'Mrs. Davis' is the craziest
Celebrating the year's most wonderfully weird TV show, plus 'Primo,' 'Barry,' 'Succession' & more
This week's What's Alan Watching? newsletter coming up just as soon as I dance with an old man...
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Who's reading for Alan?
Beginning this week, the newsletter will now feature an audio option. You can keep reading like normal if you want, or you can listen to actor Julia Selden reading it for you. We’re still working out the kinks about how certain parts of this translate to audio-only, so if you have thoughts, the comments are wide open.
Mrs. Davis gets wild
Last month, I shared my review of Mrs. Davis, the unbelievably, hilariously weird new sci-fi/comedy/drama/religious hybrid something or other. I loved it in all its stupidity, and was planning to celebrate this week’s release of the finale by interviewing creators Tara Hernandez and Damon Lindelof. But as I discussed last week, the WGA has asked writers to stop doing promotion of current projects as part of the ongoing strike. As someone who supports the writers in their goals, I understand, and instead wrote a story running through some of the most jaw-droppingly ridiculous moments from these eight episodes.
Now that it’s all out there, I’ll be fascinated by the reaction. Because Lindelof and Hernandez teamed up to make it, it in many ways feels nothing like previous Lindelof shows like Watchmen or The Leftovers. But there was a juvenile sense of humor lurking just beneath the surface of both of those, and here it took over entirely. Did you love it? Hate it? Give up after you got to the second item on the list in my story?
Primo is prime (but not exactly on Prime Video)
If you’re a fan of Shea Serrano — writer on matters basketball, hip-hop, and pop culture, and all-around beloved Internet person — you may recall that waaaaaaay back in 2017, he and Mike Schur signed a deal to develop a family comedy for ABC. Six years and one big move later, Primo finally debuted today on Freevee, formerly known as IMDb TV, aka Amazon’s free, ad-supported streaming service. All eight episodes are available now, and as you will see in my review, I enjoyed it a lot, in the same way I enjoyed all the ABC sitcoms of the mid-late 2010s with which it might have been paired once upon a time.
What’s Alan recapping?
I am not going to lie: I needed about two hours to watch the screener for the latest episode of Succession. Keep in mind that the episode was only slightly longer than an hour. I just needed the extra time to frequently pause the episode to compose myself and deal with the PTSD it kept evoking from the last 7 or 8 years of American political life. Somehow, I was able to write a recap of the episode, which I think turned out pretty well. For a show I really didn’t like once upon a time, I have greatly enjoyed writing about it for these last two seasons.
Meanwhile, Barry returned to Los Angeles after its miserable stint in the Midwest, and caught up with what everybody else was doing eight years after we last saw them. My favorite of those was seeing Fuches fully embrace his identity as The Raven, because there is nothing Stephen Root can’t play. As I discussed in my recap, the one part of the episode I really struggled with — as in, I couldn’t entirely tell what was happening, even after multiple viewings of the scene — was the Sally interlude. I am open to any and all interpretations of it. (Also? My social media mentions have had a lot of people asking about the implications of Barry being clean-shaven in the final shot. All I will say is that I did not notice this when I originally watched the season a few months ago, and it does not have any bearing on the next episode. So you may not want to overthink things.)
When the strike met the upfronts
Finally, this was upfront week. Once upon a time, I would have spent all week journeying around Manhattan as the different broadcast networks presented their fall schedules to advertisers. These were big dog-and-pony shows full of spectacle, often climaxing in musical performances. During the CSI years, CBS brought The Who on stage at Carnegie Hall, and I remember one year at either a CW upfront, Katy Perry got very frustrated when a theater full of men and women in business suits wouldn’t get up and dance as she sang.
I haven’t regularly done the upfronts in a long time, in part because the broadcast networks are so much less prominent than they used to be, in part because there’s so damn much new TV in the spring that I can’t afford to spend four or five days watching nothing. But I’ve been following accounts by colleagues who have gone this week, because the upfronts have intersected with the writers strike. This means nobody is writing jokes for the presenters, actors are generally unwilling to cross a picket line to appear, and several of the networks have had to present strike-proof schedules with little to no scripted content at all for the fall season. ABC alone has a Golden Bachelor spinoff, plus an hour each week devoted to Abbott Elementary reruns.
It all sounds very uncomfortable and weird, and also part of a general retrenchment by the broadcast networks from scripted TV. This bums me out, because when network scripted is good, it can be really good, and in a way that feels different from the best of cable or streaming. The broadcasters have largely abandoned the prestige drama space, but there’s been a lot of excellent work in comedy on the Big Four over the last decade. After a while, though, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you condition your viewers to only expect reality TV, game shows, and Dick Wolf crime procedurals, that is the only thing that anyone is going to want to watch on your networks.
Also? Even if the other broadcasters eventually go back to scripted post-strike, it’s so depressing to see what’s happened to the CW under its new management. The network that at various points in its history was home to Veronica Mars, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Jane the Virgin, the whole Arrow-verse (of which Legends of Tomorrow was my favorite), Supernatural, etc., has now entirely given up. Nearly all the former shows have been canceled, and the new strategy is low-cost programming, most of them acquisitions that were produced in Canada or elsewhere. This is unfortunately the way of the world, and I wouldn’t be shocked if Fox or one of the others eventually does this. But I spent a lot of time in the last 20 years watching stuff on the CW and its predecessors, the WB and UPN.
Oh, well. As the saying goes, there’s a reason why they don’t call it show friends.
That’s it for this week? What does everybody else think?