It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – Season 11

Always Sunny

This was a weird season. Almost every episode was either something completely out of the ordinary or 20 minutes of fan service. There were a lot of callbacks. Yeah, Sunny has always been a show that gleefully builds on its history, like Rickety Cricket’s season-to-season degradation, but it was a little much this time around. I realize episodes like “Frank Falls Out the Window” were supposed to be funny in how much they retreaded. However, I would have preferred something original. And not “The Gang Hits the Slopes” original, either. While that episode was certainly a great spoof of 80s teen movies, the characters didn’t feel like themselves. I mean, Dennis, Dee, and Mac are good at skiing now? And Charlie’s not afraid to sleep with a woman who isn’t the waitress? It just felt off. I also really didn’t like the POV Frank episode, either. That was so nauseating…

Maybe we can consider Season 11 the experimental one. I guess 11 years in, TV creators are allowed to do that, though let’s not forget that Always Sunny has shorter seasons than most sitcoms. If the episodes were merged into standard 20+ chunks, it’d be like Season 5 that’s starting to crumble and run out of ideas. But I’m not saying the show’s done. I’m not ready to see Sunny die in the same way I wanted The League to finally be put down. The Gang is still funny and can still deliver a great episode here and there. “Charlie Catches a Leprechaun,” for instance, felt like classic material that highlighted the characters’ awfulness in new ways. And the two-part cruise ship storyline at the end helped redeem some of the things that didn’t feel right earlier in the season. Ultimately, there were more misses than hits, but I’ll take those few hits over what most other shows can offer.

Deadpool

Deadpool

There’s been a lot of talk about Deadpool being rated R, which strikes me as odd, because, while it certainly is violent, it’s not any worse than every other R-rated action movie. I’m not a big fan of the gritty superhero genre, anyway, but Deadpool gets away with it for at least being pretty funny. Violence + humor is easier to swallow than just gratuitous violence. The jokes are all over the place, though, so it’s no surprise that not all of them land. Deadpool will make an obvious poop joke in one scene and then quietly lampoon Ryan Reynolds in another. The self-referential, fourth wall humor is the movie’s best attribute. It’s refreshing to see a movie that’s willing to make fun of itself so endearingly, and I kind of wish there had been more of it.

The fact that Ryan Reynolds is Deadpool makes the movie even funnier, considering he’s already played Deadpool once before, as well as other superheros in other blockbuster flops, which this movie isn’t at all afraid to call out. But, ultimately, I don’t know if he was the best choice. I’ll admit to not knowing much about Deadpool as a character, but it seems like a more manic actor could have done more with the role. I was also disappointed with the character’s final look after he goes through his transformation. The whole point is that Deadpool is hideous and must hide behind a mask. The end result is definitely ugly, but the movie treats it like he’s so ugly, everyone on the street stops to stare at him, and I just wasn’t buying it.

More importantly, this is an origin story, and origin stories are usually somewhat of a slog to get through. Deadpool’s no different as it hits these backstory beats. Fortunately, the story isn’t strictly linear. The movie frequently cuts between Deadpool already kicking ass and his pre-suit days, which helps maintain a more interesting pace. I also liked that it wasn’t just about Deadpool since two X-Men also join him. That makes me wonder how he’ll fit into the overall “cinematic universe,” though, considering his unique sense of humor doesn’t really match any other Marvel character we’ve seen onscreen. Whatever happens with Deadpool next, I think it’ll be fun to see. Heck, with the movie’s current success, maybe Deadpool 2 (or Deadpool Meets Professor X or what have you) will get the budget it deserves.

iZombie – Season 1

iZombie

There are two previous shows that iZombie heavily reminds me of: Psych and Heroes. But don’t worry, iZombie is better than both of those. It features a woman pretending to be a psychic as she aids the local police, only the catch is that she’s really a zombie who’s been eating the brains of the victims to stay alive. The fact that the brains give her new memories and personality quirks was a cool idea, until I realized we’d seen this before in the form of Sylar from Heroes. Regardless, Liv is a fun character, and it’s entertaining to see what the “brain of the week” does to her. It’s just strange how some brains affect her more than others, according to the whims of the writers.

In fact, the writing can be pretty clunky overall as it strives to squeeze in as many zingers as possible. Why does everyone need to have a witty comeback for everything? That said, it should come as no surprise this is a somewhat lighthearted show. At least, the first half of Season 1 is. Things get a little darker near the end as the overarching plot becomes more relevant. It’s weird, then, how the show continues to shoehorn in the weekly murder case when the stakes are so high. I started to get a little annoyed with the character Liv in the same way I was annoyed with Jessica Jones; her selfish reluctance to do anything about the big bad guy just gets more people killed.

Which brings me to the finale, something that was both a good and bad kind of frustrating. It left a lot to look forward to in Season 2 but didn’t deliver a very satisfying payoff with the antagonist. And, by the way, the bad guy’s whole operation teetered on ridiculous. He, too, is a zombie who deliberately infects rich people so he can sell them brains at a high price. How is this a sustainable business model, though?! In the end, you realize there are just way too many zombies in Seattle, and that detracts from Liv’s uniqueness. But I hesitate to keep calling them zombies, anyway, since they act and look more like vampires. Whatever you think of them as, the characters and the detective aspect of the show are enjoyable, and I’ll definitely check out Season 2 when I have the chance.

