How ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ Turned a Recasting Problem on Its Head

Co-creator Aline Brosh McKenna weighs in on Skylar Astin’s debut as Rebecca’s ex and what that says about her mental health.

[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” Season 4, Episode 8, “I’m Not The Person I Used To Be.”]

On Friday’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) can’t recognize her alcoholic ex-boyfriend Greg (Santino Fontana) when he shows up at his high school reunion party after two years away. That’s because “Pitch Perfect” star Skylar Astin, not Fontana, now plays Greg.

“We wrote [Fontana] off the show because he voluntarily left. And he’ll be in ‘Tootsie’ on Broadway,” Bloom said during a panel for the show at the Television Critics Association press tour this summer. “But with an actor leaving, that left an exciting gap. His character has become like lore.”

With Becky in “Roseanne,” Aunt Viv in “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” or Darren in “Bewitched,” recasting a role isn’t usually acknowledged on the show, although the audience can’t help but be aware of the change. However, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” did the opposite and uses the recasting as an opportunity to comment on the changes that Rebecca went through this season as she sought therapy for her borderline personality disorder. She’s not the person Greg had met in the pilot, and therefore, the way she interprets the world is different. He’s also been through changes, seeking a new life of recovery and higher education in Atlanta.

“It seemed really fun to us to explore characters who haven’t seen each other in such a long time,” said co-creator Aline Brosh McKenna. “He’s a character who’s been in recovery for two years, and she’s been in a pretty serious recovery for a year herself. It seemed like a fun opportunity to revisit people who had really changed so much.”

Rachel Bloom and Skylar Astin, "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"

Rachel Bloom and Skylar Astin, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”

The CW

Rebecca’s friends have no problems recognizing Greg, which reinforces the idea that the audience has experienced the show through Rebecca’s skewed point of view. While it was known that the show’s many musical numbers take place in Rebecca’s head, it’s revealed that Rebecca is, in fact, a horrible singer. She just thinks she sounds amazing, and therefore, that’s what the audience has experienced.

Brosh McKenna said, “The show is very much a first-person show, and we commonly deal with her perceptual issues, that she sees the world, in a different way from other people… It seemed like for that reason, that [the recasting] made a lot of sense.”

As Rebecca and Greg catch up, neither is willing to dredge up a past that was fueled by chemistry, but tainted by their respective issues. They decide to start anew, which leads to the musical number “Nice to Meet You,” in which the two sing and dance through various meet-cute scenarios in the subway, at a bar, and the doctor’s office.

Vincent Rodriguez III and Rene Gube, "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"

Vincent Rodriguez III and Rene Gube, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”

The CW

The high school reunion also provides other opportunities to reexamine perceptions. Popular bro Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III) was voted prom king in senior year, and he’s taken that responsibly a bit too seriously as the supposed leader of the school. However, he learns that his pal was actually voted prom king and didn’t want the role, so Josh the runner-up was crowned.

“Josh finds out that a linchpin of his identity never happened. That prom king thing has been a huge part of his identity,” said Brosh McKenna. “Josh has really had a lot of his conceptions about himself shift away over time. This is a hard one for him to swallow, but what he realizes is, like many of the challenges he’s experienced in life, this is actually an opportunity for him to move forward and do something that the high school hero doesn’t normally do.”

Read More:  ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ Co-Creator Aline Brosh McKenna Picks TV’s Best Pilots — Turn It On Podcast

Josh starts with hanging out with a group of people he didn’t know existed at his high school: The Abracada-Bros, a group of magic enthusiasts that includes George (Danny Jolles), one of Rebecca’s former coworkers. This also leads to the musical number “What You Missed While You Were Popular,” which opens his eyes to his narrow high school experience.

Josh isn’t the only one to have their world shift after a revelation. His high school sweetheart Valencia (Gabrielle Ruiz), who is now dating Beth (Emma Willmann), had a torrid affair with another student at the time and even wanted to run away with him after graduation. In a classic case of mixed connections, her note declaring her love got lost… only to be recovered at the reunion. In an elaborate reveal, it turns out that her old flame is Father Brah (Rene Gube, who also wrote the episode), the cool priest who has been advising Josh and his pals.

“That was something that the writers’ room had always talked about because she seemed like she’s never really been that happy with Josh,” said Brosh McKenna. “Also, we had always wanted to do an episode where we got into Father Brah and his past a little bit more to portray a priest in a way that is dimensional so that he’s not saintly, that you see that he has struggled a bit in his life to get to where he is, that he was a young dude just like everybody else and made this decision.”

Gabrielle Ruiz and Vella Lovell, "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"

Gabrielle Ruiz and Vella Lovell, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”

The CW

This episode marks the halfway point in “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s” final season. Rebecca getting help, quitting her lawyer gig to run a pretzel shop, and seeing the world differently aren’t the only signs of progress from her early days of instability. Although she and this new Greg appear to be rekindling their romance, she confesses to him that shortly after he left, she spiraled out of control and slept with his father. Oops.

“He’s very upset, devastated, disgusted. But also, he sees that it took courage for her to say that, and that she probably wouldn’t have said that two years ago,” said Brosh McKenna. “She didn’t have to tell him. He actually sees in the moment that she’s also changed and she faces the emotional consequences. So, I think he admires that even as he kind of wants to barf.”

Rebecca’s story began with following her crush Josh Chan across the country to live in West Covina. Throughout these four seasons, she’s dated him, Greg, and the lawyer Nathaniel (Scott Michael Foster), and have subsequently split because of her issues. Now that she’s on the path to recovery and all three men are currently single in the same city, Brosh McKenna says that a love quadrangle could “indeed” be in her future, but would only confirm Rebecca’s broad trajectory.

There’s a happiness gap for her, and there always has been, between where she is and where she wants to be,” she said. “She’s going to continue to try and puzzle that out.”

The 30 Best TV Episodes of 2018, Ranked

In a year which shattered our concept of reality, these episodes put the pieces together.

IndieWire Best of 2018

In an age when people are far too used to blasting through entire seasons (or series) in a weekend, it’s a pleasure to celebrate the concept of the great episode: a concise bite of storytelling that functions as its own narrative as well as a part of a larger whole.

Last year’s list was 25 episodes, but expanding this list to 30 became necessary given the incredible scope of television to be considered — across all platforms, there was too much to celebrate. Some of the series below represent the year’s most significant programs, while others may not have made IndieWire’s best-of lists, but deserved recognition for what they achieved within individual installments. From soul-deep despair to giggle-inducing joy, the range of TV in 2018 covered all corners of the human existence.

IndieWire’s picks for the best episodes of the year are an eclectic bunch, but what they have in common is this: great stories, told well. An enthralling 20-minute narrative can stick with you far longer than your average full season. When boiled down to this core parameter, length doesn’t matter any more.

30. “Single Parents”

SINGLE PARENTS - "They Call Me DOCTOR Biscuits!" - When Graham and Rory are cast in their school's production of "Grease," with Graham as the lead and Rory with a lesser known part, Poppy and Angie get involved and try to appeal to the drama teacher, Dr. Biscuits (Rhys Darby), to make changes. Meanwhile, Will is not ready to tell Sophie that he's seeing Dr. Dewan (Hannah Simone), so against his better judgment, he takes Douglas' advice and lies to Sophie, on an all-new episode of "Single Parents," WEDNESDAY, NOV. 7 (9:31-10:00 p.m. EST), on The ABC Television Network. (ABC/Richard Cartwright)TYLER WLADIS, DEVIN TREY CAMPBELL

“Single Parents.”

ABC

Season 1, Episode 7, “They Call Me Doctor Biscuits”

  • directed by Maggie Carey
  • written by Berkley Johnson

This gem of a comedy from “New Girl’s” Elizabeth Meriwether and J. J. Philbin found its flavor of inspired lunacy straight out of the gate. The seventh episode epitomizes how the ensemble works in almost any combination — yes, kids mixed with adults included — and how pretty much anything goes for this talented and goofy cast. Building an elaborate lie and then digging the hole to outrageous depths to avoid telling your kid the real truth (that you’re dating their pediatrician) is only the first course in this madcap buffet of shenanigans that finishes with the pièce de résistance or, should we say, Grease de résistance, a bizarre adaptation of the popular play as performed by only two kids. This is the episode in which there are no small parts, only small actors (they’re kids, after all!), but the dividends are huge. – HN

29. “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow”

Legends of Tomorrow

“DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.”

The CW

Season 3, Episode 17, “Guest Starring John Noble”

  • directed by Ralph Hemecker
  • written by Keto Shimizu & James Eagan

Some great shows have a tipping point: They suddenly go from being a fun time to something truly special, and there’s no question that the weirdest and most delightful of the CW’s DC spinoffs arrived at this juncture toward the end of its third season. In the cold open of “Guest Starring John Noble,” a college-aged Barack Obama is working away in his dorm room, when he’s attacked by a super-intelligent time-traveling giant gorilla. To be clear: This really happened on a broadcast network television show in the year 2018.

What’s so special about this episode is that the whole Obama-gorilla thing isn’t even the craziest part. As per the title, most of the plot revolves around orchestrating a con to trick a father and daughter possessed by evil, which involves a visit to the real-life John Noble (as himself). It might sound ridiculous, but the reasons why and how actually do make sense in context, and are just yet another part of the formula which makes this one of TV’s most delightful series right now. – LSM

28. “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”

Kiernan Shipka and Michelle Gomez, "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina"

Kiernan Shipka and Michelle Gomez, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”

Diyah Pera/Netflix

Season 1, Episode 7, “Chapter Seven: Feast or Feasts”

  • directed by Viet Nguyen
  • written by Oanh Ly

The Thanksgiving episode goes deliciously dark when the local Feast of Feasts tradition is revealed: a witch sacrifices her body to be consumed by the rest of the coven. It’s supposed to be an honor for the witch in question, but it’s one that half-mortal, half-witch Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) rightly calls out as barbaric and eventually discovers has a problematic, patriarchal past. The premise encapsulates what the show does so well: challenge established systems and ways of thinking through the lens of horror, yet never compromising the show’s black humor or its heroine’s continued exploration of virtue and free will. Mankind’s fascination with cannibalism has never abated, and here it is explored in a far more nuanced way than just a means of survival or sexual fetish, one that brings in concepts of faith and selfhood. Finally, Tati Gabrielle as mean girl rival Prudence was also a standout this season, and this episode doesn’t just give her a spotlight, but a literal throne from which she rules. – HN

27. “Lovesick”

Lovesick

“Lovesick.”

Courtesy of Netflix

Season 3, Episode 4, “Evie”

  • directed by Gordon Anderson
  • written by Tom Edge

After two and a half seasons of following one character’s roundabout search for a magical fairytale moment, the series’ best episode to date deals with what happens after he finally finds it. As much a showcase for Dylan’s singular friend group as it is for him, a trio of unexpected romantic developments help highlight love it all its crazy, unpredictable forms. There’s the joy of finally breaking the long-simmering tension at the center of the show, but there’s real heartache in watching the necessity of this new relationship having to come at the expense of something that had also flourished with a real sweetness. “Lovesick” has tried to look at love from so many different angles that it’s a rush to see it handle so many of them in one self-contained episode. – SG

26. “Counterpart”

Season 1, Episode 6, “Act Like You’ve Been There Before”

  • directed by Jennifer Getzinger
  • written by Justin Britt-Gibson

One of the reasons this Starz drama is one of the best new shows of the year is that amidst all of the very sharp world-building it manages to squeeze into its opening episodes, a deep mystery is building underneath, cresting before the audience can grasp its full significance. Hopping between alternate realities without too much of the sci-fi trappings, the ending revelation of this episode is what locks a huge chunk of the espionage mystery into place. Later episodes in the season would build its shock on a harsher sense of tragedy and violence, but the single pair of looks between two people that punctuates this episode might be the biggest gut punch of them all. – SG

25. “The Magicians”

THE MAGICIANS -- "A Life in the Day" Episode 305 -- Pictured: Summer Bishil as Margo Hanson -- (Photo by: Eric Milner/Syfy)

“The Magicians.”

Eric Milner/Syfy

Season 3, Episode 5, “A Life in the Day”

  • directed by John Scott
  • written by Mike Moore

This packed episode includes a beheading, a royal marriage, unwanted powers, and possible hallucinations, and yet it’s the slowest, sweetest, and most mundane storyline that created the real magic. As part of the season-long quest to obtain seven keys, Quentin (Jason Ralph) and Eliot (Hale Appleman) go on a quest in Fillory to create a mosaic that represents the beauty of the world. Only, this is no simple task and takes years, nay, a literal lifetime to accomplish, during which viewers witness all the major milestones of their existence, including love, loss, family, and eventually, death.  Only when Quentin digs a grave for Eliot does the golden tile show up to complete the mosaic; their experience together is what enabled the mosaic to be complete, and thus earn the key. This celebration of dedication, sacrifice, and most of all, love is the type of stealth sentimentality that “The Magicians” has running through its usually shiny, sassy veins. The episode is utterly confident in its tone and how it presents the journey, which is reflection on the many storytelling leaps that the show has taken over the year, and precisely why it’s built up such a fierce following. – HN

24. “AP Bio”

A.P. BIO -- "Eight Pigs and a Rat" Episode 111 -- Pictured: Allisyn Ashley Arm as Heather -- (Photo by: Vivian Zink/NBC)

“A.P. Bio.”

Vivian Zink/NBC

Season 1, Episode 11, “Eight Pigs and a Rat”

  • directed by Carrie Brownstein
  • written by Mike O’Brien & Zeke Nicholson

The way in which things escalate in this midseason installment of NBC’s surprisingly dark comedy (directed by “Portlandia’s” Carrie Brownstein!) is pretty impressive: A class assignment to dissect fetal pigs first gets twisted into another one of Jack’s (Glenn Howerton) quests for vengeance, before it takes quite the right turn and focuses on finding the one kid who tried to rat out their teacher. (Hence the title.) The show’s top-notch ensemble is in fine form during Jack’s torture sessions, with the delightful Heather (breakout star Allisyn Ashley Arm) owning the episode’s final moments: How many episodes of television this year offered up plenty of laughs while also teaching the proper way to butcher a pig? “A.P. Bio” really delivered some magic with this one. – LSM

23. “GLOW”

Glow Season 2 Episode 8

“GLOW”

Katrina Marcinowski/Netflix

Season 2, Episode 8, “The Good Twin”

  • directed by Meera Menon
  • written by Nick Jones & Rachel Shukert

So many episodes of “GLOW” Season 2 delivered on the show’s inherent charm, but look: For over a season-and-a-half, viewers wanted to know what the actual show about gorgeous ladies who wrestle looks like. “The Good Twin” is the answer; a silly, joyous, sketch-driven half-hour that reveals what all the blood, sweat, tears, and ruined relationships are for. Every actor is fully committed to the goofy acting and high-octane wrestling action. Plus, with the explanation as to how an injured Ruth (Alison Brie) is still a part of the action, it becomes clear just how “GLOW,” within and without the show, might become an enduring franchise. – LSM

22. “Sharp Objects”

Sharp Objects Episode 7 Patricia Clarkson

Patricia Clarkson in “Sharp Objects”

Anne Marie Fox/HBO

Episode 7, “Falling”

  • directed by Jean-Marc Vallée
  • written by Gillian Flynn & Scott Brown

Sometimes the appetizer is even better than the main course. The series finale of “Sharp Objects,” HBO’s sizzling summer mystery, didn’t disappoint one iota, but how well the preceding episode set up a series of brutal revelations and teeth-chattering twists proved just as compelling as the final moments. Moreover, “Falling” brought much-needed closure (and confidence) to Camille (Amy Adams), as she finally sees Det. Richard Willis (Chris Messina) and suspect John Keene (Taylor John Smith) for who they really are, reckoning with her past through theirs in order to prepare for a
challenging future. Throw in Patricia Clarkson’s delectable scene-chewing, Elizabeth Perkins’ drunken confession, and a whole lot of clues, and suddenly “Falling” is rising to the top of the series. It sets the night on fire, even as it pulls you further into the dark. – BT

21. “The Good Place”

THE GOOD PLACE -- "Janet (s)" Episode 310 -- Pictured: D'Arcy Carden as Janet -- (Photo by: Colleen Hayes/NBC)

“The Good Place.”

