Reposting this, as I believe it was my first exposure to the recently departed William Friedkin, but not my last. It’s not a great episode, but I will never forget it, just like I’ll never forget Friedkin’s work. The man knew what he wanted to do, and he was unwilling to compromise, and he will be missed.
I’ve been a bit burned out due some of the intensity of the drafts I’ve been working on so, since OPPENHEIMER was just released, I thought I’d call your attention to my 2020 post regarding MANHATTAN, the little-known series from WGN America who very briefly broadcast a number of critical acclaimed prestige shows, including UNDERGROUND as well as MANHATTAN.
MANHATTAN tells the tale of the nucleus of the creation of the atom bomb and the environment and folks it took to construct it. Essentially: OPPENHEIMER before OPPENHEIMER.
MANHATTAN featured an embarrassment of creative riches, including an astounding cast and writers, such as Rachel Brosnahan (THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL), Harry Lloyd (DOCTOR WHO, GAME OF THRONES), Olivia Williams (RUSHMORE), as well as writer Lila Byock who has since gone on to work on amazing serialized works such as THE LEFTOVERS and WATCHMEN and CASTLE ROCK.
It’s a shame that the show never garnered the attention it deserved, but WGN America gave us two seasons, which is one more than I thought we’d ever get.
While my initial write-up is several years old, it’s still available on a number of the streaming services listed, and both seasons are available on DVD.
“Who is that?”
“Oh, that’s Adam, John Winchester’s other kid. He’s still trapped in the cage. In Hell. With Lucifer.”
SUPERNATURAL was a paranormal take from Eric Kripke on the mostly forgotten show ROUTE 66. ROUTE 66 was pitched by the very versatile screenwriter/producer Stirling Silliphant (IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, NAKED CITY) as a way to give TV audiences a trip around the U.S.A. (Basically, a semi-fictional travelogue.) Each episode was written around locales across America and focused on two male friends who road trip around and help the folks they meet along the way. One episode even has Peter Lorre, Lon Chaney Jr., and Boris Karloff as themselves!
So, obviously, SUPERNATURAL features the Winchester brothers, driving across the country — although they rarely shot on location — helping folks deal with inexplainable creatures and situations while also encountering a surprising amount of family drama with their father and their dead mother.
“So that’s where we aaaarrre! On a road so faaaarrr! Saving people, hunting things! Family business, back in swing!
SUPERNATURAL was one of those shows that thrived by word-of-mouth. I discovered it through a friend who said: “I know it looks cheesy and it’s on the WB and yes, there’s an episode with a murderous truck, but trust me on this one. It’s worth watching. Here, just borrow my DVD set!”
It was quite engaging for some time but shows wax and wane, and it often takes time for them to refresh.
Sadly, I do not have the patience for 15 seasons of 20+ episodes, but I did make it a point to watch the 200th episode. For one, how often does that happen on a non-CBS network and two, it’s supremely meta.
This episode absolutely and unapologetically acknowledges its fans.
I’ve seen a lot of SUPERNATURAL eps but not even close to all of them. However, my wife singled out this ep and I feel like a better person for having watched it.
This one bit below was something special, because it encapsulates their fandom by recapping the broad beats of the show’s history into a high school musical production. Normally I’m not about fan-service, but fans have done so much for this show and to see it reflected on-screen made me well up. The fact that it’s also a great episode that doesn’t take itself seriously but is still earnest? Icing on the cake.
I admit, most of this episode will initially be lost on you if you are not familiar with the show, but the musical eases you into it, and it’s still a fun time if for no reason other than the closing number.
It’ll just be easier for you to watch the clip below.
Love what you love, and support it however you can.
“A single man-tear falls down his face; he shows emotions without a trace.”
Also, I really, really wanted the WAYWARD SISTERS spin-off to happen. Happy to have seen it as a backdoor pilot, as CW was the last network to air backdoor pilots.
I will note that if you decide to pursue this show? Skip the series finale. It is an absolutely unsatisfying mess, although I don’t blame the writers as there were production and casting and contract issues plus, of course, COVID. I came back to watch the entire final season and the finale will leave a bad taste in your mouth.
That said, apart from a slightly rocky first season, the first five are damn entertaining.
Unsurprisingly, I am an original STAR TREK nerd. I even read the Alan Dean Foster-penned novelizations, checked them out from my school library — as well as a fair amount of STAR TREK novels — at a young age. I even subscribed to the STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION magazine when I was a youth. Granted, I fell off halfway through TNG — high school and all — although goddamn, I think my parents can still hear me shouting at the Locutus reveal. (A very formative narrative moment for me!)
