Three Courses of Netflix

By: Theresa Krakauskas

While it’s traditional to take a nap watch football after a huge Thanksgiving meal, not much about this year’s Thanksgiving will be traditional. Hopefully, you’ll still be having that meal and giving thanks, even if it’s not the usual way. Perhaps your dinner guests will be on Zoom, or you’ll be scaling back on the guest front altogether, but when you’re full and Zoomed out, you have the rest of the weekend to binge on things other than food, so Netflix and Digest. 

In its second season, Cobra Kai is tasty fare that both kids and adults can enjoy. Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence (Ralph Macchio and William Zabka, both co-executive producers) are together again, but this time, not in the tournament ring. Johnny is a deadbeat dad with a messed up life, his past victory a hollow one after dojo Cobra Kai was called out and banned for not fighting fair. After meeting young Miguel Diaz (Xolo Maridueña), his life takes a turn for the better, and he reopens Cobra Kai, albeit with one student. Daniel has done much better in life, owning a car dealership, and using his past karate success as a sales gimmick, even though most people don’t remember it anymore and he insists it’s not a gimmick, but who he is. Daniel is married now, and his daughter Samantha (Mary Mouser) goes to school with Miguel, so you can guess what happens there. 

Johnny is in desperate need of funds, but when the outcasts of the school see a video of Miguel kicking bully ass, they sign up for his dojo. Now having a full class, Johnny, whose idea of an obstacle course is to have the kids run from a pack of junkyard dogs, teaches them how to fight, but more important, builds their confidence. Johnny still has a lot to learn as far as social skills go, and desperately wants to have a relationship with the son he abandoned years ago (Tyler Buchanan, Robby). Robby lives with his mother, and since Johnny’s ex likes to hang out at the bars hoping to meet Mr. Right, Robby has taken to hanging with the wrong crowd. When Robby takes a job at Daniel’s dealership, hoping to piss off his father, Daniel takes Robby under his karate wing. Robby also has eyes for Samantha, so a whole other rivalry begins.

I enjoy the martial arts, and figured I would like Cobra Kai at least on that level. The fight scenes did not disappoint, but I was surprised at how funny this show is. I found myself literally lol’ing many times at the humor peppered throughout. It also has its poignant moments, and leaves you with a good feeling, without being saccharine. Even the flashes of sentimentality were bearable for me, and while predictable in spots, it’s a formula that works. Adults will enjoy it, but the characters are learning lessons all over the place, much of them about social injustice, so it’s not a bad thing for the kids to watch either. I’m always hyper-aware of soundtracks, and Cobra Kai features a good one, using everything from Twisted Sister to Dean Martin. Although Dean’s Ain’t That a Kick in the Head is still stuck in my head, so be forewarned of earworms. There are also plenty of nods to the film franchise, as well as a liberal use of flashbacks. Just don’t play a drinking game using Mr. Miyagi’s name, or you will still be drunk by the time Christmas rolls around.  

In the useless trivia department, Will Smith, who acquired the rights to The Karate Kid reboot starring his son Jaden, also receives an executive producer credit on the series. This is the perfect time to catch up, since Cobra Kai’s season three will be released on Friday, January 8th, 2021. 

Light as a fluffy croissant, but for a slightly more mature viewer, is Emily in Paris. Take The Devil Wears Prada, mix in some Ugly Betty and a little Sex in the City, set it in the most romantic city in the world, sprinkle on a dash of social media, and there you have it. Emily (Lilly Collins, also producer) is a junior marketing executive at an American conglomerate that acquires a Parisian boutique luxury agency. To incorporate an American perspective, Emily’s boss is about to transfer to Paris, when she discovers she’s pregnant. Emily goes in her place, and hopes to school the agency in social media, since they have little online presence. Surprising her boyfriend with the news, he is refreshingly enlightened, supporting her 100%, and saying he’s more worried about Paris than he is about her. Until he isn’t. 

