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Tag: What I'm Watching Now (1-3 of 3)

What I'm Watching Now: The fantastic anti-zombie drama 'The Returned'

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If you’ve already bingewatched every single critically acclaimed show out there, and you’re wondering what to watch next, TV critic Melissa Maerz has a few suggestions. Her column, “What I’m Watching Now,” is devoted to the best underhyped series on television (or Amazon, or Netflix, or whatever iDevice you’re using), whether they’re just premiering or have been lingering on your friends’ season pass queues for years.

When is a zombie not a zombie? Do you have to be a full-fledged skull-munching, low-moaning, slow-walker to qualify? Or is being “undead” more of a philosophical problem, one that’s less about the flesh than it is about the braaain?

My coworkers and I have been debating this lately, because many of us are addicted to the French drama The Returned, one of the coolest, creepiest new shows on TV. (It premieres Halloween night on Sundance. Watch it now so you’re up to speed when Carlton Cuse of Lost adapts it for American television.) It’s nothing like The Walking Dead. So everyone wants to know: Can you really call it a zombie drama if nobody’s corpse is rotting?

Watching the drama unfold — slowly, moodily, over a goosebumpy soundtrack by Mogwai — you might find yourself waiting for some nightstalker to suddenly flip out and gorge himself on pancreas and spleen, just to stop everything from feeling so impossibly chic, so impeccably French. But The Returned strips away the usual conventions of the genre, which is exactly what makes it so deeply unsettling. What’s left is an affecting meditation on grief. The story begins with a hold-your-breath shot of school bus careening off an Alpine cliff, with children trapped inside. (I got flashbacks of The Sweet Hereafter.) Four years later, as the victims’ families gather for a group therapy session, one of the children who was killed in the crash comes back: 15-year-old Camille (Yara Pilartz) suddenly shows up inside her mother’s house, ravenously hungry — but only for spaghetti. Soon, others like Camille start appearing all over town. There’s Simon (Pierre Perrier), the sexy drummer with the Strokes haircut, who’s searching for his fiance, unaware that she’s now engaged to another man. There’s Victor (Swann Nambotin), the strange little boy who lurks in bus stops. Oh, and there’s Serge (Guillaume Gouix), the serial killer who guts his victims and snacks on their organs. Uh… yum?

But despite Serge’s fondness for human paté, none of the “returned” are particularly zombie-like. (This seems to be a trend lately: just look at the perfectly preserved dead boy in ABC’s upcoming series Resurrection, or the lifelike teenagers in BBC America’s In the Flesh.) They’re all impossibly young, with apple cheeks and dewy eyes and stylish, maggot-free outfits. They use actual words rather than just vowel sounds, and they’re able to convey real emotions beyond “vaguely starving” or “frustrated that I must drag this decaying foot behind me.” Yes, they’ve been resurrected for mysterious reasons — it has something to do with rising dam levels, an erratic power supply, and other things that make people who work for the French government shout, “Zut Alors!” — but other than that, they’re pretty normal. “Am I some kind of zombie?” Camille asks the local priest, Pierre (Jean-François Sivadier). “No, you’re not some kind of zombie,” he replies. “Than what am I?” she asks. The answer? Something much scarier. Sadder, too. Maybe she’s just like the rest of us.

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What I'm Watching Now: Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe in 'A Young Doctor's Notebook'

If you’ve already bingewatched every single critically acclaimed show out there, and you’re wondering what to watch next, TV critic Melissa Maerz has a few suggestions. Her column, “What I’m Watching Now,” is devoted to the best underhyped series on television (or Amazon, or Netflix, or whatever iDevice you’re using), whether they’re just premiering or have been lingering on your friends’ season pass queues for years.

Now that we’re well into back-to-school season, it feels like a good time to brush up on the great works of literature the proper way: by watching TV.

And since there are surprisingly few adaptations of the classics this fall — Chuck Lorre isn’t gonna adapt Beowulf for the small screen anytime soon — it’s also a good time to rediscover the arts and culture network Ovation, which premieres its surprisingly funny and gory black comedy A Young Doctor’s Notebook tonight at 10 p.m. ET. (The first season is only four episodes long, and you can find the right channel to watch them on here.) Or if scholarly knowledge doesn’t motivate you, what about the tawdry thrill of seeing Don Draper shoot morphine with Harry Potter?
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What I'm Watching Right Now: 'Please Like Me'

If you’ve already bingewatched every single critically acclaimed show out there, and you’re wondering what to watch next, TV critic Melissa Maerz has a few suggestions. Her column, “What I’m Watching Now,” is devoted to the best underhyped series on television (or Amazon, or Netflix, or whatever iDevice you’re using), whether they’re just premiering or have been lingering on your friends’ season pass queues for years.

This fall’s best new comedy might not be on your television—yet. It’s called Please Like Me, and it premiered last month on Pivot, a new network geared toward Millennials that broadcasts to 40 million homes across the country. (Click here to find out if it’s available in yours. Pivot will marathon all six episodes on Saturday, October 5 from noon to 4:30pm ET, and single episodes will begin airing weekly that day at 9pm ET.) Of course, if you’re a good Millennial, you’ve already watched it on iTunes and tweeted about how you’re now obsessed with its very charming, self-deprecating writer/producer/star, Josh Thomas, a muss-haired, bow-tied, 26-year-old who admits in the show that he looks “like a 50-year-old baby.”

If you’ve never heard of Please Like Me, which originally aired in Thomas’s native Australia, Pivot President Evan Shapiro has helpfully described it as “a coming-out quarter-life-crisis suicide comedy” that’s just like Girls—“if Girls had a soul.” Sure, like Girls creator Lena Dunham, Thomas plays on a semi-fictionalized version of himself. “Josh” was inspired by a stand-up routine he came up with at age 20, three years after killing at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, right around the time he stopped fooling around with women and fell for a man who may or may not have been prettier than he is. Thomas’s best friend Thomas Ward plays Josh’s best friend “Tom,” and his real-life cavoodle, John, appears as his dog. (The pet names here are hilariously ill-advised. There’s also a rabbit named Shaniqua.) But while PLM captures its creator’s life well, along with twentysomething life in general, the Girls comparison still seems slightly unfair. Thomas recently told EW that PLM had already been shot when Lena Dunham’s breakthrough premiered, and judging by his well-intentioned but slightly myopic characters, who are always trying (and often failing) to do the right thing, he has more in common with Mike White, whose bittersweet tribute to good people behaving badly, Enlightened, will be sorely missed.

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