Netflix recommendation- Strong (season 1)

Start to realise our natural greatness!

The power of Fomo! I was curious to learn what ‘Strong’ was as I’d seen it pop-up several times on my app, so I clicked on it and right at the top it stated that the title was going to be remove from Netflix on 30 September. Oh no! So although my initial interest in Strong was lukewarm to say the least, all of a sudden I was in a race against time to finish this series before it disappeared forever!

And wasn’t I glad to have this motivator? After episode one, we weren’t sold on Strong and my wife asked “Did we really have to watch this?” And my response was, “We have to, otherwise it’ll be gone after 30 Sept”… As don’t you just hate the knowledge of something not being there, even if you don’t really want it? So we persisted and this is what we thought.

For those who haven’t (and will never be able to watch it), Strong is an American competition reality TV show (10 episodes in length), brought to us by the same Producers of ‘The Biggest Loser’ and ‘American Ninja Warrior’. This makes so much sense now, in hindsight I can see the similarities- as it was like biggest loser meets Ninja warrior!

The 20 individuals who are brought into the competition are 10 Professional fitness trainers (all male), and 10 Trainees (all female). And the teams are made up of one Trainee and one Trainer, after the ladies hand pick a Trainer they would like to work with (after watching them prove themselves in the first physical challenge). After pairing off with their Trainers, spending most of the day, every day, working-out with the aim to become STRONG and to transform their lives. Dependent on what discipline the Trainer is from, they will use more of those techniques to provide their Trainees an all-round work-out.

Throughout each episode, the Teams would come back together to compete in various challenges. Either for immunity from weekly eviction, or to win a medallion which signified $25K in potential prize money, which they’d take home if they won the competition(there was up to $500K up for grabs).

The various challenges were either a team challenge, or only for the Trainee, or only for the Trainer- but all were gruelling which tested their strength, endurance, and competitive spirit.

And at the end of each episode, two teams are sent to the ‘Elimination Tower’, a circuit made up of 6 different physical challenges- testing teamwork, their experience, and of course their Strength! The two teams being the weakest team from that week, and a second team which was put in by the Strongest team from that week (usually for strategic purposes). And at the end of the Tower, the team which took the most time to complete the gruelling tower, were eliminated, stripped of their medallions….. Well, it was less heartless than that, as they were given the time and place to gift their medallions to the remaining teams which they thought were deserving. And before the credits roll, the Trainee who was just eliminated, has a short 30 second package, showing their before and after shots. The before images usually showed how ‘soft’ they were at the beginning, but the after images showed them as ‘model-like’, completely transformed. So everyone was a winner in the end, as the show continued to pay for the Trainee’s training even after they were evicted, until they realised who they wanted to be.

And why did we enjoy Strong?

Action & Drama- Well, it had a good mix of action and reality show catty-ness. In-between challenges, the contestants hang out, either recuperating or eating, and in these social settings there’s bound to be some friction. Either clashing personalities between the Trainers (too many alphas in one den), or a strategic choice to send a strong team to the Elimination Tower, had caused a rift between dudes. So the off-action drama added to the overall drama of the series.

Backstories & Transformations- We also liked it as the show invested time to develop each of the Trainee’s backstories. Each contestant had their personal reasons why they’d come onto the show, and for most their motivations were for noble reasons which you couldn’t help but get behind. And seeing the transformations at the end, and I’m not just talking about their physical transformations, but it was the new found confidence and joy that these ladies took away from the show which made it a ‘feel-good’ show for all!

Emotive & Motivational- And after watching Strong, who could possibly say that they weren’t motivated to get more physically active? I know that for me, there were several tip-bits which I was going to take away with me and add to my own workout regimes to maximise my strength!    

However the elements we thought could be improved upon were:

The team colours- My wife and I spent so much time discussing what other colours they could have used in replacement of a few that they used. There’s so many colours out there, surely there were others better than just white and olive!?

The prize money system- The medallions were kind of confusing? And the statement that they could win up to $500K was also deceptive. At first I thought that the teams could chill out over who were gifted medallions on the departure of a team. As I thought who ever won, would clean-up the entire $500K pot anyway. But no, that wasn’t the case, the winners only took home the amount of medallions they brought into the final eviction tower challenge. Therefore realistically, no team was ever going to win $500K as advertised, as it would require that the winning team either won every single Medallion challenge, or each time a team left, they had to gift their ‘tokens of no value’ to them- which was highly unlikely. And in addition, the runner up team needed to never win a medallion challenge, and be so detestable that no evicted team would want to leave them their hard earned money. So I think the competitors perhaps were lured into this game under false pretences, thinking that they were in for a larger pay-day, when the windfall was much less. And then their winnings had to be halved again between the Trainer and Trainee, so not a lot of coin considering the effort required to win it?

