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Julie Plec built a vampiric TV empire. With her new project, she’s plotting ‘revolution’

A man and a woman sitting in a gilded, candlelit room across a table from one another
Joseph Ollman, left, and Daniela Nieves in “Vampire Academy.”
(Jose Haro/Peacock)

Welcome to Screen Gab, the newsletter for everyone who knows there’s still plenty to watch on TV even after Emmy season’s over.

Don’t get us wrong: We can’t stop replaying Sheryl Lee Ralph singing her acceptance speech, or Jennifer Coolidge shimmying through hers. But after a late night celebrating the best of the past year in TV, we’re ready to turn our eyes to the new, from the return of “The Great British Baking Show” and a remake of “A League of Their Own” to a new series from the co-creator of “The Vampire Diaries.”

All that and more in Screen Gab No. 52 — plus, don’t forget to let us know what you’re watching. Send your TV or streaming movie recommendations to screengab@latimes.com 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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Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen in “Game of Thrones.”
(HBO)

‘Game of Thrones’ fumbled Daenerys’ story. ‘House of the Dragon’ is making amends: To compare Daenerys’ end to Rhaenyra Targaryen’s beginnings is to understand why HBO’s prequel series is off to such a strong start.

How Steve Martin and Martin Short created the perfect comic marriage: Martin and Short’s decades-long partnership — and their new collaboration with straight woman Selena Gomez — proved a highlight of the Emmys. TV critic Robert Lloyd explains what makes the pair tick.

If you’re overdue for an intro to Jean-Luc Godard, here are six films to start with: The French filmmaker’s loss is “incalculable,” writes critic Justin Chang. But many of his most remarkable works are available to experience at home.

How Sheryl Lee Ralph and Dianne Reeves pulled off the Emmys’ ‘best acceptance speech. Ever.’ The “Abbott Elementary” actors’ knockout rendition of “Endangered Species” was 33 years in the making. Ralph and Reeves joined The Times to break it down.

Turn on

Recommendations from the film and TV experts at The Times

Four adolescent bakers receiving instructions on their next challenge
Contestants on “Junior Baking Show,” companion to the beloved “Great British Baking Show.”
(Netflix)

Even as we bid goodbye to the late queen of England, we welcome this week’s return of Netflix’s “The Great British Baking Show.” Having tired of waiting, I earlier paid a visit to the spinoff “Junior Baking Show” (also on Netflix), and stayed, entranced, until the end. Completely in the mold and spirit of its parent, but with bakers ranging in age from 9 to 15, it also features a comic host, Harry Hill, getting in everyone’s hair and a pair of sympathetic yet not undemanding judges: Liam Charles, a “Great British Baking Show” contestant himself, and pastry chef and author Ravneet Gill. (The first season to air here, it’s actually the sixth installment of the series, called “Junior Bake Off,” in Britain, which began in 2011 with Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry judging.) Everything that makes “TGBBS” work repeats in the younger version. There’s the quiet, deliberate pace, the emphasis on process and personality, the sometimes melancholy air and the high drama created from an underbaked biscuit, an over-whipped meringue or a baker attempting an unusual combination of flavors. And, in “Junior Baking Show,” a small child struggling to get a tray onto a freezer rack. Here again are the multicultural cast, the musical variety of regional accents, and the bakers themselves, different in temperament and ability, but all of them charming, mutually supportive — they will step in to help a competitor finish a bake — and (mostly) up for a laugh. —Robert Lloyd

In 1988, the deliciously wicked dark comedy “Heathers” helped launch the careers of Winona Ryder, Christian Slater and Shannen Doherty; the stage musical debuted nearly a decade ago in Los Angeles and has since gained its own international cult following. A West End production of “Heathers: The Musical” was filmed last year and is now streaming on the Roku Channel, which means that anyone with an internet connection can revel in this campy and catchy adaptation for free. “Heathers” is relatively edgier and much funnier than similarly teen-centric musicals like “Mean Girls” and “Dear Evan Hansen,” and it’s managed to develop its own devout fandom because it stays true to the movie’s taboo topics in a way that recent high schoolers can relate to — and, surprisingly, laugh about. How very, indeed. —Ashley Lee

