How a stunning new TV western learned the ropes from Clint Eastwood
Welcome to Screen Gab, the newsletter for everyone spending the shorter days dreaming of bright skies and wide open spaces.
If the 5 o’clock sunsets that follow the end of Daylight Saving Time have left you feeling down, Hugo Blick’s “The English,” premiering Friday on Prime Video, might perk you up: As Blick tells Screen Gab in this week’s Guest Spot, he shot nearly all of it “from afternoon to sunset... back-lit by the sun and front-lit by large arc lights.” It’s practically a form of light therapy.
Plus, a slew of other titles to stream this weekend. And, as always, send your TV or streaming movie recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org 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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How ‘gaslighting’ led a ‘Love Is Blind’ fan favorite to be jilted at the altar: Season 3 contestant Nancy Rodriguez opens up about her failed relationship with Bartise Bolden, talking abortion on a Netflix reality show and more.
Why Britain is in an uproar over ‘The Crown’ — and why it’s a tempest in a teapot: As the Netflix drama revisits a sordid chapter in royal history at an awkward moment for the monarchy, the Windsors’ allies are coming out against it.
Recommendations from the film and TV experts at The Times
Two damaged souls hit the road together in Mali Elfman’s directorial debut, “Next Exit” (VOD, multiple platforms; also in theaters), a genre-blending, speculative sci-fi dark dramedy whose existential explorations linger like a bear hug on a bad day. In a world almost like our own, scientists have proved the afterlife; the sudden revelation has altered everyone’s life-or-death priorities. That’s how strangers Rose (Katie Parker) and Teddy (Rahul Kohli) end up driving cross-country in a shared rental car to take part in a controversial euthanasia project that promises to make their death wishes come true. As the frosty Rose and flippant Teddy bicker, bond and inch closer to literal death along their morbid journey, Parker and Kohli shine in meaty leading roles that feel long overdue. Maybe you’ve seen Parker in Netflix’s “The Haunting of Hill House” or caught Kohli’s standout turn on the streamer’s “Midnight Mass.” Writer-director Elfman’s “Next Exit” gives both of these under-the-radar stars a showcase with complex and compelling souls to sink into before they reunite next year in the Mike Flanagan-verse in “The Fall of the House of Usher.” — Jen Yamato
Now in its second season, the lovely, knockabout, very funny “Welcome to Flatch” (Fox, streaming on Hulu) stars Holmes and Sam Straley as Kelly and Shrub, cousins living in an Ohio small town. The setting and documentary style may bring to mind “Parks and Recreation” — not at all a bad thing, and not to “Flatch’s” disadvantage — but it has its own flavor and way with a joke. The ensemble includes Seann William Scott as the local pastor, formerly a member of a Christian boy band, now living with his girlfriend (Aya Cash), the editor — and staff — of the town’s newspaper, and Krystal Smith as the imposing Big Mandy, the pastor’s assistant (and world’s worst tattoo artist). But the show belongs to Straley and Holmes, whose commitment to their parts mirrors the fierce energy their characters spend convincing themselves their lives are good, not to say heroic — even as they scheme to improve them in quixotically ambitious ways. At some incalculable distance into young adulthood, but with the emotional complexion of 14-year-olds, caught between prankish antics and some imperfectly grasped idea of maturity, they are at once ridiculous and poignant. The current season adds Jaime Pressly as glamorous real estate agent Barb Flatch, back from Miami after the end of a marriage, to whom Kelly and Shrub become attached in different, conflicting ways. — Robert Lloyd
Everything you need to know about the film or TV series everyone’s talking about
“The Good Fight” (Paramount+), Robert and Michelle King’s absurdist legal procedural about the most chaotic half-decade in modern American politics, has, for all its interest in the topical, one central thesis: to dramatize the present is to leave plausibility behind. The series, which concluded Thursday after six seasons, established itself as the only scripted drama of the Trump years that made sense, in part by keying it up as a delirious farce; in the process it achieved the Holy Grail of spinoffs, taking the animating question of its predecessor, “The Good Wife” — How far can you push the law? — and reinterpreting it for our own moment — Does the law even matter? With plot lines about the death of Jeffrey Epstein and the Capitol insurrection, cases-of-the-week involving Melania Trump and military whistleblowers, and tossed-off jokes about “Pod Save America” and baby shark, the series left no stone unturned, no idol untouched, least of all the liberal establishment with which its characters identified. (I can think of no more lacerating exchange than the deadpan, “And where were the Obamas during all of this?” “They had an overall deal at Netflix.”) Most important, though, the series, its showrunners and its delicious ensemble cast, led by the inimitable Christine Baranski, embraced audacity within the quasi-conventional, making “did they really just do that?!” magic of which its more heralded competitors could only dream. As I wrote years ago, and stand by still, “The Good Fight” was game for anything, and that’s why it’s so damn fun. —Matt Brennan
A weekly chat with actors, writers, directors and more about what they’re working on — and what they’re watching
When I see the name Hugo Blick attached to a project, it has already earned my attention: His bracing, bleakly intelligent thriller “The Honourable Woman” (VOD, multiple platforms), set against the backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and anchored by one of Maggie Gyllenhaal’s finest performances, is an old favorite of mine. His newest endeavor, Prime Video’s “The English,” also brings the action (a Great Plains crossing), the violence (a series of unsolved murders) and the pedigreed lead actress (Emily Blunt), this time in an 1890s-set western steeped in the the genre’s traditions. Blick swung by Screen Gab to talk about how he drew inspiration, and advice, from masters of the form, his enduring love of “Mad Men” and what he’s watching. —Matt Brennan
What have you watched recently that you are recommending to everyone you know?
