With “The Haunting of Bly Manor” (Netflix) – his spiritual (pun intended) sequel to 2018’s “The Haunting of Hill House” — Mike Flanagan continues to solidify his status as a horror auteur tapped into the tragic beauty afforded by the genre. A damp, dark-haired, white-dressed, hidden-faced woman in a Flanagan work is more than a scary ghost: She symbolizes the bittersweet tragedy of a forgotten past. (SPOILERS FOLLOW.)
Not all October premieres have to be scary – although a lot of them are (see later in this post) – so let’s start off this look at first episodes of new streaming shows with “Emily in Paris” (Netflix). Well, I shouldn’t say it’s not at all scary. The story of Chicagoan Emily’s relocation to Paris for her job emphasizes her outsider status and loneliness even though she always puts on her delightfully Lily Collins face.
Who needs “Jurassic World: Dominion”? (Well, actually, I could use a little “Jurassic World: Dominion.” Or any big franchise movie. But that’s not to be in 2020. So the sixth “Jurassic Park” movie is now slated for 2022.) But helping tide us over rather nicely is the animated “Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous” (September, Netflix) (no, not “Camp Crustacean” … dumb autocorrect). This eight-episode season (with a second season already announced) is nominally aimed at children but will also appeal to some of us who got hooked on this franchise 30 years ago with Michael Crichton’s novel.
With many shows releasing entire seasons at once nowadays, I haven’t had time to watch full seasons yet, but I have checked out some first episodes and wanted to weigh in on them. Even with the pandemic limiting the number of new fall shows, there are still more than any one TV geek can watch, so here are my first-episode impressions of four September launches:
Over six Sundays, we’re looking back at the five seasons (and one movie) of one of the last decade’s elite TV series: AMC’s “Breaking Bad.” Wrapping it up is “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” (October 2019, Netflix):
The pandemic has wreaked havoc with fall TV scheduling (it’s hard to tell one socially distanced, masked story, let alone fill a slate with them), and also revealed that (no surprise) cable and streaming were better prepared with content in their pipelines than the networks. But while 2020 serves up the thinnest lineup in modern TV history, it’s not a total wash. Here are my thoughts on 13 notable fall premieres, along with a “Go Bananas” Level (on a 10-point scale) of how excited I am for the series. All times Eastern:
All the Bright Places” (February, Netflix) walks a fine line. For some young viewers, it’ll be the best movie they’ve ever seen; for cynical older viewers, it’ll be a cliché-ridden bore fest. For me, it’s pretty much the best Gen-Z teen romance I’ve seen (Elle Fanning and Justice Smith are late-era millennials, but they play younger than their ages). There’s always the fear that modern teens will be off-puttingly self-centered and all-knowing, but I liked Fanning’s Violet and Smith’s Finch, and they are quite cute when going through the cliches.
After the first two parts showed a lot of potential and sometimes were quite fun, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” Part 3 (January, Netflix) is more of a slog to get through, even though it’s eight episodes instead of the usual 10. Or maybe it’s because of the lower episode count but slightly longer episodes. The writers lean into the “Gilmore Girls” approach of telling as much story as they feel like in one sitting, but “Sabrina” should ideally use the “Buffy” approach with an act-based structure.
Marriage Story” (2019, Netflix) is both a stark portrayal of why people should never get married (it costs way too much to get divorced) and a surprisingly good love story considering that we meet these people amid their divorce proceedings. In stage play-like fashion, writer-director Noah Baumbach portrays the daily lives of Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson). While there is one extreme shouting match, the couple is mostly calm and mature; it’s actually the legal process of divorce that gets a viewer’s blood boiling.
The Irishman” (2019, Netflix) pairs nicely as the back half of a double feature with 1992’s “Hoffa.” That film, which was likewise Oscar-nominated, focuses on Jimmy Hoffa’s creation and popularization of a workers’ union, whereas director Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” digs into the darker corners of the mobsters who circled around Hoffa. Both films are from the point of view of one of Hoffa’s trusted seconds: Danny DeVito’s Bobby Ciaro in “Hoffa” and Robert De Niro’s Frank Sheeran, the titular Irishman.