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. This week: The Last Man on Earth, Sex Box, Justified, and Fresh off the Boat!
Jen Overstreet is Watching…
The Last Man on Earth, Fox
Season 1, Episode 1/2: “Alive in Tucson”/”The Elephant in the Room”
Sundays at 9/8c on Fox
Phil Miller (Will Forte) is seemingly the last man on Earth after an unspecified viral epidemic. After a road tour of the American continent, leaving signs and lifting priceless artifacts, Phil settles into a minimansion in Tucson, Arizona.
The humor is tinged with anxiety as Phil entertains himself in montages of destruction and excess. He wrecks cars, breaks into stores by shooting out windows, fills his borrowed house with waste and swims in a margarita pool. It’s an approach that would set anyone who has ever played the hypothetical apocalypse survival game on edge, if it weren’t so apparent Phil was giving up on survival.
When, moments from suicide, Phil finds last woman on earth Carol (Kirsten Schaal), this destructive nihilism clashes with her inflexible commitment to defunct law & order. Grammar, traffic laws, ownership, Christian morality, hygiene—she grasps onto them all regardless of their post-apocalyptic usefulness.
When Phil and Carol realize they may need to repopulate the earth, the show immediately morphs into an absurdist rom com. The odd couple who comes together, the opposite characters who shape one another—old clichés are given sense in the absence of any other choice. There’s even an extended toMAYto/toMAHto gag just to drive it home.
It’s a fun concept, pitting ordinary, irritating humans against extinction. In the hands of two powerhouse comedic actors, Phil and Carol toe the line of archetypes but never quite cross out of sympathetic three-dimensionality. Where survivalist dramas reduce apocalypse scenarios to dire evolutionary survival, Last Man On Earth suggests a new look at the question: When there are no societal boundaries left, what arbitrary goals and purposes will make meaning out of nothing?
Episode Highlight: Kirsten Schaal aggressively, tauntingly, disgustingly eating a fresh tomato.
Haley Winters is watching…
Season 1, Episode 1
Fridays at 10/9c on We TV
“Sex Box! Ooh yeah! Sex Box!” That’s not how the theme song to Sex Box goes (there is no theme song) but if it was, that alone would improve the show three times over. Of course, three times zero is still zero, but it could’ve been catchy, that’s all I’m saying.
If you’re one of the 378,000 viewers who tuned in to We TV for the premiere of this “reality” “talk” “show,” allow me to express my condolences. If you, like me, were hoping to engage in some healthily base voyeurism over some weird horrible couples somehow willing to have sex in a box in front of live audience, I share your disappointment to discover instead 40 minutes of television so sexless it could make an episode of Dr. Phil look titillating. Sex Box is as sexual as water is dry. Sex Box is to sex appeal as lime jello is to filet mignon. Sex Box is so unsexy that watching it puts the viewing in danger of their genitals literally shriveling up and blowing away like so many leaves in an autumn breeze. Sex Box is…well, you get the idea. The thought that the Parent’s Television Council has taken up arms against Sex Box is so laughably delightful that I signed the petition myself.
I will try to summarize Sex Box as succinctly as possible so I can be done with this review and never return to the subject. A couple whose sex life is failing in some capacity is brought onstage, where they meet three “sex experts” (one is a pastor) who attempt to “get to the bottom of” their problem, which is usually “he’s not making her cum enough.” They are then sent into the SEX BOX(TM) with the idea that all the sexy love-hormones will make them more willing to talk about their feelings afterward. While they’re in the box (it flashes bright red to indicate it’s in use, and then even brighter blue when they’re, uh, done), the sexperts gossip about them and the audience snickers about how long/not long they’ve been in there. They come out wearing humiliating pastel silk jammies and are then forced to describe the sex, rate each other on a scale of 1-10, or any number of other lame tasks. In the end the sexperts tell them what a long way they’ve come and the couple agrees that the Sex Box has certainly saved their relationship. We can only hope that they clean out the Sex Box before the next couple comes on all of three minutes later.
Episode Highlight: “What’s the kinkiest thing you’ve ever done?” “When I was in labor and having contractions, I was so horny I gave my husband a blowjob.” Also, the jammies.
Julian Ames is watching…
Season 6, Episode 6: “Alive Day”
Tuesdays at 10/9c on FX
In American television you can guarantee that as soon as you start to see some humanity in a villainous character, especially if he or she is a minor one, you know they are probably not long for this world. In “Alive Day,” this happens to the character Choo Choo, an imposing man who has, up until this episode, been treated a bit like the comic relief. One of the storylines in the sixth and final season of Justified, FX’s modern take on the American Western, is the return of a former crime boss, Avery Markham (Sam Elliott sans moustache) to Harlan County, Kentucky to buy or force certain residents out of their land, in standard Western fashion. To be his muscle and help execute his plan, Markham employs several ex-military mercenaries: the evil Kyle MacLachlan-looking Ty Walker (Garret Dillahunt), Sean a.k.a. Seabass (Scott Grimes), and Mundo a.k.a. Choo Choo (Duke David Roberts).
