Daredevil, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and The Americans have nothing in common except:
- I’m watching them
- On Netflix or Amazon
- They each have a different way to tell a story and I’m learning from each one, including what works and what doesn’t.
What doesn’t work, for me at least, is Daredevil. It started strong, we got the origin story, and then it went into progressively darker comic book violence, culminating in an episode of such a sickening murder that I gave up.
I can handle some violence and I don’t shy away from dark themes. But the violence in Daredevil is played for titillation only — once again, prime motivation seems to be, “see how transgressive we can be!” — and I say, “nope.” Additionally, the actor playing Daredevil has fallen into a terrible case of Batman voice, and I think that is a clear case of creative failure.
I was extra disappointed because Agent Carter was so good, and both shows are the Marvel universe, so I had high hopes. I suppose the difference is network TV vs. streaming.
So if I’m such a weenie, why am I watching The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt? Can I only take violent themes if they are safely wrapped up in pastels and jokes? The 13-episode show takes a look at rape and kidnapping and hands it to us with a goofy theme song and rapid one-liners. UKS has caused controversy over its treatment of the main gay character, Tituss, and the main Native American character, Jacqueline.* It also brings us a look at a survivor of a heinous crime, and we get to laugh at her predicament and foibles.
You either love UKS or you hate it, and I loved it, even if some bits didn’t work. Terrible things have happened to Kimmy, and she has been deeply impacted. She has a decision to make everyday — do I stay curled up in bed and never leave the house again, or do I embrace life and people? She chooses to embrace life.
Daredevil tells us when bad things happen, we’re broken by them, and even worse, we become the people we are fighting. UKS says, bad things happen, and we do more than go on, we laugh again, and we live, and make our best efforts to bring people to justice. Daredevil was never meant to be a comedy, and I’ll miss seeing Rosario Dawson, but I’m not going back into that world view.
The Americans. I am just starting this show and I love it. It’s violent and dangerous (see, I’m not a total wuss), and completely fascinating. Since it takes place in the early 1980s, it’s a period piece (part of the charm). The characters are relatable, especially the Russians. Since everyone in the show is constantly in danger, and we in the audience know all the moves each character is making, it’s a fantastic story-telling technique. The writers don’t hide pertinent information from the audience– they hide it from the characters. So the tension is absolutely riveting. (Also, no Batman voice.)
I’ve said it before, the best writing is not just in books. TV, whether cable, streaming, or network, is really putting out some great stuff. While it does cut into writing time, nowadays a writer must stay up on good storytelling,wherever it’s to be found.
* I thought the Jacqueline storyline was clever and at times hilarious. And the actors who play her parents, especially Gil Birmingham, were also funny and over the top — watch the show for the “Iron Eagle” joke, which still makes me laugh.