Did ‘The Morning Show’ just go off a cliff?
Welcome to Screen Gab, the newsletter for everyone trying to understand what happened on “Rust.”
The fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, which also injured the film’s director, Joel Souza, occurred in New Mexico last week when the low-budget western’s producer-star, Alec Baldwin, discharged a prop gun loaded with a lead bullet instead of a dummy round during a rehearsal. According to a search warrant affidavit filed by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday, assistant director Dave Halls admitted that he did not check every round in the gun before Baldwin handled the gun.
The tragedy, which according to “Rust” crew members came on the heels of other on-set gun safety issues and misfires, has rocked the world of film and television. In particular, the question of whether Hollywood should allow the use of real guns as props has emerged as a central feature of a push for reform: ABC police drama “The Rookie” has already banned the use of live weapons in favor of toy replicas and CGI, and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham promised Tuesday that the state would pursue stricter measures if Hollywood failed to “bring forward comprehensive new safety protocols” of its own in the aftermath of Hutchins’ death.
Be sure to follow The Times as this story continues to unfold.
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The “Horror Noire” anthology film (Shudder) — a collection of six stories that includes creature features as well as psychological horror — is an offshoot of the excellent 2019 documentary “Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror.” Stories come from Black writers such as novelist-screenwriter Tananarive Due (who also was featured in the documentary) and star standouts such as Lesley-Ann Brandt (“Lucifer”); Luke James (“The Chi”); and Rachel True (“The Craft”). The best? “Bride Before You” features a Reconstruction-era mother who goes to extreme lengths to have a child, preferably a light-skinned one, and will leave you with chills for reasons other than frights. Then there’s “Sundown,” with several laugh-out-loud moments, capping the festivities: “Sundown’s” sin is that the twist won’t surprise horror fans, but the sheer enthusiasm with which Erica Ash (also one of the best things about “Survivor’s Remorse”) and Peter Stormare (ditto “American Gods”) go about their antagonistic roles will have you playing along rather than lamenting that you’ve seen it before. Also, two words: Lavell. Crawford. A few of the stories try hard to say something about race and relations, which is to be expected, even welcomed, because of the source material and the Black creators involved. As with any collection from disparate sources, some punches land, some don’t, and the others will get better with repeat viewing. Either way, “Horror Noire” can diversify your Halloween viewing for years to come. — Dawn M. Burkes
I’m not one for gore or horror, so my Halloween traditions have always involved kid-friendly cartoons. But cartoons still can be creepy and unsettling. In “Over the Garden Wall” (HBO Max, Hulu), brothers Wirt and Greg find themselves lost in a mysterious place called the Unknown and are trying to find their way home. The 10-episode miniseries sees them encounter a creepy old woodsman, a cranky talking bluebird and various other memorable characters over the course of their journey. Teenage Wirt is a sensitive worrier, while Greg, the younger brother, is a lot more carefree, and their dynamic is comfortably familiar. The show’s Halloween ties are revealed over the course of the series, but for those who need a bit more than that promise: An early episode sees Wirt and Greg stumble into a small town that is seemingly filled with pumpkin people. —
Everything you need to know about the film or TV series everyone’s talking about
After 11 months, the TARDIS returns to Earth, with Jodie Whittaker’s time- and space-traveling, intermittently regenerating Doctor still at the helm. As the 13th (official) incarnation of the character since 1963, Whittaker is the first woman — the first person not a white male Briton — to take the role, and from the moment it was announced that she would be given the keys to “Doctor Who” (BBC America, AMC+) and its bigger-on-the-inside, police-box-shaped time-space machine, fans reacted with joy or disdain according to their taste or distaste for change. (It is odd how small-minded viewers of a show about open-mindedness can be.) She has been splendid in the role — a little mad, as the part requires, and good at running, as the part also requires, but also very much about her “fam” of human traveling companions; she is a sisterly, cool aunt-like sort of Doctor. Stepping off at the emotional end of January’s “Revolution of the Daleks” were Tosin Cole’s Ryan and Bradley Walsh’s Graham — though as they seemed keen to monitor the Earth for alien shenanigans, it would not surprise me to find them turning up this season, or in one of the three specials scheduled for 2022. Still on board is Yasmin (Mandip Gill), who will be joined this season by a character played by comedian and ex-footballer John Bishop — for balance, I suppose, and to throw a bone to fans who fear an all-female TARDIS.
