Posts with «television» label

The 'Lower Decks' season two finale is Star Trek at its best

This post contains spoilers for season two, episode 10 of 'Star Trek: Lower Decks.'

Last week I posited that seasons one and two of Lower Decks together would make up one story arc of the show. Given this week’s finale, it looks like we’ll be dealing with the consequences of the Pakled threat for just a bit longer. But when an episode is this good, I’m perfectly fine with being wrong.

Especially when this installment just encompasses so many of my favorite things about Star Trek. It’s not just the delightful appearance by Captain Sonya Gomez — you might remember her as the ensign who spilled hot chocolate on Captain Picard way back in season two of The Next Generation. And it’s not because of the first on-screen appearance of cetacean ops, a concept hinted at in various blueprints but never actually mentioned with any real seriousness.

CBS

It’s the general plot of the episode, where the entire crew must work together to save the day. I’m a real sucker for teamwork scenes, like the final battle in The Undiscovered Country or, more recently, when the crew of the USS Discovery had to disguise themselves as their mirror universe counterpart. Star Trek has been described as “competence porn” by many online, in how it depicts people who are insanely good at their jobs and work together well.

The first two seasons haven’t always showcased the crew at their finest. We’ve seen Boimler and Mariner lose the Klingon diplomat they were supposed to be escorting, Freeman get into a pissing match with the captain of another Starfleet vessel, and the crew fail its (rigged) assessment test spectacularly. At times the show is very much like The Office, more interested in the personal lives and antics of its employees than the actual business at hand.

CBS

However, even The Office would occasionally remind you that the staff of Dunder Mifflin were good at their jobs, particularly Michael Scott. Michael was a terrible manager, but one hell of a salesman. And this episode of Lower Decks put the spotlight on Carol Freeman, whose fine work over the past two years is being rewarded with a promotion to a better ship. The USS Cerritos is a California-class ship, a real workhorse of a vessel that doesn’t get a lot of respect. That the Cerritos even became important at all is completely due to circumstance in encountering and surviving the newly empowered Pakleds. But it’s given Freeman a lot of time in the spotlight, with her tasked a few episodes ago with negotiating a cease-fire with the Pakled government. (It was a ruse, but that’s not her fault.)

Last week I thought this episode would wrap up that storyline, given that we now know the Pakleds were getting help from a Klingon captain, one who is no longer alive thanks to the actions of a lower-decker. Instead, this episode focuses on Freeman’s possible promotion, her senior staff’s reaction to it, and the futures of our lower decks ensigns.

CBS

This is all happening against the backdrop of a first contact mission. The USS Cerritos mostly specializes in second contact missions — we’re told this in the very first episode. That means they come in and handle all the annoying administrative stuff after flagships like the Enterprise come in and establish initial relations. Now, the Cerritos gets to take part in the more important first impression, but only as backup to the USS Archimedes.

Sitting on the bench ends up serving the Cerritos well when a solar flare plus an unstable planetoid ends up disabling the Archimedes and putting it on a crash course with the planet below. Freeman is ready to sacrifice herself in order to save the other ship, but Rutherford and company have a better plan, one that can prevent fatalities on both vessels. But they’ve only got 20 hours, so the whole crew has to chip in. That means Ransom piloting, Billups supervising the hull removal, and Tendi giving Mariner a much-needed pep talk. The latter might not be necessary to the functioning of the ship, but it is important to the show because it pushes the two women toward the emotional resolution they need.

CBS

We also get to meet the crew of cetacean ops, two beluga whale lieutenants named Kimolu and Matt. But it’s Boimler who has to save the day, because the clamp they need to release isn’t made to be turned by flippers. (I really appreciate the accessibility joke here, because Starfleet has often been cited over the decades as an OSHA nightmare.) Needless to say, the crew succeeds (this isn’t a movie, after all, so we’re not losing the ship). After the bravery shown by the entire crew of the Cerritos, particularly Boimler and Rutherford, it’s hard to imagine that season three won’t start off with a few promotions.

But first, there’s the matter of Freeman’s transfer, which she has decided to decline in favor of staying with a crew that has proven itself capable of being truly excellent. Unfortunately, that Pakled storyline comes to bite us all one more time, leading us into the show’s very first cliffhanger, and the very first season-ending cliffhanger in the new Kurtzman-era of Trek programs.

