I was a bit reluctant to start Season Two of Netflix‘s CHEER, not because I didn’t love the first season, but because I remember having a very hard time leaving it all behind. I fell in love so much with Coach Monica Aldama and the Navarro College Cheer Team so much that I felt sad with the Series ending on such a high note. Like millions of other fans who were drawn into Greg Whiteley‘s phenomenal Docu-Series, I followed all my favourites on Social Media and still am following them, eager to see where life has brought them since Season One brought them so much recognition. But alas, catching-up again with them was well worth it.
CHEER Season Two goes to some dark places in which the first season only began to scratch the surface. Many of these talented athletes come from a deep place of unhappiness in their life journeys and cheerleading has given them an all-or-nothing outlet and purpose. But after finding fame with the success of Season One and winning Daytona’s National Cheerleading Championship in 2019, some of Navarro‘s stars have gone on to do some lucrative things. Aldama for one competed on Dancing with the Stars and released a Memoir. Some of the athletes landed high-profile gigs in modelling and TV. But opportunity has created a strain on some of the deep familial bonds between Aldama and the team and Whiteley explores this. Add to this the 2020 National Cheerleading Championships being cancelled amidst the pandemic, meaning a full year of practice went in vain, plus former team member Jerry Harris set to go on trial for sexual assault and child pornography charges, life hasn’t been the happy ending we got last time.
Whiteley takes us right up to the 2021 National Cheerleading Championships and with that, we see some team members move on to new things in their lives and some new promising athletes enter the picture. But more than ever, we see Aldama and the team faced with some difficult challenges. For one, they no longer are the underdog. We meet Navarro Cheer’s toughest opponent in Trinity Valley Community College‘s Cheer Team, which now is under the guidance of Vontae Johnson, who is tough as nails and driven to win. We get some of the stories of this team, including the talented Jada Wooten who goes on a bit of a growth journey in her time with the team. She’s full of fire but her journey becomes about channeling it. And with this, the team and Aldama must overcome this bit of a rough patch, including some internal feuding and power struggles. The emotions run strong and we see Aldama and the team at their most vulnerable. Whiteley really does a phenomenal job seeing this through the bigger lens, asking the tough questions, and is there to confront them. There are tears, gray area and in that, authenticity.
This second season gets a bit more time over nine episodes to tell this phase in Navarro Cheer‘s story, capturing the bright, shiny veneer of this young adrenaline-packed sport, but also the complex feelings in these big personalities, keeping us invested. We genuinely feel for Aldama and her team and live to see them thrive once again. It would be cruel not to have a third season of this.
The most wonderful thing about this time of year is that we get to catch-up on TV. While we spend much of the year seeing theatrical releases, we regret missing some great Television so these past few weekends we’ve found out what the buzz is all about with some recent Golden Globe Award winners and nominees, plus also some new releases. Without going too much into detail, we’ll give you our thoughts on some shows that absolutely are worth your while! We hope you get some inspiration in your own winter watching!
THE MORNING SHOW (APPLE TV+)
This ten-episode Drama Series starring Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston helped launch subscription service Apple TV+ back in December. It surfaces in a timely manner as we enter this post-#MeToo era, exploring the aftermath of taking action on Sexual Misconduct in the workplace and healing some aged wounds. It definitely veers on the melodramatic and is a bit too passionate for its own good, but no one can deny the phenomenal work here by Witherspoon and Aniston, who play-up dueling female competitor tropes. It takes a while to get going, but proves worthwhile the deeper you go.
