by Aprille Hanson-Spivey
Disney’s “Muppets Haunted Mansion” Halloween special isn’t exactly a classic Muppets offering, but it is a fun, spooky watch for both adults and children.
Released on Disney+, the 52-minute special was based off the Disney theme park ride attraction the Haunted Mansion. It’s the first Muppets Halloween special and centers around the unflappable The Great Gonzo receiving an invitation to stay in the Haunted Mansion where his favorite magician, The Great MacGuffin, vanished 100 years ago. He brings along Pepe the King Prawn, who completely misunderstands that they’re not going to an exclusive celebrity party, but instead a frightening challenge to survive the night. They’ve opted for this adventure instead of attending the annual Muppets Halloween party, with Kermit imploring Gonzo that he doesn’t always have to prove he’s “great” by these stunts and that they love him no matter what.
Nevertheless, he’s determined to go and they’re picked up by a hearse driver (Yvette Nicole Brown) who doubts they’ll need to be picked up in the morning -- no one ever is, after all.
They’re greeted first by the cemetery caretaker (Darren Criss) who warns them to be quiet and not to wake the dead. Criss leads a musical number “Rest In Peace” featuring celebrity ghosts -- the late Ed Asner (one of his final roles; the film is dedicated to his memory), Jeannie Mai, Chrissy Metz, Alfonso Ribeiro, Danny Trejo and Sasheer Zamata.
The duo soon meet creepy house host (Will Arnett) who is pretty skeptical that the pair will survive the night. They are then left to navigate their way through the mansion, with it’s shifting walls and all around frightening vibe, while meeting a cast of spooky characters -- the screaming devil goat is a quick favorite.
The Muppets are at their best when cracking one liners -- making Pepe’s role pretty vital to make sure the adults are entertained -- and musical numbers. The best original is the jazzy “Life Hereafter,” led by Kermit and the Muppet crew, meant to be ghosts resembling Gonzo and Pepe’s friends, along with Arnett. It only rivals the opening and ending music of “Dancing in the Moonlight,” which is just a fun popular song everyone can get behind.
Other guest appearances include John Stamos, who gives Pepe a scare to realize this really isn’t a celebrity party, and the terrifying ghost Constance Hatchaway (Taraji P. Henson), a killer bride who tries to marry Pepe.
Nothing scares Gonzo until he enters room 999, with the numbers falling as the door shuts to reveal 666. The room is meant to trap inhabitants in their greatest fears and Gonzo realizes he is most scared that people will not like him unless he’s doing wild stunts. It’s what Kermit tried to explain before he went on this adventure, that they’ll love their friend no matter what, but it takes facing it in a haunting way for him to understand. It’s an important message for every viewer.
After Gonzo’s daring rescue of Pepe from the evil bride’s clutches, they escape the house as the sun rises. The house host reveals he is in fact, the ghost of The Great MacGuffin -- which most viewers likely knew immediately when he appeared on screen, but it’ll likely be a nice surprise for the kiddos watching.
It isn’t a Muppets special/movie that is a must-watch each year, like the classic “A Muppets Christmas Carol,” but it’s a fun treat and worth watching at least once.
by Adde Hemingway
Review contain spoilers ...
A project 10 years in the making, a global audience captivated, a complex collection of characters that we love and love to hate; “Squid Game,” a survival drama series written and directed by the South Korean artist Hwang Dong-hyuk, has turned the genre on its head and taken the internet by storm.
Since the show’s release on September 17th, the series has hovered at no. 1 on Netflix’s charts and has generated over $891 million in impact value from a single season. Every day there is a new meme, a Tik Tok challenge, a parody that generates millions of views and keeps people talking about this thrilling series. “Squid Game” Halloween costumes are selling out faster than they can be restocked at popular costume stores, so expect to see streets scattered with black masks and jump suits come October's end.
Why has “Squid Game” gained this astonishing popularity?
Writer/director Hwang Dong-hyuk has developed eight other projects, all receiving favorable reviews, but nothing close to the attention drawn by “Squid Game.” Plus, how many survival series have we already known and loved? “Squid Game” is a step above because it gives us insight to who in our capitalistic, wealth-driven society, decides who climbs the economic ladder and forces us to examine the system that forces individuals into positions where a death-defying game run by psychopathic billionaires is their best opportunity for economic advancement.
