‘Saturday Night Live’ Review: Jason Momoa Makes His Enthusiastic Debut

Spoiler alert: There are no “Stargate Atlantis” references in this episode.

Another week, another first-time “Saturday Night Live” host. Jason Momoa is Aquaman — he’s kind of a big deal under the sea — but he’s also considered a hunk and a heartthrob, a point this episode has no problem acknowledging. He rips off tearaway pants at one point, which was perhaps expected by fans tuning in to see him.

But here’s a disappointing spoiler alert, fans: There is no “Stargate: Atlantis” or “North Shore” reference in this episode, because the “SNL” writers are aren’t about completely giving the audience what they want. Oh, a “Game of Thrones” sketch, huh? How unexpected. (Just to be clear, that last part was a joke. It would’ve been ridiculous for “SNL” to avoid having Momoa speak Dothraki for old time’s sake.)

Host: Jason Momoa

First of all, the title of this monologue on YouTube is “Jason Momoa Mo-Monologue.” Cute.

This opening monologue sets the tone of Momoa’s work in the episode, for better or worse, because like he says, he’s a real “‘SNL’ super nerd dork,” and he is beyond hyped to be doing this job. The monologue is so many things at once — to the point no one even gets to address the lack of shoes and the pink pants, which deserve to be addressed — with Momoa having a pre-recorded song (“This is my moment”), opening a jar of pickles (with eye contact!) for Aidy Bryant, and joining Kenan Thompson, Leslie Jones, and Chris Redd in their Parliament-Funkadelic “Aqua Boogie” jam session. And that last part? That last part is something beautiful.

Naturally, a lot of the sketches that feature Jason Momoa this week — actually, all that feature him except for the Rudolph sketch — focus on his “manliness” (whether enforcing it or subverting it) in some way. This sketch does that while also playing as a pretty funny satire of ridiculous “for men” products (normal products, but re-branded due to cartoonish masculinity, like “toothpaste for men”).

Of course there’s a “Game of Thrones” sketch — even though he hasn’t been on the show since 2012, which is actually pretty amazing to realize — and this is one of those moments where Momoa’s excitement messes with the pacing, as he fumbles the Oscar hosting joke during the Brienne of Tarth bit, and it’s really awkward because of how close it is to the end. This sketch isn’t perfect — really, it could use just some slight polishing — but it is a sketch where even the weaker, early parts of the sketch are actually integral for the later parts of the sketch. (It could also could’ve stood to decide whether Momoa would speak Dothraki the whole time or instead just speak English.) Khal Drago’s instinct to stab, of course. comes back in the final bit, which is a surprising coda to the sketch — with Kyle Mooney as the Chris Hardwick-esque host of the after show, “Talking Dojo” — providing the rare modern “SNL” sketch where people can’t just say the show doesn’t come up with actual endings to a sketch. (“No more after shows!” “Best. Death. Ever.”)

The best part of the sketch, though, is when it simply becomes “Maury,” with Joffrey (Kate McKinnon) and Olenna Tyrell’s (Aidy Bryant, who is amazing here) confrontation, leading right into a googly-eyed Oberyn Martell (Alex Moffat) to seemingly end the sketch.

Just one question: Has Kenan even seen “Game of Thrones?”

“Them Trumps” (a Momoa-less sketch) could honestly be a great recurring sketch for “SNL,” but that’s probably not the intent. The punchline — that a black version of Trump would’ve been arrested and impeached by now — works, especially with Kenan’s expected resignation to the fact each time. The closest to a misstep in this sketch is the “from the producers of ‘Empire’” part, because while it gets a good reaction when it’s said, it’s a moment that says the only somewhat prestigious show about black people they could think about is “Empire,” one this sketch doesn’t even crib from stylistically. (If it were to say it’s a show from Shonda Rhimes, for example, the Rhimes-ian style would be on full display.)

This sketch works pretty much because of how much Jason Momoa commits to it and how much Mikey Day reacts with all the confusion of, honestly, probably a large portion of the “SNL” audience. Of course, Momoa is able to distract said audience with his capes, clothing removal, and miracle-inducing twerking.

At the same time, “SNL” could probably stand to take a break from reworking classic books, movies, etc. for sketches. It’s ultimately feeling more“What if blah ended up meeting blah? I think it would go a little something like this…” hacky.

“Day of the Dorks,” however, works both because it at least changes up the material (just not being “Revenge of the Nerds” in name does make a world of difference, even though it is basically “Revenge of the Nerds”) and because Momoa’s character Beef is perfect for this bit. Especially as he gets more obsessed with actually murdering nerds and the rest of the frat brothers finally question a lot of things about this guy.

This sketch has Momoa the most covered up he is this episode, because he’s Santa, but it should also be noted for being a really good live sketch showcase (because those honestly don’t happen that often) for Pete Davidson. Obviously he can deliver in pretapes, and he has his Weekend Update appearances, but he also notoriously breaks during scenes and isn’t particularly great at characters. (Think about a popular recent live sketch focused on Pete — the oil baron sketch in the Adam Driver episode — and he’s clearly not the reason that sketch was as funny as it was. He wasn’t even the second reason.) But as bullying victim-turned-bully (or maybe he always was a bully) Rudolph? This is genuinely good stuff from Pete, and in an episode where there is absolutely zero Ariana Grande mention.

Best Sketch of The Night: “First Impression”

As mentioned, pretty much every sketch with Jason Momoa focuses on his manliness in some way. This particular sketch does the same (with Beck Bennett also along for the ride) in one of the weirdest, most bizarre ways possible. And it’s awesome. Beck’s mischievous, impish teasing once he’s hidden is so strange, with all the “hehehe”s and the eventual character-dropping “Aww crap, I gave it away!”, yet hilarious. And Momoa’s character’s absolute joy and desire — and wall-breaking frustration — to find Beck is just so pure.

This sketch is just so pure.

Worst Sketch of The Night: “Elf on the Shelf”

Despite next week’s episode presumably being the last new one of 2018, this episode goes hard in the paint for Christmas sketches. Yes, it’s the holiday season, but with another week to go before hiatus, there is just too much Christmas cheer in this episode, which would be fine if the sketches were also all pretty good. But so many of the sketches in this episode come across like half-baked ideas, with relatively good (or at least decent) ideas that aren’t quite there yet.

When it comes to this sketch: Honestly, the elf voice effect is annoying after the first 15 seconds of hearing it. As for the joke, a 13-year-old kid is masturbating, and the poor elf on the shelf (the Momoa character) assigned to him has to suffer for it. That’s it. That’s the joke. Well, that and Santa and the other elves not getting it. To be fair though, “Oh, Scrappy, you spelled flashlight wrong.” is a solid dirty joke.

(There are also two “storybook” sketches, which seems like something that should have a hard limit at one. And if you count “Game of Thrones,” yeah, let’s keep it at one from now on, please.)

Best Male Performer: Beck Bennett

This is 100 percent for his work in “First Impression.”

Best Female Performer: Aidy Bryant

While her bit as Olenna Tyrell is a short one, it’s one of the funniest bits in the episode. In fact, while Kate McKinnon’s Joffrey really isn’t all the great, it’s once she has to play off Aidy that things get interesting.

But Aidy’s Weekend Update feature (as “7th Grade Travel Expert Carrie Krum”) is instant recurring character material, with her excited stories about “exotic” locations like the Atlanta airport or all the majesty one can find if they go to the Midwest (as long as they don’t go to Montana, because of the rocks) and have the exact same experiences as her and her family. “When adults are laughing, I’m laughing right along with them.” Truer words have never been spoken.

Final Thoughts

Honestly, Gemma is back, and that’s really all that actually matters. But, since this isn’t an all Gemma episode…

The brief disappointment in seeing a Trump Tower establishing shot (and looming threat of Alec Baldwin’s Trump impression) is immediately replaced with joy by the cold open focusing on Donald Trump Jr. (Mikey Day) and Eric Trump (Alex Moffat), With the race car bed and the continued stupidity of Eric, it’s honestly a solid start to the episode. But then there’s the reveal of the boogeyman mentioned at the beginning of the sketch: Robert De Niro’s Robert Mueller.

Because the “SNL” crowd will “woooo!” any celebrity that shows up, of course De Niro gets that treatment — despite, it should be noted, De Niro never actually being a good “SNL” guest or host. Had the show honestly only gotten him for the one bit of shushing Moffat’s Eric Trump from the closet, it would have been worth it. But then he had to perform the “character,” eyes trained on the cue cards and stumbling through his lines. It’s a shame too, because “No Eric, getting elected president was the worst thing that ever happened to your dad.” would be such a good line if it were actually delivered well though. It still gets a “woooo!” though.

