Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Television’

The raw truths and heart-rending hilarity of Transparent

August 21, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Television No Comments →

In the pilot of Jill Soloway’s amazing series Transparent, the former Mort Pfefferman prepares to come out as a trans woman to his three grown children, Sarah, Josh and Ali. The children, being unused to sudden dinner summons from their divorced father, expect him to announce that he has cancer. They have a boisterous family dinner in which they talk over each other, make rude jokes (When Sarah tells Josh to wipe the barbecue sauce off his face, he retorts, “Why don’t you wipe the barbecue sauce from inside your vagina?”), and talk about everything but the reason they’ve been asked to dinner. Maura—the former Mort—loses her nerve and announces instead that she’s moving out of the family house. This triggers a noisy argument over who should get the house.

Later, Maura tells a friend of her failure to reveal herself to her children. “I don’t know how it is that I raised three people that cannot see beyond themselves,” she sighs. Having read of its op-ed-ready premise, I tuned in to Amazon’s breakout series expecting a comedy-drama about a man in his 70s adjusting to his new life as a woman. It is that, and it is also the most intimate and unfiltered look at family I can recall seeing on television.

Read our TV column The Binge at BusinessWorld.

Wayward Pines: M. Night Shyamalanana

August 13, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Television No Comments →

Shyamalan sees living people. . .but for how long?

M. Night Shyamalan’s movies are basically Twilight Zone episodes — the middling ones that rely on twists or sudden revelations to rock the audience. Having watched a lot of Twilight Zone episodes — the ’80s TV remake whose producers included George R.R. Martin — we immediately saw through Shyamalan’s blockbuster, The Sixth Sense. In the first scene, a deranged student is in Bruce Willis’s house waving a gun, and in the next scene Willis is having lunch with his wife who never looks at him when he speaks to her. In the movie theater, my sister and I looked at each other and said, “He’s dead.”

Read our TV column The Binge at BusinessWorld.

From The Workshop: Chasing Ben

August 03, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Television, Workshops 1 Comment →

We give writing workshops at the Ayala Museum. The workshops consist of three two-hour sessions of lectures, exercises, and group discussions held over three weeks. Our participants are mostly working people, so the sessions are held in the evenings, after office hours, with coffee and refreshments. We focus on the practical aspects of writing, like How to stop planning to write something and actually do it, and Good luck waiting for that thunderbolt of inspiration, say Hi to Thor when it happens.

The most recent workshop, on The Personal Essay, concluded last week. The next one, Writing Boot Camp, will start on 3 September 2015. For more information or to make a reservation, email Marj Villaflores,

This month we will feature, with their permission, essays by the participants. The last batch was half-standup comedy, half-trauma ward. Some of the authors preferred to use aliases. Everyone actually wrote something.

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Photo from

Chasing Ben
by Pilar Rica D. Tabora

I was there for Ben. Benjamin Covington, the tall, green-eyed, curly-haired jerk of a boyfriend whom Felicity Porter blindly chased for four seasons of the TV show, Felicity. He wasn’t a real person (I knew that), but I wanted to revel in the essence of Ben Covington so badly, I dove into the germ-infested, sweat-laden, heat wave-stinking maze of the New York City subway to find him.

It was the summer of 2003, just a year after Felicity ended. J.J. Abrams received a lot of flak for inserting a ridiculous time travel storyline in the last season, but I didn’t care. Ben was a jerk, but he had a heart of gold. I was going to name my future son after him.

I was in Providence, Rhode Island for a summer study intensive on graphic design. Like Felicity (Keri Russell), I had usurped my future and disappointed my parents. Felicity dropped Stanford med school for the University of New York’s art program—her move was instigated by her high school crush Ben (Scott Speedman), whom she barely knew. I, on the other hand, had realized in the middle of my college thesis on the rehabilitation of the Marikina Riverbanks that architecture and city planning was not for me. I could not imagine myself computing for bags of sand, negotiating with misogynist engineers and corrupt government officials, or waiting years for a project to end.


Is Ian McShane going to play The Mad King Aerys II Targaryen in Game of Thrones Season 6?

August 02, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Television No Comments →

Photo of Ian McShane as Blackbeard in Pirates of the Caribbean

He would kill as The Mad King. And literally kill Ned Stark’s father, Ned Stark’s brother, entire cities…

The Internet thinks he’s been cast as Randyll Tarly, father of Samwell, or Euron Greyjoy, uncle of Theon. But “limited screen time” and “key importance” sounds like Aerys Targaryen to us, and as we saw in the first episode of Season 5, Game of Thrones now does flashbacks.

What do you think?

Ian McShane’s Swearengen in Deadwood is one of our all-time favorite antiheroes.

Also, one of the locations of season 6 is Castillo de Zafra in Spain, which is not our keep. And Kit Harington has already been spotted in Belfast, one of the main locations.

The animals on Zoo should rise up and overthrow the series.

July 31, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats, Television No Comments →


The series opens in Botswana, where the hard-drinking handsome American Jackson Oz (James Wolk) and his best friend Abraham Kenyatta (Nonso Anozie from Game of Thrones) are taking tourists on safari to see the lions. Conveniently, Oz’s father (Ken Olin, seen in old videos) was a brilliant zoologist who got kicked out of Harvard for espousing the theory that animals would rise up and overthrow humankind. Shortly after we hear the older Oz’s lecture, lions attack a tour van and kill all the tourists. If those tourists were taking selfies with the lions, they deserved to get eaten. Yay, natural selection.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, two lions raised in captivity kill their trainer, break out of the zoo, and attack two men urinating in an alley. Again no one looks into the simplest explanation for the violence: lions don’t like public peeing. (Seriously, don’t mark their territory.) Newspaper reporter Jamie Campbell (Kristen Connolly) believes that the big cat attacks have something to do with the brand of animal feed the zoo uses. This is plausible because whenever we run out of Fancy Feast cat food at home, my cat Saffy sharpens her claws on my favorite books.

Read our TV column The Binge at BusinessWorld.

Sense8: The Wachowskis invite you to take the red pill again

July 20, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Television 2 Comments →


You have to hand it to the Wachowskis. The success of their film The Matrix and its convoluted sequels bought them the freedom to do whatever they want, and they have used this freedom. Critics sneered at their post-Matrix movies, and audiences stayed away, but they will not abandon their vision. What this vision is exactly, I can’t tell you, but their work has the scale, ambition, and unpredictability that have largely disappeared from big-budget Hollywood filmmaking. Their failures are more compelling than other people’s successes.

Consider Cloud Atlas, their adaptation (with Tom Tykwer) of David Mitchell’s novel, in which many individuals living in different countries and periods in history are connected in ways not immediately apparent. By having their actors play multiple roles and through some fantastic hair and makeup work, they made those connections clear. They took the spirit of the novel and blew it up on the big screen. The reviews were so dismissive, it seemed that critics were compensating for having overpraised The Matrix. Granted, the recent Jupiter Ascending is a silly retread of the idea of an ordinary person having a great destiny, but is it much sillier than the superhero movies we gorge upon?

Read our TV column The Binge at BusinessWorld.