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Welcome to Screen Gab, the newsletter for everyone looking for viewing recommendations — and probably ready to give a few out as well.
Longtime readers (and scroller-downers) will remember that we launched with a “Mail Bag” feature that allowed folks to submit questions to the Screen Gab team. Now we’re bringing it back, this time as a chance for readers to sound off about what they’re watching. Whether it’s a brand-new TV show that you need everyone to be talking about, a movie you love that just came to streaming, or a classic comfort-watch you’ve gone back to for the umpteenth time, we want to know what you‘d recommend — and to share it with the many-thousands-strong Screen Gab community.
Please send your recommendations to our email address — email@example.com — with your name and location. Submissions should be no longer than 200 words and are subject to editing for length and clarity. If your submission is selected for an upcoming edition of the newsletter, we’ll let you know so you can keep an eye out.
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Hollywood relies on LGBTQ audiences. In return, it’s failing us miserably: Like Netflix with Dave Chappelle or Warner Bros. with J.K. Rowling, Disney has shown that its rainbow logos and statements of support are lip service.
Ukraine’s president has the world’s ear. Watch his TV show on Netflix to see why: Against his Russian foes, Volodymyr Zelensky has masterfully weaponized skills he honed before he entered politics: those of a great communicator.
Streaming recommendations from the film and TV experts at The Times
At long last, after some three years (during which hopeful contestants were sadly aging out of eligibility), Fox’s “MasterChef Junior,” the best of all cooking shows, competition shows and reality shows, has returned to the air. (Fight me — I’ve got a spatula.) A new crop of young cooks, ages 8 to 13, tie on their personalized aprons to face the familiar blend of messy stunts, teamwork challenges and field trips (this season, it’s off to a Renaissance fair). But the best part of the series is when the kids are left to invent dishes on their own, and the best part of that is when those dishes astonish the judges: Gordon Ramsay (stern father and host, watching his language) and Aarón Sánchez (cool, straight-talking uncle who might produce a nickel from behind your ear), with established food TV personality and cookbook author Daphne Oz (sympathetic, pregnant big sister) in for Christina Tosi. The hyperbole is unrelenting, but that’s the Ramsay brand, and the kids — mutually supportive, heart-rendingly hopeful, endearingly brave, spookily talented — deserve it. —Robert Lloyd
Julia Child is one of TV’s most influential cooking icons. With her boisterous personality and cheery singsong voice, the Queen of French Cuisine steered Americans into the kitchen to whip up French onion soup, roast chicken and, of course, beef bourguignon. “The Julia Child Challenge,” the Food Network’s newest cooking competition series, pays homage to the way she elevated home cooking. The charming series is set in a replica of Child’s kitchen and features eight home cooks taking on some of Child’s most famous dishes — and drawing inspiration from her love of cooking. The prize is a three-month course at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, the esteemed culinary school where Child studied. A hearty dollop of the beloved and charismatic chef infuses the series via old clips of her cooking show. And there’s something refreshing about the show’s “family table” element, in which the judges and contestants give feedback on the main challenge dishes. (Even if it gave me flashbacks to my creative writing classes.) It’ll make you sad about the boring Brussels sprouts and bagged frozen rice you microwaved for dinner (because who has the time?) and leave you sort of believing you could make sole meunière for your next dinner party. New episodes are released every Monday. —Yvonne Villarreal
Everything you need to know about the film or TV series everyone’s talking about
Before that other frothy, Regency-era period piece about a ton returns next week, I am duty-bound to tell you to catch up on “Sanditon” (PBS), Andrew Davies’ delicious adaptation of Jane Austen’s final, unfinished novel, which starts its second season on Sunday. In the early days of the pandemic, Season 1 became a tried-and-true respite from the news: We are talking here, after all, about a TV series in which one of the most controversial plot points is the introduction of “sea bathing.” Set in a fishing village on the verge of becoming a coastal resort boomtown, the series stars Rose Williams as Charlotte Heywood, seeker of quiet, and the very hunky Theo James as Sidney Parker, deliverer of noise, doing the Austen two-step we all know and love. A silly confection about the desire to escape modernity, only to find a stupidly handsome suitor? Sign me up. —Matt Brennan
A weekly chat with actors, writers, directors and more about what they’re working on — and what they’re watching
Netflix’s “Human Resources” is a spinoff following the creatures responsible for facets of human emotion that were first introduced in the celebrated adult animated comedy “Big Mouth”: Hormone Monsters, Depression Kitties, Shame Wizards, Lovebugs, Ambition Gremlins and more. Showrunner Kelly Galuska stopped by Screen Gab to discuss how shifting the focus from humans to creatures changes the storytelling and what she’s been watching when she’s not making a TV show. —Tracy Brown
What are the types of human experiences you were looking forward to exploring on this show that you couldn’t on a show about middle schoolers?
“Big Mouth” is about such a specific time in people’s lives. Twelve, 13, 14 is so rich for storytelling but also quite limited. When we started to make this show, I had just had a baby, my first child, and we talked about how we should talk about that [because] that’s the thing going on in my life right now. So we decided to do that very first episode about birth and realized that this is a show that is about birth until death. It’s a show about the creatures that get you through this human experience that is so difficult, from the moment you’re born till the moment you leave this planet.
How does telling stories through the filter of these creature characters change things?
It took us most of the season to realize that this show is from the point of view of the creatures, first and foremost. These stories need to be about them as much, or more, as they are about the humans that they’re servicing. We learned to break [human experiences] down into the different emotions that are happening all at once and then, beyond that, expand our creatures beyond just the characteristics of their emotions. So all of our creatures ended up being multifaceted — and it was a process to find that. To start with their main emotional component and them expand them into well-rounded creatures and really treat them like humans.
