What I thought about: Mary Kills People (Seasons 1-3)

Thought-provoking and dramatic, if a little rough around the edges, this drama about a doctor who assists suicide whilst balancing home and work life and being under constant peril from police investigation, is a great watch for fans of shows like Dexter.

Des, looking confused as ever.

What’s it about?
Dr Mary Harris is a doctor who saves people. She also kills people. You see, Mary thinks people should be in control of their death as much as they are of their life. Some of the patients at her hospital, referred to her by nursing colleague Annie, are facing terminal illness, and are usually in pain or will deteriorate to such a point. Because of that, they want to go sooner rather than later. Mary issues a fatal dose of pentobarbital, a sedative sometimes used to execute prisoners when carrying out the death penalty.

Of course, what Mary’s doing is illegal* and only a select few countries, such as Switzerland, allow you to die with the assistance of someone else. Mary, together with her business partner and former plastic surgeon Des, therefore pose as end-of-life counsellors and meet discretely with patients. The series arc sees an undercover police investigation to catch Mary in the act. Let’s just say it doesn’t go according to plan.

What do I like about it?
First up, it’s got that consistent pacing I love in US dramas. Yes, there’s a wider series plot, but the show doesn’t get swallowed up in it. This is gonna sound weird, but every episode is Death Guaranteed. A new person, a new story, every single time. It helps to build the thought-provoking piece of the show as you learn about the different conditions and reasons why people might want to end their lives in this way.

Next, there are some nice side plots. Mary is a real doctor and also a (divorced) mother of two children, so it’s a lot to juggle and can get quite chaotic. The elder daughter, Jess, is friends with Naomi, a troubled teenager often left alone while her lawyer mother is away on business. Naomi gets jealous of Jess’ relationships and throughout the show she spirals further and further out of control. Gripping in its own right.

What do I not like about it?
In a word: Des. He is terrible. He is weird. His British accent is… questionable. He is misery. He is pain. He is weak. I kind of get it, but at the same time I kind of wish they’d put in a side character who is mostly free from those attributes.

Des sums up the show’s occasionally shabby edges, another of which is their unrealistic portrayal of police investigations.

Worth a watch?
I binged this thing hard. If you don’t mind the philosophical issues and you like the typical American black comedy style, then absolutely.

By the way…

  • *The show is set in Canada, where assisted suicide was illegal until the law changed during filming of the third season, which means it technically doesn’t make any sense now.
  • I have to give credit to Katie Douglas for a particularly standout performance as Naomi.

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Quickfire round: Trinkets (Season 2)

Much worse than the first one, this final season of the show about an unlikely trio of friends who bond over court-mandated visits to Shoplifters Anonymous was full of terrible writing and sketchy plots. Still, the cast are amazing and the finale was strong.

At the start of the season, the trio walk into school together for the first time.

Trinkets is essentially a story of friendship. Three characters from school (Tabitha, the rich and popular one, Moe, the smart but scatty one, and Elodie, the shy newbie) bump into each other at a meeting of Shoplifters Anonymous. The story is funny but quite emotional – it’s clear that Elodie shoplifts because she misses her recently deceased mother, and Tabitha because her parents are divorced and her boyfriend is physically abusing her. As for Moe, well, that one’s quite the spoiler.

The show’s first season was really quite good. The trio break down the barriers of social interaction between different groups of people in high school and form an unlikely – and mostly secretive – bond. They even get matching tattoos (of a triangle, no less). They help each other overcome their problems of relationships or abuse or loneliness, with plenty of shoplifting along the way.

It all ended with Elodie running away from home to join a singer on tour whom she was clearly enamoured with. The problem with that ending is that they needed her to come back for the second season, so her position gets abruptly reversed. That’s the problem here – many scenes in the show are just… weird. In some scenes, characters make a big deal out of nothing, while other scenes there seems to be a set up for bigger drama down the road only for that story arc to fizzle out into nothing.