This captivating drama/thriller takes place in current day South Korea and follows a cast of anguished individuals looking down the barrel of financial ruin, suffering a smattering of hopeless personal crisis. Desperate for a way out of crippling debt, frantic for opportunity, they are invited to a secret location where they are given the chance to participate in a game, the winner of which receives a prize of 45.6 billion Won (approx. $38.4 million USD). All they must do is participate in a handful of classic children's games in which their life hangs in the balance. As the games get more challenging and it becomes clear it's kill or be killed, we are given insight to the motivations behind the orchestrators of the game, the players, and the perpetual hopelessness of the system that led them to it.
Money is the best universal motivator, everyone wants more, and everyone is willing to do something to get it. That “something”, however, is relative to what you have, what you need, and what you are willing to do to get it. All the players involved in the Squid Game have a harrowing backstory: enduring a personal disaster and stuck in the quicksand of financial despair, turning down a chance at a prize of that magnitude is unfeasible. As we go down the line of characters, it becomes difficult to determine who is more deserving of the win. A gambling addict drowning in debt, desperately trying to gain custody of his daughter, a woman seeking asylum for her family stuck in North Korea, a sympathetic fraud on the run, an immigrant struggling to create a better life for his child and wife; it's unclear who deserves the money most as all are willing to endure grueling and treacherous tests for it. What we ultimately learn from the Squid Game, however, is life is an unfair game - not all get what they deserve.
In episode two, "A Fair World", In-ho, (the front man) the masked leader, states that "Everyone is equal while they play this game. Here every player gets to play a fair game under the same conditions. These people suffered the inequality and discrimination of the world. We are giving them one last chance to fight fair and win." While the masterminds behind the games claim to have made a fair game that guarantees every player the same opportunities for success, what becomes clear is that not even the most controlled of environments can create an equal playing field for every individual. The clearest example of this is during the honeycomb game where players were required to remove a geometric shape cooked into a sugar candy. Each player, before the game was revealed got to select their shape from either a circle, a star, a triangle, and an umbrella. Not knowing the rules of the game, several unfortunate players chose the most difficult shape to excavate. One player, dismayed at the realization his shape was more challenging exclaimed, "why were some of us given easy shapes and some of us hard ones?" People are born into different situations with different challenges and varying abilities that either set them up for success or act as an obstacle. The game cannot be fair because fairness is a concept made impossible by human expectation. Much like the system that led them to risk their lives for a better one, the game is inherently unfair. The only way to win the game is to use what you have to your advantage.
As the game progresses and more players are eliminated, we discover the true intentions behind the orchestrators of the Game. Under the guise of philanthropy, there is a darker purpose to the Squid Game. When eliminated players are carried out of the building, they are brought by a group of rouge henchmen to remove and harvest their organs. While the contestants kill each other for a single cash prize, the creators of the Game are making more money than the players could fathom off the bodies of the losing players. Additionally, a shocking twist at the show’s finale reveals the game to be nothing more than a form of entertainment to a bored, dying man and his wealthy friends. He explains that money has sucked the joy out of life and creating the Squid Game was a way to have ‘fun’. After all, what is more entertaining than watching people you don’t know or care about participate in life threatening challenges of your own demented creation?
“Squid Game” is an elaborate and shocking glimpse into a system that favors the rich and views human drama and suffering as a form of amusement. The wealth distribution in our current world is so distorted, it makes it possible for the rich to manipulate the lives of the lower class who are constantly at their mercy. Capitalism cannot exist without two extremes: the extremely wealthy and the extremely impoverished. “Squid Game” is an unsettling view of what happens when these extremes collide.
by Aprille Hanson-Spivey
In a sea of TV show choices, it’s tough to find a show that can hit on all cylinders in suspense, humor and a cast with a stellar chemistry. But “Only Murders in the Building,” a Hulu mystery-comedy original, is a perfect example that originality really isn’t dead.
The show starts off with the murder of mysterious resident Tim Kono (Julian Cihi) in the luxurious Arconia condo building in the Upper West Side of New York City. This brings washed-up TV detective Charles-Haden Savage (Steve Martin), has-been theater director Oliver Putnam (Martin Short) and the young brooding Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez) to team up and solve his murder while recording their journey as a podcast. The three characters each have baggage of their own, bonding them in a way that you wouldn’t expect against a backdrop of a murder mystery.
