Television Man | Aidan Morgan

Laura Dern in Enlightened

“When people at home are yelling at the screen, then you know you’ve got an audience.”
—Door Number Three, a TV game show prop.

The Writers Guild of America has reached a tentative deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers for a three-year contract. Details are still scarce as of this writing, but the WGA has said “this deal is exceptional — with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership.”

Doesn’t that sound good?

On the other hand, Variety noted that the “146-day strike has taken a heavy toll across the content industry,” and I can’t help but think that as long as the phrase “content industry” haunts the halls of Hollywood, the issues that led to the strike are bound to return at some point. In the meantime, the contract language needs to be finalized and the agreement ratified by WGA membership, but it seems that this is the beginning of the end of that strike action.

Next up: the SAG-AFTRA strike. Once that’s resolved, we can all get back to watching infinite Sheldon spinoffs. “Middle-aged Sheldon”, “Assisted Living Sheldon”, “Phantoms of Sheldon Past”.

Frightened And Enlightened

During these arid days of content drought, may I offer you some recommendations from seasons past? Before The White Lotus (Crave), creator Mike White collaborated with Laura Dern on Enlightened (also Crave), an acidic take on the American pursuit of happiness and spiritual fulfilment. Dern plays Amy Jellicoe, a corporate buyer for the ominously named and ethically murky corporation Abaddon. Enlightened may be one of the few artifacts of the Peak TV era that features a woman as the anti-hero who uses the language of spiritual enlightenment and ethical capitalism to mask her monstrousness. Laura Dern turns in such a compelling performance that it’s impossible to look away.

Spooky Season Stuff

Apple TV+ has a couple of offerings for Long Halloween, a.k.a. October. The Changeling, starring Lakeith Stanfield, Clark Backo and Malcolm Barrett, is an unsettling horror fairy tale about an idealistic young man named Apollo (Stanfield) whose plans for domestic bliss are upended when things go very, very wrong in his marriage. The performances are excellent and there’s no shortage of dread. But the story is parcelled out at an excruciating pace, leaving Stanfield to wander around Manhattan asking questions of people who refuse to answer him for no particular reason other than to goose the suspense. If you don’t mind a few longueurs and repetitions, The Changeling has some genuinely horrific moments and uncanny images.

Don’t Stop Invading

If you don’t want any story at all, may I recommend the second season of Invasion (Apple TV+)? In season one, aliens in a big spaceship invaded, Earth rallied to defeat the threat, then the aliens invaded again with an even bigger spaceship. That’s all you need to know.

In season two, the aliens are still invading, mostly by poisoning the atmosphere and occasionally ganking people on the street. What’s taking them so long? I guess the Earth is sufficiently large to complicate a rapid invasion schedule.

The main characters from season one are still around, having found new invasion-related tasks to complete. Except for Japanese actress Shioli Kitsuna, who plays a grieving scientist with frightening intensity, the rest of the cast make do with gratingly one-note characters who seem determined to make the worst possible decisions in any given situation.

Complicating affairs is the World Defence Coalition, a UN-coded military force that seems like a greater threat than the aliens. Countering the WDC is a revolutionary movement called The Movement, who drive around with an orange M spraypainted on the sides of their vehicles. Soldiers waylay citizens to suppress their civil rights and gruffly inquire as to whether they’re affiliated with The Movement. I hope they don’t catch on to the fact that The Movement tags their own vehicles. ■