‘Euphoria’ is (finally) back. Refresh your memory with our Season 1 guide
This is the Los Angeles Times newsletter about all things TV and streaming movies. This week, we bid farewell to Sidney Poitier, Peter Bogdanovich and Betty White, prepare for the return of “Euphoria” and ask the team behind “Search Party” what they’re watching. Scroll down!
Welcome to Screen Gab, the newsletter for everyone who’s spent the last week mourning the loss of Hollywood legends.
Legendary “Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Golden Girls” star Betty White, who was there for the birth of television and saw it well into the 21st century, died on New Year’s Eve at 99. As TV critic Robert Lloyd writes in his appreciation, she “radiated delight: delight to be working, delight to be alive, delight in conversation, delight in animals, but also delight in wickedness” — and that delight was infectious.
Film critic turned film director Peter Bogdanovich, who gave us four touchstones of the Hollywood renaissance — “Targets,” “The Last Picture Show,” “What’s Up, Doc?” and “Paper Moon” — and a memorable supporting turn on “The Sopranos,” died Thursday at 82. Along with his work behind the camera, Bogdanovich was one of cinephilia’s greatest boosters, having seen hundreds of movies a year from childhood and later lamenting the turn toward tentpole franchise filmmaking.
And on Friday, we learned we also lost Sidney Poitier, devoted activist and the first Black man to win the Oscar for lead actor, at 94. Reckoning with Poitier’s legacy has only just begun, but even the most cursory glance at his credits is proof that it is totemic: In the space of a dozen years, he released “The Blackboard Jungle,” “The Defiant Ones,” “Porgy and Bess,” “A Raisin in the Sun,” “Lilies of the Field,” “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” “To Sir, with Love” and “In the Heat of the Night.” For many, that alone would be a life’s work.
We were lucky to have them.
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If the lights are still up and the tree is still standing and you’re dragging those footed-pajama feet out of the holiday break toward 2022, give yourself one last gift of good cheer with a gem that most missed when it debuted over Thanksgiving on HBO Max. 1980s-set “8 Bit Christmas,” the spiritual heir to “A Christmas Story” and the best new holiday movie in years, alights on another precocious kid obsessed with getting his paws on the Holy Grail of presents: a brand-new Nintendo Entertainment System. Directed by Michael Dowse (“Goon,” “Stuber”) and adapted with nostalgic precision by Kevin Jakubowski from his own 2013 book, it’s led by stars Winslow Fegley, Neil Patrick Harris, June Diane Raphael and Steve Zahn, who bring humor and evocative ’80s kid pop references — everything from hard Power Glove truths to Cabbage Patch Kid cravings to an infamous 1989 Bill Ripken baseball card — and surprisingly touching, grab-the-tissues heart. —Jen Yamato
If you have exhausted all the 1930s and ’40s screwball comedies on TCM or Criterion Channel or shelves of alphabetized videos and hunger for something in that spirit, it may well be satisfied by the perfectly crafted 2007 ABC amnesia comedy “Samantha Who?” (Hulu). A superb Christina Applegate, striking notes of Ginger Rogers and Carole Lombard temperamentally and physically — not only does she have a face fit for the era, but a hairstyle — stars as a woman who awakes from an eight-day coma as a blank slate, horrified to learn of the self-involved shark of a person she used to be and determined henceforth to be good. An impeccable ensemble cast includes Jennifer Esposito as the devil on one shoulder, Melissa McCarthy as the angel on the other and Jean Smart as Samantha’s mother, excited to meet the daughter she never had. There is nothing superfluous in the writing; every line builds character. Thirty-five episodes should keep you busy for a while. —Robert Lloyd
Everything you need to know about the film or TV series everyone’s talking about
“Euphoria,” HBO’s gritty, neon-lit look at teenage life, concluded its first season back in August 2019 — those romantic days when students weren’t getting their nostrils swabbed before class because of a global pandemic. Sure, HBO released two special episodes, titled “Trouble Won’t Always Last” and “F— Anyone Who’s Not a Sea Blob,” when it became clear it would be some time before getting a proper Season 2 because of COVID-19 delays, but even that was about a year ago. So if you can’t remember where things left off with Rue, Jules and their East Highland classmates, here’s a refresher ahead of the show’s return Sunday night.