The storyline does a phenomenal job of peeling the onion, with each 30-minute episode giving viewers just a little more to eat up, from a jewelry smuggling ring to the mystery behind “Tie-Dye Guy” to superstar Sting as a suspect to Mabel’s tragic past that weaves into why she’s so invested in Kono’s death. Beautifully in between it all was the comedic prowess of Martin, Short and Gomez, with amazing side and guest actors like Nathan Lane and Jane Lynch. One of the highest hopes for season two is that the hilarious Da’vine Joy Randolph will have a much bigger role for her turn as Detective Williams. Not to mention the misfit cast of fellow Arconia residents that make for one of the best bits of comedy in the season finale, completely ignoring a flailing Martin in the elevator, thinking he’s on a bender. The hilarious and crazy finale gives Martin the chance to really show off his physical comedy. It leaves viewers with an insane cliffhanger for season two that no one could have seen coming.
Looking back on season one, the writers timed each twist with precision, making sure that there were still questions to be answered. Even when it looked like things were wrapping up in a neat bow, something was just around the corner to unravel it. Arguably the most action-packed episode of the 10-episode season was “The Boy from 6B,” shot entirely in silence, as the titular character of that storyline Theo Dimas (James Caverly) is deaf. As the seventh episode, it was a bit of a jolt for viewers because it was almost as if the mystery had been solved, but luckily, it wasn’t the end of the story.
This show is a gem because of Martin, Short and Gomez. All three are executive producers, along with Martin and John Hoffman as creators and writers. There’s no question that friends and comedians Martin and Short would work masterfully together, but Gomez was really the wildcard. But kudos to the casting director because I can’t imagine anyone else in that role. Gomez absolutely holds her own with the veterans, proving just how talented she is at dark comedy.
Whether it’s the cast, the storyline or even the graphics and sound of the theme, there’s so many things to love about ‘OMITB.’ It’s a perfect show and absolutely worth taking the crazy ride filled with suspense and laughter.
by Julian Spivey
When “Evil,” created by Robert and Michelle King of “The Good Wife” and “The Good Fight” fame, debuted in the fall of 2019 on CBS it quickly became one of my favorite new shows on television. It wrapped in early 2020 and then due to the Covid-19 pandemic ended up being delayed more than a year and its second season was shipped off to the Paramount+ streaming service at the last second instead of airing on CBS.
There were probably minimal changes to the show because of this switch in where and how it’s seen – some more mature language was tacked on, it became possibly more gruesome (but that’s kind of hard to tell) and in the season two finale there’s some nudity.
What also changed between the first and second season was a bit of unevenness in the stories. Where there were few, if any, duds in the first season there were a handful of clunkers in the second season. However, amid these clunkers there were some truly terrific episodes like “S is for Silence,” which is possibly the second best episode of the series to date (I have season one’s “Room 320” as the best), and “I is for IRS.” Yes, all the season two titles have a children’s storybook theme that I hope is dropped for season three.
The biggest storyline of the season two finale “C is for Cannibal” is David’s (Mike Colter) ordination to become a priest is approaching and before the end of the episode has happened, despite some anxiety and questioning about it. All the while the team, which includes Kristen (Katja Herbers) and Ben (Aasif Mandvi), has their usual weekly case to work on in which a college student is having cannibalistic urges.
The cannibal storyline isn’t all that interesting, except for a couple of scenes, one in which David experiences a demon in the flesh for truly the first time and another in which we come to find the demons must eat the sigil of deceased demons to carry on their line of evil, in which Leland (Michael Emerson, the show’s main villain) performs essentially the satanic version of the Catholic Eucharist with the scalp of a dead demon (where the sigil was tattooed) before the new guy chows down on it.
The best part of the episode is saved for the end when at David’s ordination, Kristen sees Leland hand something to her daughter Lexis (who we’ve known all season isn’t quite right) and she confronts her daughter about it. Kristen, who gets real mama grizzly when her daughters are threatened, grabs her ice axe used for mountain climbing and seems like she’s finally going to put an end to Leland.
