TV Superlatives: June, July, August – 2020

It’s that time again! We must discuss only the most prestigious of TV Awards: Favorite Sidekick, Best Revenge, Most Horrifying Fashion, Favorite Ship, and more!

A quick reminder for how these work: I will bestow whatever TV shows I’ve recently been watching with such awards, whether they’re currently airing or not. As always, any awards with spoilers will be very clearly marked. As a reference point, here are the shows I’ve been watching for the past few months:

Agents of SHIELD (Season 7)
Village Survival: The Eight (Season 2)
Star Trek (Season 2: Ep. 7-10)
Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (June 7th – August 30th)
13 Reasons Why (Season 4)
Floor is Lava
Mystic Pop-Up Bar
Dear White People (Season 1)
Unsolved Mysteries (2020)
Dark (Season 3)
The Baby-Sitters Club
I Remember You (Hello Monster)
It’s Okay to Not Be Okay
Chip-In
Love in the Moonlight (Moonlight Drawn by Clouds)
Lovecraft Country (Ep. 1 – 3)
Running Man (er, just a bunch of random episodes from multiple seasons)

(You may notice that some shows have two titles listed. K-dramas usually have at least two, and sometimes my brain flip-flops helplessly between both. I’m going to attempt some consistency throughout these superlatives, but I make absolutely no promises.)

Also, clearly, it’s just . . . it’s a lot of K-Dramas, folks. MY LIFE HAS BEEN TAKEN OVER BY K-DRAMAS AND VARIETY SHOWS, AND I’M OKAY WITH IT.

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TV Superlatives: March, April, May – 2020

Well. All is chaos right now, and it’s an absurd time to be talking about TV Superlatives. Regardless, that’s what we’ll be doing here today because at MGB, we believe that when people could use a moment’s break or distraction, what they really want is 5000+ words about cartoons, Chinese dramas, and CW shows.

Still. Before we get to any of that, let me list a few of the many places you can donate to help protestors and support Black Lives Matter:

Black Lives Matter

Campaign Zero

Black Visions Collective

Know Your Rights Camp

NAACP Legal Defense Fund

National Bail Fund (with a Directory of Community Bail Funds)

Please feel free to comment with links to any other related organizations or crowdfunding campaigns that you think need attention/donations. Please do not comment to say “blue lives matter” or any other inane bullshit. Save that crap for your Facebook page that nobody wants to read.

And now for the main event: our Spring TV Superlatives!

A quick reminder for how these work: I will bestow whatever TV shows I’ve recently been watching (whether they’re currently airing or not) with awards like Most Adorable, Best Kiss, Most Unintentionally Hilarious Moment, etc. As always, any awards with spoilers will be very clearly marked.

As a reference point, here are the shows I’ve been watching for the past few months:

The Untamed
Altered Carbon (Season 2)
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Season 7)
Star Trek: Picard
Nancy Drew
Legends of Tomorrow (Season 5)
Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness
Nailed It (Season 4)
Harley Quinn (Season 2)
Kingdom (Season 2)
Medical Examiner: Dr. Qin (Season 1)
Village Survival: The Eight (Season 1)
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (Season 5)

Let’s get to it, shall we?

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TV Superlatives: December, January, and February – 2019/2020

It’s that time again: our winter TV Superlatives!

A quick reminder for how these work: I will bestow whatever TV shows I’ve recently been watching (whether they’re currently airing or not) with awards like Favorite Bromance, Favorite WTF Moment, Best Profanity, etc. As always, any awards with spoilers will be very clearly marked.

As a reference point, here are the shows I’ve been watching for the past few months:

Busted! (Season 2)
His Dark Materials
Nancy Drew
The Mandalorian
DC Universe’s Harley Quinn
Watchmen
The Expanse (Season 4)
A Black Lady Sketch Show
The Witcher
Barry (Season 2)
The Good Place (Season 4)
Star Trek: Picard
Legends of Tomorrow (Season 5)
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Season 7)

Let’s get to it, shall we?

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“Isn’t This Fun? It’s Like a Sleepover.”

Birds of Prey (and The Fabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) apparently underperformed at the box office last weekend–although, also kind of not, like, maybe we could wait half a second before pronouncing it DOA and throwing its corpse to the wolves, thanks? (ETA: Don’t even get me started on the rebranding. I’m flat out ignoring that nonsense.)

Since I did actually see Birds of Prey last Friday, though, let’s talk about the movie, shall we? Because it’s an awful lot of fun, and I really hope more people go out to see it. If Charlie’s Angels meets Deadpool with a side of, IDK, Smokin’ Aces sounds intriguing to you–or if you liked Margot Robbie and the cotton candy sparkle of Suicide Squad but hated the inconsistent tone, the incoherent storyline, the muddy action scenes, the Joker, and basically everything else about that film–well, this one might be worth checking out.

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Triple Scoop Reviews: Shazam!, Joker, and Little Women

Shazam!

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other: HBO Now
Spoilers: Yup
Grade: Vanilla

Imbalanced, but cute. Tonally, Shazam! is wildly different than its DC live-action brethren, which makes it both a breath of fresh air and also a little, like, huh? Shazam! doesn’t always feel like a superhero movie to me; instead, it’s more of a fantasy-action film about magical kids, a film geared towards young children and their long-suffering parents. I’m having trouble describing exactly why those two sub-genres are different, but they have become different, at least in 2020.

There’s a fair bit in Shazam! that doesn’t work for me. Mark Strong’s villainy game, for example, is usually on point–all hail SEPTIMUS!–but he makes for a pretty boring villain here. Dr. Sivana’s origin story has potential, but it goes nowhere interesting, and the film would be better off if the majority of his scenes were cut. Zachary Levi, meanwhile, is generally funny, but it rarely feels like he’s actually playing Billy; mostly, he comes across as any random kid who’s been magically transported into an adult’s body. It creates a real disconnect for me throughout the film, especially when it comes to the conflict between Billy and Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer). Which is unfortunate because that relationship is a huge part of the story. This movie falls down hardest, I think, in its second act.