Colleen Hayes/NBC

Season 3, Episode 10, “Janet(s)”

  • directed by Morgan Sackett
  • written by Dylan Morgan and Josh Siegal

If this episode were an equation, the math would be simple: Six Janets equals six times the fun. And for the most part, that’s not an inaccurate assessment, only a shortsighted one. D’Arcy Carden does sextuple duty as a result of bringing the humans into her void while simultaneously visiting Accounting, and this is all a sneaky setup to examine some big questions of selfhood and personal identity. “The Good Place” has always been clever in how it pondered some of life’s knotty problems, but this installment was a beautiful melding of these concepts and its ongoing, loving narrative between Arizona trash bag Eleanor (Kristen Bell) and ulcer-ridden philosopher Chidi (William Jackson Harper). Innovative, irreverent, and most of all, hopeful, “The Good Place” once again takes the boundaries of TV comedies and restructures it within its twisted reality. – HN

‘The Good Place’: How Its Team of Philosophers Made the Fall Finale Go Deep

Inside the trippy episode that combined issues of selfhood, multiple Janets, and one big kiss.

[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from “The Good Place” Season 3, Episode 10, “Janet(s).”]

“The Good Place” creator Mike Schur describes Thursday’s episode, in which D’Arcy Carden plays multiple versions of her character Janet, as “a form of psychological torture.” In a desperate move to save the lives of demon Michael (Ted Danson) and their human friends Eleanor (Kristen Bell), Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Tahani (Jameela Jamil), and Jason (Manny Jacinto), Janet whisks them into her boundless Void. Michael arrives unscathed, but the mortals aren’t so lucky: Each of them look exactly like Janet.

“The reason to do this isn’t to have D’Arcy run around and goof off as her castmates,” said Schur after a screening of the episode. “[Eleanor is] literally asking herself, ‘Who am I? What version of me am I right now?’ and so is [Chidi]. This is something philosophers talk about.”

This season, Eleanor realized that in one of the many timelines in The Bad Place, she and Chidi fell in love. In the Void, she confronts him with this fact, but he denies its relevance: The Chidi he is now had different experiences, and is not the Chidi from that other timeline.

The show wanted to explore the concept of identity and self that would push Eleanor to a crisis point, but “The Good Place” consulted with philosophical advisers Todd May of Clemson University and Pamela Hieronymi of UCLA before working in the absurdist world Schur created.

THE GOOD PLACE -- "Team Cockroach" Episode 204 -- Pictured: (l-r) William Jackson Harper as Chidi, Jameela Jamil as Tahani, Kristen Bell as Eleanor Shellstrop, Manny Jacinto as Jianyu -- (Photo by: Colleen Hayes/NBC)

“The Good Place”

Colleen Hayes/NBC

“Todd May was in California, so he came in and ran us through John Locke, and [David] Hume, and Derek Parfit,” said Schur. “[We] said, ‘Tell us all about philosophical conceptions of the sense of the self,’ and then from there we had the idea that Eleanor’s sense of self would crumble and that would be the thing that threatened to have everything blow up.”

Josh Siegal, who co-wrote the episode with Dylan Morgan, said, “We sent [Todd] a draft, and he graded it like a paper.”

“I’d say he gave us a B+ unofficially, then he suggested little tweaks to the language in terms of how Chidi-Janet is explaining the theory,” said Schur. “On the actual show, we discuss these things in one or two sentences, but we want to internally make sure we understand them at a deeper level.”

While the writers wrestled with knotty narrative problems, Carden was faced with playing the Janet-ized versions of each of her co-stars, channeling their mannerisms and speech patterns. First, the entire cast performed the scene in the Void as themselves, filmed for her reference (and watched “one million times”). Carden also recorded the cast doing a table read, which she listened to repeatedly.

“It’s not necessarily hard to play five different characters, but it is hard to play five really well-established characters that I know for years now. It’s a different kind of thing than just making up five new ones,” she said. “We didn’t want it to be like ‘SNL’ sketch characters; we didn’t want to do over the top. It was a really fine line between not doing them enough so that we could tell who each one was and doing it too much.”

Carden said she found playing Chidi particularly challenging. “He has such a distinct voice that I could hear it so well in my head. That was hard. I lost my mind. … I remember during the read-through, hearing Will Harper as Chidi read a big chunk [of dialogue] and my thought was, ‘Oh, he’s got a lot to memorize this episode.’ And then I was like, ‘Oh no!’ The whole thing was very disorienting.”

Shooting the multiple Janets was also a technical challenge. Schur said, “When we first had the idea a million years ago, we were like, ‘Can this be done?’ Well, ‘Orphan Black’ did it like a thousand times. That’s what I kept thinking.”

Often, Carden was shooting by herself, delivering dialogue to poles with a mark for eyeline guidance or opposite stand-ins wearing Janet wigs. The biggest challenge came at the end of the Void scene, when Eleanor begins to lose her sense of self. This causes her appearance to fluctuate from Janet to other people of all shapes, genders, and sizes. It’s not until Chidi finally admits his feelings for her with a climatic kiss that she settles into her own Eleanor body.

THE GOOD PLACE -- "Don't Let the Good Life Pass You By" Episode 309 -- Pictured: (l-r) Kristen Bell as Eleanor Shellstrop, William Jackson Harper as Chidi -- (Photo by: Colleen Hayes/NBC)

Kristen Bell and William Jackson Harper in “The Good Place”

Colleen Hayes/NBC

“There was a long pole with a literal pair of lips on it… exactly at my lip height. It was on a Lazy Susan that was controlled by some dude,” Carden said about the kissing rig that was used. “But it was a pole, it wasn’t a body, so I had to sort of hug air and kiss these lips and then we would start spinning, but I couldn’t smile or laugh. Then I had to kiss Kristen, but it had to match exactly the head tilt and every inch of us had to match. She was on a little apple box and we had to be pressed against each other in a not-sexy way at all. Every little inch had to be perfect. It was like surgery, almost.”

“And then she had to do that with Will[iam Jackson Harper],” said Schur. All told, Carden spent 40 minutes performing in the 22-minute episode.

Stephen Merchant also guest stars as Neil, the head of Accounting, where every action that humans perform is assigned a positive or negative score. The tally determines whether a person is worthy of entering The Good Place, but it’s revealed that no one has been accepted into The Good Place for 521 years. Schur said that number will be addressed in the next episode.

“It was always reserved for the elite, top 5 percent,” said Schur. “So we figured once westward expansion begins, everyone was screwed. Harriet Tubman, Jonas Salk, and the Golden Girls were the main [ones]. Basically, anyone Antebellum in America is screwed pretty much.”

The Best New TV Shows of 2018

Another year of peak TV, another 15 brilliant series to add to your watch list.

IndieWire Best of 2018

Ah, the promise of a fresh start. The year of 2018 saw a number of unforgettable endings, but there were even more enticing beginnings. That’s good news for all those viewers starving for content — haha, what a good joke. No one needs more TV in 2018 (not with more than 500 scripted series out there), but everyone can benefit from better television.

Whether that stems from an exciting, previously unheard voice, a new form of storytelling meant to shake up the system, or just a damn solid series eager to capture your imagination, great TV is always welcome. The following 15 scripted shows exhibited all these characteristics and more, making the previous 12 months a banner year for serialized storytelling.

So make a list, set your priorities, and start sampling these exemplary new series. Some may prove too engrossing to ignore, replacing old favorites that have slipped up or forcing you to skip a few movies to make up the time. New beginnings are to be savored. Who knows how much longer the gilded age can continue?

15. “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”

CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA

Kiernan Shipka and Ross Lynch in “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”

Diyah Pera/Netflix

While creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa proved with “Riverdale” that a darker, more irreverent version of Archie Comics could work on the small screen, his “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” revamp made a pact with the devil to deliver a clever and progressive morality tale that doesn’t skimp on the fun. Full of witchcraft, demons, and other occult trappings, the Netflix series follows hybrid teen Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) as she navigates the mortal and witch worlds. As she tests the boundaries of her free will, the show also experiments with the framework of its storytelling, paying homage to numerous horror stories to enchanting effect.

The colorful cast of characters — ranging from a housebound warlock and squabbling witch siblings to a deceitful demoness and magic-practicing mean girl — help examine societal expectations and the shadow of the patriarchy. Like its anachronistic ‘60s aesthetic, this modern story is full of paradoxes: Satan worshippers with a conscience, nearly immortal beings who run a mortuary, and virginal girls with an affinity for evil. Wicked smart and hella hilarious, “Sabrina” is an addictive, dark delight. Hail Satan! – HN

14. “The Little Drummer Girl”

Alexander Skarsgard as Becker, Michael Shannon as Kurtz - The Little Drummer Girl _ Season 1, Episode 4 - Photo Credit: Jonathan Olley/AMC/Ink Factory

Alexander Skarsgard and Michael Shannon in “The Little Drummer Girl”

Jonathan Olley/AMC/Ink Factory

As anyone familiar with Park Chan-wook’s striking film work can imagine, there are enough individual elements in his first TV series to elevate it above other spy thrillers. The AMC production was one of the few to shoot the Acropolis after the sun had set. Michael Shannon’s Israeli accent was trumped only by his ferocious spirit. Alexander Skarsgård — and his form-fitting fashions — made for one seductively reserved recruiter. But while all of these are worth admiring on their own, Chan-wook’s John le Carré adaptation tied them all together with the thin line connecting actors and liars. Really, it’s Florence Pugh’s performance that brings the blustery men and the swirling camera together, adding a beating heart and a cunning mind to one of the more finely tuned meta narratives of recent memory. – BT

13. “Kidding”

Jim Carrey, "Kidding"

Jim Carrey, “Kidding”

Showtime

An earnest man in a cold world, Mr. Pickles (Jim Carrey) works just as well in his imaginary children’s show as he does in Dave Holstein’s black Showtime comedy. The Mr. Rodgers figure has helped educate generations of kids with his lessons in kindness and inspiration. Meanwhile, the man off-camera has tried to live his life by those same ideas, but he’s starting to crack in the face of tragedy. Directed with loving inventiveness by Michel Gondry (among others), “Kidding” represents the image of themselves people strive for as it clashes with the harsh reality they run into every day. Having Carrey’s lively, nuanced turn to guide us through the calamitous blending makes it all the more powerful, and Season 1 set up a future with wide-ranging possibilities. Mr. Pickles should be proud. – BT

12. “Corporate”

Corporate Season 1 Finale Lance Reddick

“Corporate”

Comedy Central

At the beginning of the year, this unrepentant, often-bleak comedy about life inside the belly of corporate bureaucracy was a welcome jolt of humor (a trend that will thankfully continue in 2019 when Season 2 arrives). Unmistakably connected by a sense of work-induced dread, each individual episode has its own stylistic departure, be it a dance break, Lynchian dream reality, or borderline unbelievable finale proving nothing was too precious for this show. Giant multinational behemoth Hampton DeVille might see Matt (Matt Ingebretson), Jake (Jake Weisman), and the rest of its desensitized employee base as interchangeable cogs, but the show gifts them their own specific neuroses and small, momentary triumphs. Set at a company that will literally sell anything, there’s no telling where co-creators Pat Bishop, Ingebretson, and Weisman may fix their sights next. But it’s a safe bet no other show will take modern American anxieties and transform them into something so wickedly satisfying. – SG

11. “Howards End”

Howards End 2018 Wilcox

“Howards End”

Laurie Sparham

“Howards End” is shrouded in a certain sense of impenetrability. Social status, reputation, the consequences of past choices, or the secrets that remain unspoken all create a kind of shell around many of the characters in E.M. Forster’s novel. It’s all the more remarkable then, that director Hettie MacDonald and writer Kenneth Lonergan were able to craft a distinct, four-part adaptation that harnessed a spirit of freedom and vibrancy. Even in the face of immense tragedy, there are still moments of levity and sweetness balancing out the way these three families’ fates become forever intertwined. Hayley Atwell and Matthew Macfadyen are ideal anchors for this tale, embodying Margaret Schlegel and Henry Wilcox with a genuine sense of affection. The result is a drama that understands the frustration of repressed emotions without falling victim to the same problems that visit its central players. – SG

10. “A.P. Bio”

A.P. BIO -- "Drenching Dallas" Episode 113 -- Pictured: Glenn Howerton as Jack Griffin -- (Photo by Colleen Hayes/NBC)

Glenn Howerton in “A.P. Bio”

Colleen Hayes/NBC

“A.P. Bio” begins its pilot with one of the all-time great character introductions of the year: Jack Griffin (Glenn Howerton) running his car into the sign outside Whitlock High School, walking into his classroom, dropping his lunch (and a crowbar) onto the teacher’s desk, and proceeding to inform his new students they would be learning nothing from him. Just as important: This ousted Ivy Leaguer said he would be learning nothing from them, either. Though that didn’t prove to be entirely true, Jack’s streak of anarchy pervaded the entire first season of NBC’s comedy, which brought with it gifts like Jack’s DGAF wardrobe choices, the subtly bitchy trio of Jack’s fellow students, and the spectacular weirdness of Heather (Allisyn Ashley Arm). A game cast of kids rounded out a winning ensemble, and helped make “A.P. Bio” a class worth taking again and again. – LSM

9. “Counterpart”

Counterpart Season 1 2018 JK Simmons

JK Simmons in “Counterpart”

Nicole Wilder / Starz

J.K. Simmons in a dual role as a mild-mannered office drone named Howard and his far more dangerous and hardened, parallel world version (also named Howard) is enough to make “Counterpart” worth checking out. But the series consistently delivered fascinating doppelgängers of each cast member while pondering (quite literally) if you can be your own worst enemy. In Starz’s sharp sci-fi series, a nexus point in Berlin becomes the genesis of a second world identical to our own, but in the classic examination of nature versus nurture, it’s human development that makes all the difference. An espionage tale with a key twist — spies must outmaneuver themselves, like a grandmaster playing both sides of the chess board — Harry Lloyd, Olivia Williams, Nazanin Boniadi, and Sara Serraioco join Simmons in these exciting shenanigans. But even as tense and thrilling as “Counterpart” can be, like Howard, the show has an alternate persona, one that is wistful and contemplative, yearning for and observing the road not taken. – HN

8. “Pose”

Indya Moore, "Pose"

Indya Moore in “Pose”

FX

One of 2018’s most-needed bursts of joy, “Pose” brings us into the House of Evangelista and the House of Abundance, making 1980s New York ball culture feel like home. There’s a specter of darkness hanging over Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Steven Canals’ story, but the detail-rich production design and an exuberant cast, including Mj Rodriguez, Billy Porter, and Indya Moore, made this nightly foray truly addictive. – LSM

7. “Succession”

"Succession" Season 1 Alan Ruck, Jeremy Strong, Kieran Culkin, Nicholas Braun

“Succession”

Peter Kramer/HBO

Even if “Succession” was just the Tom and Greg show, it would still be one of the best new series of the year. That the two characters brought to delicious, contentious life by Matthew Macfadyen and Nicholas Braun, respectively, are only a small piece of the puzzle just goes to show a) how much better Jesse Armstrong’s HBO drama can get in Season 2, and b) how many rich surprises (no pun intended) it had to offer in Season 1. Quickly ratcheting up suspense over a familial power struggle for one of the world’s largest media conglomerates, “Succession” brings you just close enough to each character to make their tragic flaws sting whenever they’re forced into the limelight. Such honest assessments make for biting condemnations, but it’s surprising to see how much you care about select Roy family members during their often disgusting quest for control. “Succession” blends comedy and drama, satire and respect, critiques and matter-of-fact statements about how the modern world works, and it does it all in one sleek, seductive package. Now, if only there was a bit more Tom and Greg… – BT

6. “The First”

The First -- "The Choice" - Episode 107 - Tom and the Providence crew must make a choice with potentially life-threatening consequences. Matteo wrestles with his past. Tom and Denise must deal with unfinished business. Tom Hagerty (Sean Penn) and Kayla Price (LisaGay Hamilton), shown. (Photo by: Alan Markfield/Hulu)

Sean Penn and LisaGay Hamilton in “The First”

Alan Markfield/Hulu

“The First” was exceptional television for all the reasons it struggled to crack through a busy TV landscape. Released on the bountiful premiere day that also saw “Forever,” “American Vandal” Season 2, and “BoJack Horseman” Season 5 all bow at the exact same time, this drama surrounding the first manned mission to Mars never reverts to the kind of cheap, exaggerated storytelling that have hampered shows in the same genre. Inspirational without being sappy, looking to the future without being locked into flashy tech, and patient without calling attention to the creeping passage of time, “The First” never uses convention as a crutch. Much in the way characters within the series have to weigh sacrifice, duty, and the unknown, the show itself is a flight of faith. Whether or not it’s rewarded with a second season and a chance to fully venture out to another world, “The First” showed how all stories that set their sights upward don’t have to follow the same plan. – SG

Golden Globes: If Sandra Oh Wins for ‘Killing Eve’ She’ll Be the First Asian Actor to Snag Multiple Awards

It seems that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association only made a half-hearted stab at inclusion in its TV nominations.

