As the world’s fittest and most capable athletes gave the performances of their lives this week in Tokyo, I worked my way through my second bowl of Cocoa Pebbles of the day to write this column.
Here’s your TV OT:
Rage against the philistines
My two favorite shows of the moment — HBO’s “White Lotus” and Apple TV+’s “Physical” — don’t share a lot in common on the surface. One is a present-day tale about the employees and guests at a Hawaiian resort and the other is about a woman who finds an escape from her mundane existence in ’80s workout culture and a spiraling eating disorder.
But if you’re in that (likely small) cross section of people who’ve seen both, you know that they are both about anger that can result from being unfulfilled and/or unseen.
So much of the delicious drama in “White Lotus” comes from what characters don’t say to each other — Armond’s (Murray Bartlett) smile-covered frustration caused by the incessant complaints of guest Shane (Jake Lacy) or Shane’s wife’s (Alexandra Daddario) inability to tell her husband when he’s being a tool. The show could be called “White Hot Rage: Hawaiian Style.” Everyone walks around wanting so deeply to genuinely feel the breeziness that the setting demands, but in reality, they’re an angry, frustrated mess underneath. (Except Jennifer Coolidge‘s Tanya, who wears her mess tied around her like a sarong.)
Then there’s “Physical,” a show that was panned by some critics for having an unlikable main character in housewife Sheila (Rose Byrne). (Yes, expecting only likable women on television is something still happening in 2021. Eye roll.) In the show, those around Sheila aren’t privy to her often unkind thoughts. Most of her genuine feelings are expressed in voiceover as Sheila politely nods her way through life. But the truth is all in Byrne’s eyes throughout the series, which concludes its freshman season next week: Sheila can be awful to other people but it’s only a fraction of how much she hates herself.
I have great empathy for this character. If you’ve ever lived with an eating disorder, you know that when you have nowhere to put all the overflowing dislike you have for yourself, sometimes it ends up unfairly aimed toward others. Also, let’s be real, no one among us would be sad if Sheila’s horrible husband Danny (Rory Scovel) got hit by a bus Regina George-style.
Gone are the days (for now) where I crave the big Acting with a capital “A” moment. Give me eyes that say more than a monologue can (a Masterclass Elisabeth Moss can surely give after four seasons of “The Handmaid’s Tale“). Give me a telling smile that simultaneously says “Thank you” and “To heck with you.” And please don’t remind me that these shows are nearly over. (The fourth of six “White Lotus” episodes airs on Sunday.) I won’t know what to do with myself — besides silently stew.
We need to talk about ‘Kevin Can F**k Himself’
In more dark comedy commentary, CNN’s Brian Lowry has an endorsement that’s worth giving an F about.
The eight-episode show began with a fair amount of promise, starring Annie Murphy (‘Schitt’s Creek’) as Allison, a woman whose interactions with her annoying, boorish husband (Eric Petersen) are all played out like a sitcom, while the rest of her life is a bleak drama.
The main problem has been the slow build as she seeks to break free of those sitcom conventions, a commentary on the way women have been portrayed on TV as well as real life. “I am so done with trying to be more,” an exhausted Allison says during the finale (which is already available on AMC+). While it’s not clear how long the producers can maintain this juggling act, the first season is worth catching.”
Singing the same old toons
Father of two Lowry also provides this dispatch from the parent programming files: “The children’s audience is a big part of streaming, but companies like Disney and Warner Bros. are eagerly wedding that to the kind of nostalgia that might bring their parents along. This week introduces two compatible examples of trying to freshen up existing animated franchises for a new generation: ‘Chip ‘N’ Dale: Park Life,’ which landed on Disney+; and ‘Jellystone!,’ on HBO Max, which revives Hanna-Barbera characters like Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound after a 30-year hiatus.
For those weaned on those cartoons, the stylized look takes a little getting used to. The real test, though, will be whether kids respond, and as Chip ‘N’ Dale can attest, their tastes can be a little nutty.”
Farewell to “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” which had more lives than Catwoman.
Youths, you know this as the show you’ve never watched but have read all the best jokes GIF form. (Disrespectful.)
Not awkward at all
I’d love to show you the Slack conversation that was had when Lowry reminded the team that “The Pursuit of Love” was about to air.
Instead, I’ll let him take it away because this text won’t get anyone in trouble: “‘The Pursuit of Love’ is one of those classy British miniseries that wouldn’t look out of place on PBS’ “Masterpiece” but, in the streaming services’ hunger for content, winds up on Amazon.
Lily James and Emily Beecham star as cousins growing up in the period prior to World War II, with all the constraints on their aspirations and options that entails. It’s a handsome-looking production of Nancy Mitford’s 1945 novel, if one that garnered unwelcome attention last year due to paparazzi photos of James with co-star Dominic West, who plays her disapproving father in the three-parter, which already aired in the U.K.”
One more thing
Thank you, Hulu, for being the streaming home of “Make It or Break It.”
The Olympics has left me craving summer sports-adjacent content. This ABC Family teen drama about gymnasts sticks the landing, and fills the void left by the fact that I’m watching very little of the actual Olympics because of NBC’s confusing broadcast/streaming strategy and spoilers resulting from a 16-hour time difference.
This year, we apparently don’t need a TV to watch the Olympics, we need a Tardis.
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