Every Thursday, Post TV critic Hank Stuever hosts an online chat to talk all things TV. On the minds of readers this week: Giving up on “Louie,” the historical accuracy of the costumes on “Turn” and more thoughts about Mrs. Brady’s first marriage.
The state of AMC: This weekend I gave “Halt and Catch Fire” a go, and it was a valiant struggle between my love for Lee Pace and boredom (boredom won). The show did get me thinking about the current state of AMC. I know that they got “Mad Men” because HBO declined (in part) because they felt they were making too many period pieces at the time and needed to do something different. Do you think AMC’s in a similar rut? On the one hand, having “classic” in their name does make it seem like a good genre to monopolize, but I feel like people are getting bored with period settings and the shows have not been catching on. (The fact that it’s all conflicted white male protagonists all the time over there isn’t helping.)
Stuever: There was a moment in the second episode of “Halt and Catch Fire” where I thought my harsh review might have been too harsh, but then it fell apart again, so I’m not sure how much more of it I’m going to force myself to watch.
I always find that anytime I declare one of the more ambitious networks to be “in a rut,” it’s only a few weeks or months before they come back with something pretty great. (I thought FX was in a bit of a rut, but as soon as I said it, the second season of “The Americans,” the “Coven” episodes of“American Horror Story,” the return of “Louie” and the greatness of “Fargo” pretty much blew that away.)
Any discussion of “AMC” and “rut” is forgetting the phenomenal success of “The Walking Dead,” with some excellent performances from women, especially Melissa McBride. It’s not easy to make great television. It’s a whole lot easier to make a lot of mediocre television.
Admitting it is the first step: Hank, I have a problem. I think I’m over “Louie.” This is the first time I’ve said it out loud — it feels good to admit it. I was iffy on the Amia storyline but powered through. But I couldn’t finish the 90-minute pot flashback episode. I was just — gasp, I know — bored by it. Is there something wrong with me? Do I have to find a log cabin somewhere and renounce my place in society now?
Stuever: I’ll bet you’re not alone. Would you believe I have been so busy watching television professionally that I haven’t even had time to watch the extra-long “Louie” yet?
Should you be free to go and not feel ashamed for leaving “Louie” behind? (I say yes. Life is too short to watch a TV show just because everyone else is.)
History buff here: And yup, we are a pedantic and easily-scared-away bunch. Plus, I hate to say it, but the costumes in “Turn” are just horrible. Fun fact: beards were incredibly unstylish in the late 1700s, seriously. No one wore them except for members of a couple of religious sects. Also, both boy and girl babies wore dresses through toddlerhood. (See? Pedantic.) I guess what really bothers me about glaring historical inaccuracies in TV and movies is how unnecessary it is. The research is not hard to find and there was more than enough weirdness back then to keep any TV show interesting.
Stuever: When I visited the set of “Turn” in January, my most fascinating chat was with Donna Zakowska, the show’s hardworking costume designer. (She won an Emmy for her work on HBO’s “John Adams.”) If you saw her office there, you would see how much historical research goes into the costumes. But, as she noted, there is a point of departure where historical accuracy gives way to imagination and good storytelling. And yes, they all know that Caleb Brewster and Roger Roberts (or is it Robert Rogers? I can never remember) wouldn’t have beards. But they do. It works for the characters. Choices are made, but not out of ignorance.
The story of a lovely lady: A follow-up from last week. “Brady Bunch” creator Sherwood Schwartz wanted Carol Martin, the future Carol Brady, to be a divorcee, but ABC nixed the idea. (Remember, this is still a year before CBS refused to allow Mary Richards to be a divorcee.) But Schwartz didn’t want to give up entirely, so while he never mentioned an ex-husband, he also never specifically stated that she was a widow. You may now resume the regularly scheduled chat.
Stuever: That’s pretty much what I remembered reading in an interview with Schwartz at some point. So those of us who think Carol was divorced are right, in the most technical sort of way.
Which reminds me: Did anyone read David Gilbert’s short story called “Here’s the Story” in the New Yorker? Completely unrelated to Ann B. Davis’s recent passing, it’s a fictional “prequel” of sorts in which the original Mr. Martin (Carol’s husband, father of three very lovely girls) has a random and fateful encounter with the original Mrs. Brady. Clearly Gilbert thinks they both died.
Summer shows: So “The Leftovers” is about the folks who didn’t get the rapture. Do the ones who did show up on “Resurrection” on ABC?
Stuever: It’s a whole lot less “rapture”-y than you’d expect. And it’s far sadder than any of the “Resurrection”-y shows, except maybe that French “Returned” series, which was pretty dour.