Need a break from ‘The Bear’? ‘The Beast,’ Stevie Van Zandt and more to stream

A man and a woman converse face to face.
George MacKay and Léa Seydoux in the movie “The Beast.”
(Carole Bethuel / Janus Films)
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Welcome to Screen Gab, the newsletter for everyone who still has bloodshot eyes from binge-watching “The Bear” in one night to avoid spoilers ...

That’s because the third season of the series dropped three hours ahead of schedule this week, sending some fans of the show scrambling. And we have plenty of coverage to feed your appetite, including a conversation with Liza Colón-Zayas. But for those seeking other viewing options, this week’s Screen Gab features film buff Mark Olsen explaining why French writer-director Bertrand Bonello’s time- and genre-hopping film “The Beast,” a meditation on isolation and loneliness, is impressive and worth your time.

Also in Screen Gab No. 138, the “Dark Matter” bosses stop by to discuss the films that helped shape their mind-bending thriller and two series to transport you this weekend.


Editor’s note: Screen Gab will be off next Friday, July 5, for the holiday weekend. We’ll be back to regularly scheduled programming on Friday, July 12.


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A collage of photos, including a plastic surgeon marking on a woman's face and a woman placing a tiara on a woman's head
A collage of photos from the Fox reality series “The Swan.”
(Jim Cooke / For The Times)

‘This is you now. It’s OK’: ‘The Swan’ contestants reflect on makeover competition 20 years later: ‘The Swan’ was a spectacle called cruel and sadistic, but former contestants don’t really see it that way. The reality makeover competition foretold the era we live in.

‘The Bachelor’ producers acknowledge ‘vicious cycle’ of racism in the franchise: After years of silence, the executive producers behind ABC’s “The Bachelor” are responding to the racial issues that have clouded the reality franchise.


Elliott Gould details his ‘perfect chemistry’ with ‘MASH’ co-star Donald Sutherland: Elliott Gould fondly remembers his collaborations with “brother” Donald Sutherland on “MASH,” “Little Murders” and “Spys.”

Liza Colón-Zayas has put in the work. In ‘The Bear,’ she makes every second count: In Season 3 of “The Bear,” Liza Colón-Zayas and her character’s backstory come to the forefront in the episode titled “Napkins,” showcasing the Puerto Rican actor’s prowess onscreen.

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Recommendations from the film and TV experts at The Times

Bruce Springsteen, left, and Stevie Van Zandt in the Max documentary "Stevie Van Zandt: Disciple."

“Stevie Van Zandt: Disciple” (HBO, Max)

A feature-length tribute to the right-hand man of Bruce Springsteen in the E-Street Band and of James Gandolfini in “The Sopranos,” and the agent of much you may never have suspected — the guy once known as Miami Steve, now called Little Steven and sometimes identified as Silvio Dante. A guitar player, songwriter, producer, arranger, actor, disc jockey, radio programmer, concert producer, Broadway director, scarf wearer and political activist. (His anti-apartheid “Sun City” is the best and most diverse of all 1980s supergroup sing-alongs.) As in most rock docs, the most engaging material belongs to the early years, when, in their long-haired and sometimes shirtless youth, Van Zandt, Springsteen and Southside Johnny Lyon tore up the clubs and rec halls of the Jersey Shore. But “Disciple” — echoing the name of Van Zandt’s politically charged solo band, the Disciples of Soul — is a treat all the way through, cataloging the ups and downs (and finally, the ups) of a restless career while the music plays. — Robert Lloyd

A person on horseback in an arena with a crowd of spectators
A scene from “Ren Faire” on HBO.

“Ren Faire” (HBO, Max)

“Watch ‘Ren Faire,’” my friends said. “It’s like ‘Succession’ meets ‘Game of Thrones,’” people wrote online. For the uninitiated, HBO’s latest buzzy docuseries follows the middle managers and owner of the largest Renaissance festival in Texas and details the closed-door turmoil over who octogenarian owner George Coulam (who’s also the town’s mayor) wants to run his sprawling operation. And it compresses the years of strife into three wildly watchable, hourlong episodes.
Part of what makes it enjoyable is that director Lance Oppenheim hasn’t just tapped into a rich vein of drama; he depicts life at the park in all its fantasy-inspired glory. The documentary is frequently shot as if it were a narrative film and features moments of reenactment by some of the subjects featured in the project. It’s hard not to be swept up in the madness, which is what happens to the series’ most tragic figure, general manager Jeff Baldwin. Some viewers surely were hooked by the behind-the-scenes drama: Will Coulam hand his kingdom to Baldwin or will he finally take up kettle corn magnate Louie Migliaccio’s offer to buy the fest? But what kept this viewer watching is the depiction of the marriage between Baldwin and wife Brandi, whom he hired as the park’s entertainment director. The couple, two theater kids at heart who bust out showtunes in moments of ecstasy or pain, are the beating heart of the series. They give us a glimpse of life outside of Coulam’s drama, even if it’s impossible for them to live outside of his orbit. — David Viramontes