CBS

Star Trek: Lower Decks had a lot to prove when it debuted last year: It was the first animated show since the ‘70s, and the franchise’s first attempt at a primarily comedic series. It also had to overcome the initial impressions of it as being akin to Rick and Morty or Family Guy. The quality of the first season started a bit rough but improved as time went on, ending on the fantastic action-packed episode, “No Small Parts.” Season two’s “First First Contact” ups the game in several ways, not just in its element of danger but also in how the show is willing to use big storylines to push the characters forward as the seasons progress.

Apple TV+ will now have two series about unethical shrinks

On November 12th, The Shrink Next Door will debut on Apple TV+. Oddly enough, the Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd vehicle is one of two upcoming shows centered on unethical psychiatrists coming to the streaming service. This week, Apple announced a 10-episode order for Shrinking, a new series that will star Jason Segel as a therapist who tells his patients exactly what he thinks. Ted Lasso co-creator Bill Lawrence and star Brett Goldstein, who plays Roy Kent in the popular comedy series, will write and produce the new show alongside Segel.

It’s an interesting move for a company that, despite some recent successes, is one of the newer players in the streaming space and still building out its lineup while seeing what works. As ever, the company’s approach seems to be to give established talent the runway to create what they think people will want to watch.

'Prodigy' is a kid-friendly Star Trek show taking the right lessons from Star Wars

This post keeps spoilers to the bare minimum since the show will not air until October 28th.

While Star Trek certainly has its share of young fans, it’s never been specifically for the kids. Sure, there was the animated show back in the ‘70s, but that was basically a continuation of the original 1966 series. The newest program, Prodigy, is designed with kids in mind — especially those who might know nothing about Star Trek.

Though the show won’t show up on Paramount+ until the end of the month, fans got a sneak peek at the first episode, “Lost & Found,” during this past weekend's New York Comic Con. It introduces to our core cast of characters, a diverse group of aliens trapped on a distant mining colony and forced to dig in search of a mysterious prize. It’s a pretty grim scenario for a kid’s show, but one that won’t stick for long — this is Star Trek, after all, and part of the franchise’s ethos is exploration.

To keep the series as newbie-friendly as possible, the connections to the wider Trek universe are kept to a minimum. We don’t even know what species our protagonist, Dal, is. The rest of the cast is filled out by aliens that are either new to us or haven’t gotten a lot of screen time in the past. And the Federation is largely unknown here. Not that it isn’t mentioned a few times, but that our group of former prisoners have no idea what that means. Long-time fans will be excited to watch them learn all about it, while new fans will get to take that journey of discovery with them.

It’s that sense of wonder that will keep the show firmly in tone with the franchise, even as its new setting and animation style evoke prior science fiction programs like Star Wars: Rebels and Farscape. Star Wars: Rebels was also intended as a kid’s show, but its role in filling in details about the rise of the Rebel Alliance and sense of pathos also made it an enjoyable watch for adults. While older Trekkies will probably want to keep up with Prodigy for those ties to the greater continuity, the action sequences are solid and the initial plot line is serious enough to keep newcomer adults engaged. It’s a good introduction to the franchise for both kids and grownups alike, something sorely needed when there’s over 800 episodes to trawl through.

Nickelodeon

Prodigy is computer-animated by Eye Animation Productions, part of CBS Television Studios. According to Nickelodeon and Paramount Animation president Ramsey Naito, CG was chosen for being the “most immersive approach,” and that director Ben Hibon’s vision for it had a lot of soul. The show adopts a blocky angular style similar to Rebels but the edges are smoother and the color palette is more expansive. Even when things are grim, it’s still a visual treat in terms of how things are shaded. The planet is a full spectrum of browns and reds, while space isn’t just black and white; it’s purple and blue and pink with an array of glittering stars. It’s a cinematic place you want to explore.

Nickelodeon

And, of course, our tool for exploration is the USS Protostar, a lost Starfleet vessel that the characters unearth in their digging. What exactly is the ship, and how did it end up on this depressing mining colony? Those are questions for the long haul. Some may however be answered by the vessel’s “help desk,” a hologram of Kathryn Janeway. She doesn’t have a huge part to play in the series premiere, which is good because it means she can’t draw attention away from the introduction of the main cast. Paramount+ did, at least, release a short clip starring Janeway to quench your thirst for the coffee-swilling captain.

