This summer Mellini Kantanyya and I created #SummerHours, a series about fun books, movies, and television shows by or about women. The series is running all summer long on the New York Women in Film and Television blog. Below are excerpts of my TV picks, and you can click on the links to read the full postings. Be sure to check out Mellini’s picks in her category “Book to Screen…and Back Again.”
Master of None “Thanksgiving”
In Season 2, the one to watch is “Thanksgiving” directed by Melina Matsoukas and co-written by Lena Waithe, who does double duty as both the writer and star of this episode playing Dev’s best friend Denise. This is Denise’s coming out story (which is largely autobiographical) told over the course of many Thanksgiving dinners that Dev spends with her family. Beginning with Denise as a young girl before she is fully out to herself, one holiday after the other marks the passage of time and gives the episode its structure.
I Love Dick “A Short History of Weird Girls”
Under this salacious title lies a feminist narrative about a floundering indie filmmaker who becomes obsessed with a cowboy artist named Dick. Kathryn Hahn plays Chris, a woman at a crossroads in her career struggling to find meaning in her life. Hahn, long relegated to the role of the “wacky best friend,” shines with the physicality of Lucille Ball and a vulnerability all her own in this breakout role. And Kevin Bacon is Dick. Bacon acknowledged that traditional gender objectification is flipped in this series, and he revealed in an interview with Marc Maron that his wife Kyra Sedgewick pushed him into the role. “Oh, you’re doing it,” she said.
Legion “Chapter 4”
I’m just gonna say it: veteran television director Larysa Kondracki directed the hell out of “Chapter Four.” “Chapter Four” is a challenging episode because it addresses the very nature of storytelling and the notion that memories are capricious. In this highly experimental episode, we jump back and forth from what is “real” to what is happening in David’s head. Surreal, beautiful, and nightmare-ish, multiple points of view and storylines are masterfully woven together into a narrative that may or may not be true, and under Kondracki’s direction, she never loses the plot.
The entire series is binge-worthy, but for the purpose of #SummerHours, the episode to watch is “Value” written by Stefani Robinson. As the AV Club observes, “It makes such a huge difference to know that someone with insights about how black women communicate contributed to an episode that mostly consists of black women communicating and mis-communicating.” “Value” takes a break from the main narrative with the guys and settles in with Van reuniting with an old friend from college. The eight-minute dinner exchange between the two women is gripping – there’s a class thing at play here as well as gender politics. And the whole scene drips with the authenticity of two friends “who love each other but don’t really like each other.”