Choo Choo, apparently given that name because getting hit by him is like getting hit by a train, is an Iraq War veteran who, as a result of shrapnel in his brain, has a speech impediment and is a little slow. This condition has lead to some humorous moments in the season, but rather than being used to make fun of Choo Choo, these moments are merely to show that he gets confused sometimes. “Alive Day” gives Choo Choo time to shine and the fans a chance to relate to him. In the previous episode, Choo Choo accidentally kills a real estate broker (Brad Leeland), from whom Markham is trying to get information, with one punch; when Seabass admits frustration at having to clean up after Choo Choo’s messes and calls him dumb, Choo Choo volunteers to kill the only witness that could link the mercenaries to the murder, a call girl named Caprice (Ashley Dulaney).
Later on, when Choo Choo picks up Caprice under the guise of being a john, they have a brief conversation in which she shows compassion and understanding for his lament that people think he is dumb because of his condition. After this, he elects not to kill Caprice. Meanwhile, the show’s protagonist (no, I haven’t forgotten about him) Deputy Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), gets turned onto the broker’s murder, and begins to investigate Markham and his men. Markham decides to have Choo Choo killed since he’s a liability, which eventually leads to a standoff between Choo Choo, the remaining mercenaries who are trying to kill Choo Choo, and Raylan and his partner, Marshal Tim Gutterson (Jacob Pitts). The standoff goes about as well as you’d expect in a Western, and Choo Choo gets shot several times. He manages to drive away, but is shown dead in his car later somewhere up the road.
In this episode there are other long running storylines that thread through each other: Raylan has to handle Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter), who is informing on her former fiancé Boyd (Walton Goggins), who in turn is planning to rob Avery Markham for Katherine Hale (Mary Steenburgen), to whom Avery Markham just proposed. The whole season is a web of intrigue that has been a pleasure to watch so far. But in “Alive Day,” the Choo Choo storyline stands out. Even though he’s a minor character with not much screen time on a show in which hired goons die all the time, something about his demise feels unique.
Episode Highlight: During the standoff, one of the mercenaries, who was originally tasked to kill Choo Choo, instead orders him to help them kill the marshals. Deputy Gutterson asks Choo Choo “You’re really gonna die for a guy’s trying to kill you?” and Raylan chimes in “You can’t still be taking his orders,” to which Choo Choo responds “It’s all I got,” before drawing his gun and forcing the marshals to shoot him.
Cameron DeOrdio is Watching…
Fresh Off the Boat, ABC:
Season 1, Episode 6: “Shaq Fu”
Tuesdays at 8/c.
Fresh Off the Boat is exactly what I didn’t know I wanted in a family sitcom. I came in pretty skeptical, thinking it would be corny, or racist, or just…not funny. But instead, it turned out to be charming, compassionate, and, yes, funny. We follow the Huangs, a Taiwanese family that loves each other but is struggling financially and with not snarking on one another. Oh, and the whole thing takes place in early-mid-nineties Orlando.
And you can’t talk early-mid-nineties Orlando without talking Shaquille O’Neal. This episode focuses on young Eddie’s (Hudson Yang) quest to save up cash to buy the now-famously awful—but still glorious in my hazy Sega Genesis-era memories—Shaq Fu, a fighting game starring the titular big man. While his Lunchables-eating (the pepperoni pizza kind if they’re cool) classmates can cover their games out of their allowance, brown-bagging Eddie has to work at his dad’s (Randall Park) restaurant to make up for it. Meanwhile, in the B-plot, Eddie’s mother, Jessica (Constance Wu, who is quickly becoming the star of the show), looks for her own job.
As Eddie learns a Very Special Lesson about appreciating his family, the value of hard work, and not having to do what everyone else is doing, Jessica leverages her shrewd determination to all but force a local real estate agent to give her a job. The jokes land well, the plots are character-driven, and it’s a comedy where you’re not actually supposed to hate anyone in the main cast. In other words, it’s a nice change of pace from a lot of the TV out there.
Episode Highlight: Eddie’s classmate Dave (Evan Hannemann), who is being raised by his mother, plays the 9 to 5 video game (based off the Dolly Parton joint of the same name), which his mom got him because the store clerk convinced her it was the “hot new game” everyone was talking about. The game’s victory/end sequence plays, and Dave brushes a tear from his eye. He sniffles and says, “You can have it all, ladies!”