OTOH, I really do love Billy’s foster siblings, especially Freddy and Darla (Faithe Herman), who are charmingly chaotic and adorably sweet, respectively. The script is sometimes (okay, often) very on the nose about the found family stuff, but fuck it, these kids are cute, and their parents are sweet and well-meaning, and I just want them to all be happy, OKAY? And can I tell you just how much I adored these kids becoming superheroes at the end? The cameos are fantastic: I am 100% here for Adam Brody as Superhero Freddy, plus Ross Butler was a nice surprise, and Meagan Good was delightful as Superhero Darla. It’s especially awesome they get to remain superheroes, too, like I just assumed this would be a one-time sidekick deal, not that we’d end the movie sharing a secret lair. (Obviously, other viewers were prepared for this, but the majority of my Shazam knowledge comes from animated movies like Superman/Batman: Public Enemies and TV shows like Young Justice.) I’m kinda so-so on this particular film overall, but I find the ending so charming that I’m genuinely interested in seeing a sequel.

A few quick asides:

A. Poor Djimon Hounsou. He so rarely gets to play anybody interesting, and this movie is no exception to that rule. Hounsou plays the Wizard who gifts Billy with his powers, and the most interesting thing about him–other than his hilariously fake hair–is that he is just such an incredible dick. Like, I just called him Asshole Dumbledore the whole movie. (Yes, Dumbledore himself is also Asshole Dumbledore, but still.) Cause, sure, you can’t hold this guy responsible for everything our villain does, but you can definitely hold him responsible for being needlessly cruel to a small child, traumatizing countless people across the world, and, oh yeah, that whole car accident thing. I’m just saying.  No one’s weeping for you, my dude.

B. It’s a very minor complaint, but when your bad guy unleashes the seven deadly sins as his henchmen, like, I just wish they were a lot more fun and distinct than this.

C. That last scene with Superman? Fucking amazing.

Joker

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other: On Demand, I think? (My friends rented it)
Spoilers: A few, yes
Grade: Strawberry

Well, I watched it. And as suspected, I just wasn’t into Joker. Joaquin Phoenix is undoubtedly creepy with his weird laughter and off-putting grin and seriously disturbing ribs–like, man’s got a freaky AF energy to him, I will absolutely give him that. But his performance also feels pretty static to me, like, once I’d seen roughly 15-20 minutes, I felt like I’d seen the whole thing. Plus, I’m just kinda tired of awarding rich white dudes for being difficult to work with, and continuing to glorify actors who starve themselves for roles? Like, no, this is so unhealthy for everyone involved; please, let’s just stop.

The narrative structure of Joker goes something like this: introduce a mentally ill man and present him with about 80 triggers until he inevitably explodes. Which is . . . fine, but the build feels off to me here. The revolution is weak, primarily off-screen and inspired by murders I never quite bought as a rallying point. The social commentary feels thin, too; like, “eat the rich” is a pretty popular theme these days, but this might be one of the least successful versions of it I’ve seen. There are some ideas I like, if not always their execution: Gotham from the POV of the lower classes, for instance, or reinterpreting Thomas Wayne as a mega Chief Asshat. The eternal, cyclical nightmare that is this city, how Gotham creates villains by failing the people, and how those villains in turn create our heroes, who only ever perpetuate the system . . . but the writing is just such weak sauce, lazy and muddled. If this wins for Best Adapted Screenplay over Little Women, I swear to God . . .

I also can’t say I’m particularly impressed with any of the female roles, either. Zazie Beetz is criminally underused: her character has no real function, except to serve as a Big Twist, one that fails to be meaningful, compelling, or even surprising. It would, at least, take a modicum of effort before one could cut Penny (Frances Conroy) out of the film, but still, the whole backstory about Joker’s mom is just so . . . meh, all of it, meh. Joker is hardly the worst film I’ve ever seen: the acting is generally fine, and I quite like the cinematography. I had a good time hanging out with my friends and eating pizza, at least. But I just didn’t connect to this film at all, and I remain a bit baffled by its multiple Oscar nominations. There are so many better movies than this. My nerdish heart wants more.

Little Women

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other: Actual Goddamn Movie Theater
Spoilers: Yep
Grade: Chocolate

Initially, my interest in Little Women was mild. I’ve never read the book, and I was pretty content with the 1994 adaptation I’d grown up with. I didn’t know I needed another version of this story. But then I became more interested, partially because I’d like to support more female directors, partially because I desperately didn’t want Joker to be the only Best Picture nominee I’d actually seen, and partially because of this video by Be Kind, Rewind, which examines four different film adaptations of Little Women and discusses how each teaches us something about the era it was made in. (Oh, and because I wanted to finally check out the Alamo Drafthouse, and Little Women was the only film playing that I wanted to see. Not gonna lie, folks: if either Parasite or the less cinematically beloved Underwater had been available, you probably would’ve gotten a different review.)

Happily, I thought Little Women was fantastic. I was surprisingly engaged throughout the film, which is partially due to the changes in narrative structure. It’s not that telling a story using flashbacks is some groundbreaking approach never accomplished before; it’s that using flashbacks to tell this story gives these characters so much more dimension (and their respective arcs better shape) that I could’ve possibly imagined. Not to mention, the juxtaposition of certain scenes, like watching Beth’s miraculous recovery right before Beth’s tragic death, is just beautifully heartbreaking. And while I had my doubts, initially (as “ambiguous” and “meta” are not always words I enjoy when applied to endings), I quite like how this movie concludes. I love that Little Women never forgets Jo’s consistent antipathy towards marriage, and the more I learn about Louisa May Alcott, the more this ending really appeals to me.

The acting, too, is all-around spectacular. Amy is a much more interesting character in this version of the story, and I think Florence Pugh does an absolutely fantastic job. Her acting nod feels well-earned, and the same for Saoirse Ronan, who I think makes for a very compelling Jo. I quite like Emma Watson as Meg, too; considering she previously played both Hermione and Belle, Meg is the non-standard choice, and I’m kind of obsessed with it. I also like Eliza Scanlen as Beth, but I’ll admit, she’s probably the character that suffers most by comparison, if only because “Claire Danes,” “90’s,” and “ugly cry” are so inextricably linked in my head. You know who really gets me to ugly cry in this movie, though? Mr. Laurence, as played by a nearly unrecognizable Chris Cooper. Jesus Christ. I was bawling well before Beth even died because of this kindly motherfucker.

