We break down Season 2 of ‘Love Is Blind,’ Netflix’s addictive dating show
This is the Los Angeles Times newsletter about all things TV and streaming movies. This week, we break down Season 2 of “Love Is Blind,” chat with the showrunner of “All-American: Homecoming” and discuss the Oscar hopefuls now streaming as of this week. Scroll down!
Welcome to Screen Gab, the newsletter for everyone who loves talking TV — and boy, do we have the podcast for you.
“Binge Sesh,” which premieres Sunday, is built on the same belief as Screen Gab: that our love of pop culture comes in part from the conversations we have about it, whether recommending our favorites to friends or sharing memes about buzzy TV shows online.
But with this new companion podcast, we’re taking the conversation to the next level. We’ll bring you the real-life stories behind the most talked-about TV shows of the moment — on and off set. We’ll dig into the history, culture, politics and people lighting up the small screen. And we’ll answer your burning questions, from “How did they do that?” to “Did that really happen?”
In Season 1 we pull back the curtain on “Winning Time,” HBO’s series about the L.A. Lakers of the 1980s, one of sports’ most unforgettable dynasties. Immediately following each week’s episode, we’ll be there with stories from the locker room, the soundstage and The Times archives as we explore how the Lakers of Jerry Buss, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Pat Riley transformed the NBA — and American culture.
Be sure to check out our trailer, and subscribe now wherever you get your podcasts.
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Streaming recommendations from the film and TV experts at The Times
For its 19th season, Bravo’s culinary competition headed back to the Lone Star state — a notable move, given that the series’ ninth season was largely considered one of the worst in its history, thanks to its endless gimmicks and flattened representation of Texas cuisine (it’s more than just big meat and barbecue sauce, y’all). The premiere episode of “Top Chef: Houston,” which kicks off with a quickfire with last season’s Houston-based finalist Dawn Burrell, is especially challenging for Jackson Kalb, the chef and owner of Jame Enoteca in El Segundo and Ospi in Venice, who because of a recent bout with COVID-19 has lost his sense of smell and taste. —Ashley Lee
Like a reverse Hardy Boys, the FXX series “Dicktown” stars eccentrically mature John Hodgman as adult detective John Hunchman — assisted by co-creator David Rees (“Going Deep With David Rees”) as his former middle school bully, David Purefoy — whose clients are all teenagers. Animated in the style of “Archer” (whose Matt Thompson executive produces and directs) with a touch of “Scooby-Doo,” its first run of quarter-hour episodes, now available on Hulu, appeared as part of the FXX short-form anthology “Cake.” Where that season reveled in generational incomprehension, mixed with the emotional pathos of grown-ups stuck in an old place in old patterns, the coming one, now standing alone, will see its developmentally arrested heroes straining purposefully toward adulthood. Familiar comedy weirdos on the voice track have included Stephen Tobolowsky, Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Schaal, Heather Lawless, Paul F. Tompkins and the inevitable H. Jon Benjamin. It’s possibly the only cartoon ever to name-check both Karlheinz Stockhausen and “Gymkata,” or either, and the source of one of the great throwaway lines ever: “Attic’s upstairs.” Upcoming cases include “The Mystery of the Marauding Mascot,” “The Mystery of Meg’s Extremely Violent and Inappropriate Musical” and “The Mystery of the Decades-Old Mystery.” —Robert Lloyd
Everything you need to know about the film or TV series everyone’s talking about
Directed by Steven Spielberg from an adaptation by Tony Kushner, the new “West Side Story” began streaming on Disney+ and HBO Max this week. Nominated for seven Academy Awards, including best picture and director, the film aims to address much of what makes the original 1961 film version feel inauthentic in its depiction of Puerto Rican culture by casting Latinx performers and not subtitling any of its Spanish-language dialogue.
The new film is joyous and uplifting when it needs to be, such as the sequence that takes “America” out into the streets but also digs deep for some moving emotional moments. Made with such an astonishing level of craft — a single long take recently inspired a viral meme — the movie has a grace and momentum that itself often feels like a dance. Viewer mileage may vary as to how successfully the film navigates the issues of representation that Spielberg and Kushner set out to conquer. There is also an imbalance in the fact that the two leads, Rachel Zegler and Ansel Elgort, are outmatched and overwhelmed by the supporting cast of Broadway talents including Ariana DeBose, Mike Faist, David Alvarez, Paloma Garcia-Lee and of course Rita Moreno. Released theatrically during the Omicron wave, which likely affected its box office performance, the film may have its best shot at finding an audience now on streaming platforms. (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s “Drive My Car,” a three-hour Japanese film about grief and Chekov nominated for four Oscars, also hit HBO Max this week, giving it a potential audience exponentially bigger than any it has had before. Sometimes the streaming era truly is a marvel.) —Mark Olsen
A weekly chat with actors, writers, directors and more about what they’re working on — and what they’re watching
With “All American: Homecoming,” showrunner Nkechi Okoro Carroll has entered a different world. The CW’s “All American,” consistently among the most popular shows on Netflix, is set against the backdrop of high school football. “Homecoming” follows tennis player Simone (HBCU alum and Los Angeles native Geffri Maya) to Bringston University, a fictional historically Black school in factual Atlanta. This isn’t happenstance.