PICARD S1 and S2 weren’t what I wanted, but goddamn, Terry Matalas (SyFy’s 12 MONKEYS) is doing his thing in S3 and holy hell it’s amazing. It’s the best of the cerebral aspects of the show and the action of the films.
“What did they do?”
“Uh… they threw a ship at us.”
The digital modeling and camerawork is absolutely astounding. The ships look amazing, and visually all the panning and swooping show all of that work off. And the interface work! Full disclosure: I know someone who worked on the interfaces for the show, but goddamn, it’s gorgeous, and those behind the show know it because it spends 100% of its time lingering over them for their credit sequence.
This season absolutely knows what it’s doing,
While the entire season is essentially a ‘let’s get the band back together!’ swing, Matalas pulls it off. It leans on the history and lore of the series, while still meaningfully utilizing the TNG crew.
Also: Amanda Plummer as Vadic? They’re an astounding villain.
I went into PICARD S3 more as a completist — “Oh, well, I watched the first two seasons, so I might as well watch the third” — and found it one hell of a journey.
If you think you need to watch the first two seasons before watching the third? Think again. You can simply skip to the third and not miss anything, even though the first season does have a very sweet scene between Riker and Troy.
I never thought I’d say this, especially after the endless attempts to maintain the Star Trek franchise over the years, but we are living in an actual STAR TREK renaissance. Between this, STRANGE NEW WORLDS, and DISCOVERY (post-season two), there are an amazing number of people that are bringing their unique voices to this fictional future world, and they’re doing so in the spirit of the show so many love. It really is a sight for sore eyes.
No spoilers here, just (hopefully) a succinct bit of word-garbage.
BARRY’s premise initially seemed a little too sweaty and off-putting to me. It was as if creator Bill Hader got high and turned to his friend Alec Berg and exclaimed: “Now, now, now! Hear me out! I have the best idea! An ex-soldier turned hitman wants to be an actor! Do you want in?!”
I was thrilled to find that it was far more considered and thoughtful than that.
BARRY was stylish without being showy — long shots whenever action became intense (technically harder to pull off!) — and comedic without undermining the drama.
It’s worth noting: Hader loves film. He loves everything about film. Just read this New Yorker interview with him and he comes across as a young(-ish) Scorsese — someone who knows how to write, direct, and shoot films, even down to the lenses he wants to use.
So, it’s a shame that BARRY’s series finale was completely over-shadowed by SUCCESSION’s (brilliant) finale, as it was a thunder-blast. Some found the last season to be treading water, but I didn’t; it was a reckoning and meditation on what it takes to come to terms with your past.
Also, goddamn, the set-pieces. BARRY is very, very good at solitary and dramatic moments, but it absolutely kills (no pun intended) when it comes to action sequences. Absolutely nothing like it on TV now and, sadly, probably won’t be for a while.
Lastly, I’d be remiss to neglect to mention the cast. Everyone here is amazing, but especially the chaotic energy of Anthony Carrigan, Stephen Root (who goes through an amazing transformation), Sarah Goldberg who is revelatory and was really put through the wringer, and oh yes, Henry Fucking Winkler. It’s an embarrassment of riches.
I just want to note: 1) I haven’t read anything from anyone about the second season yet, although I do know it has been divisive and 2) this post contains no spoilers.
Crashed plane, lonely island, a bunch of scared folks just trying to survive; then a bunch of flash-forwards to the survivors that made it off the island, and how they’re living years later.
It’s not LOST, but wouldn’t blame ya if you thought I was describing that epic. It’s YELLOWJACKETS which — on the surface — looks a lot like LOST but replace the folks with the members of a tightly-knit, but very combative, girls soccer team.
Like LOST, YELLOWJACKETS occasionally suffers from issues attempting to straddle both character stories and lore and, like LOST, YELLOWJACKETS opts more for the former as opposed to the latter and I love it for that. I love these fierce misfits, even if more than a few of them are murderous or have severe issues.
These characters are ferocious, no matter the year. They are hardcore. They bite, they cut, and they aren’t afraid to bleed. These are not your normal TV female protagonists, and I love the show for leaning so hard into that. It’s not just the cannibalism; they’re all raw around the edges, and we need more depictions of that sort of thing.
Hand-wave the lore issues away. If you don’t care about the characters, there is no show; it’s just a set of puzzle pieces that you want to shoehorn together to fit you.
It is worth noting that YELLOWJACKETS lacks the velocity of LOST. It’s not pulling a rabbit out of its hat (or hatch) every week. It’s more grounded than that, but it is still propulsive.
