The woman behind Netflix’s ‘You’ has no interest in (real-life) serial killers
Welcome to Screen Gab, the newsletter for everyone who’s over serial killers — or thinks they are.
That’s because “You” showrunner Sera Gamble, whose sugar-coated poison pill of a class satire features a serial killer as its protagonist, isn’t much of a fan either. At least, not of the genuine artifact, as she tells senior television writer Yvonne Villarreal in this week’s Screen Gab. Fiction is another matter!
Also in Screen Gab No. 75 (!), many more titles to stream this weekend, from an animated treat for the whole family to an atmospheric true story about the Boston Strangler. And as always, we want to know what you’re watching. Pretend we’re at the water cooler and give us your review of a TV show or streaming movie you loved; 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
In honor of the adorable elephant impression performed by the toddler in my life, my pick for this week is “The Magician’s Elephant” (Netflix). An animated adaptation of a book by Kate DiCamillo, the movie follows an orphan named Peter who is charged with completing three impossible tasks in exchange for an elephant’s freedom. The elephant — who was accidentally summoned by a magician — is supposed to be the key for Peter to reunite with his younger sister, who had been presumed dead. The real magic of this movie is its whimsy and heart, which is anchored by the inspiring theme that anything is possible as long as you believe and try. Plus, who doesn’t love family movies that involve elephants? —Tracy Brown
For anyone still missing “Mindhunter,” the new movie “Boston Strangler” (Hulu) is a solid true-crime procedural, cast in a green-ish, David Fincher-esque pallor and suffused with a sense of mourning and despair. Written and directed by Matt Ruskin, the film is based on the true story of Boston newspaper journalists Loretta McLaughlin (Keira Knightley) and Jean Cole (Carrie Coon) as they struggle to be taken seriously while piecing together the series of murders that would become known as the work of the Boston Strangler. With an air of unsettling ambiguity and strong supporting performances by Chris Cooper, Alessandro Nivola, David Dastmalchian and Bill Camp, the movie conveys a world of casual sexism and deep-rooted menace. The film’s truest pleasure is in simply spending time with Coon and Knightley as their characters spend time together, two performers with a simmering charisma who seem to be enjoying each other’s company. —Mark Olsen
Everything you need to know about the film or TV series everyone’s talking about
Anthony Pellicano cast a shadow over Hollywood in the 1980s and ‘90s as a private eye to the rich and powerful, using illegal wiretaps to gather the secrets of celebrities, entertainment titans and powerless opponents as a means of thwarting some of the industry’s most high-profile cases. At least, until he was sentenced in 2008 to 15 years in federal prison for wiretapping, racketeering, conspiracy and wire fraud. Now, the notorious Hollywood fixer is the subject of “Sin Eater: The Crimes of Anthony Pellicano” (FX on Hulu), a two-part New York Times documentary that premiered earlier this month. The first installment chronicles Pellicano’s fascinating rise to Hollywood’s go-to private investigator, a pinnacle he reached by deploying unorthodox and ruthless methods to protect his clientele, which included celebrities such as Chris Rock and Michael Jackson, and influential players like Michael Ovitz (co-founder of Creative Artists Agency) and Ron Meyer (co-founder of CAA and former COO of Universal Studios).
The second part tracks his downfall in the 2000s and catches up with an unrepentant Pellicano, who was released from prison in 2019 and, even without a P.I. license, is back in business, getting hired by prominent figures and, according to him, landing a guest spot in Sam Levinson’s already-controversial HBO series “The Idol.” Aided by interviews with reporters and victims, as well as audio recordings of his phone calls (including one with Rock amid a rape allegation in the late ‘90s), the documentary is a gripping and unsettling look at the infamous figure. By the end of the first installment, I was searching for a cross-cut shredder on Amazon. —Yvonne Villarreal
A weekly chat with actors, writers, directors and more about what they’re working on — and what they’re watching
Unlike a number of the series’ diehard fans, I’ve been high on the bifurcated fourth season of “You” (Netflix) from the start. Sure, it leans hard enough on stalker Joe Goldberg’s (Penn Badgley) knowing voiceover to topple over, and combines so many British mystery tropes it might qualify as a form of Yorkshire pudding. But of all the eat-the-rich dramas on television, the most literal — it indeed features an “Eat-the-Rich Killer” — is also the one that comes closest to capturing the blithe, callous dilettantism of the truly moneyed in all its absurdity. As subtle as a buzzsaw and as twisty as a soap opera, “You’s” move to London trades self-seriousness and high dudgeon for a bloody good time. And that’s before the season’s back half, which premiered last week, leaves your jaw on the floor — and tees up a thrilling new cat-and-mouse game that I’m already dying to see. Senior television writer Yvonne Villarreal recently caught up with showrunner Sera Gamble to discuss the logic behind the season’s structure, what her writers’ room is watching and more. —Matt Brennan
What prompted the decision to split up the season?