During the New York Comic Con panel executive producers Dan and Kevin Hageman did share a few casting announcements. Voyager fans will be pleased to hear that Robert Beltran will be reprising Chakotay. It’s unknown if he’ll appear in the flesh or as another hologram, but we do know that he’s been promoted to captain in the time since his last appearance. Kids will probably be more excited by some of the other guest voices, like Hamilton’s Daveed Diggs as Tysess and The Good Place’s Jameela Jamil as Ascensia. These additional announcements also feel like a tip of the hat to Voyager fans, a show that saw its share of guest stars like The Rock. Prodigy will even bring back Jason Alexander, an actor who also appeared on Voyager, but will now appear in the new role of Doctor Noum.

Nickelodeon

There’s a lot about the show to be excited about, and what’s been revealed about Prodigy thus far is extremely promising. But as a middle-aged and long-time Star Trek fan, what got me the most in this premiere was when you get to see the Protostar finally fly. Its ascent from the planet was thrilling, but watching the characters react to seeing the stars for the first time… I might have shed a few tears. Star Trek is about exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilizations. Now we get to watch a whole new cast, one that had previously been abused and downtrodden, live out that dream. Even if we’ve left the confines of the Federation, the show’s heart is still firmly in place with its past.

‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ is ready to let its ensign heroes rank up

The following contains minor spoilers for season two, episode nine of ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks.’

Throughout the history of Star Trek, it’s generally accepted that a member of Starfleet will spend about three years as an ensign, the lowest officer rank in the fleet. It’s the position given to new Starfleet Academy graduates, and the status of the four protagonists on Lower Decks. However, as the show wraps up its second season and prepares for a third, it does bring the character’s status as “lowly ensigns” into doubt. This week’s episode touches on, though doesn’t solve, the problem by exploring the universal concept of a “lower decker.”

In “wej Duj” (the first full Klingon language episode title in the entire franchise), the USS Cerritos is in transit between missions, giving the crew some much-needed downtime. Mariner, Rutherford and Tendi use their day off to spend some personal time with senior officers, which sends the bridge-crew-friendless Boimler into a panic since he notes that this will give them an edge when it comes to getting promoted. He spends most of the episode trying and failing to get buddy-buddy with various officers. If this all feels like C-plot level shenanigans, well, it is. But as a result the show takes its biggest leap yet to fill out its narrative in this episode.

CBS

“wej Duj” is Klingon for “three ships,” and we get to see the crew of the Klingon vessel Che’Ta, where a very ambitious Boimler-esque Klingon is trying to get in good with the current captain of his ship. Old school fans will remember that authority on Klingon ships is assigned by force, with an officer assuming command by killing the previous captain. This young Klingon isn’t quite that ambitious, but he’s perfectly happy to walk the captain’s pet targ if it helps him become first officer.

The episode also shows us the happenings on a nearby Vulcan craft called Sh’Vhal, where a lower decker named T’Lin there has been messing with the sensors and as a result, notices some strange readings in the area that she takes to the captain to investigate. The captain agrees to the search, but he also reprimands her for undertaking such unnecessary adjustments to the ship.

CBS

The entire episode could have been played as a “slice of life,” with the three plot lines never intersecting and it still would have been a fairly successful installment of the series. This isn’t our first look at the internal life of a Klingon ship, but it is our first look at a Vulcan crew, and playing those distinct societies against Starfleet culture is a great bit of world building. Star Trek has never been good about showing life outside Starfleet, only lightly touching on the grander world in more recent shows like Picard and Prodigy. And even those still have tenuous Starfleet connections. Lower Decks has relished showing us the larger universe that the characters exist in, and here we now get that same sense of expansion without the Starfleet worldview intruding.

That doesn’t mean the storylines stand apart, far from it. All three ships and their plot lines come together in the end, not only pulling the episode into one cohesive narrative, but also continuing — and starting to resolve — a plot line that has lingered since the end of season one, namely the Pakleds. We finally find out why they suddenly became a huge threat in the Alpha Quadrant, thanks to a series of machinations reminiscent of storylines on The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. Not everything is revolved by the end, presumably leading into a big finale next week. It’s fair to say that seasons one and two basically comprise one full story arc, with season three possibly presenting a fresh slate.

