Is she having fun yet?
'Party Down' concludes with a Very Special Guest, plus 'Succession,' 'The Mandalorian,' 'Transatlantic,' the return of 'Dave,' and more
This week’s What’s Alan Watching? newsletter coming up just as soon as I toss you a snowmobile and some teeth whitening vouchers…
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Party Down goes out (for now, we hope) with a bang
It’s been a very busy week of writing for me, starting off with the Party Down story I promised last week: interviews with Lizzy Caplan and co-creators John Enbom and Rob Thomas, looking back on how Caplan’s season finale cameo came together, reflections on this great revival season as a whole, and where things stand right now about the possibility of a fourth season at some point. I have grown reflexively wary of all TV revivals, but this was one of the absolute best. (And unlike one of the other contenders for the top title — Twin Peaks: The Return — it was great by more or less doing exactly what it did the last time.)
Here’s the Beef!
I’ve been raving about the Steven Yeun/Ali Wong road rage dramedy Beef for a while now, starting with the making-of feature we published a few weeks ago. The full season is now streaming on Netflix, and at the moment it is in a very high position on my best of the year so far rankings. I’ll have some more thoughts next week, including a post-mortem with creator Lee Sung Jin that should be publishing on Monday, after everyone who wants has had a chance to binge the thing. But in the meantime, you can read an expanded Q&A with Steven Yeun, who had much more to say than I could comfortably fit into the original feature. In addition to being one of the most talented and versatile actors working today, he’s also an incredibly thoughtful guy. A great conversation.
What else is Alan writing?
Also now streaming on Netflix: Transatlantic, a dramatization of the work done by the European Rescue Committee to smuggle Jewish refugees out of Europe in the early days of World War II. I reviewed the show — which stars Cory Michael Smith and (in a fabulous series of dresses and hats) Gillian Jacobs as real-life heroes Varian Fry and Mary Jayne Gold — and felt that while it doesn’t live up to the amazing history, it’s still pretty entertaining.
I recapped the second Succession episode of this final season. A rare instance of having Logan and all four of his kids in a room with no real distractions, and the show getting tremendous power out of this dynamic.
I’ve seen a lot of online grousing about this week’s Mandalorian, due either to its guest stars (Lizzo! Jack Black! Christopher Lloyd!), its goofier tone, and/or the show temporarily turning into a Law & Order riff. But I enjoyed this one a good amount — at least, until we got into some wizarding wand-esque nonsense regarding ownership of the Darksaber — and appreciate when this show just tries to be fun.
What else is Alan watching?
We close with some quick thoughts on a pair of shows I did not have a chance to review. The first of these is FXX’s Dave, whose third season premiered on Wednesday night with two episodes. (Both are now streaming on Hulu.) I continue to like this show a lot — the second episode, in which Dave/Lil Dickey struggled to contain the chaos while shooting the video for an autobiographical song in and around his childhood home, was tremendous — and am hoping to perhaps dig deeper later in the season. After a certain point, though, veteran series become harder to review, because there’s only so much to say about them continuing to be good in the same ways. Fun to watch, though.
Finally, there’s Jury Duty, which began streaming on Freevee today. It’s a mockumentary about the inner workings of the jury in a mundane civil trial, but with a twist: one of the jurors is not an actor, and does not realize that everything else is fake. (He recognizes that one of his fellow jurors is James Marsden, but Marsden is playing an exaggerated version of himself, so it’s fine.) If you remember The Joe Schmo Show, it’s in theory a cross between that and something like NBC’s Trial & Error. The problem — at least, based on the three episodes I watched before tapping out — is that neither half quite works on its own — the non-actor is too nice and easygoing to generate any real laughter, and the scripted material is pretty limp — but also that the two halves keep getting in each other’s way. The scripted comedy has to bend itself around a “character” who doesn’t know the material and isn’t fundamentally funny, while the prank show aspect doesn’t work because everyone else is staying in character all the time. The premise sounded clever when I first heard it, but sometimes two genres just aren’t meant to be mashed up like this.
What did everybody else think?