03 August 2017

Penny Newsletter - #07: The Art of the Rewatch

So you may have heard Kyrie Irving wants out of Cleveland. And you might have heard that it's because he doesn't want to play with LeBron James anymore. You might have even heard that LeBron is so mad that he could fight Kyrie if their paths crossed any time soon. I think the most important part of this... is that Derrick Rose is a Cavalier and he's going to play his best season since 2012 alongside King James and then my wife can stop calling him RGIII!

Would you want to play with LeBron James if you were one of the elite basketball players in the world? Would you want to strike it out on your own even though you're pretty much guaranteed a shot at the NBA championship again next June?

I know I would definitely attempt to be the sidekick to LeBron's action hero, that's for sure. Just let me get my shine and my own shoe and we good King.


Song Of The Moment belongs to Mr. Wonder with his all-time great track, "Superstition". I've been a Stevie fan as long as I've been alive and I would LOVE to see him live since I missed out on Michael Prince and Michael (yes, I did want to put Prince first). Much like a ton of songs in his catalog, "Superstition" is always a sure-fire way to set a stone cold groove off properly. Or a Tuesday at work.


With all the different options to watch television shows, it’s impossible to watch everything. With so many of those shows being exclusive to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc., that means you practically have to decide what you’re going to dedicate your television time to watching. If you get over the crippling fear of not being in on every TV show conversation that takes place in your immediate vicinity, you can obviously sit down and enjoy the shows you’ve chosen to watch. So you watch your show and you get through all the seasons in classic binge watch mode. Thomas has been known to watch 20+ episode seasons of hour long dramas in about 2 days for example. Which is amazing that he is able to put forth that kind of effort; I thought it was impressive when I took down 9 seasons of How I Met Your Mother in a few short months (I guess the ultimate challenge there would be to see how quickly one can binge watch Law & Order: Special Victims Unit or The Simpsons). Then you set out in the world ready to tell anyone who will listen about how great this show is and why they should take the time to watch it.

But I’m really starting to believe you can’t truly appreciate a TV show without a rewatch.

I’m rewatching Breaking Bad and I have “Granite State” and “Felina” left and I have an entirely different opinion on almost everything. And if you still haven’t watched Breaking Bad and don’t want to be spoiled, type hotornot.com into your address bar and press enter (or delete this email). I never really wavered from wanting Walter to succeed during my first watch; I turned on Walt by season 2 this time. While Vince Gilligan has always been about watching Mr. Chips turn into Scarface when it came to Walter’s journey… Walter wasn’t that great of a person to begin with.  Sure, he seemed like a dedicated father and husband; a chemistry teacher who worked a second job to help with bills. He was someone you could immediately relate to, so when he finds out he has cancer and wants to find some way to make sure his family is financially stable when he’s gone, we as the viewers are supposed to root for him.

Let’s take the closer look of a rewatch though. Walter hates his life. He doesn’t like that Skyler is the head of the household. He loves Walt Jr. dearly but his son respects his Uncle Hank more than him. He’s not getting through to his students and Bogdan treats him horribly. We later learn that it was Walter himself that left Gray Matter for a small buyout due to some slight by Gretchen’s family when they were dating. But the thing that truly killed me (and it’s something that Jesse called him out on in the “Confessions”episode) was how much Walt manipulated Jesse from the beginning of their partnership. Sure, we know that Walt cared for Jesse like a son but he never really showed it until the last time they see each other. But Walter was constantly getting Jesse to “keep cooking” or “stick with the plan”. It was downright sickening at times. So much for the idea that Walt was a good person until he started cooking meth.

On top of that, I became more of a Jesse fan because of how terribly Walt treated him, I didn’t hate Skyler like I did initially (her husband seemingly changed overnight, cancer or not. Definite cause for concern), and despite the bravado that made me not want to root for him the first time, Hank Schrader is the true hero of the series. I don’t feel any different about Marie; she’s pretty much a self-righteous tart until she finds out Walt’s criminal activity. While I still love the series as a whole, the rewatch just gives you a new outlook on Breaking Bad as a whole.

The same can be said for another favorite show of mine, Scrubs. Already one of the most underrated single camera sitcoms of all-time, to rewatch the series as whole brings a different experience every time. JD is certainly the main character who we witness all these highs and lows with but some people come away from a rewatch hating him entirely (I’m not one of them). For me, I found Elliot to be a delightful mess throughout the whole series and Carla to be the uptight one. But now, I’m of the opinion that Elliot is a horrible person for much of the series while Carla is really just trying to find a good work/life balance where she’s respected in both areas. I found out Jamie watched Scrubs and he said the Janitor should have outsmarted (or did he say killed? I was drunk) JD years ago, which is another vote for how brilliant Neil Flynn is as The Janitor who went from a figment of JD’s imagination in season 1 to getting married with a bunch of coworkers present by season 8. Sure, my rewatches took place in the days that I had no cable and was constantly rotating through the seasons on DVD but these are the nuances I’m talking about.

Marcus’s rewatch of Game Of Thrones led him to make his own predictions for the show’s final 2 seasons before the show came back a few weeks ago. I’m kind of half rewatching HIMYM while I do other stuff and my opinions on that show hasn’t changed too much (Ted is still annoying, the rest of the group are still phenomenal). Another show my opinions never wavered on is The Wire. No matter how many times you watch the best television show of all-time, the game is still the game.

Which brings me to my final point and the rewatch that brought us here (even though I used Breaking Bad as my primary example), The Wonder Years. This was more of a first watch since the show was originally on when I was a kid and I have hazy but fond memories of it. I was so excited when Netflix got the show that I started watching it in 2011 (or ’12) and I promptly finished it in 2017. Here is my major takeaway from one of my favorite shows as a kid: Kevin Arnold is a dick. I don’t know where this kid gets off but for every aw shucks or touching moment he has, he’s normally said or done 4 or 5 crappy things that made him irredeemable in almost every episode! He treats his best friend Paul as bad as Walt treated Jesse and Paul still sticks by him for the whole show (though Paul was the first one out of the crew to lose his virginity). Kevin is rude to his mom and dad, often saying how he wants his way despite his parents having perfectly good reasons for him to not to do things. He’s extremely crappy to all the girls he dates, including Winnie Cooper who he often cites as his dream girl. And more often than not, he has to get slapped by reality 2 to 3 times before he even becomes a halfway decent person to others.

How about that time he quit his job at the hardware store because he wanted to work at the mall, even after the owner gave him a raise? I’m pretty sure he cheated on Winnie with that cigarette smoking girl at camp that one summer (and then he tried to do it again!). He’s constantly at odds with his dad, who seems to be a pretty fair guy for working a job he hates for most of the show, as he’s always finding something to whine about. He gets a summer job thanks to Paul and then he’s upset when Paul is management and he’s a delivery driver. I could go on but that’s plenty on how great Kevin Arnold is compared to my idealized childhood version.

At least with his brother Wayne, you knew he was a dick because he didn’t hide it. Kevin was a dick in sheep’s clothing. Serves him right that Winnie got a lifeguard job away from him and promptly started making out with the hottest dude there; she deserves happiness, not Kevin Arnold. Which may be the real reason Kevin and Winnie didn’t end up together (besides her going to Paris to study art for 8 years while Kevin stayed in California, probably because he whined about it), because they were great on paper but not in real life. Needless to say, I now know why Fred Savage has played horrible characters as his career progressed: it’s because he played a horrible character for five years as a child.

But I still rank The Wonder Years in my top ten shows of all-time and you should watch it. Just please don’t say I didn’t warn you about sweet ol’ Kev when he crushes someone’s feelings by episode 2.

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