Netflix Recommendations- The Toys That Made Us Season 3

We were all kids once upon a time.

‘The Toys That Made Us’ is a well scripted and highly entertaining Netflix documentary series that re-tells the origin stories and history of some of the most iconic toy franchises from the past half century! Each season (there has been three) feature in-depth stories behind 4 different brands, from the Star Wars toys which accompanied the motion picture (season 1), to ‘Hello Kitty’, the cutesy white cat that was emblazoned on countless pink stationery sets world-wide (season 2).  

It’s funny how these count-down/documentary style programs walk us down memory lane – however once the wizard’s curtain has been thrown back to uncover the truths behind some toys which we held dear to our hearts as kids…it unfortunately somewhat ruins the romanticism of our childhood.

For example, take Transformers (from season 2 of ‘The Toys That Made Us’) – after watching the episode, I was somewhat deflated to learn that my favourite childhood toy was actually just a re-branded Japanese toy, and that the entire cartoon series was later constructed around the plastic robot just to assist toy sales in the West. Well, obviously their strategy worked, as it was these early morning cartoon shows which got me begging and pestering my parents to buy me these things. So finding out that these transforming toys didn’t have a background story, or a connection with one another until the cartoon drew these tenuous links together? This knowledge somewhat tarnished my fond memories of Optimus Prime and the gang. *Sad look*.

 And Season 3 of ‘The Toys That Made Us’ has recently been made available on Netflix – in this season we learn of the brand’s origin stories behind Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, My Little Pony, and Professional Wrestling.

Before watching this, who knew that TMNT was almost dead in the water as a toy when they were not even a twinkle in their father’s eye?; who knew that the action scenes from Power Rangers were actually taken from a much older Japanese kids series?; who knew that the original mind behind ‘My Little Pony’ wanted to produce realistic looking and realistically coloured horses as the final product for girls?; and who knew there’s so much behind-the scenes politics in wrestling!? But you’ll soon also know of these facts, after you watch ‘The Toys That Made Us’ season 3.

However much knowing these truths may baffle and ruin your rose-coloured view of your childhood, if you’re a truth seeker, and knowing all that goes on behind-the-scenes is your thang, then you’ll love the 3 seasons of ‘The Toys That Made Us’!

For me, watching TTTMU it has highlighted 3 things for me:

One. How blessed/fortunate of a childhood I had – as my parents provided me with so so much. I had a bucket full of G.I. Joes, a clothing basket full of Transformers, and throw in a heap of Lego, Ninja Turtles, and Matchbox cars. Truly a blessed childhood. #Blessed

Two. The generational differences between kids- how even a small gap of 5 years, made such a big difference in what types of toys kids grew up playing with. For example, kids who grew up in the 70s were into Star Trek and Star Wars toys. When being born in the early 80s, I was into the latter era G.I. Joe and Transformers as they were all the buzz when I was 7 – 10.

Three. The gender differences- it’s amazing how guys were largely unaware of girl toys, and girls were largely unaware of boy toys. My Little Pony? Raises eyebrows for me. While my wife wasn’t aware that Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson was actually a Wrestler before he became a voice in Moana. Gender differences, so weird, so weird!

But acknowledging credit, where credit is due- ‘The Toys That Made Us’ invested extensive time/resources into research/filming, they had amazing levels of access to key people with firsthand accounts of the time in mention, and the editing and the narration by Donald Ian Black is probably a highlight of the show!

So if you’d like to take a walk down memory lane, geek out over some toys, and learn the secrets behind some of the biggest toy franchises, check out ‘The Toys That Made Us’ on Netflix! And if you just want to read all the spoilers, click HERE for all the episode summaries from Wikipedia.  

Netflix Recommendations- On My Block season 1

Have our young people lost their innocence?

When I started to watch ‘On My Block’ I didn’t know what to expect, but being a kid who grew up in the 90s watching ‘Saved By the Bell’ after school, I couldn’t stop comparing the two shows which both depicted teenagers in their high school years.

Watching On My Block season 1 (2018), and reminiscing on ‘Saved by the Bell’ season 1 (1989), I had to ask, have our young people lost their innocence? Or is ‘On My Block’ targeted at an older audience?

