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« Judy by the Numbers: "In Between" | Main | On Deadpool's Overhyped Sexuality »
Tuesday
Feb162016

TV MVP of the Week: Younger, The Magicians, Grandfathered... 

I keep trying to get Team Experience to tell you what they're watching but they're weirdly shy about the small screen. But with the lines continually more blurred between screens we're trying to give television more room here. Nevertheless most of us do watch TV when we can squeeze it in between movies. 

Here's a few of our favorite things from the past week's viewing...

Patricia Field & Jacqueline Demetrio, Costume Design of Younger
Not since the glory days of Sex and the City has a show relied so beautifully on costumes (OK maybe Gossip Girl is up there, too) but in Younger they serve a purpose beyond aesthetics. Take for example the warrior-like costumes Miriam Shor's character wears, glittery armors, oversized jewelry and in one case a McQueen scarf that seemed to have the skulls of all her victims. That the very scarf was used by another character to reveal her weaknesses was pure brilliance.
-Jose Solis 

Gillian Anderson in The X-Files
We may quibble with the overall quality of this protracted sequel season of The X-Files but we should never complain about having more Gillian Anderson in our lives. [More...]

In last week's "Home Again" episode, she was offered yet another acting showcase, revisiting and revitalizing the storylines that made Scully such an enduring pop culture fixture in the 90s. Scully's brushes with death and vexed feelings about familial units, so familiar for fans of the redheaded government agent, made "Home Again" — in which she faces the loss of a family member — vintage X-Files. Anderson's stoicism as Scully is most heartbreaking whenever it's pushed to its limits: a burgeoning whimper here, an irrepressible tear there. It's no so much that Anderson traces so carefully Scully's emotional breakdown (she's nothing if not the embodiment of understatement) but that she makes her FBI agent no less strong or brave in doing so. It's a wonder of a performance, layered and nuanced, familiar and yet strikingly fresh.
-Manuel Betancourt 

Quentin's magic bursts out via playing cardsThe Beast unleashed in a terrifying moment when time stops

[Tie] Writing Team & Visual FX Craftsmen, The Magicians
From my limited sampling I'd call SyFy's The Magicians, easily their best original series since Battlestar Galactica. The story is about grad students recruited for a magic school called Brakebills. I binge-watched the first four episodes this week and was continually surprised at the narrative twists, shifts in allegiances (for the viewer at least) and clever echoes from episode to episode. There's visual wit, too: Note in the images above how the playing cards that Quentin levitates in a moment of true wonder in S1.E1 "Unauthorized Magic" are echoed visually later on to quite different dramatic effect in a terrifying attack on the school from The Beast, who is covered in swirling moths. "The World in the Walls" borrows a little from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (but then what supernatural series doesn't?) but its elaborate story within the story which takes place in a spell construct wherein Quentin wakes up in an insane asylum not realizing that none of it is real, is gripping. Better still, the magic is far more visually expressive and varied than in any other screen treatment I've seen. It's not just colored CGI swirls. Sometimes there's nothing much to see at all. Other times, there's CGI color. And best of all is the elaborate hand choreography that goes with many of the spells, instantly setting this apart from generic "magic" onscreen. Marvel's Doctor Strange is on alert -- just try and top this!

All that said, it's not perfect: Some of the characterizations are broadstrokes only (thus far) and the diverse supporting cast (gay characters, black characters, Indian characters, and even a total balance of genders -- just like, you know, the world) need more attention since the straight white guy lead is not any more inherently compelling than the other characters; The Magicians feels like a show that would thrive if it thought of itself as an Ensemble character thriller first and foremostand the storytelling should probably slow down because too much has happened in just 4 hours. But all the elements  - Nathaniel R

Denzel Washington for Directing Grey's Anatomy
I know what you're thinking: Him? Directing? THAT? But even with all the terrible things that happen on a weekly basis to the staff of Grey-Sloan Memorial (formerly Seattle Grace) Hospital, none of them have ever felt to visceral as they did this week in S12:E9 "The Sound of Silence"  thanks to Washington's inspired direction. First, in a scene straight out of a horror movie, a comatose patient wakes up as Meredith Grey enters information onto his chart, and violently assaults her. We see just enough of the attack before Washington cuts to outside the shuttered windows of the trauma room, showing just how easily this could go unnoticed in the busy environment. Then, Meredith loses her hearing, and suddenly we are inside the patient's head as opposed to the doctors'. It's the most frightening act of television I've seen in quite some time, as Washington cuts out nearly all the sound, leaving us unable to figure out what is going on as Meredith is treated, wheeled into surgery, and convalesces. It's some of the most arresting, adventurous directing on TV, on a twelve-season-old network television show to boot. GET THAT EGOT, DENZEL!
-Denny

Grandfathered (Overall)
I took a chance on the new John Stamos vehicle Grandfathered when it debuted, drawn in mostly by the presence of the divine Paget Brewster, who really boosted the final season of Community. The fact I’ve stuck with it through to last week’s 15th episode speaks less to any revelatory comedic quality than to the comfortable groove the characters quickly settled into - it’s completely unchallenging and only gently amusing for the most part. My choice to highlight it this particular week provides a perfect example of the kind of easy targets Grandfathered cozily hits; Josh Peck’s ex-screen partner Drake Bell guested and the pair basically relived their Drake & Josh dynamic in the form of adult strangers. I think this kind of TV, which normalises different kinds of families and relationships and people while being generically unchallenging and emotionally undemanding, can be just as valuable as cable’s more stimulating adventures. But maybe I’m just getting old.
-David Upton 