TBH, my only real problem with Little Women is that for a film which gives us a much more sympathetic Amy, I’m at least twice as mad about the whole “burning Jo’s book” scene. Partially because I’m slightly more inclined to forgive Kirsten Dunst purely on the basis of age, partially because Pugh’s Amy is much more deliberate, methodical, and smug about what she’s done, partially because Amy’s apology here feels so obviously forced and insincere . . . but mostly, I think, because there’s something about this new version that seems to especially condemn Jo’s fury, and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I’ll freely admit to carrying some personal baggage with “be the bigger person” arguments, but there are times when that message works for me: Jo not lashing out at Amy about Europe, for example, is one such occasion. But to expect Jo to forgive Amy in less than 24 hours, to show Jo’s righteous fury wholly and immediately redirected at herself after Amy’s near-death experience . . . you know, maybe it’s not that this version is any more cruel than the others. Maybe it’s just that in such a revisionist adaptation, I wish Greta Gerwig had updated this scene as well. Because the idea that you have to forgive your family, no matter what, simply because they’re your family . . . I think it’s an unhealthy message, and it’s my only real disappointment in what I think is otherwise a thoughtful and fantastic film.

Coming Soon-Ish: A Whole Bunch of Trailers From Comic Con

It’s been years since I’ve been to Comic Con, but my little nerd heart still fills with envy every July. All that cosplay, all those panels, and so many, many trailers.

Fortunately, you can get most of that online now.

The Defenders

This looks pretty damn awesome.

I’m not gonna lie: I never actually watched Iron Fist. I figured I’d at least try it, but I read so many crappy things about the show that my already lukewarm interest just fizzled out. There are so many shows that I’m actually interested in trying; I couldn’t make myself waste time on one I just didn’t care about.

I have, however, read a bunch about the show (and have, of course, watched Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Daredevil), so I’m hoping I’ll be more or less prepared for The Defenders because it looks pretty great. Evil Sigourney Weaver looks AMAZING, and I’m absurdly excited by the shot of her and Madame Gao together, like, holy shit, BADASS VILLAINESS ALERT. (I should probably be counting Elektra in that, too, but I had very mixed feelings on Elektra after the giant mess that was Daredevil’s second season.) Meanwhile, our heroes–well, the three I actually care about anyway–are just perfect. I like all their banter, the not-exactly-camaraderie between them. (Particularly, “God, you’re weird.” Jessica Jones is the best.) I am, as ever, super excited about the team dynamics.

But. One thing? It has occurred to my sister and I that Claire is the only character who’s crossed over to all four shows, the only character currently connecting all of our heroes together, and I need to be absolutely clear about this: if Claire dies so that our heroes can have a thematically relevant “push,” I will burn things to the fucking ground.

Otherwise, I’m into it.

Thor: Ragnarok

I almost didn’t watch this trailer. They already sold me with the teaser, and once I’m hooked, I usually try to avoid seeing too much before watching the actual film itself. Ultimately, though, I caved and I’m actually glad I did because this is a spectacular trailer. Still. It’s the last one I’ll watch voluntarily. (I mean, within reason. If a Ragnarok trailer plays while I’m at the movie theater or something, I’m not, like, gonna close my eyes, stick my fingers in my ears, and sing “LA LA LA” to avoid it. Mostly because I’d rather not get murdered by angry nerds. Or at all.)

But man, this looks great. I’m into ALL of it: Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, Jeff Goldblum as Alien Jeff Goldblum, a team-up between Thor and Bruce/Hulk, another team-up between Thor and Loki, Cate Blanchett as the Goddess of Death. (Seriously. I NEED that hat. I NEED IT.) The action looks spectacular, the music is perfect, and oh my God, Hulk talks! Like, for more than three words at a time!

I’m ready for this, you guys. I’m so, so ready.

Justice League

Eh. Flash made me laugh a couple of times, especially the line, “It’s really cool you guys seem ready to do battle and stuff, but I’ve never done battle. I’ve just pushed some people and run away.” HA. I suspect that he and Wonder Woman are easily going to be my favorites. And I’m definitely into J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon.

Still, I feel like my reaction to this trailer was more lukewarm than most, partly because some of the action feels muddy to me, or perhaps because I just couldn’t get past the line: “Superman was a beacon to the world. He didn’t just save people. He made them see the best parts of themselves.”

Cause like, no? I mean, traditionally, sure, that’s exactly what Superman’s supposed to be around for, but you don’t get to just throw in a bullshit line like that after Man of Steel and Batman vs. Superman, where Superman was kind of a glum asshole and half the country didn’t trust his alien ass. That is some what-the-fuckery of the highest order. I am not okay with this.

Ready Player One

This is . . . sort of interesting? It’s been quite a while since I’ve read the book, which if memory serves was enjoyable enough, though I liked it more in concept than execution. That’s kind of how I’m feeling with this first trailer: I’m still interested in the world, in OASIS, in catching all the many, many pop culture references. Considerably less into the VO, however, and many of the CGI/action scenes. I’m not exactly blown away by the look of the film, which is a unfortunate. A story like this, you kind of want it to look spectacular. You want it to look like nothing you’ve ever quite seen.

Then again, it’s only the first teaser. I might be more impressed with other trailers down the road. All I know is, at this point, even I’m starting to get a little tired of everyone’s 80’s fetish. Can we finally skip forward a decade, please? (In the film’s defense, there are 90’s references here: the most obvious one being The Iron Giant. But that line “I wish I’d grown up in the 1980’s like all my heroes” . . . yeah. Cue some serious eye rolling.)

Stranger Things

Speaking of 80’s nostalgia.

I’m definitely more excited about this than Ready Player One. Cause, like, c’mon. Thriller. Plus, so much great spooky imagery and just . . . I don’t know, neat stuff. Sorry, apparently I have no articulation today.

I’m super interested in Will, which is cool because last season was mostly about the people around Will. (That’s not a knock. That’s what first season needed to be. I’m just happy to see second season move past that.) I completely forgot they got Sean Astin for this, which is obviously perfect 80’s casting. And Eleven! ELEVEN!

If I had a negative–and I’ll admit there wasn’t much of one–my initial reaction to seeing Jonathan was this: Oh, right. So you still exist. *sigh*

But honestly, there’s so much awesome here that I’m pretty sure I can deal with Jonathan. And hey, there’s always the chance that he gets eaten by a monster!

