Weekend Watchlist | Short and sweet shows

By The Pitt News Staff

There’s something nice about a show that doesn’t take its time, one that gives you a story you can enjoy within a weekend. The Pitt News Staff has a couple of recommendations this week for shows that are exactly that. Enjoy! 

Kipo And The Age of Wonderbeasts (Netflix) // Sinéad McDevitt, Digital Manager

I’ve recommended this show before back when there was only one season, and now that the show’s wrapped up, I’m back to say that the first season wasn’t a fluke. It’s amazing the whole way through. 

The show follows the titular Kipo and her friends as they traverse a post-apocalyptic Earth, full of giant plants and large talking animals called mutes. Over the course of the show, they go from simply trying to get Kipo home to bringing the humans and mutes together to thrive. It’s a story about found family, forgiveness and kindness in the face of adversity, that was especially powerful to watch during the chaos of 2020. Not to mention, the backgrounds are gorgeous, the soundtrack is killer and when combined with the animation, leads to some exciting action scenes.

The real clincher is the large and vibrant cast of characters. The main characters for most of the show are Kipo, who solves problems with her unrelenting ability to befriend anyone and also her ability to turn into a giant pink jaguar, Wolf, the ever-serious badass and Benson and Dave, her duo of laid-back best friends who keep things light hearted. Together the group overcomes all sorts of challenges in trying to change their world for the better.

The Midnight Gospel (Netflix) // Derek Eppinger, For The Pitt News

Presented in just eight 20-minute episodes and filled to the brim with lessons in spirituality and the meaning of existence, “The Midnight Gospel” not only embodies the characteristics of short and sweet, but it’s also a completely unreplicated audiovisual experience. Each episode sees our main character, Clancy Jones, exploring the worlds of his simulation-generated universe and seeking out different life forms to interview for his space cast. However, there’s not exactly a story being told in “The Midnight Gospel.” Instead, each episode’s audio is actually from interviews hosted by Clancy’s voice actor, comedian Duncan Trussell, with the show’s wide array of insightful guests, including Trussell’s fellow comedians, but also experts in psychology, death and meditation.

To label the show as just an animated podcast would be insane. The visuals are, alone, an absolute delight to the eyes that features both charming, psychedelic chaos and an endless variety of vibrant colors carefully shaded onto the screen. And when the show’s animation is combined with Trussel’s genuinely compassionate personality, the heartwarming messages of self-love and the consistently cohesive conversations, “The Midnight Gospel” becomes a therapeutic, warm blanket of both atmosphere and intrigue.

High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (Disney +) // Kaitlyn Nuebel, Staff Writer

I told you last week to go watch “High School Musical 2,” for no reason other than to try to spot Miley Cyrus in a crowd of Disney Channel extras, which makes for a refreshing take on “Where’s Waldo.”

But now we’re in a new week with a fresh weekend watchlist, and since there’s nothing tackier than plagiarizing yourself, I’ll move past HSM 2. Instead, I’ll bring you “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,” the television series spin-off to “High School Musical” we now have that I don’t remember anyone ever asking for.

It’s hard to come across a television series that’s sweet and short these days. If a series is short, it’s either about Ted Bundy or it got booted, and neither of those are particularly sweet. There are some exceptions to this rule, though, like “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.” You’ll find it on a Sunday night when you’re procrastinating by scrolling through Disney+ because you hate yourself. Just when you think you should probably find something better to do, there it will be, sitting on the corner of the screen, waiting for you.

I would say that “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” is the iteration of “High School Musical” we’ve all been waiting for, but you and I both know it’s not “High School Musical 4.” There is no Troy Bolton rocking the side-swept haircut that the lesbians had first. There is no Gabriella Montez, who is now, nine years after graduating from Stanford during a recession, curing COVID-19. I do like to think, though, that Olivia Rodrigo as the series’ lead female character fixes these issues. Or at least distracts us from them. Or, you know, at least helps us ignore the two colons in the series title.

With 22 episodes spanning two seasons, HSMTMTS (sorry, my computer just shat itself) is pretty short. And between its innocent high school love stories, die-hard theatre kids and overly committed teachers, it’s also very sweet. Binge-watch it, though, and you’ll probably feel crumbly and old. For example, Olivia Rodrigo was born in 2003. The original movie came out in 2006, which was so long ago that Zac Efron, who hadn’t yet honed his singing skills, lip-synced. A decade and a half later, Olivia Rodrigo is not only singing but also writing her own songs for HSMTMTS. No wonder kids these days are bratty — they can stream that level of high-quality television anytime they want.

I Am Not Okay With This (Netflix) // Mera D’Aquila, For The Pitt News

We all love a good story of teenage angst. That universal narrative — the unrelenting struggle to feel “normal” — strikes a chord within all of us. Set the story to a killer New Wave soundtrack and give the main protagonist superpowers? Now you’re talking.

I Am Not Okay With This” is an unconventional take on nonconformity, serving as Jonathan Entwistle’s wonderfully quirky and thrilling adaptation of Charles Forsman’s graphic novel of the same title. For Sydney Novak (Sophia Lillis), a cynical teenager from a dreary town in Pennsylvania, the high school experience is torture. Trying to make sense of her sexuality, coping with the death of her father, and dealing with all of the caveats in a jungle of raging adolescent hormones is no easy undertaking. But imagine having to suppress newfound psychokinetic powers on top of it all — that certainly elevates the pressure. 

There is a beautiful symbolism presented in this story, aptly expressed between the muddled lines of Sydney’s uncontrollable superhuman capabilities and the complex torpedo of emotions that constantly bombard her. The show, while taking place in the present day, feels comfortably steeped in nostalgia. This seems like no surprise coming from the same producers as “Stranger Things.” “I Am Not Okay With This” is reminiscent of Brian De Palma’s classic ‘70s horror flick “Carrie,” using elements of the terrifying and shocking kind to exacerbate the difficulties of high school. Yet there is a deeply resonating dialogue that focuses on using those tribulations as triumphs, about embracing the “abnormal.”

At its core, “I Am Not Okay With This” is humorous and touching. Sydney Novak is played with such wit and vulnerability by the talented Sophia Lillis. Her best friend, Stanley Barber (Wyatt Oleff), feels like the necessary comedic backbone to her misadventures, providing some charismatically cringeworthy commentary. For seven enthralling episodes, allow yourself to escape to that simultaneously nostalgic and uncomfortable high school world, and marvel at the beauty of “the weird.”