It’s a good day to be Sandra Oh, and it could get so much better come January 6. On Friday, the day after she was announced as the Golden Globes co-host alongside “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” star Andy Samberg, Oh received a nomination in the Best TV Drama Actress category for her lead role on “Killing Eve.”

The timing of the two back-to-back announcements feels particularly fortuitous, and Oh is currently the odds-on favorite to win in that category, just edging out Julia Roberts in Amazon’s “Homecoming.” Oh has received acclaim for playing the dogged and quirky MI5 agent Eve Polastri in the BBC America series from “Fleabag” creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and even received a groundbreaking Emmy nomination this year. She ultimately lost out to Claire Foy for “The Crown.”

A win this time around would make up for that Emmys disappointment and would make Oh — who is Korean-Canadian — the first Asian performer ever to win multiple Golden Globes. Previously, she’d snagged only one Golden Globe in 2005 for her scene-stealing role as Cristina Yang on “Grey’s Anatomy,” a baffling statistic since she was on the show for 10 seasons. This would also make her the second woman of Asian descent to win for a leading TV role in over 35 years, after Yoko Shimada won in 1981 for her performance in the miniseries “Shōgun.”

While Oh’s performance on “Killing Eve” is more than worthy of a win, the fates could also be on her side. In the past, Golden Globes co-hosts have had particular luck with winning the same year they presented the ceremony. Both John Forsythe and Julie Walters won Globes during their co-hosting gig in 1984 for “Dynasty” and “Educating Rita,” respectively. Also, Amy Poehler snagged a statuette in 2014 for “Parks and Recreation” when she emceed with Tina Fey.

Oh winning would also be a much-needed victory for people of color in a year where the nominations appear to lean towards tokenism in each category. While IndieWire’s TV Critic Ben Travers already called out the massive snub to FX’s “Atlanta” in the comedy categories, it seems that the Globes only made a half-hearted stab at diversity across the board.

THE ASSASSINATION OF GIANNI VERSACE: AMERICAN CRIME STORY "The Man Who Would Be Vogue" Episode 1 (Airs Wednesday. January 17, 10:00 p.m. e/p) -- Pictured: Darren Criss as Andrew Cunanan. CR: Ray Mickshaw/FX

Darren Criss in “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”

FX

The other nods for actors of color include Stephan James (“Homecoming”), Billy Porter (“Pose”), Donald Glover (“Atlanta”), Regina King (“Seven Seconds”), Edgar Ramirez (“The Assassination of Gianni Versace”), Thandie Newton (“Westworld”), and Darren Criss (“Gianni Versace”). Where was Issa Rae, Sterling K. Brown, Constance Wu, Brian Tyree Henry, and any other of the killer “Pose” and “Atlanta” cast members? This is embarrassingly thin representation among a field of white actors and from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which is supposed to have a more inclusive mindset.

Criss, who is half Filipino, is the only other actor of Asian descent to have received a nomination this year. He snagged the nod for playing killer Andrew Cunanan, who in real life was also half-Filipino, in “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” on FX. Having won the Emmy for the role, Criss is currently the odds-on favorite to repeat at the Golden Globes.

The 76th Annual Golden Globe Awards will air live across the country on NBC on Sunday, Jan. 6 at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET from the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

The Best TV Shows of 2018

TV tears us apart, and TV can bring us together.

You hear it all the time: There’s a lot of TV out there. And whether it’s still the golden age of television or the gilded age, the onslaught of new content continues. With more than 500 scripted series alone, viewers of all demographics had plenty to choose from in 2018. This, no matter how much it may sting those of us tasked with watching as much as possible, is a good thing — in part because no one can agree on anything, let alone TV.

Culturally and politically, America is in the midst of a divisive, side-taking stand-off. Groups cluster together in their bubbles, only popping out when they think there’s a fact, message, or story that will convince outsiders to see things their way. Whether it’s the destruction of “Roseanne” or the buoying of “Succession,” TV in 2018 replicated society’s extreme discourse — it’s not about what the best shows are anymore, it’s about what the best shows mean, and how that makes them better. Is Roseanne an advocate for the lower class, or a conservative propaganda machine? Is the Roy family viciously lampooning the 1 percent or glorifying their excessively decadent lifestyle?

No matter how you answer, asking is key. Seeing both sides of an argument is instrumental to making an informed decision, and the best television offers viewers a unique perspective into the lives of someone other than yourself. It can transport you outside your bubble, making you laugh when your brain tells you not to or cry when it’s hard to understand why. Empathy is derived and scorn is induced as you watch a story unfold, and what you’re left with — love or hate — can expand your worldview, even if it’s just for this one person, in this one show, this one time.

That’s a start, and the 10 best TV shows of 2018 are all exemplary teleportation systems. Diverse, dynamic, and aptly divisive, each series — narrowed to scripted options only, for accessibility’s sake — can draw in viewers of any background, with any preference, from any persuasion. They may not be your favorite series of the year, but they’re unforgettable and impeccable in their own right. Why these lists are important, why they exist, is to serve as a time capsule as much as a rocket ship. These are the 10 best shows of 2018, but they’re also 10 shows that can send viewers to a new frontier. There’s a lot of TV out there, but this is a good place to start.

10. “Better Call Saul”

Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler, Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill - Better Call Saul _ Season 4, Episode 9 - Photo Credit: Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Bob Odenkirk and Rhea Seehorn in “Better Call Saul”

Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures

Four seasons in and AMC’s “Breaking Bad” prequel is still defying expectations. Given what they’ve already made, it’s shocking enough Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould keep getting better, year after year, at making television. “Better Call Saul” Season 4 proves their smooth mastery with episodes dropping deliberate clues — or are they red herrings? — that lead to a bone-chilling, jaw-dropping finale; one that somehow doesn’t ruin pre-established relationships or explode the status quo. Instead, our good friend Jimmy McGill rejects a lifetime of various messages to seize a new name, and his surprising 10-week journey to that point leaves little room to breathe. Jimmy might now be using the name Saul Goodman, but not all is good, my man.

9. “Barry”

Barry Season 1 Episode 7 Bill Hader

BIll Hader in “Barry”

John P. Johnson/HBO

If only those who’ve truly immersed themselves in a way of life can find its starkest truths, then consider Bill Hader’s searingly funny and profoundly sad HBO comedy a confessional coup. As Barry Berkman, a prosaic assassin lured to the stage by its emotional honesty, the former “SNL” writer and star dissects both sides of his character’s calling with exacting assurance. Barry’s pure passion as a wide-eyed, unblemished beginner makes his journey affecting; you feel for the killer when he’s forced to do terrible things off-stage, and you engage with the actor as he processes those choices on it. Then, through his fame-seeking, traditional Hollywood-type cohorts, Hader guts the practice for how it can reward selfishness as well as its shallow commodification. “Barry” is hilarious in small, quiet moments as often as it’s shattering in those same fleeting seconds of self-discovery, but it’s a resounding success for how true it feels for everyone watching.

8. “Killing Eve”

Jodie Comer, "Killing Eve"

Jodie Comer in “Killing Eve”

BBC AMERICA

Like a never-ending string of sausages, “Killing Eve” is stuffed to the point of bursting with exciting, continuous, and consistently delectable elements. One link might be the indefinable connection between MI-5 officer Eve (Sandra Oh) and the mysterious assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer). Another could be the latter’s sense of style, or the former’s fluctuating sense of duty. Still, others are filled with creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s crackling dialogue, the haunting shot of a hunter spotting her prey, and a feminist’s take on the carefully crafted role reversals present throughout Season 1. But when strung together, all these links are first and foremost damn tasty — “Killing Eve” is an addictive series to consume, no matter if you sift through the many ingredients that make it great or barely pierce the skin of its delicious thrills.

7. “The Terror”

Ciarán Hinds as John Franklin - The Terror _ Season 1, Episode 3 - Photo Credit: Aidan Monaghan/AMC

“The Terror”

Aidan Monaghan/AMC

Even if it’s easier to find sympathy for certain characters along this doomed Arctic journey, it’s one of the crowning achievements of AMC’s “The Terror” that all players in this rich 10-episode saga are drawn with the kind of clarity that adds purpose to every fateful decision along the way. Drawing from both Dan Simmons’ novel and the historical details of the doomed expedition that inspired it, Soo Hugh and David Kajganich help bring out a story that dwells in a frightening, ambiguous middle area between reality and nightmare. From the attention paid to crafting a frozen landscape to the meticulous depiction of 19th century exploration’s pitfalls, there’s not a wasted additional layer. With textured performances from Jared Harris, Tobias Menzies, Adam Nagaitis, Paul Ready, and Nive Nielsen, it’s an impeccable examination of both history and human nature. The “terror” of the show’s title is a constant, chilling presence — the brilliance of its execution is how many forms it manages to take all at once.

6. “Sharp Objects”

HBO’s Southern psychological thriller based on Gillian Flynn’s novel oozes. From the unhurried Wind Gapian drawl to Chris Messina’s copious perspiration, this is a particularly pungent miniseries that slides into the psyche and never really leaves, even months later. Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson are riveting as a mother and daughter who represent opposing sides of propriety and expectation, and their distressing toxicity is palpable with every word uttered between them. Jean-Marc Vallée, who directed last year’s “Big Little Lies” for HBO also, brings his eye for detail to creating this humid and claustrophobic setting. While the mystery keeps the viewers engaged — and the ending is an adrenaline-shot nightmare — it’s the interactions and the character studies that prove to be the real stars. “Sharp Objects” is a gorgeous gothic masterpiece.

5. “Dear White People”

DEAR WHITE PEOPLE

Justin Simien did it again. Not only did he adapt his stellar 2014 film into a bold, stylish, and thought-provoking first season, but in Season 2 he upped his game by deepening the mythology of the hallowed halls of Winchester University. This, in turn, grounded its characters and the show further into the realities of race, class, identity, and relationships that can resonate with everyone. This is a show unafraid to engage in discourse and yet makes each sentence more entertaining and invigorating than academic. Partly it’s because “Dear White People” is willing to troll its critics as well as its viewers. Partly it’s because of its killer cast, who can wring the emotion out of a moment with a blink or deliver zealous barbs with flick of the tongue. Netflix, purveyor of just about everything under the sun, should be credited for comprehending and standing behind such a fine series — with a third season on the way — and that’s reason to celebrate.

4. “Homecoming”

Homecoming Season 1 Stephan James Amazon

Stephan James in “Homecoming”

Jessica Brooks / Amazon

In lesser hands, Amazon’s TV adaptation could have merely been a technical exercise. But under the supervision of a writing staff led by showrunners Micah Bloomberg and Eli Horowitz (who created the scripted podcast the series is based on), D.P. Tod Campbell, and director Sam Esmail, this tale of one woman’s life on either side of a fateful event becomes a gorgeous evocation to a time when paranoia could be harnessed and transformed into something beautiful. Julia Roberts is impeccable as Heidi Bergman, a caseworker-turned-waitress whose life is under examination, both by viewers and outside forces trying to keep her mysteries to themselves. Shea Whigham’s delightfully idiosyncratic turn makes him one of the year’s most compelling audience surrogates and Stephan James’ sharp command in his quietest moments adds to his already impressive 2018. Rarely do stories this jarring unfold with such fluidity and precision. Plus, there’s a pelican. Who doesn’t love a pelican?

Netflix’s ’Baby’ Director Andrea De Sica: Teen Sex Trafficking Is Not Glamorous

The grandson of Vittorio De Sica also reveals how growing up as filmmaking royalty guided his career.

Even before the Italian-language teen drama “Baby” was released on Netflix, director Andrea De Sica was responding to criticism that the series promoted sex trafficking: “That was the most delicate thing and issue about doing this series,” he said. “For us, the real story just was to spotlight one of the important neighborhoods of Rome, which from the outside world gives the image of a perfect world, but was something dark, with something happening beyond the facade. It moves from this very rich world that is frustrated about getting real relationships, love, and then getting onto this path of transgression, where two of these six main characters give into prostitution.”

Inspired by a real-life scandal involving underage prostitution, “Baby” explores the lives of high school students in one of Rome’s wealthy districts and how pressures, disillusionment, and failed relationships lead the teens to choose dangerous paths. Two of them (Benedetta Porcaroli, Alice Pagani) begin to engage in sex for money, which the National Center on Sexual Exploitation wants people to understand “normalizes child sexual abuse and the sex trafficking of minors as ‘prostitution.’”

De Sica was aware that the subject matter would be tricky to navigate, but says that storyline is not depicted in the manner that is expected. In fact, no nudity is shown, and the world the girls enter into is far from happy or glamorous.

“It was not using the bodies as sensationalizing or glamorizing as many people were afraid of us doing. It was more of the psychological problem of the free will of the teenager, getting into this night world, which can sometimes be scary and their choices and the consequences,” he said. Other students in the series fall in with drug dealers, rebel against their parents, and act out in other ways.

“So sex is not the main frame; it’s what happens before and what happens after. It was important to have respect for the subject and for the girls and not try to judge or to say ‘poor victims,’ but to try to understand what is going on in a 16-year-old girl, who is feeling totally detached from the world and falling into this world of the night, which is clubs, older people, and all this stuff that is actually very real and contemporary.”

Director Andrea De Sica with Alice Pagani and Benedetta Porcaroli, "Baby"

Director Andrea De Sica with Alice Pagani and Benedetta Porcaroli, “Baby”

Francesco Berardinelli/Netflix

De Sica comes from a filmmaking lineage with a history of providing accurate and unflinching looks at real Italian people. His grandfather Vittorio De Sica was a four-time Oscar winner and leading figure of the Italian neorealist movement, behind such classics as “The Bicycle Thief” and “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.”

“Having my grandfather be Vittorio De Sica was very hard when I decided to be a director, because at the very beginning I was afraid to [be compared] with him as a director,” De Sica said. “It was a long process until I started to do my own stuff, I started to find my own personality.”

One of the key ways he’s been able to establish his own identity is by exploring television in addition to movies. Straight out of film school, De Sica directed the children’s series “Mia and Me” and now several years later, Netflix approached him to direct four of the six episodes in “Baby.”

“I made it as cinematic as possible,” he said about his approach to the series. “First of all, I cast from non-professional actors, which in mainstream television is very rare. In exploring these young characters, it was better to have this kind of spontaneity of non-professionals. Second, we set up a set design, which was visually giving this dark and deep atmosphere… which [shows] immediately that we weren’t the usual high-school story in Italy.”

De Sica’s grandfather wasn’t the only person to have an influence on his career. His own father was a film composer, his uncle an actor and director, and his grandmother an actress. His mother, who is a film producer, was instrumental in getting De Sica his first gig on an actual film set for the 1994 comedy-horror film “Cemetery Man.” Based on the 1991 novel by Tiziano Sclavi, the film stars Rupert Everett as a lovelorn caretaker of an Italian cemetery who must contend with the dead rising.

“When I was really young, the book at my school was actually censored. My mother wanted to do the film and so she produced it,” he said. “I played the baby zombie. I was about 10 years old. That was the way I got in the first time.”

From such humble beginnings began De Sica’s acting career, which continued into high school productions. Eventually, he knew his interests weren’t in performance but in creation. “I understood that telling stories was my field. I even have written many things and so started focusing more on that. And with music, I composed the soundtrack of my first film.”

De Sica wrote, directed, and scored “Children of the Night,” a 2016 film set in an Italian boarding school. With that film, “Mia and Me,” and now “Baby,” he’s made quite a career crafting youth-centric projects. “I was wondering [about that]. I have a studio, which is actually a classroom inside a high school,” he said. “So I think that I cannot go out from the high school period, which I think gave me something very strong that I’m continuing to explore. ”

Chabeli S. Gonzalez, director Andrea De Sica, and Ricardo Mandolini, "Baby"

Chabeli S. Gonzalez, director Andrea De Sica, and Ricardo Mandolini, “Baby”

Francesco Berardinelli/Netflix

In a way, “Children of the Night” also prepared him to work on “Baby” because both focus on the hidden lives of wealthy children, a major departure from the neorealist film subjects from the Italian Golden Age.

