Jerrod Carmichael’s ‘Rothaniel’ and 7 more TV shows to stream this weekend
Welcome to Screen Gab, the newsletter for everyone who could use a laugh this week. (Or a scream, for that matter.)
In our 30th issue, we sing the praises of Jerrod Carmichael’s new comedy special, “Rothaniel”; freshman sitcom “Abbott Elementary”; and Japanese import “Old Enough,” which — well, just read on. It’s worth it, we promise.
And if you’re more in the mood to pound the earth and shout at the heavens this weekend, we have you covered there, too, with a guest appearance by “The Dropout” star Amanda Seyfried, who plays disgraced Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes. Plus, links to our coverage of “Winning Time,” “Benjamin Franklin,” “61st Street,” the aftermath of The Slap, and much more.
Want to be featured in Screen Gab? Please send your TV or streaming movie recommendation to our email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, with your name and location. Submissions should be no longer than 200 words and are subject to editing for length and clarity.
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Streaming recommendations from the film and TV experts at The Times
Jerrod Carmichael made his third HBO special, the quietly marvelous “Rothaniel,” the occasion of officially, if that’s the word, coming out as gay. That isn’t a spoiler; it has been in the news and was referred to by Carmichael in his opening monologue when he guest-hosted “Saturday Night Live” last week. Directed by fellow comedian Bo Burnham, who also helmed Carmichael’s previous HBO special, “8,” it is no ordinary hour of stand-up; Carmichael works seated, in the sort of folding chair you might find in a community room or group therapy session, sometimes leaning back, sometimes folded over himself. As for comedy, it is very often funny and often not trying to be. “Secrets” is his overarching theme, beginning with his never-used actual name, and moving on to his father’s other families, and finally close to home. Things get quiet; audience members, unprompted, ask questions, which are answered seriously. Shot mostly in close-up, in low light, its cool palette offset only by Carmichael’s red shirt and some modest gold bling, the audience barely discernible in the dark, it departs from the run of overlighted, indifferently framed, randomly edited comedy specials; every cut counts. Intimate and unhurried, “Rothaniel” translates to the screen the atmosphere of a great live performance, where no matter where you are in the room, you feel about four feet from the performer. —Robert Lloyd
The cheery rainbow letters of “Old Enough!” (Netflix) combined with its simple premise belie the emotional roller coaster of this slice-of-life reality series. Known in Japan as “Hajimete no Otsukai,” or “First Errand,” the show follows children as young as 2 who are sent on their first “unsupervised” errand by their parents. The tasks include picking up groceries and delivering goods, with the very young kids setting off on journeys down the street or even a few bus stops away. You can’t help but cheer on the kids, who are often initially hesitant but become determined to help, particularly when the youngsters have to work through obstacles or mishaps. Each episode is a heartwarming look into different families and communities with a sprinkling of unintentional comedy that comes with spending time with small kids (and the occasional shots of scrambling crew members unnaturally trying to blend into the scenery). Fair warning, you will see some kids crying. But overall, there are more triumphant smiles than tears. —Tracy Brown
Everything you need to know about the film or TV series everyone’s talking about
As a former public schoolteacher myself — at a south Louisiana high school, rather than a Philadelphia primary school — I can attest that pop culture rarely gets the profession right. (FYI, Hollywood: Most of us operate somewhere on the spectrum between “Stand and Deliver” and “Half Nelson,” and almost none of us are as lame as the teachers in “Gossip Girl” 2.0.) This may explain why creator/star Quinta Brunson‘s single-cam sensation “Abbott Elementary” (ABC, Hulu), which concludes its first season Tuesday, is such a breath of fresh air: It recognizes that the good-natured, well-intentioned, profoundly absurd experience of wrangling other people’s children 180 days a year is already comedy. It just needed a little shape.