Catch up

Everything you need to know about the film or TV series everyone’s talking about

Two women baseball players standing on a field in uniform in the gloaming
Abbi Jacobson, left, and Chanté Adams in “A League of Their Own.”
(Amazon Studios)

There’s a moment in Prime Video’s series remake of “A League of Their Own,” adapted from Penny Marshall’s 1992 classic, in which plucky, pizza-loving heroine Carson Shaw (series co-creator Abbi Jacobson) finds herself in a gay bar for the first time. The catcher-turned-coach of the Rockford Peaches, and a pioneer of the World War II-era All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, has spent much of the season fighting, and then embracing, her attraction to first basewoman Greta Gill (the utterly captivating D’Arcy Carden) — but it’s here, in a heart-stopping moment of wide-eyed wonder, that she realizes for the first time she’s been surrounded by queer people of every stripe all her life. Paired with a storyline in which Max Chapman (Chanté Adams), an aspiring Black pitcher segregated out of the league, meets, rejects and finally comes to understand her transmasculine uncle Bertie (Lea Robinson), the sequence captures, in miniature, the series’ remarkable admixture of thoughtful characterization and joyful, loose-limbed dramaturgy. Littered with delightful anachronisms, populated by an endlessly lively ensemble, respectful of the film without ever attempting to duplicate it, “A League of Their Own,” headed by showrunner Will Graham, emerges as a model of the modern queer TV series. It acknowledges the fractures within the LGBTQ community, and the pressures from without it, but never relinquishes the wonder that keeps us whole. —Matt Brennan

Guest spot

A weekly chat with actors, writers, directors and more about what they’re working on — and what they’re watching

A young woman wearing an evening gown, tiara and pearl earrings
Daniela Nieves as Lissa Dragomir in “Vampire Academy.”
(Jose Haro/Peacock)

It’s no secret that Julie Plec has a fondness for storytelling involving vampires and supernatural forces, creating a gothic empire on the CW with “The Vampire Diaries” and its two spinoffs, “The Originals” and “Legacies.” And her newest show keeps the streak going — but at a different home. Co-created with Marguerite MacIntyre, “Vampire Academy” (Peacock) is an adaptation of Richelle Mead’s popular YA book series, which revolves around the friendship of two young women as they complete their education and prepare to enter an elite vampire society. Screen Gab caught up with Plec to talk about her approach to adapting “Vampire Academy,” why she’s drawn to telling stories through the bloodsucker prism and more. —Yvonne Villarreal

What about vampire lore do you find energizing or useful when it comes to your storytelling interests?

I find vampires to be an interesting contradiction — in lore, they’re primal and predatory and they idealize immortality, almost like they’re courting an eternity of loneliness. And when you’re writing about themes of loneliness, what you’re really exploring are themes of love or the absence of it, which leads to the quest for togetherness and finding one’s place in this world and the person you want to walk it with. And those themes are right up my alley.

“Vampire Academy” was something you wanted to make for television in 2007, before “The Vampire Diaries” began. Fifteen years later, why is now the perfect time for this adaptation?

The world Richelle Mead built in her series was a world of social disparity, political hierarchies, elitism, cultural bias and a general sense of unfairness. What better time to tell a story about two young women lighting the first spark of a revolution against such a world?

Adapting existing work would seem to come with a lot of pressure. I’m sure the feedback from the “VA” fans about their expectations started once news that the show was happening broke. Did any of it shape how you went about adapting this book world for television?

It was important to Marguerite and myself to honor the books, which we both really enjoyed, without doing a direct adaptation of the story exactly as it played out. We borrow heavily from Book 6 in this season and next season you may see us featuring an element of a story from Book 2 or 3. All the good stuff is in there, just not necessarily in the order you might think.

What have you watched recently (not counting your own show) that you are recommending to everyone you know?

I’ve spent the last two weeks telling everyone I know what a terrific show Apple TV+'s “For All Mankind” is. Ran into the head of SonyTV at a party and talked his ear off about it for 15 minutes. It is a smart, emotional, thrilling gem that deserves a massive audience.

What’s your go-to “comfort watch,” the movie or TV show you go back to again and again?

If “Jerry Maguire” (HBO Max), “Titanic” (Disney+) or “The Devil Wears Prada” (Tubi, Prime Video) is airing on TV and I happen upon it, I can’t move on. I sit on the couch and let it happen, commercials and all.