There should a rule that, unless it’s for a character bit, no Weekend Update anchor should ever be allowed to say “dude.” In theory, that’s already an unwritten rule, but with every instance Colin Jost utters “dude” on live television, it’s clear this is something that needs to be officially nipped in the bud. Kind of like the audience clearly said to his “joke?” (that’s how they react to it) about the stock market crashing because of Trump tweeting, one of the earliest absolute bombs of a Weekend Update joke in recent memory. (Usually, the audience’s lack of reaction to one of these jokes is later on.)

So, as it turns out, Michael Che works better as part of Weekend Update when he’s not actually an anchor on Weekend Update. His Update feature on bidets is honestly the most comfortable he’s ever seemed behind that desk, even when he’s trying to pretend he’s uncomfortable. (“Shut up, Colin! You… white guy. It’s better when Leslie does it.”)

Also, Michael Che’s bidet bit actually features a reworked version of one of Kevin Hart’s controversial tweets — the part about the chicken/clean bone — only without the homophobia.

Jason Momoa is certainly not lacking in enthusiasm and also has the charisma to not make that annoying. But again, as this is his first time hosting, that enthusiasm led him to kind of speed through things. Besides the Oscar hosting thing, he didn’t have any major flubs like Liev Schreiber. But there was a night and day difference between his execution in the live sketches and the pretapes. The “Day of the Dorks” sketch — where he does a perfect Ogre, just like Kyle Mooney physically transforms into Robert Carradine — is perhaps the one live sketch where it all works out, and even there, his first bit of dork-based violence leads to a stagehand ending up in the shot. For next time, the key on his end will just be to slow down a bit.

But when an episode of “SNL” isn’t a holiday-themed clip show and it’s still only eight days into December, this amount of Christmas sketches isn’t necessary. Especially since the holiday gimmick can often just read as a type of laziness, and while there are relatively good sketches and good moments in these sketches, except for “First Impression” and possibly “Rudolph’s Big Night” (for Pete Davidson fully carrying a sketch and without breaking), none of these particular sketches are great or even all that memorable.

Grade: C+

‘The Umbrella Academy’ First Trailer: Ellen Page Has a New Superhero Family in Netflix Series

Netflix’s new series is based on the comic book series of the same name created and written by Gerard Way

Ellen Page is moving on from the “X-Men” in the first trailer for Netflix’s upcoming superhero series “The Umbrella Academy.” The project is based on the comic book series of the same name created and written by Gerard Way, illustrated by Gabriel Bá, and published by Dark Horse Comics.

“The Umbrella Academy” begins in 1989 on a day in which 43 infants are born to mothers who, up to the day of their deliveries, had not been pregnant. A wealthy billionaire adopts seven of these children after they show superhuman abilities. Years later, the six remaining children are forced to band together to solve the mysterious death of the billionaire and the impending apocalypse.

Joining Ellen Page in the star-studded cast are Mary J. Blige, Cameron Britton, Tom Hopper, David Castañeda, John Magaro, Ashley Madekwe, and Kate Walsh, among others. The series is created for television by Steve Blackman, best known for serving as a writer on shows such as “Legion,” “Fargo,” “Altered Carbon,” and “Outsiders.”

“Umbrella” brings Page back to television following her Viceland series “Gaycation.” The actress is well-versed in the superhero genre having played Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat in both “X-Men: The Last Stand” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” Page’s recent films include the “Flatliners” reboot and the indie horror movie “The Cured.”

While Netflix is known for superhero series such as “Daredevil” and “Luke Cage,” “The Umbrella Academy” represents a genre series separate from the streaming giant’s Marvel shows. Now that many of Netflix’s Marvel series are cancelled, and with Disney pulling all of its content off Netflix for its own streaming service in late 2019, “The Umbrella Academy” is an important series in keeping the superhero audience on Netflix.

“The Umbrella Academy” will be available to stream on Netflix starting Friday, February 15.

Jason Momoa Resurrects Khal Drogo as ‘SNL’ Honors Dead ‘Game of Thrones’ Characters

The “Aquaman” actor only lasted 10 episodes on HBO’s fantasy series.

Jason Momoa returned to his “Game of Thrones” roots during his first stint as “Saturday Night Live” host. The actor resurrected his fan favorite character Khal Drogo for the sketch comedy series’ parody version of a “Thrones” talk that honors all of the dead characters from HBO’s fantasy blockbuster series.

Momoa was a part of the original “Game of Thrones” cast, but his Khal Drogo only lasted 10 episodes. The character was the warlord of the Dothraki people and became married to Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), as arranged by her brother Viserys. Daenerys and Drogo got over their initial animosity towards each other and became a real dynamic force, only for Drogo to be killed after being wounded by one of his men.

Despite Momoa’s short stint on “Thrones,” he has always been one of fans’ most beloved characters. In the “Saturday Night Live” sketch below, the actor effortlessly became Drogo once again, nailing both the character’s look and rage and reminding “Thrones” fans what a joy the character was for the show. Since his death in Season 1, Drogo has appeared in visions in subsequent seasons.

“Game of Thrones” is gearing up for its final season next year. The show will air six episodes, all confirmed by director David Nutter to run over 60 minutes. Momoa visited the set of the final season during production, which sparked rumors Khal Drogo might return. The actor shot down the rumors earlier this week, telling reporters it’s “impossible” for the character to return as dead is dead.

HBO will begin to air the final season of “Game of Thrones” in April 2019. Momoa can be seen on the big screen as Arthur Curry/Aquaman in Warner Bros.’ holiday tentpole “Aquaman,” in theaters nationwide December 21. Watch the actor’s return as Drogo in the “Saturday Night Live” sketch below.

Netflix Reviving ‘Ghost in the Shell’ as 2020 Anime — Please, No Whitewashed Voice Cast

The new “Ghost in the Shell” will be co-directed by Shinji Aramaki and Kenji Kamiyama.

Netflix’s major push into anime continues with the announcement the streaming giant is planning a brand new “Ghost in the Shell” anime for a 2020 debut. The series, officially titled “Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045,” is being co-directed by Kenji Kamiyama (“Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex”) and Shinji Araki (“Appleseed”). It’s unclear at this point whether or not the project is a feature film or a television series.

“Ghost in the Shell” originally started as a hugely popular manga series written and illustrated by Masamune Shirow. The series was famously adapted into a 1995 anime film of the same name, directed by Mamoru Oshii. The anime “Ghost in the Shell” is largely credited with influencing science-fiction cinema into the 21st century, most evidently “The Matrix” soundtrack.

While Netflix has not revealed further details about “Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045,” here’s hoping the voice cast remains culturally appropriate. The last go-around with “Ghost in the Shell” in the media was Rupert Sanders’ much-maligned 2017 movie, which controversially cast Scarlett Johansson in the lead role and brought worldwide attention to Hollywood’s whitewashing issue.

“Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045” joins Netflix’s growing anime slate, which also includes a live-action adaptation of “Cowboy Bebop.” Netflix ordered a 10-episode season of “Bebop” in late November. The streaming giant is also working on a live-action adaptation of Nickelodeon’s beloved “Avatar: The Last Airbender” series.

Netflix’s upcoming “Ghost in the Shell” series will be a collaboration between studios Production I.G. and SOLA Digital Arts. Netflix is touting the series as a “next-generation animation film.”

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 Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’: Season 2 Ends with a Risky — and Necessary — Reproach

Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die, but the ending to Season 2 reminds us how much of Midge is still wrapped up in being Mrs. Maisel.

[Editor’s Note: The following article contains spoilers for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” Season 2, including the ending.]

At first, the final scene in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” feels… abrupt. Frustrating. Even shallow. Frightened by a new opportunity that will take her far away from home (farther even, than the Catskills) and still smarting from a rough string of road gigs, Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) runs back to her husband, Joel (Michael Zegen). “I’m going to be all alone for the rest of my life,” she tells him. “And I don’t want to be alone, not tonight. Tonight, just for tonight, I really need to be with someone who loves me.”

Joel, ever-ready to do whatever Amy Sherman-Palladino’s story needs of him, crosses the space between them, they kiss, and a quick cut to the credits wraps Season 2. Now, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel loved. There’s nothing socially regressive about a compassionate, ’50s-style booty call, either, but it is a bit of a step back for Midge. And that’s the point.