Credit goes, of course, to the series’ winsome plotting and endlessly quotable dialogue; “Sweet baby Jesus and the grown one too!” deserves its own coffee mug. But most crucial to its success may be the sterling cast, including Brunson’s idealist, Ms. Teagues; Sheryl Lee Ralph’s straitlaced veteran, Ms. Howard; and breakout Janelle James’ hilariously irresponsible Principal Ava. (Having been ribbed by my own students once or twice, I have a particular soft spot for “HuffPo-reading gay Pete Buttigieg” Mr. Hill, brilliantly played by Chris Perfetti.) Already renewed for a second season, “Abbott” and its CBS counterpart, “Ghosts,” have shown that there’s plenty of life in the network sitcom. And if there’s any justice at all, they’ll bring broadcast back into the Emmy conversation this year, too. —Matt Brennan
A weekly chat with actors, writers, directors and more about what they’re working on — and what they’re watching
As Elizabeth Holmes in Hulu’s “The Dropout,” Amanda Seyfried delivers more than just an impressive modulation of the disgraced Theranos founder’s singular voice (read more about that here). She presents a striking portrayal of the Silicon Valley fraud behind one of the most elaborate startup schemes of all time. The finale of the 10-episode limited series is now streaming. Here’s more from my video conversation with Seyfried, which took place in late January and began with Seyfried singing the praises of her must-see pick of the moment: “Encanto.” (Disney+) —Yvonne Villarreal
Seyfried: It’s another Lin Manuel masterpiece. It’s making kids more emotionally intelligent, I think. This generation is so lucky to have him. But it’s the same thing that “Hamilton” meant to us. We’re getting all that poetry into these songs. And it makes sense and kids hear it and they can understand it. I mean, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” …
I want to hear you sing that as Elizabeth Holmes …
Seyfried: [In Holmes’ voice] She can’t sing. I don’t think she can sing. [Back in her own voice] I want to work with him [Miranda]. I want to be his next Andrew Garfield. I want to develop something with him and get to work with him and all of his genius singer friends. I wonder if he’s gonna get cloned? Because that’s once in a century, in terms of what he’s doing for theater.
There’s no shortage of content related to Holmes and this case — there’s the podcast, this series, an upcoming feature film, a documentary. Why do you think there’s so much interest in her?
Seyfried: She’s an enigma. We really don’t know her still. We keep telling her story, because we do not know her. And she won’t let us know her.
How glued to her trial were you? Did you find yourself bracing for a certain outcome?
Seyfried: I was up-to-the-minute updated. In fact, Taylor Dunn, who’s one of the producers of ”The Dropout” [and was a co-writer/producer for the podcast on which its based] was so helpful in keeping me posted. I couldn’t catch up fast enough. It was so weird. I was so invested — how can I not be? I mean, we knew [the show] was going to come out after trial, because the trial was happening while we were shooting. But it’s just such a reminder of how real it is.
It’s funny — usually you’re on one side or the other. I just find myself being on the side of the kid, the baby. I’m in a weird place with it. But I definitely want that kid to be taken care of the right way and to be shielded from that.
Recommendations from Screen Gab readers
Before “Squid Game,” there was “Vincenzo,” a dark and occasionally violent comedy on Netflix. Referencing “The Godfather,” “Parasite,” maybe “Batman,” Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading the People” and martial arts films, it is a 20-episode examination of pervasive corruption in South Korea.
Song Joong-Ki plays a Korean Italian mafia consigliere who returns to the country of his birth to steal a cache of Chinese gangster gold. In the process he takes down corrupt officials and conglomerate heads, falls in love and sorts out his troubled past.
Apart from the pleasure of looking at Mr. Song, it is the clever writing, the fully realized characters (even minor ones) and the blend of comedy and sadness, often in the same scene, that draws me back to this show repeatedly. For a deeper dive, Netflix has provided behind-the-scenes videos on YouTube.
The TV shows and streaming movies to keep an eye on in the coming week
Friday, April 8
“All the Old Knives” (Amazon): Chris Pine, Thandiwe Newton, Laurence Fishburne and Jonathan Pryce headline this spy thriller, adapted by Olen Steinhauer from his 2015 novel.
“A Black Lady Sketch Show” (HBO): The sketch comedy that brought you “Invisible Spy” and Quinta Brunson (see above) returns for its third season.
“Metal Lords” (Netflix): D.B. Weiss (“Game of Thrones”) tries his hand at a battle-of-the-bands comedy. No dragons, we presume.
“Woke” (Hulu): Co-created and inspired by real-life political cartoonist Keith Knight, Season 2 of this topical comedy finds its hero (Lamorne Morris) in the spotlight, and under scrutiny, as his career as an activist/artist takes off.
Tuesday, April 12
“Hard Cell” (Netflix): Women’s prison. Comedy. Netflix. No, it’s not “2 Orange 2 Black”: It’s a six-episode mockumentary from Catherine Tate (“Doctor Who,” “The Office”).
Wednesday, April 13
“Our Great National Parks” (Netflix): In plenty of time for Earth Day — but more than a decade after Ken Burns — the streamer takes on one of this country’s finest innovations. Narrated by Barack Obama.
Thursday, April 14
“The Kardashians” (Hulu): The first family of reality television returns less than a year after the conclusion of “Keeping Up” to continue the saga on a new platform.
“Killing It” (Peacock): This Craig Robinson project is practically New York’s hottest club: It features real estate speculation, gig work, python killing and Dan Goor as a producer.
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