Although the show is less serial than circular — old faces return, old enemies are dispatched until they turn up to be dispatched again — the new season, titled “Flux,” is a six-episode serial story penned almost entirely by current showrunner Chris Chibnall. (The series, which premiered in 1963, has a history of both long-arc and episodic adventures; I prefer the latter but am keeping fingers crossed for this one.) It’s the penultimate year for Whittaker before a new actor takes over — she has already filmed her half of the regeneration scene — an event that can prove as traumatic in the real world as it is onscreen. But the mold having now been broken, it’s impossible to imagine the 14th Doctor being another white guy. (Still, see: American politics.) Names already in speculative contention include Michaela Coel, Richard Ayoade, Michael Sheen, Jodie Comer and, of course, Idris Elba, who is on everyone’s list for everything. — Robert Lloyd
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Currently in its second season on HBO, “We’re Here” follows “RuPaul’s Drag Race” alums Shangela, Eureka O’Hara and Bob the Drag Queen as they travel to small towns across America to prepare residents for one-night-only drag shows.
More than a mere “makeover show,” the series channels the transformative power of drag to shed light on the stories of LGBTQ people finding love, self-acceptance and support in these smaller communities where there often isn’t much of a queer presence. “I’m originally from a small town … so I know what it’s like growing up in a place where you look around and you don’t see a lot of visibility or representation for queer people,” Shangela recently told The Times. “I didn’t know that I could thrive.” When we caught up to discuss the show’s recent Temecula-set episode, Shangela — who is very much thriving now — shared how she and her co-stars spent some of their downtime during the production of Season 2. — Tracy Brown
Eureka competed on “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars” Season 6, which aired over the summer — were you all together then? Did you watch the episodes together?
Most definitely! It was our therapy. Sometimes we have very heavy days. In connecting with everyone’s story, some are a little heavier than others, and I always look forward to those Thursday nights. We would go to Eureka’s room, because she had a Paramount+ account, hook up the TV and sit there and watch it. So many people would come from the cast and crew. Me, Bob and Eureka, plus like all of our friends who were there. We would sometimes have to find a ballroom in the hotels if they had one … and put it on a bigger screen.
Did you watch anything else together?
There’s not a lot of time to watch [TV]. But I will tell you, on occasion we’ll have an off day or night and Eureka and Bob love playing video games. They’re into the Nintendo Switch and all that. They travel with the controllers. It’s very detailed. It’s very gamer-ish. I’ve never been a gamer — I’m more of a movies and series kind of girl. They love to invite me to play and then just kick my butt the whole time. I’m over there, girl, just pressing buttons. I don’t know what I’m doing!
You said you’re into series. What was the last thing you watched that you really got into?
The last thing I watched was “The White Lotus” with Jennifer Coolidge. She was hilarious. “Mare of Easttown” I also watched and loved because I love Kate Winslet and I love mystery and crime-type shows. Oh, and I just finished watching “Nine Perfect Strangers” on Hulu with Regina Hall and Nicole Kidman — it was so good as well.
Times staffers chew on the pop culture of the moment — love it, hate it or somewhere in between
This season of “The Morning Show” has been what TV critic Lorraine Ali calls “pressure-cooker entertainment” from the outset, but the seventh episode, premiering Friday, takes an, ahem, flying leap over the proverbial shark. Senior editor Matt Brennan and staff writer Ashley Lee, who’ve been watching the series through their fingers all season, break down this week’s head-scratcher/shocker. Warning: major spoilers ahead!
Matt Brennan: A colleague of ours was joking on Slack that “La Amara Vita” counts as “The Morning Show’s” Halloween episode, and even as someone who’s on record calling Season 2 a “can’t-look-away train wreck of a melodrama,” I have to agree that this one might be a little too over the top. Not only does it fail to feature that sly bastard Cory Ellison (Billy Crudup) — whom I love and maybe slightly identify with — it also sees Mitch Kessler (Steve Carrell) and Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston) reunite … in his Italian palace … during the frightening first days of the COVID-19 pandemic … to talk about #MeToo.