“‘Children of the Night’ was a very dark underground film about rich teenagers. In Italy, their stories are never told. There’s a great variety of film about the poor neighborhoods, but never talking about the leading class,” De Sica said. “What I wanted to do was make ‘Children of the Night’ this kind of weird psychological horror film about rich guys, the rich families, the children of the night. [With ‘Baby,’] it was going farther into the exploration and to make a series that would have more characters to develop and a wider world to build up.”

To reflect this self-destructive path, De Sica worked with the writers and casting department to establish a foreboding atmosphere in the first three episodes of the series.

“It’s this sense of darkness all around the characters and the sense that something huge and something weird is going to happen on the horizon,” he said. “It’s something in the psychology of these kids that will explode soon. In Italian, we’d say inquietante (translation: “disquieting” or “disturbing”), which is something that gives you a bit of anxiety or fear.”

Meanwhile, De Sica has already started on a screenplay for his next feature. “I’m totally content as a filmmaker and I want to make something different,” he said. “At the same time, I’m very in love with ‘Baby’ and I don’t want to leave ‘Baby’ immediately because for the cast I’m kind of a father to them. It’s something that I really built up. If the opportunity would be there, I would definitely [return to] ‘Baby.’”

“Baby” is currently streaming on Netflix.

Who Could Host the Emmys? Assessing the Emcees, From Most Likely to Longshots

FOX could make a statement for the 71st awards, but most likely won’t.

The Television Academy announced Monday that Fox will air the 71st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday, Sept. 22, airing live coast to coast. Emmys kick off the fall TV season, and the show’s host(s) often set the tone for broadcast TV’s premiere week. And with that, let the hosting speculation begin.

With awards shows’ ratings in steady decline, the host is a key driver. It’s a tall order: Recognizable and trusted are essential. Internal talent preferred, but must have the skills to keep energy fun and high. A sitcom star with standup roots, like TK?  Song-and-dance experience, like Neil Patrick Harris? When all else fails, there’s the talk-show hosts: Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert may be less flashy, but they’re reliable.

And then there’s the timing. Networks like to showcase a newer talk-show host, or the star of a hit show early in its run. That’s partly why Fox is in no rush to name a host; the awards don’t take place for another 10 months, and there’s no telling where the news and culture cycles will take us by then. Last year, NBC’s choice of “Saturday Night Live” Weekend Update duo Colin Jost and Michael Che was a flop (six years in a row of men hosting, the cultural shift for gender equity), and the public also lambasted Che for defending Louis C.K.’s return to comedy.

PRIMETIME EMMY AWARDS -- "The 70th Primetime Emmy Awards" -- Pictured: (l-r) Hosts Colin Jost and Michael Che -- (Photo by: Mary Ellen Matthews/NBC)

Colin Jost and Michael Che

Mary Ellen Matthews/NBC

That is not to say that controversy doesn’t play. The return of “Roseanne” proved that despite, or perhaps because of, Roseanne Barr’s outspoken public persona, viewers were willing to tune in out of curiosity and nostalgia for the original series. However, outright courting controversy can backfire if it turns away loyal viewers or inspires a boycott.

Fox has traditionally had to be the most creative in finding an Emmy host, as it lacks a late-night franchise. Early Fox hosts included Bruce Willis, Candice Bergen, John Larroquette, and Dennis Miller, and duos like Jason Alexander and Cybill Shepherd, or Jenna Elfman and David Hyde Pierce. More recently, it has leaned on internal talent like Ryan Seacrest, Jane Lynch, and Andy Samberg.

And so, armed with the criteria for a good host and Fox’s past data, here are the best and worst contenders to host the 71st Emmys:

The Most Likely Candidates

Seth MacFarlane: He has an incredibly strong relationship with Fox. Not only has he created three animated series that has run on the network, but “Family Guy” is still going strong, the sci-fi series “The Orville” was surprisingly embraced by viewers despite critical panning, and MacFarlane also executive produces “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.” Beyond that, he’s also a song-and-dance man who previously hosted the 85th Academy Awards, albeit to disastrous reviews. He’d have to update his old-school Hollywood repertoire and avoid any numbers like the ill-conceived “We Saw Your Boobs.”

Read More:  Emmys Review: Colin Jost and Michael Che Can’t Liven Up a Flat Show, But the Night’s Surprises Really Shine

Jamie Foxx: The Oscar winner currently hosts and executive produces Fox’s popular game show “Beat Shazam,” now in its third season. The network is also where he started in the groundbreaking sketch comedy series “In Living Color.” His comedy and musical chops can’t be denied, and he’d be the smart choice for Fox to break the white streak of Emmy hosts. As for his other hosting experiences, he’s emceed the BET Awards, the MTV Video Music Awards, and “Saturday Night Live.”

Queen Latifah: The Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning performer began her acting career on Fox’s “Living Single,” and her career hasn’t slowed down since then. Like Foxx, her musical and comedy skills are sharp, and she’s had plenty of hosting experience ranging from the Grammys to her own talk show. The “Star” actress would be a smart choice.

The Longshots

Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Cat Deeley

Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Cat Deeley

FOX

Tim Allen: This standup-comic-turned-actor would be Fox’s most interesting and perhaps strategic choice. He’s drawn plenty of attention lately after “Last Man Standing” was canceled at ABC and saved by Fox for its seventh season, which has been performing well in the ratings. Allen, who is himself a Republican, has cultivated his persona’s conservative point of view to great success, which could spell a broader audience for Fox. Not since he shared the stage with Kirstie Alley and Dennis Miller in 1992 — more than 20 years ago — has he hosted anything of this level (and no, “Tool Time” doesn’t count). Because of this, Allen seems more like a host who would be paired rather than solo.

Neil deGrasse Tyson: The “Cosmos” host isn’t the most obvious choice, but he has an energetic and charismatic crossover appeal. However, he’s been known for killjoy tweets that dissect the scientific inaccuracies in pop culture, which would only play well at the Emmys if it were done as a bit, say, in relation to “The Orville.” Like Allen, the astrophysicist would be a nice addition to the ceremonies if he’s paired up with the right person.

Cat Deeley: The Emmy-nominated Brit has decades of hosting experience that would rival Ryan Seacrest’s. Sadly, there’s no guarantee that “So You Think You Can Dance” would return to Fox to keep her eligible for the gig, and she’s not really a huge name on her own. That said, it would be be bold of Fox to put a woman front and center, and why not one as charming and upbeat as Deeley?

The Jury Is Out

Tom Bergeron, Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, Jeff Probst and Ryan Seacrest60th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, Arrivals, Los Angeles, America - 21 Sep 2008 Hundreds of stars of the small screen attended the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards ceremonies and parties in Los Angeles over the weekend. Out of all the shows nominated in the 28 categories, following on from the 70 categories at last week’s Creative Arts Emmy Awards, the main winners were the series ’30 Rock’, ‘John Adams’ and ‘Mad Men’, as well as there being individual awards for the likes of Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey, Paul Giamatti, Glenn Close, Jeremy Piven and British actors Tom Wilkinson and Dame Eileen Atkins.

Tom Bergeron, Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, Jeff Probst, and Ryan Seacrest

Jim Smeal/BEI/REX/Shutterstock

Rob Lowe, Dax Shepherd, Nick Cannon: These actors will be hosting Fox’s upcoming reality competition/game shows “Mental Samurai,” “Spin the Wheel,” and “The Masked Singer” respectively. Depending on their release schedule and how well they perform, these hosts could see their profile be elevated enough for consideration.

Multiple Hosts: As seen with Jost and Che, having more than one host is one way to spread out the load and balance strengths and weaknesses. This would be a great solution for Fox to appeal to different crowds as long as the chemistry is right, just as long as 2008’s debacle is never repeated: That year introduced the category of Best Reality Host and in its honor, the five nominees — Tom Bergeron, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel, Jeff Probst, and Ryan Seacrest – shared hosting duties for the ABC telecast. It was predictably a mess.

No Host: Every network has tried this (NBC did it in 1998, CBS in 1975), and in 2003 Fox rotated out 11 presenters throughout the telecast. More was less: It made the ceremony feel flat.

‘The Good Doctor’ Found Compassion for ‘Virtuous Pedophiles.’ Discuss.

The ABC medical series eschews its inspirational tone to make a point about empathy.

[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from “The Good Doctor” Season 2, Episode 9, “Empathy.”]

“The Good Doctor” tackled its thorniest storytelling challenge yet with an episode that asks its characters — and viewers — to sympathize with a pedophile. However, “Empathy” sought to make a strong distinction between a person who is suffering from the psychiatric disorder of pedophilia and those who actually molest children.

Distressed patient George Reynolds (Tyler Ritter) is reluctantly attracted to children, but he never acts on those urges and is doing everything possible to eliminate those feelings and behaviors that could endanger kids. Initially, Dr. Morgan Reznik (Fiona Gubelman) treats him as if he were a criminal, whereas Dr. Claire Browne (Antonia Thomas) sees George as having monstrous desires, but he himself is not a monster. However, he is worried the desires will someday make him become one.

Even for “The Good Doctor,” this is a bold storyline. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders draws a distinction between those with the disorder and those who actually abuse children. Real-life support groups like Virtuous Pedophiles liken the urge of pedophilia to any sexual preference — being born straight, gay, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, or otherwise, with people unable to choose or change their urges. Nevertheless, they acknowledge this inborn trait is morally wrong and have no intention of acting on it. To further complicate matters, many people who actually do molest children may not even be pedophiles but have other issues – such as they were also victims of abuse.

Many psychiatrists won’t take on these cases because they are obliged to report patients they feel present a risk to others. The stigma attached to this paraphilia is so strong that most people do not get the help they need. “The Good Doctor” demonstrates what many people do instead: handle the problem in increasingly dangerous ways. George first goes on anti-androgens, which depress the sexual urge, but also cause him to have a stroke. When he’s taken off them, he mutilates himself to try to kill the urge.

“I’m not a monster. I never touched anyone, any child,” he says. “My sister and I were always best friends, but then she had children. If I can’t keep taking the drugs, I had to do this.”

When self-injury fails, he asks the doctors to castrate him, but that is itself a dilemma because it’s stated that hospitals cannot ethically remove healthy organs to prevent crimes. Dr. Neil Melendez (Nicholas Gonzalez) compares it to amputating the hands of a kleptomaniac. George can only seek out psychological help, but this isn’t a clean enough solution for him because he will still have urges.

In the end, George decides to kill himself and steps in front of a moving vehicle. Even for a show that has lost patients before, it’s a shocking move because usually the deaths result from a medical failing after the doctors have done their best. But George’s death by suicide shows a failing on the part of education because he cannot imagine living happily with such deviance.

Usually, the marginalized person is a vehicle for inspiration on the show, but a simple happy ending that had George going into therapy would not have the same impact. Society’s condemnation is too great and the stakes are too high.

Mason Gooding and Freddie Highmore, "The Good Doctor"

Mason Gooding and Freddie Highmore, “The Good Doctor”

ABC

In George’s case, true empathy never was truly achieved. The doctors see he’s unhappy, but they underestimate his desperation even though he’s escaped from the hospital and hurt himself before. While they are not at fault for his suicide, they didn’t see the depth of his self-loathing and fear. It was simply too difficult for them to understand what he was going through because of the horrifying nature of these unwanted urges.

This might also be an insurmountable hurdle for viewers at home, and since George’s storyline is just one of three main plots in the episode, the nuances of the life and problems of a moral pedophile could only be lightly touched upon,  but at least the subject has been broached to inspire further conversation and research.

And yet, the show itself demonstrates an empathy that its characters lacked. The episode makes an effort to make George as sympathetic as possible: Played by Tyler Ritter, son of the late John Ritter and brother to Jason Ritter, he has a familiar and likable face. “The Good Doctor” is known for inclusive storytelling that embraces underrepresented groups, and these virtuous pedophiles fall into one of the most invisible groups of all.

”The Good Doctor” airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.

The Best TV Shows to Binge and Where to Watch Them – November 2018

From goofy comedies to badass action dramas, these shows are perfect for bingeing now.

Now that the Daylight Saving has passed, the holiday season has begun in earnest. Not only does that mean more darkness outside, but also more time spent inside bingeing food and a television alike. While holiday specials are all well and good, this is also the perfect time to take stock of what shows fell through the cracks and what shows to watch to prepare for their return midseason.

Take, for example, the long-awaited returns of both “True Detective” and “Deadwood.” Both HBO dramas have been off the air long enough that a refresher course is needed. Besides, it’s never a bad thing to revisit Ian McShane chewing up the scenery in 1870s South Dakota. IndieWire has compiled an eclectic mix of series ranging from beloved shows that were canceled too soon and irreverent comedies to sci-fi escapist fare and suspenseful thrillers.

Many of these on the list are available on streaming services you may already have: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, or HBO Go. In some cases, a cable or other streaming subscription might be required such as for YouTube Premium, CBS All Access, or Acorn TV. Fortunately, with a binge, subscribing for one month is enough to determine if that’s to your taste.

What makes for a good binge? IndieWire has created a rough guide for easily digestible binges that can be accomplished during a weekend or over the course of a few weeks.

Some criteria for IndieWire’s curated list of the best TV shows to binge:

  • Commitment: Fewer seasons and an easy entry point. First or second seasons are great for this. Comedies with shorter runtimes also work, but if a whole series has just finished, that might be a good time to start also.
  • Tone: Lightweight often works best – we’ve binged “Black Mirror,” and our state of mind afterward was not pretty – but sometimes brisk, engrossing storytelling can offset heavier material.
  • Availability: It needs to be readily watchable somewhere.

With all this in mind, IndieWire has compiled the list, which can be accessed in the gallery above or simply click here.

Jim Jefferies Feared Trump Would Block His Citizenship — Exclusive

On his Comedy Central series this week, the Aussie comedian was officially sworn in as an American. He spoke to IndieWire backstage after the taping.

On “The Jim Jefferies Show” this Tuesday night, the outspoken Australian comedian gets sworn in as an American citizen, a coveted status that he was afraid would be denied him by the President.

“I never mentioned in the show until this moment that I wasn’t a citizen,” Jefferies said in an interview with IndieWire backstage. “I didn’t want a red flag added onto my name. And Trump, I believe, is a petty enough man that he might do something like that. Nixon did this. Nixon started auditing late-night show hosts because they were making jokes about him. Then every single one of their staff got tax audits. So, it’s not beyond the realms of belief that Trump could be as petty as [Nixon was] because there’s just a phone call to be made and a list of people he doesn’t want.

“Like, I heard that John Oliver is not a citizen yet. He should be quaking in his fucking boots. John Oliver, get it signed. Get it done. Go down to the office, mate.”

Although Jefferies was born and raised Down Under, he doesn’t really identify solely with that country anymore, which is why he wanted to put down roots in America, where his son was born.

"The Jim Jefferies Show" with Mayor Eric Garcetti

The Jim Jefferies Show” with Mayor Eric Garcetti

Paul Kadzielski

“I hadn’t lived [in Australia] since I was 20. I lived in Britain for 10 years before this, and then 10 years here,” he said. “For once, I wanted to feel like, ‘Alright, I’m home. And no one can kick me out. No one can tell me that I can’t do that.’ Now, I’m still very bitter that I can’t be President. That’s the one thing I’m not allowed to do. I can be Press Secretary.”

And just because he’s a new American citizen, that doesn’t mean that Jefferies will stop criticizing the country.

“I could say something very wanky to you right now and say that criticizing a country is the most patriotic thing you can do because wanting change is as important as conforming,” he said, “but the reality of it is there’s no point in me making fun of Britain while I’m here, and there’s no point of me making fun of Australia while I’m here. So, you got to do jokes about your surroundings. So, I am. I wouldn’t call it criticizing. I’d call it teasing.”

One of Jefferies most well-known bits is his commentary on gun control in the U.S., as seen below. He points out that in Australia, after the biggest massacre ever, the government cracked down on guns, and no more mass shooting have occurred in the country since. However, he observes that people in America seem to value their guns more than the saving human lives.

It’s been several years since that stand-up routine, but people are still looking to Jefferies for some sort of guidance.

“Every mass shooting, people do write to me, as if to ask me to say something. ‘What do you think, Jim?’” he said. “There was just this thing that happened in Thousand Oaks, and there’s not a lot for me to say. I’ve said everything I want to say. My stance remains the same as it did in the stand-up routine, I still believe in gun control. I don’t believe in gun bans; that’s a fallacy that people have, that they think if you believe in gun control you want to ban guns. That’s not true.”

