Saturday, April 8, 2017

Pilot Review: 13 Reasons Why

13 Reasons Why (Netflix)
Premiered March 31

I go into as many shows as I can without knowing a thing about them, and these new almost-weekly streaming series are the easiest ones to do that with since it’s near impossible to keep up with them as it is. I was surprised, therefore, when I sat down to discover that this show’s title referred to the thirteen reasons that a high school teenager killed herself. It’s a heavy subject, one that isn’t really reflected in the relatively casual tone of this show, one that’s defined primarily by mystery and adventure as the tapes that the characters listen to fill them and us in on what really happened and what led Hannah to a place where she felt like she had no choice but to kill herself. What bothers me about the way in which all this is presented is that it seems to glorify suicide in a way that I remember learning so much about as a kid wasn’t right or healthy, perpetuating the idea that you can affect the world once you’re gone (like being present to see your own funeral). Apparently this show is based on a successful novel from about a decade ago, so maybe it’s not such a bad influence, but it’s hard for me to get around the topic and the way it’s presented. In the cast, we have Dylan Minnette from “Awake” in the lead role, and Brian d’Arcy James from “Smash” and Kate Walsh from “Private Practice” as Hannah’s parents. Katharine Langford, who plays Hannah, does seem like a breakout star, and she does a good job making the protagonist interesting. This show might be involving and enticing to teenagers and young adults, and aside from the subject it’s tackling, it’s not all that bad.

How will it work as a series? Here’s one title that makes a whole lot of sense, with thirteen episodes commissioned, each one constituting one side of each of the tapes that Hannah decided to record on for dramatic effect. I’m not sure it’s meant to go on longer than that, but it seems to me that there should be a perfect amount of material for what’s been ordered.
How long will it last? Netflix ratings data isn’t available, of course, or all that relevant. Reviews seem to be mostly positive, which bodes well for the show, though of course one of the first links I found when I did a quick search on Google was that the show is missing mental health resources, and that’s a problem. Ultimately, I think one season is all that was intended for this show, and that’s all it will get.

Pilot grade: C+