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Lin-Manuel apologizes after 'Heights' backlash
And NBC just canceled the #1 show on Netflix
What to know
Lin-Manuel Miranda apologizes after colorism backlash to In the Heights… LMM and director John M. Chu are apologizing after some called out Heights for not having much Afro-Latino representation in their depiction of Washington Heights. Miranda admitted that they fell short and apologized.🌉
NBC has canceled Manifest as it tops Netflix… I don’t watch Manifest but the timing of its cancellation is pretty interesting. NBC axed the show after 3 seasons Monday as the series topped Netflix’s Top 10 list. It’s wild how shows like Manifest and You, for example, can find an audience on Netflix after failing on cable and broadcast. Maybe Netflix will see this as reason to scoop up Manifest for more seasons? We’ll see ✈️
Kristen Bell’s new coupon scam comedy just sold to Paramount+ for $20M… It seems there’s quite a bit of money to be made in the indie-film-to-streaming pipeline. We usually see numbers like this after Sundance, so the timing here is all the more impressive. Bottom line is the streamers are in a content arms race and are paying up to stay competitive. 💰
Naomi Watts and Bobby Canavale will star in a creepy new Ryan Murphy-Netflix show… who watches The Watcher? 👀
Alice will meet Peter Pan in a new musical… the most ambitious crossover event in history ✨
Dropping this week:
Dave s2 premiere — June 16 on FXX/Hulu | Comedy series | RT
The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard — June 16 in theaters | Action comedy | 31% RT
iCarly premiere — June 17 on Paramount+ | Nickelodeon sitcom reboot | RT
Luca — June 18 on Disney+ | Pixar feature | RT
Physical — June 18 on Apple | Drama seres | 60% RT
Rick and Morty s5 premiere — June 20 on Adult Swim | Animated comedy | RT
What to watch
The Underground Railroad, now on Amazon Prime, is the most important TV series you will watch this year, maybe this decade. Oscar-winner Barry Jenkins directs all 10 episodes of this epic and sprawling masterpiece, bringing the Pulitzer-winning novel by Colson Whitehead to life with devastating verve and careful attention. Not since Roots has there been such a landmark and necessary TV show about slavery in America.
Underground Railroad imagines a fictional history in which the eponymous freedom network is an actual underground train. It tells the story of escaped slave Cora as she travels the subterranean rail network from Georgia northward, pausing for Odyssean trials in numerous U.S. states. The train might be fictionalized, but the atrocities are very real. Through Cora’s arduous journey, Jenkins is able to show the gamut of harrowing and horrifying experiences Black people faced (and continue to face) in America. Meanwhile, the literal underground railroad serves as the ultimate metaphor for the path to freedom Black Americans have had to endure over 400 years. Whitehead, and by extension Jenkins, brilliantly hook us with the fantasy elements and hero’s journey, but are then reminding us of the harsh and necessary reality we must not forget.
On a technical level, Jenkins directs with a pointed and intentional eye. He breaks television conventions at almost every turn and elevates the medium to cinema. If you thought the line between film and TV was blurred before, Jenkins just obliterated it. Jenkins’ cinematographer James Laxton, who also shot Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk, deserves special mention for the abundance of incredible photography here. No one, and I mean no one, can light a scene like Laxton and Jenkins.
Underground Railroad is also an achievement in performance and casting. Lead Thuso Mbedu, who is already a star in South Africa, carries the show with weight and presence. She’s the type of actress whose eyes are a true window to the soul; you can see decades within them. Speaking of eyes, Aaron Pierre leaves quite the impression with just 3 episodes. Joel Edgerton understood the assignment of villain thoroughly, but it’s his scene partner, 11-year-old Chase Dillon, who pops off the screen and provides some of the series most shocking and tragic moments. William Jackson Harper is miles away from Chidi and displays his pure, theater-honed chops, while Lily Rabe and Damon Herriman (Justified) also deserve some honorable mentions.
Like Roots, The Underground Railroad harkens back to a time when TV miniseries were massive events. They were occasionally weighty and high-minded, elevated above the weekly comedies and dramas of the era. Jenkins is taking it a step beyond that. Underground Railroad is a TV show, but it’s also much more than that. It’s a statement on the past, present, and future of race in America. Its symbolism, recurring themes, and deep meaning can be mulled over and analyzed like a great novel. It jumps off the screen with imagery and performances unmatched. It’s at-times a challenging watch, but in the end, a sojourn that must be taken.
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