Although Jefferies has benefited from the opportunities that America has afforded him, he also feels that it falls short of actually caring for its citizens.

“One of the flaws in the American dream is that there isn’t as much of a safety net as you may get in other countries,” he said. “I’m somewhat of a socialist in the sense that I believe in housing for the homeless and medical care for all. So, for me, the American dream has been having a TV show, and being successful, and having a nice house, and having everything. And all those great things, but if I could press magic button, my American dream would be to give everyone healthcare.”

Becoming a citizen was a surprisingly emotional experience for Jefferies, one that he wanted to share as a field piece on his show. It was a long process that began with him getting a green card seven years ago, and then the actual naturalization process began 18 months ago. Although he technically became a citizen in front of a judge, he invited a handful of his fellow newly minted citizens to join him on stage Tuesday for a ceremonial swearing-in. That’s how Roel Gutierrez, Andrea Brackett, Mohammed Maraqa, and brothers Pihon and Samuill Kalonji ended up raising their hands and repeating the naturalization oath conducted by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

"The Jim Jefferies Show"

“The Jim Jefferies Show”

Comedy Central

“The five people that we had on, incidentally, were just people that were sworn in with me,” he said. “Every single one of them had an interesting story. Every single one of them had a job that really contributed to our society. Every single one of them was interested. We thought we’d end it with and do a field piece. It wasn’t maybe as funny as other things we’ve done on the show, but it was definitely I think, there was information being passed on. It was kind of moving.

“I just thought it would be interesting because I remember thinking people know the process,” he said. “They definitely don’t know the whole, ‘I’m going to denounce all princes’ and all that type of stuff.’ Until you say it, you don’t know it.”

Jefferies was referring to the portion of the naturalization oath that includes somewhat archaic language such as: “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen.” The oath is recited in full on the show.

Although Jefferies often refers to Trump’s behavior and policies, the comedian doesn’t have any specific comments ready if he suddenly got the ear of the President.

“It’s very hard to change everyone’s views on everything right away. Also, a man in his seventies, what am I going to come and reason with this person?” he said. “You don’t often get me quoting this, but I think what I’d do is the same thing that Kim Kardashian did: Try to change one small thing. Kim went in there, and she got a lady out of prison that shouldn’t have been in prison. I think if I could find a cause or something meaningful, then I would try to do one small thing.”

“The Jim Jefferies Show” airs Tuesdays at 10:30 p.m. ET on Comedy Central.

‘Dogs’ Review: Netflix’s Docuseries Is a Poignant Love Letter to Humanity

Amy Berg and Glen Zipper travel from war-torn Syria to a fierce dog grooming competition in a series that examines unconditional love.

“Human relationships are complex. Dogs make life more simple,” says groomer Kenichi Nagase in Netflix’s docuseries “Dogs.” The Japanese introvert has hit upon a byproduct of the six-part anthology series, ostensibly an examination of the unconditional love between owner and pet, but ultimately a celebration of how the love of dogs can inspire people to focus on a passion. And as seen in this series, this leads to greater heights of humanity, even acts of heroism. Yes, lolling tongues, floppy ears, and wagging tails abound, but in the end, it’s the people’s stories that resonate the most in “Dogs.” Dogs are easy to love, and through their example, we can relearn to love our fellow man.

Documentary heavyweights Amy Berg (“Deliver Us From Evil”) and Glen Zipper (“Undefeated,” “Tales From the Tour Bus”) lead a handful of acclaimed filmmakers through six tales of doggy devotion that travel from the U.S. to Syria, Italy, Japan, Costa Rica, and back to the States. Ranging in tone and subject matter, the one-hour installments delve into how these creatures are more than just furry companions; they’re contributing family members who are continuing a partnership between man and beast forged millennia ago.

The following is a breakdown of each episode:

Episode 1: “The Kid With the Dog”

Director Heidi Ewing sets the tone for the series with this touching story of how service dog Rory, who can detect oncoming seizures, changes the life of feisty 11-year-old Corinne and her family. The episode traces their troubles – from the severity of the frightening epileptic attacks to the constant vigilance by every family member – and reveals the dawning and surprisingly emotional realization that Rory can and will help alleviate those pressures. It’s not an entirely joyous upheaval, and the camera is present to catch the complexities of those turbulent moments as well. The sequences at the 12-day training camp – where each certified companion meets its new master, a young child with disabilities – are particularly eye-opening to reveal the amount of work and dedication that goes into making this pairing possible.

Episode 2: “Bravo Zeus”

Zeus,

Zeus, “Dogs”

Netflix

While the season-opener demonstrates how dogs can be of service to humans, the follow-up shows the lengths that one man will go to help his four-legged friend. Berg helms the strongest episode, in which Syrian refugee Ayham, who has fled to Germany but left his Siberian husky named Zeus behind in Damascus with a friend. With the help of old roommates and the Animals Syria rescue group, they hatch a risky plan to smuggle Zeus out from behind the Syrian border to Lebanon and then hopefully on a plane to Berlin. Zeus’ striking looks, chipper personality, and penchant for singing makes him a lively contrast to the harsh realities of the conflict in Syria. One cannot help but feel Ayham’s yearning as he FaceTimes with his dog, the only family member he has has a remote chance of seeing again, on a tiny screen. It’s a sobering yet inspiring encapsulation of the resilience of the human spirit, and will no doubt inspire more than a few tears while watching.

Episode 3: “Ice on the Water”

Director Richard Hankin (“The Jinx”) brings an unhurried, almost contemplative air to this story about an Italian family who runs a restaurant on Lake Como, serving the freshly caught fish straight from the nets. Depleted fish populations and changing times threatens the family’s way of life, but their dog Ice is as cool as his name. He never wavers and is always by their side: on the boat, sitting on a bench, or underfoot. Lacking the narrative drama of the previous two installments, “Ice on the Water” brings out the quiet beauty to this way of life, and this is reflected in Ice’s sturdy and comforting presence and through the stunning visuals of Lake Como.

Episode 4: “Scissors Down”

Kenichi Nagase,

Kenichi Nagase, “Dogs”

Netflix

Roger Ross Williams (“God Loves Uganda,” “Music by Prudence”) directs the most lightweight and humorous episode of the lot that highlights how the Japanese people have elevated doting dog ownership to a way of life. With marriage and having children on the decline, energies are instead funneled through these furry offspring, and the results are hilarious. During a doggy birthday party in which all the attendees are women dressed to match their pampered pooches, one attendee confesses, “If there were a fire in my house, I’d save Kotaro before my husband. Kotaro comes first and my husband is in, like, third place.”

Into this drama comes Kenichi – arguably the series’ breakout human star – the in-demand groomer who sees the unique aura of each dog and creates a custom cut that can never be replicated. He commands bookings months in advance and clients will fly internationally just for his services. He and another Japanese groomer try their hand at the Groom Expo West dog grooming competition in Pasadena, Calif., where “Scissors Down” follows in the tradition of “Spellbound” or this year’s “Science Fair” in tracing big dreamers from all walks of life who excel in niche fields. In the end, Williams is too ambitious for the limited one-hour runtime, trying to pack in examples of Japanese dog mania, background on each groomer, and the drama of the competition itself. The result is still entertaining but feels not fully realized.

Episode 5: “Territorio de Zeguates”

The initial impression of Costa Rica’s mega outdoor dog sanctuary Territorio de Zeguates, which is home to nearly a thousand dogs who roam its hundreds of acres, is of a veritable doggy heaven. However, husband and wife owners Alvaro Saumet and Lya Battle soon realize that although their love and desire to care for the country’s neglected and abused dogs is boundless, their resources are not. Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin (“Undefeated,” “LA 92”) expose the grim reality that Territorio’s staff members face when the country’s animal welfare service gets involved and the attempt to keep the sanctuary’s dog population manageable. Raw, dirty, and full of righteous spirit, this episode is a stark contrast to the primped and pristine order of “Scissors Down.” It’s not an easy watch considering some of the disturbing medical cases that play out, but it’s a marvel to see such dedication in the face of what appears to be an impossibly challenging situation.

Episode 6: “Second Chances”

Berg returns with the season’s final episode, an inspiring story that zeroes in on the work of Hearts and Bones dog rescuer Anna, whose passion is to save at-risk dogs from shelters and adopt them out in the Big Apple. In contrast to the “save every dog possible” mentality of Territorio de Zequates, Anna’s efforts focus on only about 30 or so pooches at a time. Nevertheless, it’s a complicated undertaking that requires the help of dozens of volunteers and a cross-country road trip. It’s heartening to witness how many people make it their life’s work to save these dogs but also bring joy to families who match. The story is also near and dear to executive producer Glen Zipper’s heart, who has also spent hours upon hours in adopting outreach. “Dogs” is his most far-reaching adoption message yet.

While “Dogs” would appeal to most dog lovers, it’s not the schmaltzy, feel-good product that the trailer (and the folksy original theme song by Dhani Harrison and Paul Wims) may have intimated. Unlike “Kedi,” the acclaimed documentary that attempted to convey the individual personalities of the cats in Istanbul, this series doesn’t star the dogs so much as use them as a vehicle to tell human stories. With the exception of “Scissors Down,” most of the series is tinged with the bittersweet acknowledgment that situations are far from perfect for dogs and humans alike. It’s a weighty endeavor that needed the best documentary storytellers, who were more than up to the task of balancing the cute and cuddly with the tarnished truth of the human condition.

Although each of the six parts are standalone stories, the order in which the episodes play feels deliberate in building emotional engagement and complexity, adding in a meditative and humorous breather in the middle, and then finishing with what feels like a call to action. The series doesn’t have to be binged, but it’s hearty and heartfelt fare for family Thanksgiving and holiday viewing, with some adult guidance for Episodes 2 and 5.

“Dogs” makes a good argument for continuing the human-canine contract. Not only do they improve the quality of people’s lives, but they also have the power to improve the people themselves. As bad as the world may seem to have gotten, dogs never seem to lose faith in humanity, and judging by the two-legged subjects seen in “Dogs,” maybe people shouldn’t lose faith in humanity either.

Grade: A-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pLCmLgjiJ8

”Dogs” is available for streaming on Netflix.

‘The Good Place’ Stars Tease the Aftermath of Janet’s Big Move and Her Future With Jason

D’Arcy Carden and Manny Jacinto spoke to IndieWire about what comes next after that cliffhanger.

[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from “The Good Place” Season 3, Episode 9, “Don’t Let the Good Life Pass You By.”]

“The Good Place” continues to explore ideas and go to realms that no other show can even conceive. This time, Michael (Ted Danson) and his four human pals will enter Janet’s void after a run-in with demons leaves the Soul Squad no choice but to escape into the unknown.

“I think I can take you in to my void,” Janet says in the last minutes of Thursday’s episode “Don’t Let the Good Life Pass You By.” “I don’t know if you can survive in my void, but either way, you will definitely die on Earth when I do this, so look around and say goodbye.” In the next second, she whisked everyone away.

IndieWire spoke with D’Arcy Carden, who plays the omniscient being/personal assistant Janet, and Manny Jacinto, who plays her human love interest Jason, about what they could tease is coming next after that cliffhanger.

“At one point while reading that script, I was reading it through my fingers, like covering my face. Mike Schur’s brain is really a wonder,” said Carden. Jacinto added, “The episode that’s coming up is the episode that I’ve looked forward to the most this season. I think this next episode defines why our show is so weird.”

“It’s something we all get to do and something the viewers get to see,” Carden said. “It’s pushing boundaries. I feel like this season, Mike Schur is like, ‘I’ve been writing for TV for over a decade and I’m just going to get weird. I’m going to do whatever the hell I want.’”

While these statements may sound cryptic, it’s understandable for a show that’s consistently been able to surprise viewers by reinventing itself in major ways over and over again. The Season 1 twist about The Good Place actually being The Bad Place stands as one of the most shocking turns on television, one that viewers are still careful not to spoil for those just picking up the show.

It stands to reason that what Janet’s Void looks like and what they’ll do there is tightly under wraps, but whatever is planned sounds just in line with the creative swings the show has taken. Previously, The Void had been described as another plane of existence where Janet and possibly other Janets, good and bad, reside. It’s also a “boundless, barren nothingness” which she created Derek (Jason Mantzoukas).

Jameela Jamil and Manny Jacinto, "The Good Place"

Jameela Jamil and Manny Jacinto, “The Good Place”

Colleen Hayes/NBC

Although Janet is not a human or any sort of creature that is easily defined — she was created to serve The Good Place and is a repository for all the data in the world — her perfection has one weakness: Jason. Back in The (fake) Good Place, she and Jason got married, and even though everything has been reset on Earth, to the point where he married Tahani (Jameela Jamil) for platonic reasons, Janet still has residual feelings.

“I do think Janet’s love for Jason is now within her computer or whatever. I was about to say DNA, but I don’t know if she has DNA,” said Carden. “She feels it. It’s like that first love that you can’t shake, so she’s definitely not over him. As far as Manny and I are concerned, we love doing scenes together, so we’re crossing our fingers that we get to keep exploring that.”

Jacinto hinted that one way or another, Jason’s love life will get a definite path before the season closes. “I can let you know that a decision is made between Team Janet and Team Tahani at the end of the season,” he promised.

”The Good Place” enters Janet’s Void in the episode “Janet(s),” which airs Thursday, Dec. 6 at 8:30 pm ET on NBC.

From ‘Sabrina’ to ‘Steven Universe,’ Family-Friendly TV Has Grown a Social Conscience

“Steven Universe,” “Sabrina,” “Big Mouth” and more don’t just teach; they’re inclusive and encourage action.

When did family-friendly TV grow a social conscience? Whether it’s the more youth-skewing “Steven Universe” and “Andi Mack,” or edgier teen offerings like “Big Mouth” and “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” shows aimed at adolescents are taking up the mantle to account for social wrongs ranging from sexism and racism to body-shaming and school safety.

Television has a long, if spotty, history of addressing social issues on primetime; Norman Lear was a master of this on “Good Times,” “All in the Family,” and “Maude.” However, this wasn’t the stuff of TV for kids unless they were watching Very Special Episodes, ABC Afterschool Specials, or PBS programs like “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” or “Sesame Street.”

Today, it’s become the norm for mainstream children’s programming to tackle representation, body positivity, and gun violence — touchy topics that once would never have made it out of development. “One Day at a Time” high schooler Elena (Isabella Gomez) is outspoken about gender identity and the importance of voting. Even “Fresh Off the Boat,” an ABC sitcom set in the 1990s, found a way to protest gender conformity.

Not only is the new star of “Doctor Who” a woman (Jodie Whittaker), she’s proven to be the most progressive Time Lord to ever man the time-traveling TARDIS. In her debut, Thirteen is positioned as a hero with an explicit ethical calling: “I’m the Doctor, sorting out fair play throughout the universe.” In the episode “Rosa,” her companions have a rude awakening in 1950s Alabama where they’re treated with prejudice and hostility. Their task is to ensure that Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on the bus so that the resulting boycott can kick off the Civil Rights Movement. In case the message isn’t clear, one antagonistic alien observes, “Tiny actions change the world.”

The call for characters and storylines that more accurately portray the world means more ethnic diversity, girls as protagonists, and more characters who don’t solely define themselves along conventional definitions of gender or sexuality. It’s an inclusive landscape that casts marginalized groups as everyday heroes.

Disney Channels Worldwide executive Jane Gould said that’s changed because millennials, and the adults who raise them, have also become more socially conscious.

“We are in is the very beginning of a majority-millennial parenting,” said Gould, who serves as Disney’s senior VP  Consumer Insights and Programming Strategy. “Even in the last five years [millennials] have been much more public about their own thoughts and concerns. They’re out on the streets making their voices heard for whatever cause they’re looking to change, and have been credited with making significant change in many fields. And now as parents, guess what? They’re doing the same thing and they’re telling their kids it’s OK to be who they are and to celebrate every piece of them. It’s a significant shift from a Gen-X parent who was much more focused … on making sure their child was happy. It feels like the millennial parent is much more focused on the wholeness of their child.”

Gould said that in a research study Disney conducted two years ago, it received feedback that kids wanted to see more inclusivity in the types of families depicted and in intersectionality, the many ways that kids identify themselves. “What it signaled to us is that childhood had shifted because the world had shifted,” she said. “They live in a different place than we do. We heard them asking for their lives to be reflected through media and were looking for ways for that to happen for characters and stories.”

