Should You Watch After Life on Netflix?

Someone thought it was a good idea for me to watch the Netflix series, After Life.

Here’s a brief summary of the show:

After Life follows Tony, played by Ricky Gervais, whose life is turned upside down after his wife dies from breast cancer, he contemplates suicide. Instead, he decides to live long enough to punish the world for his wife’s death by saying and doing whatever he wants. Although he thinks of this as his “superpower,” his plan is undermined when everyone around him tries to make him a better person. The show is set in the fictional town of Tambury, where Tony works as a journalist at a local free newspaper, the Tambury Gazette.

The show has a brilliantly dark sense of humor, punctuated with chillingly familiar events to me, having just lost my wife to cancer only two months earlier. The moments where Tony doesn’t see any point in going on and contemplates ending his life, only to realize he has a dog that needs him; that was me. The moments he is with his aged and infirm father and trying to do his best to hold it together for him, I’m in that place. The moments where he’s utterly unmotivated in his job; me. All of that and more was me.

It was too soon, and I couldn’t do it. Watching the show reduced me to a sobbing idiot in a matter of minutes. It hurt too much. I also resented the person who suggested it to me, though not as much as the asshat who, when I told him my wife had stage IV cancer, suggested I watch Sophie’s Choice.

Anyway, while still grieving a couple of months later, I try to watch After Life again. Nope, no good. I couldn’t handle it. Blubbering mess, pathetic, really.

Then, another two months later, around six months after Lynn died, I tried to watch it again. I don’t know what it was about this series that kept me returning to it after repeated bad experiences, but I did. I guess I thought it had some wisdom to impart. I thought it might have something to bring me a little peace, or solace, or something. Maybe I was inducing the most suffering I could or trying to lance a boil to get the puss out. I don’t know, but I came back to try to watch After Life again, a third time.

 This time, it was different. Oh, I certainly cried, but it wasn’t the gut-wrenching, pitiful sobbing like before. I watched and identified, and most importantly, I listened. Between all the jokes were genuinely inspirational moments – nuggets of wisdom. There were things I needed to hear; hopeful, little things:

“I Still Have My Downs, But Then Life Throws You These Interesting Little Things, Doesn’t It?”

“A Society Grows Great When Old Men Plant Trees Whose Shade They Know They Shall Never Sit In.”

“It Is Everything. Being In Love, I Mean.”

“Nothing’s As Good If You Don’t Share It.”

Those last two quotes resonated with me at the time. I had achieved some peace with the fact that Lynn was gone and wasn’t coming back, though it left me empty inside. I also came to terms with the fact that my ongoing grieving was something I was doing for me, not Lynn. I was grieving that I missed her so much, but this benefited her in no way. It made me a burden to those around me and who cared about me. I was determined to do a little better every day at carrying my grief without spilling it all over those around me, and I got stronger. I didn’t stop grieving, but I wasn’t breaking down in tears every day, and that was a marked improvement. I just carried it forward better.

It was then that I recognized something that was there all along – I was lonely. I wanted to be with Lynn, but that could not be. She was gone, and I was still here. It was that emptiness, and the loneliness that I was feeling now.

I will say this – from my experience, I learned that you never appreciate someone like you do when you know the day is coming that they won’t be there any longer. The last year with Lynn, as sick as she was, I loved her deeply and cherished every moment I had with her. That’s something I should have been doing all along, but I took for granted she would always be there. And then she wasn’t.

I was determined that, should I be fortunate enough to fall in love again, I would do my best to appreciate that woman with my whole heart and soul every single day, as if she won’t be there the next day,  because one day, she won’t be there. Or I won’t.

We all die, eventually. I don’t want to focus on that depressing thought, but I want to emphasize that the time we have is finite. We should appreciate it, appreciate the people around us that we love and who love us. We should make the most of the time we have. Be the kind of person that makes the world a better place just by the way we live their lives.

Watching After Life helped me arrive at that conclusion. More than that, that I was able to watch After Life was a litmus test, the yardstick by which I could measure how ready I was to re-enter life and pick up the pieces. Even the ability to find someone to love, which I did, and I do.

The core message of After Life is this:

“Good People Do Things For Other People. That’s It. The End.”

Being self-absorbed and rude gets us nowhere. Being nice, spreading love, offering a helping hand, and committing the occasional random act of kindness are the way to make our time on this Earth count, and if you have someone special to do it with, all the better.

Should you watch After Life on Netflix?


Review: Betas Amazon Original Series – Pilot

Set in the land of Silicon Valley start-ups, Betas follows four friends as they attempt to strike it rich with a new mobile social networking app.

