Thirty years ago, MTV’s “The Real World” opened with its cast members introducing the world to a new-fangled kind of storytelling: “This is the true story of seven strangers picked to live in a house and have their lives taped to find out what happens when people stop being polite … and start getting real,” they said in the show opening. “The Real World,” the first modern foray into reality TV, ran for more than 640 episodes — and changed television in the process.
But co-creator Jonathan Murray (with Mary-Ellis Bunim) says he never expected that kind of success: “‘The Real World’ was very much a social experiment. The idea of covering people 24/7 for 13 weeks nonstop hadn’t been done, and it was exhausting.” Still, he’s back at it, with “The Real World Homecoming” spinoff now in its second season, and says, “With ‘Homecoming,’ we see how people [on the original series] were affected by this social experiment. Most of them seem to feel it was a positive experience.”
It’s Thursday night, and Seth Meyers has reached the end of his official workweek: I’ve watched him tape “Late Night,” which he’s hosted since 2014, and I’ve seen him do his weekly web-only add-on, “Corrections,” an Emmy-nominated bonus segment in which he addresses all the nitpicky comments viewers leave on his YouTube videos. Now he’s settled in for an interview with The Envelope in a greenroom at 30 Rock with an icy-cold drink. Miller time? Nope: “It’s a Negroni,” he notes. “From a can.” Cheers!
If there’s one thing everyone knows about Starz’ “Outlander,” it’s that it’s a show about Scotland, full of Scots (and one English “Sassenach”). Yet, for several seasons now, the series’ heroes – Jamie and Claire Frasier, plus their daughter Brianna and her husband Roger – have been remaking their lives in pre-Revolutionary War America.
How a show ostensibly about Scotland became one about American immigrants ties directly in with the theme of the last few cycles: The Frasers’ search for home. Yet, by the end of “Outlander’s” sixth and most recent season, home has never been more important – or imperiled. (Click on image below to see full article.)
HBO’s “The White Lotus” featured not only one of the twistier plots to come out of TV this past season, but the series — a mix of social satire and whodunit based at a Hawaiian luxury resort — also featured one of the larger ensembles of the year. Yet among that large collective of characters, three stick out to us here at the Envelope as the most pivotal, complex and utterly fascinating: hotel manager Armond (Murray Bartlett); business tycoon Nicole (Connie Britton) and Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge), who’s grieving over the loss of her mother. So we decided to keep things simple and ask each the same questions — to try and get at the deeper truths embedded in the “Lotus.”
“Station Eleven,” based on the book by Emily St. John Mandel, is an intimate HBO Max limited series about the apocalypse. In it, a global flu pandemic wipes out nearly everyone, but a troupe of Shakespeare devotees re-creates civilization by performing the Bard’s plays. It’s also the story of Kirsten, a preteen, orphaned actor who grows up performing with the troupe. But Kirsten is such a big role it took two actors to play her: Matilda Lawler, now 13, as the girl, Mackenzie Davis as the adult.
The pair had very few scenes together yet found a common language — and not just in how to interpret the heroine of the story. As they tell The Envelope, they also discovered a shared love … of pens.
Here’s how to know you’re living in peak TV: when the very specific subgenre of true-crime-podcast-inspired anthology/limited series has enough shows in it to make up a whole possible Emmy category. This season alone, potential contenders include “Gaslit,” “The Thing About Pam,” “Dr. Death,” “The Shrink Next Door” and “The Dropout,” just for starters.
And here’s one other way to gauge it: The genre is so popular it’s even been meta-fictionalized in yet another series, “Only Murders in the Building,” in which three amateur detectives become amateur podcasters for the sole purpose of discussing their crime-solving with the public.
So yes: It’s peak true-crime-podcast season, and welcome to it.
After four seasons of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) and Lenny (Luke Kirby) haven’t spent much time together on-screen. But when they do share scenes, they spark like few others — a connection that, well, climaxed at the end of Season 4. But because Kirby is playing the real-life comic Lenny Bruce, who died in 1966 at age 40 of an overdose, it’s impossible to imagine this union ending happily. The question now is, how will it play out when the show comes to a close next season? Brosnahan and Kirby met up in New York for an Envelope interview in the Bronx, covering the language of their pairing, whether it’s meant to mirror reality, and what makes them the show’s best couple — for now.
Technically, “Beard After Hours” wasn’t supposed to exist.
The bottle episode that divided fans and created critical applause appeared as Episode 9 in “Ted Lasso’s” second season and came at a critical narrative juncture: the Greyhounds had just lost a heartbreaking game to Manchester United, romances were being rekindled and team members were having an identity crisis. So where did the Emmy-winning series choose to go next?
By following a secondary character on a long, dark night of the soul, into a “Ted Lasso” sans Ted, sans virtually every other familiar face on the series, except for Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt). It was a bold move, but one that existed only because Apple TV was really, really proud of the series.
Even if you don’t regularly tune into the four remaining daytime ones still in existence—Days of Our Lives, The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful, or General Hospital—you still watch soap operas. Why? Because you are a genre fan. You love your grand, sweeping, dramatic, romantic, world-shaking science fiction or fantasy or horror films. You nitpick over who did what to whom and when and on what alternative timeline and who came back from the dead on shows like Game of Thrones or Star Trek. Or movie franchises like Star Wars or Harry Potter or Twilight or anything in the Marvel Comics or DC Comics universe. These entertainments bend their story to the breaking point and twist their plots it into pretzel logic…and we love it.
But wait, you may say: Star Wars and Game of Thrones aren’t like those soaps. They have big budgets. They have award-winning actors. They have prestige! And yes, it’s absolutely true: these days, what passes for soaps on TV often comes with a bigger budget, a smaller production schedule, and a whole lot of CGI. But the soap aesthetic is in the DNA.
“The pandemic has really messed up my sense of time,” says Patrick Somerville, showrunner on HBO Max’s “Station Eleven,” which was adapted from the novel of the same name. “Joe Biden’s been president for a year? What? Everything’s accordioning — longer and shorter. ‘Station Eleven’ reflects what we’ve been through. It’s what we’ve become now; we’re all collapsed into one moment.”
Collapsing into one moment may feel true in real life; it’s also a thoughtful way to think about the structural twists in time some of the most buzzed-about series from the past TV season have put into their stories.
Limited and ongoing series including “Station Eleven,” “Yellowjackets,” “Pachinko,” “Only Murders in the Building,” “The Afterparty,” “Life & Beth” and “Russian Doll” have discarded the traditional linear story arcs for bifurcated (if not trifurcated and beyond) plots that involve extended flashbacks to tell multiple, interconnected stories.