Season 2 makes very clear, sometimes at the expense of the show around her, that Midge isn’t a perfect character. She’s not a folk hero traveling through time to correct the cultural faux pas of the past. She’s still finding her way out of the learned mindset that having three kids before you’re 30 is a measure of successful womanhood (as she specifically notes as a sacrifice when speaking to Joel). At the end of Season 2, she needs to take a second to accept that she’s already made the choice to lead a different life, where happiness is gauged by different factors, even as she’s teetering on the brink of backsliding.

And that hesitation is where Season 2 can get a bit sticky: It feels like Midge is driven to abandon her dream far too easily. After Midge suffers a few setbacks on her first stand-up tour, culminating with her getting booted from the stage after returning home to New York, she’s fed up with her new profession. “This business sucks. I hate it,” she tells her stalwart manager, Susie (Alex Borstein). “Hey, that’s the game,” Susie says. “You have to keep fighting.” “You keep fighting,” Midge snaps back. “I’m going to get a drink.”

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 2 Alex Borstein

Alex Borstein in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

Nicole Rivelli / Amazon

Throughout Season 2, there’s an unacknowledged divide between Midge and Susie: class. Midge is wealthy, unconcerned about money in her pursuit of stardom, while Susie is scratching and crawling to get her client work so she can survive. When Midge plans her vacation to the Catskills, she doesn’t understand that Susie plans on working all summer — who does that? When they prepare to hit the road together, Midge nearly throws out Susie’s stuff because it’s not in a suitcase, because Susie doesn’t own a suitcase. “What do you use for vacation?” Midge asks. “My imagination?” Susie replies.

At times, it can feel like “Maisel” blows past these disputes because the writers don’t care about them. Other times, it feels like they don’t understand what it’s like to be in Susie’s shoes. Still other moments feel like they want to acknowledge them more, if only because they keep bringing them up, but know they can’t. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” is a story about upper-class white folks, and that perspective drives the narrative. The series would be a stronger drama if it found a way to talk about class disparity — along with race and sexuality — but that could be a less- effective comedy. It would probably be less fun, less light on its feet, and quite possibly less enjoyable.

What acknowledgements they do make are from Midge’s perspective: Mainly, that it’s hard for Midge to move on from who she used to be. When the former housewife faces adversity in her less-cushy new life and quickly considers giving up, her lack of fortitude stands out — especially when Susie is right there, with her whatever-it-takes attitude serving as sharp contrast. Instinctively, viewers want Midge to be stronger than she is, and it can be disappointing to see this fast-talking, fast-moving, do-it-all woman regress. In a show as feel-good as “Maisel” often is, it’s odd to suddenly be asked to put down your pom-poms and learn from a flaw instead of an attribute.

After all, Midge doesn’t have to “keep fighting.” All of this is optional for her, and while it’s perfectly fine for the series to recognize that in order to keep the narrative zippy and fun, her stand-up can’t feel like a fleeting interest if the audience is going to remain invested in her quest. They have to believe in her passion for stand-up. They have to believe that path is her avenue to a wider world and, thus, a broader perspective. For those choice moments when it feels like she’s going to throw it all away to marry Benjamin (Zachary Levi) — a walking, talking representation of an ideal husband who’s so perfect (and unexamined) he never actually feels real — it diminishes the weight of the show, or at least the part of the show that’s about Midge waking the hell up. After all, a story about a woman recognizing her privilege through her passion is much more gripping than one about a rich lady trying out a new hobby.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 2 Michael Zegen

Michael Zegen in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

Nicole Rivelli / Amazon

With all that in mind, the ending feels richer (no pun intended). Midge giving up something that matters to her — someone that matters to her (even if he doesn’t matter that much to us) — makes her choice more courageous. She wouldn’t give up on the love of her life for a passing desire to tell jokes, but she would give him up for a calling. Maybe she faltered too easily, but that’s who she is; she’s a person of privilege who’s developing a stronger backbone and a broader perspective.

In a recent interview with IndieWire, Brosnahan said as much herself. “People talk about Midge as a feminist hero, but I’ve felt very conflicted about that because I don’t actually believe that Midge is a feminist. Yet. She still has a lot of learning to do, and that can be challenging as an actor. You want her to be more ahead of her time than she is, and have her eyes open wider than they are. I believe that she can get there, and I believe that she wants to. She’s just naïve and blinded by her own privilege.”

At the beginning of the season, when she tells Joel she wants to make it work with him, she also says she can’t give up on her dream. “Do you want to quit?” Joel asks. “No,” Midge says, knowing that she can’t have him and stand-up. At the end of the season, she still knows this to be true — perhaps more forcefully than before. But she can’t resist one more night with him; with the safety he represents; with the old life she used to live as Mrs. Maisel.

Maybe that’s a personal setback. Maybe it’s not. Will Midge be able to embrace the bumps and bruises that come with a less-cushy lifestyle in Season 3? Will she continue to fall back on Joel as a safety net? Will she be so inspired by life on the road, and by her main act Shy Baldwin (LeRoy McClain), that she continues to forget about the wants and desires of her old self and embraces the new, more well-rounded person she’s becoming?

That’s the hook, and there’s a lot to it — you know, along with all the funny jokes, whip-smart dialogue, and immaculate designs — but one thing’s for certain: We’re far from the shallows now.

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” Season 2 is streaming now on Amazon Prime.

‘Neo Yokio: Pink Christmas’: This Netflix Special Breaks Through the Holiday Noise

An hourlong Christmas episode lets this anime futuristic satire embrace its weirdest and most wonderful sides.

Neo Yokio” is a show wholly committed to its aesthetic, and the Netflix series’ holiday special “Neo Yokio: Pink Christmas” contains the same idiosyncratic charm that made its first season a singular delight. It opens with a wintery remix of its iconography, complete with a scoreboard ranking the fictional city’s eligible bachelors and a snowy overview of its fantasy version of New York (centuries after the end of a demon war that left parts of the city underwater).

Even as the special references its anime ancestors, “Pink Christmas” also revels in its own bizarre framework. Arrangements of “O Tannenbaum” and “Greensleeves” slide right alongside the show’s usual Baroque-heavy background music. The Homer-sampling narration sets up a world where people have casual chats about the potential presence of evil, shapeless forces the same way they talk about hosting podcasts and using social clout.

Read More:  7 New Netflix Shows to Binge in December, and the Best Reasons to Watch

“Pink Christmas” is more than a continuation of the exploits of young socialite Kaz Kaan (Jaden Smith). It’s an overview of the characters that inhabit this futuristic world where interdimensional beasts lurk in the shadows and table manners can become grounds for a telekinetic brawl. Seesawing between the anxieties of being single and under a microscope in a big city and battling for the fate of humanity makes for a kind of whiplash, and it might take adjustment for first-time audiences. Still, the show’s appeal doesn’t come from parsing the weird “Neo Yokio” internal logic; it comes from the passion-project feeling that everyone involved seems to be delighted they’re pulling this off at all.

As in the main show, the voice performances are a little scattered; even so, each performer is so committed to each particular character choices that it’s hard not to enjoy. Jude Law is still an unparalleled pleasure as Charles the mech butler, this time used sparingly to narrate the proceedings in the style of the “Princess Bride” Grandpa. Desus and Mero are always welcome additions, this time returning as Kaz’s friends (and doomed entrepreneurs) Lexy and Gottlieb. Jason Schwartzman remains one of our finest on-screen jerks, here voicing Kaz’s preening nemesis Arcangelo Corelli. The increased presence of Richard Ayoade, voicing an overeager Bergdorf Goodman sales clerk, adds a nice twist.

Neo Yokio Pink Christmas Netflix Toblerone

Beyond the genre trappings and layers of artisanal details that encase the show in its own protective layer, “Neo Yokio” knows how to position itself in a TV world dominated by loud, busy pleas for audience attention. The stream of winks and nods to animated classics continues, including one to “A Charlie Brown Christmas” done with exquisite abandon. There are plenty of moments ripe to exist in meme form, and there’s some extra participation from series creator and Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig that might give non-genre fans reason to tune in.

“Pink Christmas” leaves very few seasonal conventions untouched. In finding the true reasons for the season, “Neo Yokio: Pink Christmas” weaves through and upends them all. Secret Santa tropes, holiday spectaculars, and even traditional dinners each are subverted in turn. In the world of “Neo Yokio,” Christmas is everything and nothing all at once.