YOU – SEASON TWO (NETFLIX)
Joe (played masterfully by Penn Badgley) comes back as Will in the second season of this failed Lifetime Series which gained a massive following after surfacing on Netflix. Serial killing and stalking has never been as seductive as this and although You is all sorts of wrong, we were just as obsessed with this season which manages to be just as messed-up as its predecessor. Joining the Cast is Victoria Pedretti (The Haunting of Hill House) as Love and in her Will finally has met his match. James Scully is grating and unpredictable as Love‘s twin brother, but what Psychological Thriller is complete without an unstable twin? Teen Actress Jenna Ortega as a wise-beyond-her-years Ellie and Carmela Zubado as Delilah are welcome additions to the Cast and Gotham‘s RobinLord Taylor is unrecognizable in a surprise turn as a hacker who knows too much, also named Will. You Season 2 quashes the perception that follow-ups and sequels suck.
THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL – SEASON THREE (AMAZON PRIME VIDEO)
Season three of this Golden Globe and PrimetmeEMMY Award-winning Series continues putting its star Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) front and center and she once again proves outstanding. The eight-episode season sees her character supporting Singer Shy Baldwin (LeRoy McClain) on-tour and we see her go from Las Vegas to Miami fighting to win herself some new fans. All the while, she navigates her split from ex-husband Joel (Michael Zegen) and custody of their children. Her eccentric parents (Marin Hinkle and Tony Shalhoub) shine also as they cope with having to downsize and sell their beloved family home. We also see charismatic manager Susie (Alex Borstein) cope with her gambling addiction and balancing having to oversee Midge‘s career and that of competing funnywoman Sophie Lennon (Jane Lynch). Things get a bit messy and we’re here for it, leaving us on a bit of a cliffhanger.
FLEABAG – SEASON 1&2 (AMAZON PRIME)
I admit it, I zipped through this quick watch and wasn’t sold on Season One at all. I didn’t get it. I found Fleabag (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) grating and irresponsible, feeling little empathy for her. Season Two took this Series to a high point and I absolutely got it! I enjoy Waller-Bridge’s ability with lightning-fast ability to break the Fourth Wall with us and soon I found myself connected intimately with her. And “Hot Priest” (Andrew Scott) is so worth the wait and her bond with on-screen sister Claire (Sian Clifford) make this all so magical. Here for this, and sad there won’t be a third season.
DON’T F**K WITH CATS: HUNTING AN INTERNET KILLER (NETFLIX)
I am a bit queasy with True Crime stuff and remember as a kid torturing myself watching Unsolved Mysteries alone at home and being messed-up for days after. Repeat weekly and you’ll understand why I have issues. The three-part Netflix series centers on the capture of Canadian murderer Luka Magnotta with the help of some savvy internet crime solvers hot on his trail, piecing the clues which took authorities on an international manhunt. Especially eery that some of this hits close to home with Toronto being where Magnotta once lived and their insistence on looping over and over real footage of Magnotta murdering kittens, with the gory bits kept off-screen. It is hard not to get caught-up in Mark Lewis‘ relentlessly-intense storytelling and the access he gets us whether it be Magnotta‘s mother or his actual interrogation after being caught and brought back to Canada.
KILLER INSIDE: INSIDE THE MIND OF AARON HERNANDEZ (NETFLIX)
While we know only bits and pieces of disgraced Football star Aaron Hernandez‘s story, this three-part Docu-Series gives us some insight to the circumstances surrounding his conviction and eventual suicide. Director Geno McDermott takes us on a gripping ride as we go right inside the courtroom and literally right into Hernandez’s brain as we see the impacts of his Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. We also get never-seen-before interviews with those from his past including a lover, suggesting that Toxic Masculinity and a deep-fear of his sexuality being uncovered may have played a role in his downfall as well. We found ourselves asking more questions than before we started and get the bigger picture in this great American tragedy.
SPINNING OUT (NETFLIX)
Filmed right here in Toronto, this Figure Skating Drama series takes bits from Black Swan, bits from Riverdale and mixes it into the world of competitive Figure Skating. The Series sees fallen Kat (Kaya Scodelario) make her way to a comeback, this time as a Pairs Skater, but not without some domestic drama. Scodelario navigates the mental struggles her character faces and handles the athleticism of her role with prowess. While the Series is not without its melodrama and goes the route of scandal for shock value more than it needed, there is enough to go on to keep fans engaged for ten episodes.