Westworld

Nice little teaser. Atmospheric. Violent. Solid music choice.

I don’t have too much else to say about this except that I’m interested, and for the love of God can we find Elsie yet? (Preferably alive, but I suppose I’ll take confirmation of her dead body, too.)

Voltron: Legendary Defender

VOLTRON! While I’m extremely bummed to hear that Season 3 is only 7 episodes, I’m ecstatic to hear Season 4 is coming out in October. So. Okay. I can handle this.

I’m pretty into this trailer. (Definitely more, anyway, than I was into that weird leaked footage or whatever that came out a month or two ago.) I’m happy to see that we haven’t just skipped ahead to a time where Voltron is up and running again, like, I definitely want to deal with Shiro’s disappearance, not just easily replace him and move on until he’s found. Hopefully found? I’m interested in seeing what the team dynamic is like without Shiro: like, there ought to be changes, not just a single scene of Keith angst–although I’m all on board for the Keith angst. Still, I don’t want Shiro to permanently vanish. I like Shiro!

Anyway. I’m jazzed. Less than two weeks to go!

Bright

I’m interested in this. I don’t know if I’m quite as sold as the rest of the internet, and the words “from the director of Suicide Squad” make me shudder just a bit, but a cop movie with orcs and elves and fairies and Will Smith? I mean, how could I not be at least a little interested?

Also: Toyota Corolla. Yes.

Star Trek: Discovery

I feel like every Discovery trailer leaves me feeling pretty iffy, and this one is no exception. Some of it looks interesting: casting, some nice shots. But the trailers still aren’t grabbing me intellectually or emotionally yet, and I really wish I could shake off all the ‘doomed Captain Michelle Yeoh’ vibes I seem to be getting.

Mostly, I have no new thoughts here other than disappointment that Jason Isaacs has an American accent for no good reason I can tell. Also, it’s been officially released that our hero Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) is Sarek and Amanda’s adopted daughter, and while the creators have promised that there’s a great, non-continuity-breaking explanation for that, I’m raising an extremely skeptical eyebrow here.

Come on, people. Haven’t we already deja-ed this vu? Have we not already learned our lesson that giving Spock a sibling that no one’s bothered to mention for decades is a really lousy idea?

Riverdale

Okay, I had my problems with this show by the end of the season, but I absolutely have to check out Season Two now. Oh my God. The melodrama. I laughed so hard at this one line. I’m not even going to tell you the line. I think you’ll know it when you hear it.

I’ll admit to some confusion: I thought Cheryl’s Evil Mom made it out of the fire unscathed? Maybe I’m remembering wrong? Or maybe she ran back into the burning house for some reason? (Perhaps to save Spooky Granny, who was the one I actually thought might have burned alive?) Either way, what matters it that Cheryl is as charmingly disturbing as ever. I appreciate this.

Also worth a mention: do they not have ambulances in Riverdale? Or was it actually quicker for Archie to pick up his bleeding and bullet-ridden father and haul him to that hospital from the 1950’s? Oh, Riverdale, and you’re amazingly outdated town aesthetics. On a positive note, I’ve discovered that my interest in Archie himself has picked up a bit, now that he’s possibly keeping dark secrets and there’s nary a hint of an acoustic guitar in sight. Maybe we can keep that up?

Supergirl

Meh. I mean, I’m still going to watch it. I think S2 was definitely an improvement on S1, but this trailer does so little for me. Normally I’m all about the weird, strange dichotomy between superhero and alter ego, but Kara acting like the decision she made to choose duty over love is an essentially alien choice, and how her whole life as a human has been a lie and angst angst blah blah, just, nope, not here for that. Besides, if two seasons have taught me nothing else, it’s that when Kara gets angsty about something, it usually means she reacts like a snappish 13-year-old, and it’s literally my least favorite thing about the show.

On the upside, I perked up considerably when Adrian Pasdar appeared.

Legends of Tomorrow

This looks like considerably more fun, although some of the footage is old, and I had to roll my eyes a little at the line “Rip has been hiding something from us,” because, like, of course he has. That’s basically what Rip does. (Also, Victor Garber’s Titanic joke, which made Mek laugh and made me go, “Oh, you assholes.” Although we both agree with the sentiment: never, ever step foot on the Titanic.)

I am, however, into Billy Zane and all the circus stuff. And “DIE, CLOWN” definitely cracked me up. Is that a band name? It oughta be a band name.

The Flash

Aaaaaand back to the angst, although I’m actually a little more interested in this particular angst. Seeing the dichotomy between how Iris and Cisco are coping without Barry is kind of fascinating, and makes me wish that Barry was going to be gone for longer than an episode, which I seriously doubt. I love that Iris seems to be leading Team Flash, and I find myself desperately hoping she won’t just disappear on the sidelines when BA returns. I really shouldn’t let myself hope that hard.

I’m . . . okay that Caitlin appears to be on Team Flash again, but I need the show to actually address her dual nature, not just act like everything’s okay again. Cause, like, Jesus, that was one of the only things I praised about the goddamn finale. I’m also pretty bummed that her hair is brown again (c’mon, her Killer Frost look was the best!) and that Tom Felton is apparently leaving the show. That’s disappointing. I liked Julian, and if he’s not going to be around, I really need Caitlin to just be single for a year.

Arrow

Bleh. Not really feeling it.

Considering the nature of last season’s cliffhanger, I’m not surprised about how little we see from most of the cast. (Other than Black Canary, who apparently does survive.) Unfortunately, that means half this trailer is just summarizing the season finale, and the other half is all about Oliver’s relationship with his son. What’s interesting to me about this is that I probably could’ve been okay with William as a recurring character earlier, like Dad + Mayor + Vigilante could have been interesting to see if they balanced it right. But if their whole relationship is just gonna be William, like, semi-brainwashed and blaming Oliver for everything, up to and possibly including his mom’s death? Yeah, I’m not really up for that.

Inhumans

This trailer looks a little better than the first one. Unfortunately, Medusa’s already terrible wig somehow looks even worse in motion. The effects here are pretty awful, and this isn’t some low budget show on TNT or Syfy. I’m not forgiving that crap.