Mail bag

Recommendations from Screen Gab readers

A mustachioed man in a pinstripe suit and paisley shirt
Kevin Bacon in “City on a Hill.”
(Francisco Roman / SHOWTIME)

“City on a Hill” (Showtime): First, I love mysteries. The plot lines pull me in every episode, although in Season 3 it is getting a little complicated. I can’t wait till Sunday night. Football will have to wait.

David Knopf

What’s next

Listings coordinator Matt Cooper highlights the TV shows and streaming movies to keep an eye on

Fri., Sept. 16

“Do Revenge” (Netflix): Hell hath no fury like two high school girls scorned in this 2022 black comedy. With Maya Hawke (“Stranger Things”) and Camila Mendes (“Riverdale” ).

“Fate: The Winx Saga” (Netflix): This supernatural drama set at a magical boarding school conjures up a sophomore season.

“Goodnight Mommy” (Prime Video): Naomi Watts plays a suburban mother of two whose maternal instincts leave a lot to be desired in this 2022 terror tale.

“Heathers: The Musical” (Roku): Greetings and salutations! Enjoy a tune-filled take on the edgy 1989 teen comedy that starred Winona Ryder and Christian Slater.

“Love Is Blind: After the Altar” (Netflix): The dating-show spinoff hosted by Nick and Vanessa Lachey returns with new episodes.

“Mija” (Disney+): Two young Mexican American women try to balance family obligations with chasing their showbiz dreams in this new documentary.

“My Dream Quinceañera” (Paramount+): Three young SoCal woman, each on the edge of 15, prepare to mark that milestone in this new reality series.

“Official Competition” (AMC+): Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz share the screen in this sharp 2021 sendup of the film industry.

“CMT Giants” (CMT, 9 p.m.): Veteran singer-songwriter Vince Gill is saluted by Sting, Carrie Underwood, et al. in a new entry in the series.

“Los Espookys” (HBO, 11 p.m.): Be afraid, be sort of afraid as this sweet-natured mix of silliness and the supernatural serves up a second season.

Sat., Sept. 17

“Girl in Room 13” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.): The late Anne Heche stars in this new fact-based TV movie about a mother trying to rescue her daughter from a sex-trafficking ring.

“Wedding of a Lifetime” (Hallmark, 8 p.m.): They just need to pretend they’re still together to win their dream nuptials in this new TV movie.

“NFL Icons” (Epix, 10 p.m.) Legendary Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton — a.k.a. Sweetness — is remembered in a new episode.

Sun., Sept. 18

“Model America” (MSNBC, 7 p.m.): This new docuseries offers a case study in race relations in one New Jersey town.

“Revenge for My Mother” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.): A fitness trainer’s new assistant may have ulterior motives in this new TV movie.

“The U.S. and the Holocaust” (KOCE, 8 p.m.; concludes Tue.-Wed.): This new three-part documentary from Ken Burns examines America’s response to the atrocities perpetrated by Nazi Germany during the 1930s and ’40s.

“Halloween Wars” (Food Network, 9 p.m.): Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat as the seasonal competition returns.

Mon., Sept. 19

Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral (various channels, 3 a.m.): Broadcast, cable and streaming outlets will offer live coverage of the solemn ceremony at Westminster Abbey in London.

“Best in Dough” (Hulu): Pizza chefs, start your ovens for this new competition series.

“The Journal of India” (Discovery+): The history and culture of the Southeast Asian nation are celebrated in this collection of short films.

“Dancing With the Stars” (Disney+, 5 p.m.): Wayne Brady, Selma Blair and drag performer Shangela are among this season’s celebrity contestants.

“The Voice” (NBC, 8 p.m.; also Tue.): Camila Cabello joins John Legend, Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani on the coaching crew in the season premiere.

“9-1-1” (Fox, 8 p.m.): The procedural drama answers the call for a sixth season.

“NCIS” and “NCIS: Hawai’i” (CBS, 9 and 10 p.m.): Crossover alert! The action dramas return with one storyline spread out over two season premieres.

“The Cleaning Lady” (Fox, 9 p.m.): This suspense drama about an immigrant doctor mixed up with the mob is back for Season 2. Élodie Yung stars.