Like Disney’s popular teen sitcom “Andi Mack,” which features a person of Asian descent as its protagonist, “Star Wars Resistance” features Japanese-American actor Christopher Sean as Kazuda “Kaz” Xiono, the first-ever Asian lead in the “Star Wars” franchise. “Kaz and his teammates are not flawless, but they’re doing their best,” said “Star Wars Resistance” executive producer Justin Ridge. “And I’m excited that our characters are represented in a wide array of colors, shapes, and sizes.”

Jodie Whittaker, Mandip Gill, Bradley Walsh, and Tosin Cole, "Doctor Who"

Jodie Whittaker, Mandip Gill, Bradley Walsh, and Tosin Cole, “Doctor Who”

BBC Studios 2018

The new “Doctor Who” also gave us Mandip Gill as police officer Yaz, a role that the actress said was unavailable to South Asian actors when she was growing up. “There were Asian people acting, but not doing what I’m doing,” she said. “There wasn’t an Asian girl in sci-fi that was non-stereotypical and was doing a job that she loves, a job that people might frown upon in Asian culture. Girls are not supposed to do that; you’re meant to be a doctor or whatnot.”

People with disabilities, another underrepresented group, also found voice on “Doctor Who:” Ryan (Tosin Cole) has dyspraxia, a neurological disorder that affects coordination. “Sesame Street” introduced Julia, a muppet who is on the autism spectrum, and “Andi Mack” has addressed kids with learning disabilities and anxiety.

Netflix animated series “Big Mouth” takes the most embarrassing parts of puberty and celebrates them with unflinching hilarity. Season 2 dedicates one episode to girls learning to be comfortable with their bodies after a trip to the Korean spa where all the women walk around nude.

Cartoon Network’s animated series “Steven Universe” also promotes body positivity through the wide-ranging body types of its humanoid aliens, the Crystal Gems. In April, the show began a partnership with Dove Skin Care to help young people build self-esteem and body confidence through an ebook launch, an original song, and videos.

And while many family shows have introduced youth coming-out stories, “Steven Universe” has been on the forefront of portraying LGBTQ characters without context or explanation. Nonbinary Gems share romantic relationships, Fluorite is in a polyamorous relationship, and Stevonnie is literally the fusion of a boy and a girl and carries characteristics of both genders.

“My intention was to tell the truth. The show is, at its core, about growing up with my younger brother Steven, and the fantasy stories we loved and drew as kids,” said “Steven Universe” creator Rebecca Sugar. “I wanted to mix the reality of my childhood with those fantasy stories. I was a bisexual kid and a non-binary kid, and I was very anxious in my own skin. But I could always be myself around my brother, and I could always lose myself in cartoons. My intention with the show was to try to flip the script when it came to that feeling, for me and for my crew. I wanted a chance for us to find ourselves in cartoons.”

TV messaging aside, the world can present a reality of bigotry and injustice. This is where shows that appeal to older children begin to instill a sense of outrage and resistance. On “Sabrina,” its title character is half-witch, half-mortal, which gives her a unique insight into the benefits and inequities of both worlds. Although the show deals with Satanic themes, series creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who is also showrunner for The CW’s “Riverdale,” sees Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) as a heroine who will fight the patriarchy, human or devil alike. (In one episode, Baxter High teens create a female support group to take on toxic masculinity and band together to protest banned books.)

CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA

“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”

Courtesy of Netflix

“I think Sabrina is a wonderful role model for young people,” he said. “I think that her core personality — in terms of defending the underdogs, in terms of questioning authority, in terms of wanting to have control of her destiny and her body, and her beliefs — that’s pretty universal.

“All of the best horror movies and horror narratives, they’re always about something other than the monster. There’s always a social issue that’s being explored or a social message that’s being unpacked,” he said. “With ‘Sabrina,’ it felt like we were doing a show about witches, which has to be about women’s empowerment and women’s sexuality and the battlegrounds around those things. One of the great narratives of witches is the oppression of witches. And that’s translated to the oppression of minorities or the oppression of underdogs.”

Gould pointed out that most kids have access to some sort of device, and that means access to information. “The world is different, and they are having these conversations and debates at school and at home, with family members and with friends,” she said. “We feel very strongly that it’s important for us to give them characters and stories that are dealing with the same kind of things that they’re dealing with and help them lead their own conversations.”

ANDI MACK - "Andi Mack," a compelling story of self-discovery written by Terri Minsky, the creator of Disney Channel's hit series "Lizzie McGuire," will be available on-demand, beginning FRIDAY, MARCH 10 (12:01 a.m. PST), on the Disney Channel App, Video-on-Demand, Disney.com, Disney Channel YouTube, iTunes, Amazon and Google Play. Exclusive access to the second episode will also be available Friday, March 10, via Disney Channel VOD and to verified users of the Disney Channel App. (Disney Channel/Fred Hayes)JOSHUA RUSH, PEYTON ELIZABETH LEE, SOFIA WYLIE

Joshua Rush, Peyton Elizabeth Lee, and Sofia Wylie, “Andi Mack”

Disney Channel

“Andi Mack” writer Elena Song said she chose to broach the subject of gun safety in two upcoming episodes after a tragic death in her family. “Near the end of Season 2, I was in the ‘Andi Mack’ writers’ room when my brother called and told me that my 15-year-old nephew Ethan was accidentally shot in the head and had died,” she said. “He had been playing at his friend’s house with unlocked guns that belonged to his friend’s father, and they didn’t realize one of them was loaded.”

Series creator Terri Minsky said the aftermath of the Parkland shooting also made her reevaluate what her viewers could handle. “A generation of young people had changed. Students not much older than our average viewer age were inspiring, they were powerful, they were leaders, and they weren’t afraid to be vocal about real issues that mattered to them. “For Season 3, I felt like I couldn’t just write about the things I usually do, like the everyday awkwardness of growing up as a teenage girl. There are bigger things consuming kids and their families now, and I wanted to represent them.”

Consultants from The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Hollywood, Health & Society reviewed both episodes to ensure that the topic of gun safety was presented in a realistic and accurate manner. Actors Joshua Rush and Luke Mullen also appear in a PSA following the episodes.

In the end, these TV creatives are products of today’s fractured society, and they’re doing their part to effect change through education. Sugar said they already heard encouraging feedback about their messaging.

“I often hear from viewers who say [‘Steven Universe’] helped them understand themselves, or gave them the strength to come out to friends and family, or gave them the tools to manage anxiety,” they said. “I love meeting parents who connect with their kids via the show, and siblings who watch it together. I am reminded that people want to be close with each other, and care about each other.”

‘Travelers’ Season 3 Premiere and First Look: Hit Time Travel Series Returns Just in Time for Christmas

Netflix’s Canadian sci-fi series explores the dilemma Mac and his team of operatives face after being exposed.

Hello, fellow Traveler. Welcome back to the 21st. (“Century” that is.)

Netflix’s sci-fi series returns for its third season on Dec. 14, hitting just in time for Christmas bingeing. In the Canadian series, operatives called Travelers from the future have been sent back to the 21st century in order to carry out various missions set out by the Director in order to hopefully prevent the future calamities that are endangering the human race. The operative takes over the contemporary host body just seconds before that person is supposed to die and then takes over their life as a cover.

When last we left the operative Grant McLaren (Eric McCormack) and his team – Marcy (MacKenzie Porter), Carly (Nesta Cooper), Trevor (Jared Abrahamsson), and Philip Pearson (Reilly Dolman) – they’d been outmaneuvered to reveal their true identities by the very first operative ever, Traveler 001. He previously had taken the body of host Vincent (Enrico Colantoni), but he had hopped bodies to Dr. Perrow (Amanda Tapping).

Here’s Netflix’s official description of Season 3:

The third season of “Travelers” finds Grant MacLaren and his team of highly-trained operatives from the future pushed to the limit and dealing with themes of loyalty, trust, death, and the ever-growing power of Artificial Intelligence. With their existence now leaked to the world, the team must find a way to keep knowledge of the Travelers program from the general public, while continuing to perform missions under the watchful eye of the FBI.  Each team member will face their own personal breaking point, all while trying to stop the Faction, hunt down elusive Traveler 001, and to save the world from a terrible future.

Netflix also released a first-look poster:

"Travelers" Season 3

“Travelers” Season 3

Netflix

“Travelers” Season 3, which also stars Patrick Gilmore, will be released on Friday, Dec. 14 on Netflix.

‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’: An Epic Spellbinding Guide to All the Horror References, Episode by Episode

From “Suspira” to Charles Manson, here’s an exhaustive list of the pop culture Easter eggs found in Netflix’s teen horror drama.

[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from Season 1 of “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.”]

A love of horror runs in series creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s blood, and it comes out in “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” his dark take on the classic Archie Comics title “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.” In adapting his comic book for Netflix, he discussed some of those horror influences with Lee Toland Krieger, who would be setting the tone of the series by directing the first two episodes.

“He arranged a screening of clips from some of our favorite movies,” Aguirre-Sacasa said. “The three great witch movies are ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ Dario Argento’s ‘Suspiria,’ and Robert Eggers’ movie ‘The Witch,’ that came out a few years ago. And then even more recently, Ti West’s movie, ‘House of the Devil,’ and Oz Perkins’ ‘The Blackcoat’s Daughter,’ starring Kiernan [Shipka] actually. In terms of devil movies, we talked about ‘The Omen,’ we talked about ‘The Exorcist,’ the original Sam Raimi’s ‘Evil Dead.’”

Read More:‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ Cast Dishes on the Game-Changing Finale and Hints at Season 2

Nods to these and other pop culture are scattered throughout the series, in addition to references to the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 and 1693. Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) and her family of witches live in Greendale, which was also touched by the moral panic of that era.

Here’s a breakdown of each of all the homages and Easter eggs, episode by episode:

“Chapter One: October Country”

"Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" and "Thriller"

“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” and “Thriller”

Netflix, Quincy Jones Productions

  • ”The October Country”: Ray Bradbury’s 1955 horror anthology is the inspiration for the episode’s title. Two of the collection’s 19 macabre short stories center on the Elliotts, a family of supernatural people, much like the Addams Family or Spellmans.
  • Classic Horror Films: At the Paramount theater where Sabrina and her friends are watching George A. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead,”, four posters advertise the other Horrorthon offerings: the ants sci-fi gem “Them,” pre-Code horror flick “Freaks,” and the 1970 British film “Taste the Blood of Dracula.” Later, Harvey (Ross Lynch) quotes a line from the zombie film they watched: “They’re coming to get you, Barbara.”
  • ”Thriller” Sabrina parallels Michael Jackson’s character in “Thriller” at the movie theater as both wear red and are happily munching on popcorn while the rest of the audience is visibly disturbed by the horror on screen. “Thriller” is a music video masterpiece directed by John Landis, with a creepy voiceover by horror legend Vincent Price.
  • “Halloween”: When Sabrina greets her teacher, Mrs. Wardwell (Michelle Gomez) in the lobby of the Paramount, she is surprised the woman likes scary movies. Mrs. Wardwell replies, “Who doesn’t enjoy a good scare every now and then, especially this time of year?” The line echoes one of the most famous lines in John Carpenter’s 1978 film, when, after startling Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), Sheriff Brackett (Charles Cyphers) says, “It’s Halloween, I guess everyone’s entitled to one good scare.”
  • Dr. Cerberus: Aguirre-Sacasa wrote a play of the same name about a teenager who is obsessed with the host of the Saturday Night Horror Movie TV show, Dr. Cerberus. In “Sabrina,” this is also the name of the store owner of Cerberus Books (played by “Battlestar Galactica” alumni Alessandro Juliani), where Sabrina and her friends hang out after the movie. Cerberus is also a three-headed dog Greek mythology that guards the gates of the Underworld, and an image of the creature can be seen on the signage. Could this be why Dr. Cerberus’ eyes flash in the final episode?

Cerberus Books, "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina"

  • Putnam Family: Sabrina’s friend Susie (Lachlan Watson) shares the same name as the Putnams, two of whom were prominent accusers at the Salem Witch Trials.
  • Wardwell: Sabrina’s teacher Ms. Wardwell (Michelle Gomez) is most likely named for Samuel Wardwell, a man accused of and subsequently executed for witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials in 1692.
  • Dr. Saperstein: Ms. Wardwell says she’ll bring the girl she found in the road to see this doctor, who shares the same name as the evil doctor recommended in “Rosemary’s Baby.”
  • ”Hellraiser”: Elements of Ms. Wardwell’s house, from the wallpaper to the stained glass windows, are inspired by the Cotton family’s house in Clive Barker’s 1987 film.
  • ”Suspiria”: When a bat flies through Sabrina’s window, she crushes it with a book in a scene that echoes Suzy killing a bat with a stool while she’s staying at the dance academy.
  • ”The House of Seven Gables”: The exterior of the Spellmans’ home is modeled after the house in the 1940 gothic horror film adapted from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel of the same name. The front door even sports the signature iron spikes. The book references a man who had been executed for witchcraft in the 17th century.
  • Vinegar Tom: Aunt Zelda (Miranda Otto) references her deceased dog Vinegar Tom, who had acted as her familiar. “Vinegar Tom” is Caryl Churchill’s 1976 British play that examines gender and power relationships through the lens of 17th-century witchcraft trials in England.
  • Principal Hawthorne: The name of Sabrina’s principal (played by Bronson Pinchot) is a nod to John Hathorne, one of the leading judges in the Salem Witch Trials. His descendant, author Nathaniel Hawthorne, added a “w” to the spelling of the name.
Ross Lynch, Kiernan Shipka, and Jaz Sinclair, "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina"

Ross Lynch, Kiernan Shipka, and Jaz Sinclair, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”

Courtesy of Netflix

  • The Archies: Sabrina carries a vintage thermos with the Archies on it.
  • Stolas: Ms. Wardwell’s raven familiar shares the same name as a demon listed in the Ars Godetia who is a Great Prince of Hell, depicted as either being “a crowned owl with long legs, a raven, or a man.”
  • Sabrina’s decor Some of the clever touches seen in Sabrina’s bedroom include a “Nosferatu” poster, a witch’s bottle on her vanity, and a poster of David Bowie, a chameleon who had presented himself in a gender fluid way and embraced images of the occult. His music video for “Blackstar” shows him holding a book with a black star – or perhaps a pentagram – on it, and includes images of what looks to be a ritual involving women and a skull.
  • ”The Witch”: In trying to convince Sabrina to sign the Dark Lord’s book, Zelda says that it’s the price to pay for the “extraordinary, delicious gifts he bestows on us.” This is reminiscent of the line in “The Witch” when Black Phillip asks Thomasina, “Wouldst thou like the taste of butter? A pretty dress? Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?”
"Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" and "Suspiria"

“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” and “Suspiria”

Netflix and Produzioni Atlas Consorziate

  • Gibson Girl wallpaper: The Spellman home is adorned with feminist imagery, but one of the most prominent is the head of the Gibson Girl repeated in an eye-catching wallpaper in the main sitting room. The Gibson Girl was initially conceived by artist Charles Dana Gibson as the ideal of feminine beauty in the late 1800s, and throughout her use, she has sent mixed messages that would either undermine or support women’s sociopolitical change. The black and white backdrop also mimics the black and white floral wallpaper seen in the roommate’s flat in “Suspiria.”
  • “Zodiac”: When Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) brings the body of Connor Kemper to the morgue to embalm him, Donovan’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man” is playing, complete with slow-motion action and a yellow filter. This echoes the opening scene of David Fincher’s “Zodiac,” where the song plays during the brutal attack on Darlene Ferrin and Michael Mageau. Connor’s last name is that of another serial killer, Ed Kemper.
  • ”Wizard of Oz” and “Snow White”: As a demonic scarecrow pursues and attacks Sabrina through a hay maze, it’s shown that Ms. Wardwell is controlling the scarecrow from afar through a poppet — a doll made to represent a person for casting spells. She says, “There will be no apple-picking for you, my dear.” This sequence appears to channel both the Wicked Witch of the West, who tried to throw problems in Dorothy’s path through magic, and the Evil Queen in “Snow White,” who transformed herself into a crone and offered the princess a poisoned apple.
  • “The Shining”: The hay maze Sabrina finds herself in is similar to the garden hedge maze Danny runs through while trying to escape from Jack in Stanley Kubrick’s take on the Stephen King novel.
  • Malum Malus: Literally translated as “apple of evil,” this fruit will supposedly give Sabrina a glimpse of the future if she eats it. This is akin to Eve biting into the apple from the Tree of Knowledge.
  • Faustus Blackwood: The High Priest (Richard Coyle) is most likely named for Faust, a legendary German character who made a deal with the devil for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures.