I want to be interested in this. I like superheroes. (Obviously, considering how many superhero trailers I just talked about.) I like Ken Leung and Iwan Rheon. There’s a giant dog. I’m excited about a hero who only speaks through alien sign language. Unfortunately, said hero is coming off awfully blah to me thus far. Rheon appears to be disappointingly typecast, like, I kind of wish he was playing Black Bolt instead. (Or if they actually got a deaf actor, maybe? I don’t know that much about Black Bolt, but couldn’t they use a computer generated voice for the few times he has to speak and kill people?) And I’m still not sure if the show is connecting to Agents of SHIELD, even though AoS is where we were introduced to the Inhumans in the first place. (Agents of SHIELD, man. They’ve been so screwed over by Marvel.)

Finally, Teen Wolf

This trailer isn’t from Comic Con. The season premiere is airing this Sunday, and I decided not to watch any more new footage before then. But I figured I’d post this trailer I saw a couple weeks ago, since it did manage to reignite my interest, what with Stiles and Derek and Jackson and everyone else who isn’t Danny coming back again. (Poor Danny. We’ll never know what happened to you, will we?)

The idea that all the humans are going to be, like, infected with fear or something and turn on all the supernatural folk is kind of fun. My obsession with the show has seriously waned after the last disappointing season, so I’m glad that this trailer has managed to grab me again. Cause, like. Final season. I have to finish it.

But people. I am not here for what appears to be a steamy Scott/Malia hookup in the shower scene. No. Don’t do this, show, not in the last season. Don’t be the Chakotay and Seven of Nine of MTV.

Be a dream sequence, or there will be fierce-if-relatively-impotent disapproval.

ETA: Apparently, they’ve chosen to be the Chakotay and Seven of Nine of MTV. Goddamn it, show.

The 2016-2017 TV Superlatives

Okay, people! It’s that time again: I present the 2016-2017 TV Superlatives!

Rules are basically the same as they were last year. To be eligible for these super duper prestigious awards, a show must have begun its season sometime between June 1st, 2016 and June 1st, 2017. This means that shows like Killjoys and Dark Matter aren’t eligible for their current seasons, but are eligible for seasons that aired last summer. Meanwhile, Voltron: Legendary Defender managed to sneak in both its first and second seasons, while shows that would normally be eligible, like Game of Thrones and Orphan Black, won’t show up here today because they both postponed their premiere dates. And because my fiendish buddy Alyc got me into kdramas, I’ll also be including any Korean shows I watched that originally aired within that June-to-June timeframe. (So far as I can tell, it only includes a couple. Most of the shows I’ve checked out so far aired in 2015 or earlier.)

With that all settled, let’s get started.

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A Bunch of Season Finales: The 2016-2017 Edition

I try to plan my time well. Sometimes, I fail. And when it came to updating my reactions to season finales as they occurred, well, I totally kind of failed.

So here are some thoughts on just a whole bunch of season finales, some which aired last week and some which aired quite some time ago.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD, MATEY.

Legends of Tomorrow

“Aruba”

Okay, seriously, I know. This episode was like two months ago, but it felt weird to talk about every CW superhero show except for this one.

No show has earned its Most Improved Certificate like Legends of Tomorrow has. It was a huge turnaround. There are still the occasional problems, like, ignoring Maisie Richardson-Sellers and Dominic Purcell’s natural chemistry in favor of a sudden Vixen/Steel romance, who are not only pretty boring together but are also sometimes actively terrible teammates, like that episode where they’re just busy have sex while everyone else is actively in harms way? No. Vixen is SO much better than that. Otherwise, though, the show has fully embraced how fun and silly its concept is. The Legion of Doom were great antagonists. And it helps that the show got rid of its three worst characters, too.

So, what the hell happened in the finale anyway? Right, Tiny Rip Hunter attacks Damien Darhk in his Itty Bitty Wave Rider, which, I think I can let Neal McDonough speak for all of us when he asks, “Isn’t that adorable?” The Legends go back in time, try to avoid their past selves, predictably fail the hell out of that, and somehow manage to both fix time and break time, all at once. One version of every team member dies, and while this was pretty much inevitable, the death scenes generally work anyway. Sara gets the Big Decision moment of using the Spear of Destiny wisely, which I loved. And Reverse Flash finally died, which was–well, kind of sad, actually, because I know he’s the bad guy who’s been kind of, sort of dying for years now, but . . . come on, he’s pretty awesome, right? Oh, and of course we end with dinosaurs. Everything is better with dinosaurs. Except Terra Nova. Even with them, it still sucked.

Last year, I wasn’t sure if I’d even give Legends of Tomorrow a second go. This year, it’s easily my favorite superhero show on CW and a serious contender for favorite superhero show on any network. (Its main competition? Luke Cage.)

Finale Grade: A-
Season Grade: A-

The 100

“Praimfaya”

The 100 has its problems, but it tends to rock season finales, and this one was no exception. Instead of their usual setup, though (Clarke makes a hard choice that saves a bunch of people and gets a bunch of other people dead), this episode had a lot less murder and a lot more race-against-the-clock action, which was fun. I liked a lot of the small moments: Monty hugging Murphy, Raven and Bellamy looking down at the fire-swept Earth, Bellamy stopping Echo from killing herself (not to mention Raven’s reaction when she walks in).

I don’t think it was a big shock that Clarke got left behind, but that’s okay because all the surprises and questions were left for the last few minutes anyway. Like, the prison ship? WTF is up with that? Why haven’t Octavia and the majority of humanity come out of the bunker? Why haven’t Bellamy, Raven, and the others come down from space? Has anyone important died during this six-year gap? You’ve gotta assume someone has, right? I mean, this is The 100. People die on this show every two weeks. Also, Monty: does he have hands anymore? My money says he lost at least one. (He better not have died. Him, or Raven. I will be extremely displeased.)

I think my biggest concern for the next season is to make sure we really feel the time jump. Six years is a big gap: relationships are going to change. Some of my closest friendships are with people I met less than six years ago. That length of time really needs to be addressed. (Also, if we can continue avoiding Season 2 and 3 mistakes, where a previously reasonable character commits a massacre for totally BS reasons, that would be good too. Oh, and if Bellamy and Octavia reunite, just for one of them to get dead moments later? I HATE that kind of bullshit. That’s tragedy that’s just trying too hard. Don’t do it, show.)

