Television Man | Aidan Morgan | Nov. 18, 2021
“When I was a child, flipping through the dial/ Afraid of Sunday programming” —Kate Bush, “The Hounds of Television”
Yellow is having a moment. After a brief appearance in the first season of True Detective with that whole King In Yellow nonsense (demonstrating, as Lost did years before, that the solution to most mysteries is never as interesting as the mystery itself), yellow retreated to its role as a background wallpaper colour.
In 2021, yellow has blazed its way back to cultural relevance with two whole shows bearing the colour in their names. Kevin Costner’s horse-heavy drama Yellowstone (Prime Video) is turning out to be remarkably successful. If I had to guess, I’d say Costner and his steely middle-distance stare stationed between a battered Stetson and a horse is rustling-up the ratings among Baby Boomers. I hear it’s good if you’re into that sort of thing.
More exciting — at least to me — is Yellowjackets (Crave), the latest attempt to squeeze some lemon-sour drippings from the same fruit Lost plucked back in the day. Juliette Lewis, Melanie Lynskey, Tawney Cypress and a sinister Christina Ricci play the adult survivors of a plane crash that stranded a New Jersey high-school soccer team in the Canadian wilderness for 19 months back in the ’90s. Twenty-five years later, reporters are still sniffing around, suspecting that there may be more to the story than the woman are letting on. Flashbacks to the ’90s suggest that the story of survival is more about depravity and cannibalism than bare survival.
The pilot episode, directed by the reliably wonderful Karyn Kusama (The Invitation), is an hour of good, nasty fun. Lynskey and Lewis take the lion’s share of the adult segments, portraying deeply damaged people with barely contained secrets and an appetite for violence. And that’s not even covering the teenage versions of the characters, who are equally compelling. I’m already impatient for the rest of the season.
The Doctor Will See You Now-ish
Doctor Who (Crave) might be the most persistent but least constant show on television, popping up for a few random specials one year, dropping 13 episodes the next, then vanishing altogether for a year or so before returning in yet some other form — occasionally with an entirely different actor in the title role. It’s enough to drive a fan wild, or even turn them gibbering and shrieking to the classic Who series from 1963–89.
The most recent run of the show, helmed by Who writer Chris Chibnall and starring Jodie Whittaker (Broadchurch, Attack The Block), has been a mixed bag. For all the enjoyable moments, the Chibnall/Whittaker run has felt fractured, with too many companions splitting focus and detracting from the Doctor herself. With Chibnall wrapping up his run in a six-episode story called “Doctor Who: Flux”, the question would seem to be: will he give Whittaker’s Doctor the send-off she deserves?
After three episodes, the answer seems to be: uh, maybe. All the things that made the previous two seasons frustrating are still around: an ever-growing roster of companions with their own backstories and dramas, an unconvincing villain (who has been gathering companions with their own backstories and dramas) and a steadfast unwillingness to answer the questions it introduces. It works from moment to moment, but the storytelling feels as slapdash as ever.
On the other hand, Jodie Whittaker is as charismatic and appealing as ever, and her rapport with companion Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill) still feels authentic. A new character, Vinder (Jacob Anderson, aka Game of Thrones’ Grey Worm), has an intriguing story of exile and galaxy-spanning romance. In true Chibnall style, though, it already feels underserved by virtue of popping up at the very moment when we should be saying farewell to The Doctor and getting closure on her story. Despite the flux, some things remain the same.