The liv­ing-room war

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE -

Critic Hank Stuever pre­views new shows, in­clud­ing “The Viet­nam War,” an epic doc­u­men­tary from Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.

Ex­cerpted and edited from Post TV critic Hank Stuever’s weekly on­line chat on all things TV.

“The Hand­maid’s Tale”: I’m re­ally late to the party on this one, but . . . I’ve never read the book. Is this a good choice for me to buy to watch on a long trip? Any other ideas? I’m run­ning out of shows, de­vour­ing as I have most of your and oth­ers’ rec­om­men­da­tions (“The Amer­i­cans,” “In­se­cure,” “Big Lit­tle Lies,” “The Af­fair,” “Fargo,” “The Good Fight,” “Wolf Hall,” “Home­land,” “Broad­church,” “The Night Of” . . . wow, that’s a lot of TV; maybe I just need to pick up a book. (No “Game of Thrones,” please.)

Stuever: Based on your view­ing diet, I think you will re­ally en­joy “The Hand­maid’s Tale” and you do not need to have read the book.

And, go­ing out on a limb, but you might like “Good Be­hav­ior” (the Michelle Dock­ery show on TNT) as a sort of silly (but dra­matic) pair­ing that will take some of the dystopian edge off.

“Crim­i­nal Minds”: Can you think of a rea­son why “Crim­i­nal Minds” is still on the air? It strikes me that there comes a time when tor­tur­ing women and chil­dren isn’t a fun thing any­more.

Stuever: Since it’s on CBS, I would say the an­swer is that it gets ex­actly the rat­ings that CBS wants from it, in re­la­tion to what it costs to make it (di­vided by what syn­di­ca­tion/re­run bucks are in­volved). I don’t think there are a whole lot of moral qualms in­volved.

One Sea­son vs. Mul­ti­ple: I watched “Ozark” on rec­om­men­da­tion and re­ally en­joyed it. I see that it was picked up for a sec­ond sea­son. Some of my fa­vorite stream­ing shows seem like they were in­tended for one sea­son (“Stranger Things,” “Search Party,” “The Hand­maid’s Tale”), then are pop­u­lar and get picked up. I would imag­ine that, cre­atively, it would be dif­fi­cult to craft a good story with a be­gin­ning and end, with also the hope that you could take the char­ac­ters fur­ther if there was re-

newal. I guess it’s not a ques­tion . . . just an ob­ser­va­tion. Carry on.

Stuever: I think many shows seem that way as a prag­matic ges­ture, in case it re­ally is just one sea­son. That’s cer­tainly the case with “Stranger Things,” which could to­tally keep to its one sea­son, even though it leaves plenty to chew on and se­quelize. Same goes for “Search Party.”

I dis­agree that “The Hand­maid’s Tale” looked like a one-sea- son propo­si­tion. They spent a lot of time ex­pand­ing that story into a broader un­der­ground-revo­lu­tion story that very ob­vi­ously serves as a plat­form for fur­ther sea­sons. Sure, Of­fred/June still wound up at the same fate­ful but cryptic mo­ment por­trayed in the book, but the dif­fer­ence now is that it felt like a cliffhanger, not a semi-am­bigu­ous end.

I don’t think any of this is very new — all shows start off more or less on spec, leav­ing room for an­other sea­son, if granted.

AHS: Cult: Maybe it’s be­cause “Amer­i­can Hor­ror Story: Roanoke” was so bad, but so far so good with “Cult”!

Stuever: We have slightly dif­fer­ent opin­ions. I re­viewed it based on the first three episodes and think it gets old pretty quick, but we all re­mem­ber sea­sons of AHS that would swerve and lurch in other di­rec­tions mid­way through. I hope they’ve got some­thing up their sleeves be­sides Trump anx­i­ety and clown anx­i­ety.


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