Upcoming Events: Series Mania at ACMI

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Sophie Cadieux, who bears some resemblance to Elisabeth Moss in other stills

Thanks to the Emerging Writers Festival newsletter, I learned that ACMI is hosting Series Mania Melbourne | A Free Festival of New TV this weekend. It started today (Thursday), and ACMI is hosting a series of free screenings for upcoming shows, as well as a keynote talk with Vince Gilligan, which had sold out by the time I’d learned that the festival was even on.

A note about the screenings: You can make some educated guesses (and I have a bunch of press releases and a giant spreadsheet), but it’s not clear. Also before you get too excited, Get Krack!n by Kates McLennan and McCarthy of The Katering Show is also sold out. It will be on ABC later this year.

I’d never heard of Series Mania, but it’s a French festival that aims to be television’s answer to Cannes. It began in Paris, and is moving to Lille next year. Series Mania has been brought to Melbourne by Forum des Images, and is sponsored by ACMI and film Victoria, as reported by Variety. It’s the first time Series Mania has been to another country, and I hope it continues to both expand and return to Melbourne.

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Netflix announces two new original series: “Anne” and “Friends from College”

The title is fairly self-explanatory. Netflix sends out its press releases at 1am local time and I had a busy day, so I didn’t check my emails until at least 15 hours after that. At some point Netflix will stop commissioning new shows, but that probably won’t be until we all refuse to go anywhere else for content. Two new original series were announced today: Anne, based on the beloved Anne of Green Gables novels, as well as Friends from College, a comedy written by Nick Stoller and Francesca Delbanco.

Stoller and Delbanco have made many films including The Neighbors (Bad Neighbours in countries where Neighbours is a popular soap) and its sequel, as well as Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek. I haven’t seen any of these films, but some of my favourite critics love The Neighbours so I’m optimistic about Friends from College. The cast includes Keegan-Michael Key (Key and Peele, Fargo) and Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your MotherThe Avengers) among others. I’m interested to see where this goes.

Unfortunately I have concerns about Anne. The production team behind this adaptation is Northwood Entertainment, helmed by Moira Walley-Beckett and Miranda de Pencier. I love that the production company and the director for the premiere are all women, but there’s a Flesh and Bone sized elephant in the room. Walley-Beckett wrote some of the best episodes of Breaking Bad, including “Fly,” “Gliding Over All,” and “Ozymandias.” She won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series for “Ozymandias,” but Flesh and Bone wasn’t very good. There were some good elements to the show, but there was too much focus on Claire’s relationship with her family, which wasn’t as good. We know Walley-Beckett can do good things though, and Anne of Green Gables is about as far from Breaking Bad as you can get. I’ll be following this one very carefully (Hi Frank).

UnREAL, Season 2 Episode 1: “War”

Rachel Quinn

Constance Zimmer and Shiri Appleby. Image courtesy of Lifetime Entertainment.

Rachel: I’m making history.

Rachel Goldberg is now the showrunner of Everlasting, and before they’ve even started filming, her colleagues and the audience can tell she’s out of her depth. In season 13, Rachel was the Comeback Kid, and with Quinn she produced a fantastic season of television. Now that Chet’s (briefly) out of the picture, Quinn and Rachel are both promoted, which led to my favourite line in the episode:

“I’m Chet, you’re Quinn. I say crazy shit, you make it happen”

The line that’s more telling however, is Rachel’s insistence that she’s making history. In the first season we saw Rachel struggle with the fact that she’s morally compromised, but at the end of the season she had no trouble ruining Adam’s life after he dumped her. Nine months later, all of Rachel’s scruples appear to be gone, and it’s scaring people.

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Flesh and Bone, Episode 1: “Bulling Through”

Yesterday I discovered that the first episode of Flesh and Bone was available for streaming on Stan, so I watched it after the Melbourne Cup. From what I’ve seen on Twitter, various critics have found Flesh and Bone to be underwhelming, so I was definitely wary going into the series premiere. If there’s a genre of movies that are smack bang in the middle of my wheelhouse, it’s dance movies (I don’t know if they even count as a genre, but they do in my mind), so I was always planning on watching this. Flesh and Bone is a new original series on Starz, and the whole series (I think it’s just a miniseries now) will be available for streaming on November 8th or 9th, depending on your time zone. The show was created by Moira Walley-Beckett, who wrote some of the best episodes of Breaking Bad, including “Ozymandias”. “Bulling Through” was written by Moira Walley-Beckett, and directed by Australian director David Michôd.

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Better Call Saul, Season 1 Episode 10: “Marco”

Saul Goodman was Jimmy McGill’s conman name, other than of course, Slippin’ Jimmy. “S’all good, man!” is a phrase uttered by people who are happy and carefree, and Jimmy McGill is neither of those things following the realisation that it wasn’t Howard Hamlin, but his own brother, who roadblocked his career as a lawyer. And really, it makes sense. Howard didn’t know Slippin’ Jimmy, he just heard about it from Chuck, and when he finally met Jimmy, he saw a man who was trying to turn his life around. Now Jimmy McGill is a man who did turn his life around, got a law degree, worked as a public defender and in his work doing wills for the elderly, stumbled upon a huge class action case. Jimmy worked damn hard to get where he is, and he deserves that job at the Santa Fe law firm, but he’s a broken man.

