Monday, September 24, 2018

Pilot Review: Maniac

Maniac (Netflix)
Premiered September 21

Just over a decade ago, Jonah Hill scored his first lead film role and Emma Stone made her film debut in the comedy “Superbad.” Since then, both have received two Oscar nominations, Hill is directing his first film this year, and Stone took home the Oscar for Best Actress for the popular film “La La Land.” Now, after so many years of establishing their careers, they’re back together in a project that couldn’t be more different than the one that first launched them. Billed as a miniseries, this show is nothing if not dark and strange. Hill’s troubled heir Owen and Stone’s aggressive personality Annie are both intriguing, but what drew me much more to the world of this show is the AdBuddy concept, where when Owen didn’t have money for the subway he was able to use an option that had an annoying man with a briefcase running through a series of paid advertisements as he sat and rode on the subway car bench. How this world works and what’s going to happen with this trial that they’re both participating in is indeed interesting, as well as whether Annie, best defined by Stone using her crazy eyes, is just playing into Owen’s delusions to mess with him or because it helps to connect her to something. This is a high-pedigree concept, with Cary Joji Fukunaga, best known for helming season one of “True Detective,” directing and adding his own signature style. I’m curious but not yet fully entranced – I’ll have to see what comes next to determine what to make of this show.

How will it work as a series? Annie’s response to Owen suggests a sort of kinship between the two of them that contradicts her initial reaction both to him and to everyone else she spoke to in this opening hour. Getting them into the trial should provide more opportunity to see into who they are and how they perceive their universe, which is likely to be intriguing if also mind-bending.
How long will it last? This show got off to a great start with a straight-to-series order from Netflix back in 2016. Reviews have been pretty good, and it’s just a question of whether the latest show advertised as a miniseries ends up earning a second iteration, either with this same cast or a brand-new one.

Pilot grade: B

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