Betas-tvshwWritten by Evan Endicott and Josh Stoddard and directed and produced by Michael Lehmann (True Blood, Dexter) along with Emmy Award winners Alan Freedland and Alan Cohen (King of the Hill), and Academy Award nominee Michael London (Sideways). The pilot episode also features Ed Begley Jr. and Moby.

There’s a lot of talent behind this show and it’s evident. Having watched several of the pilots for upcoming shows on Amazon Original Series, this is the most polished.

The four main characters in Betas follows a formulae that is rock solid but a little overused. Some reviews likened them MCs to caricatures, but you don’t care what happens to a caricature, and I did like these guys and want to see them succeed – after struggling horribly through hell – of course.

The ambitious Jay is the easiest to identify with. He knows what he wants and hasn’t got a clue about how to get it. He plays the roll least anti-normal and is likeable.

Avinash (Nash) is neurotic and easily shaken, but brilliant at what he does – coding. He uses soft rock to relax – think Christopher Cross or Toto – and has an abort sequence he uses often in social situations that become overwhelming, which is all of them.

Mitch (yes, same name as me – real funny. Ha-ha-ha) is socially inept around the opposite sex – and is none-to-competent around those of the same sex – but has a hopeless crush on a particular girl at his place of employment.

Hobbs is the crude, street-wise friend who lacks social grace but is likable, nonetheless. We are introduced to him as he’s having video sex in a laundromat while waiting for his clothes to dry. Hobbs helps offset the introverted personalities of the other MCs.

Betas is like Big Bang Theory, but crude.  Unlike BBT,  I think Betas is too insider for its own good, between the technical jargon and the quick, geek banter, it might lose some audiences.  I dig Betas, but I’ve worked for Microsoft for 18 years.  I am a geek.

I’ll watch this and I’ll pay for it.    Betas is a smart, funny show.  I want to see this series take off and dominate the world, one geek at a time.

Trailer for Betas–Amazon Original Series

Watch the brilliant pilot episode here, on Amazon Instant Video.

Review: Zombieland Amazon Original Series–pilot

Zombieland is based on the hit movie of the same name, and follows four survivors outwitting zombies and searching for a place to call home.

The Zombieland pilot comes from the film’s original creative team, writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, and producer Gavin Polone, so you would expect it to have the same quirky, smarmy humor, and it does. Mostly.

Photofunia Zombie#pjPT3KAhshPWlWW2hA7AngThe show picks up with the same characters from the movie – Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita and Little Rock – played by different actors. This works alright for me, but Zombieland fans – the ones that would French-kiss the movie if they could – may be a bit put off by this. Admittedly, nobody could follow Woody Harrelson’s Tallahassee from the movie. It’s was unfair to put Kirk Ward in those very large shoes, but he manages it. He’s just no Woody.

I liked the addition of Detroit – the ex-OnStar lady that directs them to wherever they are trying to go.

The show is funny in the same distasteful, juvenile way as the movie. It’s also smart and witty, but keeps putting a toe over the line of good taste. Mind you, I laughed, and this is a zombie show, after all. If you’re going to have zombies eating bloody guts, why not load up on F-words and vagina jokes (complete with on screen counter), too?

Still, the show doesn’t quite capture the feeling of the movie.  It takes time for a new series to start clicking, so I’m holding out judgment on Zombieland until I see more, and if there is more, I will watch.

Oh yes. I will watch.  I have to see the Zombie Kill of the Week, don’t I?


Zombieland Amazon Original–Trailer


You can watch it here for FREE, on AMAZON INSTANT VIDEO.

At this time, only the 28-minute long pilot is available to watch, but it’s free. Since this is an “Amazon original Series”, you will have to watch it on Amazon Instant Streaming (computer or phone with an Amazon app). I watched it using the Amazon instant video app on Xbox Live, and it looked great in HD.

Netflix Original ‘Hemlock Grove’ Series Premiers and Whets Appetite for More

The release of the made-for-Netflix series, Hemlock Grove, may completely derail my weekend plans.

I have errands to run, people to see, and a whole freakin’ novel to edit. Then I watched the premiere of Hemlock Grove, noted that there are thirteen, one-hour long episodes in the fully released first season, and well – I did the math. Something has to get cut from my weekend schedule, and it won’t be watching the entire first season of Hemlock Grove.

