You might not like ‘Fleishman’ at first. Here’s why it’s worth another shot
Welcome to Screen Gab, the newsletter for everyone who’s rolled their eyes at a TV show — only to find themselves still thinking about it weeks, or months, later.
In this week’s edition, Screen Gab editor Matt Brennan writes about his recent experience of warming up to, or at least making peace with, “Fleishman Is in Trouble,” and why it might be worth a second shot if you gave it pass the first time around.
Also in Screen Gab No. 66, Oscar-winning screenwriter Mark Boal swings by to discuss his Apple TV+ series, “Echo 3,” we collect two streaming recommendations for your weekend, and we open up the mailbag to find a fan of “Abbott Elementary” even bigger than we are. As always, we want to know what you’re watching too! Pretend we’re at the water cooler and give us your review of a TV show or streaming movie you’ve loved and it may be included in a future edition of Screen Gab. (Submissions should be approximately 100 to 150 words and sent to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and location.)
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Recommendations from the film and TV experts at The Times
It’s a charming, bittersweet Irish indie that made less than $14 million worldwide. And it’s one of the best movies yet made about the evolution of a young artist. “Sing Street” (Netflix) written and directed by John Carney (“Once”), tells of teen Conor, who starts a band to impress a girl in Dublin, 1985. Their first efforts are clever, if derivative — let’s say “heavily influenced” by bands of the time. As the story moves forward and Conor’s abilities grow, the songs become deeper and more and more him, whether spilling his guts or giving the establishment the finger. The cast is wonderful, with leads Ferdia Walsh-Peelo and Lucy Boynton selling us on their characters’ imperfect relationship and Jack Reynor shining in a small role. And the songs stay with you: Duran Duran-esque “The Riddle of the Model,” Cure-ated “A Beautiful Sea,” pop gem “Up” and arrestingly beautiful “To Find You,” among others. —Michael Ordoña
The presence in the same series of Katherine Parkinson (“The IT Crowd,” “Whites”) and Alison Steadman (“Life Is Sweet,” “Pride and Prejudice,” “Hold the Sunset,” so much more), stalwarts of the British stage and screen small and large — and longtime personal favorites — was enough to make me look, but “Here We Go” (BritBox) is happily … well, “hilarious” is not a word I like to use, but I am stuck for a superlative that won’t just sound corny. Setting a comedy among a hapless extended family whose dysfunctions and failures somehow add up to a sort of determined unity, if only because it sets them against the more regulated, self-satisfied world, is classic sitcomedy; and framing the show as documentary footage — shot by the teenage son “for school” — is a now-familiar approach. But it allows for real-time, brilliant ensemble playing — all seven main characters are regularly onscreen together — and a breakneck pace, accelerated by jumps back and forth in time. (Family members are habitually late for one thing or another.) —Robert Lloyd
Everything you need to know about the film or TV series everyone’s talking about
The thing I keep telling people about “Fleishman Is in Trouble” (Hulu) is that I can’t exactly recommend it: The first episode throws viewers into what amounts to the audiobook of showrunner Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s 2019 novel, with the winsome Lizzy Caplan narrating; the last pulls back from the series’ most audacious creative decision, turning its blistering twist into a bloodless feint. It’s the part in between, though, that I binged in two sittings when “Fleishman” premiered in November, and that I can’t seem to stop thinking about nearly two months later. As Fleishman (Jesse Eisenberg) searches for/scorns his absent ex-wife, Rachel (Claire Danes), and reconnects with friends — thwarted writer Libby (Caplan), raffish playboy Seth (Adam Brody) — from his college years, the mystery of Rachel’s whereabouts becomes secondary to the mystery each character is attempting to solve. How did I get here? And how do I go back?