For those who are unfamiliar with Netflix’s ‘On My Block’, the 30 min per episode drama depicts four 15 year old friends (Monse, Cesar, Ruby, and Jamal) as they progress into high school, living and growing up in a rough inner city Los Angeles neighbourhood. In the 10 episodes of season 1, the show touches on adult themes like consensual sex between minors, drug use, gang affiliation, and gang violence. The show is deemed a comedy, and sure there are parts which are LOL worthy, and by and large the acting is convincing and the storyline is compelling enough. But I just can’t stop comparing ‘Saved By the Bell’ and ‘On My Block’ with each other. And the question keeps coming back to mind, have our young people lost their innocence?

Is the contrast between ‘On My Block’ and ‘Saved by the Bell’ due to? –

  1. Our changing society i.e. generational differences, thus marking the changes in our society and changes to our morals over time?
  2. Our youth are actually changing i.e. youth in 2018 are growing up and becoming maturer faster, thus shows targeted at them are now depicting their more grown-up realities?
  3. Or is this a creation by the media i.e. TV Producers are wanting to be more risky and push the envelope for the sake of drawing in viewership, thus including themes which might connect with a wider audience (not just younger teenagers) while planting adult themes into young impressionable minds when they’re actually not ready for them?

But growing up with ‘Saved By the Bell’, which had left a deep impression on my 12 year old self, I do think that I and my peers grew up in a more innocent time, where the main story plots were run-ins with school principals, jocks Vs non-jocks, teenage dating, and teenage pranks, which were themes we could relate to as 12 year olds. And if we take the topics   explored in ‘On My Block’ as an example of where society is currently at, I do think that today’s teenagers are victims of a changing society, victims of a changing youth culture (i.e. younger teens are dealing with adult themes earlier), and our kids are victims of the media’s willingness to expose our kids to riskier topics all in the pursuit of more eyeballs on their product. And to prove this point, is to pull out the adult themes from ‘On My Block’ – themes of gang violence and teenage victims of gang violence; juvenile incarceration; police racial profiling; dreamers separated from their parents; and they were only the more confronting themes, which made underage consensual sex seem ‘everyday’, when topics of sex was way too risque for ‘Saved by the Bell’ 30 years ago. Or perhaps ‘Saved By the Bell’ depicted a ‘White American’s’ version of their reality in Calafornia, whereas ‘On My Block’ depicts a ‘Black/Brown American’s’ version of their reality in California? *Shrug*.  

So I think from a sociological point of view, ‘On My Block’ has been an interesting cultural educational experience and was surprisingly thought-provoking. And for those who are currently parents of little ones, parents of the future Monses, Cesars, Rubys, and Jamals? You’d have to be concerned about where our society is going and where it will be in another generation’s time? What other truly adult themes, will our young people deem as the norm for them in 2028? But look on the bright side, according to Greta Thunberg, we’d all be dead by 2030 anyway. So who cares???!!!

Netflix Recommendations- Rhythm + Flow

You’ve gotta watch-it on Netflix!

N avoida readin’-it on Wikipedia!

To avoida spoiler’s boy-E!

Rhythm +Flow, a Netflix original production (“singing competition”) featuring judges Cardi B, Chance the Rapper, and T.I.! Follow the judges from the Westside to the Eastside, from the Dirty South to the Windy City, in search of the best rappers in the great land of the United States!

Imagine ‘X-Factor’, but minus all the singers and dancers. Imagine ‘The Voice’, but minus all the white dudes. Imagine ‘America’s Got Talent’, but minus all the R N’ B and Gospel artists. And what you left with? Is Rappers! Back to back Rappers! Wall to wall Rappers! Contestant after contestant of Rappers! So if you luv Gangster rap, lyricism, and homies spitting bars? Then you’ve gotta watchit on Netflix!