What the challenges tested for- And finally, although each of the physical challenges were different- but they always tested for the same thing- STRENGTH. Yes, yes, I know, the show is called Strong. However in physical fitness, it’s not just about strength- but what about agility, flexibility, aerobic fitness, and skill? I personally thought that too many of the challenges were just based on brute strength, and this was underlined by a certain challenge when a Trainer shouldered all of the weights for his team, because the Trainee was injured and she couldn’t bear any of her own weights. That scene was almost uncomfortable to watch, when this guy was complaining that his blood flow to his head was impeded due to the 170lbs he was carrying, while all the while the Trainee was screaming in his ear to hurry up???

But yeah, perhaps this post is more of a review than a recommendation, because by the time you read this post dear reader, Strong would have already been removed from the Netflix Australia library. Boo! But for the record, it was worth watching, a bit emotive to get off-your ass and start to realise your natural greatness! STRYNG!

Netflix recommendations- BattleBots (2015

Gladiator! Are you ready!?

I promise, no robots were harmed in the filming of BattleBots……. Who am I kidding!? Of course there were robots harmed in the filming of BattleBots, as they’re literally smashed, sliced, torched, tossed around, and demolished for the purpose of our entertainment! Moohaha! And the funny thing is that, showing glee in their destruction is not in-humane of us. Why? Because they’re only robots!

For those who are unfamiliar with BattleBots, or the idea of robots doing battle on TV, here is a brief history lesson. In fact, the genre/concept of duelling robots is not a new thing but has been around for some time, since the mid-90s and was discontinued in the early 00s. However BattleBots was revived in 2015 on ABC (USA), and it is these 2015 – 2016 episodes which have been making their way onto Netflix. Essentially BattleBots is UFC for geeks! Rather than spending years in honing their bodies into chiselled weapons, the boys & girls in BattleBots have spent the past years in building and refining their fighting robots to do their dirty work on their behalf- creating desk sized robots (sometimes coffee table sized) with only two purposes: withstanding some serious pounding, and to give back that same love, in the form of a spinning blade, pincers, flamethrowers etc.

The battles are undertaken in a ‘BattleBox’, a large bulletproof transparent box, lined with obstacles to ensnare and further damage unsuspecting robots. The creators of these fighting bots control their contraptions from a very safe distance outside the box. And their bots do battle for 3 minutes, or until one bot is incapacitated and fails to come too before the end of a standing 10 count.

The show includes short packages featuring the Creators behind the bots, analysis on the effectiveness of each competitor, while most of the show is devoted to the battles. The battle/competition format is by knock-out, starting off with 24 robots, each loser of their bout is eliminated (except for 4 Wildcards),, progressing to the Round of 16, then to the Quarter finals, then to the Semi-finals, then eventually to the Championship round- where the top bot (and its Creator) is crowned and given a giant ‘Nut’ trophy (the nuts & bolts kind of nut, not a giant unshelled peanut).

The season which we watched was BattleBots 2015, hosted by Molly McGrath, Chris Rose and Kenny Florian who commentate on the action, and Alison Haislip is on hand as the sideline reporter to capture jubilant or devastated robot creators, depending if their bot was just smashed to pieces, or if they survived to fight another day.

What I enjoyed the most about the series, wasn’t the on-air action (although it was pretty cool to hear the coming together of two solid metal objects), but it was hearing how excited my wife got from watching gratuitous violence! While we were making our way through the BattleBots series, we were simultaneously watching a few other series on Netflix (a baking show and a sitcom). However when given the option, my wife always elected BattleBots over all other options. Why I found this to be amusing, was that my wife historically isn’t into these types of things i.e. she would never watch a boxing match or a round of UFC, nor was into video games. But now that they weren’t human beings beating each other senseless- it was alright to cheer for blood! Well, at least torn robotic limbs, fried circuit boards, and shredded wheels!

And what was also interesting to see, was to see STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) celebrated, and the boys and girls who possessed it to be assigned Legend status. It’s not often that you have a crowd cheering on an exhibition of ingenuity, smarts and strategy- but here it was!

So if you want to check out a modern day Gladiator battle to the death, check out BattleBots 2015 – 2016 HERE! All it needs is an Emperor figure seated in the crowd, to give the thumbs down, to signify ‘Finish him’ to complete this modern day gladiator scene.

Netflix recommendations- Car Masters Rust to Riches seasons 1 – 3

Reuse, refurbish, recycle!

Please forgive me for using the same tag-line in consecutive blogs, however the act to reuse, refurbish, recycle encapsulates perfectly in what ‘Car Masters Rust to Riches’ is all about! Although we’d might also need to include the terms of improve, beastify, and bling-out, to better describe what they actually do to these pieces of scrap metal.