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And it’s just in time, too. Each season has represented a year on the Cerritos. Next season will mark three years on the Cerritos for Boimler, Tendi and Rutherford, placing them in line for a promotion. And unlike Mariner’s purposeful self-sabotage, her friends have all shown themselves to be competent, trustworthy officers. There’s no reason they shouldn’t be promoted — and technically Brad Boimler already was at the end of last season, having only been demoted and sent back to the Cerritos because of a transporter accident on the USS Titan.

While it’s unlikely (though not impossible) that the characters will get promoted in the season finale, it will have to happen some time next year for the show to maintain its verisimilitude in Star Trek canon. The Cerritos doesn’t have the luxury of being trapped in the Delta Quadrant as an excuse to keep its ensign an ensign (poor Harry Kim). But there’s hope, given what happens to our Klingon and Vulcan lower deckers by the end of “wej Duj.” Those outcomes, alongside the episode wrapping on Brad giving sage advice to a young crewman, seem to hint that the show is comfortable with letting our protagonists move on when it’s time.

What kind of show was Marvel's ‘What If…?’ meant to be?

This post contains spoilers for the season finale of Marvel's 'What If…?'

All season there were hints that What If…? was going to be more than just an anthology show. The fact that it debuted week to week, instead of dropping all at once like Star Wars Visions. The Watcher’s repeated insistence that he must not interfere, an assertion begging to be tested. Stephen Strange noticed the Watcher’s presence. And then Ultron becomes aware of not just the Watcher, but of the entire multiverse, setting the stage for this week’s finale. It’s like a “greatest hits” of the series so far, with room for future adventures.

After last episode’s altercation, the Watcher knows he cannot handle Infinity Ultron by himself, instead enlisting the help of the heroes we’ve met over the entire season, including Captain Carter, T’Challa Starlord and Party Thor. The one exception is a Gamora who appears to have been working with Tony Stark, pulled into the group with little explanation, making me wonder if I had missed an episode. (Though the Watcher’s dismissal of Tony was pretty funny.)

Where other episodes have had to rush through their premises, showing us how those particular realities differed from the main Marvel Cinematic Universe, the finale has eight prior episodes to lean on for background so it got straight to the action. What we got was a tight, zippy episode that’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser, with lots of fun banter between the characters. And it certainly helped that a few were played by their original live-action actors, most notably Benedict Cumberbatch and Hayley Atwell.

However, even this episode left some loose ends and a lot of doors open, with Arnim Zola and Killmonger locked in eternal battle, Black Widow finding a new team and Captain Carter discovering her lost-long love still alive. These all feel ripe for sequels that this show appears more than willing to deliver.

Marvel Studios

It raises the question of what What If…? actually is. The show was originally presented as an anthology — which is still one of the tags it’s given on Disney+. Traditionally an anthology is a collection of stories or essays by different authors, but as early as The Twilight Zone television has defined an anthology as a program with new characters and scenarios every episode, regardless of whether the writers are the same. Even now, while every episode of Black Mirror is written by Charlie Brooker, you’ll still see it described as a science fiction anthology.

The episodes of What If…? are written by a variety of people including showrunner A.C. Bradley, but that’s par for the course with any television program, even the serialized ones. But its anthology nature was due to the fact that even if they were similar to characters we already knew and loved from the live-action productions, the characters were still different people. This is actually alluded to in the finale, when Gamora’s machine fails to destroy the Infinity Stones because it was only built to crush the gems in her universe, not in all realities.

Marvel Studios

But ultimately, even if it’s different universes, it’s one multiverse and thus, one continuity. To watch this finale you would have needed to see every episode of the series this season, instead of cherry-picking only the episodes you were interested in. I know a few people who were only watching the concepts that intrigued them, but in the end they’ll have to watch every episode in order to make sense of certain plot points. While the show has been careful not to intrude into the main MCU and becoming “required” viewing in that expanding behemoth, it’s still building an essential canon of its own.

