With so many different takes on a post-apocalyptic or dystopian society already out there, it might seem crazy to bring another one to the small screen. But Hulu’s upcoming adaptation of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” is an upsettingly new and completely disturbing take on the dystopian societies of pop culture that we have come to know and love/fear.
Based on the excellent 1985 novel by Margaret Atwood, “The Handmaid’s Tale” tells the story of Offred, a woman living in a dystopian version of what appears to be the once United States, who is forced to act as a surrogate of sorts to the barren wife of one of the new leaders. I don’t want to give too much away, but the government that we know no longer exists, and a semi-religious group has taken over, sorting women into categories based on the skills they can provide.
I first read the book back in high school for a class and was immediately pulled in by the story (Atwood is an amazing writer fyi, if you read and like this book be sure to check out “The Blind Assassin” as well!) and thought it would make at least a great movie. They did end up making a movie of it in the early 90’s, starring Natasha Richardson and Faye Dunaway (of recent Oscar fiasco fame), but I never saw it, mostly because it didn’t look super great. However, this new TV (or streaming TV, whatever) adaptation looks like it might live up to my own hype for the book. It looks just as fascinating and unnerving as the book was, and with Elizabeth Moss in the role of Offred (and a very not-Rory Gilmore role for Alexis Bledel) it’s bound to be excellent. At least, that’s what I’m hoping.
What do you think? Excited for “The Handmaid’s Tale”? Worried that in our current political and social climate this whole story doesn’t seem as unlikely as one might hope? Me too… Well, anyway, I’m going to go find something to think about that won’t give me panic sweats. You, on the other hand, should…
Like anyone who loves TV (and has a lot of free time) I like to keep a list of shows that I’m currently watching, along with what time each show airs and what channel I can find it on (because unlike a lot of people who watch TV, I still like to watch most of it live). I thought it might be interesting to go through its most current iteration (aka shows that are airing new episodes as of this week) and see if it reveals anything curious about my regular TV habits. (Plus, I don’t really care about that new live-action “Beauty and the Beast” movie, so my pop culture news week has been pretty slow.)
Let’s start at the very beginning, aka MONDAYS:
“Supergirl” – 8/7c The CW: I started watching this back when it was on CBS because I thought the trailer for it looked entertaining (plus the ever-charming Jeremy Jordan is on it and as a onetime Fansie, I will follow him wherever he may go…in the least creepy way possible, of course). In its move to The CW I feel like it’s lost some of the more grounded and realistic elements of the show, making it fit in more with the rest of the hyper-melodramatic CW superhero shows (that they will never get me to watch no matter how many crossovers they do). Sadly, I might be cutting ties with this show soon, but in the meantime I still check it out weekly.
“Quantico” – 10/9c ABC: This show reveals a certain habit I get into way too often when it comes to TV: I love a weird mystery. If a pilot trailer implies that something terrible has happened and over the course of the series we’ll find out what exactly happened and who did it, you can almost guarantee that I’ll watch at least the first episode. This habit has steered me in directions both good-ish (“How to Get Away With Murder“) and very very bad (Oh, “The Family“). “Quantico,” I would say, is in the middle of that spectrum. They wrapped their first season mystery up with a neat, if not overly corny, bow and have even knocked out their second season whodunnit before their sophomore pass even ended. It’ll be interesting to see where they go from here, as reports have indicated that it’s moving from season-long arcs to more episode-by-episode stories. Will it keep my attention? I guess that’s a mystery we’ll all have to wait to find out about.
“New Girl” – 8/7c Fox: This show holds the special position of being one of the few comedies that actually makes me laugh out loud, as opposed to just quietly acknowledging that something is funny or clever like I do with most things. Their jokes are just so silly and the delivery by the likes of Jake Johnson and Max Greenfield is so perfect. My favorite character is Winston though. Give me a scene with him and his cat, Furguson, and I am in comedy heaven.
“Detroiters” – 10:30/9:30c Comedy Central: I’ve already written on this blog about how this show is great, and with every week it gets even better. If you’re still not watching it, what is wrong with you?!? Come on. Watch it.