Consuming any narrative about dissatisfied 40-somethings from the perspective of 35 is a little like the reverse of yelling at the screen during a horror movie — the characters are the ones telling you to run — and “Fleishman” activated my fear of growing older, or perhaps my dissatisfaction with it, as few recent TV series have. Coupled with its subtly brutal satire of liberal common sense circa 2016, which forms its backdrop, “Fleishman’s” perceptive treatment of love and friendship in middle age managed to stick in my mind, or my craw, long enough to overcome my reservations. If only I could do the opposite with its brilliantly cringeworthy rendition of “Fight Song.” I won’t be able to hear that one the same way again until I’m at least 50. —Matt Brennan
A weekly chat with actors, writers, directors and more about what they’re working on — and what they’re watching
Even as an entertainment journalist, it’s not every day I hear directly from “talent,” instead of the public relations professionals paid to represent them. (Though it’s not unheard of.) So I was duly intrigued when Oscar-winning screenwriter Mark Boal turned up in my inbox with what he called a “unique situation”: His Apple TV+ series “Echo 3,” starring Michiel Huisman and Luke Evans as Delta Force operators who team up to save a loved one after she’s kidnapped in Colombia, had flown under the radar with the press, and he hoped The Times might take a fresh look. I invited Boal to stop by Screen Gab to speak his piece — about nearshoring, the death of newspapers and what he’s watching. —Matt Brennan
1. What have you watched recently that you are recommending to everyone you know?
“The Good Nurse” (Netflix). Strong movie by Tobias Lindholm.
2. What’s your go-to “comfort watch,” the movie or TV show you go back to again and again?
I don’t really have a category like that. There’s just too much novelty out there to seek out and discover. And anyway, for comfort, I like walks on the beach. Maybe a massage?
3. You’re best known for writing “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” both examinations of the fallout from the United States’ “war on terror” after the attacks of 9/11. “Echo 3” and your most recent film, “Triple Frontier,” shift the focus to Latin America. Was there any particular moment, whether in the news or in your career, where you started thinking, “I want to do more on this as a filmmaker”?
No tipping point per se. I’ve always felt spiritually connected to Latin America. It’s a fascinating region and increasingly important to the U.S. because of nearshoring [the practice of transferring a business operation to a firm in a nearby country], which I think is a positive trend. In terms of culture, in film and TV, Latin Americans are grossly underrepresented, and one of the things that is cool about “Echo 3” is that we were able to do so much of it in Spanish, and we learned that audiences are down for some subtitles.
4. You actually reached out to me about the series, in particular about the lack of press attention it’s received. As someone who’s been working in film and television at least since “In the Valley of Elah” in 2007, what would you say is the biggest change in the marketing/publicity machine since then?
“Echo 3” shot to No. 1 on Apple since we chatted, so I’ve got no complaints. The show found a big audience, and it’s growing every week. In the larger picture, traditional media is suffering with the rise of social and simultaneous decline of newspapers. All the old hierarchies are dying out. Everybody knows it. I wish there was a clear fix. I really do. But, to quote one of the characters in Echo 3, “not every problem has a solution.”
Recommendations from Screen Gab readers
What a show! “Abbott Elementary” (ABC) has everything, and it is educational too. The cast is made up of a variety of super-talented artists. Sheryl Lee Ralph is my personal favorite. The students on the show are lovable, talented and funny. William Stanford Davis, who plays the janitor Mr. Johnson, is a riot. There is never a dull moment when he is in a scene.
Quinta Brunson has a real winner on her hands. The teachers are fully dedicated to both the school and its students. They care, and that comes across very clearly across the screen. I like the interaction between the teachers and the kids. It is refreshing and sweet.
I never miss the show. It keeps me glued to my television every Wednesday night. I can tell a lot goes into it every week. Clearly everyone brings their A game to this very important program.
I am a fan, and I am telling everyone about “Abbott Elementary.” My neighbors love it too. My family started watching not long ago. It is one of my favorite comedies. I will continue to support them. I promise.
Listings coordinator Matt Cooper highlights the TV shows and streaming movies to keep an eye on
Fri., Jan. 13
“Break Point” (Netflix): Up-and-coming tennis stars travel from tournament to tournament hoping to make it to center court in this new docuseries.
“Dog Gone” (Netflix): A youngster and his dad go to great lengths to track down the family’s missing pooch in this fact-based 2023 tale. With Rob Lowe.
