YAY!!! Still one of my all time favorite shows, AD will return on May 29th on Netflix for its fifth season, and I cannot WAIT! It's been a long five years since the divisive Season 4 (which I actually liked by the way, and which is now airing in a remix version on Netflix in case you want to watch it in chronological order and recut to 22-minute episode lengths), but now the Bluths are back together the way everybody wants them- that is, in the same rooms at the same time and all interacting the way they were meant to. Perfect.
Homeland has been trying its very best in the last few years to follow the headlines in having stories that parallel current political threats, and they were caught flat-footed (like the rest of us) in anticipating the country electing a female president last season. But Elizabeth Keane (Elizabeth Marvel) was supposed to be the good guy. Oops.
So they were forced to do several storytelling backflips in the first half of this season to wrangle a domestic political crisis brought on by, you guessed it, Russian hackers. Luckily, once that story really got going (it isn’t really until about episode 7), the second half of the season suddenly kicks into high gear and becomes a solid, suspenseful political thriller with a wishful thinking conclusion that surmises how a clearheaded U.S. government might actually be able to get back at the Russians (have our own hackers somehow steal the oligarch’s fortunes) and solve our national crisis by having the terrible American president resign for the good of the country. Sigh. If only.
So all that was good, but boy does it take a long time getting there. The first half of this season was extremely slow and preoccupied with a failed insurrection started by an Alex Jones wannabe (last year’s Jake Weber), a really boring, really terrible storyline that thankfully, completely disappears after episode 5 (it’s actually so abrupt given how long they spent on it that I wondered if the writers realized in the midst of writing it just how bad it was and changed course). Meanwhile, Carrie is totally isolated from Saul and everyone else, hassled by her sister Maggie to get a job and attempting to figure out if Keane and her staff is good or evil all on her own, which takes her in some wild and wacky directions as she realizes she’s developed a tolerance for her longtime medication. Yep, we get some seriously Crazy Carrie this season, since it’s a rule that we always have to see Claire Danes go nuts at least once a year.
And then there’s Frannie. Poor, poor Frannie. When the decision was made way back in Season 3 to let Carrie have Brody’s baby in order to keep a sentimental connection to him on the show, I don’t think the producers realized how difficult it was going to be to write Carrie as a single mother while also having her attempt to save the world every season. So little Frannie’s been through a lot as a result and finally this year Carrie just gives up and lets Maggie take her off her hands. I never minded the idea of Carrie as a mom, but it’s not fun to watch her traumatize her child constantly due to her unfailingly horrendous decisions. I often forget that I’m supposed to think Carrie’s actually good at her job, because every move she makes inevitably makes everything worse (this season in particular might be worst of all).
I somewhat enjoyed the political parallels as Mandy Patinkin's Saul steps up as the fictional world’s version of a Robert Mueller type (even though he’s now the national security advisor who’s clearly not doing his designated job) and manages to solve everything and save the day in a much shorter amount of time (the beauty of fantasy) which kind of does make you wish we lived in Homeland’s reality rather than our own. And I liked the addition of James D’Arcy as another old CIA contact of Carrie’s who might be intended as a new Quinn (Rupert Friend’s much beloved character sadly perished for good last season). The ending is a cleaner wrap-up than usual for this show, which sets the table for another time jump and a final season set in Israel next time. The series has had an impressive run all things considered- never significantly depreciating in quality thanks to its ability to reset every year, but all good things must come to an end, and after all this time with Carrie and Saul, I’m in for one more go, but I’m also ready for it to be the last.
Well, this sucks. Kimmy Schmidt is one of my favorite comedies, but it looks like this season, which premieres on May 30th, will be its last. The final season is split into two parts, so the first six episodes will show up at the end of the month, with the rest probably sometime in the fall. There's some speculation about wrapping things up with a movie, but who knows if stuff like that will actually happen. Sigh. It was crazy and fun while it lasted.
This new superhero show on Freeform looks pretty good, even though they're apparently messing quite a bit with the duo's comic book origin story (no prophecy or divine pairing was involved there). But still, it looks intriguing enough to me that I'll be tuning in on June 7th for the 2-hour premiere.
After a wildly uneven second season, UnREAL returned for its delayed third outing, which, thankfully, was a pretty good return to form. This time around it’s a version of The Bachelorette, with Caitlin Fitzgerald (making the TV rounds after Masters of Sex and Rectify) coming onboard as the “suitress” instead of the usual suitor, and a whole bunch of guys vying for her attention.
The second season veered off course with most of the criticism aimed at white female writers who were labeled as overreaching in trying to tackle racism head on and getting caught up in a trainwreck of storytelling decisions. This time I think the best move they made was letting the politics speak for itself (Fitzgerald’s Serena is a successful, perpetually single businesswoman and feminist who can’t get a guy to stick around, which Rachel and Quinn can’t help but feel in their respective guts), while simply refocusing on their main characters’ personal dramas. Rachel, Quinn, Chet, Jay, Madison, Jeremy, etc. That’s where the heart (if there is any on this hardhearted cynical show) is.
So with men competing to win Serena’s hand, the always unstable Rachel is tasked with producing the suitress, and this time she does her actual job the best we’ve seen her do so far, since she does identify with Serena’s plight and genuinely wants to help her pick a good guy, but as usual her personal behavior enters the fray, as she confronts her mother and deals with latent daddy issues, while interacting with the new in-house psychiatrist (Brandon Jay McLaren), and attempting to fend off Jeremy, who for some reason remains on the show despite his murderous and abusive actions last year (seriously, he’s the one weak link in the cast- can’t we get rid of him already?)
