ET – From the birth of consciousness to the afterlife, find out what made EW TV Critic Jeff Jensen’s top 20 list of shows to watch and the top five that aren’t worth your time (or space on your DVR).
BEST: 7. Rectify (Sundance)
There might have been no better scene on TV this year than the sequence in Rectify’s season 4 premiere when ex-con Daniel Holden (Aden Young) speaks of guilt, loneliness, and an alienation so great he’s forgotten what’s real and can’t decide if he even deserves his existence. “This may sound hokey as s—,” his new mentor tells him, “but you got to figure out some way to love yourself.” In the quiet, precise poetry of creator Ray McKinnon’s mystery of character, there’s no BS — only a thoughtful pursuit of truth, even as “truth” remains elusive and fogged. I could linger forever in its ambiguities, but that might be missing McKinnon’s concluding points. An increasingly wrenching final season has dialed down the surrealism as Daniel’s hazy-headed journey approaches hard revelations. Watching Daniel and his family try to divorce themselves from what’s obsolete — pain, careers, each other — and step into the future as new creations has been a teary, bittersweet joy. By the finale, I might be borrowing against next year’s Kleenex budget.
VULTURE – Over the next few weeks, Vulture will be publishing our critics’ year-end lists. Today, we’re looking at the best TV shows and episodes.
It’s always tough to narrow an entire season of a vast medium down to a Top 10 list, but for 2016 it’s damn near impossible. This is, hands down, the best year for scripted television since I became a critic of film and TV 25 years ago; it might be the the best year since I started watching TV as a kid in the 1970s. The sheer variety of subjects, modes, and styles was dazzling, and it wasn’t just premium cable and streaming services that delivered wild innovation and pitch-perfect classicism; the networks stepped up, too. My initial Top 10 list had nearly 30 titles on it, and the longer I sat with it, the more I added. Some notable programs that didn’t make my Top 10 list — such as USA’s Mr. Robot and HBO’s Westworld — were so formally ambitious that they deserve respect, too; their failures are more interesting than most other shows’ successes. So it might be best to think of this list not as the cream of the crop, but as the tip of the iceberg.
8. Rectify (Sundance)
The fourth and final season of Ray McKinnon’s series about a newly released death-row inmate took the show in an even more unabashedly New Testament direction, stressing healing, forgiveness, and transformation. Along with Atlanta, OWN’s Queen Sugar, and Cinemax’s 1970s drama Quarry, it was also part of a great wave of new Southern fiction that counteracted many of the stereotypes that still fuel too much of American TV.
THE NEW YORKER – In the first episode of “Rectify,” Daniel Holden (Aden Young) is released from death row, and he gives a speech to journalists and protesters gathered outside the prison. Rather than assert his innocence or talk about justice, he offers a zigzagging meditation on the nature of fatalism. “I had convinced myself that kind of optimism served no useful purpose in the world where I existed,” he explains, in an underwater monotone, as the protesters look on, baffled. “Obviously, this radical belief system was flawed and was, ironically, a kind of fantasy itself.” Humbly, as if ending a philosophy seminar, he concludes, “I will seriously need to reconsider my world view.”
For three years, “Rectify” has been a small marvel, an eccentric independent drama, filmed in Griffin, Georgia, and airing off the beaten track as well, on Sundance. With its skewed insights into carceral cruelty, “Rectify” took the slot that “The Wire” used to occupy: it’s the smart crime drama whose fans have trouble persuading others to watch, because it sounds too grim—or maybe too good for you. It’s a frustrating dynamic that has haunted other dramas without cowboys or zombies—“The Leftovers” and “The Americans” come to mind—but “Rectify” ’s reputation for difficulty is misleading. The show’s dreamy pace makes it a satisfying high, like a bourbon-soaked bob down a river on a humid day. It’s a show about the way that time gets distorted; it’s one that distorts time, too. As with many structurally daring series, it’s joyful, because its insides match its outsides.
It’s also, more straightforwardly, a gothic mystery about small-town secrets. When Daniel was in his late teens, he was convicted of the rape and murder of his sixteen-year-old girlfriend, Hanna. He served nineteen years, most of them in solitary confinement. The crime itself was a foggy, ambiguous incident that involved psychedelic drugs; two boys testified against him, and, under pressure, Daniel confessed. DNA cleared him of the rape but not of the murder, so plenty of locals—and, at times, Daniel himself—suspect that he did it, because he was found cradling Hanna’s naked corpse, which he’d decorated with flowers. But Daniel’s younger sister, Amantha (Abigail Spencer), never lost faith in his innocence, and she’s been sleeping with the liberal Jewish lawyer she lobbied to work on his behalf—the big-city Reuben to her Norma Rae. Everyone involved wants clarity, now that Amantha’s faith has paid off.
