I'm Alan Sepinwall. I write the newsletter.
'Strange New Worlds,' 'Ten Year Old Tom,' new social media apps, and more
This week’s What’s Alan Watching? newsletter coming up just as soon as we rule out oatmeal as the cause of my memory loss...
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This is the first week in a while where I haven’t published anything over at Rolling Stone. Part of that is the holiday week, part of it is some health stuff, but mainly it’s that this week’s only big premiere of note is Amazon’s The Horrors of Dolores Roach, and I am generally not a horror guy. (Though I of course have dabbled plenty in horror-adjacent stuff like Buffy and Stranger Things.) So let’s hit a few odds and ends before getting to our weekly Strange New Worlds discussion.
BlueSky, smiling at me…
As El*n M*sk continues going out of his way to destroy Twitter by any means necessary, various New Twitter alternatives keep emerging. Pour one out for poor Hive, which died practically the moment it was born. Mastodon and Post are still around, but barely seem to have any traction.
The one I’ve been enjoying the most is BlueSky. The community is still small and invite-only, in part because the infrastructure isn’t there yet to scale it up to the size of Twitter. And it’s still missing some basic functionality, like DMs. But the tone is much more like the goofy, friendly Twitter I remember joining in the early 2010s, and a lot of your favorite pop culture writers (and my favorite sports writers) have already set up shop there. All of which is to say that if you have already gotten an invite, feel free to say hi to me there.
Meanwhile, Facebook/Meta/Instagram launched its own version, Threads, earlier this week. I’m signed up there, also (as usual) with the username Sepinwall. I’m not sure how much I’m going to use it, though, because there doesn’t seem to be a way to set up a feed that is 1)Only the people I’ve chosen to follow, and 2)In chronological order. (There’s also a certain out of the frying pan, into the fire quality in terms of going from a M*sk app to a Z*ckerberg one.) But we’ll see. Eventually, I believe one of these will catch on, especially as the Twitter experience continues to get worse and worse.
Late last week, Freeform canceled Single Drunk Female, a half-hour comedy starring Sofia Black-D'Elia as a recovering alcoholic struggling to reassemble the life she ruined with her drinking. That led to this tweet by me:
This suggestion almost instantly proved moot, as it became the latest series to be pulled from a streaming service, so the parent company can save a small amount of money, whether in residual payments or some kind of tax write-off.
I am terrible with money in general, and I have no idea how this business actually works as a business. So I will not pretend whether all of this rampant Zaslav-ing actually makes enough fiscal sense to be worth the bother, as well as the potential damage to various streaming brands. What I do know, however, is that there was a brief and glorious period of around a dozen years where it felt like if a show got made, it would be available to watch forever. You might need to get a bunch of different subscriptions, or be willing to pay for individual episodes. But if you had always meant to watch, say, Vinyl, but never got around to it before, it would be there for you when you were ready. That’s no longer the case.
Ordinarily, I would go on some old man screed about the importance of physical media. But the problem is that the streaming era vastly reduced the number of shows that get DVD or Blu-ray releases. In many cases, the lack of a physical version is treated as another reason to force someone to subscribe to the service it’s on. (The Netflix shows that you can buy separately have tended to be the ones produced by outside studios.)
Despite what Dennis Duffy has told us, technology is usually not cyclical. But in this case, we are going back to the old days when, if a show wasn’t in rerun syndication somewhere, you had no real way to see it. Which has to be frustrating for a whole lot of people who worked hard on series that they had good reason to believe would be available long after they finished making them. And also for the many viewers who have kept a running list of shows they really want to watch whenever a bingeing window opens for them.
Ten Year Old Tom thoughts
Last week brought the Season Two premiere of Max’s Ten Year Old Tom, a deadpan animated comedy created by and starring Steve Dildarian as the voice of the title character. I had really enjoyed Dildarian’s previous HBO series The Life and Times of Tim, which was similarly about a completely unremarkable protagonist who kept getting into increasingly strange and humiliating circumstances, rarely through any fault of his own. Tim was a young adult, while Tom is a little kid. And while I tend to be more protective of child characters, and in theory less likely to laugh at their failures, there’s something about the way Dildarian and company make Tom’s misadventures so ridiculous that I may like this one more than Tim.
I’m still bingeing my way through the new season. (The premiere, in fact, made me realize that I hadn’t quite finished Season One, which premiered way back in the fall of 2021.) But I’m really enjoying it. Like a lot of adult animation, it operates on a peculiar frequency that will either be very much for you or not for you in the slightest. But I’m glad something this idiosyncratic has managed to for now survive the Peak TV implosion. Hopefully, David Zaslav never even notices its existence.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds recaplet: “Among the Lotus Eaters”
Finally, let’s talk Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. There’s a slightly odd thing happening this season, where we’ve gotten a lot less of Captain Pike, even though Anson Mount’s charisma and the character’s superhuman level of empathy are the most appealing parts of the series. But Mount had a baby in between seasons, and it’s hard to blame a production for trying to give a new parent a lighter schedule. And the supporting actors have really stepped up this season, like Christina Chong in last week’s doomed time travel romance.
“Among the Lotus Eaters” manages to cleverly have things both ways. On the one hand, it is by far the most Pike-centric episode so far. (He’s also more prominent in this than in the next two, which are the last I’ve seen in advance.) The episode takes place on and around a remote, hostile planet whose atmosphere wipes out the long-term memories of almost the entire population. And a lot of it is just Pike, M’Benga, and La’an struggling to function when the amnesia hits them. But there’s also a good amount of material up on the Enterprise, and particularly a spotlight for Melissa Navia as Erica Ortegas. She gets the episode’s biggest hero moment, when the computer explains what her job is, giving her enough confidence and muscle memory to save the day, repeating the mantra, “I’m Erica Ortegas. I fly the ship.” Goddamn right she does. It’s a wonderful sequence, and a nice spotlight for Navia, whose sheer likability and screen presence elevated her from a minor part of the show early in Season One into someone who is now an equal member of the ensemble with everyone else.
At the same time, Mount, Chong, and Babs Olusanmokun do terrific work down on the ground. The episode gradually establishes that, even without their memories, everyone is still who they are at their core, and each effectively shows you the Chris, La’an, and Joseph we know, even when they have no clue what’s going on.
It’s a really smart premise, that allows for a lot of suspense, but also some comedy. I just hope Mount is more available for the season’s home stretch. This entire cast is so good, but we really need more Space Daddy before the year is out.
That’s it for this week! What did everybody else think?