Every week, IndieWire asks a select handful of TV critics two questions and publishes the results on Tuesday. (The answer to the second, “What is the best show currently on TV?” can be found at the end of this post.)
This week’s question: What’s a show that has become problematic for you to watch because of allegations that have come out about a star, producer, etc.? Do you still watch or have you dropped it altogether?
Daniel Fienberg (@TheFienPrint), The Hollywood Reporter
I could talk about how I gave the “Roseanne” reboot a reasonably positive review and then it became unwatchable basically immediately, but I don’t want to talk about “Roseanne” or Roseanne anymore. It was definitely awful and distracting timing that “iZombie” gave a big arc to Robert Knepper’s character just as multiple accusations of sexual misconduct were alleged against him. I think we’re about to head into a real wave of shows where I can’t say with certainty how they’re going to play. I really liked the first season of “The Deuce,” but will stories about James Franco make it harder to watch him playing two characters in a world characterized by its dirty, ’70s lecherousness? I was about as big a fan of “Mad Men” as ever existed, but will one high profile allegation against Matt Weiner make it hard to see Amazon’s “The Romanoffs” with clear eyes? Netflix says they’re ready to do another season of “Master of None” whenever Aziz Ansari wants to do one, but I found Aziz’s appearances on “Ugly Delicious” distracting already and the one accusation against him is among the trickiest in this recent #MeToo wave. Fortunately, I already found “House of Cards” unpleasant to watch before anything came out about Kevin Spacey, so that’s unlikely to be impacted. In truth, it’s a case-by-case thing and it’s entirely unpredictable when or why unease will set in.
Allison Keene (@KeeneTV), Collider
The allegations definitely cast a pall for me, some more so than others. If a show moves past the person in question (like Kreisberg’s CW series), then I’m willing to keep watching — even if I don’t ever really forget. And so, while I couldn’t go back to “Louie,” I can look beyond his involvement in “Better Things” to support Pamela Adlon; not everyone in these productions should have to pay for the sins of these men. For something like “Arrested Development,” though — I was already on the outs with the new season, but seeing how the male cast members refused to support Jessica Walter made it unpleasant to return to, even old episodes that I used to love (and I never finished Season 5). So while each situation is unique, there is always some kind of a shadow on these projects that lingers.
Todd VanDerWerff (@tvoti), Vox
I’m sure I will return to “Louie” someday, because I really did love it and find its vision of life incredibly empathetic, especially in its first three seasons. But the more layers between me and the terrible person at the center of something, the easier it is for me to set aside the things they did, and there are so few layers between myself and Louis C.K. in “Louie.” Indeed, in some episodes (as I wrote about here), it feels like he’s telling on himself, or maybe reveling in his ability to get away with very bad things. Or maybe it’s harder for me to watch “Louie” now because I loved it, whereas I could give a shit about, say, “House of Cards.” But it’s still a show that I found essential that I now find irretrievably marked by its central figure’s terrible actions. Matt Zoller Seitz has called this “cultural vandalism,” and I think that’s the right way to think of it. As an offense, it pales compared to what C.K. did to vulnerable young women. But his actions have still left a deep scar in the center of his work, and it will be a long time, if ever, before I can come back to it and watch it with a detached eye.
But, at the same time, I am not sure how to answer this question because it places so much of the onus on me and on my experiences and enjoyment of art. I realize that we are all asking ourselves this question in the year 2018, and it’s an important conversation to have with yourself, because your line will be different from my line, and your line might even be different from project to project. So I think it’s valuable to do a gut check of where that line is for different people in different situations.
And yet the fact remains that “Louie” exists. I could pull up Hulu, or dig out my DVDs from the box they’re closed away in, and watch it right now. And there are so many things that could have been made by the people C.K. mistreated — or the people Kevin Spacey mistreated, or Harvey Weinstein, or, or, or, or — but were not, because they abandoned something they loved because a powerful man forced them into a position no one should be in, and they no longer wanted a part of an industry that would quietly hush something like that up. Whether or not I can ever watch “Louie” again feels immaterial in the face of that.
Jennifer Clasen / Amazon
Jacob Oller (@JacobOller), Paste
I have a hard time reconciling the acts of any allegedly abusive star or creative with their art because, to paraphrase The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle, there’s simply too much great art out there to support the terrible people. As a TV critic, you’re already constantly drowning in new shows on new platforms and old shows that have become necessary for cultural literacy. If a few men want to give me an excuse to ignore their work (or at least reevaluate its past while monitoring its future from an arm’s length) in favor of art made by decent folks, well, there’s very little downside to that. The shows that jump immediately to mind are “Arrested Development” and “Transparent,” which were both the setting for Jeffrey Tambor’s temper and alleged sexual harassment. Firing Tambor from “Transparent” is a good thing, but working through a backlog of TV to ready myself for its allegedly abusive star’s departure? I don’t need to watch “The Apprentice” Just call me when there’s impeachment.