It’s still rather up in the air over what part What If…? is meant to play. Having many of the actors reprise their roles from the films was a way to tie it into the larger universe, while the change in medium from live-action to animation set it apart from not just the films, but series like WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Being billed as an anthology gave it license to do a lot less long-term character building than those two programs as well. 

Marvel Studios

However, in practice it feels a lot like Loki, which completely changed how we saw the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe — it even downplayed the Infinity Stones at several points! Taking major threats of the MCU and greeting them with a ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ says that even What If….? isn’t all that interested in retreading old stories and is ready to move on with the rest of the Marvel properties. It may be inessential canon, but it still wants to keep up with the main event. And that’s not how an anthology is supposed to work.

AT&T is reportedly One America News' primary financial backer

Telecoms have long been accused of trying to skew politics, but a new report suggests AT&T might have gone further than most. According to The Verge, Reutersreports that AT&T is a major backer for One America News Network (OAN), a right-wing media outlet YouTube temporarily banned last November for spreading misinformation. While multiple TV providers carry the channel, an OAN accountant testified in 2020 that 90 percent of OAN parent Herring Networks' revenue, tens of millions of dollars, came through deals with AT&T-owned platforms that included DirecTV.

OAN founder Robert Herring separately testified that AT&T executives inspired him to launch the network in 2013 after looking at a media landscape with relatively few conservative outlets. Court documents also indicated that AT&T offered to buy a 5 percent equity stake in OAN and Herring's lifestyle channel AWE, although the two ended up choosing a different agreement.

OAN even claimed that one AT&T executive, Aaron Slator, offered to put the channel on DirecTV in return for help lobbying for the satellite broadcaster's 2014 merger. The Herring family also supposedly met FCC officials to talk about the merger and speak well of AT&T in news stories. AT&T has denied making the offer linked to Slator, and an OAN lawsuit alleging a breach of that deal supposedly led to AT&T adding OAN to DirecTV's selection.

AT&T rejected claims of undue influence in responses to Reuters and The Verge. The carrier maintained that DirecTV "does not dictate" channel programming, and that DirecTV merger support was "never a condition of or part of" any content carriage agreement. In a Twitter statement, AT&T maintained it "never had a financial interest" in OAN and that the decision to carry the network was now in DirecTV's hands.

The concern, as you might imagine, is that AT&T may have contributed to the spread of misinformation without being held to account like online providers and other companies. On top of YouTube suspending OAN following a violation of COVID-19 misinformation rules, voting machine maker Dominion sued the network in August this year over unproven claims of election fraud. If the report is accurate, there could easily be pressure on AT&T to distance itself from OAN and focus more on its core services than politics.

AT&T's statement on today's Reuters story on OAN pic.twitter.com/8pb8Poj8IC

— AT&T News (@ATTNEWS) October 6, 2021

'Seinfeld' hits Netflix, but some jokes have been cropped out of view

Classic '90s sitcom Seinfeldjust landed on Netflix after a six-year run on Hulu. Given that the show was filmed years before HD was a thing, it was originally displayed in a 4:3 aspect ratio on TV (and the DVD sets that came years later). But on Netflix, the show has been cropped into a 16:9 widescreen format to fit on modern TVs. As noted by Rolling Stone, that means some visual gags have literally been erased. 

to emphasize, the titular pothole from the season 8 episode The Pothole is cropped out on Netflix https://t.co/gH4l5V8HfSpic.twitter.com/6G35eZQymW

— Brandon (spooky version) (@Thatoneguy64) October 1, 2021

Twitter users @boriskarkov and @Thatoneguy64 succinctly pointed out the problem with a specific episode called "The Pothole." In the episode, George Costanza and Jerry Seinfeld are trying to find George's lost keys, which were dropped in a pothole that was then paved over. In a crop where George wildly yells at the pothole, the Netflix crop removes the pothole entirely. The 16:9 aspect ratio probably also cuts out some other gags in the series — or at the very least, it might be a jarring experience for people used to how the show originally looked.

