! Sorry that was uncalled for. The Twins are worse.

About the decision to have her get off to a dreadful start. From a story perspective, it’s good emotion. It makes me identify with the character. It’s also realistic. Not every debut is Rob Segedin. Wait wasn’t she a starter? You don’t take your starter out that quick. Hey this is a TV show not real life, Watterson.

Remember Matt Fox? Not the actor, Matt Fox the guy the Twins called up in September during a pennant race.

This scene in the hotel is what we should judge the Ginny character by, not the athlete stuff. And it’s good.

He’s right about her being this catcher’s legacy. On and off the field.

Joe Buck can be sarcastic at times, but he is way too professional to ever make a joke like that.

If she beats the Giants you know Pitch is committed to realism.

OMG I just realized the catcher is Zach Morris. WTF. I feel like my life has come full circle. I’m blogging about a show where Zach Morris is a baseball player.

As with every Hollywood production about sports, they managed to find actors with next to no actual athletic ability.

Have you ever held a sparkling white official Rawlings baseball? It’s a beautiful thing. From a pitching perspective, if her fastball tops out in the upper 80s isn’t she basically a screwball version of a knuckleballer.

If this were real life and the manager slapped her butt we’d have a national controversy the likes of which would drive us all off social media forever.

We can add the owner to the list of stereotypical characters.

This better get over, it’s almost time for Dodger baseball.

Hey wait. I approve of what has happened here.

Designated Survivor Premier Live-Blog Review

Here is what I expect from Keifer Sutherland’s new drama, Designated Survivor:

The big event happens early in the pilot, thrusting him to the presidency. It ends with a cliffhanger to make us wonder what happened and season one features a lot of flashbacks leading up to whatever it was.

Now let’s see if that’s what actually happens. I’m about to start watching and will live-blog my thoughts.

I’m choosing this over football, and the Patriots have some pretty solid looking Thursday night uniforms. This better be worth it.

I think we all know how this works. Explaining it is like showing the Superman origin for the 10,000th time.

Do you think the designated survivor (we’ll call him the DS) really wears jeans and a hoodie? And drinks a beer? That would be…unpresidential and actually kinda irresponsible.

Establishing that he has a kid. Solid. Hopefully she’s not as awful as whatever Jack Bauer’s daughter’s name was.

That was okay. It could have been more impactful or shocking or whatever but it was good.

A flashback! Check.

Would the television feed actually flicker out or would it just go out? What an odd thing to wonder.

Going from an explosion that wipes out government at night to eating scrambled eggs that morning feels like it killed a lot of momentum.

I would take an ambassadorship to the ICAO! #avgeek Being booted probably explains his lax attire later that night.

Do we need to talk about – wait…

“What do you want me to do, go to war with the president of the United States?” Um…okayyyy.

Anyway, do we need to talk about whether or not Sutherland’s scratchy voice is a good fit for this part? It was so perfect for Jack Bauer. Let’s give it some time. I assume he was cast to be a president, not a HUDdy duddy. #BureaucracyPuns

This is the first time I’ve thought about the fact that if the DS is elevated to president it can also mean we lost Congress. And the Supreme Court. Jesus. I wonder if networks do a dry run for what to do in this situation.

All of this has to be in place (Do we trust speechwriter guy?) on the night of the State of the Union. I take back what I said about not needing it explained. So hasty am I to judge.

Take control of the room, Mr. President. Do you think they screen cabinet appointees for whether or not they could handle this situation?

This bathroom talk is somewhat convenient.

Have you noticed that so far a lot of my thoughts are about real life and not the TV show? I can’t tell if that’s because the show is lacking or because I’ve always kind of been interested in continuity of government (having once worked in government).

Do we really let the prez hang out on the sidewalk after Congress was blown to bits? I suppose if this character was immediately presidential I would be like oh how convenient that the one guy they leave behind can immediately step into the role of president.

This military guy who wanted to go DEFCON 2 is going to be a problem isn’t he? Could he be any more stereotypical?

When are they going to tell us who this Agent Wills is calling, and why is it important enough that they aren’t revealing it yet?

I like that they’re having Agent Wills reference how real-life attacks seem to go. I think it gives the show credibility. I have to admit also that the possibility of it being the first attack never crossed my mind.

As a communications guy I’m interested to hear the speech they wrote him.

One of the ways I measure how engaging a show is is how many character names I remember. Agent Wills and Tom something that ends in orkman. Workman?

There’s almost always something I dread about a TV show or a movie. In Designated Survivor I think it’s going to be military guy. I really don’t want to put up with a show with such a cookie-cutter character. I hope they surprise me.

All in all I’m not sure yet what kind of show we have in Designated Survivor. There are so many potential elements it can string together from politics to thriller to conspiracy to character. That puts its realm of possibility anywhere between dreadful and brilliant.

Kiefer, it’s on you.

photo credit: ABC