There’s a battle brewing for our attention, and it’s being fought by streaming services, cable TV and Primetime television. If you’re too weak to resist, UnBinged is here to help, telling you what to hate, what to love and what to love to hate. In pandemic times, we need it more than ever.
This week on TV: Clarice lacks flavor; Fate: The Winx Saga brings the basic bitch teen magic; and The Lady and the Dale takes viewers on a wild ride.
Clarice / CBS All Access
It’s been 30 years since shrieking sheep terrorized a young Clarice, but CBS All Access is putting those little lambs on blast with their new effort, Clarice. But will she be able to step out of the shadow of Hannibal?
Set a year after the events of the Oscar-winning film, Clarice (Rebecca Breeds) is still haunted by her experience with Buffalo Bill. Now an active FBI agent, she attempts to assert herself within the ViCAP (Violent Criminal Apprehension) task force, a difficult task as she is both a little green when it comes to working within the department and suffers from serious trust issues.
Breeds does a commendable job of channeling her inner Jodie Foster, nailing her dialect while going through the motions of a woman on the edge. The show is a fine thriller, but it spends a majority of its time dancing around that which cannot be named: any rights or characters that fall under Hannibal’s domain. The strange balancing act between what can and cannot be mentioned becomes a bit of a distraction as the show must come up with new and interesting ways to say “cannibal psychiatrist.” The drama’s main challenge though, is establishing itself as a worthy follow-up to Thomas Harris’ franchise, that also stands on its own. In truth, it’s unable to live independently. NBC’s Hannibal wasn’t either, but it was a far superior and far more haunting show.
Hannibal created its own blood-soaked universe filled with delightful performances, imaginative slayings, and food porn galore. Sadly, Clarice is pale in comparison. Next to other primetime crime-based procedurals, the show holds up alright. But next to Hannibal, it’s just a run-of-the-mill criminal drama using established characters to try and make its mark. It lack of gruesome originality, spirited performances, and a hypnotic main character as seen in Hannibal is glaring, especially for fans of Lector and Lambs. It might hit the nostalgia button enough to keep audiences interested, but there’s not much to savor, even with fava beans and nice Chianti.
Fate: The Winx Saga / Netflix
Born from an animated series, but adjusted for more mature audiences raised on a steady diet of Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and sparkly vampires, Netflix’s Fate: The Winx Saga is the latest young adult romp looking to find a place in the hearts of tweens. And while its great-looking cast and dramatic storylines are heady enough to nab the attention of its target audience, the end result lacks anything truly memorable.
The Netflix series is based on the animated adventures of Winx Club, which focused on magical students at the Alfea College for Fairies. The cartoon followed the adventures of fierce, female fairy warriors, who used their assorted powers to battle foes and forge friendships in a good-hearted romp that was perfect for young girls. The Netflix show, not so much.
Focusing on an American fairy named Bloom (Abigail Cowen), Fate leads audiences through a universe filled with horny teens looking to establish themselves and their powers as they fight foes called the Burned Ones, each other, and their hormones.
This is Harry Potter 101. It’s also Food Wars, Legacies, The Umbrella Academy, and The Worst Witch with settings we’ve seen before like Miskatonic University, Monsters University and Fort Salem. It’s every series and every franchise that ever gathered students with special talents at a special school. There is no new ground here, as the fairies-in-training tread well-worn paths already traveled by half a dozen young adult novels.
Fans of the original animated show are going to be shocked to watch their favorite characters reduced to wingless stereotypes. It might make an entertaining romp for some of the tween sect, thus a hit for the streaming service, but this Winx is ultimately the basic bitch of teen magic dramas for anyone who knows better.
The Lady and the Dale / HBO Max
“The Dale. The first space age car.” The three-wheeled automotive wonder known as the Dale was a marvel to behold when it first arrived. Touted as a miracle of the modern age reaching 70 mpg in an era when gasoline was a growing concern, the Dale was championed by Geraldine Elizabeth “Liz” Carmichael as a modern solution to modern problems. But the story behind the car and the entrepreneur who lauded its genius is far more memorable than any gimmick cooked up by automotive ad men. HBO Max’s The Lady and the Dale takes a look at the colorful con whose downward spiral opened a Pandora’s box of bizarre events.
This is the story of Carmichael, a trans woman who shook up the car industry with hefty promises of an automotive revolution, only to have all her promises crash and burn. Before trying to become the next Henry Ford, Carmichael started life as Jerry Dean Michael, a drifter and swindler who lived on the run. With wife Vivian, the couple and their children were always on the road, always one step ahead of authorities. But even on the run, Jerry was also fighting an internal struggle that would lead to a metamorphosis. By the time the Dale came to fruition, Jerry became Liz, a powerhouse exec and a loving mother.
The Lady and the Dale is an intriguing story about a larger than life character who was both a revolutionary and an outlaw. Filmmakers Nick Cammilleri and Zackary Drucker use a narrative structure of interviews and animation to capture the attention of viewers for what is already a fantastic tale. They are both sensitive to Liz’s truth while understanding that while she might have been a trailblazer, but she was also a hustler. The story is fascinating and it must be seen to be believed. Carmichael might be a controversial and sensational figure, but beyond the tale of the Dale, her fight to live as her true self is her real legacy.