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tv-series reviews / Maniac (2018)

added 4 apr 2019
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Maniac Season 1 (2018)

What if the 80s never ended but just became more Japanese?

(this review contains spoilers)

There's no way I can review this show without giving spoilers. Owen (Jonah Hill) is the schizophrenic son of a wealthy family who has to lie for his brother in court. This puts him under considerable stress. Annie (Emma Stone) has borderline personality disorder and is hooked on pills that enable her to vividly relive the final day she spent with her dead sister. Owen needs money so he joins a dodgy clinical trial overseen by a sentient computer named GRTA. Annie is running out of her pills and the only way to get more is to join the trial. The two become friends during the course of the clinical trial as they assist each other in a series of induced lucid dreams.

This show is billed as a comedy but I would not describe it as such. It had some funny moments, and both the setting and the plot were bizarre and surreal, but that didn't make me laugh out loud.

The best thing about this show was the 80s alternate reality. The computer interfaces are all command-lines, with the occasional green-on-black graph. Apparently they never invented windowing in this universe. It's a very interesting premise. Could such a world exist? Was the invention of windowing inevitable?

The fusion of Japanese culture into everyday American life was also well done and believable. For example, to induce the participants not to drop out of the clinical trial, the overseers threaten them with bringing dishonour and shame upon themselves. There are a few Japanese style mascots and I think I even heard a station-jingle as they are being given the certificates at the end of the trial.

added 4 apr 2019
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