“Subway: The Series”
The New York subway system is one of those cultural icons that leads to a contrast of emotions ranging from stark fear to the joy of discovery. “Subway: The Series” attempts to capture this microcosm of wonder, and in many ways nails the experience just right. In order to be truly something special, though, it needs to keep things below the surface.
It tells the story of a young woman from Lancaster, Pa. (who is allegedly Amish, which only perpetuates the myth that everyone from that region is Amish) looking for work as an IT director in the big city. On a typical subway ride, she meets a self-proclaimed sandwich artist from Houston, also looking to make his way in the big city. By the way, portraying someone from one of the country’s largest cities as a hick is also is misguided. Anyway, the two become friends, and while the traverse they underground world of NYC, they are filled with awe and disgust at what they see.
According to the show’s notes, the series was filmed “guerilla-style” on the subway without permits. And it works. While the guy urinating on the subway car is staged, its sure seems real enough, and the same goes for a scene in a later episode when a fired sandwich artist (not our hero) tries to sing for his supper on the subway. When things go above ground — such as when our IT worker (played by Veronica Dang) looks for a temp job at a Manhattan office building — the subterranean plot stops dead in its tracks. Ditto for the thread where Mr. Sandwich (played by Christopher Wren) exists the subway to find work as a sandwich maker in a mondo hipster NYC neighborhood.
The effort here is admirable with solid production chops done in what must have been trying circumstances. A bit of spit and polish with the dialog and more of the craziness that is the 4,5, and 6 trains to Union Square would work especially well.
“Experimenting With Megan Amram”
While I struggle to find anything enjoyable in the debut episode of this new series from Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls project, I truly respect the mission behind trying to demystify science to all young people. Doing it in an absurd manner which will surely will turn kids from looking under microscopes to careers in animal husbandry is a miss.
The host of the show is Megan Amram, who informs us every few seconds that she graduated from Harvard. You know, like “Two-Second Tom” in “50 First Dates.” Her approach to be a STEM advocate to young women is to open with a funny, senseless experiment — such as making a potato clock — and then bringing on her guest, a noted person from the world of science. In the first episode, our guest/victim is Dr. Beverley McKeon, an engineer and aeronautics professor at Caltech who seems bewildered over her host’s inane questions. Amram has the innate ability to make any line of questions become a vehicle for her own narcissism. It’s not a pretty sight. On the other hand, the limited feedback on YouTube has been positive, so maybe the way to a young, would-be science geek’s heart is through her offbeat funny bone. I miss Mr. Wizard.