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Better Call Saul, Season 1 Episode 9: “Pimento”

I really didn’t want my suspicion that Chuck was the one who decided not to hire Jimmy to be correct. However, when Chuck made a late night phone call, and Kim told Jimmy to take the deal that Hamlin offered him, I knew I was right. To the show and Jimmy’s credit, Jimmy works it out on his own. Jimmy’s a smart guy, but in Chuck’s opinion he’s not worthy of being a lawyer, which makes me think that Chuck is the worst kind of asshole. He lets his law partner take the blame for all the suffering he’s caused in his own brother’s career, then lets that same brother take care of him when he suffers a mental illness that makes him think he’s allergic to electricity.

The kicker is that Jimmy does all this legwork on a case (admittedly with Chuck’s help), then Chuck convinces him to take it to Hamlin Hamlin and McGill before stealing it out from his own brother’s nose, admittedly for a fee. And he continues to let Hamlin be the bad guy so that he can pretend the relationship with his brother is fine. What I really liked about this episode is that it showed that Kim really does care about Jimmy, and Hamlin at least has some sort of conscience, even if it does involve being the bad guy that Jimmy can hate. Hamlin tells Kim why he didn’t offer Jimmy a job, and Kim tells Jimmy to take the money, because she knows he’ll be hurt when he figures out that Chuck is the one who has been stonewalling his career. Rhea Seehorn is great, and her performance is beautifully understated, which means that when she gets mad it matters.

I have no idea what role Chuck will have in Better Call Saul going forward; this could be the thing that pushes Jimmy over the edge. He was denied a career at HHM, then he followed his brother’s advice and worked as a public defender. He started being an ambulance chaser and got involved with the Kettleman disaster, and when the Kettlemans maintained their innocence despite a big bag of money they were carrying around, he turned them in. It’s hurt Jimmy so much to do the right thing, and now that his own brother has taken away his first big case, he’ll probably change his name to Saul Goodman pretty soon. Or not, I don’t really know. But I have no idea whether he’ll ever want to have anything to do with Chuck ever again. I certainly wouldn’t.

Over in Mike land, he bought his granddaughter a puppy, and did a security job for a first time drug dealer who seems to work in pharmaceuticals. In the most awesome scene of the episode, Mike disarms one of the other guys hired for the job and takes away his four guns. It’s amazing that we knew Mike didn’t need a gun, but these people don’t know Mike the way the Breaking Bad audience does. Even if there are some people out there who are watching Better Call Saul without having seen Breaking Bad, they know how great Mike is in “Five-O”. Mike is the muscle on a deal with Michael Mando, aka Nacho, who works for Tuco. The deal took place without Tuco’s knowledge, so Mike knew he didn’t need a gun, because Nacho didn’t want it to get messy. What happens to Nacho? Will Tuco find out about this? Anyway, given that Jimmy has lost any hope of working with Chuck and Mike is starting to do ‘odd jobs’ for cash, I’m sure their paths will cross again soon. Certainly before Mike has to clean up Jesse’s house in “ABQ”.

Other thoughts:

  • Are there only two law firms in Albuquerque? HHM and the one that represents Sandpiper? Because surely Jimmy could have gotten a job at another law firm instead of working with Chuck, even though it was his dream to practice law alongside his brother.
  • I’m holding onto my wild theory that Jimmy is actually Chuck’s illegitimate son. I don’t think it’s likely, but it’s possible if Chuck fathered a child when he was about 15. If this is true, then Chuck is a worse father than a brother.
  • The first season of Better Call Saul is only ten episodes long, so next week is the season finale! AMC renewed this show for a second season before it even aired, and I’m fairly sure season 2 has a full 13 episode order.
  • I’m so bad at talking about performances in my reviews (I’m trying to integrate it more), but Bob Odenkirk was fantastic in this episode. His joy, his anger and his disappointment were all perfectly conveyed.
  • I am all for episodes of television named after different types of cheese.

Better Call Saul, Season 1 Episode 6: “Five-O”

I made him lesser. I made him like me. And the bastards killed him anyway.

This week on Better Call Saul, we take a step back from whatever’s going on with Jimmy McGill, who only appears in three scenes, and focus on Mike Ehrmantraut. This week we learn why Mike left the Philly PD, which pretty much explains why he is the way he is. One of the reasons I don’t give a letter or number rating on things I review (outside of when I remember to log which films I’ve seen on letterboxd), is because people look at the grade critics give a piece of artwork and read the review through the bias of that grade. In my opinion, this was the best episode of Better Call Saul so far, but over at The A.V. Club, Donna Bowman gave the episode a B. It’s not an A episode of television, but I’d give it an A- for sure (yes, I’ve just given a grade on something I just refused to give a grade, but I’m trying to illustrate my point). This episode was written by Gordon Smith, who was a writer’s assistant on Breaking Bad, and directed by Adam Bernstein, who has earned an Emmy nomination for his work on Fargo (he lost to another director from the same show), and a win for his work on 30 Rock as an executive producer.

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