The pitch goes like this: In the shadows of a rusted Pennsylvania steel town, the mangled body of a teenage girl is discovered. As they hunt for a monster among them, rumors mount and many of the eccentric residents become suspects, from the newly arrived gypsy family to the wealthy Godfrey clan. In the twisted world of Hemlock Grove, everyone hides a dark secret. From director Eli Roth (“Hostel”) comes a chilling supernatural series based on Brian McGreevy’s novel.


So help me, despite the overwhelming Twilight-like overtones, I’m intrigued. I am no fan of Eli Roth’s torture horror movies, and I worry that the series has no rating system at all (being neither for TV or theaters), and Roth might push the boundaries of violence, gore and weird sex to such a degree that it becomes unwatchable.

The cast is first-rate, such as Lili Taylor (from many excellent appearances, but most memorable to me in High Infidelity), Aaron Douglas (Tyrol from Battlestar Galactica) and Famke Janssen as Olivia Godley – the mysterious, wealthy matriarch with a British accent that comes and goes (not sure if that’s intentional or not).


Creepy, misfit teenagers, werewolves and pretty, young girls playing the role of mutilated cadavers, Hemlock Grove seems on the verge of jumping the shark from the start, but stays just this side of the tank. So far.

All 13 episodes are available for viewing starting today, April 19, 2013, so we’ll see if it can stay that way. I’m in, and if the series goes too far, well, maybe I’ll take a look at McGreevy’s novel of the same name and give it a go.

Here’s the teaser:

Hemlock Grove – SFW Trailer

UPDATE – 4/22/2013: Finished it. I admit to having it on while doing other things at times, but I kept up with the storyline. I think people who like twilight will dig this. It’s a little more raw, but only on the easy stuff – language, nudity and graphic violence – not the story. The acting is solid throughout, as is the directing and production. Overall, not great, not bad.

TV Series Review: Finding Bigfoot – or Not

Animal Planet has a new series, FINDING BIGFOOT, seeking evidence that the elusive creatures exist. They call it, Finding Bigfoot, because giving it an honest name like, Looking for Bigfoot and Finding Nothing at All is not likely to capture viewer’s attention. TV viewers, we are a fickle crowd, are we not?


The show sports a colorful cast of investigators: Bigfoot Field Research Organization (BFRO) president Matt Moneymaker, researchers James “Bobo” Fay and Cliff Barackman, along with skeptical scientist and voice of reason, Ranae Holland. The show follows them from one locale to the next as they investigate Sasquatch (a.k.a. Bigfoot) sitings.

Each episode, they examine blurry photos and shadowy videos, speak to local witnesses, and use night-vision and heat-sensing cameras to try to find Bigfoot in areas where others claim to have seen them. My favorite part is when they stand in the woods somewhere at night, illuminated green by the night-vision cameras, and try to lure the creatures with their Sasquatch calls. It’s great stuff when a coyote or owl calls back and they get excited, thinking it might be a Sasquatch communicating back to them. Of course, it never is.

Finding Bigfoot-2

Unfortunately, nothing is conclusive or even likely, but the editors of the show make the most of this faithful group not finding anything at all, episode after episode.

Matt Moneymaker says he has been searching for Bigfoot for over 25 years. The others on the team have been looking for years as well. Each place they go, they find other Bigfoot hunters or at least believers. There is an organization dedicated to finding these creatures, using state of the art technology. With all of that, no one can turn up anything concrete that these things even exist. Not a body of the creature, not even a decent video or photo. Bigfoot is more difficult to find than Osama bin Laden. Believing in Bigfoot is indeed, a matter of faith.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that Sasquatch are real. If they do exist, they obviously want to be left alone. How else do you explain how they have evaded the hunters for so long?  That has to be intentional.

If Bigfoot hunters really have the respect for these creatures that they claim to have, they would respect their desire for privacy and leave them alone. I mean, even Mormons will go away if you don’t answer the door when they knock. Take a hint from them, Bobo.

Six-Million-Dollar-Man-Bigfoot-300x283When I was a kid, I was into UFO phenomena. It wasn’t a big stretch to add things like Bigfoot, Yeti, the Loch Ness Monster or Chupacabra to my growing interest in the fantastic and unproven. I loved the episodes of Six-Million Dollar Man that featured the bionic Bigfoot. Then I grew up and stopped following such things, but have always been fascinated by the idea of a mythical creatures or aliens, so I can’t poke too much fun at this show. After all, I haven’t missed a single episode.  I may be their biggest fan. And these guys parleyed such a ridiculous premise into a TV series. Matt Moneymaker is indeed, living up to his surname.

And maybe, one day – they may find Bigfoot, who will kill them for relentlessly pursuing him all these years. What can I say? I root for the underdog.

© 2013, Mitch Lavender