Finale Grade: A-
Season Grade: B+

Agents of SHIELD

“World’s End”

So, that was enjoyable. This has been, for the most part, a pretty consistently good season of Agents of SHIELD. Ghost Rider worked a lot better than I would’ve imagined, The Framework was fun, and Aida is just the fucking BEST. “World’s End” wrapped up things pretty well, not to mention gave us a time-jump cliffhanger that worked a lot better for me than last year’s. Like, um, Coulson’s in space. I mean, yeah, I wanna know how that happened.

Some random notes on the finale itself:

A. When Talbot got shot in the head, I was immediately all, “NOOOOO! NOT ADRIAN PASDAR!” But then he had a pulse, and I was like ” . . . huh. What are you doing with that, I wonder?” Cause while people obviously can and have survived being shot in the head, it’s not usually the kind of thing that happens in a movie or TV show unless there’s a very specific reason for it. Survive a shot to the gut or chest, okay. Survive a shot to the shoulder, whatever. But a shot right to the noggin? That speaks of A Plan. Will Talbot turn out to be an Inhuman? Was he an LMD? Is the real Talbot dead somewhere, or will we return to discover he has plot-relevant brain trauma? Adrian Pasdar is a huge scene stealer in this show, and I find I’m very curious about this.

B. Dude, Coulson is (temporarily) the Ghost Rider! AWESOME. That was a great little twist. Also, what exactly is this secret deal Coulson made? Oh, the intrigue.

C. Mack reassuring Hope that he’d never leave her, and Hope disappearing in the middle of that reassurance? That was sad. It was a really nice scene. That being said, I still and forever can’t take “hope” seriously as a name. I’m sorry, all you Hopes out there. I’m sure you’re wonderful people, but lines like “Hope is dead” or “Hope was never real” kinda make me wanna claw my face off.

D. Radcliffe’s “death” scene was also nicely handled, especially the part where I didn’t have to hear him finish quoting T.S. Eliot. I mean, I get it: it’s all kinds of thematic, it’s where the episode’s rather literal title comes from, etc. It’s just that this particular bit of “The Hollow Men” is awfully overused.

E. “Robot May was way more supportive.”

F. I really like the moment where Daisy is nice to Fitz, not just cause she’s summing up the theme of the season, but because I’ve always liked their friendship moments. Like, when he was there for her back in Season 2 when she found out she was an Inhuman. More Daisy & Fitz moments!

G. Finally, the diner scene managed to be both cute and creepy. I was like, oh, shit, we’re not heading into some crazy Sopranos bullshit, are we? Thankfully, everyone just got frozen. And somehow Coulson goes to space. As you do.

Finale Grade: B+
Season Grade: A-

Santa Clarita Diet

“Baka, Bile, and Baseball Bats”

Okay, so, this is even worse than Legends of Tomorrow. I think Santa Clarita Diet aired all the way back in February, but I pretty much just binge-watched the whole thing last weekend, so, here it goes.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the hell out of it. There are times when the humor feels a bit uneven to me, like I get it, zombies in suburbia, it’s funny . . . but you’re leaning just a little too hard on that joke. There are also times where I find myself thinking Drew Barrymore could be a bit stronger. Not always. She has a lot of moments I like, actually, but there are times it doesn’t quite feel natural. This could be because Rose McIver from iZombie has spoiled me for Outstanding Actress in a Zombie Comedy. (I mean, it’s not Highlander. There can totally be more than one. It’s just that when the comedy does feel a bit stilted, I usually notice it the most from Barrymore.)

That all being said, I laughed a lot while watching this show. Seeing Timothy Olyphant continuously on the verge of total hysteria after watching him play stoic Raylan Givens for six seasons on Justified is just the gift that keeps on giving. He is spectacularly well cast. I’m also a huge fan of Abby (Liv Hewson), and her dynamic with . . . well, everybody, actually. The satire sometimes gets a bit on the nose,  sure, but the show does a surprisingly awesome job addressing relationships within the family. The character work never gets forgotten, which is kind of great. The dialogue is often witty as hell, and some of the cameos are AWESOME.

I don’t have too many specific thoughts on the finale itself. It was decent, though I think I enjoyed the episodes leading up to it more. Although it did have one of those awesome cameos I was talking about: Portia de Rossi. I actually haven’t seen her in quite a while, and I liked her in this. And a-ha, we’ve left on a cliffhanger, I see! You bastards. Here’s to hoping that Abby badasses her way into saving the day. And Eric helps by science-ing the shit out of the not-cure. (I’m super relieved we’ve already addressed that the not-cure won’t actually turn Sheila back into being a human. Cause that sort of kills the show, and yeah. No one wants that.)

Finale Grade: B+
Season Grade: B+

Elementary

“Hurt Me, Hurt You”

I liked this finale, even if I totally guessed the brain tumor (or whatever) twist because, yeah, that woman was absolutely not real, and dude, Sherlock don’t sleep. I like that we finally got DarkJoan!, something that’s been hinted at a number of times but has never really gone anywhere until now. Dead Mom might have been a bit obvious, but I do have something of a soft spot for Sherlock’s mommy issues, so, you know. I’m okay with it. And Aidan Quinn’s pinky swear line was just the best thing ever.

Sadly, I just really haven’t been into this season of Elementary at all, which has been pretty disappointing after how much I enjoyed Season 4. I’ve been trying to figure out why it hasn’t worked, and I think maybe it’s because the whole season has felt out of balance. I liked the idea of Shinwell, and Nelsan Ellis did some awesome work, but at a certain point it seemed like the show forgot about his relationship with Joan and only focused on Sherlock’s relationship with Shinwell, which I found frustrating. The finale is mostly solid, but does feel a bit rushed, particularly in regards to Sherlock’s medical crisis. I kind of wish Shinwell had died at least three episodes before he actually did; then we’d have time to really build Sherlock’s memory problems, not to mention give Joan a story arc that lasts more than two episodes.

Also, did the cases seem even more convoluted than normal this year? Admittedly, I’ve never really watched this show for the procedural aspect, but still. A clown got murdered and it ended up being about, what? Tainted water supplies and trying to shake down the entire city of New York, or something? The hell? I may not generally watch for the procedural stuff, but this is the first year I started actively tuning it out.