Never Alone

Never Alone

From a cultural standpoint, Never Alone is pretty cool. I like that the story is based on real Alaskan folklore, and in respect of that, the narration is even performed in the storyteller’s native tongue. As a game, however, it’s just not very good. The platforming is sluggish and stiff, and I often fell to my death for no other reason than crummy controls. Furthermore, as I got closer to the end of the game, glitches became more rampant to the point where I was getting stuck in walls or disappearing altogether. I can only imagine how troublesome the AI would be when Never Alone is played… er… alone. Fortunately, I tackled it co-op, which was fun for a while, but the second character’s role changes drastically halfway through the game. From then on, it wasn’t even fun to be the fox anymore.

So despite the game’s beautiful presentation and heart, I would be inclined to write it off completely… if it weren’t for the DLC. Honestly, the Foxtales DLC is better than the original game! It tells an alternate story with the same girl and fox, only this time the fox remains intact for the whole episode. Much of Foxtales is also based around navigating a boat and solving puzzles to get said boat moving again. Of course, this means diving underwater a lot, and I hate underwater sections in games. But the DLC overall is really entertaining and well-done and does a better job of merging puzzle-platforming with tall tales. It’s just too bad you have to have the base game first to enjoy it, because, again, the base game is pretty overrated and disappointing.

Xenoblade Chronicles X

Xenoblade Chronicles X

An RPG’s battle system is more important to me than its story. That’s why 2003’s Baten Kaitos was one of my favorite RPGs. Coincidentally, co-developer Monolith Soft is also responsible for Xenoblade Chronicles X, which is quickly becoming another one of my top picks. The real-time battles here are very engaging and surprisingly complex as you dig deeper into them. I love that you can target and destroy a monster’s appendages, thereby eliminating some of its abilities. When you also take into consideration the size of the monsters and the fact that so many of them—hostile and otherwise—freely roam the world, Xenoblade starts to feel more like the game Monster Hunter 3 should have been. Yes, I know, Monster Hunter is different on many levels, but damn… Xenoblade is just so good at what it does.

The scope of the game’s world, for instance, is enormous. This feels like a genuine planet with its own ecosystems. Running around the world of Mira is like exploring a national park. The environments are gorgeous, and there are few limits as to where you can go. You can head straight into the most dangerous parts of the world during the first chapter if you so choose. I also appreciate that you can jump, which means you’re able to scale tall mountains and can sometimes find shortcuts to important areas with some clever ledge hopping. You will have to play with the Wii U gamepad, though, in order to fast-travel between locations. Running on foot may give you a better appreciation for the game’s details, but most missions require a good amount of backtracking, which can get tedious if you forget about the fast travel option.

The only thing I don’t like about the game (aside from the tiny text that forces me to sit closer to the TV) is that, once you’ve accepted a story or “affinity” mission, you can’t cancel it or take on any other missions until you finish it. Some of the affinity missions, however, send you on ridiculous scavenger hunts without giving you much guidance on where those resources are located. Similarly, story chapters can turn out to be much harder than anticipated, and it would be nice to fall back on the affinity missions as a non-grindy way of leveling up. I almost quit while on the final chapter for that reason, which made me terribly sad, because there were still many more affinity quests I wanted to do. Seriously, Xenoblade is the most fun I’ve had charting a digital world since Wind Waker, and I honestly don’t want it to end.

F is for Family – Season 1

F is for Family

I’ll admit, the only reason I gave this show a chance was due to my love for Netflix’s other animated original, Bojack Horseman. But F is for Family is no Bojack. It’s much crasser, darker, and down to earth. If you were expecting something like Family Guy, you’ll be disappointed. It’ll probably remind you more of Married With Children (minus the laugh track). The father figure here, Frank, is yelly and belligerent, and his grievances are so relatable it hurts. This is a guy that feels like he’s barely holding it together, and Bill Burr does a great job voicing the character’s frustrations. The funniest moments come from the remarks he makes to his kids, like when Kevin ungratefully asks what’s for dinner, and Frank replies, “More free food. What are you bitching about?”

Being a sitcom of sorts, though, we do have to deal with the kids… a lot. This means suffering through boring and sometimes pointless B stories where the characters just aren’t that interesting. The majority of the cast—including the kids, their friends, and Frank’s co-workers—comes across as a little weak. I know we’re supposed to care about the family as a whole, but the show only worked for me when everyone was in the same household together. The union drama at Frank’s work was so forgettable, my mind actually started tuning it out. Not that the show has to be funny at all times. It’s not, even when the family is together. This is a more realistic approach to animated sitcoms, after all. Think King of the Hill with more anger and less propane. Have I name-dropped enough shows yet? The point is, F is for Family isn’t necessarily unique, but it’s good enough that I hope Netflix gives it a second season.