No one gets it. The murder case is reopened and leads down alarming paths. Few people want to face the uglier facts, including the knowledge that Daniel was raped in prison, multiple times. While he was on death row, his father died and his mother remarried, so he has two new stepbrothers, Ted, Jr., and Jared, who is still in his teens. In some ways, Daniel is himself an adolescent, prone to self-indulgent, self-destructive whims. In isolated Paulie, Georgia, he’s a distinctly odd figure, a socially awkward autodidact who meditated and read obsessively in his cell. He speaks in an off-kilter, whispery style, making even sympathetic neighbors uncomfortable. His mannered intellectualism marks him as an outsider, queer in several senses, as much as any suspicions of criminal guilt do.
Lethal Weapon, Fox
Google the word swagger and you may find an image of Clayne Crawford.
After two seasons as manipulative Ted Talbot, Jr., in SundanceTV’s under-recognized drama Rectify, Crawford tackles Martin Riggs — a character made famous by Mel Gibson in Richard Donner’s 1987 buddy action film, Lethal Weapon, and its three sequels.
What’s more, he makes the familiar part his own. Comparisons may be inevitable, but they’re unnecessary. The story doesn’t differ much from the movie: Riggs is an unpredictable, unstable war hero with a suicidal streak who lost his very pregnant wife in a car accident.
Now, as an L.A. cop, he’s partnered with middle-aged family man Roger Murtaugh (an excellent Damon Wayans), with whom he butts heads, yet grudgingly bonds. Equal parts Marlboro Man and street smartass, Crawford brings a reckless renegade edge to the role, with just enough sulky sex appeal to make him both volatile and vulnerable.
Born and bred in Alabama, he plays Riggs as an all-American casualty with a heart of gold — more Steve McQueen than Mel Gibson. And there’s enough comic banter, generational conflict and macho pride between the two leads to keep this bro-cedural crackling with humor as well as action. And lest we forget, McQueen got his start on television, too.
Note: He has actually been in three season of Rectify with this being the fourth.
NY TIMES – For decades, television has been cop, judge, jury and jailer. Police and courtroom dramas are a mainstay; a few series, like “Orange Is the New Black,” have explored prison life. But “Rectify,” a drama entering its final season on SundanceTV on Wednesday, is exceptional in being concerned with what comes after prison, for ex-convicts, for their families, for an entire community.
In the first episode of the new season, Daniel Holden (Aden Young), who has been released from prison after 19 years, describes what the incarceration did to him. “When you are alone with yourself all the time,” he says, “you begin to go deeper and deeper into yourself until you lose yourself.”
“Rectify,” created by Ray McKinnon, is a small series; it has shown a mere 22 episodes in three seasons and will have eight in its final run. But by focusing on a small world and pacing itself deliberately, it manages to be both intimate and expansive.
Slowing down time — the first season takes place over about a week — “Rectify” is a meditative work of reconstruction, with a visual sense of wonder, as if the camera, too, had been released into the world after two decades staring at four walls.
The series begins with Daniel’s return home to the fictional Paulie, Ga., after DNA evidence vacates his conviction for the rape and murder of his high school girlfriend, Hanna Dean. He’s free but not exonerated, and he finds himself unequipped for freedom. Having spent his entire adult life under a regime, he’s paralyzed by simple things like a visit to a big-box store.
The show traces his transition, and that of his family: his mother, Janet (J. Smith-Cameron), who resents the years lost with her son; his sister, Amantha (Abigail Spencer), who fiercely defends Daniel’s innocence; his stepbrother, Teddy (Clayne Crawford), who doubts him; and Teddy’s wife, Tawney (Adelaide Clemens), a deeply religious woman whose sympathy for Daniel draws her close to him and drives a wedge between herself and her husband.
This wonderful series — wrapping up its run with its new season — understands the South in a way TV rarely does.
In the deeply emotional Sundance family drama, Young plays Daniel Holden, a newly exonerated death row inmate who re-enters society after nearly two decades in prison. On the day his wife called looking for him, he’d found the character hard to shake and had been standing on a street corner for four hours; as Young recounts the experience, it’s with the wry smirk he wears even when telling the most devastating story imaginable.
