The living-room war
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.