"No Way Out" TWD's mid season premiere

Avi Youabian, Editing, The Walking Dead
 This week, The Walking Dead had its mid-season premiere. It was an excellent episode, taut and exciting, directed by Nicotero. Near the end, there was a massive fight scene, that built and built, as more and more people joined the fight against an impossibly massive horde of undead. This is supposed to be a turning point, you see, where it stops being Rick’s small crew and a bunch of Alexandria wimps, and becomes a true community. Knowing this show, there’s no way you can ask the writing to carry that burden (puh-leeze!). Instead, the editing did it, building the size of the fighting force until this one gorgeous scene of rapid cuts, fighter to fighter, straight into the camera. Beautiful. Fierce. Everything a show like this should be.
-Deborah Lipp 

 

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Reader Comments (14)

No one is watching The People Vs. O.J. Simpson? Compelling. Marcia Clark is the best thing that ever happened to Sarah Paulson. This is Paulson's Emmy and in an alternate universe it would be her Oscar.

February 17, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Could have agreed more on TWD. Yes, the most shocking scene was in the middle of the episode, but that beautiful climax of cuts between swings, slashes, and stabbings couldn't have been more perfect. Wonderful work by everyone!

February 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKMN

True story /3rtful, I assumed Paulson/The People vs OJ would be no doubt covered by someone else so I talked up Gillian instead. But goddamn if she's not killing it as Marcia Clark — what Paulson does with a cigarette as a prop is nothing short of outstanding.

February 17, 2016 | Registered CommenterManuel Betancourt

I am LOVING this X-Files reboot/sequel miniseries. Both Anderson and Duchovny slipped back into their roles so smoothly, it's like Mulder and Scully never left us. Anderson was particularly moving in "Home Again". But my favorite so far has been the third episode, the brilliantly titled "Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster", which almost single-handedly made the case for bringing the show back.

I'm not so sure about The Magicians, though. I watched the pilot episode for free on Amazon and... as a HUGE fan of Lev Grossman's novels I was a little disappointed with the overall tone of the thing. Pilots are always weird beasts, and when I have access to the series without having to pay for it I'll watch some more episodes, but as of now I don't feel the need to keep watching. I will admit that the VFX are indeed tremendous and have taken their cues from the books (particularly as regards the complicated hand positions the book talks about with regards to spellcasting) very well.

February 17, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

I'm really enjoying the Magicians too. It's still early so could end up dissapointing but so far so good! Syfy also has three other quality shows: Face Off (a really entertaining make-up completion/reality show!). 12 Monkeys - Some really good episodes with excellent twists and supporting cast but it's still finding its footing and having trouble with a miscast lead. With that said the old Russian scientist without a doubt shoulda been in the awards conversation for supporting actress. The Expanse - a wannabe battlestar galactica. Does have promise.

February 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

3rtful, totally agree. Paulson is outstanding (and I understand the 6th episode of the series is completely told from her POV - I can't wait to see that). I also think Courtney B. Vance is very good.

February 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Sunday's episode of The Walking Dead was edited by the amazing Avi Youabian! Please give him a proper shout-out!!

February 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

I'm really enjoying "The People v O.J. Simpson", they have caught the tone of the coverage. My favourite line by Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark - end of first episode, watching bronco chase -
"We're going to look like Morons ! " Perfection.

"War & Peace" - Paul Dano is a stand out, but the best part are all those Russian & French military uniforms. (Edward Gibbon is the costume designer)

February 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

denny -- what about the tone didn't do it for you? I haven't read the novels.

February 17, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Nathaniel - The first thing is the change in setting. In the books, Brakebills was a University, and the main characters were graduating high school at the start. Only the first book covers their time there, and the rest is about the transition to adulthood/living in the world where parents aren't around to hold your hand and support you through every step. I don't think it makes as much sense as a grad school. One of the main themes is how deeply disappointing authority figures are, something they probably would have figured out after college. Aging them up could work but I'm not sure - it's a different energy.

But the bigger issue is that they pulled the trigger on Fillory too early, and in doing so, doubled down on having Quentin as "The One", which was NEVER the case in the books. It's a trope that has been run into the ground by this point, the weakest part of the pilot, and an attempt to add mystery where it wasn't necessary. Plus, it gets into the idea of "destiny", and part of the books was that such a thing doesn't really exist - that we have to make our own future.

So the show took some of the more interesting things the books did and made them more conventional, and I don't think that was entirely necessary.

February 17, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Ryan - thanks for the info

Denny - oh, that's disappointing to hear because I hate that trope more than any trope in fiction. I also actually don't get why it's popular. It seems exclusionary to me so I wonder why so many people respond to it when that makes them disposable because they're just a tiny nothing in the universe and this ONE PERSON is the one that matters. zzzz

February 17, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I really agree about Gillian Anderson. She's always been amazing and I am loving this new x-files!
And also, I'd like to mention Cush Jumbo for bringing a much needed new and interesting presence to The Good Wife.

February 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterFadhil

Is anybody watching American Crime? It has been incredible good this season especially Regina King and Lili Taylor. Strong AF

February 17, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterjjablo
February 17, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

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