“The Drop” (Hulu): A mishap involving someone else’s infant leads to complications for a young couple at a tropical resort in this 2022 comedy.
“Hunters” (Prime Video): Our heroes return to sniff out more Nazis in 1970s NYC in a second season of this drama starring Al Pacino.
“Pretty Problems” (AMC+): An invitation to a stranger’s weekend getaway in Sonoma leads to complications for a different young couple in this 2022 comedy.
“Super League: The War for Football” (Apple TV+): They’re taking sides in this new docuseries about a controversial plan to launch a new European soccer league.
“Gold, Lies & Videotape” (Discovery, 9 p.m.): A New Mexico family fights to reclaim a fortune that may not actually exist in this new unscripted series.
Sat., Jan. 14
“Miss Universe” (Roku, 4 p.m.): Women from around the globe vie for the title at the annual pageant in New Orleans.
“How to Murder Your Husband: The Nancy Brophy Story” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.): Cybill Shepherd plays an unhappily married romance novelist in this new fact-based TV movie.
“Austin City Limits” (KOCE, 11:30 p.m.): Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats and singer-songwriter Adia Victoria perform.
Sun., Jan. 15
“Godfather of Harlem” (MGM+, 9 p.m.): This crime drama starring Forest Whitaker returns for Season 3.
“Burned by Love” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.): Lonely divorcée tries online dating site, scamming and stalking ensue in this new TV movie.
“Giuliani: What Happened to America’s Mayor?” (CNN, 9 and 10 p.m.): This four-part profile of the former New York mayor turned Trump loyalist concludes with back-to-back episodes.
“The Last of Us” (HBO, 9 p.m.): A smuggler (“Game of Thrones’” Pedro Pascal) treks across a post-apocalyptic America, a teenage girl (“Game of Thrones’” Bella Ramsey) in tow, in this new limited series based on the hit video game.
“Your Honor” (Showtime, 9 p.m.): Bryan Cranston comes off the bench for a second season of this New Orleans-set crime drama.
“MILF Manor” (TLC, 10 p.m.): Women of a certain age engage in what you might call a bit of cradle-robbing in this new competition.
Mon., Jan. 16
“Down Home Fab” (HGTV, 9 p.m.): “Teen Mom 2’s” Chelsea and Cole DeBoer get into the renovation game in this new series.
“The Price of Glee” (Investigation Discovery, 9, 10 and 11 p.m.): This new three-part special rehashes the scandals and tragedies that befell cast members of the hit 2009-15 TV series.
“Independent Lens” (KOCE, 10 p.m.): The 2022 documentary “The Big Payback” wades into the controversy over efforts to pay reparations to Black Americans over slavery.
Tue., Jan. 17
“New Amsterdam” (NBC, 9 and 10 p.m.): The NYC-set hospital drama starring Ryan Eggold ends its run after five seasons.
“American Experience” (KOCE, 9 p.m.): Zora Neale Hurston, the influential Black writer of the classic novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” is celebrated in this new episode.
Wed., Jan. 18
“Are You the One?” (Paramount+): There are plenty of fish in the sea as this international dating competition returns with new episodes.
“The Cupcake Guys” (Roku): Former NFL stars Michael Griffin and Brian Orakpo get into the baking game in this new reality series set in Austin, Texas.
“Nature” (KOCE, 8 p.m.): The new episode “Wildheart” tells the story of a majestic Scots pine that has stood on a hillside in the Scottish Highlands for five centuries.
“Trafficked With Mariana Van Zeller” (Nat Geo, 9 p.m.): The journalist’s investigations into the shadow economy continue for a third season.
“Dirty Old Cars” (History, 10 and 10:30 p.m.): The devil’s in the detailing in this new docuseries that follows three companies in the automobile restoration biz.
Thu., Jan. 19
“Sorry About the Demon” (Shudder): A lonely young man learns he’s not exactly as alone as he thought in this supernatural 2022 comedy.
“Web of Death” (Hulu): Online sleuths use their internet skills to help solve mysteries and murders in this new docuseries.
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