TELEVISION MAN by Aidan Morgan
“Look out for the Television Man, children. He’ll twist you by your UHF dial and bend your antennae until you’re nothing but static.”
Devs (FX/Hulu), the new eight-episode series written and directed by Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Annihilation), is full of unsettling imagery, but nothing is quite as odd and terrifying as Nick Offerman eating salad with his hands and sporting a disheveled pageboy haircut. Who eats salad with his hands? Who cuts their hair like that? Was he defrosted from 1991? Is he wandering the streets in a post-cryogenic haze, wondering when the next Inspiral Carpets album is coming out?
No, as it turns out. Offerman plays Forest, a Silicon Valley bazillionaire with a fog of grief hanging around him (the treetop-clearing statue of a young girl overlooking the company headquarters is a pretty clear suggestion of that grief’s source). Devs is an elite division within the company tasked with an obscure computational task whose implications cause the characters to react with wonder or nauseating horror.
Alex Garland has gained a reputation as a chilly auteur concerned with profound questions about humanity and artificial life, but at heart he’s a showman with a taste for pulp. The first two episodes feature industrial espionage, Russian spies, gruesome murders and a mysterious password-protected app that sends a programmer named Charlie (Sonoya Mizuno of Ex Machina and Maniac) into a wormhole of weirdness. The pace of the episodes is relatively slow, but the atonal score saws on the nerves and suggests violence may leap from behind a corner at any moment. And it does.
What, you may ask, can be gained from adapting Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity for the internet era? After all, wasn’t the vinyl snobbery of Rob, the emotionally stunted protagonist played by John Cusack in the movie, bad enough 20 years ago? Do we need more insufferability in our lives?
If you flip Rob’s gender and give the role to Zoe Kravitz, then yes, you definitely need more insufferability.
Kravitz replaces Cusack’s querulousness with a raw vulnerability that makes the character a great deal more appealing. Likewise, High Fidelity the series finds its groove when it departs from the original novel and transforms into a New York hangout comedy, where Kravitz kibitzes with her coworkers Simon (David H. Holmes) and Cherise (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), argues about obscure vinyl and manages to repel every customer who walks through the door of her record shop. How does she even stay afloat? And does she find love in the end? Go watch it on Crave or Starz and find out, you philistines.