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The WGA strike, week 1
Plus, 'Bupkis,' 'White House Plumbers,' recaps, and more
This week’s What’s Alan Watching? newsletter coming up just as soon as we play Bitey…
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The strike saga begins
A newsletter focused on television of course has to begin this week by talking about the Writers Guild of America strike against the studios, networks, and streamers. It began on Monday and feels like it is many, many months away from ending, given the wide array of issues in dispute. I’m no labor reporter, but I was on this beat for the last strike, back in late 2007 and early 2008, so I wrote about a lot of strange ripple effects of that job action, including how it saved some shows (notably Breaking Bad) and badly damaged others (like Pushing Daisies).
If you were reading my old blog back in the day, you may recall that I got pretty desperate for content after a couple of months, and began doing things like reviewing old episodes of ABC’s short-lived Jeremy Piven/Paula Marshall rom-com Cupid. (It was a strange time, but also I do love that show.) Things should be different this time around, if only because the TV ecosystem has changed so drastically in the last 16 years. Back then, the bulk of what people were watching, and what I was covering, was on the broadcast networks, which produced their shows very close to when they aired, so new episodes ran out very quickly once the strike got going. But as we saw in the early months of the pandemic, so much of what’s on cable and streaming is produced far enough in advance that it could be quite a while before we notice the flood of original series starting to slow to a trickle. (And I’ve heard from plenty of people in the past few days who are sympathetic to the WGA’s cause, but also a bit relieved that the strike may finally give them a chance to catch up on all the shows they’ve been meaning to watch for months/years.) Because of that increased backlog, and because there are so many more issues at stake this time, we could be in for a very long work stoppage. Unlike in 2007, it seems as if the other Hollywood guilds recognize the existential threat they are all under and are allying wholeheartedly with the WGA, which could either make this last even longer, or cow the AMPTP into settling more quickly. Hard to say.
Anyway, we’ll see how it goes, and how often I feel I have something new to say here about the situation.
What’s Alan reviewing?
It’s been a while since I watched a comedy debut episode as off-putting as the series premiere of Peacock’s Pete Davidson vehicle Bupkis, that somehow led to a show I kind of liked after. The last one of those was FXX’s Dave, but that pilot was less obnoxious and annoying than the Bupkis one, and Dave even in its first season was a much better show than Bupkis (and is in the midst of another strong, if often deeply uncomfortable, season). But as I said in my review, if you get past the Poochie levels of totally in your face-ness of that first episode, Bupkis does some interesting things with Davidson’s very public persona, and with lots of cameos from his famous friends, including a John Mulaney appearance that makes a fine companion piece to his new Netflix special.
Last week, HBO Max debuted the second miniseries in slightly less than a year about Texas housewife Candy Montgomery killing her friend Betty Gore with an axe. This week, HBO debuted the second miniseries in slightly more than a year about the Watergate scandal, with Justin Theroux and Woody Harrelson as the titular White House Plumbers who organized the break-in of the DNC headquarters. Written and directed by a trio of late-era Veep alums, Plumbers mostly tries for farce, but can’t settle on a tone — Theroux, Harrelson, and Lena Headey all seem to be acting in different projects, with Headey the best and Theroux the funniest (if a bit one-note) — as I talked about at greater length in my review.
What’s Alan recapping?
Was I more excited about making the above meme for my Succession recap than I was in actually writing the thing? Yes. Do I think the recap of another excellent episode turned out pretty well, anyway? Also yes.
Meanwhile, here’s my take on a dark, dark, dark Barry in which the title character is largely absent. Sarah Goldberg, my gosh. What an actor.
Odds and/or ends
The never-ending saga to find a viable Twitter replacement — something maintaining the basic functionality, but that’s less encouraging of hate speech than the bird app’s current management — continues. I’ve been dabbling with Substack Notes of late, and I also wrangled an invitation to the beta version of Blue Sky, which is Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey’s latest stab at this. For anyone who’s already on the latter, I’m at @sepinwall.bsky.social. So far, it’s relatively quiet over there — the most engagement I’ve seen on any post is from someone joking about the lack of engagement so far, but the interface is good, and setting up an account and finding people to follow were both much less confusing than, say, Mastodon. Obviously, the whole reason this newsletter exists is to provide a reliable place to link to my stories and do some of the kind of microblogging I’ve done on various social media sites. But if you enjoy my feed(s) and would rather not be on Twitter Dot Com anymore, you have options.
Speaking of micro-blogging, time for another installment of Not Really A Review Of A Show Alan Stopped Watching After A Few Screeners, this time featuring Apple TV+’s Silo. Adapted by Justified boss Graham Yost from a series of sci-fi novels by Hugh Howey, the show takes place in a post-apocalyptic future where the last remnants of mankind have lived for hundreds of years in an underground silo, with no idea who built it or what the world outside the silo’s lone window looks like. Yost knows how to craft TV (he’s also been involved with The Americans, Slow Horses, Sneaky Pete, and a bunch of Tom Hanks HBO miniseries like Band of Brothers and From the Earth to the Moon), and there’s a good — if frequently rotating — cast that includes David Oyelowo, Rebecca Ferguson, Tim Robbins, and Rashida Jones. So it’s watchable. But none of the characters popped for me in the first couple of episodes, and I never found myself engaged by the mysteries about what’s outside the silo, who created the thing, etc. So I stopped. Your mileage may vary, particularly if, like Roman from Party Down, you’re a “hard sci-fi” person who values world-building (of which Silo has a lot) more than I tend to.
That’s it for this week? What did everybody else think?