TV

handmaids tale

The Handmaid’s Tale is the story of an America that woke up too late. "Now I'm awake to the world. I was asleep before,” protagonist Offred (Elizabeth Moss) explains in the the prescient new Hulu series, based on the 1985 dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood. "That's how we let it happen. Nothing changes instantaneously. In a gradually heating bathtub, you'd be boiled to death before you knew it."

The world she has come to in is Gilead, a version of the United States in which a fundamentalist Christian cult has come to power following environmental disaster, an infertility pandemic, and — allegedly — a deadly terrorist attack on Washington D.C.. While Offred’s line is lifted from a book written over 30 years ago, that surreal realization — the dreadful feeling of opening your eyes to a disturbing reality you should have seen coming — will be familiar to anyone who woke up on November 9, 2016, shocked and gutted at what we let happen. That’s why The Handmaid’s Tale is the most viscerally terrifying and most vitally important show of the Trump era: It speaks to the same hollow place of despair and disbelief — the pang of being betrayed by our government, by our men, by each other — that pains us now...

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There is a lot to dig into in I Love Dick, Amazon’s deceptively layered new original series from Jill Soloway. Based on the 1997 feminist cult classic (an epistolary, memoiristic novel by Chris Kraus), I Love Dick is the story of one woman's spectacular unravelling, played to frenetic perfection by Kathryn Hahn. The show brims with hyper-intellectual subtext — traversing art and feminist theory, exploring the female gaze, and interrogating the patriarchy. (Don't worry, it’s not at all dry or haughty.) Reams of brilliant social commentary are packed into seemingly simple scenes, like the premiere's standout confrontation during a hostile dinner, a scene I didn't fully appreciate until I watched it for a second time.

Chris (Hahn), a fledgling indie filmmaker, follows her husband Sylvère (Griffin Dunne), a Holocaust scholar, from New York to the insular artistic oasis of Marfa, Texas. (You know it as the town behind that infamous art installation of a desert Prada store.) Sylvère has a summer residency in Marfa under a renowned artist named Dick (Kevin Bacon), an aloof yet magnetic cowboy resembling a modern Marlboro Man...

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Feud: Bette and Joan, Ryan Murphy's newest anthology series about the storied fight between aging screen legends Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange), begins with a scene at the 1961 Golden Globe Awards. Marilyn Monroe wins Best Actress in a musical or comedy for her turn in Some Like It Hot. As the blonde starlet sashays to the stage to cheers and applause, the camera hones in on a bejeweled Joan Crawford, positively seething, martini and cigarette in hand. "I've got great tits too, but I don't throw them in everyone's face," Crawford groans to her date.

Crawford's catty dig barely conceals the actress' true emotion: a deep pain, stoked by Monroe's curvaceous reminder to Crawford, then 55, of the loss of her youth — and, therefore, her viability in Hollywood, her passion, her livelihood. As the new "it" girl, Monroe was scoring all the roles that used to be Crawford's. That cruel reality damaged and embittered Crawford, and pitted her against rival star Bette Davis in their epic battle that would play out onscreen in Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?...

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“Are there any black people here?” Chelsea Handler asks as she pans the audience, one minute into Uganda Be Kidding Me Live. “Smile, so I can see you.” Mildly offended? Morally upright readers, stop reading now—you’re strongly advised to skip Netflix’s new, horribly funny stand-up comedy special.

Unleashed by the constraints of late night cable, Handler’s fearless, flippant humor reaches new levels of debauchery in her Netflix debut, a 70-minute taping of the Chicago stop on her Uganda Be Kidding Me book tour. (When Handler’s agent first heard the title, she said no way: “Uganda’s not funny.” Handler vowed, “It will be when I f—ing get there!”)...

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The idea that Playboy magazine is a celebration of women’s bodies and sexuality, as opposed to a degradation of them, was always asinine to me. How could a publication so brazenly catering to the (hetero) male gaze, with its naked centerfolds of sexy women (representing a very narrow view of female desirability), honestly try to bill itself as liberating, not objectifying? I never bought it (literally and figuratively). But Amazon’s new docu-series American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story, a 10-episode deep dive into the man and the magazine's history, has helped me come to terms with that idea. Because Playboy was a force for liberation — about 60 years ago...

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roosevelts

“It’s Shakespeare,” historian George Will says in the opening minutes of The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, “to have a single family in which human flaws and virtues are on such vivid display—and the constant struggle between those vices and those virtues to try to do good and fulfill one’s duty.” In his new PBS series, Ken Burns doesn’t need to embellish history to evoke Shakespeare—only poetically document it. The Roosevelts, then, is not just a fascinating account of one of the most sociopolitically influential families in U.S. history—but a testament to the truth of how pain and hardship can shape a person into an American hero. “All the Roosevelts were wounded people with something to overcome,” explains historian Geoffrey C. Ward.

Tonight’s episode, “Get Action,” which kicks off the weeklong event, stars mostly Theodore, telling the improbable story of how a sick and fearful little boy overcame his weaknesses and grew into the robust, fearless man who would become the youngest president in American history...

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Sunday night's season 6 finale of Homeland was, as always, spectacular: pulse-pounding, smart, heartrending, and leaving us wanting more. But after the screen faded to black — as Carrie (Claire Danes) stood across the mall from the White House, wary of her country's future, as per usual — I had to wonder: did our commander-in-chief just see that? My next thought: shit, I hope not. Here's why. [Spoilers ahead!]

All season, we've tracked an insidious plot to discredit and disempower the president-elect Elizabeth Keane. Last night, the depth and breadth of the conspiracy to take down Keane (politically and literally) was revealed. Following the assassination attempt, we fast-forward six weeks, into day 36 of the rocky Keane presidency. Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham) and his co-conspirators throughout the government were arrested...

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friends from college

Friends From College, Netflix’s new eight-episode dramedy about a tangled, tension-filled group of Harvard pals reunited in New York, has a lot going for it, namely a talented cast — starring the usually charismatic Keegan-Michael Key (Key & Peele) and Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother) as novelist Ethan and attorney Lisa, a married couple who just moved back to New York from Chicago. There's also a promising set up, revolving around complicated groups of oft-dysfunctional adults, which is great when done well (Togetherness, Friends, Friends With Money). And of course, like anyone in touch with the sometimes-crappy person inside them, I tend to relish laughing at shitty people be shitty (SeinfeldIt's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the aptly titled Difficult People). But it doesn't take long to figure out that something crucial is missing from this particular, all too promising show...

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The Bachelorette's season 12 hulking villain Chad Johnson eviscerates platters of deli meat and gnaws on whole, raw sweet potatoes. He does pull-ups with suitcases full of protein powder strapped to his weight-belt. He responds to accusations of steroid use by simply saying, "There’s no way I could have brought them with me." And he trashes his fellow contestants for everything: being shorter than him, being sentient, having kids, having a famous brother, and putting a modicum of effort into literally anything...

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first dates

I wasn't sure how to feel when my editors emailed me about this assignment. They wanted me to write about the NBC reality series First Dates — and to go on a first date with somebody from the show. "We think you'd be great for it!" they assured me. I asked myself: am I just such a catch that I'd clearly be an amazing date for whoever the lucky guy would be? Or was my workplace openness about being a 26-year-old cat lady being taken as a desperate cry for professional intervention? Dear God. Maybe my longtime singleness and utter lack of dating life just emanates from my pores at this point (signature scent: Lonely Girl by Carolyn Todd). But I decided the only way to proceed was deluding myself into believing the former and carrying on, self esteem intact. I would give First Dates a shot...

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