Introducing: What Abe Watched Last Month, Vol. #1

So, recently, one of my followers (he is also an IRL friend) on Twitter asked/challenged me to write a monthly post about all the TV shows, films and theatre* shows I watch because I watch so much. Initially reluctant, said friend persisted, others jumped in and, well… Here we are.

I’m trying to take the positives from this. I think it’ll encourage me to consistently watch more, and watch more different things. For example, I’m always saying that I need to watch:

  • More British TV series
  • More of the classics that I’ve not seen.

Now that I’ve put that out there, I guess I have to do it, right? So, on the first of every month, I will publish a piece on what I watched last month and write a little bit about each. Enough to give you an idea what they’re about, whether I think they’re worth watching but without spoiling any of them.

These posts will have the incredibly imaginative name that I’ve come up with… What I Watched Last Month, Vol #. I don’t anticipate that these will become hugely popular but, should I be magnificently surprised, I will abbreviate it to WAWLM Vol. #

(* I wasn’t actually asked to include theatre but, why not? I’m all for sharing some of the great theatre that we have on our London stages, in hope that more (especially, young) people will realise that there is theatre for them, too.)

What Abe Watched Last Month, Vol. 1: January ‘17

Film

  • Bad Moms (2016)

The first film I watched this year, which I’d intended to watch in cinema. Starring Mila Kunis, this was a pretty enjoyable comedy about three moms who decide to not give a shit about being good mothers any more, in favour of living their best life. It’s funny, silly and has some truly hilarious moments. Watch!

Starring rapper Common, whose acting performances I tend to enjoy, this drama had a decent premise; set in Baltimore, a day in the life of an ex-convict teaching is 11 year-old boy how to become a man in the hood. Sadly, where it impressed in premise, it failed on delivery. The best moment, and the only reason why this was a worthwhile watch, was Meagan Good’s two minutes of screen time. Avoid.

In this indie (as you will learn, soon, I absolutely love an indie), four couples spend a weekend at a family home, where three of the couples have conspired to tell the fourth couple that they need to have a divorce because they’re making each other miserable. On the tin, this sounded right up my street… [insert “Family Fortune *wrong* sound effect” here] SO BORING. I felt the story was all over the place, and the dialogue wasn’t as exhilirating as I’d expect from such a premise. Avoid.

True to its title, this film was so unexpectedly good, that I can’t believe I’d never heard of it. It was up for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival 2015, so I can only assume it faired quite well on the festival circuit in general. This delightful little indie follows the story of a white high school teacher and her final year black student during their unplanned pregnancy. I really enjoyed this; the dynamics between the two were great, as were the subtlety in the themes it explored. Watch; Film Rec of the Month!

Television

N.B. Just to note, I will only be doing watch/avoid for a) a one-off drama/series b) series in their first season. If I watch anything past season one… Then, by default, I think it’s worth watching lol. I will also, more so than ever, be avoiding spoilers in this section.

I’ll start with the new series:

Ever since I saw the trailer for this show, I’d intended to watch it based on the cinematography alone. It was sensational and like no other that I’d seen for a show that had a predominantly black cast. This should also come as no surprise, considering it was directed by Ava DuVernay (the talent behind the Oscar-nominated Martin Luther King Biopic Selma). I ended up prolonging watching this for so long for the stupidest reason… I thought it was a period drama. I enjoy period, but it takes me a bit longer to get into and have to mentally prepare myself for it.

… Turns out, Queen Sugar is very much contemporary; modern, set in today’s world and not period in any shape or form.

It’s centred around the death of a elderly black man that owns a sugar cane farm (this is why I wrongly assumed it was a period drama) and what his three adult children — who have inherited the sugar cane farm — will decide to do with it. Of its highlights, an aspect I definitely really enjoy is its social commentary on many of today’s issues within the African-American community. Watch!

So, before discussing this show, it’s important to note that I frequently watch shows/films without finding out what they’re about. It might be off of recommendations, reviews, because of who has written it… This Is Us I began to watch for all three of these reasons. People whose viewership trends I respect recommended it, I kept hearing of rave reviews and it is also doing brilliantly, rating-wise, in the US.

To tell you what it’s about, would be criminal of me and a spoiler in itself because part of what makes the pilot episode so fantastic is all the intelligent surprises it springs. Believe me when I say this is the best thing on American television right now and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Watch; TV Rec of the Month!

So, I tend to err on the side of not being a fan of biopics. They far too often tend to be corny, poorly written, poorly produced, uninteresting and — worst of all — not uncovering anything I didn’t know. From experience, this has been even more prevalent in biopics on black entertainers.

In the last year, however, there have been some stellar biopics (The OJ Simpson Story was sensational).