“I couldn’t move,” he says. “I was petrified that I was going to fall over. I was absolutely fine. I was healthy. My kids were healthy. I had a beautiful wife. For the first time in my career, I think, I even managed to pay off one of the credit cards. And yet Daniel was there, just going, ‘Don’t move. It all hurts, and if you move, it will hurt more.’ Like when you have a bad back. I was afraid to turn my head. I was afraid I would see through the façade.”
It sounds weird, I know — like the kind of mystical mumbo jumbo actors sometimes tell reporters to make themselves sound profound. But I know from having talked to Young several times over the course of Rectify’s run — the show’s fourth and final season debuts on Sundance Wednesday, October 26 — that he takes this character and this world seriously. And not in a self-important or self-involved way; that’s just the effect Rectify has on those involved in it, and its tiny coterie of devoted fans.
Young’s solution to his Daniel problem was simple: Build the character a guesthouse in his head where Daniel could go to live in between seasons.
“I knew he was there. I’d occasionally take him things, but I wouldn’t see him. Then Sundance would email me, and I’d go and check on him,” he says.
Having been familiar with your work since your early performance in A Walk to Remember, and more recently in a supporting role on Sundance’s heartbreaking Rectify, it’s safe to say that I was quite shocked by your current appearance on Fox’s Lethal Weapon. It was like gazing upon a baby deer as it took its first steps, but in a really powerful manly way. You know?
Seeing how you’ve matured and grown was not just breathtaking but reassuring, like maybe there’s hope for the rest of the hair on TV. Maybe one day I won’t throw my remote and scream toward the heavens when an actor suddenly decides to spend the barber money on yet more cheap whiskey. You’re living proof it can be done. And be done well.
EW – Fox is pulling the trigger on a full season of Lethal Weapon.
The network has ordered an additional five episodes of the freshman buddy cop drama, bringing its total to 18 for the season.
The show was Fox’s top-rated fall premiere in two years and is averaging 8.3 million viewers and a 2.3 rating among adults 18-49 on Wednesday nights.
Lethal Weapon joins a few other freshman shows in getting full season orders since the start of the season: ABC’s Designated Survivor and Speechless, along with NBC’s This Is Us.
Fox’s cop dramedy stars Damon Wayans and Clayne Crawford and airs a new episode on Wednesday night.
AL.COM – Alabama actor Clayne Crawford — best known for his roles on “24,” “NCIS: New Orleans” and “Rectify” — steps into some mighty big shoes tonight on the premiere episode of the Fox network’s “Lethal Weapon.”
The new series — adapted from the iconic movie franchise that starred Mel Gibson and Danny Glover as mismatched LA cops — airs at 7 p.m. Central time on Fox.
Crawford, who grew up in the Clay in northeastern Jefferson County and graduated from Hewitt-Trussville High School, stars as Martin Riggs, the role Gibson made famous. Damon Wayans plays his sidekick Roger Murtaugh, who was portrayed by Danny Glover in the “Lethal Weapon” movies.
“Redoing something is terrifying as an actor,” Crawford said in an interview with TVGuide.com. “You like to do things that are original and you like to try to put your own spin on it.
“What they did was so incredible, and it didn’t leave a lot of meat on the bone. So what we had to do — because of the respect we had for the other projects — [was] separate ourselves as much as possible and try to bring only what we can bring.
“I can only bring what Clayne Crawford has inside of him, and Damon Wayans can only do the same. And that’s what we tried to do.”
Crawford previously played the stalker Kevin Wade on Season 8 of Fox’s ticking-clock thriller “24,” the shady prison medic Lance on the FX Network’s coal-country crime saga “Justified,” and has had a recurring role as the ne’er-do-well brother of special agent Christopher LaSalle (fellow Alabama actor Lucas Black) on the CBS thriller “NCIS: New Orleans.”
MY SA – BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — It isn’t easy following Mel Gibson.
However, TV’s “Lethal Weapon” star is doing his best to make Gibson’s volatile police detective Martin Riggs his own by giving him an authentic Texas flavor.
Actor Clayne Crawford doesn’t have to go far to find inspiration. He said his wife is a native Texan and her family lives in the Hill Country.
He shared the info after “Lethal Weapon’s” writer/creator Matt Miller told TV critics how he was distinguishing the series’ cop character from Gibson’s of the ’80 and ’90s films.
“(The show is) putting Riggs in Texas so that maybe he would have a little bit of a drawl or a lilt to his speech, something that would distinguish him a little bit from the way that Mel played the role,” Miller said at a Fox press session this week.
Pressed for more details on the character, Miller said Riggs is from El Paso.
“We wanted him to be closer to the border and the drug trade,” Miller said, adding his investigations into these crimes eventually spread to the California-Mexico border.