New work from three of the best: Weiner, Kohan and Simon

News from the TV show front.

'The Romanoffs' (photo credit: PR)
'The Romanoffs'
(photo credit: PR)
The debut of the most anticipated upcoming show, The Romanoffs, created by Mad Men’s Matthew Weiner, is coming up on October 12, which is the good news. The bad news is that it’s from Amazon and will be available here only on Amazon Prime. The same was true of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, a delightful show about a New York housewife in the Fifties who became a stand-up comedian, a show that so many would have enjoyed in Israel, but which has never been available here on any local network. (Mrs. Maisel is expected to win quite a few of the nine Emmys for which it is nominated when the awards are given out on September 17.)
The Romanoffs is an anthology series with eight episodes about people all over the world who claim to be related to the family of the last Russian czar. Among the cast are a few Mad Men alumni, including John Slattery and Christina Hendricks, along with Isabelle Huppert (Elle, The Piano Teacher), Corey Stoll (House of Cards, The Strain), Andrew Rannells (Girls), Paul Reiser (Mad About You), Mary Kay Place (The Big Chill) and many more.
Another one of the most original voices in television, Jenji Kohan, has recently released the sixth season of her show Orange is the New Black, which is available in Israel on HOT Xtra VOD. I have always been a huge admirer of this series, which, in the first season, revolved around a white middle-class inmate in a women’s prison, but which expanded to include many other characters’ stories. At the end of the fourth season, an inmate was accidentally killed by an inexperienced guard, and in the fifth season, the inmates rioted when it seemed that there would be no justice for those responsible for her death.
This new season follows the aftermath of the riot, in which most of the major characters are moved to the maximum security prison and pressured to incriminate one another for the riot, which led to the death of a brutal guard in friendly fire.
It all seems true to life, and there are a few laughs here and there, but this season is so bleak, it makes every previous season seem like a Disney princess movie. I watched it and appreciated it, but it was a chore.
For those who enjoy Kohan’s acerbic sense of humor and quirky worldview but would like to see something a bit less depressing – and who subscribe to Netflix – I recommend her newest show, GLOW, an acronym for Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.
I know, I know – you’re thinking, Wrestling? But it’s an offbeat and very funny look at a bunch of actresses who get involved in a wrestling show directed by a burned-out cult horror director in the 1980s. It stars Alison Brie, whom Mad Men fans will remember fondly as Pete’s wife, Trudy, as a wildly ambitious actress who loves the theatricality of wrestling. The other standout is Betty Gilpin as her more successful frenemy. Stand-up Marc Maron, who plays the director, takes a character who should be a creep and makes you care about him. Two seasons have been released already, and there will be a third, which you’ll be eager for after you binge the first two.
David Simon, another one of the great talents in this new golden age of television, has completed a second season of his latest television series, The Deuce, which will be broadcast on HOT HBO on Mondays, starting on September 10 at 10 p.m., and on YES VOD and YES Oh, starting September 10 at 4 a.m. and 10 p.m.
The Deuce is a look at how the seedy porn scene in and around Times Square in the Seventies morphed into the highly profitable X-rated movie business.
Simon made great TV out of the Baltimore drug world with The Wire, and out of racial politics in Show Me a Hero. But although The Deuce is very well done, I didn’t find characters I could relate to, or story lines that kept me in suspense week after week. Maybe the second season will be more compelling.