“Julia” (HBO Max). Child’s unexpected rise in television chimed with my own, albeit mine was on a much smaller scale and without the use of a kitchen. The only ingredients available to me were words. I joined the BBC on a daily contract; half the day was spent signing it, the other half reading through a huge pile of scripts. After many months I found one. Turned out it was mine ...
What’s your go-to “comfort watch,” the movie or TV show you go back to again and again?
“Mad Men” (Prime Video). Essentially, the Drapers were my parents. When Don took his kids back to that wreck of a house in which he’d been raised, it felt like a session with a therapist.
It’s impossible to make, or watch, a western without thinking of the genre’s rich and varied history. What were your inspirations while making “The English,” and how do you think they inflect the series’ style?
Cinematographer Arnau Valls Colomer and I carefully studied the western genre, particularly its mid-20th century period. For as much as the stories they tell, these westerns are defined by the light they used to tell them. We studied the work of Anthony Mann with particular care. Then on location, noting Clint Eastwood’s documentary advice to shoot with the sun on the slant, we scheduled for the afternoon-to-sunset period, when the light was on the fall and the dust was up. Back-lit by the sun and front-lit by large arc lights, I found the results impressive, although the technique could prove blinding for the actors. We shot 2.39:1 CinemaScope and used anamorphic Panavision Prime lenses. By necessity, these classic techniques required a majoritively static camera, so I spent a good deal of the time figuring out where best to position ourselves so we wouldn’t have to move. Studying Mann, Eastwood, [Sergio] Leone and George Stevens was of huge assistance in this regard. But perhaps the person who carried the most influence was a director considered by many as the undisputed master of the western genre, despite never having actually made one: Akira Kurosawa.
“The Shadow Line,” “The Honourable Woman,” “Black Earth Rising,” now “The English” — your work in television has gravitated toward miniseries. What do you like about the form? And are there any of your miniseries you have considered/would consider returning to for another season?
It’s the fixed ending. No what-ifs, maybes or loose threads. For as much a long-form drama shares its roots in television there’s something of the serialized Victorian novel to its structure: look to keep the reader hooked, offer the promise of a final destination and then be sure to stick the landing. For “The English,” being it’s a western, it’s all about that sunset and who gets to ride off into it. And who doesn’t.
Recommendations from Screen Gab readers
Listings coordinator Matt Cooper highlights the TV shows and streaming movies to keep an eye on
Fri., Nov. 11
“Ancient Apocalypse” (Netflix): A British journalist shares his controversial theories about prehistoric civilizations in this new docuseries.
“Bar Fight!” (AMC+): The loser will have to find a new drinking spot in this 2022 rom-com. With “Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s” Melissa Fumero.
“Capturing the Killer Nurse” (Netflix): This new documentary tells the story of the healthcare worker whose crimes were dramatized in the recent film “The Good Nurse.”
“Down to Earth With Zac Efron” (Netflix): The “High School Musical” star is back with a second season of his Emmy-winning travelogue.
“The English” (Prime Video): An aristocratic Brit (Emily Blunt) joins a Native American scout (Chaske Spencer) on an arduous trek across the plains in this new frontier-era drama.
“Is That Black Enough for You?!?” (Netflix): Film critic Elvis Mitchell explores the origins of Black cinema in this new documentary.
“My Father’s Dragon” (Netflix): A youngster has a fantastical adventure in this 2022 animated tale based on the children’s book.
“Mythic Quest” (Apple TV+): This workplace sitcom about a video-game studio ventures forth for a third season.
“Play-Doh Squished” (Freeze): “Modern Family’s” Sarah Hyland hosts this new kid-friendly competition.
“Transformers: EarthSpark” (Paramount+): The sci-fi franchise about robots in disguise begets yet another animated series.
“Greatest #AtHome Videos” (CBS, 8 p.m.): They’re talking turkey in a special Thanksgiving episode. Cedric the Entertainer hosts.
“In Merry Measure” (Hallmark, 8 p.m.): A pop star hooks up with a hunky former rival in this new holiday romance.
