Television

Forget the May Network Sweeps and Turn to Streaming for Hot, New TV

The Bite and Halston feature the skilled producers and actors you're often not seeing on television these days.

|

Used to be that TV this time of year was crowded with big-ticket items—movies, miniseries, shows not starring Charlie Sheen—as networks gunned for high scores in the May Nielsen sweeps, which had a huge impact on the year's ratings. But now that Nielsen technology allows it to monitor viewer eyeballs pretty much 24/7, sweeps have mostly joined Snooky Lanson and John Cameron Swayze in the dustbin of TV history.

So consider The Bite and Halston, this week's extraordinary streaming-service debuts, a sort of TV history lesson, remembrances of video past. With crackerjack casts and scripts from some of the most talented producers in TV, these shows are enough to make you lock the doors and windows back up, fluff the couch pillows again and pretend COVID still has us by the throat.

Which, not at all coincidentally, is the precise the point of The Bite, in which the virus itself often seems to be the star and humanity is on the verge of an exit, stage right. Even the opening credits roll over photography of the coronavirus floating slowly but predatorily through somebody's bloodstream. (To make sure you get the point, the show's theme song is Vera Lynn's World War farewell-boys ballad "We'll Meet Again," which acquired an even more desolate air when Stanley Kubrick used it against a backdrop of mushroom clouds at the end of his blacker-than-black Cold War comedy Dr. Strangelove.)

The malaise does not end with the credits. Shot last year when the lockdown was at its tightest, The Bite takes place in an eerily isolated New York City full of empty streets and echoing hallways, one where life has mostly been reduced to staring into cell phones. At the center of the story are two isolated women living in neighboring apartments. Rachel (Audra Goodman, The Good Fight) is a physician whose telemedicine practice has been reduced to little more than pimple emergencies and borderline urban-myth cases like a bite from a nasty bag boy at Trader Joe's. She spends more time discussing wi-fi glitches than symptoms.

The professional status of Rachel's upstairs neighbor Lily (Tyler Schilling, Orange Is the New Black) has also declined during the pandemic; the string of a dominatrix's whip just isn't the same on a Zoom call. ("Let me see your credit card. … Put it on the floor. … now LICK IT!")  In her suddenly bounteous spare time, Lily is trying to launch a literary career  with a book about her job, which the publisher says won't have much oomph unless she uses her real name, which will be a bit of a surprise to her social-register parents.

Rachel and Lily's mutual ennui explodes shortly after a YouTube video surfaces showing a bunch of kids dancing in and around a pool, and suddenly there's a great gout of blood like something out of The Horror of Party Beach. It's hard to describe what happens after that without a king's ransom in spoiler alerts; suffice it to say that both Rachel and Lily encounter some victims of a fairly spectacular COVID variant that even a dozen of Dr. Fauci's masks couldn't deter.

Part horror and part satire, The Bite is written and produced by the husband-and-wife team of Robert and Michelle King, who have also given us the politico-legal dramas The Good Wife and The Good Fight, the theological horror drama Evil and the blithely funny BrainDead, a 2016 political satire in which space-alien bugs eat the brains of U.S. politicians and reduce them to spouting gibberish that's uncannily similar to what you hear on the evening news.

All those programs are penned with style and wit, perhaps moreso than any other collection of shows on TV. The Kings simply seem incapable of writing anything unintelligent, and The Bite is no exception. When it's not scaring you—and it uses the empty spaces and telephone confinement of pandemic America to spectacular advantage in doing that—it's crippling you with laughter. Government officials spend more time trying to spin the COVID variant than looking for a cure. (Preferred new name: COVID Lite.) Victims refuse to believe it's serious. (One hoochy refuses to let CDC doctors look at an infected wound in her nether regions unless they pay her: "That's my future.")

Even the bit players are scathingly funny. Leslie Uggams, still on television 60 years after she smashed its color barriers to bits by joining the cast of Sing Along with Mitch, is a model of disgruntlement as Rachel's Nobel-prize-winning immunologist mom who isn't so distracted by COVID that she doesn't have time to sneer at her daughter's new Afro-braids: "You just feel guilty because you married a white man."

Crankiness is practically the lifeblood of Ryan Murphy's new Netflix miniseries Halston, the story of the waspish designer who built a fashion empire, and then destroyed it, on pure ego. Star Wars veteran Ewan McGregor is larger—and meaner—than life as the arrogant, graceless Halston, who in a moment of affection dismisses his own production team as "a bunch of queers and freaks and girls who haven't grown up yet."  His enemies, and it took little or nothing to make that list, got much worse. Jacqueline Kennedy, who made Halston famous by wearing his pillbox hats, was cast into hell simply for giving up hats. "She stopped wearing hats so she wouldn't ruin that awful gigantic hairdo of hers," he snipes.

