Back for more: Ashley Garcia: Genius in Love

The show’s name might have changed, but for all intents and purposes this is the sequel to The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia, a teen sitcom I reviewed earlier in the year. Although it felt a bit rushed this time round, it was still good clean fun.

Yes, Stick is trying to salsa dance. No, he is not doing it well. Yes, this does escalate from here.

It’s been a while since the start of lockdown – which is roughly the time when I started this blog – and so we’re starting to see some of the shows I reviewed earlier in the year get their next season out, so I’m starting a new feature on the blog called Back for more which is honestly the best name for a feature I have ever come up with.

So – we’re starting with Ashley Garcia, the sitcom about a teenage genius who advanced her academic life well in advance of her social life. Ashley moved in with her cool uncle (a football coach for the local school) and, after reuniting with her childhood bestie, she quickly settled in and met new friends in Season 1, including wholesome jock Tad whom she has a huge crush on.

Season 2 (it’s technically a part two but whatever) sees Ashley and Tad develop their relationship, but other than that there’s no real overall plot arc and the episodes don’t seem all that connected to each other. This would be a problem, if not for the rest of the show’s good point making up for it. I could be wrong, but I think the characters’ off-the-cuff jokes worked better in this season and were funnier overall. The show also benefits from a fantastic season finale where everyone ignores Ashley on her birthday and prevents her from even going to the store to buy her own cake (what could be the reason for this, I wonder!)

I’m not sure if we’ll see another season of this show, and I wouldn’t blame Netflix if they cancelled it. But if they did bring it back, I’d certainly watch it – it’s the sort of show you put on if you don’t want to watch something too intense but not boring.

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Quickfire round: Sonic the Hedgehog

Affectionately known as the Blue Blur, Sonic the Hedgehog stars in a live action debut that is… actually pretty good, really. With a much improved character model, this is a solid family movie.

Before and after. You can see the immense improvement to Sonic’s model.

Sonic the Hedgehog is a video game series dating back to 1991. I was born in 1996, and my first proper experience with Sonic games were the GameCube trifecta of Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut, Sonic Adventure 2: Battle, and Sonic Heroes, which I think all came out in 2003. The game series had more of an impact on my life than you might think, but that’s a story for another day. What matters is that Sonic has a hugely varied fan base – the target audience of children, and sone much, much older fans who remember the classics.

So, when we first saw the trailer for the live action movie, we were all taken aback by the insanely awful character model. Live-action Sonic looked too human to the point where it was just terrifying to look at. Nowhere near human enough to pass as a human, though, which begged the question – why? Why did you need to massacre the original design of the character just to fail at making him fit into the real world even a tiny bit?

Thankfully, the studio listened, pushed the release date back, and re-did the models. The result is much better. As for the rest of the movie – it’s all fine. There are funny jokes. The acting is decent, especially Jim Carrey, whose casting made complete sense, as chief antagonist Dr Robotnik. There are action scenes, there are slower more dramatic scenes, and you genuinely root for the characters.

The only criticism I have is that the plot was very shallow and it all felt over very quickly. I mean, everything pretty much happens over the span of 2 days. Given the target audience, however, I suppose it makes sense. Go watch!

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What I thought about: Magic For Humans (Season 3)

I had a smile on my face when I saw this one on the ‘Upcoming’ list on Netflix, and I’m happy to report that my smile was maintained throughout. This contemporary and thoughtful take on a magic show is a great watch in these trying times.

Ah yes, the famous ‘floating empanada’ trick.

What’s it about?
Justin Willman is a professional magician, and he’s really good. But this isn’t your normal magic show – there’s no ridiculous hype, no expensive props, and no sassy, over-confident magician. Instead it’s, well, human! Every episode is entered around a theme that explores the human condition. Power Trip, Vices, Home, Self Care, Know Fear, The End, and Tradition are the themes explored in this season (and the titles of each episode, in order).

Justin performs a variety of tricks in each episode. There are running themes – Magic for Susans is simple street magic for women, ostensibly whom he randomly meets on the street, called Susan. Trick Questions has Justin showing someone a trick and then immediately asking them a random question. Usually, they are too astounded to answer. Then there are larger tricks performed in locations that match the narrative of the episode.