This free-for-all generates the freedom to play with anthropomorphized Christmas trees and elaborate gift-giving in the same spirit that Season 1 relished its convoluted fashion rules and cross-city car races. “Pink Christmas” also gives the show’s team of animators a little license to experiment with the show’s visual stylings. The more the special’s title works into the proceedings, the more it feels like its own creation.

Rather than being used to set up any future storylines or tease fans with the promise of more, “Neo Yokio: Pink Christmas” uses its final showdown as a chance to acknowledge that it might be more self-aware than it ever let on before. “Neo Yokio” might be made for specific tastes, but it’s far from impenetrable. If the holiday spirit is really about unity and finding common ground, “Pink Christmas” offers up something unapologetically wild. For everyone, it’s a blast.

Grade: B+

“Neo Yokio: Pink Christmas” is now available to stream on Netflix. 

Blumhouse Finally Hires a Woman Director: Sophia Takal’s All-Female Horror Movie

Exclusive: With “New Year New You,” Takal’s addition to Hulu’s “Into the Dark” series brings a new all-female horror movie to a national audience.

Blumhouse Television’s new Hulu series “Into the Dark” is providing an unique opportunity for genre directors to produce new work. The anthology horror series launched in October, with the plan to have a new entry released each month tied to a holiday. However, unlike other anthology series, each episode is actually feature-length, which means that Blumhouse is producing one new horror movie every month. October’s Halloween-centric “The Body” allowed director Paul Fisher to expand on his short film of the same name, while cult genre filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo’s Christmas-centric “Pooka!” premiered today to rave reviews.

The next entry in the series, IndieWire has learned, comes from a filmmaker familiar from the festival circuit: Sophia Takal, the director of “Green” and “Always Shine,” helmed the all-female horror movie “New Year New You” for the series. The 85-minute feature will premiere on Hulu on December 28.

The all-female cast includes “Assassination Nation” and “The Bad Batch” star Suki Waterhouse, in addition to Carly Chaikin (“Mr. Robot”), Kirby Howell-Baptiste (“Killing Eve”), and Melissa Bergland (“Winners & Losers”). The plot centers on a group of old high school friends who reunite in a house for New Year’s Eve, where they’re forced to confront traumas from their past.

Takal said she was approached by Blumhouse about the project in the early summer, with a script by Adam Gaines that she revised, and shot the project in 15 days between July and August. That’s a concise shooting schedule, even on microbudgets. “It was a really, really fast process,” she said. “I had a great crew around me. Even though it was chaotic, we didn’t feel like we lost anything.” While the tight schedule had more in common with the television production process, it provided Takal with the opportunity to step outside the safety zone of directing projects that she originated.

“This was my first time working as a director-for-hire,” she said. “I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to bring myself to the project, but they trusted me.”

Takal’s previous features have followed the traditional route of arriving on the festival circuit and searching for distribution. “Green,” in which Takal starred opposite her husband Lawrence Michael Levine, premiered at SXSW in 2011; “Always Shine,” a tense thriller starring Mackenzie Davis and Catlin FitzGerald as old friends whose years of resentment come to a head during a vacation, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2016. It opened in New York that fall.

"Always Shine"

“Always Shine”

While “New Year New You” won’t be released in theaters, the Hulu arrangement means that Takal’s movie will be available for a national audience a matter of months after wrapping production. “It’s been great to make a movie and know it’s going to premiere,” Takal said. “You don’t have to wait an entire year for it to go to festivals and then get released.”

Takal’s prior movies have been layered psychological thrillers about women whose envy and resentment for each build to suspenseful showdowns. “New Year New You” hails from that same tradition. “It’s in the vein of hysterical women horror movies,” Takal said, “but it’s really a satirical takedown of the loathsome internet culture of today.” Among the updates that Takal added to the script was the decision to make one of the characters a “social media health and wellness coach.” She described the plot as centering on “a crazy, scary, murderous New Year’s night,” and was keen on the timing of the release. “It’s fun that over the holidays, if someone’s sitting at home visiting their high school friends, they can watch this,” she said. “I think so far this is the most accessible movie I’ve made.”

Takal did receive notes from Blumhouse and Hulu during the editing process, but they found that part of the process more constructive than what she had dreaded. “It was my first time working with producers other than my friends,” she said. “I’d assumed, as a female director, people would undermine me and no one would trust me, but everyone was really supportive. Their notes are so helpful. They’re not annoying executive notes.”

Ironically, Takal was attached to the project months before Blumhouse Jason Blum faced immediate backlash for his comments in an interview where he addressed the company’s failure to hire women directors for any of its horror projects. “We’ve always been trying,” Blum said. “There are not a lot of female directors period, and even less who are inclined to do horror.” He later apologized for the remarks.

Blumhouse announced plans to produce a thriller from “Mudbound” director Dee Rees earlier this year, but a source close to the project said it was still in the writing stage, which means that Takal’s movie is the first Blumhouse original directed by a woman coming to market. When Takal noticed the Blum comments in October, she said, they ran counter to her own experience with the company. “It just didn’t seem like how they really feel,” she said. “They’ve been so supportive of me and have been so assertive about talking to a lot of different directors. To me, they’re great for women.”

Following the typically resourceful Blumhouse model, Takal shot the entire movie in a single house — a beachfront abode in Santa Monica previously occupied by Cary Grant. The company introduced her to cinematographer Lyn Moncrief, but also allowed her to bring her “Always Shine” composer Michael Montes. “I definitely riffed on movies from the seventies, and referenced a lot of scary movies from then with the cinematography and editing,” Takal said. “I felt like it was a great way to get my feet wet in the world of directing other people’s ideas.”

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

Charlie Cox Calls ‘Daredevil’ Cancelation ‘Painful,’ but He’s Game for Season 4

Charlie Cox is breaking his silence on Netflix’s cancelation of the Marvel series, but don’t expect him to reveal any Season 4 details.

Charlie Cox has finally broken his silence on Netflix’s cancelation of “Daredevil.” Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, the actor behind Matt Murdock/Daredevil called it “painful” to hear his beloved Marvel series would no longer be continuing. Cox starred as the Hell’s Kitchen superhero since the show’s debut on Netflix in April 2015.

“A lot of us really expected to keep going, and I certainly did,” Cox told EW. “The truth is, I felt like we had a lot of stories to tell, and although I understand [the cancelation], I’m very saddened by that.”

“Daredevil” was canceled by Netflix on November 29, just a few weeks after the show returned with a critically acclaimed third season. The streaming giant did not give a reason for dropping the ax on the Marvel series. “Daredevil” was the third Marvel series canceled by Netflix this year after “Iron Fist” and “Luke Cage,” leaving only “Jessica Jones” and “The Punisher” standing.

“It’s just how business works,” Cox said about the show prematurely ending. “But also, these characters mean a lot to people. It’s weird to think there’s a chance I won’t be playing Matt Murdock ever again. That’s a bizarre feeling, because that character has been such a huge part of my life for the last four-and-a-half years.”

A report from earlier this week revealed that interest in “Daredevil” remained huge through the show’s cancelation. With Disney launching its own streaming service in late 2019, many in the industry believe the show’s cancelation was a business decision and that “Daredevil” will live on once Disney’s platform launches. Marvel teased as much when it said, “We look forward to more adventures with the Man Without Fear in the future.”

When asked by Entertainment Weekly what a potential Season 4 would look like, Cox had nothing to offer. “It’s so new, the news. It’s quite painful for quite a lot of people,” he said. “I was really excited about the ideas that were talked about for season 4, and I think if I was to speculate about it and it went on the internet, it might not be very helpful to people.”

Would Cox put on the Daredevil costume once more? “Oh my God, yeah,” the actor said. “I don’t know how this would happen, but maybe one day we could pick up the baton and do it again.”

The first three seasons of “Daredevil” are now streaming on Netflix.

‘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.”

‘Game Of Thrones’ Season 8 Teaser Refuses to Spoil Footage, Goes Full Fire and Ice

With six episodes left before it signs off the air, “Game of Thrones” Season 8 is the media event of 2019.

HBO is ready to promote the final season of “Game of Thrones” with a 54-second teaser trailer, but the network isn’t ready to debut any official footage from the final batch of episodes. The series returns next year for its final six episodes, which director David Nutter recently confirmed will all run over 60 minutes.

The new “Game of Thrones” Season 8 teaser, entitled “Dragonstone,” visualizes the war to come between the Army of the Dead and the human characters fans have grown to love over the last eight seasons. George R.R. Martin’s franchise is referred to as “A Song of Ice and Fire,” and that’s the best way to describe the Season 8 teaser below, which presents a chess board of colliding natural forces.

The final episodes are being directed by Nutter, famous for helming the third season episode “The Rains of Castamere,” as well as “Battle of the Bastards” helmer Miguel Sapochnik and showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, who directed the series finale. Sapochnik directed a massive battle episode that star Peter Dinklage says makes the “‘Battle of the Bastards’ look like a theme park.”

While most of “Thrones” Season 8 is under wraps (it’s no surprise the teaser below features no footage from the new episodes whatsoever), one thing fans now know for sure is that the season opens at Winterfell with the arrival of Daenerys and her army. Don’t expect Sansa to be too happy that her brother, Jon Snow, has bent the knee to the Mother of Dragons. “Thrones” won the Emmy for Best Drama Series earlier this year, and it will have one last run next year with its new episodes.

The final season of “Game of Thrones” debuts in April 2019. Watch the official teaser below.

Writers Guild Awards 2019: ‘Haunting of Hill House,’ ‘GLOW’ Among TV Nominees

The Writers Guild of America recognized a number of shows that went overlooked by this morning’s Golden Globes announcement.

To round out a busy Thursday of new awards nominees, the Writers Guild of America and Writers Guild of America, East announced their lists of the best that the eligibility window had to offer.

Awards season heavyweights “Atlanta,” “Barry,” and “The Crown” all garnered series nominations in their respective genres, with plenty of other programs like “Nathan for You,” “The Haunting of Hill House,” “Narcos: Mexico” and “Maniac” picking up recognition after being passed over at this morning’s Golden Globes announcement.

The Writers Guild Awards ceremony will take place on Sunday, February 17, 2019 with events in both New York City and Los Angeles.

A list of the notable nominees can be found below:

Drama Series

“The Americans”
“Better Call Saul”
“The Crown”
“The Handmaid’s Tale”
“Succession”

Comedy Series

“Atlanta”
“Barry”
“GLOW”
“The Good Place”
“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

New Series

“Barry”
“The Haunting of Hill House”
“Homecoming”
“Pose”
“Succession”

Long Form Original

“Castle Rock”
“My Dinner with Hervé”
“Paterno”

Long Form Adapted

“The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”
“The Looming Tower”
“Maniac”
“Sharp Objects”

Short Form New Media Original 

“After Forever”
“Class of Lies”
“Love Daily”
“West 40s”

Short Form New Media Adapted

“The Walking Dead: Red Machete”

Animation

“Bart’s Not Dead” (“The Simpsons”)
“Boywatch” (“Bob’s Burgers”)
“Just One of the Boyz 4 Now for Now” (“Bob’s Burgers”)
“Krusty the Clown” (“The Simpsons”)
“Mo Mommy Mo Problems” (“Bob’s Burgers”)
“Send in Stewie, Please” (Family Guy”)

Episodic Drama

“Camelot” (“Narcos: Mexico”)
“The Car” (“This Is Us”)
“Episode 407” (“The Affair”)
“First Blood” (“The Handmaid’s Tale”)
“Paean To The People” (“Homeland”)
“The Precious Blood of Jesus” (“Ozark”)

Episodic Comedy

“Another Place” (“Forever”)
“Chapter One: Make Your Mark” (“Barry”)
“Halibut!” (“Santa Clarita Diet”)
“Kimmy and the Beest!” (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”)
“Pilot” (“The Kids Are Alright”)
“Who Knows Better Than I” (“Orange Is the New Black”)

Comedy/Variety Talk Series

“Full Frontal With Samantha Bee”
“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”
“Late Night with Seth Meyers”
“The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”

Comedy/Variety Sketch Series

“At Home with Amy Sedaris”
“I Love You, America”
“Nathan For You”
“Portlandia”
“Saturday Night Live”

Comedy/Variety Specials

“2018 Rose Parade Hosted by Cord & Tish”
“Drew Michael”
“The Fake News with Ted Nelms”
“The Oscars 2018”

For a full list of the nominees from the realms of new media, radio/audio, news, and promotional writing, visit the Writers Guild of America website here.

‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ Was Perfect — So ‘Change Everything’ Was the Plan for Season 2

Amy Sherman-Palladino, Rachel Brosnahan, and Tony Shalhoub discuss the risks of refusing to play things safe on Amazon’s biggest show.

The first season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” is one of the streaming era’s most perfect stretches of television — the kind of once-in-a-generation Hale-Bopp of a comedy that can only happen when a singular talent is given a blank check to make her dream project a reality, and then the stars align so that it somehow turns out just right. And so — fresh off Emmy and Golden Globe wins for Best Series — creator Amy Sherman-Palladino knew exactly what she had to do to keep the magic alive for Season 2: Change everything.

Sitting next to her husband and creative partner Daniel Palladino in a quiet Manhattan hotel suite that felt worlds removed from the manic zeal of their work, Sherman-Palladino suggested that you might have to kill a golden goose if you want to make something more valuable out of its feathers. “The thing that interests us the most,” she said, “is taking something, blowing it up, and then seeing how people relate to each other from there.” Hence the decision to begin Season 2 by uprooting everything that made the first one so familiar and moving the show to Paris for the spirited, bittersweet, vaguely musical episode that kicks off this new run.

And yet, when it comes to a visionary TV veteran who’s finally afforded the stability she’s always deserved, the decision to mix things up might be a tough pill to swallow — if not for Sherman-Palladino, then perhaps for her long-suffering fans, who’ve spent more than a decade waiting for a Sherman-Palladino show that isn’t going anywhere.

The road from Stars Hollow to the City of Lights has been long, winding, and punctuated with more sudden cliffs than a Road Runner cartoon. After turning “Gilmore Girls” into one of the most beloved hour-longs the WB ever had, Sherman-Palladino was practically forced out before the show’s bungled final season because the network was too stingy to let her end things on her terms. Her follow-up, a pregnancy-themed Parker Posey vehicle called “The Return of Jezebel James,” was canceled by Fox after only three episodes, while “Bunheads,” a brilliant and ballet-centric dramedy that felt like a spiritual successor to “Gilmore Girls,” wasn’t granted a second season despite the general consensus that it was “by several orders of magnitude the best show ABC Family has ever aired.”

At a certain point, even Sherman-Palladino’s most dedicated fans began to suspect that her warm and buoyant shows were just too pure for this sick, sad world. And now that “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” is the biggest thing to happen to Amazon since the invention of books, those same fans may naturally find themselves rooting for Sherman-Palladino to savor that success and not do anything that might break the spell. At the same time, this is a show about a plucky, privileged Jewish divorcee whose burgeoning stand-up career forces her to find her voice at a time when women are expected to be silent, and that means a measure of radical change.

In fact, that’s what Sherman-Palladino loves most about it. “I think the evolution of characters as life sweeps you along has been the constant in our careers,” she said, and Season 2 of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” finds Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) isn’t the only one trying to find some kind of a balance in a world that’s shifting under her feet. All the major characters are either looking for a change, or bracing for one. This, it seems, is what the show is about, and the new episodes are so vital because of how deeply they take that to heart.

The relationship between a TV show and its fans is kind of like a marriage: A covenant is agreed upon, with a mutual commitment to be there for each other until cancellation do them part, predicated upon a tacit understanding that nothing ever stays the same. Both a TV show and the people who watch it have to grow in order to survive, but it can be terrifying to watch someone (or something) you love blossom into a richer, fuller version of itself. What if that richer, fuller version doesn’t love you back?

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 2 Rachel Brosnahan

Rachel Brosnahan in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

Amazon

That’s the question that haunts Midge’s father (Tony Shalhoub) for much of Season 2. Abe Weissman, a Columbia professor who until recently had everything under control, begins to suffer the symptoms of an existential crisis when he realizes his wife and kids aren’t defined by their relationship to him. “That marriage is nothing like our marriage,” Palladino insisted, “but Abe is someone who’s very set in his ways and likes everything as it is. And Rose right now is the one who’s realizing ‘maybe I’m not happy — maybe I don’t even know what happiness is.’”

