Thursday, October 6, 2016

Pilot Review: Crisis in Six Scenes

Crisis in Six Scenes (Amazon)
Premiered September 30

Woody Allen making a show about the 1960s is a funny thing since the now eighty-year-old writer, director, and actor looks and sounds a whole lot like he did back in that fateful decade. Since making his directorial debut in 1966 with “What’s Up, Tiger Lily?” Allen has made almost fifty films and won four Oscars, but so little of the content of his work has changed. Opening this show with the famous font signifies that it’s an Allen production, but all the evidence you need is on full display throughout the course of the episode. The narrator frames it, and then Allen’s aptly-named Sidney J. Munsinger makes his mark as an Allen character by asking his barber, who naturally talks about Job, to give him a James Dean haircut. Everyone guessing random actors that viewers are not supposed to know when Sidney asks those around him who he looks like only further propels him to be self-obsessed and complete delusional, spouting warped logic like “I read an article in a magazine that you can add years to your life if you avoid anything pleasurable.” The only real difference in Allen here is that he rambles a bit more slowly, still uttering things like “Shall I say my prayers in the event that there’s a God and I’ve been wrong all these years?” Casting Elaine May as his wife is a smart idea to appeal to nostalgic audiences, and there’s definitely an attempt to pass on the Allen sensibilities to a younger generation with the focus on a young couple played by Rachel Brosnahan from “House of Cards” and John Magaro from “Orange is the New Black.” I’ve never thought a Woody Allen movie would continue past the end credits, but my interest has been mildly piqued to see what the remaining five scenes will show us about Allen’s very familiar and often entertaining worldview.

How will it work as a series? I’m not sure whether each installment is supposed to be connected or not, but I am curious to see whether the focus will actually be on the counterculture of the 1960s or just on Allen and all that he likes to cover. Allen tends to make shorter films, and so giving him six full hours at least promises to give him plenty of opportunity to create potentially compelling characters to utter memorable dialogue.
How long will it last? Apparently Allen has decreed that this will only be one season, and though that’s always negotiable, I suspect that Allen is going to do what he wants. It’s an interesting experiment to bring a veteran director to a new form – streaming television – and I think it will likelier pave the way for more efforts like this than more of this particular show.

Pilot grade: B-

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