On the (Rail)Road with John Legend
WGN’s Underground takes a unique approach to the slavery drama: it walks the line between a serious account of a diabolical institution and… unabashed camp. Heist planning! Dumb sex scenes! “Black Skinhead” for attempted escapes and bubblegum pop for white people parties! Under the watchful gaze of producer John Legend, the series made its high-profile debut this Wednesday. Whether it can do its subject justice is still up in the air, but it’s certainly having fun trying.
Netflix’s Cast of Characters
The streaming service’s latest Friday content batch has two installments. One is Flaked, a forgettable sad-sack dramedy about another bad dude trying and failing to be slightly less bad. The other is The Characters, an eight-part sketch series in which up-and-coming comedians get the platform they deserve, to do… basically whatever they want with an episode they write and star in. Pick and choose based on who you’d like to see more of, or inhale them in a single batch. Either way, it’s certainly the better binge-watch candidate.
Marcia Goes on Trial
American Crime Story: The People v. OJ Simpson has been uniformly, and shockingly, excellent thus far. But it hit its high-water mark this week, with an episode focusing on lead prosecutor Marcia Clark, played by Ryan Murphy MVP (sorry, Jessica Lange) Sarah Paulson. The show’s unsparing look at the insane pressure Clark was under — from her ex-husband, with whom she was locked in a custody battle; from the judge and opposing counsel, who were dismissive of her struggles as a single parent; from the tabloids, who published nude photographs of her — is perhaps the most substantive revision of accepted wisdom about the trial to date.
American Crime Ends Not With a Bang, But With Ambiguity
Not to be confused with the show celebrated above, Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley’s ABC anthology has also had a knockout season, documenting the fallout from a same-sex assault involving players on a high school football team. This week’s finale doesn’t offer resolution, but it did showcase the nuanced portrait of two teenaged boys this season has delivered over ten subtle, gorgeously directed episodes. Justice wasn’t served — but then again, it typically isn’t.