That originated with Netflix. It’s something they have been doing with some of their shows — “Stranger Things” is the example I can think of, but I think there are others. We were already producing the season, the scripts were written, and it was immediately attractive as an idea for us just because this is a show that people enjoy talking about and debating and discussing. And the idea that there would be two opportunities for the audience to do that — I have to say, I appreciate the binge model when I’m the viewer. I want to see all of them right now. But as the person making the show, sometimes it’s a little bit sad that the conversation moves on so quickly after you spent two years of your life making something. And we knew that we had a really good center point. The cliffhanger at the end of Part I answers the whodunit, but it doesn’t really get you into all the really great stuff. You need to watch Part II for that.
If an executive said, “Hey, we want to turn this true-life case into a show or examine this person in that way,” would you do it? Or do you feel like that becomes icky for you?
I have been offered a lot of stuff with a true story of a murderer since “You” happened, and I’ve turned down all of them so far. First of all, I’m not actually that interested in serial killers. I didn’t sign up to do this show with Greg [Berlanti, co-creator and executive producer] because, I’m so excited to write about a murderer. For any true story or story based on real people to be interesting to me, it has to be about more than just a really deep look into what makes people kill. I don’t necessarily want to live in that, which is not to say there’s not some great story that illuminates a lot more. But that thing where we’re watching a series or a limited series, and it’s based on somebody who did something terrible, I feel like … I guess it was so ironic for me to say, I feel like a voyeur in a bad way.
What’s a TV show that “You” writers were obsessed with this season that was brought up a lot in the room?
“Succession” [HBO Max] is an obvious one. We were just watching it along with everybody else because we really enjoyed it and because it’s about ridiculously rich people — we were paying attention to that. We had no illusions that we were going to be doing anything similar to what they were doing. We also were not a show that’s built to have, like, a helicopter and a yacht. So we knew we were approaching our story from a completely different angle. Those shows that come out weekly are the ones that writers are mentioning week to week. We are like a classic watercooler. I can’t wait for next season. You know what else the writer’s room was obsessed with for a while — I feel like we wrote a joke into Season 3 or Season 4 — but do you know that reality show “Alone” [a survival competition series on History channel]? It just spread throughout the writers room and we would have all these conversations about snares and killing wolverines with a hatchet.
Listings coordinator Matt Cooper highlights the TV shows and streaming movies to keep an eye on
Fri., March 17
“Agent Elvis” (Netflix): Thankyouverymuch! The King of Rock ’n’ Roll (voice of Matthew McConaughey) moonlights as a super spy in this new adult animated comedy.
“Beach Cottage Chronicles” (HBO Max, Discovery+): The easy, breezy architecture and design series is back with new episodes.
“Bono & the Edge: A Sort of Homecoming, With Dave Letterman” (Disney+): Did the U2 bandmates ever find what they were looking for? Find out in this new special.
“Boston Strangler” (Hulu): Keira Knightley portrays a journalist on the trail of the notorious 1960s-era serial killer in this 2023 docudrama.
“Dance 100” (Netflix): Watch your step! Up-and-coming choreographers are put through their paces in this new competition.
“Extrapolations” (Apple TV+): In the not-too-distant future, climate change pushes humanity to the brink in this new star-studded drama. With Meryl Streep, Edward Norton, et al.
“Leave” (Shudder): A young woman abandoned as a baby tries to unlock the secrets of her parentage in this 2022 terror tale with Alicia von Rittberg.
“The Magician’s Elephant” (Netflix): A young boy has his eyes on the prize — a pachyderm — in this 2023 animated fantasy.
“Servant” (Apple TV+): This twisted domestic thriller from M. Night Shyamalan ends its run after four seasons. Lauren Ambrose stars.
“Swarm” (Prime Video): A young woman’s fandom for a Beyoncé-like superstar takes her to some very dark places in this new drama. Dominique Fishback stars.
“Put a Ring On It” (OWN, 9 p.m.): More couples get that push to jump the proverbial broom as the unscripted series returns.
