Pomo Picks

Pop Culture Worth Your Time: Ted Lasso, Chris Rock, and More

The content in our queues, from Jason Sudeikis to Jones comma Samantha

By Portland Monthly Staff January 14, 2021

Jason Sudeikis in Ted Lasso

Image: Apple TV+

What a year this month has been. With one week left in his term, Donald Trump has now been impeached for a second time, after his supporters stormed the Capitol building during the certification of the Electoral College. We felt our shoulders tense up just typing that. Escape and engagement are not mutually exclusive, and when you manage to tear yourself away from the news, you'll need new places to put your eyes and ears and (tired, tired) brain. Here's what we've been watching this week to keep ourselves semi-sane. 

Another Round 

In the midst of a shared midlife crisis, four high school teachers decide to test a theory by Norwegian philosopher Finn Skårderud that humans are born with a BAC 0.05% too low. That means, in order to live and work and generally perform at their best, they need to maintain a state of mild drunkenness at all times. What could possibly go wrong, right?

I’d already been on a Danish movie kick, having worked my way through most of Lars von Trier’s filmography last fall. But this is not the apocalyptic ruinscape of Von Trier. This is a sweet tale about getting older. Though the booze flows from scene to scene, director Thomas Vinterberg (Von Trier’s Dogme 95 compatriot) neither glorifies it nor condemns it, allowing alcohol to deliver both joy and catastrophe. Mads Mikkelsen, often cast as a gaunt-faced, glowering villain (think, as Le Chiffre in Casino Royale), is on a different level here. He’s sad, vulnerable, funny, and free. Just wait until the final scene. —Marty Patail, editor in chief

Chris Rock Total Blackout: The Tamborine Extended Cut

There’s almost a cinematic quality to Chris Rock’s 2018 Netflix special Tamborine, directed by comedian/Eighth Grade filmmaker Bo Burnham. It begins with a slow and lingering zoom on the back of Rock’s head. We hear Thundercat’s “Them Changes,” and Rock looks pensively around the green room. During the one-hour special, there are jokes that hit harder because of precise, calculated decisions in the edit room. There’s no fat on Tamborine. It’s pointed, stylish, and funny as hell, and it’s clear Rock’s comedic vision is being guided Burnham’s firm sense of direction.

In Total Blackout: The Tamborine Extended Cut, released earlier this week, which runs about 40 minutes longer than the 2018 special, Rock feels a bit more vulnerable and a little less rehearsed, and that’s perhaps because it’s directed by Rock himself. In essence, it feels more like a comedy special. That cinematic quality Burnham had stamped onto the original cut is gone, but we end up getting new shots, more jokes, and longer set ups, which in some instances make the jokes funnier. Burnham’s stylish intro is replaced with Rock’s appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in which he recounts his experience in the White House during the Obama administration. There’s also a clip later on from his chat with Howard Stern in which Rock talks about seeing his high school bully working security on a shoot for a film that he was directing. These moments essentially serve as context for the re-edit, but it works, especially if you enjoy the background behind jokes, the way they manifest within a comedian going about their daily life.

In some ways, we lose something with this new version—style, clean precision. But in other ways, we’re getting a more nuanced (and perhaps messier) picture of Rock as he talks about Black fatherhood in a white America, marriage, infidelity, divorce, religion, bullies, take your pick. Both are a fun ride. But if you’re going with Total Blackout, just push all that shit on the passenger seat to the floor, and don’t mind the mess. —Gabriel Granillo, digital editor

Sex and the City

Look, I have a complicated relationship with TV. When I'm faced with a multi-season property, my commitment issues really come out to play. I find a big chunk of "golden age" titles exhausting, and I'll sometimes even jump ship on shows I'm loving just because claustrophobia starts to set in. One genre, however, is mysteriously immune to my skittishness: the 30-minute HBO comedy.

After spending much of January being yanked around by bloated Netflix properties and half-good shows bled dry by algorithm-courting bet-spreading, I realized something huge: I've never sat down and watched Sex and the City from end to end. I've seen both movies (no comment) and probably half of the show, pieced together through cable reruns and social watches, but I've never seen Carrie and co's adventures in their totality. So, a few days before HBO announced they'd be rebooting the series, I hit play on the pilot.

To no one's surprise, it now rules my life. The last time I bought into a six-season TV show so completely was when I devoured Gossip Girl during a dual bout of mono and strep throat. Sex and the City makes perfect use of TV as a format: you get digestible episodes that balance the serialized with the episodic; stock characters who develop real humanity the more face time you get with them; a hefty dose of aspirational escapism with some genuine trojan-horsed wisdom. Not all of it has aged well, but reader, it is a gasping relief to watch something not hampered by streaming demands or 21st century strictures. Every episode fizzes and feels alive, even when it stumbles. You can keep your blue-filter antihero bullshit—give me people sharing lurid sex details near martini glasses in Manhattan any day of the goddamn week. —Conner Reed, arts and culture editor

Ted Lasso

TBH, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about this show. "A goofy football coach from America goes to England to coach soccer for a recent divorcée" didn’t exactly feel like my vibe. But I am very pro-Jason Sudeikis from his Saturday Night Live years—and pretty much anything after. (His wacky Biden impression is my preferred Biden impression). And while I am far from a sports fan, soccer is, by far, the most fun of any to watch, so I relented.
Two episodes in, I was completely hooked by that classic Sudeikis charm. Lasso's limitless positivity as hordes of angry soccer fans openly hate him and how he just kind of chuckles through it might be a life lesson for everyone? Hannah Waddingham is brilliant as a woman dumped by her awful billionaire husband who's trying to both get revenge and find herself, while sporting Michelle Obama level biceps. Within minutes of actor Nick Mohammad playing a timid team assistant, I wanted an entire episode dedicated to just him. It sounds emotional (it is), but it’s also a silly comedy about playing a team sport, and something about that feels nice right now. Apple TV+ has already renewed Lasso for a second season, and I’ll binge it all with a cup of tea and biscuits in hand. —Eden Dawn, senior editor
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