Finale Grade: B+
Season Grade: C

Supergirl

“Nevertheless, She Persisted”

So, this was okay. It felt a little unbalanced to me, maybe because it was so focused on Supergirl and Mon-El that other characters just seemed to be twiddling their thumbs in the background, especially Alex. (James too, though.) I really assumed the show was writing Mon-El out (I always got the sense that he was a one-season character, and that Happy Times dream sequence near the beginning of the episode only seemed to strengthen that hunch), so I wasn’t surprised by his departure . . . until we hit that last shot, where he seemed pretty freaked while heading into that wormhole (The Phantom Zone?) or whatever. So now he kind of has to come back, right? (Which I’m actually glad for: I always rather liked Mon-El, despite not always caring about his storyline. Maybe he’ll just have to wear, like, an EVA suit or something? It’s funny how aliens never really seem to think of that . . . although, to be fair, I’m not sure I’d wanna try and conquer a planet that would literally turn me into dust after ten seconds of exposure, either.)

Still, there were some cool moments in that finale. Supergirl’s and Superman’s fight scene was fun. (So much punching!) Winn mouthing the words “I love you” at Superman. And Cat Grant knows Kara is Supergirl! YES! Also, I see we’re setting up our next Big Bad, which is cool but also kind of unintentionally hilarious. I can’t help myself: anytime anyone sends a Baby Rocket off from Krypton, my eye twitches a little and I’m like Okay, SERIOUSLY? Why do you only make infant-sized spaceships, you lunatics? I don’t know a whole lot about Reign, but considering how subtly they dropped the word, it wasn’t too hard for Mek to do a quick Google search and find her.

I sometimes struggle with Supergirl (usually with both Kara’s completely baffling understanding of journalism and her frustrating tendency towards petulance, something she and Barry Allen really, really have in common), but overall I thought this was a much stronger season than the first one, despite the tragic lack of Cat Grant. Alex’s self-realization and coming out storyline was great. I really like Winn and James’s friendship/partnership, and I’ve been very happy with Lena Luthor so for. I’m all about her friendship with Kara, and I’m happy to see more of her next year. Gotta be honest, though: if they do ultimately go down the ‘All Luthors Are Eventually Evil’ road, I’m gonna be extremely disappointed, and y’all are gonna be the ones hearing about.

Finale Grade: B
Season Grade: B+

Arrow

“Lian Yu”

For the most part, I thought this was a pretty decent season finale . . . although I’ve gotta admit, Slade’s whole “the mirakuru burned outta my system ages ago, so sure, I’m totes sane and on your side” thing? Yeah, I really didn’t buy that. (Also, I didn’t remember Digger Harkness at all–well, except as That Awesome Guy From The Expanse–so when he showed up on the island, I was like, wait, what? Who the fuck is this dude?)

But the action was enjoyable enough, we officially wrapped the island (by blowing it to hell, natch), and best of all, Adrian Chase is finally dead! YAY!

Unfortunately, I had a lot of problems with this season, as I almost always do with Arrow. I don’t want to give it up because I’ve been watching it since the beginning and, well, crossovers, but unless the ratings take a dive or Stephen Amell wants out, I doubt Season Six is going to be its last . . .and I kinda think it should be.

I will watch the premiere next season to see how that dubious cliffhanger shakes out; I don’t know, maybe it’s the optimist in me, but I’m thinking Arrow probably didn’t just blow up almost its entire cast. That being said, I think someone at least semi-important should probably die, cause otherwise that cliffhanger is gonna end up feeling a little cheap. Not really sure who I’d want it to be, though. Thea, maybe? I mean, I doubt it after Malcolm apparently bit the big one saving her life, but after five years (in Hell) this show still doesn’t know what to do with her. (I know, though! Ship her to Legends! She’d be so much more fun there! Why doesn’t anyone listen to me?)

Finale Grade: B
Season Grade: C

The Flash

“Finish Line”

Oh, The Flash. I have lots and lots of thoughts about The Flash.

This has been a very rocky season with significant ups and downs, and I think the finale suffered because of that. On one hand, there were a lot of things that I really liked: Iris killing Savitar, Cisco not forcing Caitlin to take the cure, Caitlin saving Cisco and taking off for a journey of self-exploration, not quite Caitlin Snow anymore but not quite Killer Frost, either. These are all good things . . . that all feel rushed in this jam-packed finale.

I’m especially disappointed about Caitlin, because that scene where she turned on Savitar could have been such a Big Moment . . . but it just feels like the show ran out of time. (Caitlin’s been something of a mixed bag all season. On one hand, I never truly bought how they handled her whole ‘my powers cause my evil split personality’ or whatever. On the other hand, it’s still a remarkable improvement over last season because it finally gave her something to do, and didn’t wrap up as easily as it could have.) Honestly, even Barry going to the Speed Force Prison feels a little rushed to me. I’m glad he’s going because a) consequences and b) every other speedster already has, like, dude, it’s totally you’re turn, bro. Still, the cliffhanger feels a little tacked on to me. And, c’mon, it’s not like he’s gonna stay there.

HR’s death didn’t really work for me, either. I didn’t mind him dying; hell, I predicted it months and months ago, and the idea that I might finally get Harry back in some meaningful capacity makes me grin from ear to ear . . . but I also wanted to have some emotional reaction to HR’s sacrifice, and I had zip, zero, nada. It’s not just because I prefer Harry, either; HR has, surprisingly, grown on me, and he’s had some nice moments this season. I should have felt something. Instead, his death scene actually struck me as pretty corny. This may in large part be due to how ridiculously rushed his romance with Tracy is, like, c’mon, these two have know each other, what? 20 minutes? (I do, however, like that the show acknowledge that every version of Harrison Wells has a connection to Cisco. I’m curious to see how that will go next season, assuming Harry does stick around . . . which he better, goddamnit.)

