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19 Apr 2017

True TV: 'Mary Kills People' Goes Dark; 'The Handmaid's Tale' Goes Darker

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Canadian actress Caroline Dhavernas has starred in left-of-center American series like Wonderfalls and Hannibal, but Mary Kills People is probably the first to fully realize her oddly chilly-sexy potential. Canadian actress Caroline Dhavernas has starred in left-of-center American series like Wonderfalls and Hannibal, but Mary Kills People is probably the first to fully realize her oddly chilly-sexy potential.

Mary Kills People (Sunday, April 23, Lifetime), series debut: Canadian actress Caroline Dhavernas has starred in left-of-center American series like Wonderfalls and Hannibal, but Mary Kills People is probably the first to fully realize her oddly chilly-sexy potential. (It’s also a Canadian production, so no U.S. credit earned.) As the title bluntly spells out, Dr. Mary Harris (Dhavernas) kills people—terminally ill patients who want to go out on their own terms, specifically. Her secret Angel of Death gig threatens to spill over into every other aspect of her life, echoing dark-side classics like Weeds and Dexter, and Dhavernas’ complex Mary is an easy equal to Nancy Botwin and Dexter Morgan. The first season of Mary Kills People is only six episodes, but it’s an addictive taste of what should be more to come. Make it happen, Canada!

Silicon Valley (Sunday, April 23, HBO), season premiere: Another season, another seemingly insurmountable clusterfuck for Pied Piper: Thanks to the fallout from using a click-farm to artificially boost the popularity of the clunky compression platform made by Richard (Thomas Middleditch), no one wants to fund Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) and his viable-and-already-blowing-up video-chat app—coder probs, am I right? Silicon Valley, aka Nerd Entourage, makes far more sense if you’ve ever worked in the digital world, where the only physical product is the occasional promo hoodie or sport bottle, and egos run rampant (I have; this show nails it uncomfortably well), but the funny is universal. In an unlikely parallel to HBO’s Girls, Season 4 of Silicon Valley sees the crew growing apart—but clothed, thankfully. And I stand by this: A little T.J. Miller goes a long way.

Dimension 404 (Tuesday, April 25, Hulu), season finale: Hulu’s six-episode anthology series Dimension 404 is like a more comedic take on Black Mirror—then again, pretty much anything is comedic compared to Black Mirror. The series’ premiere episode, “Matchmaker,” was a twisty riff on dating-app tech in which Joel McHale gave a more lively performance in under 30 minutes than he has in 20 episodes of the dead-eyed slog of The Great Indoors. (Please, CBS, kill that show, and set Joel free.) Another installment, “Cinethrax,” starring Patton Oswalt, began as a cautionary commentary on the divisiveness of insular nerd-elitism, only to have said insular nerd-elitism ultimately save the day (well, until—spoiler—aliens enslaved the planet). Dimension 404 isn’t a mind-blower, but it’s at least amusingly unpredictable—and now you can binge all six episodes.

Great News (Tuesday, April 25, NBC), series debut: NBC’s last great newsroom comedy was NewsRadio in the ’90s (30 Rock doesn’t count, and the hilarious antics of Brian Williams reside on MSNBC), but damned if they don’t keep trying. Great News is set behind the scenes of a cable-news show, The Breakdown, produced by Katie (Briga Heelan), a—you guessed it—frazzled, unlucky-in-love young career woman who becomes even more frazzled-er when her mom, Carol (Andrea Martin), comes aboard as an intern. For a Tina Fey production, Great News lacks the snap of 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, though vets Martin and John Michael Higgins (as The Breakdown’s old-school anchor) are reliably solid. Also, Nicole Richie is … here, for some reason.

The Handmaid’s Tale (Wednesday, April 26, Hulu), series debut: Here’s yet another bleak dystopian future in which the super-rich rule in a fascist theocracy—but wait, there’s more! Women are servile, disposable and mostly barren; those “lucky” enough to be fertile are treated like higher-grade animals, “wombs with two legs.” Fun, right? The Handmaid’s Tale, based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, was first given the screen treatment in 1990, but lends itself far better to a 10-episode series than that rushed, uneven film. In the society of Gilead, former-American-with-rights-turned-handmaiden Offred (Elisabeth Moss, fantastic as ever) is the designated baby-maker for Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and his wife, Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski); dehumanization and ickiness ensue. There are few slivers of light in the darkness here, but the payoff is worth it.

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