Going old school
'The Last of Us' premieres, 'That '90s Show' & 'Night Court' revive famous sitcoms, and Rian Johnson talks about his love of 'Columbo'
This week’s What’s Alan Watching? newsletter coming up just as soon as I play an Eighties song...
Welcome to the mushroom zombie apocalypse
As promised, I’m recapping The Last of Us every Sunday night, starting with my thoughts on the premiere. As I’ve said, this episode was probably the last impressed I was by the show — not that it was bad in any way, but just that it was awfully familiar, after a decade-plus of shows set after the fall of civilization, like The Walking Dead, The Stand, Y: The Last Man, Station Eleven, The Stand, and… I’ll stop there. You get the point. But it was still a well-executed intro to the world, and to Pedro Pascal as Joel, and I think it only gets substantially better from here.
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For those of you who come to the Substack to comment, rather than just reading the emailed newsletter (and you really should subscribe to the newsletter if you don’t already, thanks to the helpful button I’ve placed right above this paragraph), we’ve now reached a point where spoilers are going to be an issue for people not watching on the same schedule. And with this show, there’s the added adaptation issue of some people knowing the game and some not knowing at all. So let’s see if we can come up with some helpful ideas regarding spoilers, adapted from the commenting rules from the original What’s Alan Watching? blog:
Unless I start doing separate newsletters for each show I recap — which is not currently my plan, for a variety of reasons — I think it’s fair and reasonable to say that discussing episodes of TV that have already premiered is okay. If you’re behind on Last of Us, or anything else we’re discussing, just don’t read the comments.
If you know the book, comic, movie, game, or other source material for a show, don’t start discussing things that haven’t happened on the show yet. There are grey areas to this, and I think it’s fine to talk about changes for the adaptation — my understanding is that this season’s third episode, for instance, is inspired by things in the game but is substantially different in some ways — but don’t veer into territory where you’re talking about stuff that hasn’t happened on the show yet but still very clearly could. Or, in other words…
Don’t be an asshole. Please and thank you.
That is all.
Just one more thing…
As also promised, I published a Q&A of parts of my conversation with Rian Johnson that there wasn’t room for in my initial Poker Face feature. Look for a similar one with star Natasha Lyonne next week, along with my review of the show — about which I feel [REDACTED] — and some kind of brief recap/discussion of the premiere at the end of the next newsletter.
Johnson’s an incredibly smart guy, so it was fun to not only talk Columbo with a fellow super-fan, but to hear the practicalities behind things like how to write a mystery when the main character can always tell when someone is lying to her, the links between Lyonne’s character and Marta from Knives Out, and more.
Those ‘90s shows
Finally, this morning we published my thoughts on a pair of sitcom legasquels: NBC’s Night Court, which features Melissa Rauch as the daughter of Harry Anderson’s character from the original, along with the return of John Larroquette as Dan Fielding; and Netflix’s That ‘90s Show, where the teenage daughter of Eric and Donna from That ‘70s Show spends the summer with Red and Kitty in 1995.
The original Night Court is a show I had great fondness for in my youth, and I was always really impressed with the casting of the kids on That ‘70s Show, even if the writing was generally pretty iffy. Neither show particularly impressed me this time, though at least Night Court has one upcoming episode (the fifth) that feels really in the zany spirit of the old show. But as I discuss at length, multi-camera comedy (aka shot on a stage in front of a live studio audience) is awfully hard to do well, and there are so few of them being made these days outside of Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, that there aren’t many places where would-be multi-cam writers can hone their chops. There’s clearly still an appetite for the form — or, perhaps, just nostalgia for a particular title — because Night Court premiered huge (relatively speaking) for NBC earlier this week. I love multi-cam, and I wish there were more good examples of it recently. Maybe this one will round into form in time? At least it’s got Rauch and Larroquette, just as ‘90s Show can rely on Kurtwood Smith and Debra Jo Rupp when all else is struggling.
That’s it for this week!
I'm still a sitcom fan and think that "Ghosts" deserves more recognition and that Annie Potts is great on "Young Sheldon". Yes, those weren't cool opinions.
Just jumping in to say that while it doesn't get much praise/discussion in any of the TV communities I frequent, my wife and I watch Home Economics and Grace is still a fantastic generator of laughs in that one. So yeah I assume his appearance in That 90s Show is just out of obligation to the people and show that started his career.