What if you took a nail-biting, twist-packed thriller — then replaced its supercompetent badass protagonist with two ordinary, well-meaning schlubs way, way out of their depth? That’s the sly premise behind the BBC/Hulu co-production The Wrong Mans, a fresh, funny, impressively executed twist on the classic Hitchcockian mistaken identity story.
For all the justified accolades heaped on Pixar since the original Toy Story in 1995, there’s been one lingering critique: Most of their movies are, well, boy stories. Sure, they’ve created tons of terrific and memorable female characters — even when, like Ellie in Up, they only actually appear in the film’s first ten minutes. But the bulk of their narratives center on the concerns and tribulations of men and boys. Or, uh, guy-bots. Or man-cars. Or he-fish.
Brave is a happy exception, exploring the complexities of mother-daughter relationships in ways few major films ever bother to tackle. But Pixar infamously parted ways with original director Brenda Chapman halfway through the movie. And if you’ve ever seen Chapman, with her Merida-esque giant shock of frizzy red hair, you can guess that the project had a fair bit of personal significance for her.
Even The Incredibles, my favorite Pixar film, pays slightly more attention to Mr. Incredible and Dash than Elastigirl or Violet. (Although in fairness, Bob’s arc during the film is to become more like his awesome wife, and fully engage in family life instead of leaving all the domestic stuff to her.)
In that light, last night’s Toy Story of Terror special on ABC — which doesn’t seem to be available anywhere on streaming, most likely because Disney really, really enjoys money — is a huge step forward for Pixar.
ABC has announced that they’re developing Houdini, a “fast-paced modern-day procedural” in which Houdini will team up with “an unusually gifted female detective to solve the cases that baffle the LAPD.” Clearly, someone watched the premiere—and the ratings—of Sleepy Hollow while snacking on Red Bull & Pop Rocks.
I guess the time is right for my pitch. Finally.
"Bully" — Teddy Roosevelt is inexplicably wandering around present-day Manhattan, a little dazed but none the worse for wear. In short order, he takes over the NYPD and whips it into shape, carrying a big stick and solving crime.
We’ll see flashbacks to the past when he originally ran the department, and perhaps there’s an overarching mystery that begins back then to explain how and why he’s been whisked into the present.
And forget cars or horses, he’s going to ride a moose. In the Hudson River.
Your move, television.
Oh, Andre Braugher, how I have missed seeing you be witheringly disdainful in a police precinct.
Braugher’s on the short list of folks I’d watch recite the phone book. The man can turn even the simplest line — “They have adorable chubby cheeks,” for instance — into a three-course feast. But who knew the erstwhile Frank Pembleton would make such a great comic team with Andy Samberg?
Braugher’s subtlety and sheer dramatic presence shouldn’t pair this well with Samberg’s endearingly shameless goofballery. But somehow, in Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine, it does.
From left to right: Braugher’s just spotted the ABC exec who demanded that Last Resort be more of a soap opera; Samberg hopes you’ll forgive him for That’s My Boy; and Melissa Fumero is imagining she’s a giant robot.
It’s regrettably easy to get superheroes wrong. Take them too seriously, and you get depressing, joyless slogs like this past summer’s Man of Steel. Fail to take them seriously at all, and you miss out on brightly costumed heroes’ universal ability to appeal to the best in us, and make us feel like kids again.
At first glance, Hulu’s The Awesomes might seem to fall into that latter trap. But this tale of a misfit super-team, created by SNL's Seth Myers and Mike Shoemaker, heroically thwarts that ever-present peril. It's interested in telling an actual story with well-rounded characters — but it still manages to get big laughs along the way.
Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black, from Weeds creator Jenji Kohan, is sharp, funny, and moving. It’s also chockablock with the kind of people you just don’t see on most television shows: Lots and lots of women, with lives and personalities and agendas that have nothing to do with men. Women who are young, old, fit, fat, rich, poor, gay, straight, white, black, Hispanic, and/or transgendered — and who are too busy being, you know, people to conform to any of the tropes or expectations TV’s built up around any of those labels.
By design, Kohan’s built her show, based on a memoir by Piper Kerman, around a pretty, upper-middle-class blonde white lady. (Not to damn star Taylor Schilling with faint praise; she deftly juggles comedy and drama, and makes a potentially obnoxious character consistently sympathetic.) And the very first episode wastes no time giving you the exact kind of shower-room nakedness you expect from a show about a women’s prison.
After which, it kinda dusts off its hands, says, “You satisfied now?”, and gets down to the business of telling interesting stories about complex human beings.
I’ve been enjoying House of Cards, Netflix’s most recent big foray into original drama. And my fondness for teen werewolf drama is regrettably well-documented. So Hemlock Grove, its new series from novelist Brian McGreevy, Lee Shipman, and tiresome goremeister Eli Roth, should be right up my alley. I’ve been looking forward to it for months, in fact.
Unfortunately, Hemlock Grove's first two hours are, um, not great. Really not great. The series has terrific, imaginative ideas, but seems to have no clue what to do with them.
Network TV is thickly carpeted with corpses.
No. 1 network CBS has built the foundation of its ratings success on more than a decade’s worth of bodies, piling up by the week in its various procedurals; often female, often unclothed, killed in ways both improbable and somehow depressingly mundane. But along the way, network crime shows — and many of their cable counterparts — have lost the sense of horror that ought to accompany death. They’ve forgotten to make it frightening, to make us feel for the victims, to make our guts twist with sorrow for the awfulness of it all.
NBC’s Hannibal brings all those primal emotions screaming back to prominence, and hooray for that.
UPDATE: Well, that was fast.
Back in the day, I cultivated a regrettably well-earned reputation as TeeVee’s resident Veronica Mars superfan. And while time, Dax Shepherd, and sloth-induced hysterical crying jags have diminished my fanboy ardor somewhat, the show still easily ranks in my personal all-time TV top 10.
So I’m more than a little psyched to see that Mars creator Rob Thomas and star Kristen Bell have teamed up, with Warner Bros.’s blessing, to launch a Kickstarter drive for a big-screen sequel to the show.
However adversely tree-dwelling mammals may affect her central nervous system, Bell remains one heck of an actress, and she’s long been hurting for roles equal to her talent. Plus, Thomas’s idea for the film’s plot, which promises to pick up the various threads left dangling by the show’s suitably grim final episode, sounds nifty and intriguing.
I’ve already chipped in ten bucks — sorry, Rob, but even I would feel a bit embarrassed to own or wear a “Veronica Mars: The Movie” commemorative T-shirt — and I really hope this project surpasses its $2 million goal by April 12. I would have killed for something like this back when the show was initially cancelled, and I’m thrilled to see creators finding new ways to let fans directly fund the things they enjoy.