Critic's Notebook: CNN's Dysfunction, a Smart Move by 'Killing Eve' and Other Recent TV Lessons

An understandable delay for 'The Handmaid's Tale,' wise decisions by WarnerMedia and 'Killing Eve,' and other observations about the current small-screen landscape from THR's chief TV critic.
George Kraychyk/Hulu
Don't worry about the delay in the start date of 'The Handmaid's Tale'; worry about it getting better.

Notes, endless TV notes. Hey, everything we know we learned from television, so let's get to it:

1. BBC America, the home of Killing Eve, will share the loot with bigger sister channel AMC by simulcasting all episodes on both channels, which is smart and possibly a what-took-you-so-long thing, but also encouraging for others in similar sister-channel worlds. But, of course, they don't have Killing Eve. And, as I noted in the latest installment of The Power Rankings!, where Killing Eve came in at No. 17 (hey, it's been out a while and the field is fierce), if you need to be told to watch the series, then congratulations — you are one of the 11 miraculous "never heard a word about it" people rounded up and interviewed for a documentary that will air later on Netflix, where all future documentaries will also probably air.

2. I said this on Twitter: "Being surprised that CNN hired a Republican with no journalism experience to oversee its coverage is to overlook the fact that CNN is celebrating SO MANY years of not knowing what the fuck it's doing. Shooting itself in the face is part of CNN bylaws." But what I meant was, uh, yeah, exactly that.

3. Kevin Reilly as chief creative content officer of the soon-to-be-a-thing WarnerMedia streaming makes me not worry about that service because A) Reilly is one of the best and smartest execs in the business (NBC, Fox, FX, TBS/TNT). He already said sharing Friends with others, like Netflix, is not a great idea. Or, put another way, friends don't let Friends be on Netflix, which he clearly gets. Hey, maybe when WarnerMedia finally gets its streaming plans in order, and they do seem to be working on a multi-level platform, Reilly can un-cancel People of Earth, air that third season on the streaming platform and all will be good. 

4. A lot was made of Hulu delaying the season three start toThe Handmaid's Tale until June and how maybe that was to keep it out of the way of Game of Thrones, but how in doing so it might be delayed so much as to miss the Emmy window. Listen, The Handmaid's Tale is broken as a TV series. Just let the service fix the creative end and don't worry about the delay, otherwise you're looking at essentially a one-season shooting star, and that would be a shame. I got through the first season, but it was often a slog because it was unrelentingly one-note. That season ended, then, with hopes of a second-season improvement. But the first batch of episodes I saw were … not good. Not believable. And forced. Lots of critics who supported it the first year said it just continued to make a number of bad and worse creative decisions, frustrating its growth and thwarting its reason for continuing. It was a tough fall. It's extremely difficult to survive that in the Peak TV era. There are too many better choices. So forget about the timing of The Handmaid's Tale. Just hope that Hulu is working on fixing the content.

5. I love that when Fleabag comes back it won't be, in the words of creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge, "the immediate next chapter" because the character of Fleabag, years removed, "is a different person now." It seems so strange to say it, but the constraints of old-school thinking on TV really did take a long time to rust away. The fact that just picking up where the character is now — not taking some cliche "time jump" or restarting a delayed season a day, week or month after we last saw her — somehow seems novel is kind of funny. Life is a river. Film it that way.

6. On March 25, we'll finally get the lowdown on Apple's streaming plans as the tech giant and TV neophyte unleashes "a star-studded event to unveil its video streaming plans," according to THR's  own Natalie Jarvey. I'm going to take the under on being overwhelmed. Cynical? No, there's just no indication that the new service will make revolutionary waves or, for that matter, even a big splash; instead it will likely be a lower-key, slower-build venture. As a die-hard fan of Apple tech products, this seems hard to believe. But as someone who has written a lot about Apple's entry into the TV world, a muted launch has seemed inevitable for a while now. It's not what most people expected. But unless Apple announces it bought a studio before the end of March, we can mostly expect a thin bench rather than a deep vault. That's an interesting play.

7. Reality inside the TV industry is often at odds with reality outside of it, and sometimes this plays out in interesting ways (broadcast series created in an echo chamber, a belief that old systems won't crumble, forgetting that most Americans are late adopters, not early adopters, etc.), but sometimes it just manifests itself in a simple thing, like how few people outside of the industry have yet to hear about something like the ReFrame Stamp for Television (and Movies), what it is and also the 4 percent challenge. This is an excellent idea but one that maybe needs wider exposure (so hit the link and see what it's about).

8. Fuller House will have run for five seasons and that says a lot about avoidance therapy.

9. Netflix canceling the last two (and best) Marvel series was mostly a well-documented business decision. Yet it would have been redemptive and just if it had said in a statement about those canceled shows: "Also, they dragged on a lot longer than we liked each season." Sometimes you gotta let the truth take a walk outside.

10. If your job is to review things, don't judge or form an opinion or have hopes for or against, or think one way rather than the other, after seeing a trailer. Thank you for the 11 billionth time.

11. There will be a big void in our lives when Veep is over. I'll miss the searing … the searing of everything. 

12. I wonder if Friends From College, now canceled after two seasons at Netflix, definitively proved to the streamer that a star-studded cast can't overcome other issues and that names vs. quality is a conundrum where you should come solidly down on the side of the latter (let networks overpay for talent — just make a great, compelling show).

13. This recent headline from THR still makes me smile: "BBC Drama 'Life on Mars' to Get Chinese Remake." OK, then. I'd love for fans of old school Brit cop shows to explain The Sweeney to a Chinese audience, or any non-English audience for that matter, because it was plenty confusing for those of us who never saw the source material. But mostly I just want to watch Life on Mars again — that 2006 gem was something special. If I had BritBox, I could do just that.

14. And yes, that brings me to three streaming services I'm going to add. I have access already to review new series on Acorn TV, which I've written about before, but I think I'll go the full distance and get the app and service. The same goes for adding BritBox and PBS Anywhere, which seem absolutely necessary. That should leave me in a daily -17 hour deficit, not accounting for sleep, so the idea is currently in the conceptual stage. And I'm hoping I can have this up and running and essentially be fed intravenously before April 8 when the Criterion Channel launches. So, so, so many choices. In the meantime, someone needs to develop an app for all the movies I have access to on my satellite subscription that I'm currently unaware of and not recording. Or does that already exist?