Call us Bath and Body Works, because we’ve got all your favorite soaps! Loosely sci-fi teen soap! Creepy Renee Zellweger adulterous soap! Prestige HBO Dragon soap! Draw yourself up a nice bubbly bath and sink into these latest dramatic offerings from the wild world of television with the TV roundup!
GAME OF THRONES: THE LAST WATCH (HBO)
If you thought we were done writing about GAME OF THRONES, you’ve got another thing comin’, buddy! The official dying gasp of GOT—barring eight billion spinoffs—is a two-hour documentary chronicling the production of Season 8. I went into this kind of expecting a two-hour version of D&D talking about how “Dany” is “conflicted” and “has a lot of tough choices to make.” What I got couldn’t have been more opposite.
THE LAST WATCH turns completely away from the story, even relegating the core cast to cameo roles, and instead focuses on the real magic of this series: the hardworking production crew. Of course there are some moments with the cast we know and love—the table read sequence is just fantastic, from Conleth Hill passive aggressively tossing away his script when his character gets Dracarys’d to Kit Harrington bursting into tears as he learns that Jon will slay his beloved Daenerys. But our heroes this time are the lady who runs the coffee cart keeping the crew sustained through 11 weeks of night shoots with “wee toasties”; Del who grew up in an orphanage, struck out on his own at 16, and now dresses every GOT set with just the perfect amount of artificial snow; Andy, an extra who’s played a Stark Guard since the Battle of the Bastards and now operates a GOT tour in Belfast; David Nutter’s assistant doing battle with the evil copy machine; and countless others.
In a series this massive, it’s easy to forget that there are actually human beings making this thing happen. The documentary is a masterful tribute to real movie magic. There are insane production feats—they built King’s Landing in a parking lot. It took seven months. They built it. But moreso, it’s a heartfelt tribute to the people who really made such an incredible series possible. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll feel a little bad about all your salty tweets about S8. [Kate Brogden]
THE SOCIETY (Netflix)
Every teenager dreams of independence. They think they’re qualified to be adults, able to make better, more educated decisions than their parents or leaders in charge. So what would happen if they got their wish, and became the only adults on Earth? Well, chaos.
THE SOCIETY is a vaguely sci-fi and very loose adaptation of everyone’s favorite (ha-ha) high school required read, LORD OF THE FLIES. Set in West Ham, Connecticut—already I’m thinking of Piggy—THE SOCIETY follows three busloads of teenagers who find themselves spirited away to an alternate reality following a CDC evacuation. This new reality might look like home, but there’s no adults, no children, and no new food supplies. No one knows when the power will run out, and internet and cell phone capabilities are nebulous. After waiting for their parents, they slowly realize that they’re on their own, and have to figure out the best way to survive.
THE SOCIETY mixes a diverse cast relatively well, although many of these actors are unknowns (save for DETECTIVE PIKACHU’s Kathryn Newton). Apart from the jock tropes, SOCIETY also steers clear of a lot of high school stereotypes—which I think is great—but that also leaves a lot of characters a bit hazily defined. Although this show is character-driven, SOCIETY doesn’t really seem to want to try and make us like the core group, which is a shame. I feel like this show could be a lot more compelling, given the chance to root for someone to survive. However, the mystery and intrigue is fun, and the show promises a huge twist at the end. So, if you’re nostalgic for high-school tomfoolery and loved the book, or maybe just Jonesing for pulpy drama, THE SOCIETY is worth watching. [Tracy Nicoletti]
As someone who certainly has a bit of a sweet tooth when it comes to “bad” television, it’s refreshing to know that I’m still able to effectively determine what’s bad television. WHAT/IF, Netflix’s latest original, “steamy” “neo-noir” falls into the latter camp. Anne (Renée Zellweger) offers Lisa (Jane Levy) funding for her company if and only if she’ll hand over her husband, Sean (Blake Jenner) for a night. Of course, the “night” isn’t quite what Lisa imagined, but with the clause in the contract that Sean can’t speak of anything that occurred lest Anne inherit the company, when he shows up shaken with severe bruising on his hands, Lisa and the audience are left in the lurch.
WHAT/IF is initially just about the clarion call Netflix haters need to add fuel to their fire.To be frank, the first 40-or-so minutes of this are a total slog. It’s oversaturated on a technical level, workman-like in its presentation, and incredibly hokey in its introduction of Lisa and Sean’s romance, as well as the dismissal Lisa’s experienced at the hands of other Silicon Valley types. That said, the final 15-or-so minutes are intriguing on a base level; no matter how jaded I may ever get, I’m still a sucker for a hook, and even though it’s pulling teeth to get there, the actual inciting incident of the series at large has me mildly curious. Unfortunately, “mildly curious” and Zellweger’s breathy stunting as a sexual and professional alpha dog do not a worthy watching investment make. While to some level I’m interested to know what happened on that night in particular, I’m certainly not interested in the ~tortured~ and ~complicated~ pasts hinted at for both Anne and Sean, as well as whatever weird, twisting moral message it will inevitably be revealed that Anne’s trying to teach Lisa. It seems like Netflix is willing to give every sex symbol from the ‘90s a grimdark original series, so looking forward to Liv Tyler appearing in THE GIFT, a show about an alcoholic medium who’s truly haunted by the ghosts of the past or something sometime soon. [Thomas Seraydarian]