Editor’s Note: TV OT is a weekly look at what CNN’s entertainment team is watching since too much television has us all working overtime.
Chalk it up to the government’s revelations in recent years about UFOs, or maybe just the pendulum swinging back, again, after “The X-Files” inspired a host of imitators in the 1990s. Whatever the reason (including possibly happenstance), to paraphrase a great patriot, “The aliens are coming! The aliens are coming!”
This week saw the finale of “American Horror Story: Double Feature,” whose second installment (a vast improvement over the first) rewrote US history around aliens landing during the Eisenhower administration. The fixation with watching the skies is being joined by Apple TV+’s globe-spanning “Invasion” and CW’s “4400,” both of which hinge on mysteries but which appear to be in no hurry to disgorge their secrets.
Created by “X-Men” veteran Simon Kinberg and David Weil, “Invasion” (launching Oct. 22) follows the weird doings surrounding an alien invasion through the perspectives of multiple characters around the globe. It’s sort of the anti-“Independence Day,” where instead of giant ships suddenly appearing, strange little things begin happening, slowly (too slowly, based on the five episodes previewed) adding up to an extraterrestrial encounter of, well, some kind.
As for “4400,” which premieres Oct. 25, the CW series is actually a reboot of a show titled “The 4400” that premiered in 2004, but with an interesting twist. Again, it involves people being returned, unchanged, after disappearing years and sometimes decades earlier, but the emphasis is on marginalized people, whose absences were felt by their families but not seriously scrutinized by authorities.
The group arrives in Detroit, and they’re essentially quarantined by the government, while both getting to know each other and, in the case of those taken relatively recently, discovering what transpired while they were gone.
Why are they back now? What was done to them? And what happens next? The hope is you’ll stick around to find out, but given the size of the cast, there are a whole lot of subplots to explore in the interim.
Therein lies the problem with both shows, which particularly in the case of “Invasion” feels so unhurried in its template of watching the crisis unfold as a global phenomenon as to blunt the drama.
“The X-Files” ran into similar problems in its later seasons, as the mythology became increasingly dense. But the current TV glut has only accelerated the sense that if the show you’re watching doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, click, next.
It’s unclear whether these alien visitors have all the time in the world waiting around for somebody to get to the point, but a lot of us mere mortals don’t.
Don’t look for ‘Curb’ blurbs. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
Larry David tends to keep his own counsel when it comes to things like publicity, so you won’t see any advance reviews of the new season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” because nothing was made available in advance.
For all the talk about creative freedom these days, “Curb” has long been a model of a network acceding to the show’s architect. The comedy returns Sunday for its 11th season (which is pretty, pretty good) spread over 21 years – including a six-year hiatus between seasons eight and nine – reflecting David’s “I’ll deliver ‘em when I’m ready” strategy, and HBO’s willingness to let him to work at his own quirky, unhurried pace. (HBO and CNN are both part of WarnerMedia.)
The deal, basically, is whenever you’re ready to do more episodes, we’re here. And while 100 episodes in 10 seasons is nothing to sneeze at, it’s worth noting how that compares with the industriousness of something like “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” which premiered the year before “Curb,” and hit its 500th episode this week.
Speaking of premieres, “Curb” returns Oct. 24 along with the fifth and final season of “Insecure.” The first few episodes of the latter were made available, and they’re good – a college reunion episode especially – without really offering much sense of what sort of endgame Issa Rae’s groundbreaking comedy has in mind.
Are you #TeamSubtitles?
Now, Sandra Gonzalez with a a hotly debated issue among couples everywhere
“Not since our great Pitbull’s music should be played at all parties debate of 2018 have my husband and I disagreed on something as strongly as the use of subtitles while watching our television shows.
First, let me say, neither of us have a medical need for them. And people who rely on them to watch and enjoy television should be the priority at all times.
Below them, there’s what seems to be an increasing number of people who, like me, watch TV with subtitles on.
Unlike his strong pro-Mr. Worldwide views, my husband does not prefer subtitles. He finds them distracting. I, meanwhile, find them helpful for exactly that reason. As someone with an attention span that’s as stunted as my five-foot frame, subtitles help me concentrate on the show I’m watching.
One article from a couple of years ago attempted to nail down a reason behind the trend, focusing on it as a behavior exhibited by Gen-Z and Millennials. I prefer my own theory: This is evolution at work. Those of us who enjoy subtitles are the brightly colored peacocks of our time. Our ever-splintered attention spans have required us to find alternative means for enjoying our television fully. And that’s OK.
This week, a bunch of ‘Great British Bake Off’ viewers across the pond complained when subtitles for the most recent episode were unavailable due to technical issues at Channel 4. To those who were vocal with their frustrations, I see you. I AM you.”
Should watch/will watch
One more from Sandra Gonzalez, who has a confession about her streaming intentions this weekend:
“I know I should watch ‘Dune’ because if I don’t it will be spoiled for me. The good thing is I don’t really care if it is. Come find me, ‘Dune’ spoilers. I’ll be on YouTube watching old Disney Channel in Concert specials, which I just recently remembered existed.
How brilliant were these little pieces of pop music propaganda? I have the Backstreet Boys one memorized by heart, down to every crowd call-out in the middle of songs. (‘Sing it with me!’) I miss these specials – fun with no disingenuous claims about being ‘raw’ or ‘real’ versions of the subjects at the center. A non-spoiler, kids: Everyone who’s claiming to be an open book is just turning to the page they want you to see. Sincerely, your tipsy aunt. P.S. - Disney+, please pay the money and put these specials on your service. Thank you.”