Rue: After developing deep feelings of love for Jules over the course of the season, the two reached a crossroads in their relationship — actually, they reached a train station. Undeterred by Jules’ intense infatuation with another girl, Anna, whom she hooked up with at a rave, Rue kisses her bestie and suggests they run away to the city together. Jules is swept up by the idea, but when it’s time to board the train, only Jules gets on; Rue, concerned about the worry it would inflict on her mom and sister, watches idly as it departs. In the final moments, Rue relapses after three months of sobriety.
Jules: She got on the train and left Rue, still mesmerized by the idea of Anna and living freely where the queer energy is rampant.
Nate: Still dealing with his sexuality crisis by abusing others, the incredibly toxic heartthrob turned the violence on himself after a confrontation with his father, Cal, in the finale. Though Cal backs off from the scuffle, Nate continues flailing and banging his head on the floor.
Maddy: She ended the on-again/off-again abusive relationship with Nate at the school’s winter formal, but not before snatching a CD from his room that might hold the evidence of Cal’s night with Jules. What’s to come of that?
Cassie: Having undergone an abortion and broken off her troubled relationship with boyfriend McKay, Cassie tells her friends at formal that she plans to take a break from romance for a few years. Hmmm.
Kat: Spending much of the season discovering and claiming her sexuality and coming into her own — not always in ways that were kind to herself — Kat eventually put her newfound confidence to use in less harmful ways by opening herself up to the idea of happiness with nice guy Ethan. Here’s hoping this doesn’t affect the One Direction fan fiction.
Lexi: She got drunk on “Gatorade” at formal. —Yvonne Villarreal
A weekly chat with actors, writers, directors and more about what they’re working on — and what they’re watching
For four seasons, the inimitable “Search Party” (HBO Max) has combined an anthropologically precise satire of privileged white millennials in New York and L.A. with a reverence for genre (mystery, horror, legal procedural, thriller) that has made it one of TV’s most acclaimed comedies. Since its launch on TBS in 2016, the series has introduced broader audiences to talents like Meredith Hagner, John Early, Shalita Grant and Cole Escola. And it’s not coasting to the finish line: Its fifth and final season, premiering Friday, finds comic anti-heroine Dory Sief (Alia Shawkat) reborn as a wellness guru/cult leader who has her friends wrapped around her finger, and from there goes appropriately off the rails. Screen Gab caught up with co-creators Charles Rogers and Sarah-Violet Bliss about the influences on this season, their favorite TV finales and more. —Matt Brennan
We’ve spoken in previous interviews about the range of classic film and TV influences on the series, from “Vertigo” to “Misery.” What were some of the titles you drew inspiration from in Season 5?
Sarah-Violet Bliss: Cult documentaries like “Holy Hell” and “The Vow.” Also generally drawing from spiritual leaders like Marianne Williamson, Ekhart Tolle and Ram Dass. We took inspiration from big dreamers trying to make the impossible possible like Elizabeth Holmes. To avoid spoilers, I’ll leave it at that but there were other more filmic inspirations as well.
The Omicron surge coupled with the holidays has meant that many of us are hunkering down at home (again) lately. What have you been bingeing?
Charles Rogers: There was something about this holiday feeling like the 43rd year of COVID that made me want to retreat back into my favorite things so I ended up fully re-watching all of “Absolutely Fabulous” and the first two seasons of “Twin Peaks.” And both of things combined is somehow exactly what Season 5 of “Search Party” essentially is...
Ending a long-running TV series is notoriously difficult. What’s a final season or final episode that you really love?
