A bit like Fleabag, it’s a British series that was perfect in its first, brief iteration and definitely didn’t need a follow-up. But this sequel nails it. In both cases, though, I really hope the creators stop here and don’t try to make bank with a Season 3.
Two years after their first disastrous, sociopathic, kids-on the-lam excursion, James (Alex Lawther) and Alyssa (Jessica Barden) — very much against court orders — reunite. He can barely walk. She’s getting married. And they’re being stalked by someone who wants to kill them in revenge for something that happened in Season 1.
Racing across a brief, six-episode arc, we follow the seemingly hopeless new adventures of the kids as, unknowingly, they befriend the very person — Bonnie (a very good Naomi Ackie) –who wants to kill them just as much as James believed he wanted to kill Alyssa last season. Did I mention this is a comedy?
As someone who generally doesn’t like studied deadpan onscreen (I have a tough time with Jim Jarmusch), I’m surprised by how much I like this show’s temperament. And, as in the first season, the emotionally withholding Barden is kind of astonishing. How can she do so little, willfully, and be so magnetic?
I honestly can’t explain my gut reaction to this show. I remember being a little shamed — following the screening of a Will Ferrell movie, for God’s sake — when my newspaper colleague critic (Bob Longino, thanks a lot) let everyone in the department know he’d heard me, against all expectation, laughing out loud.
F***ing World makes me do that multiple times, not because it’s knee-slappingly funny, by any means. But in its dire extremity and refusal to capitulate to it, these kids win my heart and make me guffaw. Please, BBC/Netflix, don’t make a third season. I want to walk away and always remember Alyssa and James in their awful, tentative, f***ed-up glory.
For a useful contrast to the seeming ease with which The End of the F***ing World pulls off its tricky tone, watch (or better yet, don’t) Daybreak. I made it halfway through the second of 10 long episodes.
The premise? A postapocalyptic landscape, where bombs have left teenagers alive but have turned their parents into muttering zombies. Our hero is Josh (Colin Ford), a snarky good-guy teen who’s on a quest to find the girl he loved in his prenuclear high-school day. Problem is, what’s left of civilization has turned into rival kiddie factions who all tend to speak in ironic pop-culture references to things like MacGyver and the Kardashians and the Sorting Hat. This mash-up of Lord of the Flies, Mad Max and Riverdale quickly wears out its self-conscious welcome. Matthew Broderick and Krysta Rodriguez are also in the cast.
Living With Yourself
More worthwhile but also flawed is the eight-episode Living With Yourself. Any Paul Rudd fan — from his stealth, white-knight-in-waiting in Clueless to his disarming, hilarious work in the Marvel Ant-Man flicks — probably thinks having two of him onscreen is a very good idea. It is. But Living feels like a first draft of that very good idea, squandering over its running time the potential of that premise.
Rudd plays Miles, a once-hotshot ad-agency employer who’s lost his mojo, both at the office and at the home he shares with his increasingly disenchanted wife, Kate (Aisling Bea). Recognizing he’s about to lose it all, Miles takes the gamble after a colleague tells him that if he drops $50K for a shady procedure at a strip-mall spa, he’ll be transformed into a better version of himself. Instead, he awakens the next day, buried alive and soon to discover that an improved clone of himself (New Miles) has moved into his home and assumed his identity.
Rudd’s emergence — the first scene of the series — from a makeshift burial, in underwear and wrapped in plastic, is an indicator of the rest of the show. Is it supposed to be unsettling? Funny? Gross? Living never decides, totally punting the good ideas that peek out from episode to episode. What would you do if you ran into, literally, yourself — only this version was nicer and more talented than you? Would you explain the situation to your family? Hide the truth, or lie, or possibly murder the newcomer?
In its last episodes, Living delivers some decent scenes. For a while, we follow Kate — who for most of the show is depicted as little more than a two-dimensional TV wifey. As we come to understand her frustrations with her own life, exacerbated by Miles’ middle-aged slump, Living grabs at some genuine emotion. Too little, too late.
Queer Eye: We’re in Japan!
It’s a no-brainer to dip into the four episodes of Queer Eye: We’re in Japan! I’m still partial to the Georgia-shot episodes, but this travelogue featuring the Fab Five is delightful in the familiar ways as they give grooming, fashion, culinary and interpersonal tips to some lucky Japanese people. My only reservation? I could have used less screen time spent on the happy clients telling the Five how miraculous and giving they are.
Dolemite Is My Name features a game Eddie Murphy in comeback mode, playing the naïve but enthusiastic huckster behind the 1970s Blaxploitation Dolemite movies, directed by Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow) and written by the scripters responsible for Ed Wood and The People vs. Larry Flint.
I also recommend the heartbreaking documentary Tell Me Who I Am about adult British twins, one of whom remembers the horrific childhood they shared but who shields his amnesiac brother from the facts — until he no longer can.
Emotion is at the core of this new eight-episode series, which you might guess from its title: Modern Love. It’s drawn from the long-running New York Times series, consisting of essays about the accidents (good and bad), trials and sweet surprises of making human connections. If you have a Times subscription, one of the pleasures of watching is searching the newspaper’s archive and comparing the episodes’ dramatizations with the real-life stories that inspired them. Or, at least, it was a pleasure for me.
The episodes focus on young love, late-life love, missed connections, the impact of mental health on relationships, and a whole lot of other situations. Filled with a starry cast — Anne Hathaway, Tina Fey, Dev Patel, Catherine Keener, Andrew Scott and many others — each episode is self-contained. But all the characters converge, or at least pass each other on the streets of New York, in a finale that recalls the way the narratives of Three Colors, the 1990s film series, tied together its separate characters and story lines. The show is uneven but well worth a look.
The big streaming news is the arrival of Disney+ on November 12, probably a must-sample for anyone who loves Disney classics, Pixar films, the Star Wars saga and the Marvel universe. Disney, of course, owns it all. The new service also includes new content, including a Star Wars spin-off series called The Mandalorian and an in-production Obi-Wan Kenobi series with Ewan McGregor reprising his prequels’ performance as the younger version of the Jedi knight.
I don’t know about you, but there’s already so much content available on streaming platforms, I might wait a while before I strap on my mouse ears and sample this newcomer.