When they started dancing to that Italian-language cover of “Stand by Me,” my soul left my body.
Ashley Lee: Oof, same. It’s confusing to me, especially after the show earned acclaim for its deft approach to #MeToo: an insidious abuse of power, complicity by silent colleagues and physical and mental violations that went far beyond that Las Vegas hotel room. It all led up to a satisfying Season 1 finale, in which Alex at last condemned the actions of her longtime friend and co-anchor, who was seen completely alone in the episode’s last frames.
To then put the viewer in that villa with a forgiving Alex and a remorseful Mitch, as they laugh and reminisce about their shared history, feels like a disservice to his victim Hannah, brilliantly played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
Brennan: The series wants us to nod our heads in agreement with Mitch that “the world doesn’t want complex,” but to me the problem here is similar to “both sides-ism” in journalism: “The Morning Show” mistakes Mitch’s warmth toward Alex and Paola (Valeria Golino) for “complexity,” when his arc (sexual misconduct, “cancellation,” self-pity) is just about the series’ most facile element. Alex’s ambivalence, on the other hand? That’s a therapy-worthy complication!
Lee: Exactly. To be honest, I was upset while watching this episode. Mitch has always been a fictional stand-in for the industry’s outed serial predators, so I felt as if I were watching an hour of one of them hiding out at their ornate Lake Como villa. But why does Mitch continue to receive the benefit of the doubt? It’s not even clear, given his reaction to that news report about him, that he’s all that remorseful about his actions. It’s a misguided narrative choice, and even, in a way, an insult to survivors — who don’t get to go out in a blaze of glory.
Brennan: Sigh. That ending! I’m not mad that the episode depicts Mitch bargaining with Alex, or haunted by his accrued demons, or finding momentary solace in Paola. I’m mad that the series appears to let Mitch off the hook, rather than forcing him to grapple with the stomach-churning consequences of his actions for the rest of his life. (We don’t know for certain if he lives or dies, but everything about that aural montage of shame points to the latter.) If this is in fact the conclusion of Mitch’s arc, I have to say “The Morning Show” blew it on the “complexity” front: That arduous struggle toward redemption, if redemption is even possible for Mitch, would have been much more compelling.
Lee: I agree. And I have to laugh that the voices of Mitch’s past play in his head just after the Beastie Boys’ “I Don’t Know” needle drop: “I’m walking through time, deluded as the next guy / pretending and hoping to find that distant peace of mind / I don’t know, who does know / there is nowhere to go…”
Apparently, off a cliff — literally.
The TV shows and streaming movies to keep an eye on in the coming week
Fri., Oct. 29
“Colin in Black & White” (Netflix). As in Kaepernick. (Auto)biographical series, co-created with Ava DuVernay.
“Fairfax” (Amazon). Animated comedy in which teen outsiders strive to be in. Not my grandmother’s Fairfax Avenue or, for that matter, mine.
“Swagger” (Apple TV+). Youth basketball drama based on the experiences of Kevin Durant.
“Thomas and Friends: All Engines Go” (Netflix). The famous choo-choo, animated in 2D.
“Call My Agent: Bollywood” (Netflix). A worldwide phenomenon.
“Christmas in Harmony” (Hallmark). And so it begins.
“Scooby-Doo, Where Are You Now?” (CW). He’s hiding.
Mon., Nov. 1
“Dalgliesh” (Acorn TV). P.D. James’ signature detective, now in the body of Bertie Carvel.
“Judy Justice” (IMDb TV). Judge Judy by another name.
Wed., Nov. 3
“Dr. Brain” (Apple TV+). Apple gets its Korean drama, with Lee Sun-kyun as a neuroscientist plumbing dead brains for clues to the death of his family.
Thurs., Nov. 4
“Head of the Class” (HBO Max). Reboots late-’70s high school comedy with former student Robin Givens back as a PTA president.
“Taste the Nation With Padma Lakshmi: Holiday Edition” (Hulu). It’s that time. — Robert Lloyd
Want to know more about one of the filmmakers we’ve interviewed? Need a new show to binge now that your fave is done for the season? If you have a question about TV or streaming movies for the pop culture obsessives at The Times, send it to us at email@example.com and you may find the answer in next week’s edition.
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