“Chapter Two: The Dark Baptism”

  • ”Witches’ Sabbath”: A print of Goya’s mural appears in the Spellman home and depicts a coven of witches cowering in front of Satan, who has the head of a goat.
  • The Dark Lord: When Sabrina uses the term The Devil and says he is the embodiment of evil, Father Blackwood corrects her and says The Dark Lord is actually the embodiment of free will. This falls in line with Anton LaVay and the Church of Satan’s interpretation of Satan as a symbol of enlightenment, as well as the “False God” being a source of oppression.
Lucy Davis, "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina"

Lucy Davis, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”

Netflix

  • “Haxan”: A poster for the 1922 Swedish-Danish silent horror film can be seen hanging on the wall in Sabrina’s bedroom. The film is part documentary, part fiction, and explores the history of witchcraft, demonology, and satanism in high stylized vignettes with horror elements.
  • Comic book artists: Sabrina’s cousin Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) geeks out with Harvey over their favorite comic book legends, including Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Grant Morrison.
  • ”Macbeth”: When summoning Prudence, Agatha, and Dorcas (Tati Gabrielle, Adeline Rudolph, Abigail F. Cowen), Sabrina chants a spell that includes the lines:

    Thrice to thine and thrice to mine
    And thrice again, to make up nine.
    Peace! The charm’s wound up.

    This is a direct quote from one of the witches’ chants in “Macbeth,” in which they also refer to themselves as the Weird Sisters.

  • “Rosemary’s Baby”: Sabrina’s red dress with a Peter Pan lace collar appears to be inspired by the dress Mia Farrow wears in the 1968 horror classic.
  • “Riverdale”: When Sabrina and the Weird Sisters lure the football players into mines, they ask if they attend Baxter High. Sabrina says she does, but the Sisters go somewhere else. One of the football players asks if they’re from Riverdale, Greendale’s neighboring town where Archie and his pals live.
  • Cain and Abel: When Zelda hits her younger sister, Hilda, in the head with hammer and kills her (temporarily), it echoes the famous fratricide in the Bible, where Cain murders his younger brother, Abel.
  • “Kill Bill: Vol. 2”: When Hilda finally does come back from the dead, she is covered in dirt and blood, looking similar to The Bride (Uma Thurman), when she escapes from being shot in the chest with buck salt and buried alive. 
  • ”Auntie Mame” and “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”: Ambrose calls the two aunts at “Auntie Mame and Baby Jane” in a fit of pique. While Auntie Mame is a free-spirited but beloved character, Baby Jane is an aging, has-been child actress.
  • Black Narcissus: The goat that is obtained as a sacrifice for Sabrina’s dark baptism is a reference to Black Phillip, Satan disguised as a goat from “The Witch.” However, the name itself is derived from the 1947 Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger film about nuns who set up a school and hospital in the Himalayas, but are seduced by the sensuality of their surroundings. The nuns, like Sabrina, are tempted by a more tantalizing life.

The many faces of Eddie Munster

Moviestore Collection/Shutterstock; Netflix, Archie Horror

  • Eddie Munster: Susie dresses like the son from “The Munsters” for Roz’s Halloween party. This is also a sly reference to the “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” comic book Issue No. 7, which delves into the backstory of Sabrina’s father Edward Spellman. As a young boy, he’s drawn to resemble Eddie Munster, down to the old-fashioned ensemble and extreme widow’s peak.
  • ”The Ruins”: When Sabrina flees her dark baptism and is captured by bespelled vines, this scene mimics the one where Laura Ramsey’s character tries to escape predatory vines in the 2008 horror film set in a Mexican jungle. It is also similar to the infamous tree scene in 1981’s “The Evil Dead.”
  • ”Poltergeist”: When Principal Hawthorne calls for Sabrina over the intercom, Roz (Jaz Sinclair) says, “He’s ba-ack!” in the same sing-song manner that Carol Anne says, “They’re here!” and “They’re back!” in the “Poltergeist” films.

“Chapter Three: The Trial of Sabrina Spellman”

  • ”The Devil and Daniel Webster”: Stephen Vincent Benét wrote this short story that put a courtroom twist on the classic Faustian tale, about a farmer who makes a deal with the devil and hires real-life lawyer Daniel Webster to defend him. In this episode, Sabrina is on trial for not going through with the dark baptism and the lawyer she hires is also named Daniel Webster. It turns out that he also made a deal with the devil at one point. Later, it’s revealed that Sabrina’s father also made a deal with Satan in order to marry a mortal.
  • ”Carrie”: In the girls’ bathroom at Baxter High, a flyer reads, “Conserve Water: Plug it up, plug it up, plug it up!” This is a reference to the opening of “Carrie” in which the girls harass taunt and throw feminine products at Carrie when she freaks out for getting her period for the first time.
  • ”Hellraiser”: An accent table in Father Blackwood’s office is designed to look like the “Hellraiser” puzzle box.

“Chapter Four: Witch Academy”

Liam Hughes in "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" and Jacopo Mariani in "Suspiria"

Liam Hughes in “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” and Jacopo Mariani in “Suspiria”

Netflix, Produzioni Atlas Consorziate

  • ”The Fly”: Sabrina’s friends debate the subtext in both versions of the horror film: the classic 1958 sci-fi film and David Cronenberg’s body horror version starring Jeff Goldblum in 1986.
  • ”Stand by Me”: On her first day at the Academy of Unseen Arts, Sabrina walks along railroad tracks, echoing how the boys traveled in “Stand by Me,” the coming-of-age film based on Stephen King’s short story, “The Body.”
  • Gehenna: The Academy is labeled Gehenna Station. Gehenna is a small valley in Jerusalem where some of the kings of Judah sacrificed their children by fire, according to the Hebrew bible. That bodes well for Sabrina’s education. Gehenna can also be a synonym for Hell.
  • Creepy kid: Quentin (Liam Hughes) is the kid who greets Sabrina at the school, but his old-fashioned attire is a tip-off that something else is afoot. He’s dressed almost like the nephew of the headmistress in Dario Argento’s “Suspiria.”
  • Clive Barker: The master of horror loaned 150 original paintings to the series to line the walls of the Academy.
  • Baphomet: The giant goat-headed Satan sculpture in the center of the Academy is modeled after Baphomet, a deity that the Knights Templar were falsely accused of worshipping. It has become a symbol of the occult. Trivia: “Baphomet” (actually, “Baa-phomet”) is also the name of the goat Sabrina sacrifices in the “Chilling Adventures” comic book.
  • Charles Manson: The choir is singing “I’ll Never Say Never to Always,” one of the songs written by Charles Manson. Here are the lyrics below:

    Always is always forever
    As long as one is one
    Inside yourself for your father
    All is none all is none all is one.
    It’s time we put our love behind you
    The illusion has been just a dream
    The valley of death and I’ll find you
    Now is when on a sunshine beam
    So bring us the young perfection
    For there us shall surely be
    No clothing, tears, or hunger
    You can see you can see you can be.

  • Nicholas Scratch: Sabrina’s new Academy schoolmate has a name that works as nicknames for the devil – Old Nick and Mr. Scratch – but he also shares the name of a warlock supervillain from the “Fantastic Four” comics.
  • ”Carnival of Souls”: Roz and Susie war watching Herk Harvey’s 1962 independent horror film that has inspired the likes of David Lynch and George Romero.
  • ”The Blackcoat’s Daughter”: Kiernan Shipka also starred in Oz Perkin’s 2015 horror film in which her character uses a pay phone at her boarding school, just like Sabrina does at the Academy.
Kiernan Shipka in "The Blackcoat's Daughter" and "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina"

Kiernan Shipka in “The Blackcoat’s Daughter” and “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”

A24, Netflix

  • Acheron Configuration puzzle box: The blue puzzle box that Sabrina must solve is named for Acheron, one of the five rivers of the Underworld in Greek mythology.
  • Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board This levitation game dates back to the 17th century and has been seen in “The Craft” and the Hulu series “Light as a Feather.” Quentin and the other kids killed by harrowing chant this is part of a levitation spell.

“Chapter Five: Dreams in a Witch House”

  • ”The Dreams in the Witch House”: The episode’s title is inspired by an H.P. Lovecraft story about a man who rents an attic apartment in a house that once harbored a person accused of witchcraft but disappeared from jail in 1692. The man has bizarre, disturbing, and increasingly violent dreams each night.
  • Batibat: The name of the Sleep Demon is inspired by a demon in Ilocano folklore that is modeled after the demon Bangungot, meaning “nightmare” in Tagalog.
  • “A Nightmare on Elm Street”: Batibat haunting everyone’s dreams, turning their worst fears into deadly nightmares is similar to Freddy Krueger.
  • “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”: The plot of the episode is very close to the Season Four finale, “Restless,” which finds Buffy and her friends trapped in their dreams after the accidental summoning of The First Slayer. Batibat also looks similar to The First Slayer.
  • ”Suspiria”: Zelda opens a secret door in the wall that is painted to look like the mural in “Suspiria” that opened into a secret passage by turning the blue painted iris.
Miranda Otto, "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" and Jessica Harper, "Suspiria"

Miranda Otto, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” and Jessica Harper, “Suspiria”

Netflix, Produzioni Atlas Consorziate

  • Sabrina’s nightmare: She dreams that Harvey proposes to her in school, and in the original comic book, Harvey actually proposed in real life.
  • “Sleepy Hollow”: When Sabrina is forced into the Iron Maiden and blood pours out, it recalls the flashback scene from Tim Burton’s “Sleepy Hollow,” where Ichabod Craine (Johnny Depp) remembers the death of his mother, who is believed to be a witch, at the hands of his own hyper-religious father.
  • ”Hamlet”: In the embalming room in his dream, Ambrose paraphrases part of Hamlet’s speech about a dead comrade: “Alas poor, Ambrose, I knew him well.”
  • Parasitic twin: In Hilda’s nightmare, she imagines Principal Hawthorne confessing to having a parasitic twin named Bob, whose exists as part of the principal’s torso. “I absorbed him in the womb, ate him, my very own brother. I gobbled him up like greedy little piggy.” This trope has been seen in science fiction, including a story by Philip K. Dick, and in horror. Hawthorne’s wording also plays off of the cannibalism that the witches partake in throughout the series.
  • “Suspiria”: The living room Zelda is reading to the children in has the same infamous stained glass window  featured in the first death scene in “Suspiria.”
  • Cain and Abel: In Zelda’s nightmare, she kills Hilda yet again, expecting her to resurrect in their special plot in the cemetery. But when the Dark Lord questions her about Hilda’s whereabouts, she puts a twist on Cain’s words after he killed Adam: “Am I my sister’s keeper?”

Episode 6-10 Easter eggs>>

‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’: Series Creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa Explains Why Salem the Cat Doesn’t Talk — Yet

“Sabrina” star Kiernan Shipka also weighs in on the challenges of acting while on Benadryl.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” has received critical acclaim for its progressive take on the popular 1960s Archie Comics character, but fans are disappointed with one change: Salem the cat does not speak. It’s a jarring switch compared to the mouthy, wisecracking feline that inspired countless GIFs from the 1990s sitcom “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.”

Kiernan Shipka, who now plays the titular Sabrina Spellman, said, “It’s nothing like the ‘90s sassy, mean Salem at all. That’s its own thing that we’re not going to try to compete with or be in the slightest because you can’t live up to that in any way. This is more of a subtle sort of nod, I would say, to the old show.”

Salem does talk in Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ comic book, but that wasn’t his original intent. The comic was dark, and a talking cat wasn’t. “It felt like if you have a talking cat, it would almost inherently be funny and be a comedy,” he said. “As I was writing the comic book, I realized that when you read a comic book, you just read the words. You don’t necessarily see any characters’ lips move. ‘Oh, of course Salem should talk. It’s going to be like anyone else talking.’”

However, in adapting “Sabrina” for Netflix, Aguirre-Sacasa decided to dispense with the chatty cat altogether and stick with his original instinct. “When we did the show, [he doesn’t speak] partly to project the horror tone,” he said. “That isn’t to say that Salem won’t talk in the future.”

Salem and Kiernan Skipka, "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina"

Salem and Kiernan Skipka, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”

Netflix

Here, Salem first appears as an eerie goblin that Sabrina summons for help. He speaks in sibilant tones, but as soon as he changes into his form as a familiar — an animal guide who assists witches — Salem only speaks with the usual cat vocalizations of meows, purrs, and chirrups.

This new Salem isn’t the first non-speaker. George Gladir and Dan DeCarlo first conceived of Salem as a non-verbal orange cat for Issue No. 22 of “Archie’s Mad House” in 1962. It wasn’t until the live-action sitcom’s puppet voiced by Nick Bakay stole every scene that the comic book was retconned with an articulate black cat.

"Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" Issue No. 6

“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” Issue No. 6

Archie Horror

Similarly, Salem’s backstory has changed through the years. Most start with Salem as a human sailor or witch who was cursed to take the form of a feline familiar. In Aguirre-Sacasa’s comic books, Salem has a whole issue, “That Damn Cat,” dedicated to his backstory, which places him at the Salem witch trials of 1692. Aguirre-Sacasa hopes to dig into that in the future. “We’ve definitely talked about doing a Salem-centric episode where we would learn more about his life,” he said.

Adding to the realism is the use of real cat actors as opposed to the sitcom’s animatronic version. Unfortunately, Shipka is allergic to cats. Although she’s seen cuddling him when they’re first introduced, in later scenes he’s at a comfortable distance.

“It’s difficult if you’re operating off of antihistamines,” she said. “Don’t take a Benadryl. I did that once. Horrible experience. I was all sorts of drugged for the last six hours of set. I’m fine being in the same room as Salem as long as I’m not continuously petting and touching him. He’s fine. He shows up, knows his lines, does his lines.”

Read More: ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ Review: Netflix’s Lavish Teen Horror Show Is an Empowering Update (Spoiler-Free)

Having Salem mum also keeps the show from going over the top with fantastical elements. “We’ve got a lot of things in our show that are very heightened with demons and just different things, and I think you’ve got to ground everything in as much reality as you can,” said Lucy Davis who plays Sabrina’s Aunt Hilda.

Miranda Otto, who portrays Aunt Zelda, said, “And other people have familiars as well, so then we’d have a lot of talking animals.”

“We would. I’d have talking spiders,” said Davis.

”Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” Season 1 is currently streaming on Netflix.

‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ Cast Dishes on the Game-Changing Finale and Hints at Season 2

Kiernan Shipka, Miranda Otto, and Michelle Gomez discuss their characters’ subversive and feminist decisions in Netflix’s teen horror drama.

[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” Season 1, including its finale. For a spoiler-free discussion, read IndieWire’s review.]

In the season finale of “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” Kiernan Shipka’s titular character fully embraced her witch half and signed her soul away to the devil, further complicating her already unusual relationship with death. “Without spoiling anything in Season 2, there’s a lot of mourning of her mortality,” said Shipka.

It’s a bittersweet look ahead for the character, who was reimagined by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa from Archie Comics’ “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.” The new incarnation had been touched by death from the start; Sabrina Spellman never knew her parents because they died in an accident when she was an infant. Also, she resides in a house that doubles as a mortuary operated by her witch aunts and cousin.

Read More: ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ Review: Netflix’s Lavish Teen Horror Show Is an Empowering Update (Spoiler-Free)

“There’s a very mortal poignance that Roberto brings to the death elements of the show and comes at it from a very human perspective,” Shipka said. “It is interesting playing a character that doesn’t really grow up with those kinds of experiences. But at the same time, Sabrina is mourning the loss of her parents from the beginning. That’s a constant in her mind and her everyday life. There’s a loss there that is ever present.”

As the offspring of a mortal and a witch, Sabrina was always destined to forge her own path. Although she initially defied her coven by refusing to sign the Dark Lord’s book when the show began, her resolve crumbled when a hellish scourge threatened to claim the lives of all the firstborns in Greendale, including her friends. As a result, her already potent witch’s powers were amplified and her lifespan extended since witches age more slowly than mortals do.

Kiernan Shipka and Ross Lynch, "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina"

Kiernan Shipka and Ross Lynch, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”

Diyah Pera/Netflix

Of course, the downside is that Sabrina must obey Satan’s will, should he choose to call on her. She also sacrifices something else that the other witches and warlocks had not: the mortal half of herself. She no longer feels the urgency that shorter-lived people do, but she’ll also have to attend the Academy of Unseen Arts, leaving her mortal boyfriend Harvey (Ross Lynch) and friends behind.