Instead, she ends up at David’s place and asks him to hear her confession, something she hasn’t done in probably 20 years as she’s become agnostic in her adult years. She comes clean to him about her previous murdering the serial killer Orson (who also threatened her daughters). There have been sexual inklings between David and Kristen for much of the series’ run, but of course the two have never acted upon it and now that David is a priest it’s forbidden – so what better time to have the two kiss than after his ordination and Kristen coming clean to him about offing a guy! That’s how season two ends.
It’s going to be interesting to see how “Evil” manages this moment we’ve all seen coming but will certainly have a massive impact on our two leads going forward. I can’t wait for season three but do hope the Kings can real in some of the clunkers – it’s the only thing keeping the show from being good to potentially the best on television.
by Julian Spivey
The second season finale of AppleTV+’s Emmy-winning comedy “Ted Lasso” hit the streaming service on Friday, Oct. 8 and wrapped up a terrific sophomore season with a few confrontations – some we knew were coming and at least one we maybe didn’t see coming.
Before I get into the finale let me talk about how important I think season two has been for the show and its characters. I know some viewers have been disappointed in the second season – and I get into a bit of that on the latest episode of The Word Podcast that I recorded with my wife and The Word contributor Aprille Hanson-Spivey directly after we watched the finale – but I think the character building, especially when it comes to Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) and finding out why he is who and how he is, has been a must for this show.
At the end of last week’s penultimate episode, we find out that an article is coming out about Ted’s panic attack during an important soccer match earlier in the season and that the source for the story was Nate (Nick Mohammed), his assistant coach who’s had a villain turn this season that we’ve seen coming for quite some time.
We know there’s going to be a tense moment with Ted and Nate coming into the episode and, boy, was it ever! Ted is blindsided by Nate’s feelings toward him, and Mohammed absolutely kicks this scene right into the back of the net in maybe his best acting performance of the show’s run. It’s hard to watch as the friends and mentor/mentee relationship is just destroyed on the spot, but I think it’ll be important going forward in season three, especially given the very last image we see in the season two finale. The next time these two see each other is bound to be epic.
One storyline that surprised me was Sam Obisanya (Toheeb Jimoh) turning down the massive offer to go back to his home continent of Africa and become a superstar on his home soil. It’s mostly surprising to me because I don’t know how realistic it is for an athlete to turn down such a major offer. But “Ted Lasso” is a television series and it’s one that will be all the better for the character of Sam sticking around for more. The potential relationship between Sam and AFC Richmond’s owner Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) is somewhat left up in the air, but also might be kaput as Sam said he was staying for himself.
A couple of the finale’s confrontations revolved around Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein), who really had one of the best storylines of the second season and is truly a fan-favorite on the show. In the penultimate episode of the season Keeley (Juno Temple) tells Roy that her ex-boyfriend and Roy’s ex-nemesis/current player as an assistant for Richmond Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) recently told her that he still loved her. Upon confronting him Jamie immediately apologizes to Roy and Roy surprisingly forgives him. There’s a great moment between the two after the important soccer match in the episode later.
The other confrontation featuring Roy comes toward the end of the episode and is between him and Keeley and it’s one that I absolutely didn’t want to see – though doesn’t come as a complete surprise as there are moments during the season that made one think they may not last. But it’s a relationship that I wanted so badly to see last – and honestly, it might, it was left wide open in the end, but doesn’t really seem to be going the way I’d like. I’m kind of confused by this moment and it only really makes sense if Temple is leaving the show, but that doesn’t seem to be happening.
I can’t wait for the third season of this show, which might possibly be its last, as the show’s creators have previously said they originally planned on a three-season storyline.
by Julian Spivey
Tuesday night (Oct. 5) came the episode of the Fox medical drama “The Resident” that we all knew was coming (at least those of us who follow entertainment news), but we never wanted to see.
In August it was announced that original cast member of the series Emily VanCamp would not be returning for the show’s fifth season. Seeing how VanCamp’s character of Nurse Nic Nevin was the wife of the show’s main protagonist Dr. Conrad Hawkins (Matt Czuchry) and had just given birth at the end of the fourth season it was obvious the only ending for her character would be tragic death.