“Variety Salute to Service” (History, 8 p.m.): Seth Meyers hosts the annual Veterans Day special.
“The Dog Days of Christmas” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.): A career woman hooks up with a hunky veterinarian in this new holiday romance.
Sat., Nov. 12
“The Royal Nanny” (Hallmark, 8 p.m.): An undercover MI5 agent hooks up with a hunky prince in this new holiday romance.
“Reindeer Games Homecoming” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.): A small-town biology teacher hooks up with her high school crush in this new holiday romance.
“Lil Rel Howery: I Said It. Y’all Thinking It.” (HBO, 10 p.m.): The comic speaks his mind to a hometown crowd in Chicago in his latest stand-up special.
Sun., Nov. 13
“Tulsa King” (Paramount+): Who’s the boss? Sylvester Stallone, that’s who, in this new crime drama about a New York mafioso exiled to the Sooner State.
“Christmas at the Golden Dragon” (Hallmark, 8 p.m.): A family-run Chinese restaurant serves as the setting for this new TV movie.
“Six Degrees of Santa” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.): A single mom meets a hunky internet entrepreneur in this new TV movie.
“Rogue Heroes” (Epix, 9 p.m.): British soldiers go commando in this new action drama about the World War II-era origins of the Special Air Service.
Mon., Nov. 14
“Stutz” (Netflix): Spend some time on the couch with Jonah Hill and his therapist, Dr. Phil Stutz, in this new profile directed by the “Superbad” actor.
“Teletubbies” (Netflix): Eh-oh! They’re back in a reboot of the toddler-friendly live-action show. Tituss Burgess narrates.
“Taken Hostage: An American Experience Special” (KOCE, 10 p.m.; concludes Tuesday): This new two-part documentary revisits the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, its origins and the aftermath.
“E! News” (E!, 11:30 p.m.; also Tuesdays-Thursdays): There’s no business like show business in a reboot of the entertainment-news program.
Tue., Nov. 15
“Deon Cole: Charleen’s Boy” (Netflix): The veteran comic cracks wise about romance, relationships, etc. in this new standup special.
“Once Upon a Time in Londongrad” (Peacock): This new series investigates the suspicious deaths of Russian dissidents and oligarchs in the U.K.
“Customer Wars” (A&E, 10 and 10:30 p.m.): Don’t even think about asking to speak to the manager in this new spinoff reality series.
Wed., Nov. 16
“In Her Hands” (Netflix): A young female mayor in Afghanistan stands up to the Taliban in this 2022 documentary.
“Leverage: Redemption” (Freevee): The rebooted crime drama is back in action. With Noah Wyle and Aldis Hodge.
“Limitless With Chris Hemsworth” (Disney+): The Marvel star explores the limits of human endurance in this new series.
“Martha Cooks” (Roku): Someone’s in the kitchen with Martha Stewart in this new cooking show.
“Mind Your Manners” (Netflix): Stay classy with a little help from etiquette teacher Sara Jane Ho’s new series.
“The Santa Clauses” (Disney+): Tim Allen suits up once more for this new comedy series based on the holiday movie franchise.
“Where Is Private Dulaney?” (Hulu): The mother of a U.S. Marine desperately seeks her missing son in this new docuseries.
“The Wonder” (Netflix): “Midsommar’s” Florence Pugh plays an English nurse investigating a purported miracle in 19th century Ireland in this 2022 drama.
“Master of Light” (HBO, 8:30 p.m.): This new documentary profiles George Anthony Morton, a Black artist who honed his painting skills during a decade behind bars.
“Nova” (KOCE, 9 p.m.): It’s all or nothing as the new episode “Zero to Infinity” details the origins of these two key mathematical concepts.
Thu., Nov. 17
“Christmas Party Crashers” (BET+): Who invited them? Nobody, that’s who in this new holiday rom-com.
“A Christmas Story Christmas” (HBO Max): Ralphie returns, all grow’d up, in this 1970s-set sequel to the nostalgic 1983 comedy. With Peter Billingsley.
“I Am Vanessa Guillen” (Netflix): This new documentary examines the murder of the 20-year-old female soldier on a U.S. Army base in Texas in 2020.
“Leopard Skin” (Peacock): Thieves lay low at a seaside estate in Mexico after a heist goes sideways in this new crime drama. With Carla Gugino.
“Pepsi, Where’s My Jet?” (Netflix): A young contest entrant in the 1990s goes to court to try to claim his prize in this new documentary.
“Santa Camp” (HBO Max): Aspiring Santas from all walks of life learn how to play the part in this new documentary.
“The Sex Lives of College Girls” (HBO Max): The racy campus comedy from Mindy Kaling serves up its sophomore season.
“Sweet Navidad” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.): A baker meets a hunky chef in this new TV movie.
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