Liz Shannon Miller (@lizlet), IndieWire
It’s been a while since I’ve tried to thoroughly rewatch a Joss Whedon show, and there is definitely a reason. While he’s never been accused of anything criminal, starting a few years back I’d heard enough rumors to believe that his woke feminist family man image was not what it seemed, and then almost a year ago, his ex-wife Kai Cole published her explosive recounting of affairs and other issues stretching back over decades. I still fondly remember the shows he created, will always believe he’s one of our best writers of dialogue, but yeah. This one remains deeply troubling to me. I may do a “Buffy” rewatch at some point in the future, as doing so is an ingrained habit… But right now, it’s territory I wish to avoid.
April Neale (@aprilmac), Monsters & Critics
Initially, it was the “Roseanne” reboot despite all the hype and ratings, I wanted no part of it. But the universe took care of that. The most “problematic” fallout over allegations and behaviors was the TJ Miller ousting from “Silicon Valley” on HBO. I understand why it went down and had to happen, but a big part of the magic of that series disappeared with Miller whose frenetic energy and approach to the bombastic Erlich worked for me, despite what went on behind the scenes. I have stopped watching that one altogether.
Marisa Roffman (@marisaroffman), Give Me My Remote
I know we’re supposed to separate life from fiction, but given some of the horrific allegations made about some talent, I honestly don’t know how people are truly able to make the clear distinction. I had planned on catching up on “Transparent” and “House of Cards,” but it’s hard to imagine catching up on them at this point and not have the allegations against Jeffrey Tambor and Kevin Spacey (respectively) be constantly on my mind.
It’s a little different with old shows. “Arrested Development” Seasons 1 through 3 are a few of my favorite years of television, and I can still make references to the show. But my goodness, trying to watch Season 5A was rough—good luck ignoring the aforementioned Tambor allegations and apparent cast infighting. And “That ’70s Show” was an important series to me when I was younger, and it was really easy to put on in the background while I worked in recent years. It hasn’t been as easy to watch since. But I envy those who are able to separate these things from what they watch.
Tim Surette (@timsurette), TV.com
I’m one of those weirdos who doesn’t associate what someone does on the screen with what they do in their personal life. TV’s a total bubble to me. So no, I haven’t really abandoned or condemned a show after someone involved in it has been hit with any allegations. I still like “Louie” the TV character even if I have my concerns about Louis C.K. the human being.
Ben Travers (@BenTTravers), IndieWire
To answer simply, it’s “Louie.” Louis C.K. is so ingrained in every facet of the show, it’s impossible to separate him from it and enjoy the FX comedy for what it was, like I can for, say, “Mad Men” (which was made great by many, many more people than Matt Weiner). But instead of retreading what my colleagues have already written, undoubtedly better than I can, I’m going to vocalize a comparison problem that’s come up in recent months with another scandal-plagued individual close to my entertainment heart: Tom Cruise.
First off, Cruise doesn’t make television, so he should be exempt from this question, despite his close ties to Scientology. But the actor’s exclusivity to cinema is part of my problem. As discussed previously, I often escape the unceasing deluge of television by going to the movies, where close-ended stories make for enriching respites from never-ending seasons of shows that could benefit from a little brevity. Even ongoing franchises like “Mission Impossible” that wrap up their two-hour narratives while knowing another mission is always lurking behind one more surprise unmasking are immensely satisfying.
Until they’re not. Cruise may be back in the public’s good graces after a few years in semi-purgatory, but how a culture so tuned in to blacklisting problematic men has given this man a pass in 2018 is beyond me. Cruise has told women what to put in their bodies, allegedly wire-tapped his ex-wife’s phone, and, while he’s apologized for certain offenses, he remains the public face of an organization accused of far worse. Many people look to escape the stresses of day-to-day life with TV shows and movies, and the concept of checking out with men who are accused of terrible things — let alone financially supporting them — renders that attempt at escapism not only moot, but morally shameful.
I saw the new “Mission Impossible,” and that it was a free press screening does little to assuage my complicated feelings regarding the film’s wild success. Like Mel Gibson, who also spent time on the blacklist before mounting a resurgence in the last few years, it appears time and talent is a cure-all for these scandals. Will it be the same for all the TV stars listed above? Probably. But the #MeToo movement has reframed my perspective on Cruise, and I’m slowly starting to realize I can’t rationalize my way into watching more of his films.
Q: What is the best show currently on TV?*
A: “Succession” (four votes)
Other contenders: “Better Call Saul” and “Castle Rock” (two votes each), “Sharp Objects” (one vote)
*In the case of streaming services that release full seasons at once, only include shows that have premiered in the last month.