Bliss: “Six Feet Under” and “Sex and the City.”
Rogers: I loved “Mad About You” as a kid and the series finale of that show — despite being revived recently and ignoring how the series originally ended — was so odd that it has vividly stuck with me into adulthood.
After eight seasons of sitcom-y marital status quo, Helen Hunt suddenly kisses their dog walker, Hank Azaria, in the final episode. Paul Reiser is so hurt that they split up, and you watch them divorce and hate each other for 20 years and it’s all very depressing, and then they have to reunite to attend the premiere of a horrible movie made by their daughter Mabel, played by Janeane Garofolo, that ends with someone shooting themselves, followed by the Looney Tunes end theme. And then Paul and Helen awkwardly say hi and decide to go get pie together and the show ends with Paul Reiser narrating, “And then they went and got pie.”
Anyway, they really went for it and that’s something.
The TV shows and streaming movies to keep an eye on in the coming week
Fri., Jan. 7
“The Tender Bar” (Amazon): Based on former Times reporter J.R. Moehringer’s 2005 memoir, star Ben Affleck “has never been better” than he is here as the father figure to his sister’s son, writes Gary Goldstein.
Sat., Jan. 8
“A Discovery of Witches” (AMC+, Shudder): Matthew Goode is a handsome vampire and Teresa Palmer is a beautiful witch in this romantic historical fantasy, which will leave anyone who loves medieval castles, archival manuscripts and supporting performances by Lindsay Duncan all aflutter. Season 3 brings its adaptation of USC professor Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy to a close.
Sun., Jan. 9
“All Creatures Great and Small” (PBS): It may not be for every fan of cozy British dramas, but Season 2 of this “pastoral idyll” about animal doctoring in a Yorkshire village will please plenty of them.
“Pivoting” (FOX): One of a batch of sitcoms leading the broadcast networks’ midseason offerings, “Pivoting” focuses on three friends (Maggie Q, Ginnifer Goodwin and Eliza Coupe) mourning the death of a fourth and taking a hard look at their own lives in the process.
“The Righteous Gemstones” (HBO): Creator Danny McBride’s comedy about a family of celebrity megachurch pastors, starring a murderers’ row of comic talent including John Goodman, Walton Goggins and McBride himself, returns for its long-awaited second season.
Mon., Jan. 10
“Black Market with Michael K. Williams” (Vice): The late actor’s first screen appearance since his death in September, which shocked fans and peers, comes in Season 2 of this unscripted series — six years after the first — in which Williams examines illicit economies from abalone poaching to identity theft.
Tuesday, Jan. 11
“The Kings of Napa” (OWN): Oprah’s cable network has (pun intended) owned the Black family drama for years, having aired both “Greenleaf” — about the leaders of a Memphis megachurch — and “Queen Sugar” — about the owners of a Louisiana sugarcane farm. With the former finished, and the latter preparing to say farewell this year, “The Kings of Napa” — about a trio of California vintners — is here to fill the void.
Wed., Jan. 12:
“Cheer” (Netflix): Coach Monica Aldama and the Navarro College cheerleading team are back in Season 2 of Netflix’s hit docuseries, which deals — among other topics — with the fallout from child sex and pornography charges against teammate Jerry Harris.
Thurs., Jan. 13:
“Brazen” (Netflix): A mystery writer (Alyssa Milano) tries to solve her sister’s murder in this feature film based on the novel by mystery writer Nora Roberts. Who is also J.D. Robb, as it turns out.
“Peacemaker” (HBO Max): John Cena reprises his role as the titular DC superhero from James Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad” (not be be confused with just plain “Suicide Squad”), with Gunn writing all eight episodes.
“Wolf Like Me” (Peacock): If “Please Like Me” and “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay” wunderkind Josh Thomas is any indication, Australia’s offbeat comedy game is strong. Which bodes well for this Isla Fisher/Josh Gad joint about a new couple who are not what they seem.
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