In The Dark
US TV

Review: In the Dark 1×1 (US: The CW)

In the US: Thursdays, 9pm ET, The CW
In the UK: Not yet acquired

There is considerable feminist discourse around the concept of ‘likability’. Female politicians, such as Hillary Clinton, are considered ‘unlikable’ and therefore considered vote-losers, in a way male politicians rarely are. Does anyone think Rand Paul or Chuck Schumer are likeable? No, yet they still get elected and are considered (for some reason) via politicians.

In the Dark feels like an effort to push ‘the Overton Window‘ on female ‘likability’ using the ingenious aegis of disability. It sees Perry Mattfeld (Shameless US) playing Murphy, a woman whose life is a bit of a mess. She became blind at the age of 14 and was fostered by the owners of a guide dog charity (The West Wing‘s Kathleen York and The Whispers‘s Derek Webster), for which she now ‘works’. I say works, because most of the time she’s getting drunk, waking up from a one-night-stand or both. Or is off smoking with a teenage drunk-dealer who once saved her life.

Mattfield is even more self-destructive than that sounds. “You only care about yourself,” York yells at her after Mattfield has just slept with a married donor to the impoverished charity, resulting in the cancellation of his wife’s $10,000 donation.

“It’s pretty obvious I don’t care about myself. At all,” Mattfield replies.

Which isn’t entirely true, though. While most of the first episode revolves around Mattfield’s self-destruction and self-pity, there is another thread to the plot: the disappearance and possible murder of her teenage drug-dealer friend. That prompts Mattfield to try to persuade everyone that he has disappeared, even though his body goes missing soon after she finds it.

When that fails, she tries to solve the crime herself, with a little help from her friend Brooke Markham (Foursome) and the missing drug-dealer’s cousin/boss (Blood and Oil‘s Keston John).

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The Twilight Zone
US TV

Preview: The Twilight Zone 1×1 (US: CBS All Access)

In the US: Thursdays, CBS All Access
In the UK: Not yet acquired

Why is Jordan Peele determined to prove me wrong? A while ago, I suggested that the old-school anthology show, with a different story and cast every week, no longer worked as a format, given the nature of modern television scheduling. Instead, the season-long anthology show has the best of both worlds, with both a regular cast and the ability to tell closed stories, all rolled into one:

With an audience who likes serial drama but who wants eventual conclusions to their stories that haven’t been drawn out too long, what could be better than a season-long story with a beginning, middle and an end, the next season then telling a completely new story in the same vein? With a bit of cleverness, you can even appease fans of the shows’ stars by having the cast come back to play different characters if they want – or just let them go off to the next job if they’d rather, just like in the old days, since that way you can get big names with limited availability to come in for just a season.

There have been attempts to return to the original, episodic formula, such as The Guest Book and Room 104, but these exceptions have somewhat proved my hypothesis that the format no longer works. How? Because no one watches them.

So I ask again: why is Jordan Peele is so determined to prove me wrong? I mean first he creates a feelgood, episodic anthology show for YouTube, Weird City, and now he’s resurrected possibly the most famous anthology show of them all, The Twilight Zone.

Why does the lauded writer-director of Get Out and Us think he knows better than me, hey?

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Osmosis
International TV

What have you been watching? Including Osmosis

It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week

What We Do In The Shadows
FX (US)’s What We Do In The Shadows

This week’s reviews

It’s been a busy old week for TV, with a whole bunch of returning shows, as well as some new ones. However, despite my grandiose promises last week, I’ve not reviewed a huge amount. Elsewhere, TMINE has only looked at:

To be fair, that’s because all the shows I’d planned to review in depth weren’t as tempting as I’d hoped…

Osmosis
Netflix’s Osmosis

New shows

I did promise last time that for this week’s Boxset Monday, I’d review either Netflix’s Osmosis or Amazon’s Hanna. Unfortunately, one episode was about all I could take of Osmosis in a sitting, but I’ll be talking about that after the jump.

So then I tried episode two of Hanna, having already previewed episode one a while back. However, while that proved more appetising than the first, it had some other qualities that made me sigh a lot. And not make me want to watch any more episodes in hurry. We’ll talk about that after the jump, too.

Before next WHYBW, I’ll be previewing Jordan Peele’s new take on The Twilight Zone and maybe The CW’s In The Dark, Cinemax’s Warrior and Netflix’s Quicksand, as well as anything else that crops up. Orange Wednesday will be back tomorrow with reviews of John Wick – Chapter 2, Justice League vs The Fatal Five and Donkeyote.

Happy and Christopher Meloni in Syfy (US)'s Happy!
Happy and Christopher Meloni in Syfy (US)’s Happy!

The regulars

As for the regulars, I’m all caught up now. The Orville is on yet another long break, so join me after the jump for a look at the latest episodes of Doom Patrol, The Good Fight, Il Miracolo (The Miracle), The Magicians, Star Trek: Discovery and Whiskey Cavalier. I’m going to be demoting one of them – can you guess which?

I’ll also be frowning at the return of Happy!, smiling thinly at the mid-season return of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and waving goodbye sadly to the first season of Magnum P.I.

See you in a mo!

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The Name of the Rose
Italian TV

Review: Il nome della rosa (The Name of the Rose) 1×1 (Italy: Rai 1; UK: BBC)

In Italy: Aired on Rai 1 in March
In the UK: Acquired by the BBC

There’s a certain irony that while Netflix is introducing the rest of the world to foreign TV shows made in their native languages and in their own styles, national broadcasters in Europe are still keen on “the international co-production”. These have been around for ages and basically involve two or more big broadcasters from different countries getting together to make a production. They pack the cast with their own native talent… then force them all to speak English. They then simultaneously water down the script for “international tastes” – in other words, strip it of anything that won’t translate easily into other languages or cultures.

Rai 1 (Italy) and Tele München Gruppe (Germany)’s Il nome della rosa (The Name of the Rose) may be an advance on that standard formula and a definite cut above the average co-production of yore, but it’s also something that feels like it’s been stripped of flavour to suit “international tastes”.

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Abby's
US TV

Review: Abby’s 1×1 (US: NBC)

In the US: Thursdays, 9:30/8.30c, NBC
In the UK: Not yet acquired

There’s a long tradition of multi-camera US comedies been prefaced by one of the cast members pointing out that it was “filmed in front of a live studio audience”. It’s supposed to make you think that the laughter isn’t canned, which is what the likes of M*A*S*H* had to endure.

M*A*S*H’s Larry Gelbart explains this history of canned laughter and why it is so awful

However, I must confess that with multi-camera comedies now being so rare, I was taken aback when NBC’s new sitcom, Abby’s, rolled out its own disclaimer about having a studio audience. That wasn’t the only reason, though. See if you can work out the other reason I was surprised:

NBC (US)’s Abby’s was filmed in front of a live outdoor audience

Yes, it’s filmed before a live outdoor audience. Have a think about that. An outdoor audience. That’s going to sound different, isn’t yet? No echoes, more diffuse. That sort of thing.

Given the fact that there are no echoes, the cast never leave gaps in the dialogue for when the audience are supposedly laughing and no one’s really delivering lines like they’re expecting anyone 30 metres away to be able to hear them, I’m going to go with the theory that Abby’s was both filmed in front of a live outdoor audience and has canned laughter.

A trailer for season one of NBC (US)’s Abby’s
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