Deadshirt Is Watching…is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt staff, contributors, and guests sound off on the television shows we’re tuned into, from intense dramas to clever sitcoms to the most insane reality shows.
Joe Stando is watching…
Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever, Lifetime
Premiered 9:00 PM, November 29th (but don’t worry, they’re gonna rerun it a LOT)
Okay. Wow. Where to start with this thing? Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever is a Lifetime original movie, a rather predictable Christmas story about a little girl named Crystal (Megan Charpentier) who makes a magic wish for a friend and then discovers she can communicate with one of the animals at the pet shop where she works. This animal happens to be internet sensation Grumpy Cat, a cat whose feline dwarfism causes it to wear a sour expression. (I’m sure most of you are familiar with it, but my dad wasn’t, so I just wanted to be safe.) In what is unquestionably the most brilliant part of the movie, Grumpy is voiced by Parks and Recreation star Aubrey Plaza, doing characteristically silly deadpan quips. Grumpy Cat and Crystal must work together to stop a pair of dim-witted thieves from stealing a dog valued at a million dollars (?!?) from the struggling pet shop while sneaking around the mall after-hours.
In general, this movie is pretty terrible. It’s poorly performed and edited, the plot is stock saccharine Lifetime bullshit, and the pacing is very uneven, so way too much time is spent half-heartedly trying to make escaping the crooks feel like it has stakes. As weird of a complaint as this is, Grumpy Cat herself is also not a good (feline) actor, so the large majority of her scenes consist of her lying around or being carried. She’s still pretty cute though, because her odd proportions make her look like a little puppet or plushie, but in a weirdly pleasing way? Sort of like a reverse Uncanny Valley, I guess. I dunno.
Plaza’s voiceovers are the saving grace of the movie. She’s clearly having a blast, and totally unafraid of throwing herself completely into the various dumb gags of the movie. I could probably listen to her talk forever, and while the narration gets too meta about half the time and indulges in a few too many cutaway gags, there were a fair number of jokes that actually had me laughing out loud. Honestly, you could do a lot worse than the basic premise of snarky, decently funny Aubrey Plaza line readings over shots of a silly looking cat, and my enjoyment of the movie was directly tied to that fact.
Overall, I have to respect this movie, because it knows exactly what it is. It rarely goes into any kind of real melodrama or danger without some quick snark from Grumpy Cat, and it exists pretty explicitly as an ad for the cat herself. Viewers are encouraged multiple times throughout to tweet about the film using specific hashtags, and there’s actually a cutaway gag about two thirds through that’s just an ad for Grumpy Cat merchandise. The whole thing sort of feels like it was greenlighted and planned way above the writers’ heads, and they figured they may as well be super snarky and ironic with it. I don’t know that I’d sit down by myself and watch this movie again, but it’s a great curio for a December night spent drinking with friends.
Dylan Roth is watching…
Sleepy Hollow, FOX
Season 2, Episode 10: “Magnum Opus”
Sleepy Hollow revved up for its mid-season finale last week with “Magnum Opus,” which offered some cool moments while mostly treading water before the promised confrontation with Big Bad Moloch. Crane and Mills are in search of the Sword of Methuselah, a weapon with the power to stop Moloch before he brings about the apocalypse with his horsemen Abraham (Death) and Henry (War). The quest for the sword (which, like every other important mystical artifact on Earth, is buried in Westchester County, NY) pits our heroes against an honest-to-Greek-gods Gorgon, a Last Crusade-style guessing game, and the Headless Horseman himself.
Sleepy Hollow has stuck pretty tightly to formula this season: beginning with Crane dramatically taking part in a mundane modern activity, followed by the discovery of an evil plot by Henry and Moloch, and Abbie and Ichabod combatting the problem through friendship and knowledge of deep cut (made up) Colonial American history. This episode delivers all of these elements, but it feels a little forced. Crane and Mills solve the riddles in their path a little too easily, like Batman and Robin in the old 60s series, and the historical tie-in–the implication that the entire quest for the New World was inspired by the search for this sword–is a stretch even for Sleepy Hollow. The episode also spends a good deal of time showing flashbacks to events in Ichabod’s life that the audience hasn’t seen, but already knows about.
While “Magnum Opus” is mostly setup, it does feature some well-staged action, including a long-awaited rematch between Ichabod and Abraham. Ichabod worries that most of the choices in his life were really made by Abraham, and that his destiny is not his own. Abraham feels that Ichabod has stolen his life, that he was meant to be the hero and Ichabod the villain. While their musing on choice and destiny mostly falls flat, it’s nice to finally see these two characters express themselves to each other, instead of to third parties.
Episode Highlight: Throughout all of Ichabod’s existential angst, Abbie is totally steady and certain of herself and her role as a Witness. It’s typically boring to have one of your lead characters so self-aware, but Nicole Beharie’s performance carries the perfect balance of poise and weariness that says “this is what a hero looks like.” Tom Mison’s Crane may get the big laughs and fun lines, but Beharie’s subtlety does wonders to ground this wacky show emotionally.
Haley Winters is watching…
The Voice, NBC
Season 7, Episodes 21/22
Mondays and Tuesdays, 8/7c
Is two nights of The Voice a week too much?
Do I wish it was still three?
Is it a terrible, sugar-coated festival of faked enthusiasm and insincere camaraderie?
Do I still watch it with the religious fervor most reserve for actual religion?
ANSWERS (ALL): Yes.
The Voice is the most pandering lowest-common-denominator kind of reality television, and I love it. Sometimes you need a little candy in your gritty-realist-drama-granola diet. This week we said goodbye to Reagan James, the sixteen-year-old wunderkind who had the unfortunate dilemma of being only ever noted for her age (After a great performance? “Wow, I can’t believe you’re sixteen!” After a mediocre performance? “Wow, but you’re sixteen!”). With her goes my last reserve of genuine fandom for any of the contestants, but it’s the judges that are the real draw to the show anyway. Blake Shelton is the most genuine, likely thanks to a shot of whiskey in his Starbucks™ cup. Adam Levine is less annoying than you’d expect him to be. Gwen Stefani fills in the Paula Abdul role of both relentless cheerleader and single lady, but she looks really good doing it. And Pharrell, well, he’s like Gandhi’s gorgeous little brother, spouting out enough aphoristic nonsense to fill a fortune cookie factory. The only downside to the whole Voice business is Carson Daly, whose soulless black eyes refuse to betray even the slightest glimmer of life. A surprise Thanksgiving dinner for the contestants and their families provides this episode’s necessary emotion-bait, which was admittedly sweet. As Carson put it best, “That was a really special night for our artists, and we want to thank our friends at Starbucks for bringing everybody together for the holidays.”
Episode Highlight: Taylor Swift, who was a stunningly impressive consultant during the knockout rounds, returns to the Voice stage to perform “Blank Space,” the best single off her new album. It’s overacted in typical Tay style–a facial expression and literal movement for every word–but an enjoyable performance.