It was surprising her death isn’t how the show decided to begin its season, but rater held it over to the third episode, with the character being away on a spa retreat over the course of the first two episodes of the season. It was also quite awkward for the show to place her death in the very next episode after another major character Dr. Devon Pravesh (Manish Dayal) almost died.
I’ve frankly been mad at VanCamp for leaving the show because of the massive hole it’s going to leave. Her reasoning for leaving had gone unreported for more than a month until Wednesday (Oct. 6), the day after the episode with her character’s death, when she told Deadline.com she left the show to focus on family after the birth of her daughter. I certainly can’t argue VanCamp doesn’t have her priorities straight, but many actresses do juggle a successful career with motherhood.
As I said, it’s an episode fans of the show didn’t want to see, but the show absolutely knocked it out of the park. You’re simply probably not a fan of “The Resident” if you kept dry eyes the entirety of “The Long and Winding Road,” written by Joy Blake. The episode is certainly the saddest of the show’s run, but it’s also one of its absolute best, with the entire cast really doing a superb job with the sadness of the impending loss of a friend and colleague.
Over the show’s fourth season I felt like Czuchry’s Dr. Hawkins sort of took a back seat among the cast, despite being the show’s main character from the start, but he’s obviously front-and-center here as we’re focused on his fight to save Nic, the realization that he’s lost her and having to cope with all that comes with losing the love of your life and mother to your recently born daughter.
The scene that really stood out the me the most was Conrad coming to the realization that Nic’s life is over right about the time that Nic’s father Kyle, played by Corbin Bernsen in a memorable recurring role, is refusing to let her go. Kyle has been through more than about any TV character I’ve ever seen as he lost his wife at an early age and now during this series alone has lost two daughters tragically. I hate that he told Conrad he’d never forgive him for what he saw as giving up on Nic, but it’s incredibly realistic for a man that broken down by tragedy. I’m sure we’ll see more from him in the future.
The other wonderful thing about this episode was how Nic saved many lives through her amazing gift of being an organ donor, including a character in the show’s other storyline of the week who needed a trachea replacement as the result of long haul Covid. Truly if you’re not an organ donor look into because you can’t take them with you when you’re gone and your lasting impact on this earth could be as a life-saver.
I look forward to seeing what “The Resident” has in store for us in the upcoming few episodes. We’re likely going to see the darkest side of Conrad we’ve ever seen.
by Julian Spivey
The 47th season of “Saturday Night Live” premiered on Saturday, Oct. 2 with an episode hosted by actor Owen Wilson with musical guest Kacey Musgraves.
I thought Wilson was an interesting choice to host the season premiere seeing as how this isn’t 2004 and he’s relevancy hasn’t really been high lately, but he does have a well-liked role on the recent Disney+ series “Loki.” I was also surprised to find out this was Wilson’s ‘SNL’ debut. He just seems like a guy who would’ve hosted the show a time or two before.
Wilson did yeoman’s work in the hosting stint appearing in most of the night’s sketches and doing a decent job, even if little of his work really stood out after the fact or provided many belly laughs throughout the night. His best work was probably as a teacher at a school board meeting who misread an email about Covid protocols as saying “segregate” students by six feet instead of “separate.”
The most surprising moment of the premiere for me was the screen time given to new cast member James Austin Johnson, who it seems we’ll see a lot doing impressions on the show, including being the very first cast member we saw during the season debuting his impression of President Joe Biden in a political cold opening. Johnson’s impression was spot on, even if the opening sketch didn’t provide too many laughs – that’s pretty much the fault of the writers (which has been the show’s weak link for a while now and doesn’t seem to be transitioning in the right direction after episode one of the season). In all my years watching ‘SNL’ I’ve never seen a new cast member given this much spotlight in a premiere, and especially be the first guy on screen!
There were some laughs to be had in the “Cars 4” sketch with Wilson resuming his voice role as Lightning McQueen, who has taken on a bit of a villain role in the latest installment of the series and seems to have a thing for underage lady cars. Wilson also gave some laughs impersonating NFL on Fox analyst Troy Aikman during a promo bit that provided few laughs otherwise.
The highlight of the first episode was Weekend Update with Michael Che already in midseason form with some controversial jokes about R. Kelly and NBA anti-vaxxers. I’ve always been a fan of Che’s style as an Update co-anchor, as I think he’s maybe the closest the show has had in that position to the late, great Norm Macdonald’s “I don’t give a damn if you think it’s funny” style.