“Empire” – 9/8c Fox: I’ve written elsewhere about how I think this show would be better if it made the risky decision to kill off Lucious Lyon, the super not-fun villainous patriarch of the Lyon dynasty, so it’ll be interesting to see where the season goes now that it’s back from its winter break. Andre said in the winter finale that his new goal was to knock his father off so he could take over the family business, and while I doubt he’ll actually be able to do it, I kind of look forward to finding out.
“Designated Survivor” – 10/9c ABC: This is another “Quantico”-like show with a central mystery that pulled me in and kept me watching, even though the series overall has been kind of majorly boring. This past week though the series went in a direction that I didn’t think it would logically go in until at least a season two or three (if it even got that far). I have no idea how it’s going to maintain this somewhat breakneck speed if it gets to a season two, so my curiosity in the show has been renewed. That is, of course, until it gets boring again.
“Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” – 10:30/9:30c TBS: Technically I don’t get to watch this show live because it coincides with “Designated Survivor,” but I wanted to give a much deserved shout-out to this lovely program. I think that Samantha Bee is the true heir to the Jon Stewart brand of late-night news skewering, with her acerbic wit and general angriness about the insanity of most current events. She’s definitely the one that sticks the most out of the pack.
“Grey’s Anatomy” – 8/7c ABC: I started watching “Grey’s” in season three when I happened upon an episode where it looked like the main character was legit going to die. She didn’t of course, but nearly everyone else around her in that season has died (or moved to Switzerland) since. Now in its 13th season, “Grey’s Anatomy” has continued to be an excellent source of great cries for me. And hey, for the most part it’s also still a pretty great and compelling series. It’s actually kind of crazy how well it’s maintained over the years. It kind of seems like it’ll just keep going until the actress who plays the titular Meredith Grey decides she wants off and I’ll definitely keep watching until then.
“Superstore” – 8/7c NBC: Another show that I don’t always get to watch live, but it’s worth mentioning because it genuinely lovely and hilarious. Plus, it brought America Ferrera back to TV and as a big “Ugly Betty” fan, I needed that to happen.
“Making History” – 8:30/7:30c Fox: The last of the shows that I highlighted in my post about great new pilot trailers, “Making History” has definitely lived up to my hype. It’s hilarious take on time travel and history is a perfect fit with the other weird and funny shows, like “Son of Zorn” and “The Last Man on Earth”, that make up Fox Sunday nights.
“The Last Man on Earth” – 9:30/8:30c Fox – Wrote about this bad boy recently too, so just read that to understand what makes this show so enjoyable. Also, I guess I really like weird comedy? That’s what I’m getting from all of this.
“Feud” – 10/9c FX: I kind of hate that I’ve become someone who watches everything Ryan Murphy makes, but he just keeps making stuff that’s right up my alley! The first season of his latest anthology series tracks the infamous tensions between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford while making the film “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” It’s super campy and entertaining just like most Ryan Murphy things. Plus, Stanley Tucci is on it and I love him more than life itself.
“American Crime” – 10/9c ABC: Another one that I don’t get to watch live, but I definitely make sure to watch it because it’s one of the best shows on network TV, if not TV as a whole. It’s more than a little insane that its even on network TV, given it’s unflinching takes on pretty much every sensitive subject in modern society. The third season just began last week and it’s already better than almost everything on this list. If you’ve never watched it, go back and watch the first two seasons. Even though each season is a completely different story with different characters, it’s imperative that you see the series as whole. It’s truly excellent.
Well, there you have it! My currently weekly TV viewing schedule. Riveting, I know.
What do you think of the shows I watch? Do you have your own weekly TV viewing schedule? Was this interesting to anyone? I’m dying to know. Be honest (but not too honest) in the comments. And, as always…
A few days ago I was going down a YouTube rabbit hole of recent late-night talk show clips (as one is wont to do) and was pleasantly reminded of how great Michael Shannon has become when it comes to talk show interviews. If you watch the above clip, I think you’ll definitely agree.
He’s always been an excellent actor, playing his fair share of bad guys (like the biggest of bads in “Man of Steel“) and the occasional good one (like in the wonderful, recent movie “Loving“) but great acting skills don’t always translate into a great talk show interview. It’s a certain art form of its own that requires a command of the audience’s attention and an effortless back and forth with the host. Of course, Jimmy Fallon isn’t necessarily the most difficult host to work off of. His whole vibe is “I love the guest and everything they do and say is great” which can be awesome in scenarios like the one above but can also go south pretty quickly.