I’m so glad to be able to say I thought The New Edition Story was fantastic. To my absolute surprise, BET have every reason to be proud of themselves. Brilliant cast (both the child actors and the adult actors) and I learnt so much about the band I didn’t know. Even the music performances didn’t feel corny; so rare! I also absolutely love the tortured soul that is Bobby Brown, a major bonus of watching this and seeing so many of his crazy anecdotes reenacted. Watch!

And now, for the returning series:

Six seasons in, the Los Angeles-living oddballs living in a shared loft is still funny. Schmidt is still goals, Nick is still stupid, Winston is still riding his high of funniness, Jess is still Jess and CeCe is still bae. Oh, and Megan Fox seems to now be a part of the regular cast.

Eight seasons in now; I can’t remember which season it was, but I recall a time where I feared that Modern Family was suffering an irreversible dip… I’m so glad they returned to their glories. Hilarious as ever.

Over the last year, through social media I’ve realised this show is marmite. I find it hilarious. As in, I laugh out loud watching it. I’ve realised that there are people out there judging me, and my level of intellect, because of this :(. 10 seasons and running must mean something though, right?

Just returned from its mid-season break of season 6, the first half of the season was good and I’m looking forward to the rest. The show has had its ups and downs, but I have to rate the writers for their continued

Another one that has had it’s ups and downs. At its best, excellent TV. At its worst, has seemed like they’re running out of ideas. I really enjoyed the first episode of season 6 though. Without sharing any spoilers, all I’ll say is that it’s left me really, really curious as to whether he did it or not o_0.

If you’re up to date, then you’ll agree that this picture isn’t really apt…

Two episodes in to season 6 and, honestly, I can’t praise the Homeland writers enough for how they’ve managed to keep this show interesting and fresh. I actually vowed to stop watching at the end of season 4. Not because I didn’t enjoy it, but becauseI couldn’t see where further the show could go. Only to get drawn back in by a friend and watch what was their best season since season 1.

Documentary

  • Daft Punk Unchained (2015)
I want to be an honorary member, and be crowned with a helmet.

I’ve absolutely loved the geniuses known as Daft Punk since I was a child, as well as a lot of the sound that is known as French House during that late-90s/early-noughties that gave us tuuuunes such as Modjo’s Lady, Hear me Tonight and Stardust’s Music Sounds Better With You (did you know that this was the only song released by the trio Stardust, and one of the trio was Daft Punk’s very own Thomas Bangalter). Of course, as a child, I had no clue it was known as French House. Anyway, to wrap this up because it’s already too long, I was always due to be biased and say that this documentary is brilliant. The main thing I took away from it is that God will not let me die without seeing Daft Punk in concert (ideally, in Paris and/or at a festival/Coachella). Watch!

Theatre

Ain’t seen none this month, soz. I do, however, have tickets booked for/planning to see next month:

  • New Nigerians, The Arcola.
  • Escaped Alone, Royal Court (it was awarded 2016’s best play by the Writers’ Guild, and I’ve also enjoyed the Caryl Churchill plays I’ve previously read/studied).
  • The Convert, Gate Theatre (which has received 5* reviews, and also stars Michael Ajao, who was in my own play How to Fix a Car Crash).
  • Sex With Strangers, Hampstead Theatre (because I’m a sucker for an eye-catching title, and I’ve also been wanting to visit this theatre for a very long time).

Might work better giving people the head’s up, seeing as so much of what I watch tends to either have short runs that will have ended by the time I publish, or likely sold out by the time I’ve published the post. If I’ve parted with money to watch it, it must mean I recommend it in some capacity, right… Oh, and lastly, as I love the idea of people watching more theatre, if you’re wanting someone to go with — reach out! If I’m yet to book and you’re not a pain in the arse to plan with, we can go. More often than not, I go to the theatre alone, but realise that part of the problem for a lot of people is a desire to go, but nobody to go with.

If you’ve got to the end of this, thank you I hope you enjoyed it. If you were one of the friends who insisted I write this, 1) You’re welcome. 2) I expect you to send me a screenshot of this piece of text, as proof you got to the end, if you ever expect me to write another one again.

Until next time!

Abe

If you enjoy reading my blogs, I’d recommend you come and see one of my films or plays. They’re even better than the blogs, or so I’ve been told. To find out when next my writing will be on show, join the Creative Blue Balls mailing list, and follow us on Twitter/like us on Facebook.

You can follow me on Twitter, too: @abeislegend

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Abraham Adeyemi

Abe is the founder of Creative Blue Balls and a writer of, but not limited to: screen, stage and copy. He refuses to suffer with creative blue balls in silence.