However, like LOST, it has some fucking fantastic needle drops. As an old-school fan of riot grrl bands, this is catnip to me. If you grew up in the 90s, damn, strap yourself in because this show knows what you want, and knows when you want it. There’s an especially brilliant use of ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN’s ‘The Killing Moon’ in the second season finale. (While it’s technically not 90s, the show opening with SHARON VON ETTEN’s ’Seventeen’ is extremely inspired.)
I have to say: YELLOWJACKETS has one of the greatest modern title sequences. It absolutely perfectly lays out the conceit of the show, down to the division of time, drops a lot of visual hints, but also features a banger of an original backing track — no, not a riot grrl deep cut from the 90s! (although half of the act is comprised of 90s cult music staple THAT DOG) — that absolutely encapsulates the anger and frustration and confusion and trauma of the characters, while wrapping it in a worn VHS haze (and keenly switches from 4:3 to 16:9 at specific times). This is one of the few title sequences I blast as loud as I can when no one is around, and then I rewind and watch it again.
Lastly: S2 has a brief scene where one of the survivors is running a VHS rental store, and this is modern day. Don’t scoff: there’s one not too far from me! VHS will only die when the tape disintegrates. I’m burying the lede here though: there’s a scene that recreates a scene from THE WATERMELON WOMAN but the queer owner presses a VHS tape to the other queer woman regular customer, noting that she should watch THE WATERMELON WOMAN and my face lit the fuck up. Few mainstream shows would even think of writing that, much less take the time to shoot that scene. (The chef kiss would be if they’d brought in Cheryl Dunye to direct that episode but, sadly, no.)
“You can do fucking anything.”
I’ll note: I’m ride-or-die with this show. It just cuts too close to the quick for me; it hits every single one of my quadrants, despite the fact that 1) I was never a teenage girl; 2) never was part of a heralded sports team; 3) have never crash-landed on an isolated island 4) have not consumed human flesh. Nonetheless, I cannot be objective about it as I’m almost always able to look past its flaws and feel too hard while I’m watching it.
“Half of your wardrobe is Sleater-Kinney tour shirts!”
“It’s just that … everyone in here? Has been been dumped in one way or another. […] I joined up after I dissolved a subscription horsemeat service that started with my brother-in-law.”
(That is one hell of an amazing way to summarize a character.)
This is a show that absolutely knows what it wants to do, knows what it’s capable of, and doesn’t give any fucks about its audience and I unabashedly love it. I cannot wait for the third season.
“It’s you and me against the whole world.”
I’ll note that the high school I attended? The sports teams weren’t called Yellowjackets, but it is quite adjacent: they were named the Hornets.
This show contains depictions of domestic and animal abuse and familial death.
(Apple TV+) BAD SISTERS has a very simple premise: five orphaned sisters, held together by the eldest, realize that the husband of the second eldest is actively trying to undermine their sisterhood, and they take action to try to get her back into the fold.
Under the surface, it’s a fraught story of power, age, and personality dynamics. Apart from EVIL, I haven’t seen another show tackle the disparity of so many interpersonal sibling personas with such tact. There’s a well-worn cadence between all of them — a familiarity but also distancing at times — that feels so incredibly authentic while they’re basically trying to erase this avenging angel of a man — John Paul Williams (the ever tall Claes Bang) — from splintering them.
As standard with ensemble pieces like this, casting needs to be perfect, and thankfully the show is masterminded by the terrific multi-faceted Sharon Horgan (CATASTROPHE), who also leads in it, alongside her sisters who are a litany of faces you’ve seen if you’ve watched any European TV in the past ten years: Eve Hewson (THE KNICK), Sarah Greene (NORMAL PEOPLE, DUBLIN MURDERS), Anne-Marie Duff (THE MAGDALENE SISTERS) as John’s unfortunate wife, and more.
It’s also extremely Irish, all lush greens and cliffs and inflections, with brilliant sweeping camera work, and one moment that reminds me of THE DROWNING GIRLS, but I might reading a bit too much into that.
It has been renewed for a second season, but whether that materializes is questionable.
Lastly, make sure to watch the very cleverly constructed title sequence, as it deftly utilizes a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Who By Fire” in a manner that absolutely recalls ELEMENTARY‘s title sequence (although ELEMENTARY is a bit more overt about its MOUSETRAP origins, but BAD SISTERS is doing something a bit different here):
This post briefly mentions sexual assault.