We start the rap journey with 4 Open mic auditions in LA, NYC, ATL and Chicago. Then the top 30 are flown to LA to take part in 6 rounds of rap  challenges – where the 30 is initially sliced down to 16 through the Cypher round (for you white boys….Cypher is what you call ‘Group work’). Then the 16 is reduced down to 8, after the head to head ‘Rap Battles’. Then 8 becomes 6, after the filming and airing of their own Music Videos. Then 6 is filtered down to 5, after producing their own Samples, their take on a well-known melody. Then a handful become 4, after the collaboration round with today’s hottest R&B artists! And then there were only 4 Rappers remaining in the finale, where the finalists perform LIVE a brand new rap track which they wrote and co-produced in 3 days! All nicely choreographed with pyrotechnics, and judged on their performance and crowd interaction – one deserving winner earns themselves $250K in cold hard cash! Dolla Dolla Bill Y’all!

It’s a modern day TV series classic! 10 episodes of artistry, and you know how they say ‘pressure produces diamonds’? Well, Rhythm + Flow exhibited how Pressure, Hardship, Sacrifice, Talent, and Hard work produces Rap Superstars!

If you wanta checkout Rhythm + Flow for yourself? Click HERE!      

Netflix Recommendations- Fastest Car (Season 2)

Whoo! Fastest Car is back on Netflix for another season of drag-racing down the quarter mile! Yay!

If you’re a car nut like me, you’re literally shaking in excitement to get a second dose of fast metal screaming down a straight stretch of road! But Fastest Car is much more than just fast cars and pedal-to-the-metal for less than 15 seconds – it’s the people behind the wheel! And if you enjoyed the human side of the first season – then you’ll love season 2, as it’s even more about the backstories of the competitors, and oftentimes the car takes a back-seat to the driver.

Hey, I’m a bit of a granite when it comes to emotional stuff, nothing can get this boy teary-eyed. But I have to admit, there were a couple of times even I almost teared up from hearing the life stories of these gutsy drivers. So if you’re thinking to yourself “I don’t give a, about cars”, but if you like Reality TV, I guarantee you’ll still enjoy Fastest Car S2.

But for the car guys, there are still all the sleeper cars, there are still all the American V8 muscle cars, there are still all the inappropriate vehicles (a Toyota Hilux) with big motors dropped into them – powering down the straight like a chubby fella doing a 100m sprint; and of course there are still all the Supercars with everything to lose – lined up against these Frankenstein home-jobs.

The improvements we’ve seen from season 1 to season 2 have been: introducing rules to pre-race, thus eliminating a repeat from last season when a dude did a pre-race burn-out trying to warm up his tyres, which then cause the other cars who were patiently waiting on grid to over-heat – resulting in one heat being a fizzle-out. And the second improvement was in the championship race, they allowed each car to perform a test run, giving us a chance to properly hear each car tear off down the track! And allowing us to hear the other drivers comment on what they thought of their competitor’s start and car performance. This was good, as otherwise the actual race is over way too quickly!

The slight criticisms I have, is that the Supercars which rolled up for season 2 lacked variety. I think 4 of the 6 Supercars this year were all McLarens, which didn’t sound all that crazy compared to the high pitch whine of a V12 Lamborghini or a V8 Ferrari. And as mentioned before, the actual drag race just doesn’t have enough of a build-up to it. So after sitting through almost 40 minutes of lead-up to the race, the race is then all over within 60 seconds – so the ratio between build-up and race just don’t add-up. If they could extend the Championship format to each of the heats, i.e. allowing each car to do a test run? I think that would do the trick for Season 3 (fingers crossed that there is a Season 3). Vroom Vroom!

And the aspects which we enjoyed from Season 1 and were still present in Season 2 were, the diversity of drivers, the diversity of sleeper cars, and there was a healthy representation of female drivers! Which assists all viewers to be able to imagine themselves behind the wheel of a fast car. “See babe! It’s completely normal to be a chick driving a heavily modified sleeper car. And for this reason, why you should let me further modify our Beast……….”

Ok, if I’ve injected some gasoline into your veins, you can check out Fastest Car Season 1 and Season 2 right HERE!  

Netflix Recommendation- The Chefs’ Line

A cooking competition with all the mouth-watering food, minus the bitchiness!

Do you love reality TV cooking competitions? Well, here is another one for you to feast on! The Chefs’ Line originally aired on the Australian Special Broadcast Station (SBS) but since its first airing in 2017, Netflix has now made it available to a wider global audience to binge on.