The cast make the most of the bad writing and you do feel invested in the characters themselves, it’s just a shame that the shoddy writing cuts through and is more noticeable than in other shows I have seen this year, and certainly more so than in the previous season.

So, although I was ultimately enough of a fan to binge the second season, I can’t say I particularly recommend Trinkets to anyone who doesn’t feel immediately captivated by the synopsis.

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What I thought about: Teenage Bounty Hunters

This show about, well, bounty hunters who happen to be teenagers, has the same energy as Netflix’s Insatiable. That is to say, it’s random, doesn’t make sense, and is probably, technically, not a very good show. And yet, somehow, being drawn so much to the characters makes me want a sequel.

Looking far too happy, given the situation

What’s it about?
Actually, you know what? The title is misleading. The trailer even more so. I was led to believe that the show would start out with the main characters – twin sisters Sterling and Blair – already being seasoned bounty hunters. Instead, they stumble into the world of bounty hunting by virtue of being white, living in Atlanta, and thereby knowing how to shoot a gun. The girls help a stereotypical ‘old, tired, wise, and fed up’ character, Bowser, apprehend a bail skip.

They split the cash with Bowser but beg him for more work to pay for repairs to their Dad’s truck which they wrecked earlier on. I would like to say that the rest of the show sees the twins in various scenarios hunting down bail skips with a great deal of comedic violence, but bounty hunting is only about 30% of this show. The rest of the screen time is dedicated to the girls’ relationship issues with both their partners and their family, including an incredibly shaky family-secret plot that really doesn’t stack up.

What do I like about it?
The chemistry between the twins is fantastic (the actors are not actually related IRL) and despite the weird, disappointing, plot, you can’t help but be drawn to them. It is also funny in parts, and I suppose I have to give credit to the show’s creator for shining a light on the weird little part of society that is hyper-religious upper middle class Atlanta, not something you really see in television.

What do I not like about it?
Pretty much everything else. Like I said, the plot just doesn’t work. It’s too absurd in some ways, and too serious in others. There’s no equilibrium. The trailer also massively oversells the content of the show – I can count on one hand the number of bail skips they actually apprehend. Too much of the plot is mired in this bizarrely fake-feeling emotional turmoil experienced by the twins and their peers at school.

And don’t even get me started on the series finale. The writers kept everything so incredibly coy up until the final episode that the number of twists and turns occurring in it don’t have nearly as much satisfaction as they would if they were paced correctly throughout the show.

Worth a watch?
I know the show has some important undertones for some people, and there’s a lot of hype on social media for it. Unfortunately, from a technical standpoint, I just can’t recommend it. The story ruins it, the trailer massively oversells it.

By the way…

  • The show was going to be called Slutty Teenage Bounty Hunters, which would have served basically no purpose
  • There’s a lot of Christianity in this show and honestly it’s just weird in 2020

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What I thought about: [Un]Well

Bee sting therapy? Ingesting essential oils? Drinking breast milk? Water-only fasting? Sorry, hold up a minute, BEE STING THERAPY?! Alternative medicine – if it can be called medicine – is a booming industry. This series takes a look at some of the weirdest practices and see if any of them actually work.

Listen carefully while I make up some nonsense about what these oils can cure, and neglect to recommend that you speak to a doctor first..

What’s it about?
Each episode focuses on a different type of alternative medicine: essential oils, tantric sex, breast milk, fasting, ayahuasca, and bee venom. So yeah, some of these are pretty weird.

We hear from a number of people in respect of each treatment: desperate people who are looking for a cure to their ailments, the manufacturers / sellers / practitioners of the therapies, scientists who are vehemently opposed to the notion that any of them can be effective, and some scientists or doctors who, with a dose of caution, suggest there could in fact be some benefits.

I’ll answer some of your questions in advance. Yes, the bee dies after you get stung. No, you should probably not ingest essential oils. 99% is the percentage of Forever Living associates, who sell essential oils in an MLM scheme, who make only one dollar in commission. No, I did not watch the tantric sex episode.

