Will I curb your 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' enthusiasm?
Plus, 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith,' 'Percy Jackson,' 'True Detective,' and more
This week’s What’s Alan Watching? newsletter coming up just as soon as I pull off a chat-and-cut…
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No Brangelina? No problem for Mr. & Mrs. Smith
Let’s start with a show that just debuted: Amazon’s Mr. & Mrs. Smith remake, starring Donald Glover and Maya Erskine. The main reason I was initially excited about this — an adaptation of a movie defined almost entirely(*) by the scorching chemistry of its stars, who went on to get married in real life — was because it was supposed to team up Glover and Phoebe Waller-Bridge as both stars and creators. But then there were the ever-popular “creative differences,” PWB dropped out, Francesca Sloane took over as co-creator, and Maya Erskine stepped in as Mrs. Smith. (She’s not a writer on this, even though she co-created the great Pen15.) Still lots of talent involved, but not necessarily the Superman-meets-Spider-Man level of team-up to make it feel necessary to revisit this particular title.
(*) I say “almost entirely” because the movie itself is very good, even if Brad and Angelina’s romance cast a huge shadow over it. Also, the 2005 version is the source of much tension and comedy in the Welcome to The O.C. chapter about the filming of the pilot, since director Doug Liman was splitting his time between shooting the show and prepping for the movie. Have I mentioned lately that Welcome to The O.C. is still available wherever books are sold?
But as discussed at length in my review, I really liked Sloane and Glover’s take on the material, and Glover and Erskine’s performances. It feels very much like the spy equivalent of Poker Face, in that it’s clearly episodic, with great guest stars (Parker Posey! Paul Dano! Sharon Horgan! Michaela Coel!) and distinctive stories for each installment. An early candidate for a best-of-2024 list, for sure.
The only disappointing aspect of it, honestly, is that Amazon is doing a binge release for a show that is really designed to be savored once a week. Then again, Peacock dropped half of the Poker Face season on premiere day, so maybe I just don’t understand programming. I would have loved to do mini recaps of the show here each week, or even gone longer with coverage at Rolling Stone, but such is life. Instead, I’ll wait until next week’s newsletter to touch on some spoilers about the season. But I highly recommend this one. Super fun.
Also? When my review published yesterday, a bunch of people reminded me of the existence of a different Mr. & Mrs. Smith, a CBS drama with Scott Bakula and Maria Bello (it debuted in 1996, the year I started doing this) with the exact same premise as the show. Whole pilot’s on YouTube:
Odds and/or ends
Percy Jackson & The Olympians wrapped up its first season this week. At this writing, it hasn’t been renewed, and it remains unclear whether basically anything live action on Disney+ is viable if it isn’t connected to Marvel or Star Wars. On the whole, I felt at the end about the same way I did after seeing the first four episodes: the three lead actors fit the roles really well, and it was a faithful but fairly rushed adaptation of Lightning Thief. Action sequences ended quickly, and Percy or Annabeth figured out solutions almost instantly to things that in the book were complicated mysteries. I appreciate the difficulty of trying to squeeze this book — which isn’t incredibly long, but is packed with incident and has to establish the complicated rules of a world where the Greek gods are real — into eight 40-ish minute episodes. But I think Craig Silverstein and Rick Riordan might have been better served dropping a set piece or three in order to let the story breathe and allow the characters to feel richer. Still, as discussed previously, we’re a Rick Riordan household, and I’ll gladly watch another season if they get to make one. (Also? Even though I knew it was coming, I wasn’t emotionally prepared for the sight of the late Lance Reddick as Zeus. When he made a surprise cameo in the Bosch: Legacy Season Two finale, it felt like a delightful surprise. Here, it felt like a goodbye, though I know there are a few other projects he filmed that haven’t been released yet. Reddick in a sharp suit as the most powerful god of them all was perfect casting. RIP.)
While Percy waits for renewal news, Apple just ordered a second season of Hijack, the Idris Elba thriller, which I loved when it was in the air, and gritted my teeth at whenever it was back on the ground. Those seven episodes sure seemed close-ended, but as we all know in modern television, what is dead may never die, and surely there can be other high-stress situations where Elba has to manage a crisis where guns are being pointed at him. After all, Jack Bauer endured nine different 24-hour odysseys, and don’t even get me started on how often John McClane had to battle terrorists at Christmastime. (Including that one year where it happened in a supermarket.)
Late on Thursday, FX, along with Dave creators Dave Burd and Jeff Schaffer, announced that there won’t be a fourth season of the semi-autobiographical comedy about Burd’s life as comic rapper Lil Dicky. They’re not entirely closing the door on the series returning at some point, and it sounds like Burd wants to do other things for a while. Nonetheless, it’s disappointing, because Dave has been one of my favorite shows of the last few years. (Here’s my interview with Burd about the ridiculous amount and caliber of guest stars in the third season, including Rachel McAdams, Brad Pitt, and Drake, among many others.) Schaffer has worked for a long time of late on another show whose creator and star takes long breaks (hint: it’s the subject of this newsletter’s final item), so perhaps one day we’ll catch up with the faux Dave. In the meantime, I’m glad I gave the series a second chance after the first couple of episodes felt 1000% Not For Me.
I recapped the third episode of True Detective: Night Country, which filled in a lot of backstory about Danvers, Navarro, and Annie K, even as it kept moving the story forward. How are people feeling at the midway point? I’ve been loving the whole thing, but I’ve also seen some annoyed pushback, and not just from Nic Pizzolatto, who comes across very poorly in all of this.
Well, it’s Curb Your Enthusiasm finale time… again(*)
Finally, we have the return of Curb Your Enthusiasm for its 12th and supposedly final season. I’ve seen the first nine episodes, and as I write about at greater length over at Rolling Stone, I found them largely of a piece with latter-era Curb: usually at least one or two very funny lines or ideas per week, but the episodes on a whole feel shaggy and underdeveloped, and some are outright bad. Even before that long hiatus in the 2010s, Curb was a fundamentally uneven show. The New York season, for instance, is mostly terrible, but it also has “The Palestinian Chicken” and “Mister Softee,” which are two of the greatest Curb episodes of them all. Season 12 has nothing remotely in that neighborhood, though this Sunday’s season premiere probably has the highest batting average of any of the new ones I’ve seen.
As I also discussed in more depth in that review, it’s funny to me that this will be at least the third obvious series finale Larry David has made for Curb alone, after Larry being kicked out of Heaven and Larry and Leon fleeing America. And there are several others that felt final enough to have worked if David never made more seasons. I’ve covered a lot of shows over the years, like Chuck or Parks and Recreation, that had to make multiple faux finales because they lived on the perpetual edge of cancellation. Curb is the rare example of the one that kept doing it because the creator was never sure if he wanted to keep going, and had a sweetheart deal where he didn’t have to continue if he didn’t want to, and could return after years away if an idea occurred to him.
Anyway, it’s disappointing but not surprising that the show is not at its peak. Before I watched the screeners, I spoke with my editors about the idea of recapping the final season, because it’s the end of an all-time great. By the time I was four or five episodes in, I knew this would be a bad idea, because nobody needs to read me making variations of the exact same complaints week after week. Maybe I’ll touch on things here from time to time before the finale. Or maybe we’ll just wait to see if David can top the trip to the afterlife somehow.
That’s it for this week! What did everybody else think?