This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.
- It’s Kelly Clarkson season.
- The epidemic of bad finales.
- Vaccine narcissism.
- Tainting Lizzie Maguire.
- The worst casting news ever.
It’s extremely annoying when people clap after a bumpy landing.
Folks, the fact that you thought for a brief second while the plane was doing the “WAP” dance on its way down to the tarmac that you were going to die? That’s someone not doing a good job at doing their job. We pay a lot of money to get on board and expect a smooth landing. This is a very labored metaphor to try to cleverly say I was disappointed in The Flight Attendant finale.
I shouldn’t have to tell you not to read further if you don’t want to be spoiled, but do not read further if you do not want to be spoiled.
There has been rapturous praise for HBO Max’s soapy thriller starring Kaley Cuoco as an alcoholic flight attendant trying to escape suspicions that she killed a one-night stand. If the praise has been slightly overblown, it’s understandable. At a time when we’re all stuck at home and the best bingeing options can seem too labor intensive, it’s a welcome treat to jaunt around the world as a pretty woman attempts to drunkenly solve an international crime and clear her name.
But what happened with the series’ finale is the same malfunction of too many recent trashy-thriller series that departed too severely in their final acts. Maybe seduced by this very 2020 thing of being labeled as “prestige” while actually producing throwback camp-crime content, they chase the fool’s errand of being profound while tying things up. But nobody really wants that. They just want dumb fun.
It happened with the egregious finale for The Undoing, an escapist, twisty series that became undone, pardon the pun, by expectations for it to be much more than that. Perhaps that’s a fault of the marketing, or maybe it’s our own preconceptions when a drama hits HBO starring Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant, and a murder.
It was never supposed to be the elevated Golden-Age series people presumed because of the names involved. It was supposed to be the beach-read romp of a series that climaxed in a helicopter chase down a L.A. highway that gloriously nailed the vibes of a 1975 TV Movie of the Week.
In such serious times, I think that’s really what we want. But we’re a little too ashamed to admit that in the age of so much “meaningful” television, that we then sell ourselves on something else and act aghast when it exposes itself for what it is—as evident in the social-media backlash to The Undoing’s outrageous finale.
Then there’s The Flight Attendant, which got us blissfully lost and dizzy in a maze of nonsensical plot twists, red herrings, and surprise reveals, only to pivot to egregiously earnest in its final episode.
If you, like me, were unsure how the series could possibly tie up the roughly 400 loose yarns in any gratifying way, then you, like me, would be disappointed by this show’s finale.
Was it the gay flight attendant randomly kicking open the hotel door wielding a gun and proclaiming “oh yeah, I’m CIA” to justify the randomness? Was it the fact that Lorde (TV’s MVP scene-stealer Michelle Gomez as Miranda) is somehow still alive? That T.R. Knight only got about 30 seconds of screentime? That you thought this whole time that, well, they cast icon Rosie Perez in that role so surely that C-level plot line about the espionage will pay off, and then it absolutely did not in any way, shape, or form?
I enjoyed few TV watching experiences this year as much as I did The Flight Attendant. And I even somewhat admire the vibe in the finale that you were reading the last 10 pages of a book where everything needs to be wrapped quickly and ideas are just being thrown at the wall. But it is a letdown to have been coaxed into thinking that you’re on the path to excellence, only to be reminded that you’re mucking through trash. But I guess that’s just 2020’s vibe.
Perhaps I’m naive that I hadn’t thought about getting the vaccine to be fodder for #content and likes on social media, but in hindsight, it’s obvious.
Some of it is heartwarming. (I cry every time I see a tweet about an essential worker confirming their vaccine appointment.) Some of it is in the center of the heinous 2020 Venn diagram of disturbing, yet insufferable, like all of the screenshots of idiots saying they’re not getting injected with unknown substances alongside receipts of the toilet-water Jungle Juice they once chugged at a frat party. And some of it is celebrity cries for attention.
Look, I won’t lie and say I haven’t been workshopping my own vaccine-caption content. (Current, though uncharacteristically blue, draft: “Stick it in, Fauci. I’m ready.) But I think we’re moving onto the next phrase of insufferable social media controversy.
That said, this photo of Great British Baking Show judge Pru Leith did give me an immense amount of comfort:
This week, I had no choice but to send this message to former Daily Beast intern/current writer of the best writing on the internet at Mel magazine and noted young person, Joseph Longo:
The backstory is that Hilary Duff officially announced this week that a once-planned reboot of Lizzie Maguire is no longer moving forward, despite production having already started on episodes. The reasoning is that Disney had wanted a kid-friendly reboot in line with the original series, but Duff and the original creative team had wanted to do a series with content and subject matter in line with where Lizzie would be now as a millennial in her thirties.
When the project was announced, we had jokingly wondered if that meant the modern Lizzie Maguire would tackle storylines like not knowing what an insurance deductible was or grappling with the fact that, on the occasion of her 31st birthday, her waistline exploded like a Pillsbury biscuit can being popped open.
But on the occasion of the revival being officially canceled, the bright young minds on the internet wanted to know what Disney was trying to shield from the kids. “Let Lizzie Maguire fuck” was an early, if obvious protest in solidarity. But in a way that Mr. Longo assured me was people just having fun and not a reference to something from the series, a different sex act became the rallying cry:
Dear Daily Beast HR,
I will be needing to take the next three weeks off in order to fully contemplate this.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom: Soak in—and cry over—the triumphant performance from the late Chadwick Boseman. (Friday on Netflix)
Gay Chorus, Deep South: And then cry some more over this heartfelt documentary about, well, a gay chorus touring the deep South. (Saturday on Pop, Logo, and Pluto TV)
City Hall: One of the year’s best documentaries hits PBS. (Tuesday on PBS)
The Midnight Sky: George Clooney needs to stop trying to make space happen. (Wednesday on Netflix)
The Stand: Features an all-new ending by Stephen King, if you can last that long. (Now on CBS All Access)