While it’s not for everyone, this hyper-sexualized Drake-produced Teen Drama Series explores some of the issues facing teens today. Several topics like drugs, toxic masculinity, same-sex relationships, being transgender are taboo still but Sam Levinson isn’t afraid to go there and for that we applaud this fresh take on the genre. These eight episodes are shocking and hypnotic and this is Zendaya‘s big moment, delivering a phenomenal breakthrough performance as central character Rue, a teen girl battling drug addiction. We were unable to keep our eyes off of newcomer model/actress Hunter Schafer, who possesses an ethereal beauty and magnetism, making her a name to look-out for. We cannot wait for Season Two, which is rumoured to begin production soon.
SEX, EXPLAINED (NETFLIX)
Janelle Monáe narrates this quick watch which gives adults a quick five-episode refresher on Sex Education, a spin-off of Netflix‘s Explained series. A vast array of taboo topics are explored with a diverse group of participants talking about things like attraction, fetishes, birth control and childbirth. New data is thrown at us quickly giving new insight into matters which have impacted humans since the beginning of time. Fun and informative.
SUCCESSION – SEASONS 1 & 2 (HBO)
Never before have we hated characters as much as The Roys in HBO‘s critical hit Succession and we kinda love it! And the fact that we couldn’t stop zipping-through 20 episodes is a testament to how masterfully-crafted it is. The second season of the Drama centering on an ailing patriarch of a media empire and his thirsty children who are eager to assume the throne, finished airing in the fall. While we were a bit late catching-on, we are seeing many people on the same boat who too are learning what Succession is all about after its Best Television Series – Drama win at the Golden Globes. We despise this Family, played with gusto by an Ensemble including 60-year screen veteran Brian Cox in the patriarch role, Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook and Kieran Culkin. We want them to basically go to hell and go bankrupt in the process! Give us season three!
THE CIRCLE (NETFLIX)
We listened to the recommendations of our friends on Social Media and began streaming this 12-episode Reality Series based on a British series of the same name. And we were seriously annoyed! The Series takes a group of millennial men and women, putting them together in one building in Manchester and they are to interact only via a Social Media portal where some of them are “catfishing”. Some are exactly as they present themselves to one another via their portal profiles. They compete for a prize of $100k, but must avoid being eliminated by Influencers who earn that title each episode and are given the power to decide who gets eliminated or “blocked”. They never get see each other except for the eliminated entrant at the end of each episode getting to meet one player of their choice. Sometimes there are major shocks when the eliminated player realizes the one person they chose to meet, looks nothing like the person whom they projected themselves as on the portal. While we appreciate the Series’ premise of encouraging people to let their true selves shine and stop judging one another by their appearances, it all feels forced and we aren’t sure it accomplishes exactly that through some of the artifice and all the “Yo Bruh!”. That being said, we vowed to stop watching after episode one but found ourselves finishing season one quickly, powered by our sheer drive to want to throw things and scream at our TV.
We were so genuinely-touched and invested in this six-episode Docu-Series by Greg Whiteley, which just got released on Netflix. We know nothing about Cheerleading but quickly found ourselves in-love with these Corsicana Community College athletes who are competing for glory at the NCA College Nationals in Daytona. The heart and soul of the Series is Coach Monica Aldama, whom despite having business acumen has chosen a career in Cheerleading, running a tight ship, leading the college to victory many times in the past and its standing as the best in class. We see how these young adults, many who come from troubled pasts, have found themselves in Cheerleading, under Aldama‘s meticulous guidance. The setbacks are painstaking and we see how much danger these athletes put themselves through in the name of perfection and loyalty to the enchanting Aldama. These are compelling stories and the thrills are tear-inducing, making us sad we had to say goodbye at the end of it.