Hey, and you know what else didn’t work for me? Barry extended his hand to Savitar. I wanted to like it. I really did. If he had tried a couple of episodes ago, I might have. Or if happened several episodes after HR died, maybe. But Barry trying to make nice with our Big Bad, like, seven seconds after he murdered a member of Team Flash didn’t ring true to me at all. I want Barry to be a compassionate hero. I totally agree with Captain Cold on this one: The Flash oughta be capital ‘g’ Good. But come on. Would this have happened if Savitar murdered Iris? What about Joe? Or Cisco? Would he really be trying to offer an olive branch then? I think not, which makes HR’s sacrifice feel even less important, like he was always basically disposable. And if he was disposable, how am I supposed to take Team Flash’s grief for HR seriously?

Finally, Iris. Oh, Iris.

Candice Patton deserves so much more than this show. The entire back half of the season was about saving Iris from her foretold demise; how many episodes, then, do you think focused on how Iris felt about that? Right, one. ONE. Iris has, once again, become little more than The Woman Barry Allen loves, and it’s so fucking frustrating. For one thing, I just know from the dark, murky depths of my soul that if this “I’m doomed to die” story had been handed to any of the male characters, they’d have been given so much more time for interiority. But my anger also stems from the fact that Candice Patton does so much with the very few badass moments she gets; she could have rocked this storyline, and they gave her no opportunity to do so.

Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, and Willa Holland really need to have their own superhero show. Shit, they could be Gotham City Sirens! Patton could be Catwoman, Panabaker could be Poison Ivy, and . . . well, while it’s kind of hard to picture Holland as Harley Quinn, I’d be willing to see her try it! After all, it’s hard to know how much range an actress has when she’s conveniently out of town for five episodes per season.

Finale Grade: B-
Season Grade: B-

Riverdale

“The Sweet Hereafter”

For a while, I was super into Riverdale. I loved, in no particular order, all the absurd campiness, Betty and Veronica’s friendship, scheming Mrs. Cooper, Cheryl and her insanely gothic family, MAPLE SYRUP, etc. Also, lines like “I’d love to stay, but I’ve got to shake down an evil adventure scout,” those were gold.

But unfortunately, the show really lost steam for me as it went on, and the finale was no exception to that. I’m glad we wrapped up Jason Blossom’s murder, even if I’m disappointed that it was ultimately Clifford Blossom who did it, but the show faltered pretty hard when it strayed away from the mystery aspect, and it did that way too often. No one cares about Archie’s singing, okay? NO ONE.

And, look. Sometimes I struggle relating to criticisms about queer baiting, not because I don’t want to see more canon queer relationships, but because I thrive on stories that center on platonic relationships, and sometimes find it difficult when people want to turn those relationships romantic. It feels like people are saying these relationships that I find so significant don’t really matter because they’re Just Friends. Intellectually, I know that there’s so much more to it than that, but instinctively, I struggle a lot.

I’m bringing this up now because for as much as I love its maple syrup and murder, Riverdale is the rare show where a sense of queer baiting did hit home for me, only it wasn’t really the moment in the first episode where Betty and Veronica kiss. (I took that as a joke that didn’t quite play the way show intended it to, critiquing teen movies in the 90’s and early 2000’s that tried to be “edgy” by having two women kiss for, you know, one scene.)

No, my problem was with Jughead’s sexuality. The creators said Jughead wouldn’t be asexual . . . but then they also said Season 1 was an “origin story” and implied the teens would learn about their sexuality or lack thereof as time went on. Then Cole Spouse talked a lot about how he’d argued for the character to remain canonically asexual, but while he’d lost the battle for this season, who knew for future seasons down the road? Which, hey, that all made sense: sexuality isn’t static and not everyone figures this shit out right away, so there’s hope, right? And Jughead and Betty’s relationship was important, but not exactly hot and heavy (at least, not until the finale), and often their romance felt more like a friendship punctuated with occasional kisses–so I could easily see a story about how an aromantic Jughead doesn’t know exactly what he’s feeling for this friend who’s been with him through all this crazy murder shit and confusing it for romantic love.

But after the season finale, it just feels so clear to me that Riverdale never had any intention of doing anything like that, and I was like, Goddamn, I didn’t realize how much I wanted this until a brief hope was offered up and then snatched away again. It’s funny, too, because before I’ve always laughed at CW’s cheesy “Dare to Defy” slogan (especially in that promo where Stefan has his arms stretched out like Jesus, like, OMG, the giggles), but whenever I heard it while watching Riverdale, all I could think was Please. Exactly what are YOU defying these days?

Other random thoughts on the finale itself:

A. Wait, there’s another high school? Seriously? This town is big enough for a second public high school, one where all the poor kids go? I call bullshit, sir.

B. I’m not exactly sold on the kids’ critical thinking skills. It’s too dangerous to go out on the ice to save Cheryl, except that when she goes under, they ALL go out there . . . but mostly just to stand around while Archie does all the work (first time for everything). Like, come on, guys. You could have done that from the shore. Then, defying all sense of logic, reason, or common sense, our young heroes don’t take Cheryl to the hospital (cause sure, she only drowned in freezing water in a suicide attempt, but whatevs, she’ll be fine), and somehow making matters even worse, they leave her ALONE, even allowing her to go back home to The House of the Damned?

Nope, not having it. These kids are the worst.

C. Loving Josie’s hair in the finale.

D. While I’m not deeply interested in Betty and Jughead’s impending Trouble in Paradise (and while I’m really not interested in restarting the Betty/Archie/Veronica love triangle), I am kind of into Jughead becoming one of the Serpents. That moment felt earned.

E. No, they shot Luke Perry! Actually, I kind of don’t care that much, although I generally enjoy him on the show, even if he didn’t end up being the murderer like I’d foolishly hoped. I just know that this is going to fuel Archie’s Angst, and while this hopefully means Archie will end up doing something more interesting than singing angsty songs at talent competitions . . . I don’t know. I have the sneaking suspicion Archie going to get Kara and Barry levels of petulance with his angst.

F. Seriously. Did they just burn up Nana? (Maybe she’s a fire-witch, or otherwise immortal. Seriously, these fucking show runners. They teased and teased and teased that Sabrina the Teenage Witch would make it on the show, only to give us some bullshit Easter egg comic in the finale. How awesome would it have been if the last episode switched genres on us? I mean, it’s not like there hasn’t been some buildup for it. I’m completely bummed by what will apparently be a supernatural-free second season, to the point where I’m starting to wonder exactly how invested I am in checking the second season out all.)

Finale Grade: C
Season Grade: B-