Macdonald was tributed in the first Update segment since his death of cancer last month with the segment ending with the show showing some of his classic Update jokes from his tenure on the show in the mid-‘90s, including the great “Hey, that’s my lucky stabbin’ hat” O.J. Simpson joke. I was happy to see the tribute as Macdonald meant a great deal to me with my only complaint wishing it would’ve been a bit longer.
Pete Davidson also paid tribute to Macdonald during his Weekend Update segment with a shirt sporting the comedian’s face on it. Davidson began his bit saying, “I can’t believe I’m back,” which got a good chuckle as many though him and a handful of other veterans from the show wouldn’t return. He joked about his attending the Met Gala recently with my favorite joke being about how he thought Update co-anchor Colin Jost had attended as well and when Jost said he hadn’t they showed an image of someone in basically a gimp mask and Davidson said, “then who did I talk to all night.”
Musgraves’ two performances from her most recent album star-crossed, were nice with performances of “Justified” and “Camera Roll.” On “Justified” the Grammy-winner performed as if she were Jenny Gump (Robin Wright) from 1994’s “Forrest Gump” as if she were nude performing in just boots and with a guitar while seated on a stool.
Ultimately the season premiere didn’t provide many laughs but was probably one of the better one’s in years. You’d expect the show to always come out roaring with it having been off all summer, but the truth is it’s like any other week with the staff arriving at the beginning of the week with little to nothing already prepared.
Next week could be particularly rough with reality TV royalty Kim Kardashian West making her hosting debut on the show.
by Aprille Hanson-Spivey
I wasn’t expecting to tear up during the Sept. 29 episode “Education, Corruption and Damnation,” but “The Conners” has a way of tapping into the deepest human emotions, while also somehow making you laugh moments later. It’s a real testament not only to the veteran cast, but the writers.
Roseanne Barr’s early exit from the reboot after her controversial and racist comments has not impacted it the way I thought it would. Again, a testament to the whole team. Something I’ve found refreshing is that the show has continuously weaved in the death of Roseanne Conner from an accidental opioid overdose -- her character has not been forgotten or brushed aside.
In a recent storyline arc, her daughter Darlene’s (Sara Gilbert) life is more of a mess than usual. The character has dealt with brutal blows in recent years from the death of her mother, the stress of a promotion, constant financial woes, the loss of a close friend and the intense desire to find a moment to relax, even if that means jeopardizing her relationship by hopping a plane to Hawaii with a male coworker she barely knows. She doesn’t get on that plane of course, but it puts what seems to be an irreversible strain on her relationship with Ben (Jay R. Ferguson). The problems have piled up and practically buried her. So, despite being an atheist, she visits a psychic who cannot give her a proper palm reading. There’s too much of a cloud around her aura and the psychic believes it’s due to her lack of faith, spirituality.
Darlene struggles so much with this news, she gets on her knees and prays to God. It’s a powerful moment because you see someone so broken reaching out to the creator, even if she doesn’t quite know what that means.
Even though Darlene blames Roseanne a bit for her skepticism, her father Dan Conner (John Goodman) is quick to point out their mother was a believer and plucks out her Bible from the “Bible drawer” in the kitchen. It’s a good moment of comic relief when Darlene just assumes this is fate and it’s a sign, with Dan explaining that the Bible emerging from the Bible drawer that’s been there for years is hardly a sign. Her sister Becky (Lecy Goranson) introduces her to Pastor Phil (Jason Alexander) at her AA meeting who struggled in his own path of sin before becoming a preacher. He’s down to earth, relatable and, at least for this episode and I hope in the future, completely genuine. She decides to go to his church service with Becky and brings along Roseanne’s Bible.
It’s when the congregation is asked to turn to Isaiah that Darlene runs out of the church. In Roseanne’s Bible is a letter she wrote to God, begging to take away her pain and her addiction. If he just took away the pain, everything would be better.
My body froze as the scene unfolded. I’d wondered how many times my own mother had shared the same words with God. After a lifelong struggle with Lupus, she herself struggled with opioid addiction that the doctors continuously and recklessly prescribed. Her death in 2012 could be attributed to Lupus and irreversible damage of opioids on her body.
