Friday, March 29, 2019

Pilot Review: The Act

The Act (Hulu)
Premiered March 20

It feels like every week brings with it a new anthology series based on true events. Most of them are on Netflix, Amazon, or the network that’s been most prominent in offering this type of programming: FX. Hulu made history as the first streaming service to win the Emmy for Best Drama Series with “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and now it’s likely to conquer some of the other races with this production. I don’t know anything about Dee Dee and Gypsy Blanchard, and though I don’t think I’m going to continue watching it, I’m reluctant to do research on what actually happened to determine how much of this is actually history rather than fiction. The presentation is certainly dramatic and stylized, with both Dee Dee and Gypsy seeming so carefully constructed in their every interaction with the outside world. Patricia Arquette may well end up competing with herself come Emmy time after her Golden Globe and SAG wins for “Escape at Dannemora,” and she does a pretty impressive job of, for lack of a better expression, putting on an act. I know Joey King, who plays Gypsy, from “Wish I Was Here” and the first season of “Fargo,” and she’s probably the best reason to watch this show. I also like AnnaSophia Robb from “Sleepwalking,” and it’s interesting to see her in this kind of role. Chloe Sevigny, a Golden Globe winner for “Big Love,” also adds to this talented cast as the suspicious neighbor who eventually comes to trust and empathize with Dee Dee. Once I finish catching up with the rest of my television from the past week or so, I’ll consider whether I’m still thinking about this show and want to check out another installment of this dark thriller.

How will it work as a series? That final scene changed everything in a tremendous way, with first Gypsy revealing that she was very capable of walking and then Dee Dee scolding her to get back into bed after a flashback showed the doctor confirming that Gypsy doesn’t in fact have a problem with sugar. This title seems to refer to both of its protagonists, who spend enough time keeping up the illusion that it’s hard to understand what their endgames really are. I’m somewhat curious to find out why.
How long will it last? It’s no surprise that this show is garnering critical acclaim, and the fact that it was conceived as an anthology series means that these characters just need to appetize viewers enough to return for something different in season two and beyond. Given Hulu’s prominence lately, I can’t imagine this show won’t be renewed soon and return for a promising future.

Pilot grade: B

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