“Power Book II: Ghost” (Starz, 9 p.m.): The spinoff of the 2014-20 crime drama conjures up a third season. Michael Rainey Jr. stars.
“Great Performances at the Met” (KOCE, 9 p.m.): Soprano Renée Fleming whiles away “The Hours” in this 2022 opera based on Michael Cunningham’s 1998 bestseller inspired by Virginia Woolf’s 1925 novel “Mrs. Dalloway.”
Sat., March 18
“A Winning Team” (Hallmark, 8 p.m.): A women’s soccer star kicks it with a small-town coach in this new TV movie with Nadia Hatta.
“The Hillsdale Adoption Scam” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.): A couple’s desperation to have another child takes a dark turn in this new thriller with Keshia Knight Pulliam.
Sun., March 19
Los Angeles Marathon (KTLA, 6:30 a.m.): Live coverage of the annual race tracks the action along the course from Dodger Stadium to Century City.
“Sacrifice and Survival: A Story From the Front Line” (Fox News, 6 p.m.): Journalist Benjamin Hall revisits his harrowing experiences covering the war in Ukraine in this new documentary.
“Call the Midwife” (KOCE, 8 p.m.): The drama about nuns helping deliver babies in London’s impoverished East End in the 1950-60s delivers its Season 12 premiere.
“House of Deadly Lies” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.): A stay-at-home mom’s life is upended by the arrival of her down-on-her-luck BFF in this thriller with Katy Breier.
“Sanditon” (KOCE, 9 p.m.): It is a truth universally acknowledged that this romantic drama based on an unfinished Jane Austen novel is back for a third season. Rose Williams stars.
“Lucky Hank” (AMC, 9 p.m.; also BBC America, IFC, Sundance): “Better Call Saul’s” Bob Odenkirk has a new gig running the English department at a run-down Rust Belt college in this new dramedy. Mireille Enos also stars.
“All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” (HBO, 9 p.m.): Laura Poitras’ 2022 documentary tracks photographer and activist Nan Goldin’s crusade to hold a large pharmaceutical company accountable for its role in the opioid epidemic.
“The Blacklist” (NBC, 10 p.m.): The crime drama starring James Spader hits the 200-episode mark.
“Marie Antoinette” (KOCE, 10 p.m.): She’s got a good head on her shoulders — for now — in this imported historical drama with Emilia Schüle.
Mon., March 20
“The Larkins” (Acorn TV): This period drama adapted from H.E. Bates’ 1958 novel “The Darling Buds of May” returns with Joanna Scanlan.
“Independent Lens” (KOCE, 10 p.m.): The new documentary “Storming Caesars Palace” salutes Ruby Duncan, an activist who took on all comers to secure welfare rights for underprivileged families in Las Vegas in the 1970s.
“The Daily Show” (Comedy Central, 11 p.m.): Former Sen. Al Franken is this week’s guest host.
Tue., March 21
“American Masters” (KOCE, 8 p.m.): Dr. Anthony Fauci looks back on his five-decade career as the nation’s preeminent immunologist in this new episode.
“Restaurants at the End of the World” (Nat Geo, 10 p.m.): “Top Chef’s” Kristen Kish is your guide to far-flung eateries in this new foodie travelogue.
Wed., March 22
“Waco: American Apocalypse” (Netflix): This new docuseries revisits the deadly standoff between federal agents and the heavily-armed religious cult the Branch Davidians in Texas in 1993.
“Digman!” (Comedy Central, 10:30 p.m.): A washed-up Indiana Jones-style archaeologist (voice of Andy Samberg) tries to get back in the game in this new adult animated comedy.
Thu., March 23
“Call Jane” (Hulu): Elizabeth Banks and Sigourney Weaver star in this fact-based 2022 drama about activists providing safe though illegal abortions in 1960s Chicago pre-Roe vs. Wade.
“The Lesson Is Murder” (Hulu): Former FBI special agent Bryanna Fox schools grad students on how to profile serial killers in this new docuseries.
“Love You to Death” (BET+): This new docuseries recounts true-life tales of relationships gone tragically, fatally wrong.
“The Night Agent” (Netflix): A wet-behind-the-ears FBI agent (Gabriel Basso) finds himself in over his head in this new espionage drama from “The Shield’s” Shawn Ryan.
“The Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip” (Peacock): All their bags are packed and they’re ready to go in new episodes of this reality TV franchise crossover.
“Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC, 9 p.m.): Original cast member Kate Walsh returns to reprise her role as Dr. Addison Montgomery in this new episode.
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