Of course, this isn't a new problem. Crops of Seinfeld have been on cable TV for years, and Hulu also showed the series in 16:9, as well. Given Netflix's popularity, Seinfeld is getting lots of extra attention right now, and thus a bunch of new viewers are probably checking it out who might not have seen it on Hulu. A similar controversy happened in late 2019 when the entire run of The Simpsons hit Disney+. After plenty of complaints about missed visual gags, Disney eventually released the seasons that aired in 4:3 in their original aspect ratio. Hopefully Netflix will do the same thing with Seinfeld — but in the meantime, as with many classic shows, the most authentic way to watch them is probably on DVD. 

The Watcher takes center stage on this week’s 'What If…?'

This post contains spoilers for episode eight of Marvel's 'What If…?'

In physics there’s what’s known as the “observer effect,” wherein an object or system is changed merely by observing it. On Marvel’s What If…? each episode has been witnessed by an apparently omniscient narrator known as The Watcher, who seemingly believes himself to be above this simple rule. He’s seen the Avengers murdered, zombies overrun the galaxy and Steven Strange completely destroying his own universe, but the Watcher has always refrained from doing anything that would change the outcome — until now.

The twist in this episode is that in Age of Ultron, the titular villain managed to get control of the Vision body before it awakened as the hero we all know and love, taking it over and then, the world and even gaining the Infinity Stones. Somewhere in all this the Avengers are killed, with the exception of Natasha and Clint, finally giving us that Black Widow and Hawkeye adventure we should have had years ago. I haven’t been the biggest fan of either character, but here they’re a lot of fun despite the grim circumstances.

Marvel Studios

The real star here, however, is Jeffrey Wright’s Watcher character. We still know little about him, or the faction he serves. The Watchers, as a group, have only appeared in live-action during a brief scene in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. What If…? has been our first proper introduction to the concept and, after eight episodes, we’re still mostly in the dark about them.

But this week’s installment did shed some light, at least. We know that our Watcher has taken an oath to never interfere with the things he sees, though to whom we still don’t know, nor are we made aware of possible consequences of breaking that vow. And we now know he’s emotionally invested in the universes he observes, if only based on his reaction to Clint not finding the folder they need in the KGB archives (luckily, Natasha is there to save the day).

Marvel Studios

However, that observer effect comes into play regardless of the Watcher’s intentions, as his omniscient narration is overheard by the powered-up Ultron, who seeks him out and attacks. In the process Ultron becomes aware of the multiverse, which explains his sudden appearance at the end of last week’s episode. Previews for the finale hint at some sort of multiversal team-up, one involving Captain Carter, Party Thor and the other altered characters we’ve met over the first eight episodes.

While it’s certainly a fun concept — there’s an entire comic series called Exiles about a multi-reality team such as this — it raises questions about what, exactly, season two will be about. It’s already been confirmed, but Marvel has shown it’s not really interested in running What If…? as an anthology series like the comic it’s based on. The instance on making it part of the larger canon has led to the show having its own internal continuity, though it’s unlikely it will be needed to understand the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Marvel Studios

At least we hope it remains a side-story of the MCU: the power levels in the battle between The Watcher and Infinity Ultron puts even the massive conflicts shown in the last two Avengers films to shame. (Especially after Thanos is offed rather unceremoniously.) It’s a weird escalation in scale given that the teased villain of Phase IV, Kang the Conqueror, hasn’t even made a proper appearance yet.

Marvel Comics has a deep, expansive mythology and it’s nice to see the MCU finally explore some of those outer reaches. But right now the current approach to continuity feels a little cramped, and in danger of getting in its own way. Hopefully, next week’s finale will see the Watcher fully break free of his oath, and maybe help What If…? shed its remaining ties to its live-action counterparts to do something truly new.

Netflix and Apple TV+ clean up at the Emmys with 'The Crown' and 'Ted Lasso'

Netflix has nabbed the most Emmys ever for a single platform with 44 including 11 for The Crown, more than double its nearest rival, HBO/HBO Max. The 2021 edition of the awards was also a watershed year for Apple TV+, which took home 10 Emmys including seven for its comedy series Ted Lasso.

To be sure, a huge chunk of Netflix's Emmy harvest came from the 34 Creative Arts Emmys it won last week. However, it still took a further 10 primetime Emmys including acting awards for Olivia Colman, Gillian Anderson and Josh O'Connor in The Crown, along with Ewan McGregor in Halston. The Crown also won for writing and directing, while taking the prestigious best drama series prize. Netflix's The Queen's Gambit, starring Anya Taylor-Joy, won for best limited series.