I’ve been working in tech for years and years. I grew up around IBM engineers. The first and most brutal lesson I learned was: don’t try to hide shit. You’ll always be found out, plus higher-ups are normally understanding about a lapsed deadline or missed feature, as long as you explain matters. (If they aren’t, you don’t want to work for them.)
This is a lesson Elizabeth Holmes never learned when she shepherded the doomed health tech company Theranos into the world, and ultimately was found guilty of fraud, will have to pay a whopping $425 million to victims, and will be heading to jail for at least 11 years.
Let me be clear and upfront: more often than not, I can’t stand true crime or even true crime docudramas, even if they’re focused on con-artist women. (It is worth underscoring that the justice system definitely did set Holmes up as an example, partially because she was a woman, because wealthy tech men rarely face those sort of repercussions.)
These works are traditionally about empathizing with a sociopath. Are the actual biographical facts of these people enormously complex? Of course. However, writers explicitly finesse what they see as characters. They want you to feel for the protagonist, to understand why they did what they did, which means making them sympathetic individuals, even if the protagonist robbed folks of billions of dollars for what was a terribly-idealized medical invention and did so solely for adulation and glory. Writers are always willing to do that because it makes for more resonant drama.
“Machines make mistakes. Especially when humans operate them.”
To rewind a bit:
This is a stunning drama. Amanda Seyfried is one hell of an Elizabeth; she’s Elizabeth amplified, for better or for worse. The rest of the cast is astounding: Naveen Andrews (LOST) as Elizabeth’s somewhat controlling boyfriend; Sam Waterston as an investor, Stephen Fry as a Theranos employee, plus William H. Macy, Bill Irwin, Laurie Metcalf and more. It’s all expertly overseen by Elizabeth Meriwether, who wrote the underrated film NO STRINGS ATTACHED, and more than a few episodes are directed by Michael Showater (STELLA).
The production design is so on-point — just watch the progression of Seyfried’s hair throughout the show, the unwinding of her braids. Note all of the early naughts bits of tech, all of the idiosyncratic candy-coated Apple devices that facilitated their revival.
However, I think it’d be better a better show if it were further removed from Elizabeth Holmes.
I know people like this exist because I’ve obviously dealt with and interacted with them and I know people exploit others without feeling any repercussions. (A tale as old as time.) I’m (mostly) fine with fictionalized folks who are like this. (See: BETTER CALL SAUL, for example.)
I do not like to be reminded that these folks exist in real life, that these stories are (mostly) true.
“We delete outliers. That’s what we do.”
Dramatic fiction is usually a cautionary tale, warning you against the ills of the world and others. True crime shows you the face of the worst of humanity, then — more often than not — tries to make you feel for them, that they aren’t terrible people, but they have bad impulses, and others get wrapped up in them.
Well, yes, but their protagonist still acted on those impulses.
“This is an inspiring step forward. This is an inspiring step forward.”
There’s a moment in the first episode of THE DROPOUT where such an impulse happens. It’s heavily implied that 19-year-old Elizabeth has been raped. There’s one exchange where a roommate asks another roommate whether they believe her. Obviously, when it comes to abuse, belief is a big issue, and that’s the crux of Holmes’ narrative; you never know whether to believe her, or whether you should believe in her. She’s fundamentally an unreliable narrator. (I’ll also note: this is obviously a terrible way of using that narrative device to explore her persona because the last thing those who have been sexually abused is to be disbelieved, but we’ll set that aside since that whole subplot is mostly ignored after being brought up.)
I’ll reiterate that, despite that, this is a finely-crafted show. In the third episode, you see when Elizabeth becomes who the world would know as the face of Theranos, and it’s such a startling BREAKING BAD-ish moment where she literally drinks the juice and pitches her voice down to sound like the Elizabeth Holmes we’re familiar with. That said, it still makes me feel dirty for watching it, which I did mostly because Holmes is back in the news because of a recent interview.
“You don’t have feelings! You aren’t a person, you’re a ghost, you’re nothing, you’re not real!”
Granted, I was able to push through the true crime facets and ‘enjoy’ the show based on its own merits, but like I said: I felt like a worse person for doing so, but sometimes consuming media will make you feel like a monster, and with good reason.
(Cable+Showtime) Yes, I have previously posted about WORK IN PROGRESS, and yes, WORK IN PROGRESS has been canceled and has been off-the-air for several months now, but I still want to boost it because it’s amazing, and not just because they literally shot it next-door to me.
Re-read the prior post for the particulars but I wrote that during the first season, and despite the fact that I’m not a self-proclaimed fat, queer woman, it hit me like a ton of bricks.