Meanwhile in Quinn-land, her empire is waiting to be built, which involves taking down network head Gary and manipulating various principles behind the scenes to do it, including a new character and fellow producing titan Fiona (Tracie Thoms), but her machinations eventually bring her back to the lovelorn Chet (Craig Bierko), who remains an affable doofus devoted to her until the end, which is ultimately rather sweet (again, if there can be anything resembling sweetness on a show like this).
Watching the behind the scenes antics of reality shows remains fun and engaging, although it still bugs me that Everlasting is filmed in real time, Big Brother-style, rather than pre-taped over a six to eight week period, as The Bachelor actually does it. Why can’t they do that again? But refocusing on the show within the show rather than trying to tackle too many hot topics at once is a huge improvement over last year, and perhaps the biggest one of all is with the pacing, which has been my pet peeve since the first season. Finally, it doesn’t feel like too many plot twists are happening every episode! Even the juiciest soaps need to take a breather once in a while. I think think one or two turns per week (rather than four or five) is enough to keep fun trash like this plenty fun enough.
Summer shows are starting to stack up here. I've got Luke Cage, Casual, GLOW, Cloak & Dagger and now this, an HBO limited series based on the book by Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl). What's kinda cool is that the young version of Amy is Sophia Lillis, who played Beverly in It, and who looks so much like a young Amy Adams that I was distracted by it at the time- it appears I'm not the only one who saw the resemblance.
In this era of 24/7 remakes and reboots, it’s become essential to weed out the value of shows that are actually worth resurrecting and those that are simply garbage cash grabs (Fuller House, anyone?) that should have stayed dead.
I’m not sure a reboot of the 1970’s Norman Lear sitcom One Day at a Time would have struck many people as necessarily worth trying out again, but as it turns out, the nature of this updated premise in 2018 has real cultural value. While the original series was about a single mom working to raise her two daughters, this new version developed by Gloria Calderon Kellett and Mike Royce (with the legendary Lear serving as executive producer) sets the show in Los Angeles, where a single, working class Cuban-American nurse named Penelope Alvarez (Justina Machado) struggles to raise her two kids with the help of her mother Lydia (Rita Moreno).
Although I do still watch and love a lot of old sitcoms, not being a current CBS viewer myself, it’s been a long time since I tuned in to a new one, and so it took me a few episodes to get used to the rhythms of the multi-camera setup again. But as I did, I was reminded that the best of these shows get to be a kind of comfort food, with characters who become almost familial to the audience, and once you get back into it, you start to love and appreciate the Alvarez family and the struggles they face with a sunny attitude, even while tackling topical issues in classic Norman Lear fashion, such as post-traumatic stress (Penelope is also a vet who served in Iraq and Afghanistan), divorce, racism, and LGBT issues (Isabella Gomez plays the teenage oldest daughter Elena, a progressive activist who comes out to her family in the first season).
The great Rita Moreno co-stars as Penelope’s scene-stealing mother Lydia, a Cuban immigrant whose flair and excess produce big laughs, while Gomez and Marcel Ruiz are cute as the kids, and Todd Grinell serves up some fine Paul Rudd realness as the Canadian landlord of the apartment building and pop-in neighbor (every classic sitcom’s got to have one of those, right?) Completing the fine ensemble is the always reliable Stephen Tobolowsky as Dr. Berkowitz, Penelope’s hapless boss and love interest to Lydia. But Justina Machado is the one who holds it all together as Penelope. The limits of the multi camera format play largely to the charisma of the actors, and her capable toughness and complete embrace of and ability to sell whatever comedic or dramatic situation she faces, whether it’s dealing with family, work, men or her own inner turmoil, truly makes the show hers.
In this era where the only working class you hear about are so-called “economically anxious” white people who knowingly and callously put a racist monster in the White House, this show serves as a reminder of the real working class Americans- the majority of whom are people of color struggling to survive on a budget and with minimum wage jobs in the face of a nasty racist backlash after eight years of a black president left a lot of white people suffering from mass hysteria and panic over rising demographic change. But you know what? This is the real America, and we are not going anywhere.
The 2018 winners of the prestigious Peabody awards for Entertainment were announced today. The news and journalism awards will come later, but here's what got the television prizes:
- A Series of Unfortunate Events (Netflix)
- American Vandal (Netflix)
- Better Call Saul (AMC)
- Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King (Netflix)
- Insecure (HBO)
- Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO)
- Saturday Night Live: Political Satire 2017 (NBC)
- The Handmaid's Tale (Hulu)
- The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon)
I'm a little out of loop this year, having only watched John Oliver, SNL and Handmaid's Tale. I'm still considering catching up on Better Call Saul, but it hasn't happened yet and despite the praise, I'm reluctant to check out Mrs. Maisel (I really couldn't stand Gilmore Girls, and I've always hated Amy Sherman-Palladino's dialogue, so something tells me it wouldn't work for me).
Yess!! One of my favorite shows of last year is back on June 29th, with all ten episodes available on Netflix- summer's the perfect time for this show, which is definitely one of the funnest new series on TV (or streaming). Everyone should catch up on the first season- just ten half hour episodes will take you maybe three days. It's worth it.
I can't wait for this! Everyone should watch the classic Peter Weir Australian film from 1975, which is one of the most dazzling, mysteriously allegorical films ever made. I expect this one will be a little more straightforward, but the source material from the novel should still hold up. It's a limited series, so all six episodes will drop on Amazon Prime May 25th.