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Paula's Pick: Cobra Kai

It is rare that I get excited about a new show these days. There is so much content to view on television and online, and unfortunately most of it is not worth watching. So when a show comes along that I believe in I have to share it with everyone.

In case you haven't heard, YouTube now has a streaming service with original programming called YouTube Premium, what you may know as YouTube Red.

Like Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Netflix, YouTube Premium charges a monthly fee. In fact so many of these streaming platforms seem to be popping up I probably never would have checked out YouTube Premium if not for all the buzz surrounding its show Cobra Kai.

Cobra Kai, as you may have heard, is based on the original Karate Kid movie from 1984. This is not, however, your typical reboot and it is not a reimagining of the story we all grew up with. Instead, Cobra Kai broadens our perspective of the Karate Kid characters and the possible motivations behind their actions.

In the original Karate Kid there were clear cut sides. We could easily distinguish between the good guys and bad guys beyond a shadow of a doubt. Indeed, many stories about heroes and underdogs are crafted in this way, but it's largely a matter of perspective based on what information is given to us.

Cobra Kai takes place decades after Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) faced off in Karate Kid. Both adults now, LaRusso and Lawrence lead vastly different lives, though their rivalry is still alive and well.

LaRusso, as you might imagine, is a happily married family man, with a successful business. Lawrence, on the other hand, is a divorcé and a single father struggling to make ends meet. His relationship with his son is strained and he spends much of his time alone and drunk.

 If you were a fan of Karate Kid you might be tempted to say that each of these characters got exactly what they deserved out of life. However, what Cobra Kai does so well is remind us that in real life people are rarely just one thing or another - not all bad and not all good. This is all a part of that perspective thing I was referring to earlier.

Cobra Kai brilliantly infuses scenes from Karate Kid into the show as if the characters are remembering moments from their past. This allows us to see key scenes from the film through the eyes of both Johnny and Daniel, without tarnishing the film's legacy. In fact Cobra Kai enhances this legacy by offering us a deeper appreciation for all of its characters, making them less one-dimensional and more complex.

Cobra Kai is a dramedy, with more comedy than you might expect. In fact it pays homage to The Karate Kid by lightly poking fun at many of the film's most memorable moments, as if sharing an inside joke with fans. This is difficult to accomplish without coming across like a parody, but somehow Cobra Kai does it effortlessly and seamlessly.

We also see many key moments from Karate Kid reborn in the lives of other characters. Perhaps most striking is how Johnny seems to channel Mr. Miyagi during a fight scene with some young bullies and through his tutelage of a young Daniel LaRusso look-alike named Miguel (Xolo Maridueña).

Ultimately Cobra Kai sets a new standard for serials, on television and online. It is brilliantly written, thoughtfully crafted, and most importantly character-driven. I have no doubt everyone will find something they love about this series, whether they are a long time Karate Kid fan or not.

The entire first season of Cobra Kai is available on YouTube Premium. You can check it out for free by signing up for a one month trial.

Season Two of Cobra Kai will be released sometime in 2019, with actor Martin Kove (Kreese, The Karate Kid) joining the cast.


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