Sabrina didn’t come to her fateful decision alone. She was spurred on by her teacher Mrs. Wardwell (Michelle Gomez), who revealed her true identity to one hapless mortal in the finale: “I’m the mother of demons, the dawn of doom, Satan’s concubine. I’m Lilith, dear boy, first wife to Adam, saved from despair by a fallen angel. I call myself Madam Satan in his honor.” While grooming Sabrina to choose darkness would eventually earn Madam Satan a crown and throne by the Dark Lord’s side, her actions also have a disruptive, feminist bent. “Women are taught to fear power. Own it,” she tells Sabrina.

Gomez said, “There’s a ‘bring down the patriarchy’ resonance there. And so Madam Satan stands for that female empowerment and to really encourage and push Sabrina to be the most powerful version of herself. What does that mean to the modern woman today with the choices that we have?”

Could agreeing to serve the devil be a stealth way of taking down the patriarchy from within? Madam Satan certainly doesn’t lack for ambition, and Sabrina’s Aunt Zelda (Miranda Otto) also makes a critical, game-changing decision in the finale. Of Sabrina’s two aunts, Zelda had always been a devout member of the Church of Night and even had a good relationship — an affair, actually — with the High Priest, Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle). However, when she serves as midwife to Lady Blackwood, who dies in childbirth, she claims only one twin, a son, survived.

She lied. A daughter had been born first, but Zelda stole her away “to protect the babe… She’s a girl born before her brother, and the High Priest, I fear what he would’ve done to her.”

Miranda Otto, "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina"

Miranda Otto, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”

Diyah Pera/Netflix

Otto said, “I think she has her own very private doubts about certain things and the way certain things go. I see her as a bit of a politician. She’s in it for the long haul, she’s playing the long game and she’s fiercely protective of Sabrina. She does really feel that, as a half witch, if she’s not in the coven, then she’s in a very dangerous position.

“So to her, the only position to take is to be within the Church and to do what you can within that. As much as Zelda berates Sabrina and is tough on her, I think she actually really admires her strength and tenacity and rebelliousness. There’s a part of her that sees Sabrina one day heading up the Church in some way.”

Season 2, which is already shooting in Vancouver, sounds like it’s ripe for revolution. Shipka dropped one hint about Sabrina’s plight: “I was in a rehearsal the other day for a scene that’s in the second season. I end up laying down, I see a bunch of people looking over me, and in the rehearsal, I was like, ‘This is a shot from “Rosemary’s Baby.” I know I’m supposed to be passed out right now, but oh my god.’ So it continues.”

Additional reporting by Jamie Rhigetti.

‘Bodyguard’ Review: Richard Madden Owns This Addictive Netflix Conspiracy Thriller That Set U.K. Ratings Records

In just 10 minutes, show creator Jed Mercurio will lay claim to the next six hours of your life.

Political conspiracy thriller “Bodyguard” is Britain’s biggest TV hit in years, and it’s easy to see why. With Jed Mercurio’s suspenseful story and mesmerizing performances by Richard Madden and Keeley Hawes, it’s an intoxicating and addictive television cocktail. Ten minutes in, and viewers will want to binge all six hours of the new Netflix-distributed series that examines how the London corridors of power grapple with the increased threat of terrorism.

This is not a remake of the 1992 Whitney Houston-Kevin Costner thriller “The Bodyguard,” although it does feature a hardened private security specialist David Budd (Madden) assigned to protect a high-profile woman, who in this case is the implacable Home Secretary Julia Montague (Hawes). Both are accustomed to taking charge and forge a wary professional alliance that eventually crosses into the personal.

Madden is already an international star after playing the ill-fated Robb Stark on “Game of Thrones,” the dashing Prince Charming in Disney’s live-action “Cinderella” reboot, and the irresistible EDM deejay in Netflix’s “Ibiza.” Even so, this is his most thrilling role to date and does much to bolster his name as a possible Bond successor to Daniel Craig.

Part action hero, part brooding Heathcliff, Budd is a man whose skills for detection and defense have been honed by war. He also exhibits a remarkable humanity, such as in an early sequence involving a suicide bomber. Madden bristles with tightly reined tension, but in an instant can act with brutal efficiency or horrifying desperation to reveal cloaked PTSD. The strength of Madden’s commanding stare — at a faulty cell phone, or a quote during a news conference — invests viewers in minutiae. He puts the same barely leashed control into his speech. Ever proper, Budd loves the word “ma’am,” which would seem comical if it weren’t for his nuanced delivery that makes every monosyllabic address feel like a full, impassioned sentence.

Richard Madden and Keeley Hawes, "Bodyguard"

Richard Madden and Keeley Hawes, “Bodyguard”

World Productions/Netflix

Hawes, whose extensive TV resume includes starring in Mercurio’s “Line of Duty” and the charming family drama “The Durrells in Corfu,” is more than his match as a politician whose outspoken nature and policy of increased surveillance make her a target. She plays Julia as calculated yet confident, a woman who does not suffer fools or fragile male egos. Together, Madden and Hawes are electric; if the series were just a two-hander, their chemistry would be more than enough to keep watching. Thomas Vincent (“Versailles”) directed the first half of the series, which exponentially ratchets up the couple’s relationship. Nothing seems as important as their interactions, which rarely need dialogue to smolder.

And yet, deceit, violence, government machinations, and terrorist plots dare to intrude. Those familiar with Mercurio’s acclaimed and ongoing police procedural “Line of Duty” (four seasons are currently available on Hulu) have tasted his brand of insidious, widespread corruption. Here, a broad network of government agents and other political players offer a range of suspects for the rampant malfeasance. No one can be trusted — Julia and David included.

Careening from white-knuckled action sequences to excruciating moments of drawn-out suspense, the show is relentless in creating visceral reactions through the tension. Mercurio is bold enough to kill off characters, creating real stakes that don’t guarantee anyone’s safety, and throws in plenty of plot twists to keep viewers unsteady. Part of the fun is it doesn’t really matter if the audience can figure out who is behind which plot; it’s all about the way it unravels.

It’s almost a shame that Netflix won’t release the show according to the UK’s weekly rollout. Not only does Mercurio excel at crafting clever cliffhangers that should be savored, but a break also would allow viewers the chance to digest the events, build anticipation, and perhaps ward off stress ulcers.

The series finishes with an appropriately twisty ending that even the most perceptive viewers won’t predict; in that regard, Mercurio is successful in his narrative mastery. However, the choices he makes in order to create this surprise, and how he reveals it, are problematic. This takes viewers out of the moment and weakens what should be a satisfying cap to an engrossing series.

Readers who have seen all six parts of “Bodyguard” can continue reading on the next page>>

‘The Woman in White’ on PBS Review: The BBC Turns a Familiar Mystery Into an Enraging Feminist Indictment

The five-part series based on the Wilkie Collins novel premieres Sunday, Oct. 21.

The BBC-produced “The Woman in White,” premiering on PBS’ “Masterpiece,”  turns the oft-adapted Wilkie Collins novel into a five-hour miniseries and creates the most feminist version to date. Set in Victorian England, the gothic tale examines the twisted circumstances surrounding the arranged marriage between young heiress Laura Fairlie (Olivia Vinall) and the much older Sir Percival Glyde (Dougray Scott). She and her half-sister Marian Halcombe (Jessie Buckley) become embroiled in a grand conspiracy that also involves a mentally ill woman dressed in white. Despite its period setting, the dangerous consequences of gender inequality make this story disturbingly relevant.

The update comes from writer Fiona Seres, who reteams with “Masterpiece” after adapting “The Lady Vanishes” in 2013 from the Ethel Lina White novel that also produced Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1938 film. Like that project, “The Woman in White” explores the frustrations of a society that doesn’t listen to women or believe in their peril. Meanwhile, Carl Tibbets departs from his sci-fi directing resume that includes two episodes of “Black Mirror,” “Humans,” and the upcoming Amazon series “The Feed” for this foray into the 1800s. Here he creates a beautiful yet dangerous world, in which treachery lies just behind closed doors.

Inevitably, “The Woman in White” can feel familiar. Not only it is one of the earliest iterations of the mystery and detective novel genre, BBC and the program formerly known as “Masterpiece Theatre” also tackled it in 1997, as a TV movie. Nor were they the first: it was first adapted as a low-budget Warner Bros. feature in 1948, and it was a BBC miniseries in 1982. More recently, portions were adapted for Sarah Waters’ 2002 bestselling historical crime novel “Fingersmith,” which in turn inspired “The Handmaiden,” Park Chan-wook’s critically acclaimed 2016 feature adaptation.

However, this outing differentiates itself by continuing the more recent “Masterpiece” tradition of exploring women’s agency through its literary adaptations, ranging from the 1999 miniseries “Wives and Daughters” and the more recent “Little Women” and “The Miniaturist.” Masterpiece’s 1997 version had a much different tenor, including scenes in which rape, threatened or otherwise, were used as a device to speed the storytelling along its two-hour runtime. Fortunately, the new version has the luxury of five installments and doesn’t need to resort to such problematic tropes. Instead, it takes its time to develop Marian, who’s given even more agency through the framework of a murder investigation, which was solely a man’s domain in the book.

“The Woman in White” begins with a black-clad Marian in mourning. She demands: “How is it that men crush women time and time again and go unpunished? If men were held accountable, they’d hang every hour of the day, every day of the year.” It’s a sentiment that, with slightly updated language, could very well be a tweet of feminine rage in response to the Kavanaugh hearings.

Part gothic melodrama, part detective tale, “The Woman in White” places Marian at the center of a mystery that reflects the social anxieties of the Victorian era. Men driven by fear, greed, and passion maintain their social standing by using the women at their disposal. The lies and manipulation come to a head with a woman’s death. Marian is one of many witnesses giving their accounts to a newly created character, scrivener Erasmus Nash (Art Malik), while flashbacks show exactly how the dark events unfolded. She is the first to speak and drives the murder investigation, which shifts the heroic role away from the novel’s protagonist, young drawing master Walter Hartright (Ben Hardy), who pines for the unattainable Laura.

Ben Hardy and Olivia Vinall, "The Woman in White"

Ben Hardy and Olivia Vinall, “The Woman in White”

BBC/Origin Pictures

While “The Woman in White” is faithful to its time period, the book always challenged social mores: Collins was a critic of the institution of marriage, and spent 20 years in simultaneous committed relationships. He uses Marian to express many of his sentiments and one speech from his novel, which Seres keeps intact, highlights the character’s outrage at marriage, which at the time made a woman a man’s property:

No man under heaven deserves these sacrifices from us women. Men! They are the enemies of our innocence and our peace – they drag us away from our parents’ love and our sisters’ friendship — they take us body and soul to themselves, and fasten our helpless lives to theirs as they chain up a dog to his kennel.

Jessie Buckley and Riccardo Scamarcio, "The Woman in White"

Jessie Buckley and Riccardo Scamarcio, “The Woman in White”

BBC/Origin Pictures

Buckley is well cast as Marian, who is Laura’s half-sister from a less wealthy father, and thus has the freedom of not being pursued for her fortune. She’s refreshingly outspoken and forthright; when Walter first meets her, she’s wearing loose trousers — almost unthinkable for the 1860s. Buckley has strength and charisma to spare, which is fortunate since the lovelorn Laura and Walter lack chemistry and feel underdeveloped, and the dastardly Glyde and Count Fosco (Riccardo Scamarcio) challenge Marian’s resolve at every turn.

Read More:‘Harlots’ Review: Liv Tyler Joins the Cast for a Heartbreaking Season 2 Filled With Horrifying Machinations

At the core of each of the previous iterations of “The Woman in White” is how bad men aren’t the sole reasons for the exploitation of these women. It’s the result of a toxic society that supports the claims of these men instead of — or even despite — believing women. Charles Dance plays one such man calling the shots as Laura and Marian’s invalid uncle Frederick Fairlie. He constantly bleats about and demands special treatment for his infirmity, but can’t be bothered to even look at his nieces when their very lives and happiness are at stake.

Once viewers power through the bafflingly slow first episode, the series becomes equally engrossing and enraging as patriarchal machinations push the siblings into intolerable situations. While this sort of foreboding isn’t strictly pleasant, it’s satisfying since the men are so clearly defined as villainous. This sets the stage for their inevitable downfall, as women — and justice — prevail.

Grade: B-

”The Woman in White” airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET from Oct. 21 – Nov. 18 as part of PBS’ “Masterpiece.”

‘The Good Place’ Reinvents Itself Yet Again, Hiding Its Best Easter Eggs in the End Credits

Virtue may be its own reward, but viewers don’t have to wait for the afterlife for a treat.

[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from “The Good Place” Season 2, Episode 4, “Jeremy Bearimy.”]

On Thursday’s episode, “The Good Place” reinvented itself once again and bid farewell to its previous narrative format during a Bon Voyage party for Tahani (Jameela Jamil). When Eleanor (Kristen Bell) and her friends come upon the interdimensional door between Earth and the rest of the immortal universe, the demon Michael (Ted Danson) and his helper Janet (D’Arcy Carden) have to come clean about their experiences in The Bad Place and their rebooted chance at redemption.

Unfortunately, in doing so, they’ve doomed the four humans to being damned because now their actions would be tainted with the knowledge of an afterlife. After each of the mortals spiral out in various ways, Eleanor finally comes to the conclusion that even if she’s fated for The Bad Place, she can at least help others on Earth not meet the same fate. Thus, the Soul Squad is born.

This shift differs from the previous storytelling reboots: Previously, Eleanor & Co. were self serving in their reactions: either they were trying to escape The Bad Place, or they were trying to prove they’re capable of change in order to obtain entry to the real Good Place. Here, neither option is available. In choosing to do good despite their fate, they’ve followed two of the schools of thought that Chidi (William Jackson Harper) outlines for virtuous living: virtue ethics, by following the principles of altruism; and consequentialism, by helping others because their outcomes will be better.

William Jackson Harper, "The Good Place"

William Jackson Harper, “The Good Place”

NBC

Of course, this wouldn’t be “The Good Place” without goofy wordplay and pop-culture nods to balance out the moral rectitude. Only a few references can be seen in the episode. There’s the bar, Drinking Nemo, named for “Finding Nemo;” there’s Larry, the fourth “loser” Hemsworth brother; and there’s Chidi’s “Who What When Where… Wine!” t-shirt. However, it’s the end credits that play over the final scene that hold a nest of Easter eggs.

In saying farewell to the previous storyline in which Chidi leads a research group of how near death experiences affect personal ethics, the show also bids adieu to Australia, where Chidi was a university professor. Emmy nominee Megan Amram, who wrote this episode, saved all of her wordplay for the the credits, where it’s revealed that most of the students in Chidi’s class are cheeky references to famous Australians. Here’s a breakdown:

Eeth Kurban: A reference to Keith Urban, the country superstar and husband of Nicole Kidman. Most of the joke names are formatted in this way, swapping the beginning phonemes of the first and last names.

Cat Pash: A reference to tennis player Pat Cash, one of the greatest men’s net players of all time. Coincidentally, “pash” is Australian slang for a tongue kiss, the equivalent of the English “snog.”

Gel Mibson: A reference to problematic Oscar winner Mel Gibson, who is technically American born, but was raised in Australia.

Mylie Kinogue: A reference to “Goddess of Pop” and actress Kylie Minogue.

Lod Raver: A reference to Rod Laver, a tennis player who won 11 singles Grand Slam titles.

Gvonne Eoolagong: A reference to Evonne Goolagong, a former No. 1 tennis player who won a total of 14 Grand Slam titles.

Waomi Natt: A reference to acclaimed actress and David Lynch favorite Naomi Watts, who was raised in England and Wales, but emigrated to Australia as a teenager.

Nicole Mankid : A reference to Oscar, Emmy, and Golden Globe winner Nicole Kidman, who was born in Hawaii but raised in her parents’ home country of Australia.

Mark Supial: Not a reference to a person but the marsupial, a class of mammals in which most of the young are carried in a pouch on the mother. Nearly 70 percent of the world’s marsupials live in Australia, including kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, opossums, wombats, Tasmanian devils, and quokkas.

Damon: Who deserves one-name status on this series? That would be well-documented friend to the series, Damon Lindelof, whom series creator Mike Schur consulted when developing the series to learn how to create a show with such world-shifting narrative surprises. Not only did Lindelof create “Lost,” but he was also behind “The Leftovers,” which in its final season also followed characters who traveled to Australia to find answers.

”The Good Place” airs on Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC.