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Plus, 'One Piece,' 'Justified: City Primeval,' 'Reservation Dogs,' and more
This week’s What’s Alan Watching? newsletter coming up just as soon as I show you my cassette tape…
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Fall tv anti-preview
It’s been a while since I’ve written anything about the double strikes, in part because there’s been so little movement, due to the AMPTP seemingly refusing to bargain in good faith. This week, though, I wrote about the labor mess from another angle: how we are finally starting to see an impact on the audience, based on how incredibly sparse the fall TV offerings are going to be relative to a normal year. If you’re one of the increasingly dwindling number of fans of broadcast network TV, the next few months will be particularly bleak. But it’s rough out there everywhere. HBO is going to go a full month between Sunday night shows at one point, which would be unthinkable under ordinary circumstances. FX, Netflix, and others have pushed back prominent releases at least several months, and some into 2024.
I’ve gotten some pushback to this piece as a fine example of #TVCriticProblems, since everyone else — and even some TV critics like me — have long lists of shows they haven’t had time to watch yet. I’ll be curious to see if people use these upcoming lean months as an excuse to finally start crossing series off their lists, or if they act like they did in the early stages of the lockdown and just revisit old favorites instead. And if you were someone who was hoping to see the likes of Fargo with Jon Hamm, True Detective with Jodie Foster, FX’s Shogun remake, and the final season of Stranger Things sooner rather than later, then knowing that you can just rewatch Sopranos instead isn’t much comfort.
(Speaking of which, I’m not sure if I’ve yet mentioned that I wrote an oral history book about The O.C. for this year’s 20th anniversary. The book is available for pre-order now, and all four seasons are streaming on both Max and Hulu if you’re looking for a comfort food binge.)
One Piece to rule them all?
I am a firm believer in the idea that an adaptation should be able to be appreciated and enjoyed by people who don’t know the source material. I wrote about Game of Thrones as a non-reader of the books, and found that most of it worked without the extra knowledge. (The show’s failings had very little to do with advance homework.) A couple of years ago, I reviewed Netflix’s live-action Cowboy Bebop without ever having seen the anime. I liked the show, but anecdotally, it seemed as if the only people who were interested were pre-existing Bebop fans, and they did not enjoy this new take on their beloved material. Netflix did not order a second season.
And now I’ve attempted this kind of experiment again with another Netflix live-action take on a beloved, long-running Japanese property: One Piece, the long-running manga and then anime series about a world of pirates. I’d never read or watched previous iterations, so I went into the new show cold. But unlike my Cowboy Bebop experience, I felt compelled to follow the eight live-action episodes with the first few anime installments. As I say in my review, this was because while I enjoyed parts of the new One Piece, the show as a whole felt like a mismatch of ideas and tones, and I was curious to see if I felt the same about anime episodes covering roughly the same events. Obviously, watching four episodes of a show that has produced [checks notes] over a thousand, is not taking any kind of real sample size. I did my best. And regardless of what the anime is like, my enthusiasm for the live-action show waxed and then waned, especially towards the end of the season. And now I’m curious if this means I’ll be more in line with the anime fans, or if this time they’ll love the adaptation while I’m mixed.
Odds and/or ends
Quick hits on various things:
It will shock you to learn that I once again loved a new episode of Reservation Dogs. The surprising thing, at least to me, is realizing how much of this final season so far has been about Maximus in some way or other. I would now be disappointed if there’s not a scene where Graham Greene gets to work opposite frequent former co-stars Wes Studi, Gary Farmer, and Zahn McClarnon.
The Warrior Season Three finale dropped a couple of weeks ago on Max. Apologies for not getting to it sooner, but as you may have heard, this has been a weird summer for me. Since I wrote my Season Three review having seen all the episodes, I’ll keep things brief and somewhat vague, but feel free to spoil things in the comments. I thought the finale did a nice job of rearranging a lot of the show’s alliances and power dynamics, particularly when it came to Ah Sahm, Mai Ling, and Li Yong. (My goodness, I hope there’s a fourth season just so we can see Joe Taslim really go to town with Li Yong’s new position.) I’m also concerned about what happened at the train platform at the end, both because I don’t want to lose the character who might have been killed, and because it had been so long since we saw the apparent killer that I’d forgotten all about them. But excellent season overall, despite the overabundance of boring rich white characters.
Because this newsletter usually drops at 8 a.m. on a Friday, and because my editors will on rare occasions publish stories of mine later in the day on a Friday, I will from time to time miss including a review link here. Case in point: my take on Strange Planet, Dan Harmon and Nathan W. Pyle’s animated adaptation of Pyle’s acclaimed comics. In all honesty, I may have also forgotten to link to it in the following newsletter because it’s not the most memorable show, even though I can see why Harmon would have been drawn to many of the themes Pyle focuses on.
Speaking of pieces running on a Friday after the newsletter publishes, look at my Rolling Stone author page tonight around 11:40 Eastern for my take on the series finale of How To with John Wilson. I’ll have more to say about it, obviously, in next week’s newsletter. That we got three seasons of this weird little gem feels like a miracle.
Was the City Primeval ending Justified?
Finally, let’s get right into spoiler territory for the conclusion of Justified: City Primeval.
As I’ve said in the past, I appreciated that City Primeval put Raylan into a new setting, with a new supporting cast. I love Original Recipe Justified, but I also was burnt out on most of the recurring characters by the end of that series, and Boyd Crowder perhaps most of all. Walton Goggins was incredible in the role, but the show had to keep contorting itself to keep Boyd on screen season after season, in ways that could detract from the stories of Raylan and/or that year’s big bads. So there was a sense of relief that he wasn’t around for this story, and I really loved new supporting players like Aunjanue Ellis, Boyd Holbrook, and, especially, Vondie Curtis-Hall. (The Detroit cops were a lot less memorable, though, despite being played by some wonderful actors in their own right like Marin Ireland and Norbert Leo Butz.) I enjoyed the story being told, and how Dave Andron and Michael Dinner retrofitted a 40-year-old Elmore Leonard novel as a way to reflect on how much Raylan Givens has grown and changed since we first met him. The moment when Raylan kills Clement Mansell, and realizes that he didn’t need to, was so powerful, and so well played by Timothy Olyphant.
But I cannot tell a lie: when I realized that the epilogue was taking us into the federal penitentiary where we last saw Boyd Crowder, I whooped with delight. Perhaps it was the palate cleanser of getting a whole Boyd-less story. Or perhaps it was simply that so much time had passed that all I could feel was joy at getting to see Goggins in the role, and at realizing that the show was setting up a potential future season where Raylan gets to chase his fugitive frenemy.
You may recall that I interviewed Olyphant shortly before the actors went on strike. I saved one section of that interview for this week, so he could talk about his own feelings regarding putting Boyd back in action.
That’s it for this week! What did everybody else think?