In Hollywood Reporter’s review, Robyn Bahr said, “Plucky, cheerful and arrogant, Emily plops into Paris determined to ‘bring an American perspective’ to French branding, never once considering that her proud cultural ignorance is actually a weakness, not a strength.” Definitely true. Emily doesn’t even speak a word of French, although she catches on to merde pretty fast. I can understand this, since after taking two years of the language, all I can do is tell you how to pack a suitcase and curse you out, but I’m not living there. While it’s doubtful anyone would take an overseas job without knowing any of the language, this isn’t real life, so it’s a great set-up for comic situations, as is Emily’s general lack of worldly knowledge. Like when she makes a restaurant reservation for months away rather than that evening, ignorant of the fact that in other countries the date begins with the day of the month, not the month number. 

Emily refuses to be daunted. Not by her French boss (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu, Sylvie), who wants to close doors rather than open them as Emily does, the other employees who barely acknowledge her presence, the landlady who thinks Emily did something to cause every apartment problem, or the endless parade of mostly already taken men who want to sleep with her, including one whose wife approves. I’d say, if Emily has a fault, it’s being too noble. 

Unlike Andrea in Prada, Emily’s problem is not her fashion choices. The wardrobe in this show is très magnifique, from Emily’s on trend young adult look to the sophisticated outfits her boss wears. Again, the soundtrack is spot-on, using a lot of French pop, as well as Edith Piaf’s Non, je ne regrette rien, which has been in the background of many a TV commercial. The scenic detail is beautiful, and since traveling is questionable at the moment anyway, it’s nice to get away from it all in the City of Lights, even if vicariously. 

Like a smiley face wearing a beret, this isn’t a show you have to think too much about, which is a welcome relief right now. While there is no date yet, mostly due to the pandemic holding up filming, Netflix confirmed there will be a second season by announcing the news in a letter written by Sylvie, saying Emily is needed in Paris for an extended stay. 

Rounding out this Netflix meal is Ratched, the backstory of Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Sarah Paulson, also executive producer), and the streaming service’s biggest debut in 2020. A lot of the reviews have been less than stellar, but one man’s melodrama is another man’s stylized production, and I find this series to be stunning. Although you might want to leave the kids, and those faint of heart, out of this watch party. Ratched is graphically violent, and often sexually explicit, but never gratuitous. 

Mildred Ratched has wormed her way into a job at Lucia State Hospital, where her brother (Finn Whitrock), who also happens to be a serial killer, is about to be evaluated before standing trial for the murder of several priests. The head nurse (Judy Davis) quickly becomes Mildred’s nemesis, but Mildred also develops a fast friendship with the governor’s assistant (Cynthia Nixon, Gwendolyn). The head of the hospital, Dr. Hanover (Jon Jon Biones), believes himself to be on the forefront of psychological treatments, using hydrotherapy – i.e. confining the patient to baths going from 119 degrees to icy cold – and performing lobotomies. Hanover’s hospital evokes the exposé of mental hospitals by journalist Nellie Bly in the 1880s, although it’s much more stylish. 

I’ve loved Sarah Paulson in her various characters on American Horror Story, and she’s unsettlingly good in this, playing Mildred in an understated way with little emotion except in her eyes. The supporting cast is no less than brilliant, and the plot is intense to say the least. The dialogue is intelligent and often snappy, like when Mildred tells a motel owner concerned about hanky panky in her establishment, “You run a roadside business, madam. You traffic in hanky panky.” It has another amazing soundtrack, although it keeps within the boundaries of its 1940s era. The attention to detail is spectacular, but the thing that stood out the most to me was the mind-blowing use of color. I’ve never seen anything like it; definitely not in a drama. Both the costumes and sets are a feast for the eyes.

Having been impressed by Mildred, the governor (Vincent D’Onofrio), tells Dr. Hanover, “There’s not a lot of meat on her bones, but what there is, is cherce [sic].” Like a big, juicy turkey leg, there’s a lot of meat in Ratched, and it’s cherce. pandemic

There are only eight episodes so far, but Netflix ordered two seasons at once, so season two is coming. The idea has been to end after four seasons, when it gets to the Cuckoo’s Nest point in time. The only question is when it’s coming. If filming begins in early 2021, Ratched’s return could be later in the year, or early 2022. Hopefully by then, pandemic pandemonium will be behind us, and will feel like nothing but a bad dream, leaving our nightmares to play out on screen.

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