WORK IN PROGRESS S1 centers on suicidal ideation due to the death of a therapist and general dissatisfaction in life. WORK IN PROGRESS S2 is all about discerning what you need with therapy. It’s an extremely complex and thorny season of TV, but vastly appreciated, because we can all use therapy; don’t say you don’t need therapy because I guarantee you that you over-use your loved ones for emotional labor and that’s a shitty thing to do! But knowing what you want from therapy is also extremely difficult, and requires quite a bit of self-reflection and acknowledgement, and successfully navigating that is a lot.
There’s always the question as to the means and ends of therapy, of when one can move along from trauma, when the problem is ‘solved’, and the penultimate episode reckons with that and it had me in tears.
Life is complicated. I hate this. I hate hurting so much. I hate thinking and feeling so much. This entire goddamn blog was started during the pandemic and I’d be a liar if I said it’s anything other than a way to try to process everything, and WORK IN PROGRESS is — well, was — an astounding piece that I could latch onto. Not just because it was shot in my neighborhood, not because of it being queer-adjacent, not just because it reflected on the lost past of Chicago’s Girlstown, but that it fundamentally grapples with people trying to fix themselves in an entertaining, but enlightening ways.
The show was unfortunately canceled after the second season, however, I feel lucky a second season exists. It resolves itself naturally and in its own humanist way, and is a work I will consistently extoll to others because of how frank it is, how heartfelt it is, and how singularly Chicago it is.
I initially wrote this post several months ago and sat on it because, well, reasons. I just learned that Showtime has gone all HBO MAX and scrubbed it from being available to stream for unknown reasons. Please keep your eyes peeled for its reappearance but, goddamnit, of all of the second seasons of shows to remove from streaming services, this seems absolutely hateful. My apologies for recommending something that is absolutely unavailable for the time being unless you have a proper cable subscription.
I ignored the DCU TV efforts when they first launched. I had no interest in signing up for yet-another streaming service, much less one solely focused on rehashing works like DOOM PATROL that I had already read and loved and didn’t want a watered down distillation.
“What is this place?”
Now that all of the DCU TV efforts have been merged into Warner Bros/HBO, it’s far easier to watch them, and holy fucking shit, they’re all amazing, all swing-for-the-fences efforts that somehow have managed to chug along for the entirety of the pandemic.
“It’s a safe place for you to heal. You, and others like you.”
I should have known better. DC doesn’t micromanage their TV creatives the way Marvel does. And DOOM PATROL is amazingly devastating.
Unlike Harley Quinn, I’ve actually been very familiar with DOOM PATROL for years. I have read the entire Morrison run twice over. Shared it with my wife. While I probably should have read it when the original issues were rolling out while I worked in a comic book store, reading them in my late twenties was good enough.
“DON’T TOUCH ME!”
Unsurprisingly, as someone who has been diagnosed as having anxiety, hypomania/bi-polar/whatnot and PTSD (yeah, I’m a fucking shitshow), ‘Crazy Jane’ with her 64 mindsets is the character I identify most with. Diane Guerrero portrays that sort of mental whiplash perfectly.
“Ooooh, please touch me…”
(I’ll note that I have no idea how many appleboxes they have to use to block scenes with Diane Guerrero, but it has to be more than a few. However, her performance has a ferocity that measures her above every one of her co-stars.)
This show is immaculately cast and paced and costumed. April Bowlby is perfection as aloof and fallen Hollywood star Rita Farr, and the extremely form-fitting attire is an amazing narrative nod. Brendan Fraiser’s voice-over work for robot Cliff Steele is astoundingly vulnerable, and the physical effects for him are so tactile. Matt Bomer’s queer confliction as Larry Trainor +1 is so well-penned.
I have no idea how they talked Timothy Dalton into this, but he’s the best Chief you could ask for, and the house they’re shooting in? I want to go to there. It’s all rich Victorian wood and feels old and lived in and haunted. (I actually think I have been, as it looks like one of the WB lot houses, but they did a lot of great work with it!) Also: CIint Mansell provides the score! Alan Tudyk is Mr. Nowhere!
Everyone involved knew what they needed to do, and they did it to perfection, even if they were doing it in service of a bunch of misfits unfit for society.
I am shocked at how good it is, although it is not a subtle show. This isn’t ‘just good’ for a comics adaptation, or ‘just good’ for a genre TV series — it’s a great show, full-stop.
It’s the first show to remind me of SENSE8 in a long time, despite the fact that it is a pretty sexless show. It’s all about misfits trying to come to terms with their realizations and reckoning with them, and we do not have enough of that.
“Do you remember what it felt like? […] To be normal?”