As September arrives, the streaming networks are determined to keep their grip on us.
Yes, several networks have plans for makeshift fall seasons; PBS and cable have more. By Sept. 21, the TV world will feel sort of busy; by Sept. 27 – the launch of two engrossing cable series, “Fargo” and “Comey Rules” – it will seem packed.
But the streamers are loading up first. On Thursday – one day before Netflix’s ambitious “Away” debuts and Amazon Prime’s “The Boys” returns – four series or mini-series arrive, including Ridley Scott’s “Raised by Wolves” (shown here):
– “A.P. Bio” (Peacock) has already had two disappointing seasons on NBC. Its harsh humor – a teacher who resents education and his students – may work better outside the mainstream. It’s still a so-so show, but has OK moments when the grief shifts away from the students and toward the staff.
– “Young Wallander” (Netflix) is a six-episode prequel to Kenneth Branagh’s “Wallander” series, which had a dozen brilliant films on PBS.
– “The Sounds” (Acorn) is something you don’t see often – a Canadian-New Zealand co-production. It drops its first two episodes Thursday, which are enough to grab our interest, with six more on the way. Rachelle Lefevre (a Canadian actress who’s been busy on American TV) plays a sleek Canadian lawyer, rejoining her husband, who has a business venture in a gorgeous part of New Zealand. A tragedy/mystery follows, with jolts at the end of the first and second hours.
– And “Raised by Wolves” (HBO Max) is the big one – bigger than its creator had envisioned.
Aaron Guzikowski had written the Hugh Jackman movie “Prisoners” and the Jason Momoa series, “The Red Road.” He sent this script to Ridley Scott’s company, then got surprising news.
“Ridley himself had read the script and he responded to it,” Guzikowski told the Television Critics Association recently. “Apparently, soon after he had read it, he had just started drawing pictures, storyboarding …. It was beyond exciting to me.”
Maybe way beyond. At his desk, Guzikowski keeps a toy figure – the Xenomorph villain from Scott’s “Alien” movies. “I’ve had it since I was 5,” he said. “He has no arms; he’s been through a lot …. I was obsessed with the stories that Ridley was telling.”
Scott has made several “Alien” films, plus “Blade Runner,” “The Martian,” “Legend,” “Laybrinth” … and lots of things outside science-fiction, including “Gladiator” and “Thelma & Louise.”
Now he was busy with this story. “He directed the first two episodes,” Guzikowski said. “He was intimately involved in the entire production.”
That first hour has a stark approach, short on color or outward emotion. Two androids have been dispatched to a distant planet, with embryos. They’ve been programmed to raise them there, far from the prevailing religious beliefs of their home planet.
This has all the signs of being a solemn and serene film, something producer David W. Zucker says “we kind of described as ‘“Little House on the Prairie” on another planet.’” Then, in the final minutes of the opener, things bust loose in spectacular, Ridley-esque fashion.
For one android (simply called “Father”), Scott cast Abubakar Salim, who sees depth to this notion of technocratic parenting in our high-tech world: “Who knows where this is all going? And what does this mean for my kids?”
For “Mother,” the casting director was stumped until seeing Amanda Collin in the title role of the Danish film “A Horrible Woman.” She found her and insisted on an immediate audition.
Collin, long and thin, also happens to fit one image of an android. A TCA reporter asked her if “the almost genderless body of Mother” is a visual trick.
Replied Collin: “It’s my body …. No special effects.”