Succession Season 2 (HBO) Written by Jesse Armstrong, Jon Brown, Tony Roche, Georgia Prichett, Will Tracy, Susan Soon He Stanton, Jonathan Glatzer, and Mary Laws Directed by Mark Mylod, Andrij Parekh, Shari Spring Berman & Robert Pulcini, Matt Shakman, Becky Martin, and Kevin Bray
Season two of Succession starts with a feeling numbing cold. Kendall Roy (Jeremy Armstrong) is at a European spa when he’s summoned by his father, Logan (Brian Cox), to make a statement on the strength of his dad’s position in a pending buyout. Kendall complies, broken from what transpired in the final moments of season one and now forever kneeling before his father, who bailed him out. That is the arc of this character throughout these ten episodes, exploring if he can ever have his own voice or will forever bend the knee and allow his privilege to protect him. Some viewers may see Kendall as the one “good guy” in the Roy family, but Kendall is not. He actively participates in the cruel and criminal acts; his family perpetuates, and he benefits from the outcomes.
Stargirl (The CW) Season One, Episode One – “Pilot” Written by Geoff Johns Directed by Glen Winter
I am a huge fan of Geoff Johns’s contributions to DC Comics, mostly as the Justice Society writer. He was able to present aging heroes and those who took up their legacies in a way no writer since Roy Thomas had done since All-Star Squadron in the early 1980s. There’s always a rich sense of history that is reasonably accessible to the unfamiliar and resonates powerfully with those who know the backstories of characters. Making a series based on Stargirl, which I reviewed the comic earlier this month, is a brilliant choice to introduce lesser-known heroes and villains.
Tales From the Loop (Amazon Prime) Season One, Episode Eight – “Home” Written by Nathaniel Halperin Directed by Jodie Foster
Tales From the Loop has always been a complicated series to parse and break down. It’s an anthology show but also a collection of interconnected short stories with ongoing plot elements. It’s a science fiction series that uses its fantastic ingredients to highlight deeply human stories. The tone incredibly sedate and contemplative despite presenting large scale cosmic ideas. I don’t imagine Tales From the Loop will find a broad audience as it’s such a specific thing, and not every episode hits on all cylinders leading to an uneven experience. I still argue these eight episodes are worth a watch because if nothing else, they are some of the most visually gorgeous television.
Jeeves & Wooster (ITV) Season One, Original airdates: April 22 – May 13, 1990 Written by P.G. Wodehouse and Clive Exton Directed by Robert Young
Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie were a very well-known comedy duo in the U.K. coming out of the late 1980s. They had a top-rated skit comedy series, A Bit of Fry & Laurie, while making appearances in Rowan Atkinson’s Black Adder show. When it came time to cast the iconic English valet and his buffoonish employer Fry & Laurie were hesitant to step into such significant roles. When it became apparent the show was going to be made whether they were in it or not, they took the parts believing they could do the original text justice.
Come Back Little Shiksa (Season 4, Episode 2) Original airdate: October 6, 1987 Written by Jeff Reno & Ron Osborn Directed by Allan Arkush
In the wake of season three’s conclusion, nothing was holding back David and Maddie from being together. However, the writers seemed to know that breaking that simmering tension took away an element that the viewers loved. So, they decided to send Maddie away from Los Angeles as a curveball to David. She goes home to Chicago, staying with her parents, and tries to explain to David she needs time to figure what this is and where it is going.
Tales from the Loop (Amazon Prime) Season One, Episode Seven – “Enemies” Written by Nathaniel Halperin Directed by Ti West
Ti West is a director that came across my radar back in 2009 with his Eighties horror homage, The House of the Devil. I enjoyed his follow-up films, The Innkeepers and You’re Next. Since the early 2010s, he’s done a few other lesser movies and started to pick up more television work. I personally enjoy his filmmaking style because it is nostalgic without being shallow, West understands how to set a mood and sit in that space instead of leaning into endless, unearned jump scares. His contribution to Tales from the Loop actually borrows more from the artbook’s sequel Things From the Flood and brings some very subtle horror elements to the series.
Big Man on Mulberry Street (Season 3, Episode 6) Original airdate: November 18, 1986 Written by Karen Hall Directed by Christian I. Nyby II & Stanley Donen
This episode of Moonlighting hits on two aspects of the series at once, the metafictional flights of fancy and the simmer sexual tension between David and Maddie. David once again shows his ass, coming to a meeting with a client hungover. Maddie explodes as expected, but when she comes to David’s office to chew him out, but finds her partner forlorn. A close friend has died, and upon further scrutiny, Maddie learns it is David’s ex-brother-in-law. Maddie becomes obsessed with finding out more about his ex-wife and what led to their break-up. Bruce Willis has a wonderfully dramatic scene where we get to see a lot of David’s vulnerabilities. The icing on this particular cake is a dream/dance sequence of Maddie’s set to a song by Billy Joel and choreographed by the legend Stanley Donen (Singin’ in the Rain). The scene was unlike anything seen on television at the time, production quality, and artistry that had to stun audiences at the time.
Tales from the Loop (Amazon Prime) Season One, Episode Six – “Parallel” Written by Nathaniel Halperin Directed by Charlie McDowell
Tales from the Loop continues its trend of taking a previously supporting character and making them the protagonist of their own episode. This time it is Gaddis, the security guard that works the gates of the Loop. We spend some time in the first act getting to know him better and quickly realize Gaddis lives his life in lonely sadness. He has friends, like Loretta and her husband, but he doesn’t have any intimate relationships. There is a brief flirtation with a new man in town, but Gaddis’ insecurities get in the way. Instead, he focuses his time on repairing an old tractor in a field near his home.
Moonlighting is a show that doesn’t often enter the modern discourse on television, but I’m here to argue that it is a remarkable television achievement that opened up the door for other hour dramas to be comedies and to experiment with their format. Moonlighting allowed flights of fantasy to take over the show and engaged continuously in Fourth Wall-breaking and meta-conversation about being a television show.
Tales from the Loop (Amazon Prime) Season One, Episode Five – “Control” Written by Nathaniel Halperin Directed by Tim Mielants
Tales from the Loop continues its interconnected anthology structure with a chapter that touches on events from episode two, yet you don’t have to watch that one to understand what is going on. In fact, I think you could watch this series on shuffle and still have the same experience as the connections are so light. There is even a brief reference to episode three that you don’t need to fully comprehend to follow the story being told here. The theme for this episode is Grief and how people work through that process while feeling powerless to do anything.