While TV creator and showrunner Ryan Murphy’s Scream Queens is …
Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s Me & Earl & the Dying Girl is a film that has perhaps garnered the most hype this year at Sundance, and you should believe every word of it. By the end of the screening, there was hardly a dry eye in the entire theater. Following a teenage outsider, Greg (Thomas Mann), who makes cheap and funny remakes of classic films with his friend Earl (RJ Cyler), as he befriends a classmate, Rachel (Olivia Cooke), who has just developed leukemia. With a logline like that, it’s hard to not understand where all the tears are coming from. It sometimes feels cheap for filmmakers to use cancer as a way to garner emotion from the audience, but trust that when the tears do come, every single one has been earned.
Nashville comes back for its third season with almost no noise. What, after a magnificent pilot two years ago, was once supposed to be a ratings savior for ABC has become an afterthought for the network, who barely publicized its premiere. They have buzzy new shows to talk about: (How to Get Away With Murder, Black-ish), and returning ratings hits to protect: (Scandal, uh… Scandal). And yet Nashville persists on network television representing a category that doesn’t even exist, the musical soap opera. Those two genres have never been more unfashionable. Musicals must cloak themselves in faux-edgy irony like Glee or die spectacular deaths (RIP Smash.) There are other soaps, especially on ABC, but they have to be structured like procedurals and contain a healthy dose of violence to appease the Criminal Minds crowd. Nashville, in all its goofy earnestness, is nothing if not itself.
Friday Night Lights had a unique journey, to say the least. Based on the novel of the same name, which was adapted into a film first, the series premiered in 2007 on NBC to critical praise but didn’t manage to find a significant audience. NBC supported the series, bringing it back for a truncated season two (courtesy of the Writers Strike), but season three seemed unlikely to happen until NBC worked out a deal with DirecTV to cost-share the series, renewing it for season three, and then in one fell swoop, four and five. Because of this rocky road, the creators actually ended up crafting three separate episodes intended to function as series finales, season one’s “State”, season three’s “Tomorrow Blues”, and season five’s “Always”. Many series struggle to create a meaningful series finale. Jason Katims and the Friday Night Lights team made three.
The amount of time it takes to exhaust the goodwill one has accrued towards an overqualified and bursting ensemble cast is roughly 70 minutes, if The To Do List is any indication. The film’s high concept and its performers, from Aubrey Plaza to Connie Britton to Alia Shawkat to Clark Gregg, are enough to engender some interest for a while, but eventually, The To Do List peters out, squandering away its likability on a strange, ballsy-for-being-irresponsible message and a muddled third act.