Shalhoub spoke with IndieWire later that same day, while his wife Brooke Adams and their friend Carol Kane listened in from a nearby couch. He said working with Sherman-Palladino and her husband reminds him of his time with the Coen brothers, when he worked on films like “Barton Fink” and “The Man Who Wasn’t There.”

Although he’s a modern man, Shaloub still appreciates what Abe is going through. “I relate to this in so many ways because Brooke and I have two daughters close to Midge’s age, and they constantly surprise and unsettle us by demonstrating that whatever we thought we were putting into those vessels… well, something completely different is coming out,” he said. “And that’s ultimately good thing.” Adams chimed in from the background: “They’re so much better than I ever was!”

Sherman-Palladino reiterated that she and her husband have always been interested in skipping rocks through still waters. “This is the thing that interests us the most,” she said. “Take something, blow it up, and then see how people relate to each other from there.”

Of course, that was the show’s inciting incident when Joel (Michael Zegen) left Midge, spurring her to pursue the dream that he didn’t have the courage to seek himself. (Zegen described his character as the show’s “realest.”)

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 2 Tony Shaloub

Tony Shaloub, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

Amazon

“There’s a cutthroat aspect to Midge’s ambition,” Sherman-Palladino said. “And ambition, maybe more than any other word, is something that a woman couldn’t be in the ’50s. Not even if they worked. If men thought a woman was ambitious, that was the death of everything. And yet, in Season 2, Midge is learning that she will not stop going on stage and talking about her husband, even though she loves him.” Sherman-Palladino paused. “That’s a tough thing to learn about yourself.”

Brosnahan, who speaks with her character’s flashbang intelligence, said Midge’s primary bond is now with her manager, Susie (Alex Borstein). “Alex lovingly refers to their relationship as a ‘womance,’ and I’ve held on to that — it’s exactly right. Season 2 shows that the honeymoon period is over.”

Brosnahan placed most of the blame for that on Midge, who’s so busy changing that she takes advantage of the one person who’s sticking by her side. The actress said she resented Midge’s narcissism, in large part because Brosnahan cites solidarity as the biggest difference between being a woman in 2018, and playing a woman in 1958.

“I’ve been so enveloped and lifted up by a real sisterhood, especially in the last year or so, and Midge doesn’t have that,” she said. “She doesn’t have the kind of support as a woman attempting to break barriers that I feel today walking forward in this industry and in this country. Back then, if there was room for a woman at the table, there was only room for one woman at the table. So Midge doesn’t realize how much Susie has invested in her.”

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 2 Rachel Brosnahan Marin Hinkle

Marin Hinkle and Rachel Brosnahan in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

Nicole Rivelli / Amazon

Brosnahan cautioned people not to frame Midge as a symbol of empowerment, even if “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” happened to come at a time when the world is growing more sensitive to the silencing of women. “People talk about Midge as a feminist hero, but I’ve felt very conflicted about that because I don’t actually believe that Midge is a feminist. Yet. She still has a lot of learning to do, and that can be challenging as an actor. You want her to be more ahead of her time than she is, and have her eyes open wider than they are. I believe that she can get there, and I believe that she wants to. She’s just naïve and blinded by her own privilege.”

Brosnahan’s take speaks to the cognitive dissonance of the show’s premise, a bubbly piece of escapism that invites viewers to luxuriate in the Technicolor splendor of a more oppressive time. “The show doesn’t shy away from the constricting social structures of the ’50s,” she said. “But there was also so much beauty then that we don’t have today. I mean, when they made a toaster back then, the toaster had to be beautiful. Beauty used to be the norm. If you were a woman, you weren’t gonna go outside until you were presentable. And it took you 12 hours and you couldn’t go to work simply because you couldn’t get there on time.”

While Sherman-Palladino famously had to fight the WB for the fake snow she needed for a “Gilmore Girls” Christmas episode, her show’s generous Amazon budget is practically a character in its own right. “Part of the fun of this show is showing people a New York that doesn’t really exist anymore,” she said. “We always knew it was going to be a big show, and that it couldn’t just be about people sitting in rooms talking to each other. It needs space and air and atmosphere and those things cost money. So Amazon wrote some checks. While they were crying. They were writing and crying at the same time.”

Daniel Palladino is still waiting for the gravy train to derail. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shown up to set and thought: ‘When are they going to stop us?’” As a recent Daily Beast article framed it, HBO has dragons, and Amazon has a family of plucky, upper-middle-class Jews. “There was one day last year where Amy and I got off the subway and there were cop cars and hundreds of extras lined up on our set and the whole street was shut down and it’s like: ‘We’re creating a world that’s pretty much gone. These are Amazon’s dragons.’”

“At this point,” Sherman-Palladino said, “I don’t think they’re going to fight us unless we want to stop the show tomorrow.” That’s right: In the year of our lord 2018, Amy Sherman-Palladino is making a show so popular that its network — or streaming platform — would be furious if she stopped. The world turned upside down. A little change, it seems, isn’t always so bad.

Season 2 of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” is now streaming on Amazon Prime.

Sacha Baron Cohen Keeps Trolling Sarah Palin, Invites Her to Be Golden Globes Date

“Who Is America?” has landed Cohen a Golden Globes nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a TV Series Musical or Comedy.

Sacha Baron Cohen isn’t letting Sarah Palin out of his sights. The comedian was one of the big surprises of the 2019 Golden Globe nominations, earning a spot in the Best Performance by an Actor in a TV Series Musical or Comedy category for his work on “Who Is America?,” and he used his official reaction to ask Palin to accompany him as a date to the awards ceremony.

“I appreciate the Hollywood Foreign Press for recognizing me, which luckily is something that none of the guests on the show did,” Cohen said. “This is such a special honour for me as the HFPA are always among the first to really appreciate my ever evolving humour. I am humbled to be recognised among such a wonderful group of nominees, all of whom I admire.”

Cohen continued, “This show was a labour of love for over two years. It is a shame they overlooked the amazing performances by the rest of the cast, particularly Dick Cheney and Roy Moore. Meanwhile Ms. Palin, despite being cut from the show, I hope you will accept my invitation to be my date for the ceremony.”

Prior to the July 15 “Who Is America?” series premiere on Showtime, Palin came forward to accuse Cohen of tricking her into appearing on the series by pretending to be a war veteran. The former Vice President nominee said Cohen “had heavily disguised himself as a disabled US Veteran, fake wheelchair and all.” Palin called for Cohen and Showtime to donate profits from the show to veteran charities.

“The disrespect of our U.S. military and middle-class Americans via Cohen’s foreign commentaries under the guise of interview questions was perverse,” Palin said at the time.

Palin’s appearance on “What Is America?” was eventually cut. The show, created by Cohen, starred the comedian as various alter egos who set out across the USA to interview everyday Americans and politicians. Following Palin’s accusation, Showtime announced Cohen was not pretending to be a war veteran during his interview with Palin. Instead, Cohen was undercover as a character named Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr., Ph.D., a conspiracy theorist who uses a motor scooter to conserve his energy.

“Who Is America?” wrapped up its run in August and Showtime has not announced a second season. Cohen’s Golden Globe recognition is the sole nomination for the series at the awards ceremony. The actor won an acting Golden Globe in 2007 for “Borat.” The 2018 Golden Globes air Sunday, January 6 on NBC.

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

‘Manifest’ May Be a Ratings Hit, But It Still Hasn’t Found the Balance It Needs

The NBC freshman drama still can’t escape the lessons of “Lost.”

When 10.3 million people tuned in to NBC’s “Manifest” this fall, they likely did so because of solid advertising and an intriguing one-line premise: A plane vanished five years ago, only to mysteriously reappear with everyone on board as if no time had passed. The idea set up both clear human stakes (how would the passengers reintegrate with their lives, given everything that’s changed?) as well as an overarching mystery (planes don’t typically vanish, after all).

But as noted from the beginning, what the show actually aimed to be wasn’t clear, especially since the character stories almost seemed at war with the mystery aspect. Which means that nine episodes later, 5.9 million people tuned in for “Manifest’s” fall finale, watching a show that still has yet to find an identity beyond “kinda like ‘Lost,’ I guess?”

It’s not that nothing has happened on “Manifest” over the past few weeks — sister and brother Michaela (Melissa Roxburgh) and Ben (Josh Dallas) have worked steadily to try to figure out not just what caused their disappearance, but what the consequences of that disappearance mean for their return to the modern world. And it’s interesting to see the nascent beginnings of a show trying to define its own unique mythology on the ground, most notably with the introduction of evil corporation Unified Dynamic Systems (gotta have an evil corporation) and the concept of “the callings” — otherwise known as the voices heard by Flight 828 passengers, pushing them to do strange but narratively important coincidences. “It’s our own shorthand,” as one of them explains the term.