What are some TV shows you’ve watched recently that you’ve recommended to everyone?
A show that I save and savor — because I love it so deeply — that I’ve just finished watching the fourth season as it goes into its fifth and final is “Better Things” (FX, Hulu). So working with Pam Adlon on [“Human Resources”] was a true dream come true. I think that she is an unrivaled talent, and I think that show is so special, and I wish everyone on the planet watched it. We just started “Yellowjackets” (Showtime), which we’re really, really loving — it’s so intense. And “Abbott Elementary” (ABC, Hulu) is a show that I really love and I think is very special and a return to great network TV. Quinta Brunson is another immensely talented person who I was lucky enough to work with a little bit, on “Big Mouth.”
Do you have any comfort shows? Shows that you can go back to over and over?
Shows like “Parks and Recreation” (Peacock), “Friends” (HBO Max), “Cheers” (Peacock). A lot of those network comedies are real comfort shows to me that I will just put on — I’ll put them on to fall asleep, I’ll put them on to do laundry, or I’ll just sit and watch them. And I’ve actually been having a “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (the Roku Channel) renaissance. In the pandemic, I’ve been watching “Buffy” from start to finish again, and that has been a true pleasure.
Times staffers chew on the pop culture of the moment — love it, hate it or somewhere in between
As Marvel Cinematic Universe fans count down the days to the launch of “Moon Knight,” Disney+ has added a slate of past Marvel TV shows to further bulk up its superhero catalog. Before Disney launched its own stand-alone service, the now-defunct Marvel Television teamed with Netflix to create a series of shows that led to its own Avengers-style team-up of so-called street-level superheroes. These shows, along with a couple network offerings that aired on ABC, were technically set within the MCU — although until recently that acknowledgment appeared pretty one-sided.
Here’s a rundown of all the Marvel shows newly available on Disney+, which prompted that menu to decide whether your account should be allowed to access TV-MA programming if you’ve logged into the service since Wednesday. —Tracy Brown
“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” (7 seasons)
This first TV series set within the MCU follows a mysteriously resurrected Phil Coulson, who was originally introduced in the films, as he assembles a new team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to deal with various threats. A number of episodes and storylines addressed events from the film side of the MCU. The series aired on ABC, so it is the most family-friendly of the shows just added to Disney+.
“Daredevil” (3 seasons)
The series that launched Netflix’s foray into the MCU, which on Disney+ is labeled “The Defenders Saga.” The show introduces Matt Murdock, a blind lawyer by day and vigilante by night. Characters from this series have most recently appeared in “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and “Hawkeye,” which has sparked hope that they may be seen again in the MCU proper in the future.
“Jessica Jones” (3 seasons)
The series follows Jessica Jones, a former superpowered hero who now operates a private detective agency. The show with perhaps one of the most unforgivable villains, it engages with more serious topics including PTSD, assault and rape.
“Luke Cage” (2 seasons)
Originally introduced in “Jessica Jones” as a love interest, Luke Cage is a former convict with superhuman strength and unbreakable skin. The Harlem-set series was the first in the MCU to address race and politics, and the significance of a bulletproof Black superhero remains.
“Iron Fist” (2 seasons)
The series that introduces Danny Rand, a billionaire orphan and martial arts expert who has inherited the mystical powers of the Iron Fist. The one show even MCU completists will forgive you for skipping. (But if you’re a new Jessica Henwick fan after seeing “The Matrix: Resurrections,” the series also introduces her excellent Colleen Wing.)
“The Defenders” (1 season)
The team-up show that brings all of the above-named street-level superhero residents of New York together.
“The Punisher” (2 seasons)
The series follows Frank Castle, a vigilante first introduced in “Daredevil” who was targeting gang members who were affiliated with those who killed his family. Castle is more an antihero than a superhero, and is willing to use lethal means to go after criminals. It is wild that this show is on Disney+. —Tracy Brown
The TV shows and streaming movies to keep an eye on in the coming week
Fri., March 18
“Cheaper by the Dozen” (Disney+): The third version of this family film, this time starring Gabrielle Union and Zach Braff, won’t make you forget the others — even if you haven’t seen them.
“Life & Beth” (Hulu): Amy Schumer plays a grieving woman who returns to her Long Island hometown in “Life & Beth,” which Times TV critic Robert Lloyd calls a funny, moving bildungsroman of “late-maturing middle age.”
“Standing Up” (Netflix): Fanny Herrero, who created (but has since left) the sensational workplace comedy “Call My Agent,” returns with another Paris-set series, this one about the world of stand-up.
“WeCrashed” (Apple TV+): Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway play the couple behind workspace company WeWork. They will rise, they will ... crash.
“Windfall” (Netflix): Director Charlie McDowell’s Hitchcockian thriller, filmed at an estate in Ojai, is an actors’ showcase for Jason Segel, Lily Collins and Jesse Plemons.
Sun., March 20
“An Audience With Adele” (NBC): Another Adele concert special, switching in the London Palladium for Griffith Observatory and ditching Oprah entirely.
Mon., March 21
“American Song Contest” (NBC): A Eurovision-style talent competition for artists from all 50 U.S. states — plus several territories and Washington, D.C.
Thurs., March 24
“Atlanta” (FX): Donald Glover’s acclaimed comedy — as artful a series as exists on TV — returns for its Europe-set third season after four (!) years off the air. The fourth and final season comes later this year.
“Halo” (Paramount+): The streamer that brought you TV’s best political drama swings for the blockbuster fences with this adaptation of the popular video game.
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