Not to be confused with the Foo Fighters' first album

I contain multitudes.1

While I don’t really dig a lot of popular media — like, I cannot get through even one episode of The Batchelor2 and the Real Housewives leave me cold — I still have a soft spot for easy TV, the kind where your brain doesn’t have to do much heavy lifting.

My current favorite: The Circle, whose second season just debuted on Netflix. More on The Circle in a second.

First, tho: Netflix has a knack for finding/producing reality series that know what I want better than I do. I’ve written about my devotion to Drive to Survive.3 I also want more (more!) episodes of Lenox Hill,4 Indian Matchmaking, Last Chance U, and Love on the Spectrum. Netflix has my number, is what I’m saying.

But I did not expect to enjoy The Circle nearly as much as I did because the premise is so very, very stupid. Contestants live in an apartment building and can only communicate with each other via text and group chats. The players can be themselves or create a fictional persona. It’s a show about social media,5 mostly, and, once it gets going, illustrates so much more about human communication than you’d imagine.

I wouldn’t have stuck around long enough to catch that the series was deeper than it looks had the producers not nailed the casting. Every single player — from the very Jersey Shore Joey to the super nerdy Shooby — winds up being so much more than what their one line description leads you to believe. The same is true from this second season, too. The very hunky Mitchell,6 the very middle-aged River, and the very Essex hot girl Chloe reveal that there is always more going on in a person’s head than you could possibly know.

Somewhere there exists a graduate student who is devoting his, her, or their research to how the medium of communication controls the message you can convey.7 What is undeniable is that those players who are slightly more literate and can parse subtext seem to do better at the game part of the show. But The Circle really isn’t about who wins for me, it’s all about how strongly words create both conscious and subconscious impressions when they the bulk of what you have to go on.

Plus, it is fairly fluffy and easy on the brain.

Which we all need, lest our brains cramp up8 because we force them to do too much work. Which is what I have been doing lately with the podcast The Line, which is the latest from Dan Taberski.9 The Line is a hard listen. It’s about an alleged 2018 war crime committed by Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher in Mosul. It’s also about the mindset that goes into being a SEAL, what happens when you are fighting an endless war, and how the media can muddy the case.

As usual, Taberski, who used to write for The Daily Show in the Jon Stewart days, knows how to structure a story and keep it entertaining, even when it gets pretty dang dark. I haven’t made it through the series yet10 but am fairly certain Taberski will land this plane in one piece.

These two works are good to toggle between, from the lightness of The Circle, over to the heaviness of The Line, and back again, if only to remind yourself of how life always needs to be a mix of both.

Do you have a light show you turn to when you can no longer carry the heaviness?

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Hey! Did you know I also write books? There are three you can buy right now.

1

I’m certain you do, too.

2

but will not judge you if it’s your favorite

3

I’ve started watching F1 races this season simply because of my love for this show. I’m not the only one, it turns out. The very British announcers make a point of flagging their explanations of things like “DRS” with a “for those who are new.” This is how you grow a sport. (And, of course, some older fans are pissy about the newbies.)

4

which deserves it’s own post

5

If you read that Vulture piece, you’ll learn that the same building and producers make the same show for different countries. They talk about the cultural differences between the French, American, Brazilian, and British contestants and how they play the game. The money quote: “The Brits, on the other hand, would probably sell their grandmother for a prize. They happily turn on each other. Brazilians were all very suspicious of each other all the time, and the French were incredibly strategic, intelligent, calculating. We saw lots of these different gameplay strategies, as well as the huge cultural differences we have between different people playing.”

6

he’s also a virgin, which is a plot twist I did not anticipate

7

With apologies to Marshall McLuhan.

8

I know. This is muscles. Don’t @ me.

9

I seem to be one of the few who didn’t like Missing Richard Simmons, his first pod. the next two — Surviving Y2K and Running from Cops — are great, tho.

10

and know virtually nothing about the case