For those who aren’t familiar with ‘Car Masters Rust to Riches’, it is a Reality TV show airing on Netflix, that showcases the work of Gotham Garage, a custom car shop in California owned by Mark Towle (movie-car builder).   But unlike other Reality TV shows involving custom car work (and there are a few), ‘Car Masters Rust to Riches’ include an element of gamification to their work i.e. they start off with a rust-bucket car, do it up and swap it for a better rust-bucket, and on and on until they can sell their final car for a big six figure pay-day! Thus the show ties in the very first build to the very last, making the show into a very binge worthy series- unlike all other custom car shows where they’re stand-alone episodes which you can watch and just as easily stop watching.

And where most other custom car reality shows are geared for a certain type of viewer (male, male, and male), I personally believe that Car Masters reaches a wider audience because their builds are more outrageous which captures the imagination of both child and adult alike; the vintage American cars tap into baby-boomers sense of nostalgia; and having an eclectic bunch of grease-monkeys (employees) hard at work at the shop helps to appeal to a wider audience. So if you’re not into cars to begin with, I think you’ll still enjoy ‘Car Masters Rust to Riches’, and you may just see four wheeled vehicles in a different light afterwards.

In Season 1, CMRtR stick more closely to the formula of starting out small and building up to the big pay-day. In season two CMRtR started to diverge away, just a little from their original game plan, due to an unforeseen incident and a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity which could not be passed on. While in season three there was a risk that CMRtR became just another ‘West Coast Customs’, where rich people bring their cars to be blinged out. But thanks to Alex, and his ever changing tastes…… He was handed back his car in pieces which allowed Mark and his team to continue on with their aims of creating custom cars to their own specifications with complete creative license. Moohaha!

Not to mention, from all the custom car shows out there- ‘Car Masters Rust to Riches’ was the only title which contains Audio Description for Vision impaired viewers! So for once, I was able to more accurately envision what these vehicular works of art looked like, rather than relying on my teenage memories of cars from 20 years back  to imagine what these completed cars might look like.

So if you’d like to check out ‘Car Masters Rust to Riches’, where they give tired cars a makeover!? Click HERE to start bingeing! They’re ‘bad-ass’! 

Netflix recommendation- The Crown season 3-4

Can we send an abusive message to Prince Charles?

The Crown cinematic universe phase 2? Can I call seasons 3-4 that? As labelling it a historical drama, suggests to the audience that what we’re about to view is true and factual?

Ok, just to take a step back, seasons 3 and 4 of The Crown covers the years from 1964 to 1991- with an entirely different cast to play members of the Royal family. And may I add, all of them played their roles perfectly, absolutely no degradation from the cast of phase 1. And like in seasons 1-2, I enjoyed how the film makers selected significant historical events, 10 per season to tell the story of the Royal family and the United Kingdom, moving their individual stories forward through a span of decades. Not an easy task to pull off, but it was done very, very well indeed.

And as a TV series, from an entertainment point of view it was fantastic! Such great acting, brilliant storytelling, a drama series heads and shoulders above the rest. Something which I’d happily recommend to anyone.

And now that we’ve caught up to where everyone else are at, I thought I was truly more knowledgeable about the Royal family now. Seeing them for who they really are, a normal family with its own dysfunctions like all families are (be that on a grander scale). When previously I could only picture them in the context of their official duties, stoic and lacking personality.

But minutes before writing this post for you, I took some time to read through Wikipedia’s entry on The Crown, and although I knew this was going to burst my bubble but I was super curious to read the content under ‘Historical accuracy’ (or should I say Historical inaccuracies). But now I sit here, actually quite disappointed and angry that critical elements of the show were significantly dramatized, historically inaccurate, embellished, or were outright lies! Sure, I wasn’t naive enough to believe that everything that was spoon fed to me was the gospel truth. However I didn’t think that I was being actively manipulated either!?

To be honest with you, after finishing the last episode of season 4, I was left feeling extremely hateful towards Prince Charles! Throughout the season I’d whisper into my wife’s ear “can we send an abusive message to Prince Charles?” It was our internal joke, after we learned that fans of The Crown were sending him hateful messages after watching season 4. But now to find out that his relations with Camilla were not as they were depicted? I feel a tad silly and foolish now, as I had been manipulated into feeling hostility towards a real life living being (not to mention who may become our future King).

But it wasn’t only Charles who was depicted in an unflattering light, but literally every character in season 4 were depicted to have character flaws! From the Queen on down, right down to Mark Thatcher who had less than 10 minutes of air time. I’m just left thinking now, why? Why has the producers of The Crown manipulated us in a way, so that we think that all privileged and  powerful are A-holes? What are they trying to achieve here?

So after investing more than 40 hours of my life into The Crown, am I more informed about the goings on behind the closed doors of power? Probably not, but now I’m just left cycling through my memories, trying to sort out what was fact and what was fiction. I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like being lied to.

