“Reservation Dogs” returns, amid an FX surge

As we peek ahead to the third – and, alas, final – season of “Reservation Dogs” (shown here), thoughts emerge:
1) This may be as close as TV gets to a golden age for American Indian shows. There are only two of them, but they’re terrific. “Dark Winds” starts its season at 9 p.m. Sunday (July 30) on AMC (reaching AMC+ on Thursday, July 27); “Reservation Dogs” starts it 10-episode season Aug. 2 on Hulu.
2) Good shows leave too soon – voluntarily, no less. Bland ones seem to be forever.
3) Emmy voters are crazy.
4) The FX people keep giving us great moments. From the current “Justified” mini-series and “What We Do in the Shadows” to the upcoming “Breeders” and “Reservation Dogs”; the quality is extraordinary. But let’s go back: Read more…

Basic-cable gems survive in a dwindling field

The TV universe is littered with endangered species.
Variety shows? Daytime soap operas? Saturday-morning cartoons? All have become scarce.
But now there’s a broader category to worry about – scripted shows on basic-cable networks. Those have ranged from “Monk,” “Mad Men” and “Mr. Robot” to “Breaking Bad” and “Battlestar Galactica.” But lately, they’ve been wounded by streamers and cord-cutters.
“The basic-cable business is really struggling to compete,” John Landgraf, the FX chief, told the Television Critics Association earlier this year. “I think FX and AMC are kind of holding the fort.”
Still, summer is when cable channels have their best shot. TBS’ cleverly offbeat “Miracle Workers” (shown here with Geraldine Viswanathan) debuts at 10 p.m. Monday, July 10 … putting it against “Cruel Summer,” the surprisingly well-crafted teen drama on Freeform. Read more…

“Snowfall” ends; Idris soars

In the fierce, six-year run of “Snowfall,” Damson Idris has mostly been ignored by awards voters.
That’s understandable. Idris’ job, which he did perfectly, was to play Franklin Saint (shown here in an earlier episode), a cool-eyed drug kingpin. Hollywood doesn’t give awards for stoic and stony.
But now all of that changes with the series finale, at 10 p.m. Wednesday (April 19) on FX, rerunning at 11:39 p.m. and 1:06 and 2:39 a.m., then going to Hulu. The steely exterior is gone; Idris gives a performance that’s … well, Pacino-esque. Read more…

FX conquers our inner demon

As the summer slows down, people start looking for TV shows – preferably ones with scripts and plots and characters and such.
Not to worry; a surge of FX productions is coming, ranging from  a demonic animate show (shown here) to a therapist held  hostage. “We’re just about doubling the output,” John Landgraf told the Television Critics Association.
Landgraf used to oversee shows for one channel, FX. Some of them – “Fargo,” “Pose,” “Justified,” “Sons of Anarchy”– became classics. Now he pushes shows in three directions; the surge includes: Read more…

Resistance was futile; Bridges became “The Old Man”

When Jeff Bridges was offered a chance to be “The Old Man,” he took his usual stance: He said no.
“I resist everything, you know,” Bridges told the Television Critics Association. “Resist, resist.”
Especially this one (shown here). It’s a series (10 p.m. Thursdays on FX, starting June 16, for seven weeks), something he’d never done. And he’s seen, close-up, that this can be demanding.
“My father, Lloyd Bridges, did six series, and I saw what hard work” it was, Bridges said. “He (was) a very joyous cat, but also a really hard worker.” Read more…

“Mayans” booms with Ukraine-style warfare

As the new “Mayans M.C.” season booms onto the screen, it seems a bit like a newsreel from the Ukraine.
Here are the bikers, outgunned and outmanned, clinging to their home. They have Molotov cocktails, makeshift shields and desperation.
These scenes (10 p.m. Tuesday, April 19, on FX) were filmed before the Ukraine war, but they remind us that fact inspires fiction. Consider: Read more…

“Snowfall”: drug-dealers, danger and, especially, family

We expect characters to change a bit, to get older and slower and maybe wiser.
Still, few have done it with the dizzying speed of Franklin Saint, the centerpiece of “Snowfall” (shown here). When the series started, he was a brainy teen with a strong college future; in this fifth season, he’s been flying a private plane and ruling a business, turning drug deals into real-estate schemes.
Is anything unchanged? “He still loves his family,” Damson Idris, who plays him, told the Television Critics Association. “Despite the animosity …. family has been the thing that’s kept him afloat.”
That’s clear in the season’s fourth episode, which airs at 10 p.m. Wednesday (March 9) on FX, reruns hourly until 2 a.m., then goes to Hulu. Franklin insists everyone catch the welcome-home dinner for his mother; we find big changes in his: Read more…

Re-living a past nightmare, Porter finds hope

Surveying a life in shambles, the “Pose” protagonist sums it up:
“The world is cold and cruel and full of disease,” Pray Tell says.
That seems like a line about today, but “Pose” – starting its final season at 10 p.m. Sunday (May 2) on FX – is set in 1994, when the gay community was shredded by AIDS and police crackdowns. For Billy Porter (shown here in an earlier and cheerier season), who stars as Pray, the eras merge. “I think the parallels are quite profound,” he said.
Porter, now 51, reached Broadway just as the crisis was soaring. He was a “Five Guys Named Moe” understudy in 1992, then was Teen Angel in the “Grease” revival in ‘94 – a peak year for AIDS deaths. Read more…

“Mayans” duo world — noisy action, subtle passion

It’s a small, quiet scene in a show known for big, noisy ones. And it packs the emotional power we expect from “Mayans M.C.”
On one side of the glass is Alicia, who hasn’t been in jail before; on the other is EZ (shown here, second from right, in a previous episode), who has.
“Anything you try to keep – hope – will just get destroyed” in prison, he tells her. “So kill it first …. Shut it all down.”
Her question: “When I get out, how do I turn it back on?”
That’s a question for Elgin James, who’s been on both sides of the glass. He’s the co-creator and producer of “Mayans,” which airs at 10 p.m. Tuesdays on FX, then goes to Hulu. He’s in charge of a much-praised drama; he’s also spent a year in prison. Read more…

“Black Narcissus”: Worlds collide, high in the Himalayas

If you remake a movie every 70 years or so, you can expect some changes.
One example is “Black Narcissus” (shown here), the sprawling mini-series that airs at 8 p.m. Monday (Nov. 23) on FX, then moves to Hulu.
Based on a 1939 novel, this was a 1947 movie that’s well-liked by movie elite: “My wife (Emily Mortimer) had made a (Martin) Scorsese movie,’” actor Alessandro Nivola said in a Television Critics Association virtual session. “He made ‘Black Narcissus’ required viewing for all of the actors in the movie …. I remember loving it.”
The basic story persists: Nuns travel high in the Himalayas, to revive an abandoned mission. Soon, there are culture clashes, plus jealousy and deep loneliness. Read more…