Catch up

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

A woman and a man stare at a ball of flames
Léa Seydoux, left, and George MacKay in “The Beast.”
(Carole Bethuel / Sideshow and Janus Films)

Few filmmakers are exploring the isolation, loneliness and disorienting disassociation of modern life, particularly in the pandemic era, quite like French writer-director Bertrand Bonello. His latest film, “The Beast,” available now on digital platforms, takes place across three time periods — 1910 Paris, 2014 Los Angeles and an AI-controlled landscape of 2044 — as two characters, Gabrielle and Louis, fail to fully connect time and again. As played by Léa Seydoux and George MacKay, both working in French and English, they are not star-crossed lovers destined to be together thwarted by fate; rather, they are two people who keep glancing off each other, each on their own path and underscoring an existential alienation. If this all sounds a little dour, that’s because it doesn’t account for the electric charge of the performances, in particular Seydoux, here doing some of the best work of her career. Also recently seen in “Dune: Part Two,” the French actress tends to play on the cool, enigmatic unknowability of her screen persona in her Hollywood roles, while in “The Beast” she is a raw exposed nerve, vulnerable and unguarded against what the world has in store. It is in the section set in L.A. that Bonello most directly explores the film’s core themes. MacKay’s character here is based on Isla Vista killer Elliot Rodger, with some of the dialogue lifted directly from Rodger’s delusional online videos, casting a disturbing pall over the story. Each storyline reaches its own crushing conclusion, accumulating a sense of momentum that is driven by an ever-increasing sense of panicked terror in Seydoux, building to a shattering ending. Driven home by the fact that the film’s end credits are a QR code, the future, like it or not, is here. — Mark Olsen

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

A woman looks suspiciously at a forlorn man.
Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Connelly in “Dark Matter.”
(Apple TV+)

Who hasn’t thought about the road not taken and how it would rewrite our own history? That’s the appeal of “Dark Matter” (Apple TV+), the nine-episode, dimension-spanning sci-fi drama that follows a man as he is abducted into an alternate version of his own life and tracks his harrowing struggle to return to his true family. Based on the book by Blake Crouch, who also serves as showrunner, the series stars Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Connelly and wrapped its first season earlier this week. Crouch and executive producer Matt Tolmach stopped by Screen Gab recently to discuss the films that helped inform the story’s translation to the screen, the shows they return to time and again, and more. — Matt Brennan

What have you watched recently that you are recommending to everyone you know?

Crouch: I am utterly obsessed with “Welcome to Wrexham” [Hulu]. It’s strange to think that a docuseries about a couple of actors buying a Welsh football club has turned out to be the most emotional, thrilling, poignant and beautifully edited show I’ve seen in ages. It’s really become a portrait of a town and its people, and there is something quietly profound about that.

Tolmach: I watched “The Wire” [Max] and then “The Sopranos” [Max] recently. Both are gold standards for me. Spectacularly authentic characters. I actually walked around in a sad fog after finishing “The Sopranos” a couple of weeks ago. When shows really work, you fall in love with the characters. And you miss them deeply, like family, when they’re gone. I miss that whole cast.

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

Crouch: “The Office” [Peacock]. I think it’s “Cheers” [Paramount+, Hulu] for the young Gen-Xers/older millennials.


Tolmach: “Rick and Morty” [Hulu]. It’s where I go when I need to laugh. Or have perspective. Or fantasize about just getting away. And I watch it with my kid, which makes it even better. Also … I spend outrageous amounts of time on ESPN. On particularly rainy days, the Catalina Wine Mixer [scene from] “Step Brothers” never, ever disappoints …

Which film or TV series would you say has been most influential on you, either in your work shaping “Dark Matter” or more broadly?

Crouch: “Twin Peaks” [Paramount+]. It didn’t shape “Dark Matter” so much, but that show came out when I was 12 and impressionable and is one of the reasons I love storytelling, especially long-form. There was never anything like it — before or since.

Tolmach: We talked a lot about a few films throughout the making of this show. I always referenced [Richard] Linklater’s “Slacker” (for a particular scene). And “Frantic.” “It’s a Wonderful Life” was a touchstone, obviously.

Over the past year, publication after publication has observed that Apple TV+ has become home to numerous high-quality sci-fi shows. What has the platform’s messaging to you been about their interest in the genre and how “Dark Matter” fits in?

Crouch: We honestly haven’t had any conversations about it. The broad conversations I had with Apple regarding “Dark Matter” were mainly surrounding a desire to make something of high quality … from the actors to production design to the music. It’s why working with Apple on this show was such a pleasure. It sounds strange to say, but in this business, quality is not always the most important thing to the people with the purse strings, and I have definitely been spoiled by Apple’s commitment to making something as great as it can be.


Tolmach: “Severance” [Apple TV+] is a perfect show. Tonally, and on every level. We always felt safe at Apple, because of their love of grounded sci-fi. It requires commitment to character, and they’ve been wildly supportive of that mantra since day one.