What do I like about it?
The presentation of this show is refreshing, cute, and thought-provoking. All of Justin’s performances are either performed in the street or in a setting relevant to the show’s theme. There’s no studio audience, and the entire thing feels a bit like a documentary, with Justin as the host providing thought-provoking voiceovers while casually dropping magic all over the place. As such, the show has an incredibly broad appeal and is suitable for all ages (and indeed some of his audience are children).

Oh, and the magic? It’s good, and again, it’s relevant to the theme. Best of all, Justin just gets on with it. He’ll do a few of the usual magic flutters, like pretending a trick hasn’t worked or asking them to say a special word. But there’s no pointless hype-building – just really nice magic with genuine reactions.

What do I not like about it?
Justin claims there are no camera tricks or fakery in his show. For some of his tricks, I can agree with that statement. But there are times where he does something absolutely outrageous that I can’t accept is done in a ‘legitimate’ way. For example when he produces the exact object the audience member asked for from an empty bucket. It’s not so much the appearance of the item that’s unbelievable, but that he had exactly what they were asking for, over and over again. I suppose… that’s magic? But I’m not so sure.

Also, upon reflection, I do feel as though the tricks in this season were by and large a tad less impressive than previous seasons. That’s not to say they’re rubbish or anything, I just came away with that feeling.

Worth a watch?
Absolutely – and why not start from the first season? Episodes are only 20 minutes long (I watched this one in a day).

By the way…

  • Justin performed a magic trick at his wedding (obviously) – you can watch it on YouTube here
  • The people over at IMDB are not happy about this show, claiming it’s all fake, scripted, and uses actors. Who to believe?

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What she thought about: Never Have I Ever

Looking for something light-hearted to watch over dinner? You’ll want to skip right over this one. Mindy Kaling’s latest so-called ‘comedy’ had me in tears from start to finish.

Me praying that Nick Jonas sees the error of his ways and swaps Priyanka out for me instead

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from my girlfriend. As a western-born Indian girl, I thought she would give a good perspective with her own review of the show. For what it’s worth, I also watched it, and thought it was really good.

What’s it about?
Devi is an American-born Indian girl, trapped between two cultures and just trying to navigate the trials and tribulations of being a teenager. Sometimes, she gets it right. Most of the time, she really doesn’t.

I went into this so-called ‘comedy’ written by Mindy Kaling thinking that it was going to be a teenage version of The Mindy Project: a little bit cheesy, a little bit cringey, very light-hearted, and with the occasional poignant moment thrown in here and there as proof of character development. I have never been more wrong in my assumptions about a series as I was with this one. Yes, it’s both cheesy and cringey in equal measure; but no trailer or review could have emotionally prepared me for the way I sobbed every single time Devi’s deceased father appeared on-screen in flashbacks. Kaling’s writing in Never Have I Ever isn’t as snappy as some of her other work, but she exchanges some of her trademark humour to perfectly portray the loss of a loved one, and in my opinion, it’s worth it.

What do I like about it?
I like almost everything about this show, but if I had to pick one thing, it would be the length, both in terms of episodes and the series as a whole. In a world of series that seem to drag for forty minutes or more, with 20+ episodes per season, NHIE offered some light relief with minimal commitment. Length aside, as a British-born Indian, I connected with Devi on almost every level–all the way down to the Nick Jonas/Priyanka Chopra joke that crops up somewhere in the middle of the series. I suspect that some of the nuances of the Indian-based humour are lost on white audiences, but Kaling nails it as perfectly here as she does in all her other work.

What do I not like about it?
It was occasionally too unrealistic for me. There were moments when I sat there and thought ‘well, this would never happen’, only to remember that this is a teen sitcom; of course there will be some exaggerated or unrealistic elements (Glee, anyone?). Still, I found suspending my disbelief really hard for certain moments on this show, probably because it feels so rooted in reality for so much of the time. This meant that, at times, it was really jarring and just didn’t work for me.

Worth a watch?
Definitely. It’s short and sweet and oh-so-bingeable, so stick it on if it’s one of those evenings where you feel like a good cry.

By the way…

  • Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, the actress who plays Devi, was chosen personally by Mindy Kaling out of 15,000 candidates that applied for an open casting call for the show.
  • It was cute to see Angela Kinsey, who starred alongside Mindy Kaling in the US version of The Office, popping up as Ben’s mother.

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