I felt a deep connection with Darlene in her moment of intense sorrow. She was angry at God. I was angry at God. As a Catholic, I was devastated that my pleading prayers weren’t enough to save my mother. In the years since, I’ve learned that God is not a genie -- something Becky points out to Darlene in a way that isn’t chastising her for her feelings -- and that free will and evil exists. Ultimately, God did take my mother’s pain away, just not in the way I had hoped.
But it’s important as the country continues to grapple with an opioid crisis to have episodes like this on television. It’s putting viewers face to face with raw truths that could save someone’s life.
I’m interested to see Darlene’s journey of spirituality and faith unfold because I think it’s something a lot of people can relate to. It wasn’t a perfect, rosy picture of someone’s life immediately turning around once they found God. It was messy, and God is not afraid of messy.
I hope the character can find peace and that the struggle can impact even one viewer to take a look at their own life and find a new path because it’s never too late.
by Julian Spivey
Maid - Netflix - 10/1
“Maid,” premiering today, is the newest limited series from Netflix and is a comedy-drama about a woman escaping an abusive relationship and trying to make a life for herself and her daughter working as a maid. Margaret Qualley plays the lead in the 10-episode series based on Stephanie Land’s bestselling 2019 memoir Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive. Qualley gets to act with her real-life mother Andie MacDowell in the series, which I’m sure was a real treat for the mother-daughter duo.
Muppets Haunted Mansion - Disney+ - 10/8
There are few, if any, groups I’d rather spend the holidays with than the Muppets. Back in the early ‘90s are favorite felt creatures did the classic Christmas tale of Scrooge better than just about any other cast ever has. Now I look forward to an evening of spooky family fun with Disney+’s “Muppets Haunted Mansion,” premiering Friday, Oct. 8. Believe it or not, it’s actually the first ever Halloween special from the Muppets! The plot features The Great Gonzo attempting to spend a night in The Haunted Mansion. The special will feature appearances by Will Arnett, Yvette Nicole Brown, Darren Criss, Taraji P. Henson and the late, great Ed Asner.
Dopesick - Hulu - 10/13
Hulu hasn’t had the same success when it comes to limited series as its main competition in Netflix, but maybe things will turn around a bit with “Dopesick,” an eight-episode series about America’s opioid epidemic based on Beth Macy’s bestselling book of the same name. “Dopesick,” which premieres Wednesday, Oct. 13, features Academy Award-nominated Michael Keaton in the lead role as a doctor who finds himself involved in Big Pharma’s deadly secret, according to Collider. The series also features Will Poulter, Kaitlyn Dever, Peter Sarsgaard, Rosario Dawson and Michael Stuhlbarg.
The Velvet Underground - AppleTV+ - 10/15
The Velvet Underground was one of the most innovative and original music groups of the 1960s featuring the supremely talented Lou Reed and John Cale and a truly unique sound and point of view. They also hung around pop artist Andy Warhol’s avant-garde community. Director Todd Haynes’ (I’m Not There, Carol) has helmed a documentary about the band that’s sure to be a must-see for all music lovers. “The Velvet Underground” premieres on AppleTV+ on Friday, Oct. 15.
Dune - HBO Max - 10/22
I must admit I’m not all that interested in “Dune,” which will be premiering in theaters and streaming on HBO Max on Friday, Oct. 22. But it is one of the most anticipated films of the year, so I’m making space for it on this list. “Dune,” directed by Denis Villeneueve (‘Blade Runner 2049,’ ‘Arrival’), is a sci-fi epic set in the far future on a desert planet where a drug exists that can extend human life. The film stars Timothee Chalamet in the lead with Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac and Josh Brolin in supporting roles. Director David Lynch made a version of Frank Herbert’s novel in 1984 that was received with mixed reviews, but has developed a bit of a cult following.
Colin in Black & White - Netflix - 10/29
In what will surely be a controversial limited series to some (check out the ridiculous IMDb user rating for it before it’s even premiered that shows racists have too much time on their hands) Netflix brings to the screen the high school years of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick being the song of adoptive white parents in a mostly white community and the moments that led him to becoming an activist. Jaden Michael stars as Kaepernick, who himself will narrate the series. Kaepernick’s parents are played by Nick Offerman and Mary-Louise Parker.