When the weather’s bad and you’re feeling wan, Kate Winslet is the only one.
It’s true: On one especially dull and deeply cold day in February, this column was perked up no end by an actor enthusing in a Zoom chat. It was Kate Winslet, no less. You see, in the before-times TV Critics went to LA in January or February for the mid-season press tour. All the outlets from broadcast to streaming showed their wares in press conferences, panel discussions, interviews and receptions.
Now that all happens online. One Zoom discussion after another, staggered through the past two months. Keeping an eye on it all while doing the daily job has been a wearying experience, mostly. Then came the chat with the cast and producers of Mare of Easttown, a miniseries coming to HBO/Crave in mid-April.
Winslet executive-produces and stars in it as a small-town Pennsylvania detective who investigates a local murder as her family life disintegrates around her. On the Zoom panel, she was relaxed, chatty, not looking in the least glamorous – in her kitchen somewhere – and immensely cheerful.
She talked about prepping for the accent she needed. She then said the word “water” in three different American accents to illustrate. And talked about the times she has overthought a role and how she works to avoid that. She swore like a sailor. Asked if she’d make a good detective, given her attention to detail, she swore and said she’d be a lousy detective. But she announced she’d be “quite good at the morning coffee and after-beers” part of the job.
This column wishes Winslet was part of every darn Zoom meeting. Also, that panel was a reminder that there are reasons to be cheerful – great TV is coming. Mare of Easttown (starts April 18) looks great and here’s a list of more to anticipate with pleasure.
The Serpent (starts April 2, Netflix) is a British production, based on real events. Those events surround French serial killer Charles Sobhraj, a man who preyed on hippie tourists in India and Thailand in the mid-1970s. It is as much about the milieu as it is about the killer (played with cool menace by Tahar Rahim). That is, it’s about the idea of young Westerners using Asia like a theme park and for a personal escape to drugs and sex. It’s a slow-burning thriller and a reminder that in the days before the internet, people could disappear off the face of the Earth, and few would notice for months. There’s a Canadian connection too. The real Sobhraj’s girlfriend and alleged accomplice in poisonings was Canadian Marie-Andrée Leclerc (played by Jenna Coleman from Doctor Who).
Hemingway (starts April 5, PBS) is a three-part, six-hour documentary film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, examining what it calls “the visionary work” of Ernest Hemingway but framed as a deconstruction of the myths about his turbulent life. In many ways it’s a deep dive into the Hemingway revealed in the writer’s private letters (they are read by Jeff Daniels). In a Zoom chat with critics, Ken Burns said this about the letters: “They show how much he was struggling every day to maintain that discipline, to touch those moments common to us all, that are universal, but also wrestling with a whole set of demons, a whole set of problems that begin to betray the mask of the he-man that he built for himself.”
Kevin Can F**k Himself (starts April, AMC, date TBA) had a lot of critics deeply enthused. The gist from AMC: “It’s about a woman who keeps playing perfect housewife. Then one day, she realizes she wants to kill her husband.” But it’s so much more than that. The series plays and toys with the tradition of TV sitcoms in which the long-suffering wife tries to please her dopey husband. Portions of it are filmed like a sitcom with a laugh track. Then the wife-character Allison (played by Canadian Annie Murphy from Schitt’s Creek) snaps. Two stories in two styles then unfold: a revenge drama plus a snarling satire of such shows as Kevin Can Wait and The King of Queens. A certain type of network sitcom is simply demolished.
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