TV OT is a weekly look at what NewsMadura’s entertainment team is watching as too much television makes us all work overtime.
Summer is often associated with mild escapism, but with the theatrical box office still stumbling, TV remains our favorite distraction. And browsing post-Memorial Day reviews really made the quality of the documentary programming stand out, from docuseries to individual films available (primarily) through streaming services and premium networks.
The end of the summer has led to an unfortunate deluge of September 11-related programs to mark the 20th anniversary — “unfortunately” not because some of those productions aren’t good, but because their sheer weight has caused them to have canceled each other out.
There are plenty more good documentaries on the near horizon, like Ken Burns’ upcoming deep dive (is there another kind) in “Muhammad Ali” for PBS. But there’s also a flurry of new sitcoms and dramas after Labor Day — beyond just the traditional push of the big networks — so maybe, just maybe, we can all take a well-deserved break from reality. Hopefully not like the guests at White Lotus.
A tribute to the king of Cringe
Speaking of “The White Lotus,” the show inspired NewsMadura’s Sandra Gonzalez to go back to Mike White’s earlier HBO series, “Enlightened,” and she submitted this message from the way back machine:
“After-‘White Lotus,’ I kind of had a Mike White-a-thon watching ‘Enlightened’ for the first time. This is where I’d normally start with a hearty endorsement of the show, but I’m not It’s not that this isn’t an exceptional series — it really is and Laura Dern deserved all the credit it brought to her — but I don’t think it’s for everyone. If you have severe social anxiety, in fact, it can too much for you to handle. I know this because the series is often too much for me to handle.
I’m currently on the second season and just watched an episode where Dern’s Amy, a well-meaning but often misguided human being, joins Twitter for the first time. For Amy – the type of person who is endlessly searching for meaning in her own life and affirmation – Twitter can be a blessing and/or a curse. Usually both. In this case, it’s clear that the only thing Amy has done by joining the platform is a second place in life that can be ignored. In one scene, she sues a coworker for following her the moment she created her account. In another, she talks to a celebrated advocate and preaches the power of “tweeting.” In the middle of both scenes, I paused the show to die.
It’s a move I find myself doing at least once per episode. Sometimes Amy exhibits such cringe-like behavior that I have to pause, curl up in a ball, and relive all my own embarrassing moments. Am I as cringing as Amy? Dear Mr Luke Wilson, I hope not. But if you were to ask my fear, the answer is a rousing one: “Of course you are.”
Watching the show is no different than watching a really great horror movie — my heart is pounding, my palms get sweaty, and sometimes I cover my eyes with my hands and look through my fingers. Category: social horror, if you will.
All that to say, thanks for the nightmares, Mike White.”
Another round battle against billionaires, or the rock ’em sock ’em rich
The show continues to follow the bitter feud between Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis) and Michael Prince (Corey Stoll), which has truly become the focus of this season, although as usual there are many tentacles, as well as separate crises for Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti). and other supporting players.
Honestly, the Showtime drama continues to be fun, but feels a bit played out in this fifth season, perhaps because there’s only so much betrayal and counter-treason and ingenious, high-stakes financial doubles that one show can comfortably handle.
Or maybe I’m the only one and your returns may vary.
Sparking joy (or at least a few laughs)
Finally, for those looking for a Labor Day escape without braving the roads, NewsMadura’s Megan Thomas sent along some thoughts, and we’ve put together this list of suggestions:
“Marie Kondo returned to Netflix this week to create more joy in a spin-off of her minimalist series, this time with a focus on helping deserving entrepreneurs. If watching people tidy up their lives doesn’t make you happy, here are seven other (new) things to watch to lighten up your Labor Day weekend.”
“hacking” (HBO Max) – Jeanne Smart is reason enough to watch.
“Swe” (Showtime) – Ziwerekoru “Ziwe” Fumudoh delivers distinctive and refreshingly razor-sharp cultural commentary with a smile.
“What We Do in the Shadows” (FX) – The vampire comedy just returned for its second season, and it’s as fun as ever, for the living and the undead alike.
“Ted Lasso” Season 2 (Apple TV+) Ignore the Twitter debates about whether or not it lives up to season 1’s hype. If “Carol of the Bells” (season 2 episode 4) doesn’t melt your heart, you’re a Grinch.