“Since Season 1 of ‘All American,’ I’ve always envisioned it as a universe,” Carroll says. “I’ve always envisioned it as a jumping-off point for a number of different stories and extensions that tell the story of Black youth and Black young adulthood in all sorts of walks of life, that are aspirationally chasing a dream that’s really at the heart of the universe.” Screen Gab caught up with Carroll.
Was it purposeful, the sports that you chose for “All American: Homecoming”?
Baseball has such an interesting legacy at HBCUs. And also just the relationship between baseball and the Black community has been really fascinating. One of the things as a mom of a Black son who plays baseball … I know how expensive the sport is, and how much it’s being eroded from our communities. In a number of the programs, the baseball team is the least sort of Black thing on the HBCU campus because there aren’t enough Black players and not enough Black kids in the community being raised up in the sport. So in order to keep those teams alive and those programs alive, they’re recruiting from everywhere. ... And then for tennis, it’s a very horribly kept secret that I am obsessed with Serena and Venus [Williams] and Naomi [Osaka] and just Black, phenomenal female tennis players who have left it all on the court and sacrificed and fought and clawed their way to greatness.
The show gets so much right about the HBCU experience. But this isn’t particular to your experience, because you went to Penn.
It was such a fish-out-of-water story for me because I was coming from out of the country. I’d moved back to West Africa when I was very young, I’d gone to boarding school in England, and then I came back to the States for college. And even though I didn’t attend an HBCU … I was very heavily active in our Black Student Union. And in our African Students Association, and that was my mini-Bringston, it was just on a much larger, bigger PWI [predominantly white institution] campus. And so the experiences that the students are going through at Bringston are an amalgamation of people in my writers rooms, HBCU experiences, my family members’ HBCU experiences. We bring all of those experiences to “All American: Homecoming,” hoping to make it feel as authentic as possible of what our youth go through when we transition to college and into this new phase of adulthood.
Tell me about your big transition from economist to TV writer.
I knew from about the age of 13 that I wanted to be a writer and that I wanted to try and sort of use a keyboard or words as my weapon of choice. But I’m also from a traditional Nigerian family. And then it was like, OK, realistically, you got to pick between doctor, banker, lawyer. That’s how I ended up in banking. And I have a genuine love for economics. The 14 years at the Federal Reserve were honestly, some of the best 14 years in my career. And surprisingly, even though I didn’t realize it at the time, it was the best preparation I could get for being a showrunner in this industry. Because, in corporate America, yes, I’m dealing with the central bank, and it’s banking and finance. But you know, as a showrunner, you’re the CEO for a corporation, it’s just the TV one. The TV show is the corporation — your actors, your cast, your crew, your staff, they’re your work family that you’re managing, and it’s people management, and it’s finance, and showrunning is all of that rolled into one. Plus, you’re also the head writer of the show, in addition to all of that.
What are you watching that’s either inspiring or just for fun?
I love television. And with everything that’s going on right now and with both shows being in production, that means that the thing I love the most I have very little time to do. But it covers the gamut of everything from — I’m blanking because this title cracks me up, I love it so much. “The Girl in the Window Across from the House,” [Netflix’s “The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window”] is fantastic. I’m watching “The Morning Show” and “Swagger” on Apple TV+. Love it so much. And everyone in my life ridicules me for this but I don’t care: I still watch “General Hospital.” It is on my DVR. I love my Port Charles family. “Insecure” [HBO], that final episode. I’m so grateful for that show and so proud of everything they accomplished on it. I also have an incredibly long list of shows that I need to get to that I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I know I’m gonna love that” or someone’s like, “Hey, this is your show.” And I’m like, “I know and it’s on the list.”
Times staffers chew on the pop culture of the moment — love it, hate it or somewhere in between
Season 2 of “Love Is Blind” (Netflix) has reached its conclusion, and the reunion special, premiering Friday, promises to bring the usual amount of messiness, absurdity and questionable heteronormative values! TV editor Matt Brennan and staff writer Meredith Blake break down another season of reality TV’s most addictively deranged dating show.
Matt Brennan: Before the weddings aired last week, I mentally ranked the couples by suitability for marriage and I don’t know if this is my inner gay sending my straight-dar on the fritz or what, but I did incredibly poorly at predicting the outcomes. Nick and Danielle tied the knot but Sal and Mallory didn’t?! In what universe?? So one reason I can’t wait for the reunion is simply to find out who’s still (or back) together.
The other is because of the photo above: We need to talk about Shake.
Meredith Blake: I was less shocked by Nick and Danielle’s decision to go through with it, perhaps because the dramatic cliffhanger and all the tension that preceded it surely meant we were in for a surprise marriage. But they are also both so stubborn that I expected them to go through with it just to prove a point. That being said, I hope things work out for them and maybe they just got a tough edit.
