Only Murders in the Building
The surprise, sustained hit Only Murders in the Building brands itself as a comedy-mystery on Hulu. But, as season three hits the streaming service, with another murder for the Arconian trio of Charles (Steve Martin), Oliver (Martin Short), and Mabel (Selena Gomez) to solve, something becomes apparent. The series isn’t going for big laughs. Instead, it provides warmth, small chuckles, and genial goodness between the triumvirate. The show remains about found family, intergenerational friendships, and murder mysteries. It’s perhaps best described as a cozy mystery, a murder show with a heart of gold, an oxymoron of concepts. Continue Reading →
Justified: City Primeval
How does anyone justify a revival? The original Justified gave viewers a conclusion in the first 30 minutes and an epilogue with the last 16. It gave Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) a fitting third act, living in Miami as a part-time dad to his daughter and finally enjoying freedom from the town he worked so hard to escape. So how does a creative team go from “we dug coal together?” to that nearly happy ending to a brand-new Givens tale? The simple answer is to head north. Continue Reading →
What We Do in the Shadows
Season 5 of What We Do in the Shadows premieres tomorrow, and you might have some difficulty parsing that it’s already there. Many sitcoms tend to run out of steam by season 5 (you’ll note that exactly when Fonzie jumped the shark), resorting to dropping plot arcs without explanation, swapping out established characters for newer, less interesting characters, setting up tiresome romances, and relying on gimmick episodes, like flashbacks, clip shows, and musicals. Despite its supernatural premise, What We Do in the Shadows still follows much of the standard sitcom structure, so it’s a minor miracle that it’s still the freshest, funniest half-hour show on television right now, without anyone having to put on a fat suit or get stuck in an elevator. Continue Reading →
Seeing creators pull together disparate threads into a cohesive whole can often feel like a magic trick. “Oh, that woman on the train platform was the same one waiting outside the bodega. I get it!” and all that. For the attentive viewer, it can feel like an affirmation of one’s thoughtful focus. For the more casual audience members, it can impress and beguile. Push it too far, though, and one might feel less rewarded and more led by the nose. Full Circle dances on that line before stumbling, too far, into EVERYTHING is connected territory. Thankfully, several strong performances and director Steven Soderbergh’s gift for conveying immediacy through his imagery prove enough to redeem the series’ far too nicely wrapped up with a bow conclusion. Continue Reading →
The modern age of streaming shows has delivered countless programs that boast in their press releases about being “just long movies.” The new Netflix limited series Florida Man continues this trend. Worse, it puts its own insufferable spin on the mold by stretching out a late-1990s Quentin Tarantino knock-off to nearly seven hours of storytelling. Yearning for a return to the era of non-linear crime dramas embracing the notion that F-bombs and shady behavior turn the story into the new Reservoir Dogs? This Donald Todd-created series will make you giddy. Unfortunately, everyone else will likely come away irritated. Continue Reading →
While Anna Winger’s new series Transatlantic is visually and textually lush, it opens a stark portrayal of the refugee experience. It’s painful, watching as they struggle with the terrain, carrying everything they have in their arms. You hear every labored breath, see every sweat stain. This long opening sequence sets the tone for the rest of the seven-part series–it isn’t glamorous or glossy, just beautifully filtered misery, fear, and hope. Continue Reading →
Every episode of Amazon’s Swarm begins with a title card that reads, “This is not a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is intentional.” Continue Reading →
Much of the pre-release buzz about AppleTV+’s new original series Extrapolations was concerned with its potential to be preachy. In much the same way this writer doesn’t mind a bit of emotional manipulation in entertainment, I can be fine with preachiness. Some things are worth preaching about. Extrapolations’ flaw isn’t that it has a soapbox and is using it. It’s that it’s such a mess. Continue Reading →
Fleishman Is in Trouble
Fleishman Is in Trouble, the adaptation of Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s novel starring Jesse Eisenberg, Claire Danes, and Lizzy Caplan, has a first-act problem. Or rather, a first-episode problem. Continue Reading →
The Shrink Next Door
If I were to tell you that Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd were starring in a comedic miniseries about a hapless, neurotic man whose entire life is taken over by his overbearing psychiatrist, you’d be forgiven for assuming that (a) Ferrell plays the psychiatrist and Rudd his patient, and (b) it’d be a pretty funny movie. In fact, the opposite is true: Rudd, in a rare villainous role, is the doctor, and the series, Apple TV+’s The Shrink Next Door, isn’t particularly funny. Oh, there are some amusing moments, but they’re more likely to elicit laughs of the uncomfortable kind, as the viewer is torn between sympathizing with its protagonist and wanting desperately to shake some sense into him Continue Reading →
The White Lotus
Within the opening scene of The White Lotus, it’s revealed that someone will die at some point during the show. But the question of who that someone is and how will they die isn’t really the central plot, as the six-part miniseries is much more interested in the characters and their fascinating dynamics than the mysteries and all the events leading up to the impending death. Continue Reading →
Hulu's gender flipped, more diverse take on Nick Hornby's modern classic about entitled men-children has charm & heart.
Nick Hornby has made a career out of the unlikeable protagonist, from the philandering Doctor Katie in How to Be Good to the selfish, womanizer Will in About A Boy. By far his most popular--and most adapted--role, however, is record store owner and emotional masochist Rob in High Fidelity. Rob is a self-professed asshole who is fun to watch because we’ve all known that guy. Some of us have been that guy. In Stephen Frears’ 2000 adaptation of Hornby’s novel, Rob is portrayed by John Cusack with a kind of self-deprecating air of vagrancy that some find irresistible.
Twenty years later, though, the world looks a little different. There has been a culture shift with the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. It isn’t quite as appealing to watch a character like Rob Gordon continuing to fail upwards as it was 20 years ago. Audiences don’t have as much patience for the sort of nostalgia-driven entitlement that Rob and other male characters like him seem to thrive on. Labeling a woman as awful for talking a lot, forcing an ex to admit that she was “not quite” assaulted, or even thinking for a second that any of these women owe Rob an explanation is no longer quite so cute.
With that in mind, why make a newer, updated version of High Fidelity? There is a grimy sort of magic to people who really, really love music and who fall in and out of love because of (or maybe in spite of) music. Hulu’s ten-episode series asks, “Why the hell not?” While Veronica West and Sarah Kucserka’s take on High Fidelity is new and fresh—at times a painful delight—it isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel. With its expert pacing, fourth wall monologuing and a protagonist covering real emotional pain with sharp observational humor and self-depreciation, it’s hard not to compare it to Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s breakout hit Fleabag. Continue Reading →