What do I like about it?
It seems pretty balanced. I’m very sceptical of alternative therapies – and can you really blame me when some of them are distributed by literal pyramid schemes, that enrich the founder? Or when they’re peddled by a man who claims ‘we’re just as real as anyone else’ but then, in the same scene, looks at the camera with an incredibly creepy face and says ‘we consider ourselves a for-profit ministry’. This is essential oils we are talking about here!

But each episode provides anecdotal evidence from people who claim the therapy worked for them, as well as the journey of someone who hopes it will work for them (a chronic Lyme-disease sufferer heard that bee stings can cure her, and is desperate for a solution). It also balances this with studies and the views of medical professionals, some of whom outright deny the treatment’s efficacy (and/or warn about its risks) and some who try to explain a possible way in which the treatment may produce some kind of effect. I like these parts – if something unconventional actually works, I want to know why, and they can offer a bit of that.

What do I not like about it?
Nothing really, each episode is well done.

Worth a watch?
As long as you don’t hold me responsible for trying any of these things (in fact I suggest you DO NOT try any of these) then go right ahead, it’s interesting!

By the way…

  • Of course most of the people discovered this medicine on Facebook groups. Please do yourself a favour and delete Facebook before it’s too late.
  • BEE STING THERAPY?!

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What I thought about: Selling Sunset (Seasons 1-3)

This is probably the fastest I have binge-watched a show, tearing through three seasons essentially in a single weekend. Allow me to explain why this mashup of Real Housewives reality trash with envy-inducing LA real estate had me hooked from the first episode.

Is Chrishell reacting to real estate success, or bitchy drama?

What’s it about?
Like most things in Los Angeles, real estate is really quite extra. It’s no wonder, then, that realtors come stuffed to the brim with their own personality, extravagant lifestyles, and salacious relationship drama. We know this because Selling Sunset literally sticks a camera crew into the offices of The Oppenheim Group, one of the most famous real estate brokers in LA. All the realtors there – besides the founders, twin brothers Jason and Brett – are objectively attractive women.

The show is part real estate television, as we see the group’s many listings in celebrity hotspots Beverly Hills and Hollywood, and part reality drama, as we discover that the girls don’t all get along with each other. Indeed, Season 1 opens with a new girl joining the group, former actress Chrishell Stause, who receives an ice cold welcome from diva-like Christine Quinn.

What do I like about it?
Um, this is going to be really hard to explain. I guess I just have to admit that I find trashy reality TV entertaining? But, in my defence, the show is more than just bitching and backstabbing (although there is plenty of that).

We get to see fantastic shots of some of the most expensive houses in the area, each with their own swimming pool and outstanding views across the valley and hills. Sometimes, we’re treated to run-ins with owners or potential buyers, most of whom look nowhere near rich enough to be able to afford any of these properties until you learn their occupations (a plastic surgeon, gallery owner, and app co-founder, to name a few).

And, yes, the drama. Like any reality TV show, you develop favourites. Mary and Chrishell are really sweet. Christine and Davina are not. There’s also Maya, an Israeli who has two children with a partner that lives across the country in Miami, who is the sort of ‘true neutral’ of the show.

What do I not like about it?
Not a lot, really. At times, the drama is a bit too petty, and the arguments can genuinely blend together to the point where you’re not sure who is talking, all you hear is noise.

I also genuinely cannot tell Jason and Brett apart. I have no idea which one is talking. I know they’re twins but… come on. The employees can tell!

Worth a watch?
Do you want to subject yourself to trashy reality TV about rich-ish realtors who sell houses to richer people? Then yes, Selling Sunset executes the idea really well.

By the way…

  • There’s a big interplay with the cast’s real lives, but I won’t spoil it…
  • Netflix hasn’t announced a fourth season, but I’m sure it will happen

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