I gasped out loud when Sal said no, but I’m glad my short king did the right thing and cut Baby J. Lo loose, even though I am still a bit baffled as to why. Was it Jarrette? His stalker ex? Her disapproving family? I’d like some answers. I am genuinely sad about Shayne and Natalie and would like to see if they have patched things up. If only for the sake of Natalie’s dad — truly the most decent man to appear this entire season of “Love is Blind.” I also hope Shayne has found some pants that fit, but that’s beside the point.
Which leads me to Shake. Oof. Where to begin. The vet who loves to lift women onto his shoulders at music festivals has been frantically (and unsuccessfully) doing damage control on his Instagram account, sharing rants about NDAs along with (for some reason) pictures of Teslas, which leads me to think he does not come off well in the reunion, he knows it, and for some reason he just wants to remind everyone he likes expensive cars. He’s been complaining he got a bad edit, but hell, even his mom didn’t take his side.
Matt, do you think Shake is a misunderstood victim of internalized prejudice, or is he really the uber-villain he’s been made out to be?
Brennan: I should stipulate up front that anyone who watches as much reality TV as we do knows the “reality” part is shakiest — consciously or not, casting, producing and editing are forms of manipulation. Still, it’s hard not to be repulsed by Shake’s handling of the entire situation: asking cravenly shallow questions at the outset, leading Deepti on throughout their courtship and finally trying to play off his being jilted as no biggie. (Reader, I winced.) It’s almost inevitable that he should lean into that on social media and in the reunion.
But as they say, cometh the hour, cometh the woman: If Shake is the villain of Season 2, Deepti is its memorably winsome heroine. Her words at the altar — “I deserve someone who knows for sure, so I’m choosing myself” — deservedly became a viral sensation after last Friday’s episode drop, and to me they start to get at why this impossibly dumb series is still so compelling, long after the novelty of the pods wears off. “Love Is Blind” delivers all the appeal and all the horror of modern dating in such a highly concentrated form it might be a controlled substance. It’s “The Bachelor” on speed.
Has Deepti made any indication of where she stands? And what did you make of that whole situation?
Blake: Again based on the Instagram clues I have pieced together while I should be doing other things, it appears Deepti is quite relieved to have dodged a bullet and her sisters are not to be trifled with. I also find it encouraging that Deepti has emerged as this season’s favorite contestant. I hope there is a spinoff in her future. My cynical reporter brain did wonder if producers pushed her to speak first on the altar so that she could have a moment of empowerment rather than humiliation. If so, they chose wisely. “Love is Blind” may be totally bonkers and cringe-inducing, but it’s not a cruel show. (I shudder to think what this show would have looked like if Fox had made it circa 2004.)
For me, this season definitely lacked some of the magic of Season 1, maybe because we’ve just grown used to the premise or because the contestants knew what they were in for when they signed up for the show — pardon me, “experiment.” We didn’t get a Lauren and Cameron, or even an Amber and Barnett — a couple to root for unequivocally. But there was plenty of mess, and, to quote another Netflix icon, “I love mess.” Can’t wait for Season 3.
The TV shows and streaming movies to keep an eye on in the coming week
Fri., March 4
“After Yang” (Showtime): Kogonada, director of 2017’s revelatory wonder “Columbus,” is back with a melancholy science fiction/family drama about a malfunctioning robot, coming to theaters and Showtime simultaneously.
“The Boys Presents: Diabolical” (Amazon Prime): The Emmy-nominated superhero series that resonates even with those of us who loathe superheroes spawns an animated anthology with a starry voice cast.
“Lucy and Desi” (Amazon Prime): Fast on the heels of “Being the Ricardos,” Amy Poehler gives us this documentary about the “I Love Lucy” stars/spouses, with their daughter Lucie Arnaz signed on as a producer.
“Pieces of Her” (Netflix): Toni Collette and Bella Heathcote are a mother and daughter swept into danger by a chance shooting, uncovering twists, turns and family secrets. In short, a thriller.
Sun., March 6
“The Courtship” (NBC): Inspired by the same historical era as “Bridgerton,” this reality series puts a Regency spin on the modern dating show. “Wilt thou accept this rose, my liege?”
“Shining Vale” (Starz): Courteney Cox returns to life as a series regular in this genre-blending tale of a woman whose family moves from Brooklyn to Connecticut. The horror!
Tues., March 8
“The Thing About Pam” (NBC): Renée Zellweger comes to broadcast TV (not without controversy) in this limited series about the 2011 murder of Betsy Faria.
“Undercurrent: The Disappearance of Kim Wall” (HBO): Already the subject of the Danish scripted series “The Investigation,” which aired on HBO in 2020, journalist Wall’s murder by Danish entrepreneur Peter Madsen on his midget submarine becomes a two-part docuseries as well.
Wed., March 9
“The Andy Warhol Diaries” (Netflix): After “Halston,” a Ryan Murphy-produced project on the pop artist/man about town was practically fated. Here it is, in the form of a six-part docuseries.
“Domino Masters” (FOX): Think “Lego Masters,” but where the work is built to be toppled.
Thurs., March 10
“Bust Down” (Peacock): “Saturday Night Live” chief Lorne Michaels produced this workplace comedy, set inside a casino.
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