Welcome to the 'Welcome to The O.C.' pub week!
'Doctor Who,' 'Slow Horses,' Chuck Lorre, and more
This week’s What’s Alan Watching? newsletter coming up just as soon as I wind up on Mars with Chaucer and a robot shark…
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Reading is fundamental (especially books I wrote)
It’s a very exciting week here in Sepinwall-ville. Welcome to The O.C. was officially published on Tuesday, though you could find it at certain bookstores a few days earlier. This is the first book I’ve had published in nearly five years, the first oral history of any kind I’ve ever written, a chance to have a do-over on my flimsy first book, and a chance to revisit a show I loved dearly way back when.
You’ve been reading my shameless plugs for months now, so beyond the obligatory link to order the book, let me try to hit some new things:
Cosmopolitan published another excerpt from the book on Monday, this time from the chapter about the tumultuous filming of that pilot, which includes all manner of wacky Doug Liman stories that I did not want to believe until the man himself confirmed them all.
Maybe my favorite thing I’ve ever gotten to do in the press tour for any book I’ve written: SiriusXM invited me to guest host an episode of Lights, Camera, PopRocks! on the PopRocks station, where I got to spend an hour introducing some of the most iconic O.C. songs of them all. It’s airing throughout December (the schedule is here), and is also available on demand if you have the Sirius app. Between the audiobook and this, the lower register of my voice has really gotten a workout over the last few months, even if I suspect my energy level on the show is closer to Steven Wright in Reservoir Dogs than to Christian Slater in Pump Up the Volume.
By now, I imagine many of you who were interested in the book have already received their copies. Would love to hear your thoughts — yes, even the negative ones — either in the comments here or in this Substack Chat I posted on Tuesday.
That’s it for the plugging this week, but I’m feeling very good right now.
(Also, thanks to theoc.vibes IG account for photoshopping our book cover over Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, which Seth is reading in the actual scene.)
What’s Alan writing?
As someone who gave up on the Jodie Whittaker run partway through — owing entirely to the writing, and not to Whittaker herself, who deserved better — I was so relieved to see Doctor Who go old school with the first of three anniversary specials bringing back David Tenant and Catherine Tate as, respectively, the Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble. More importantly, I was pleased to see returning showrunner Russell T. Davies get a chance to undo the terrible thing he did to Donna at the end of his previous stint on the show. He is the only interview subject I’ve ever cursed out, even in jest, and for the moment, at least, I retract that profanity. Excited to see Davies work with a brand new Doctor once Ncuti Gatwa takes over at Christmas, but sometimes, nostalgia can be just fine.
Slow Horses, one of the most Dad-nip of all Dad TV shows, is back for a third season, which might just be my favorite so far. As I wrote in my review, these new episodes find a more perfect balance than ever between letting the Slow Horses be awesome, while also showing them to be absolute idiots.
Between Two and a Half Men, Big Bang Theory, and smaller hits like Mike and Molly, Chuck Lorre has dominated 21st century sitcommery as much as any producer. These days, though, he’s doing more of his work on streaming, and in single-camera, rather than the broadcast multi-cams on which he built his fame and fortune. His new show, Max’s Sebastian Maniscalco vehicle Bookie, isn’t Lorre’s best work, but it provided an excuse to talk with the man about the rapid transformation of the TV comedy business — and, yes, about briefly reuniting with former nemesis Charlie Sheen, who cameos in the Bookie premiere.
For All Mankind recaplet: “House Divided”
I’ll keep this one short, because “House Divided” is as streamlined as FAM tends to get. All of the stories are in some way tied to the Soviet coup, to the near-fatal brawl the coup inspires on the Martian service, and to a general sense that nobody trusts one another anymore. While FAM as a whole is built for sprawl, it feels satisfying to get a whole hour where everyone is basically arguing over the same thing, even if their motives range pretty widely. Miles’ friend Sam, for instance, is upset about the brawl not because she’s siding with the new Soviet regime, but because this seems like another instance of the upstairs people getting away with abusing downstairs folk like her and Vasily. And Ed Baldwin, as usual, presents himself as a man who will champion various ideals exactly as long as it takes for those ideals to potentially harm someone he cares about personally. But Dani is right, again, and wins the argument, again.
Mostly, I’m just happy to hear Wrenn Schmidt speak Russian with a Southern accent.
Fargo recaplet: “The Paradox of Intermediate Transactions”
This week’s Fargo is much less compact than this week’s FAM, but I nonetheless want to keep my commentary about it confined to a single aspect — even if it’s the one that takes place further away in time and space than the rest of the episode.
Yup, it’s time to take a trip to Wales, 500 years ago, to where everyone’s favorite kilt-wearing, burlap sack-masking, cryptically-talking would-be assassin Ole Munch is shown being roughly the same age as he is in Minnesota in 2019. I outright clapped and roared with laughter when I saw the title card, because it evoked some of the more audacious moments from past seasons, like Peggy shrugging off the flying saucer in Season Two, or The Wandering Jew saving the life of Nikki Swango inside a bowling alley that may have existed only in the afterlife. In this case, Ole Munch spent his days in the old country working as a sin-eater, and the job appears to have made him immortal? Heck, it’s no stranger than the other stuff, and a larger-than-life touch, with a hint of the supernatural, has served the series very well in the past.
So while there’s a lot of other stuff to enjoy here, including Dot once again preparing to repel home invaders, Kevin McCallister-style, the Welsh interlude is the piece that’s stuck with me for many weeks since I first watched it.
That’s it for this week! What did everybody else think?