In a recent post here on Tilzy.TV, I wasted too many letters whining about young actors‘ obsessive compulsion to share the tedium of their lives as though it were legitimately entertaining. Not long before that I complained about infatuation with superheroes. Last night, as I watched the new series Junior League of Superheroes (or JLoSH), similar demons surfaced.
I was hoping to avoid a rehash, but the fates have little interest in appeasing my desires. Nor, apparently, do the folks behind JLoSH.
The title basically gives the general premise away, so no guesswork involved there. However, within the first few episodes there is little to suggest in what kind of action the Junior League is going be involved. I don’t find the setup isn’t particularly promising. People have been doing the superhero thing for, what, over a half-century now? At this point, if you’re going to do your own twist on the theme it damn well better be the most creative f’ing show ever devised. Even Harvey Birdman, which is based on a pretty fantastic premise, gets a little stale over the course of an episode.
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The mantra “Write what you know” tends to serve as a foundation for upstart writers. But often it becomes a crutch, leading towards twisted variants of memoir and veering into navel-gazing territory. That’s not quite the case here – as the script avoids philosophizing, a plus – though a parallel road is traveled.
The plot of JLoSH (written by Brian Leahy and directed by Justin Fair) plays itself out as if a bunch of “nerds” recreated for the camera scenes that had been lifted from their collective past and interspersed with wishful details absent from those real life events.
Turn a video game into a training session for superhero qualification? Check. Hosting a vaguely sexualized Star Wars-themed costume party? Check. (Full disclosure, I do celebrate “May the 4th Be With You” annually.) The fantasy of a nobody suddenly being called to save the day? It’s there as well, though a few years ago the Sarah Silverman Show riffed on this exact topic in a nearly unbeatable fashion (plus it featured Brian Posehn, so it automatically wins) when the D&D dorks had to rescue Laura from the anti-abortion nuts. Again, the challenge parameters have been set at a pretty high bar.
Now I should explain my use of the word “nerd.” Nerd life is “nerd life” because it delves into and explores a genres minutia that really isn’t very interesting to the vast majority of people. Now those of us who partake in nerdy pastimes love subtle allusions to said pastimes when they’re knowingly dropped, but too lengthy an exposition is frowned upon. It’s appealing when nerdy flies just under the populist radar, not when it’s blatantly exposed and flaunted.
As much as I love Star Wars references, sometimes people get carried away and veer into cringeworthy territory.
That’s my general complaint, in a nutshell, of this entire show. I like that challenges have been taken up, but precision is sorely lacking. A lot of the material is attacked in a ham-fisted manner when the situation calls for more subtle humor. I think the best joke so far in the series comes at about 5:20 of episode 2, when the dude pokes his head in the door. It’s a completely unnecessary aside, yet it makes me laugh each time I watch it. More moments like that and you’ve hooked me. Instead, I see too much forced, insincere nerdom for my tastes.
Despite my negative take on these early episodes, there are flashes which lead me to believe that things could improve. A good deal of my poor outlook stems from having seen so many poor riffs on similar topics in too many shows. My vision is clouded and requires real strikes of brilliance for me to notice. This is partially my own doing, but it should also impel young writers (or, really, any writers) to hone their material sufficiently so that jaded critics like me don’t remain lost in our self-imposed fogs.