Shannon is just incredibly funny, and his dry delivery keeps people on their toes. Sometimes it’s not entirely clear what’s a joke and what isn’t and that keeps things interesting. He’s not spouting off pre-planned statements (although to say the above moment isn’t pre-planned would be a big ‘ol lie), or at least he doesn’t seem like he is. He’s just being himself, which, contrary to the many dark and serious roles that he has played, apparently is a very funny guy who likes to shout-sing Sting karaoke.
So do yourself a favor and go down your own YouTube rabbit hole of old Michael Shannon talk show clips. It’s definitely a great way to start or brighten your day. You know I wouldn’t steer you wrong.
What do you think? Love Michael Shannon on talk shows? Do you also think he would be amazing as the preacher in a remake of “The Night of the Hunter“? Because he totally would. Write a tell all in the comments. And, before you go see “Get Out” for a second time (seriously, it’s that good), remember to always…
I’ve written a little bit on this blog about my love of Fox’s “The Last Man on Earth” in the past, but after last night’s excellent new episode I’ve decided it’s necessary to delve a little more into why this show is so great. Because it is great. And frankly, it’s doing something that may seem impossible for a comedy to effectively pull off, and it does it insanely well.
The premise of the show (for the uninformed) is that a mysterious virus has killed off most if not all of the population except for one man, Phil Miller (played brilliantly by series creator Will Forte). Miller quickly discovers that he is not in fact alone and over the course of the series meets up with a number of other last man and women who collectively choose to navigate life alone, together, despite their many differences.
If you just read that and thought, “Hey that does not sound like a comedy at all. In fact, that sounds kind of terrifying and sad” you’d be right! This premise should not work as a comedy and yet it does. With so many other shows and films dealing with dark and ominous post-apocalyptic worlds, it feels both crazy and somewhat necessary to provide a more comedic take on the end of modern civilization as we know it.
And yes, “The Last Man on Earth” is incredibly funny. Anything created by Will Forte is destined to be hilarious. But it also doesn’t shy away from the more serious, much darker elements of the story that have to be in play for it to work. Characters die, sometimes in darkly comedic ways but other times in sad, heartbreaking ways. While our ragtag group of survivors have made it so far, the possibility of the virus further effecting their lives always looms large, especially now that two of the characters are pregnant with babies that may or may not be as presumably immune as their parents. Not to mention that their world is so eerily similar to ours that the prospect of a virus taking hold on real life doesn’t seem so far-fetched.
This brings me to last night’s episode, where we learned more about when the virus initially broke through the eyes of Pamela Brinton, a wealthy woman played by Kristen Wiig who survived the virus by retreating to an underground bunker. At first Brinton sees the virus as simply a “really bad flu season.” It’s not until she starts to see the effects of the virus in her own life, from a brilliant series of news segments reporting on the virus- related death of the 46th president (and the 47th, 48th, 49th and 50th) to her own husband contracting the virus and ordering her to leave to protect herself, that she realizes that this is something deadly serious.
Again, this could easily be the plot of a horror movie or a dramatic series coming to USA in the fall, but Wiig’s performance as the horrified yet hilarious Brinton (with her little dog wonderfully named Jeremy in tow) brings a certain lightness. And after we learn that Brinton has a certain connection to earlier events in the series, it seems like she might not be alone for much longer.
Much like its main characters, “The Last Man on Earth” seems like it shouldn’t exist. Its mix of darkness and light doesn’t seem like it should work, but it does. The show has been quietly brilliant for years now and with last night’s new episode, it seems like they have no plans to stop. I like to think that if more eyes were on this show and the incredible balance it manages, it could possibly give Emmys juggernaut “Veep” an actual run for its money. But who knows, maybe the virus has gotten to me too.
Do you watch “The Last Man on Earth”? What did you think of last night’s episode? Have your own underground bunker prepped for the end? Share your tips in the comments. And, before you go see “Get Out” (because you REALLY need to see “Get Out”; I did and it was incredible), remember…