Presented by Maeve O’Meara, the show features a weekly cuisine, 4 home cooks who take on the Chefs’ Line of a renowned Australian restaurant from that cuisine, and sprinkles in some celebrity judges – and you’ve got a recipe for success! The chefs’ line is made up of an apprentice chef, a station chef, a sous-chef, and the executive chef. And let’s take week one as an example, on Night One –  4 home cooks (majority of whom were from a Vietnamese background) took up their place at the studio kitchen to take on the chefs’ line of Dandelion, a Vietnamese fine-dining restaurant located in Melbourne.

And as the subsequent weeks roll-by, each week is a new cuisine e.g. Italian, Greek, Chinese etc. Each round the cooks are given a task to present their own take on a popular dish from the given cuisine, cooked to a strict time limit. And when the food is presented, one of the three judging panel blind-tastes the dishes, choosing their favourite dish and the least inspiring dish – the owner of which, is eliminated from the competition. And the week’s competition continues until there is only one home cook  standing, to take on the executive chef of the restaurant, taking it to the renowned executive chef at their own game – it’s heart/soul v. professionalism!

The episodes are short, only 25 minute affairs – this short and sharp format ensures that there’s more action and no time for gas-bagging. And with a trio of judges to critique their dishes along the way (Melissa Leong, Dan Hong, and Mark Olive) they bring a level of gravitas to the show.

And in the unlikelihood where a home cook produces the best dish of the night, they’re rewarded with a trophy – while the restaurant takes a hit against their good reputation. And at the conclusion of the week, when all has been decided, Maeve O’Meara drops in on the restaurant and explores the ins and outs of the restaurant – giving them a shameless 30 minute unpaid plug.

All in all, it’s a refreshing make-over to a predictable format. Each week there are 4 new contestants, the head-to-head competition with professionals is fun, a weekly cuisine gives the show structure, and the in-depth look at the inner workings of a restaurant has given me a short list of new places to check-out. So everyone’s essentially a winner in the end!

If you haven’t already taste tested The Chefs’ Line on SBS or Netflicks, click HERE to start gorging! **Note: Unfortunately not all of season 1 has been uploaded to Netflix. Boo!

Netflix Recommendations- Hyperdrive

How fitting, just as our ‘Beast’ was in the shop being modified into a genuine ‘Hyper Hatch’, Netflix uploaded their latest original production reality game-show! I’ve heard others describe it like this, and it is one of the first things which comes to mind as well – but it’s literally like Ninja Warrior for cars! Imagine guys and girls pushing themselves to the edges of their physical limits and performance? But insert heavily modified sports cars, driven by guys and girls pushing their machines to the limits of performance and challenging the laws of physics! This is Hyperdrive!

As difficult as ‘drifting’ already is, but drifting a vehicle was the minimum skill the international list of competitors had to master to be even considered for the tournament! Then include ‘Walk on Water’ which tested drivers’ wits, insert the Leveller which tested drivers’ patience and touch, just add water…….blaster which tested drivers’ timing, and include a set of rails which tested the drivers’ nerves! And each step of the way, our nerves as viewers were tested as well! I can’t tell you how many times I cringed from seeing people’s pride and joys being smashed-up and written-off. Let’s just say we’ll never be attempting to drive through a flooded curb-side drain ever again! RIP baby pink BMW 1-Series.

Look, it’s given that rev heads will enjoy Hyperdrive, but honestly it was the best Netflix original I’ve ever seen on Netflix to date! But if you’re not a car-nut, you’ll still enjoy it as well! As it’s exciting, it’s narrative driven, and it’s not American-centric nor gender-centric! To tell you the truth, this post is a little light-on and premature, as I’ve purposefully avoided Googling ‘Hyperdrive’ for interesting facts and details, as we haven’t finished the series yet- surprisingly Hyperdrive has quite a few episodes to get through. Which is great! So, at time of writing this post, I’m still unaware of who ultimately wins the tournament, but whoever does? They’re completely deserving of the crown! DK baby! DK!

If you’re interested to check it out? Just click HERE!