“Quantum Leap” (NBC, 10 p.m.): It’s a blast from the past as the time-traveling 1989-93 sci-fi drama gets a reboot. Raymond Lee stars.

Tue., Sept. 20

“Patton Oswalt: We All Scream” (Netflix): The veteran comic cracks wise in Denver in this new self-directed stand-up special.

“Reboot” (Hulu): The cast of a family sitcom from the early aughts gives it another go in this new satire. With Rachel Bloom and Keegan-Michael Key.

“This Is Joan Collins” (TCM, 5 p.m.): The eternally glamorous “Dynasty” star looks back on her life and decades-long career in this new documentary.

“FBI,” “FBI: International” and “FBI: Most Wanted” (CBS, 8, 9 and 10 p.m.): The procedural dramas return.

“The Bachelorette” (ABC, 8 p.m.): Roses are red, violets are blue, Gabby and Rachel make their selections in the season finale.

“The Resident,” “New Amsterdam” (Fox, 8 p.m.; NBC, 10 p.m.): The hospital dramas present their respective season premieres.

Wed., Sept. 21

“Andor” (Disney+): Diego Luna reprises his rebellious role from 2016’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” in this new prequel series.

“Designing Miami” (Netflix): Married interior designers work their magic in the Magic City in this new series.

“Iron Chef Mexico” (Netflix): The culinary competition begets a spicy south-of-the-border spinoff.

“Meet Cute” (Peacock): Kaley Cuoco finds “SNL’s” Pete Davidson irresistible, which is a thing that happens, in this fantastical 2022 rom-com.

“The Real Bling Ring: Hollywood Heist” (Netflix): This new true crime documentary recalls the crew of larcenous adolescents busted back in 2009.

“Shadowland” (Peacock): This new documentary series sounds the alarm about the dangers conspiracy theories pose to our fragile and fractious democracy.

“Super/Natural” (Disney+): Cutting-edge technology captures animals doing the darndest things in this new nature series. Benedict Cumberbatch narrates.

“Survivor” and “The Amazing Race” (CBS, 8 and 9:59 p.m.): The long-lived reality competitions return.

“Chicago Med,” “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago PD” (NBC, 8, 9 and 10 p.m.): This trio of procedural dramas set in the Windy City also returns.

“The Conners,” “The Goldbergs,” “Abbott Elementary” and “Home Economics,” (ABC, 8, 8:30, 9 and 9:30 p.m.): These sitcoms are back as well.

“The Masked Singer” and “Lego Masters” (Fox, 8 and 9 p.m.): The competition series present their season premieres.

“Escape From Kabul” (HBO, 9 p.m.): This new documentary records the chaos that descended on the Afghan capital with the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2021.

“Big Sky” (ABC, 10 p.m.): The Montana-set mystery drama returns for Season 3.

“Fine Cut” (KCET, 10 p.m.): This showcase for student film is back with a curated selection of comedies, dramas, documentaries and animated shorts.

Thu., Sept. 22

“Batali: The Fall of a Superstar Chef” (Discovery+): This new doc explores the sexual assault allegations made against celebrity chef Mario Batali.

“The Dreamlife of Georgie Stone” (Netflix): A young transgender activist shares her story in this new documentary.

“The Hype” (HBO Max): The competition for aspiring streetwear designers drops its second season.

“The Kardashians” (Hulu): You know ’em, you love ’em, you can’t live without ’em and they’re back with new episodes.

“Raven’s Hollow” (Shudder): A pre-fame Edgar Allan Poe has a mystery on his hands in this 2022 terror tale.

“Thai Cave Rescue” (Netflix): This new series dramatizes the story of the youth soccer team that became trapped in a flooded cave in 2018.

“You Don’t Nomi” (AMC+): Paul Verhoeven’s darkly comic and unjustly derided 1995 fable “Showgirls” gets the critical reassessment it deserves in this 2019 documentary.

“Law & Order: Organized Crime,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and “Law & Order” (NBC, 8, 9 and 10 p.m.): Clung-clung! The franchise returns with a triple crossover.

“Norman Lear: 100 Years of Music and Laughter” (ABC, 9 p.m.): The legendary TV producer behind such classics as “All in the Family” is feted in this new star-studded special.


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