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.


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!


What I thought about: Too Hot to Handle

This ain’t no Love Island. Problematically short, lacking in depth and character, and full of fake tension, this Netflix dating/self-fulfilment hybrid is a cute but ultimately disappointing competitor to the UK’s favourite reality show.

The guy on the right is a MASSIVE twat.

What’s it about?
Five guys and five girls (all of them ridiculously horny) land at a beach side resort, ostensibly with the intention of pairing up and having flings with each other, with some kind of ‘winner’ taking home a $100,000 cash prize. But there’s a twist – throughout the resort, their activities are being monitored by LANA, a talking lava lamp. LANA wants the participants to form deeper emotional connections rather than commence a shag-fest, so it will deduct money from the prize fund if anyone has any kind of sexual contact (in my Jeremy Kyle voice, that’s anything from a kiss to intercourse).

What do I like about it?
There are two tenements to the show that actually are interesting.

Firstly, the participants are made up of people from multiple places – The US, UK, Canada, and Australia. There’s a particularly satisfying cultural difference between UK and US dialects that can be fun at times – such as Bryce trying to get to grips with the concept of a ‘geezer’, or basically anything else Chloe says.

Secondly, the show features four sort of personal development classes that the participants are forced to do – two mixed, one for guys and one for girls. You might dismiss the courses as hippy dippy nonsense, but the participants genuinely seem to have gotten something out of them each time, especially the single-sex ones (perhaps they feel more able to show vulnerability in the absence of the opposite sex?)

What do I not like about it?
Unfortunately, save for the interesting stuff above, everything else about the show is lacking any depth whatsoever. Many of the participants are criminally under-utilised. The show tries to do the whole ‘bombshell extra participants’ staple of Love Island but they just don’t manage to pull it off in the same way.

The AI gimmick was super lame. It’s obviously a real human voice, it doesn’t look particularly good, and it clashes entirely with the rest of the show (we only see a phone on screen once, and all the classes emphasise being driven by nature). It’s also way less suspenseful than even the lame text-fest that takes place around the fire pit in Love Island.

Worth a watch?
Not really, unless you want to see a little bit of reality drama (some of the characters are truly bitchy) and you’re desperate for something to tide you over until whenever Love Island manages to come back.

By the way…

  • I’m convinced one of the relationships is put on for show in order to boost their respective Instagram influencer cred.
  • It’s comprised of 8x 30-45 minute long episodes, so I feel it’s far too short to get to know any of the participants properly.


Quickfire round: The Hunt

Playing out like a real-life YouTube comments section, this satirical thriller is a fun watch. But its overarching plot is under-developed and the characters are rough around the edges.

I think these gags are also meant to be figurative.

The premise of this film grabs your attention – a group of people wake up in a clearing with no idea how they got there, and they’re being hunted by rich people. We’ve seen these kinds of movies before, my favourite being Japanese cult-classic Battle Royale. This time, the spin is a very modern one: the hunt is a conspiracy theory turned real. Thousands of (ostensibly right-wing) Americans had earlier waged verbal war online against the ‘elites’ in society, claiming that they hunt poor people for sport on a manor in Vermont.

The show’s woke gimmick leads to some pretty funny moments. We see one of the hunted become irate about a presumptive group of ‘illegals’. A pair of hunters start questioning some prey on the right to bear arms, before unloading a double-barrelled shotgun on him. Moments earlier, he had boasted of the seven guns he has back home in New York.

Like most movies of this kind, it gets pretty violent and some of the on-screen deaths can be shocking. But it strikes the right tone at all times. Unlike The Platform, the gore isn’t meant to be dark, and you’re never concerned by it. More just impressed by the makeup FX team and the way the deaths play out.

That also means the movie doesn’t have that must see factor. The overarching plot, whilst interesting and highly topical, is not really handled well. The ‘elites’ all seem like pretty unrealistic characters. Only one of them (Athena) is developed in any detail, and the rest… don’t really make much sense.

If you want to see some fun violence and poke fun at both sides of the American political divide, you won’t be disappointed and at only 1.5 hours long, your time won’t be badly spent. Just don’t expect anything outstanding.


What I thought about: The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia

A light-weight family sitcom, this show has few surprises and isn’t all that funny. But a decent set of characters kept me watching.

Science smarts meets social smarts

What’s it about?
Ashley is a teenage genius. She already has a PhD, and has just secured a job working at the JPL (A NASA facility). To get there, she has to move out of her very reluctant mother’s house to live with her uncle, Victor, a retired professional American Football player and present-day school coach.

Let me introduce some other cast members: Brooke, Ashley’s childhood best friend (a typical teenager, sans PhD, but socially savvy). Stick, the football team’s equipment manager (a slightly awkward, slightly nerdy kid). And Tad, the team captain (and stereotypical jock character).

Ashley’s excited to start her job, but she’s also looking forward to catching up with a few lost bits of childhood that she sacrificed for her studies. She’s never had a group of girl friends before, she’s never kissed a guy, you get the idea.

What do I like about it?
The cast are decent, and it’s interesting to see how teenage sitcoms have changed since the days of Drake and Josh and Suite Life. There’s obviously more of a focus on Instagram and other social media, which the show handles quite well.

Victor, the uncle, is a funny character. He totally forgot his niece was was coming, and has had to quickly adapt from his one-night-stand adventures into becoming a responsible adult, looking after Ashley as she spends late nights out partying with her friends.

You do also get attached to some of the plot, and, no surprises, it’s got to do with the characters’ respective love interests.

What do I not like about it?
If it sounds like this review is a little flat, that’s because the show is, too. None of the jokes are laugh-out-loud funny, and nothing here is particularly deep. In that regard, it is kinda boring.

Remember this is a family sitcom and stuff needs to be kept at surface level a lot of the time.

Worth a watch?
I’ll be honest, I started watching this primarily because it’s shot in Dolby Vision and I just got a compatible TV. For those interested, HDR really shines in this show, with amazing specular highlights in lights, eyeballs, and jewellery.

You probably shouldn’t watch this show unless you like the premise and want something a bit light and family-oriented to stick on.

By the way…

  • This is another one of Netflix’s primarily Latinx-led shows. I haven’t found a bad one so far.
  • Wikipedia says the show was green-lit for 16 episode, but this season only has 8. Second season incoming?