The “callings” occasionally advance both character-related stories as well as the plot, but drive a lot more of the storytelling than they probably ought to. And they’re just one random element in play here. There have been a few notable yet not earth-shaking character deaths, a storyline where the secret to finding an illegal stowaway from the flight lies in Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America,” and plenty of attempts to try to explain what happened to the passengers using science. (Perhaps one of the most intriguing twists comes when medical researcher Saanvi, played by Parveen Kaur, scans her own brain and learns that it shows symptoms resembling the early stages of schizophrenia.)

MANIFEST -- "Point Of No Return" Episode 108 -- Pictured: (l-r) Athena Karkanis as Grace Stone, Josh Dallas as Ben Stone -- (Photo by: Craig Blankenhorn/NBC/Warner Brothers)

“Manifest”

Craig Blankenhorn/NBC/Warner Brothers

But what is clear, after nine episodes, is that for the writers, the most fertile storytelling ground is within the Stone clan, leading to many scenes of drama definitely spurred on by the events of the premise, but often feeling like they could be a part of any broadcast show about a family. The addition of Daniel Sunjata as the guy Ben’s wife began seeing after his disappearance is a welcome implementation of Sunjata’s blinding charisma, but weighs down the episodes he appears in more often than not. And Michaela’s emotional back-and-forth over the man she lost to her best friend rarely adds much.

And then, those scenes get interrupted by nefarious government agents and Michaela abusing her cop privileges to investigate Flight 828-related events and Ben using his training as an accountant to play corporate spy (go with it). There’s a lot happening, but it still has yet to coalesce.

From “Manifest’s” inception, comparisons to ABC’s “Lost” have come up, and not just because an airplane is involved — the modern classic about stranded plane crash survivors on a magic island pioneered this particular blend of storytelling. But what the show did well at the very beginning wasn’t just use its flashback structure to tell stories about its characters, but more often than not use those character stories to highlight the mysteries in play. It also helped that “Lost” made the most of its dynamic ensemble cast; according to “Manifest,” there were 191 souls on board Flight 828, and we maybe know eight of their names.

MANIFEST -- "Point Of No Return" Episode 108 -- Pictured: (l-r) J.R. Ramirez as Det. Jared Vasquez, Melissa Roxburgh as Michaela Stone -- (Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC/Warner Brothers)

“Manifest”

Virginia Sherwood/NBC/Warner Brothers

Really, when it comes to understanding the influence of ABC’s “Lost” on American television, it’s important to look not at the year it premiered, but the shows that launched the following fall season. In September 2005, three different broadcast networks debuted three high-stakes sci-fi driven dramas: NBC’s “Surface,” CBS’s “Threshold,” and ABC’s “Invasion.”

Individually, they each had pluses and minuses — “Invasion” made the most of its “Body Snatchers”-esque premise, while “Threshold” had an insanely stacked cast including Carla Gugino, Charles S. Dutton, Brent Spiner, and Peter Dinklage. But what these shows had in common wasn’t just the fact that they were clearly greenlit in response to “Lost’s” success the season before, operating under the presumption that the audience’s appetite for complicated serialized mysteries could sustain multiple versions of such a show. It also wasn’t that they all got canceled after one season. It was that they couldn’t figure out the balance of character and story essential to keeping these narratives sustainable.

It’s the sort of balance that, really, every TV show has to find — take “How I Met Your Mother’s” years-long struggle to postpone revealing who the titular Mom was, or as a positive example the deft way in which every aspect of life in Baltimore was blended together on “The Wire.” But shows like “Manifest” highlight that particular struggle, because telling relatable human stories with fantastical elements is so tricky that one moment of misalignment reveals all the flaws.

NBC recently revealed that “Manifest” Season 1 will be 16 as opposed to 22 episodes, though the release made note that shorter orders are not uncommon these days. It’s not at all improbable that the show may get a second season renewal, and there are still seven episodes left to air, beginning in 2019. Perhaps as they continue the series find a new level of definition — and more importantly, make audiences care about it.

‘True Detective’ Season 3: Drafthouse to Screen Episodes Month Before HBO Debut

The one-night-only event on December 18 will happen at 18 different theater locations.

Turns out “Green Book” won’t be the only chance for people to see Mahershala Ali in theaters this month. Alamo Drafthouse announced on Wednesday that it will be partnering with HBO to screen the first two episodes of “True Detective” Season 3 at locations across the country.

The event is scheduled for December 18, when 18 different venues from Texas (you lucky, lucky people of Lubbock, Denton, New Braunfels and more) to San Francisco to Virginia will have these special screenings at a particularly low price. The announcement has a list of participating venues, also explaining that tickets “are free with a $5 food and beverage voucher purchase.”

Those two episodes make a quarter of the upcoming season, the first on HBO since the mixed reception to Season 2 in 2015. Ali stars as Wayne Hays, a police detective investigating the disappearance of two Arkansas schoolchildren. “Green Room” and “Blue Ruin” director Jeremy Saulnier was behind the camera for each of the two episodes of this season that will be screened.

This announcement also coincides with a brand new motion poster for the season that the network also debuted on Wednesday.

 

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Starring @mahershalaali, #TrueDetective Season 3 premieres January 13 at 9pm on @HBO.

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Season 3 episodes beyond the ones screening at this event will be directed by Daniel Sackheim (he of recent “Nora Durst mourning underneath a hotel sprinkler” fame) and series writer/creator Nic Pizzolatto, who’ll be stepping behind the camera himself. Aside from Ali, the ensemble for the upcoming season also includes Carmen Ejogo, Scoot McNairy, Mamie Gummer, Sarah Gadon, and Stephen Dorff.

“True Detective” Season 3 will premiere in the new year for all HBO subscribers on January 13.

‘Counterpart’ Review: Season 2 Is Stuck, But the Trench Warfare is Thrilling

“Counterpart” Season 2, starring JK Simmons and Nazanin Boniadi, delves deeper into a duplicitous world without a discernible escape plan.

Counterpart” Season 2 continues the war started in Season 1, but it struggles to see past the fight. With one version of J.K. Simmons stuck leading a life he hates and the other trapped in a prison he refuses to leave, the action in Justin Marks’ new episodes expands to everyone around them, bouncing from old characters to new ones and sometimes ping-ponging again between those characters’ twins. All these ricochets create quite a maze, twisted further by everyone’s deep, shifting ties to various forms of espionage.

In short, there’s a lot to track, which can sometimes overwhelm why, in fact, viewers would bother keeping up. But more often than not, Marks finds empathy and momentum at exactly the moments you might feel lost, and, aided by crisp direction from Charles Martin and Kyle Patrick Alvarez, “Counterpart” lends enough emotional oomph to its expanding story to justify further investment in a smart, promising series.

In the first scene of Season 2, new cast member Betty Gabriel (“Get Out”) is briefed on what viewers of the intricate spy thriller already know: There’s a parallel universe, accessible through a heavily fortified portal, that leads to a world slowly but steadily diverging from our own. Originally, this “Prime” world exactly mirrored the “Alpha” existence, back when German scientists created the parallel plane in 1987, but they went off on their own track over the years, and now the groups on either side of the gateway are at war.

Counterpart Season 2 2019 Betty Gabriel

Betty Gabriel in “Counterpart”

Steffan Hill

Though a violent office ambush in Season 1 sealed the crossing, no one can agree on who’s to blame. The two bureaucracies have suffered from infighting for years, which has caused tension to bleed through with each person passing between worlds. But infighting is also a presupposed reaction to discovering the existence of another version of yourself. Gabriel’s Naya Temple, an ex-FBI agent interviewing to help the O.G. world’s border guards find spies from the other side, learns as much via an old-timey video: She watches two mirror selves meet each other for the first time and promptly throw down. The two men move from incredulity to exchanging blows within seconds, all because they’re scared of where the other came from, why they’re here now, and who they really are.

Pair this presumption on human instinct with the ending of Alex Garland’s 2018 film “Annihilation” and you’ve got quite a thesis on pessimism trumping curiosity, but what matters to Season 2 of “Counterpart” is the audience believing these two sides must never meet. The results would be catastrophic, viewers are told, which is why Howard Prime (J.K. Simmons) has dedicated his life to preventing that from happening, and Howard Alpha (also Simmons) is locked in a black site called Echo until a truce is restored.