From an entertainment point of view, The Crown was great! But they should warn impressionable viewers like me that what I was going to watch was a work of fiction. Otherwise people may walk away and believe that they’ve just watched a historical account of what really went on behind closed doors.

To view the second instalment of The Crown cinematic universe, click HERE! And to learn what was historically inaccurate click HERE for the Wikipedia entry on The Crown.   

Netflix recommendations- The Circle USA (Season 2

Hotel quarantine, even before hotel quarantine was even a thang!

You have to admit, it’s pretty funny that the only Reality TV competition we can safely hold during a pandemic, is a show where everyone are already socially distanced! And it’s pretty funny how the contestants are so willing to agree to be locked away for a fortnight of total isolation, in hotel like quarantine, as long as they have a shot at $100K at the end of the experience. Perhaps that’s the key in improving mandatory hotel quarantine for travellers, dangle a potential cash prize in front of everyone?

But for those who are unfamiliar with Netflix’s Reality TV game show ‘The Circle’, it’s essentially like ‘Big Brother’, but instead of a large share home where contestants live and sleep together, the Circle contestants are completely isolated from one another. Imagine a serviced apartment from a popular hotel chain, and it’s a bit like that- with occasional use of spa and gym facilities, but all times the contestants are isolated from one another. All interaction is done through an App called the ‘Circle’, and all of their communication is done via text. So plenty of opportunities for misinterpretation- and that is what the producers are hoping for. And if there aren’t enough drama from that alone, then the Circle throws spanners into the mix, by manufacturing scenarios and opportunities for contestants to anonymously back-stab one another! Nice hey?

In every second episode, the contestants are made to rank their fellow contestants , with the outcome being that the two contestants with the most favourable rankings, they are made ‘Influencers’; given the power to block other contestants from the game, evicting them from the Circle building. And at the following episode, a new contestant is brought in to replace the old (this occurs 4 times). But because all interaction is done over an app, contestants can enter the Circle as someone else, a term called Catfishing. And it’s this factor which makes things very very interesting. And surprisingly, when people find out that they’ve been catfished, they don’t really hold it against that person- I guess it’s a part of the game, and expected.

In season 1 we already loved this format, but in season 2 all of your favourite features of the game are still there, however a few more surprises are introduced- so the second season is even better and more fun! The contestants this year also seem to be savvier, as I guess they had seen seasons 1 and perhaps The Circle France and Brazil, so they all seemed quite switched on, except for Chloe. Haaha. But that’s why we liked Chloe. And that’s why season 2 was so binge worthy. We smashed through the 13 episodes in less than a week.

Things we’ve learnt:

If you’re going to catfish someone, at least use your own gender and someone younger than you. Because when you assume a fictitious character who you’ve never lived a day in their shoes, you’ll eventually slip up and you’ll pay for that slip-up (or not……).

In general, people don’t like drama in their lives. Thus don’t rock the boat or come in all guns blazing! Be harmonious and diplomatic, even if it pains you to do so. Well,…….. At least just to their face.

And the last thing I’ve learnt, is that it’s so easy to fool others on social media, that  case on any form of digital communication. As exhibited on The Circle, so this show actually acts as a fantastic reminder to all, to be very careful when online, as there are some pretty weird people on the internet.  

In the end, The Circle was entertaining for us, fascinating to see how people played the game when they can sit behind anonymity. So if you want to check out The Circle for yourself? Click HERE! For us, we’re looking forward to Season 3. 

Netflix recommendations- Penguin Town

Waddle baby, waddle baby, waddle baby!

I don’t think you can find anything on Netflix at the moment, as cute, as amusing, as insightful or as engrossing as Penguin Town!

What makes Penguin Town so cute? Have you seen a penguin lately!? The way they waddle? And don’t get me started on the baby chicks!

What makes Penguin Town so amusing? It’s the o-so-well written voiceover script (narrated by Comedian Patton Oswalt). Not to mention the natural behaviour of penguins already add to the amusement. And the simple fact that the show is presented like a reality TV show, than a snooty documentary- so the reality TV like storylines, intrigue and conflict does it for me!

What makes Penguin Town insightful? Like who knew penguins had such an incredible sense of direction and long, long memories? Who knew they were so human-like (having both good and bad human-like traits)? Who knew they arrange themselves into gangs, with the sole purpose to piss-off other penguins they dis-like? And who knew they were so organised in their child rearing?

And what makes Penguin Town so engrossing? Is that not everything unfolds like a fairy-tale story, this is nature and this is reality and some things just don’t work-out, not to mention each episode ends on a cliff hanger! Which has you sitting there on the couch electing to ‘do nothing’, so that the next episode would automatically play on!

So if you want to check out these 2 feet tall cuties, in their natural habitat of Simon’s Town South Africa? You can check it out right here on Netflix, just click HERE! Waddle baby!