Mario Anzuoni / reuters

Meanwhile, Apple TV+ had its best Emmys yet with 10 total, including seven in primetime. It dominated the comedy series category with seven wins for Ted Lasso, including three in the acting category for Brett Goldstein and Hannah Waddingham (best supporting actors) along with Jason Sudeikis (best actor). Ted Lasso also took the award for best comedy series. 

Thanks in large part to that series, Apple TV+ fared much better than its rivals. Disney+ did beat it with 14 awards total, up from eight in 2020, but only one of those was a primetime Emmy (Hamilton for best pre-recorded variety special). Amazon and Hulu were completely shut out in 2021, after both won Emmys in 2020.  

HBO and HBO Max led all rivals with 130 nominations and took 19 Emmys, including 9 in primetime. The biggest winners last night were Jean Smart for Hacks (best actress in a comedy series) and Kate Winslet for Mare of Easstown (best actress in a limited series). After it was controversially shut out of the Golden Globes nominations, Michaela Cole took the prize for best writing in a limited series for I May Destroy You.

It was notable in 2018 when Netflix managed to tie a cable network, HBO (pre-HBO Max), for the most Emmy wins. This year, it beat all rivals by a long way, and streaming platforms overall took the top four spots. Whether that can continue when the pandemic starts to wane — and subscription growth declines — remains to be seen. 

‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ cleans out its literal and metaphorical closets

This post contains light spoilers for season two, episode six of ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks.’

In last week’s episode, Lower Decks wrapped up the first half of its second season by addressing some leftover plot threads from season one, namely Rutherford’s memory loss and the fallout between Mariner and Boimler. With those issues out of the way the series is free to move forward. But first, this week’s “The Spy Humongous” takes some time to look at an average day onboard the USS Cerritos. It’s not quite the TNG classic “Data's Day,” but it’s close enough for fans of smaller, more intimate Trek stories.

There’s no strict division between A-plot and B-plot this time, with both upper and lower decks crew starring in four loosely connected stories. The bridge crew is attempting to negotiate a ceasefire with the Pakleds, while the ensigns have been assigned to “artifact reclamation duty,” which is a fancy way of saying “clearing out weird space junk.” Boimler is thrilled, but he gets pulled away by a group of career-driven “redshirts” who think his time on the USS Titan makes him prime command material. And Ransom ends up babysitting a Pakled defector/tourist/spy. It’s a grab bag of jokes and Star Trek lore, sure to please any long-time Trekkie.

CBS

However, it’s still remarkably newcomer friendly, in that it doesn’t require too much background to understand the basic plot, while also illustrating the show’s core concept as a show about the nuts and bolts of Starfleet. If this were a live-action show it would be what’s called a “bottle episode,” one shot on a limited budget using pre-built sets and the regular cast. Even on the one exotic locale we’re shown — Pakled Planet — we never actually go inside any buildings. It’s an interesting contrast to last week’s expansive tour of Starbase 25.

In live action programming, bottle episodes exist because a show blew through its guest star or special effects budget on a big important story, and “An Embarrassment of Dooplers” would fit that bill. But as I pointed out last week, Lower Decks is not limited by what a set designer can build or how much makeup an actor will wear or how long would it take to render a sentient gaseous anomaly on a green screen. The animators can draw whatever needs to be drawn. So there’s no reason to follow the trope of a bottle episode except that… they want to.

CBS

Lower Decks has made no secret that it’s essentially a giant love letter to Star Trek. What was initially predicted to be “Family Guy in space,” ended up treating the franchise with a lot of respect, and was packed full of jokes for the fandom to discuss and catalog in places like Reddit and Trek wiki Memory Alpha. But this week’s adventure illustrates that attention to Star Trek tropes and backstory can go beyond showcasing little-seen alien species or getting justice for murdered characters.

It’s also about the love of how Star Trek tells its stories, with a strong emphasis on the personal aspect. Here we get to see Freeman, Mariner and the others simply do their jobs. We know they’re not going to die, especially not mid-season, so it’s really about seeing how they handle adversity and ultimately, what made them Starfleet material in the first place.