Through the dense fog of spycraft, this wisp of motivation can get lost. All the betrayals, trades, and double-crosses — not to mention the many, many deaths — are based around saving the world, yes, but saving it from itself. The metaphorical applications within the story feel endless, from warnings of preventative government overreach to nostalgia for choices that could have been changed. Season 1 was more grounded. Howard saw Howard, and each saw what they may have been had they made other choices. The human tendency to wonder “what if…”, paired with Simmons’ still-potent performance, made for a compelling character study as well as a wild thriller.

Counterpart Season 2 2019

Nazanin Boniadi in “Counterpart”

Julia Terjung / Starz

Season 2 is decidedly more of the latter. Less Howard and more of his peers isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Gabriel is great, while Olivia Williams (as a purposeful spy who’s also Howard’s wife) and Nazanin Boniadi (as a cunning spy) make early episodes an enticing showcase for the women of “Counterpart.” But the two new narratives — one about finding a rogue assassin, the other a mole hunt — lack characters with morals as divergent as the two Howards. Weakening their parallel storylines lessens the impact of the show overall, even when it’s exciting to watch the chess match play out.

Charles Martin, who directs the first episode, and Kyle Patrick Alvarez, who helms the next two, help keep “Counterpart” on course. Each move is carefully considered — even changing an angle mid-conversation can be informative — and the sharp, clean lines of each frame give the impression of order when chaos threatens to consume the scripts. An exacting performance by Simmons, again, goes a long way toward illustrating just how crucial clarity can be in the growing, changing realm of science fiction.

Only three episodes in, there’s a lot that can change in Season 2. “Counterpart” was nimble a year ago, pivoting around expectations to consistently reward engagement. Now, it’s reliant on that engagement, drifting further and further into a maze of its own making. Luckily, it still has the characters and the craft to find a way out.

Grade: B

“Counterpart” Season 2 premieres Sunday, December 9 at 9 p.m. ET on Starz.

That New Deal for ‘Friends’ Shows Netflix Is Still the Walmart of Media

Netflix wants to be your first — or only — stop for TV, and continued access to the hit series ensures that’s still the case.

Score another round for Netflix. “Friends” will continue on the streaming service through 2019, and perhaps beyond — helping cement an increasing perception among audiences that Netflix is the must-have utility for all things TV.

FX CEO John Landgraf often warns that Netflix wants to own the entire TV ecosystem. And as long as key TV series like “Friends” can be found on the service, it’s likely that audiences will continue to see Netflix that way. To paraphrase the old HBO slogan: For many younger audiences, it’s not Netflix, it’s TV.

Netflix now has nearly 60 million subscribers in the U.S. And as viewer habits continue shifting to an on-demand model, those users increasingly consider Netflix synonymous with SVOD — much like Kleenex tissues or Band-Aid bandages.

That’s why Netflix is willing to shell out big bucks for the show (said to be between $80 million and $100 million), even though it won’t be exclusive once WarnerMedia’s upcoming streaming service becomes available. After all, “Friends” has never technically been exclusive to Netflix, given its ubiquity on the dial. But young audiences have been trained to find and watch it on Netflix — and that training won’t go away as long as enough evergreen shows like “Friends” remain alongside Netflix originals.

Think about it: When you’re searching for an old episode of a TV show these days, your first stop is usually Netflix — before perhaps trying Hulu and Amazon, or one of the advertiser-supported VOD services like Crackle. If all else fails, you might bite the bullet and download the show from iTunes or another electronic retailer. If you’re old school, you might buy the DVD package. Or if you’re really old school, you might search it out via syndication on cable or your local TV stations.

It doesn’t matter that plenty of TV shows past and present aren’t available on Netflix. Viewers aren’t doing a spot check for what is or isn’t on the service, but they do know that Netflix carries some of those shows, and that’s good enough for them. It’s the same reason people go to buffets without really knowing what’s on the menu; they know there’s enough there that some of the things they like will be included — even if other favorites have disappeared.

The perception that Netflix offers almost everything is what keeps subscribers willing to keep paying $10.99 a month, even if in actuality there’s plenty of TV that can’t be found (and never will be) on the service. Netflix has become shorthand for “all things TV” in less than a decade, thanks to little competition and a willingness by Hollywood studios to license popular off-net shows like “Friends,” “Full House,” and “The Office” for a handsome fee. (Rival Hulu has done an admirable job in building up its own base with a similar strategy, grabbing shows like “The Golden Girls” and ABC’s TGIF lineup). And the amazing thing is, even as they finally wake up and scramble to create their own services to combat Netflix’s domination, the traditional Hollywood studios still can’t resist that sweet, sweet cash.

Netflix is reportedly paying between $80 million and $100 million for the rights to keep “Friends” exclusively this coming year — money that was too good for WarnerMedia to pass up. But for Netflix, which is spending as much as $13 billion annually on content, that’s a small price to pay to keep subscribers hooked on the eve of the streaming wars. Every month that Netflix can avoid much subscriber churn is another month that Netflix has solidified its position in American homes.

Even AT&T chairman/CEO Randall Stephenson admitted to attendees at Tuesday’s UBS Global Media and Communications Conference that Netflix is synonymous with TV: “I compared Netflix one time to Walmart, not derogatorily,” he said. “It was taken derogatorily. But when I’m shopping and I say I need something XYZ, I go to Walmart. Well, if you’re looking for video content regardless of what it is, people will go to Netflix because it’s just a warehouse, and it’s an impressive warehouse of content.”

If we were to continue that retail analogy, Stephenson also essentially admitted that it might be too late to build a Target to rival Netflix’s Walmart. Instead, the WarnerMedia OTT service might be more of a boutique that carries a bit more curated selection. “The goal… is not to become another Netflix and not to create a direct-to-consumer product that rivals Netflix in terms of being a warehouse of content.”

But why shop for “Friends” at the WarnerMedia boutique if you can already catch it at Netflix’s Walmart?

As the streaming giant shores up that must-have utility reputation — like water, electricity, gas, and broadband — Hollywood, including its future competitors, continues to give Netflix a big assist in achieving that goal.

“I’m stunned, but not surprised by AT&T’s decision to extended ‘Friends’ licensing deal with Netflix through 2019,” former Amazon Studios head of strategy Matthew Ball (who thinks WarnerMedia should have moved “Friends” to HBO Now) wrote on Twitter. “A perfect example of, despite saying they were committed to winning in SVOD, Big Media wants to have their cake, eat it too — and then hope they get a third cake.”

‘Miracle Workers’ First Trailer: Steve Buscemi Is God in Angel Workplace Comedy

The latest series from “Man Seeking Woman” creator Simon Rich debuts next February on TBS.

For as long as people have wondered if heaven exists, they’ve wondered what it might look like. “Miracle Workers,” the new TBS comedy slated to premiere next year, presents a version of the afterlife where it not only exists, but prominently features Steve Buscemi. (A win-win if ever there was one.)

The series, from “Man Seeking Woman” creator Simon Rich, imagines heaven as an office of sorts, with angels on different rungs of the corporate ladder managing what problems come up down on Earth. “Miracle Workers” will join the TBS Tuesday night programming lineup next February.

This particular crop of middle-management guardians is headlined by Craig (Daniel Radcliffe), who concerns himself with an increasingly heavy workload after God takes a far less hands-on role in answering humanity’s pleas. When a particularly dire problem rises up from the planet below, it’s up to Craig and his cohorts to save the world from an extremely unfortunate apocalypse.

The ensemble of angels surrounding Radcliffe includes “Blockers” breakout Geraldine Viswanathan and Karan Soni, while Jon Bass and Sasha Compère play the two humans whose urgent prayer for a shot at love together gets sent all the way up the chain. The seven-episode limited series will also feature a number of guest stars like Tituss Burgess, Margaret Cho, Tim Meadows, Angela Kinsey, and Chris Parnell. (Buscemi assumed the role of God after the part was originally announced for Owen Wilson last summer.)

“Miracle Workers” is based in part on Rich’s own 2012 novel “What in God’s Name,” and the show is executive produced by Lorne Michaels, Rich’s former boss during his time as a staff writer at “Saturday Night Live.”

Watch the first trailer for the series (including some impeccable interior design choices) below:

The Miracle Workers” premieres February 12 on TBS.