In other news, This Is Us is still really, really good. But not as good as Survivor, which is still having an unfathomably good season.
Here are the 5 most notable TV shows of the week. As always, this is not just a list of the shows I want to talk about, but it’s also not not that.
Netflix truly blessed the quarantined this weekend, with something for everyone, with Tiger King, Self-Made and Pandemic, popping up in the newly minted top 10. Also All American, the CW show apparently thriving on the streaming service, and Feel Good, that I have no doubt will be in the top 10 soon.
Self-Made, a four-part limited series inspired by the story of the historic entrepreneur Madam CJ Walker, didn’t quite work for me, with it’s recurring I love Octavia Spencer, but it’s simultaneously a little paint-by-numbers and trying too hard to be edgy (so, peak Netflix). Tiffany Haddish and “Seven Nation Army” in period drama was a hard sell in this particular production. That said, Sarah Walker is worth a dozen period dramas.
So that’s that!
Also! An administrative note: The TV power rankings are moving to Thursdays and the rankings, while still highlighting the notable shows of the week, will also be more explicitly viewing recommendations for the weekend ahead. But for all intents and purposes, it’s going to be the same rankings on a new day!
LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHEREEpisodes 1-3, Hulu
You can’t go wrong watching Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington face off as steely moms in 1998 Shaker Heights, Ohio, both armed with strongly held convictions that they are doing what’s best for their families and children convinced to push those beliefs to the limit. It’s good! Totally solid.
But there are two things that are particularly striking about Little Fires Everywhere. First, the teens actually look like teens. Maybe my mind has been warped by too much CW and Elite but Jade Pettyjohn looks way younger than a high school senior. But the other is how precisely the show has nailed its ’90s aesthetic, almost distractingly so, from the fashion to the haircuts to the cars to the needle drops.
I’ve put off Tiger King because I’m really temperamental about true crime. But it is the show everyone is talking about and two separate friends described it as being Saturday Night Live Stefon-like in it’s level of absurdity. A Stefon sketch turned into a docuseries.
It has everything, one told me, “meth, polyamory, exotic animals, a murder subplot where a woman fed her husband to her tigers, penis piercings, a gubernatorial race, an employee who had to get her arm amputated, Vegas hotel rooms full of tiger cubs, a tiger sex cult and expired meat from Wal-Mart being served at a zoo-side pizzeria.”
So anyways, I will be watching Tiger King this week because I have to see that for myself.
THIS IS USAfter the Fire (season 4 episode 17), NBC
I will be the first to admit I gave up on This Is Us. Well, maybe not gave up, but just kind of … forgot about it. I did not enjoy season 3, it was too indulgent in its mysteries and timelines, and figured the show’s best days were behind it.
I started watching season 4 last week mostly for professional reasons, and was struck by how good it was. It’s much more balanced and the script serves the cast well — there’s a longer story to be written about what Justin Hartley and the writers have done with Kevin and the delicate complexity of his and Randall’s relationship. (Unfortunately, This Is Us still has no idea what to do with Kate, though at least we’ve moved past exclusively weight-based storylines.)
“After the Fire” is another Randall episode, the majority of which revolves his fantasy and fears about life would have been like if Jack had survived. This season has really explored the uglier side of Randall’s need to be the responsible one and control everything, but also has put a fine point of the fact that, especially for Randall, the Pearson daddy issues have always been a red herring for mommy issues.
Plus, it tees up a helluva finale. It was never about Jack!!
SURVIVORQuick on the Draw (season 40 episode 6), CBS
I am so obsessed with this season of Survivor and each episode keeps getting better and better. This past week was particularly bananas, from another thrilling challenge — those puzzles, man — to two massive tribal councils with two huge eliminations, including an all-time immunity idol flex.
It’s comforting, too, that none of the gimmicks the show has introduced for its Winners at War season have felt, well, gimmicky. This could be because they are, frankly, necessary. These people are all proven to be great at the game, they know all its ins and outs — unless you introduce new ins and outs. The tokens and an immunity idol blocker are working in a big way.
Feel Good is the best kind of Netflix Original: A fast-paced semi-autobiographical comedy. (Or dramedy, if we’re still using that word.) It’s a short season (six episodes) of short episodes (30 minutes) that mostly follows its intrepid hero throughly daily life, romantic relationship(s) and various addictions. It’s warm, with an aces soundtrack, witty one-liners and humor comes easily and naturally to a cast that has an abundance of chemistry.
Mae Martin is Feel Good‘s magnetic lead, playing a version of herself, a Canadian standup comic and recovering addict living in London. She’s chaotic, charismatic and utterly charming. Feel Good’s Mae is newly in a relationship and it’s this relationship that’s at the heart of the show — which is a romcom, really. It’s the lens through which it explores the respective issues of Mae and George (Charlotte Ritchie) and the way their refusal to meaningfully reckon with their insecurities impacts and hurts each other.
Like the best comedies of its kind, it’s quietly complex and sneakily sharp. All — and again I cannot applaud this enough — in six 30-minute episodes.
Also Lisa Kudrow as Mae’s mom!!
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