Watching McGregor spew this exquisite venom like a deranged rattlesnake is entertaining enough, and he gets great support from the rest of the cast—particularly the amazing Krysta Rodriguez (Smash), who captures the manic energy of early Halston advocate Liza Minnelli as if she were born into it. But most of the credit has to producer Murphy, who has an unparalleled ability to carve compelling narratives out of tangled, throbbing messes of characters and subplots

He did it with the repressed homoerotic doctors of Nip/Tuck, the neurotic kids of Glee and the confused cops and killers of The People v. O.J. Simpson. I don't give a rat's finely coutoured derriere about fashion, and the idea that somebody could become famous because Jackie Kennedy wore one of his hats truly appalls me. But as I watched Halston, I discovered I was—against my will, and to my amazement—becoming actually interested. That's story-telling at its finest.

NEXT: A Euclid Cop Killed a Man Who Had Been Sleeping in His Car. The Cop Can’t Be Sued. The City Can’t Be, Either.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. PornHub always has something hot and new streaming.

      1. Making money online more than 15$ just by doing simple work from home. I have received $18376 last month. Its an easy and simple job to do and its earnings are much better than regular office job and even a little cShild can do this and earns money. Everybody must try this job by just use the info
        on this page…..VISIT HERE

    1. These are 2 pay checks $78367 and $87367. that i received in last 2 months.I am ver4545453y happy that i can make thousands in my part time and43 now i am enjoying my life.Everybody can do this and earn lots of dollars from home in very short time period.Just visit this

      website . ☛☛☛☛☛☛☛☛ Visit Here

    2. Start generating extra cash online from home more than $22k by doing very easy work just in spare time. Last month i have got paid $22745 from this easy home job. Join this job right now and makes more cash every month online. Just follow web link here to get started……earn dollars.

    3. My Boy pal makes $seventy five/hour at the internet. She has been without a assignment for six months however remaining month her pay have become $16453 genuinely working at the internet for some hours. immediately from the source………….
      ……..APPLY HERE JOBS.

  2. funny BrainDead, a 2016 political satire in which space-alien bugs eat the brains of U.S. politicians and reduce them to spouting gibberish that’s uncannily similar to what you hear on the evening news.

    Side note, I recently finished The Thick of It, the British political comedy which undoubtedly spawned Veep. Brilliant show jam-packed with political realism and dialog you literally couldn’t do today.

    1. Yes, Armando Iannucci created both The Thick of It and Veep. He also directed the first 4 seasons.

      1. *of the latter

        1. My real time work with face book I am making over $2000 a month operating low maint­enance. I continued h­earing distinctive people divulge to me how an lousy lot cash they can make on line so I selected to research it.DFv All topics considered, it become all legitimate and has without a doubt changed my life.

          For more statistics visit below site here… Home Profit System

      2. Really, didn’t realize there was that direct a connection. No wonder.

  3. >>who have also given us the politico-legal dramas The Good Wife and The Good Fight

    and they didn’t call this one The Good Bite?

    I’m watching Red Oaks on prime. It’s 5/6 years old now but set in suburban New Jersey 1985 which is where I was in 1985 so it works

  4. I don’t give a rat’s finely coutoured derriere about fashion, and the idea that somebody could become famous because Jackie Kennedy wore one of his hats truly appalls me. But as I watched Halston, I discovered I was—against my will, and to my amazement—becoming actually interested.

    Fashion is a fascinating world. It’s a pretty deep well of fascinating characters. You don’t have to personally be part of the scene (or buy into much of its bullshit- although not all of it IS bullshit) to find it fascinating.

  5. Now lot of webs and apps are available for tv or movies streaming

  6. It’s time of digital network fellas

  7. I’d never watch woke Netflix for any reason. The Obama’s have enough money. Besides, this article was so filled with excitement it put me to sleep.

  8. I found The Good Wife to be brilliant. Evil is quite good, but it has a few episodes of uneven quality.
    The Good Fight was peak TDS nonsense wrapped aronnd recycled Good Wife plotlines. The title and opening credits are idiotic Trump-Russia bashing that do not further the characters or plotlines.
    Brain Dead was just that. It was for people who thought Mark Russell piano satore was too pointed.

    The Kings can be great, but too often let their virtue signalling get ahead of the good storytelling

  9. Its an easy and simple job to do and its earnings are much better than regular oreo Tv

  10. this one another best post, I love you writing skill. Keep work and write more articles

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.